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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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Amina Cain

The aviary was in the hills next to the botanical gardens.

On "A Night at the Aviary" everyone from the city came up into the hills wearing white, taking long drinks from the water fountains inside the building's narrow, humid hallways. Some of the hallways -- where there were no birds -- were dark. Still, people wandered through them; their white clothes made them easy to see. The birds sat on twigs. People milled about looking at them, reading the descriptions of them next to their wire cages. This bird is native to Madagascar. This bird is flightless. This bird makes its nest in the shape of a purse.

Inside the aviary, Jessie was also looking at the birds in their cages. One looked like it had wool on its head. It stood on one leg, its beak tucked into its chest. Another resembled a soft gray cottonball with a bobby pin beak. Its sign said bushtit.

Later, people came down the hill from the aviary for "After a Night at the Aviary" and danced to electronic music in Jessie's cabin. Wearing a turquoise dress and drinking a single glass of white wine, she watched everybody dancing. One man was dragging his leg along the floor. He told Jessie he liked her place. The walls in her cabin were made of wood, and in the kitchen was a sink next to a refrigerator next to a stove. On her table was a wrench, a red ceramic bowl, and one origami animal.

She thought about the aviary, dark now in every room.

That night a large hole opened up next to the cabin. While everyone gathered around it, she waited quietly inside her front door.

The first time she stood next to the hole, instead of looking inside it, she looked out beyond her cabin at the horizon. On the horizon were trucks carrying wood.

The air was warm and the hole was warm.

She began to go to the hole instead of going swimming. There was a warm, clear river nearby but the hole was warmer. She read next to the hole. She built a shed for her cabin and afterwards stood next to the hole, breathing deeply. She got the wrench from her kitchen table and hung it in the shed. She looked at the hole from the doorway of the shed.

One afternoon, using blue yarn, she knitted next to the hole. Her silver needles clicked in the warm air. The grass stirred gently. Afterwards she walked to the aviary. She couldn't believe how warm she felt. Her body knew pleasure. Her legs knew pleasure and her feet and her arms and her hands knew pleasure.

She walked slowly through the aviary holding a piece of white paper in her hands and drank from the water fountain. She looked at the birds while listening to the announcements on the loud speakers:

These birds do not know who you are, even if they would happen to see you everyday. You might remember your favorite bird, but it will not remember you. Try to think of each bird as a separate bird each time you see it.

In the main room of the aviary the bushtit pecked at a canary, who then flew up to another twig, a longer twig, turning its neck to the side a few times. The bushtit fluffed its feathers. It drank, and when it looked up from the water dish its beak was wet.

The next evening, instead of sitting next to the hole, Jessie sat in the park waiting for a movie to begin. The man who had danced dragging his foot along her floor saw her, and spread his blanket next to her own. He was wearing a blazer much too heavy for summer. He was handsome, but in a strange way.

"I made it," he said. "I was sure I would miss the opening."

Jessie nodded politely and turned towards the screen. The movie started and everyone began watching it. The first scene showed the interior of a library at night, followed by the same shot in the daytime.

"I can't believe it," the man whispered. "I've been inside that library."

Then a huge hole opened in the ground near the park shelter, bigger than the hole outside Jessie's cabin.

That night Jessie called another older man. She held the phone and listened to it ring. It rang four times. She told him about the hole. He told her he himself used to swim in a hole when he was Jessie's age.

Jessie could hear a beat in the distance, like it was coming from electronic music. "This isn't a swimming hole," she said softly. "There's no water inside."

"I don't know what you mean then."

She hung up the phone and walked outside.

Now and then a person or a couple holding hands walked past the hole. A family stopped at the hole and the father was frightened.

"How many holes are there in this town?" he asked.

"Don't worry. These holes can't hurt us," the other father said.

Amina Cain is a frequent contributor to the Journal of Experimental Fiction, has published work in 3rd bed, Berkeley Fiction Review, & Woolly Mammoth, and has a story forthcoming in the latest issue of Spinning Jenny. She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.