Author: Marijean Oldham

The Mississippi only ran backwards, south to north, twice that we know of. First time was during the earthquakes of 1812. And the second was the day the meteor fell.
In the months that followed, we felt a drop in our stomachs any time we crested the hill to reach what used to be downtown. “I see the Arch,” someone would say, just like we used to, even though we didn’t. Not anymore.
The Mississippi raged backwards through the crater left by the meteor. What wasn’t obliterated by the impact was now underwater; remnants of Busch Stadium, scores of office buildings, and on the other side of the river where the land is low, the strip clubs and slaughterhouses; all gone.
Smug in our survival, we said, “Thank goodness we’re on the right side,” and we meant what remained of St. Louis past the banks of the Mississippi; its industry and opportunity, its arts culture and academia, its wealth and prosperity.
Proposals to rebuild the bridges, to connect again east and west, came and went.
“They take our jobs,” we said. “Murderers! Drug addicts!” we said, even though some of us still had family in Illinois.
That spring, we watched the Cards warm up at Lou Brock Sports Complex out in St. Charles County. The home of the Lindenwood Lions became the temporary home of the Redbirds; the rest of their season played “away.” As the weather warmed, we ate our Imo’s pizza sitting on our stoops and argued the merits of various frozen custards.
We forgot about those others on the opposite side of the rushing river, surging again on its reverse back to a southerly flow; its new width in the city causing additional retreat to the west.
Soon we forgot the Illinoisans. Who were they, anyway? Migrant workers and strippers? Cubs fans? Catholics? Even though no one talked about it, we figured we had enough of all of that on our side, anyway.
And then someone said, “I miss the east side,” by which was meant the topless bars, the casinos, the racetrack. We remembered then, the taste of beer in cheap plastic cups, Marlboro Lights smoked indoors, the prime rib lunch the boss bought us one time at the strip club; surprisingly delicious. In Illinois, the impact took out the Diamond Cabaret; flooding ruined everything from Larry Flynt’s, to PT’s down in Centreville. We wistfully recalled the body glitter left behind in our beards and on our chests as we dragged ourselves home in the wee hours of the morning. Regrets kept like talismans; close to our hearts.
It wasn’t long before local government sought to incorporate what we now recalled we’d lost in the impact. Entrepreneurs smelled opportunity. There was a rush to change the laws.
We kept the sin in the south this time, with no natural elements to separate us; only housing prices, a low unemployment rate, and a well-cultivated culture of community.