Columbus Unbound (Or Unboxed)

Tom Cardella

The gray sky looks down upon the statue of Christopher Columbus. A light misty rain has turned to sleet. Marconi Plaza is deserted like a town left high and dry after the gold rush. Winter has arrived. Suddenly the statue comes alive, as if it were Rip Van Winkle awaking from a deep sleep. Columbus peers into the wintry mix and blinks as the moisture drips from his hat. “This is a bunch of crap,” he mumbles.

“I’m boxed up for two years,’ Columbus says angrily. “And the freakin’ idiots pick winter to remove the box.” He tries to wipe the raindrops from his eyes. He spots a lonely policeman standing guard nearby. “Hey, you at least got an umbrella?” The city is short of cops, he thinks, and they have this one watching me 24 hours a day.

“Hey,” Columbus again calls to the cop. “The weather is supposed to get sunny the rest of the week. Tell the mayor I need a moisturizing lotion with a good SPF rating.” The policeman doesn’t respond. “What, am I invisible?” Columbus asks. “Are you deaf? My skin is very sensitive.” No response.

Columbus is annoyed. He tries to goad the policeman into having a conversation with him. “Hey, I heard you asked for Larry Krasner’s autograph.” The only sound is the rain hitting the branches of the trees. The rain has gotten heavier. The cop has sought protection from the weather under the overhang of the subway station, but it’s an inadequate shelter from the elements. “Poor guy,” Columbus thinks. What’s he tell his wife when he goes home? I spent my shift watching a statue?

I’m almost homesick for the pigeons, Columbus thinks. Those suckers are smart enough to keep away when it rains. What is it with pigeons doing their duty on us statues? There are lots of trees in this park, but they pick me to crap on. That was one good thing about the box the mayor put me in for two years. But on the other hand, no one cares that I’m claustrophobic.

“Go home,” Columbus yells at the cop. “Go home. Get out of the rain, you doofus.” What I really want, Columbus thinks, is for them to put the box back on me until spring. Why the hell am I so controversial? OK, I thought I landed in India, but do they realize I was using an old compass from Radio Shack? I admit I treated the natives badly, but they weren’t exactly greeting me and my men with open arms, either. I’m not perfect. Maybe that’s why I’m thinking of running for mayor. Why not? Everybody else is running for mayor in this town. They’re going to have to hold the debate on a stage at the Linc to fit all the candidates. Have these folks talked to Kenney about how miserable the job is?

I wish the City would decide to leave me here. Who knows where they might move me? I understand the Flyers chopped up the Kate Smith statue and buried her next to Jimmy Hoffa. I read about it on Instagram, thank you, Elon Musk. If they leave me here, I’ll promise not to offend. I’ll mind my manners just like I do when I’m around Queen Isabella. Speaking of which, I wonder what she thinks happened to me? I’ll tell you a secret. Isabella thinks I’m Italian, which I am in spirit. I consider myself a combination of Da Vinci and Marcello Mastriano. The folks love me around here. They also think I’m Italian. I consider myself an honorary Italian. The City says I’m not indigenous. Who’s more indigenous to South Philly than me — an honorary Italian? What do I have to do, pose with a roast pork sandwich to prove my authenticity?

A squirrel decides to urinate around the base of the statue. Oh great, now I’m a comfort station for the rodents, too. Did you hear the latest? I think I’m going to march in the New Year’s Day Parade. Well, not me personally being that I’m a statue who’s held hostage by the City. But I think one of the comic brigades is building a replica of me. I’m not sure the City is going to allow it. The skit makes fun of the politically correct politicians who want me banned. You know how sensitive this City is. However, I don’t think the comics should pose me with my middle finger in the air, do you?

I think the City ought to move the Frank Rizzo statue down here to Marconi, too. Frank wasn’t perfect, either. Far from it. But this is where he kind of belongs. Next to me. And he’s a real Italian. Although if truth be told, Rizzo left South Philly pretty early in life to get a street named after him. But who am I to judge, as the Pope once said. Maybe they can put the statue of Harriet Tubman next to Rizzo — and she could be wagging her finger at him? That seems equitable to me.

I bet Isabella is still waiting for me to bring home more spices. How much oregano can one queen consume? If I could find my flip phone, I’d give her an update on my situation. She probably thinks I’m fooling around in some karaoke bar, and forgotten her. Never, Isabella.

The rain has refused to let up as Adam Joseph predicted. Columbus calls to the cop, “Hey, this outfit I got on ain’t waterproof. Get me back in the box.”