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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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Xavier McCaffrey

Xavier McCaffrey's writing has won the F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Award and been selected as a Finalist for the Faulkner/Wisdom Prize and has appeared in journals such as the Potomac Review and Poetry Ireland. He lives in Chicago with his wife and a small child he successfully named.

Maybe I should name my son Ashton. Because, other than being cute, he has no discernible talent. Plus, older chicks really dig him.

Or maybe I should stick with Baby Boy McCaffrey. It's worked all right so far. Lots of temporary stopgaps lapse into lazy permanence. Look at the marriage that produced him.

Maybe my baby should be Caesar McCaffrey. Because he was from his mother's womb untimely ripped, precipitating this crisis. I was supposed to have a couple more weeks to figure his moniker out. Now I'm gliding back and forth in one of the many recent purchases I've had to render unto Caesar, waiting for him to scream bloody murder. There's no point in going back to bed, where my wife lolls about day and night in post-operative torpor doing nothing but napping and getting sucked for sustenance every few hours. But Tina is an honorable woman who needs an honest night's sleep. So said her mother, who's descending sometime tomorrow so I can go back to work. It's your job to take care of that baby at night, she informed me over the phone. That's why I sent Tina that pump. How are her nipples, by the way? And did you get that gun? So I'm rocking away with a bottle of the best mommy's cracked conduits could produce, awaiting the pleasure of the Emperor. Who certainly has new clothes. He can't be Caesar. I'm the one who got stabbed in the back here.

What about David Koresh McCaffrey? He's got all the cult leader tricks down, certainly. Sleep deprivation. Demands of complete devotion. Wife sharing. But last night -- was it last night, who can tell? -- I had contact from the outside world. The Beloved Leader was communing with Tina's tatas at the time, and I was outside the compound, throttling the Diaper Genie into the trash can, when my belted cell phone burbled. It was Mad Dog Wilson, my old Northwestern roommate, calling to tell me he was heading toward Chi-Town on an impromptu road trip with some chick he just met. They should be here tomorrow night, he said, which means tonight. I think. Is Mad Dog coming to deprogram me? Will he get here before my mother-in-law? Before the FBI raid? Before the rapture?

Elmer McCaffrey? He was supposed to glue my marriage back together.

Fuckhead McCaffrey? How could he fail to be an overachiever? Mad Dog had no problems living up to his nickname. He ate, drank, smoked, screwed and jammed his way through our two years together in Evanston with a rabid fervor. And now, ten years burning down the road, he still wants me to play bass in his band. This new chick is a perfect lead singer, it seems. All we need's a drummer. Whoa, right on cue, Fuckhead is up and drumming his little fists into his little gut. Easy, now. Ready for some milky-milk? No, he's out again. Show's over. But there's no point in going to bed. There's always an encore.

Not George. The kid is not curious. If it doesn't have a working nipple, forget it. But what about Gandhi McCaffrey? He goes around in a loincloth. He's little and surprisingly wrinkly. He hasn't resorted to violence (unless you count pissing in my eye), but he's clearly planning on changing the power structure around here. No, he can't be Gandhi; he eats way too often.

Ho! Ho Chi Minh McCaffrey. Because he really has put me in a world of shit. Sure, I was gung ho at the start. Tina hadn't allowed any incursion into her Mekong Delta for quite a while, after all. But now she's back in her black pajamas, and I'm out here on diaper duty, waiting for the shitstorm. But Mad Dog's coming. I could go AWOL. We could didi on out of here. Really take the band serious this time. Practice and whatnot. And Tina's mom, Macy, will be here soon. She's back from her cruise, closing in on me like a well-slid shuffleboard disc. You better have a name for him by the time she gets here, Tina warned. She'll take over everything. Oh no, the sound of bullets ripping through the foliage! Incoming! Or, rather, outgoing!

All clean. If he'd stop sneezing for a second I could think. How about Influenza McCaffrey? He's sick. I'm sick. 'Snot even funny how much snot we've got flowing in this house. Achoo! Bless you.

Jesus McCaffrey? Verily, I took one look at him, mewling and gasping, trailing clouds of glory and gouts of blood, and knew there was a God, after all.

Ketel One McCaffrey? Lord knows he wouldn't be here without it. It was more like Ketel Ten that night. One more now? Why not? Oh hold on, someone wants his bottle first.

Lebron McCaffrey? Already he's very good at dribbling.

Mao McCaffrey? He's got slitty little eyes; he can't speak English; he leads me down a trail of tears; he's annexed all my property.

Norman Mailer McCaffrey? He did inflict a knife wound on my wife, after all. And sometimes you pick him up and think he's great; other times you put him down and can't help but think he's vastly overrated.

Not Oedipus, too obvious. But what about Orestes McCaffrey? Look at my poor wife. Did the little bugger try to kill her? To avenge that sibling we sacrificed before we got married? I could just escape with what I've got on: a pale polo shirt, its little player and horse sealed beneath a crusty layer of dried spit-up, and a pair of khakis that I'm telling myself shrank in the last wash (I did it, after all).

Pee. No, don't pee, Pistol Pete McCaffrey. Isn't it nice to know that in addition to buying clothes for you, furniture for you, toys for you, an SUV for you, and a freaking house in freaking Skokie for you that Daddy also bought a little gunny-wunny to protect his fambly-wamily? Amazingly, it was Grandma Macy, who's bulleting her way here from St. Pete as we speak, that bullied Tina into bullying me into buying the Beretta. Resting right behind the...

Quetzalcoatl McCaffrey? He demands sacrifices. He's screaming for more, right now. My youth. My vitality. My relevance. Will Mad Dog Cortez get here before little Quetzy consumes me?

RZA McCaffrey? We played him classical in the womb, but now it's only the Wu that gets him to snooze. There you go, playa. "Turn it down!" Tina screams. "Yo, RZA McCaffrey ain't nuttin' ta fuck wit'!" I scream back. Then turn it down.

Shh, shhh. Hey what about Seamus McCaffrey, just like old grandpappy? Do we need to make sure everyone knows he's Irish, in case the red hair that's starting to fuzz in and the alcoholism that's likely to buzz in aren't enough? Looks like we're going to have another angry drunk in the family. Please, shut up!

Trigger Finger McCaffrey? I bought that gun to protect my family. To protect my family.

You. Thank God the ululations have stopped. For now. Usama McCaffrey? Because he went from not existing in my mind to -- bam -- dominating it. And God, he scares me. But not with hate. Hate is cake compared to this terrorizing love. My twin towers of sarcasm and cynicism, they're coming down, Mad Dog, they're coming down.

Vince Vaughn McCaffrey? That's who his mother was mentally receiving when we were conceiving.

What about Wingman McCaffrey? I forgot to thank you, you little chica magnet. Would that spicy little Chicana that sashayed up to us at the park today jump in Mad Dog's Heap? Could she join the band? Do you think she'd ever shake those maracas for me? No, the only fat bald guy she digs is the one wriggling in my lap.

Xerox McCaffrey? He's a perfect little reduced copy of his daddy. Sorry, dude.

Yo Yo McCaffrey? He seemed to like those endless etudes his momma played him in utero. And, in case you haven't noticed, he's got me on a string, here. He's walking the dog with my heart. Holy crap, who's knocking at 4AM? Mad Dog at a ridiculously late hour? Or Smother-in-law at a ridiculously early one? And just when I was going to slip you into the crib. Shh shhh. Let's get the door. And on the way let's get the gun.

Zero McCaffrey? Or just Zero. Nothing at all from me. Like the zero Mad Dog's mouth made when I said, "You've got to get this out of my house. I can't live with it here." "If you're talking about the gun," he said, recovering, "I'll take it. The baby, not so much." That's my boy; catch those Zs. We'll want to be rested when we introduce ourselves to Grandma and Mommy. Whoever we turn out to be.