Excerpts from the Published Works of Sanford Evans

Naomi’s Geese

 On the same day, hundreds of miles to the north, Naomi Green was looking over the footlights at Lincoln Center and curtsying to the thunderous applause of the audience.


She had just finished dancing the starring role in Swan Lake, something no other eleven-year-old had done in the history of ballet, and while the final curtain was descending, the applause and cries of, "bravo," had begun.  Naomi smiled and blew kisses to the entire house, which was now standing and blowing kisses back.


A man in a tuxedo walked on stage from the wings and presented a dozen red roses to her. 


She smiled at him and continued curtsying to the audience, which was now cheering wildly.


Then, the man took her right arm and began pulling her toward the wing where he had entered and said, "Time to go."


"Not now," said Naomi, indignantly. 


She couldn't believe he was doing this at the moment of her greatest triumph and in front of her adoring fans. 


“Let go of me,” said Naomi.


She continued smiling and curtsying hoping the audience wouldn't notice that she was being dragged off the stage.

John Flynn’s Diary of The Great Chicago Fire


                Friday, October 13, 1871


It’s been three days since the fire ended, but the charred smell of the city still hangs in the air.  In the morning the smell is especially strong, then it seems to fade and I think, thank God I won’t have to smell that anymore. 


But when I wake the next day, the sickening smell is sour in my nose again.  And I begin remembering.  That is why I’m writing all this down.  


I don’t know if anyone will ever believe that I am innocent of having started this terrible fire or that I will ever be able to clear my name and the good name of my family, but while the details are fresh in my mind I want to put them all down.  Otherwise no one will know the truth – and so help me it is the truth – of what I saw with my own eyes of how and why the city of Chicago burned to the ground and who the evil person was who struck the match that started it.


              How All The Trouble Started


Every time I think about last Sunday night, I think, if only I hadn’t given five cents to Danny Sullivan for that cursed cigar I wouldn’t be in this trouble. Then, everything would have been lovely and I would have been in my bed when the fire started and been burned to a crisp and peacefully dead with the rest of my family and at this very moment been a blessed angel in heaven instead of a hunted fugitive.


Well, you can spend all your time if-onlying this and if-onlying that and not change a blessed thing.  So no more of that.  Besides, it was so hot that night, cigar or no cigar, staying in bed would have been a trial and trying to sleep a misery


The heat was nothing new, of course.   We had baked all summer and roasted like potatoes all through the fall.  Not a single drop of rain had fallen in Chicago since July.  My friend Charlie Maher said the streets had become so hot that if rain ever did fall again, which was doubtful, it would just turn into steam and make things even hotter.  And he may very well have been right.  Everywhere you went all people talked about was the heat, the heat, the cursed heat, (And sometimes it wasn’t just “cursed” they’d call the heat.)  and how it was driving them insanely crazy. 


Some thought it was punishment for all the drinking and dancing and other wickedness that went on in the city. Some said it was the end of the world and we were drifting into the sun.


July was boiling and August an oven.  In September when things should have gotten better, they only got worse.  It was bad enough with the awful heat and there being no rain, but then a hot, southwest wind began suffocating the city.  Mother said it was like the devil had heard everyone in the city praying for a cooling breeze and answered our supplications with a gust of wind from you know where. 


Father said it wasn’t the devil that worried him, just the wind. It was making his job harder than ever.  Not only did it fan up the flames when a fire started, but it was also making every stick of wood and every house, and every barn, and store in Chicago dry as a dead leaf and ready to burn.


 My dear, late uncle, a small-time Chicago gangster, had a colorful expression for anyone who appeared to have too big an appetite.


“The guy eats like he’s going to the electric chair,” he’d say in that wonderfully gruff voice of his.


Americans eat like we’re all going to the electric chair.  We eat too much, too fast, too much of the wrong foods, and then wonder of wonder – we have an obesity problem that is beginning to kill us at a rate that exceeds the lethality of tobacco.


How do we solve the problem?  With easy solutions and quick fix diets that don’t work over the long term, aren’t terribly healthy, and leave us feeling deprived.


We quickly shed the weight, avoid the real problem, eat too much of the wrong foods, and a year or so later when we’ve regained the weight again we’re back in the same fix.


Then of course, there’s the problem of what to eat. Food isn’t just food anymore.  For some it’s entertainment or solace for a variety of emotional needs and ills.  For others it’s the key to immortality or instant doom.  Scientists and nutritionists seem to be issuing as many red alerts these days about what’s good for you and what’s not as the Department of Homeland Security and have as much credibility.


All too often what’s good for you on Monday turns out to be bad for you by Friday. Carbs used to be in, but now they’re out. Eggs were out but now they’re in.  All fats used to be out and some still are, but the ones that are in, are in like Flynn.


Then there’s the advice to eat five servings of this, three servings of that, four servings of that and you’ll live forever.  Assuming you can keep track of everything. It’s enough to make you want to quit eating altogether.


The French don’t eat this way.  Neither do the Italians. They still enjoy their food. They eat everything and they eat it slowly: bread, pasta, cheese, poultry, meat, fish, and lots of fruit and vegetables. They drink wine and they don’t count carbs.  Yet they don’t get fat the way Americans do. 


What’s their secret?  Are they all on some mysterious diet? Is it in the genes?