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**PRINT: FRIENDS FROM CINCINNATI: Installment 24 features this part coming-of-age short by Chicago's Patrick Somerville, author of the Trouble collection of shorts out in 2006. | PAST BROADSHEETS |

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Paul A. Toth

Watch the way the sections of wall, the breaks in the wall, pass by, pass, pass by, blur, pass, disappear, and now look there's nothing but smooth wall whooshing. The drone of the train, mmmmmm, yes, hypnotizes. I know you're tired. Long day. Lay your head against the window and almost but never quite fall asleep; you're not the kind of gal who lets go easily. Continue reading, focusing, words seeming to smear, then sliding back into themselves. All is well. Remember your song?

Dingy, dingy, no, yes,
a perfect concrete rat's nest.
Hear the rumble on the tracks,
smell your neighbor's Tic-Tacs.
Hold on tight,
don't let go,
sleep's for later,

Hello again. Tired, huh? Yes, I bet you are. Should've taken a cab, Calloway.

Look at that guy. What a jerk, right? Oh, well, we can't say what we think out loud, right? Now that would be a true disaster. Just imagine you telling Rita: "Good morning, Rita. By the way, your ass sure is looking big lately. Like a goddamn freight train. Or actually more like a growing butterfly, your hips the wings, except you sure the hell ain't flying nowhere, not with that ass. Does Joe like your gigantic ass, by the way? I bet he says he does. That's just the kind of thing he'd say, you bet. Oh, well, fa-la-la and a ring-a-ding-ding, you're a slut without a ring."

Well, Rita, indeed. Rita and Joe. Tra-la-la-la. Right. And Rita. Lord! Poor Joe. What's he thinking? Everybody's laughing. Does he realize every time a new girl starts at the office, the other girls warn her about him? He probably doesn't even care.

That guy over there actually looks a lot like Joe, tall and lean, hair flopping down like a dog's ears, beard carefully half-shaven as if to say, "I'm rough around the edges and certainly don't spend a lot of time carefully trimming my perfect half-beard so that people think I'm rough around the edges." And so on. He probably counts each point of stubble. Yes, I bet he spends all day thinking about himself, manipulating the way he walks, controlling the pitch and roll of his voice so it comes in for a perfect landing each and every time. Smooth Joe. Boy, he's got the grace. Throws a strike every time, right down the middle.

Christ, that guy's coming over here. Set your newspaper down on the seat. Jesus, he picked it up and he's looking at it. That could have been your paper! What a bastard. His hair touches your shoulder. Sickening. It's on your shoulder!

Okay, what else? What would you like me to add? Keep it realistic? Well, they never did warn you about Joe. You were the exception there. Of course, you simply could not have noticed the omission at first. But after a few months, you started realizing that -- "Wait a minute!" -- whenever the other women got the breakroom to themselves, somebody brought up Joe's name, and then they'd all laughed and said, "Watch out for him, _______," that is, Mary, Gina, Shelly, Carol, Karen, Kerrie, Melissa, Michelle...fill in the blank with any name but your own.

That greaseball hair rolls out across your feet like carpet speckled with diamond dust and -- wipe, clean, fadeout. Helllllloooooooo! Over here, honey girl, you fat-all-over not just fatassed like blessed Rita with the one flaw not the matching set: Let's stick to being Angry Girl, okay? Hey, there, Angry Girl, the son of a bitch next to you is reading your newspaper, or could be for all he knows and cares. Poke him in the ass. Go on, do it.

Jesus! He looked over! He's wondering. He's got a good idea. Oh, but you've got such a deadpan look, such a criminal blank, such a sociopathic nodoubt naught. Oooh, baby, and a smirk to kill. He knows, but without proof. Stymied! Lord, Jesus, it impresses!

Look at him fidget now. He's pretending to read the newspaper now. You should say something. Go ahead. Roll your eyes and mumble, "Christ, the market's dropping like a brick shithouse." Some stupid bullshit like that. Or roll your eyes and go, "My fucking 401K's biting balls. Tally-ho!" Then stick two split fingers in his eyes, a horizontal peace sign straight through the pupils. Whack him with your newspaper and when he finally rubs the vision clear tell him, "That's for looking like Joe, fuckface."

Convicted for the usual dopey guy bullshit. He takes the stand and you address the all female jury: "Ladies, this son of a bitch claims to like a fat ass -- or at least the guy on the subway who looks just like him does. But we've got more than big asses, don't we girls? Well, strap him down, 'cause we're gonna ride 'em cowboy. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-haw!"

Yeah, right. Anyway, would you get a load of those fingernails? He must hand-sharpen pencils for a living with all that crumby dirt. Imagine licking those fingers. God, it makes me/us/you want to puke.

Well, here's our stop and here's what we're gonna do: he's getting up and moving over, swiping his corduroy ass in your face. Just as you sidle by -- yes! -- grab that ass good.

There! Did you hear that sound, that "Whabbagooba?" exclamation that means, "Uh, whassagoin' on now, people? Y'all shouldn't grab people's asses, yuck, yuck."

Whoosh goes the train. Well, well, Angry Girl, we're off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of porn. Let's go zoom 'cross the sky, you and me and Orson Tight and Jupiter Jets with those gazoombas that could milk the starving world fat as Rita's ass.

Here's our stop!

Paul A. Toth's novel, Fizz, is due out Fall 2003 (www.netpt.tv). In the meantime, hear him in Chicago at our 28 Feb 2003 celebration at Barbara's Bookstore.