St. Louis – The East St. Louis Holy War (Second Horseman – Technically First)

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The St. Louis/East St. Louis Holy War began when Ike Turner declared the Gateway Arch to be East St. Louis’ most sacred monument. The backlash from St. Louis was civil at first. “While the Gateway is in the eastern portion of the city,” proclaimed the mayor, “there is no doubt that it is a part of our fair city.”

The civility did not last. Rev. Arthur White, minister of the First People’s Eccupentacle Church of East St. Louis, stoked the fire at a sermon delivered on a barge. “For too long, the world has sat silent as St. Louis expands its settlements on the West Bank of East St. Louis. Well, no more!”

West East St. Louis became a disputed zone, and the governor of Illinois immediately began collecting taxes from it. This prompted residents of West County to don the Cardinals’ 1979 road uniforms, intercept a truckload of Budweiser, drink it, and throw some Clydesdales in the river. Admittedly, this plan was not well thought out.

The first 25 shots fired in the war were actually shot in East St. Louis by East St. Louis residents at East St. Louis residents, but the 26th shot – which has not conclusively been shown not to have been a ricochet – hit Albert Pujols in the thigh. Thus began the war.

I arrived only to be yanked into a trench by a haggard but pleasant survivor. He made small talk about his kids and the Rams while leading me to their headquarters in the zoo at Forest Park. St. Louis was fading quickly since East St. Louis had acquired daisy cutters and taken the Delmar Loop, thereby choking off St. Louis’ supply of margaritas and alpha males. Yet according to the gruff – though still pleasant, this was, after all, the Midwest – sargeant running things, East St. Louis wasn’t faring much better, despite their victories. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had been successful in sowing misinformation in the east, causing a miniwar to break out for control of the Martin Luther King Bridge.

While all this was being explained, I saw a horse and rider clopping through the park. The rider had a long red beard and long hair tied back in a ponytail. He wore a horned helmet and an ancient breastplate, marred with battle scars and inlaid with an intricate gold filigree depicting the head of a lion bursting through thorny vines. He had a golden axe on his hip, but it was more a sigil than a weapon.

I asked the sargeant who he was. The sargeant glanced at him, said he didn’t know, and went back to discussing the tactical advantage of pushing down Olive Street.

I left the trench base and walked over to War. “You did this?” I asked.

“Who are you?” he replied.

“No one.”

“Well, No One – a warrior’s answer would have been Nobody – no, I didn’t do this.”

“But you’re -”

“Yes, but that’s not how we work. Think of all the wars before this one. You don’t need a muse to start a war.”

“Then why are you here?”

“It’s the End of the World, son!” he laughed. “I’m a foreman; an overseer. I’m here to make sure the job gets done. Why are you here?”

“I’m here to make sure people know how bad their cooking is.”

“Then we have the same goal.” He patted my back from his horse and rode away.

When I left, the Midwesterners were charging into No Man’s Land.

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