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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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Joe Jarvis

This is what I wake up to.

"Now, whereas most of your volley sports: tennis, racquetball, jai alai, et al...". Beaufort pauses to slurp his Natural Light, for effect. He's the only person I know who says 'et al' in conversation. He's also fond of 'nb' and 'e.g.' "Whereas those sports rely on rapidity and force --the required torque of a successful volleyball spike, e.g.-- badminton is a sport which encourages --nay, demands contemplation, and for this it has unfortunately garnered the reputation of game. The distinction, of course, is negligible. Is it not?"

I rub sleep from my eyes and look at this man, his lips smacking and releasing a sigh of pleasure below the folded bill of a John Deere baseball cap, the buttons of his plaid struggling to contain his paunch, substantially larger than when I last saw him, some ten years ago. I writhe slightly, strychnine still crinkling the muscles of my lower back, but can't wrestle bed sheets from beneath his ass, which I tap lightly with my foot in an attempt to coax this ox off the corner of my bed. He grabs my big toe and twists: "Is it not?"

"Jesus Christ. What? Yes. It is."

"Is what?"

"A game."

"No, goddamnit, it's negligible. Now, some might say that badminton is a mere game, which I suppose amounts to dismissing it as requiring no athletic skill, but such a detractor obviously has never seen James Hetfield sprint the baseline to save what would prove a grounded shuttlecock to a lesser competitor. Who's this, by the way?"

"What? Oh, that's Macy. Macy, meet my lovely big brother."

Macy groans. I feel her lips twisted into a snarl against the back of my neck.

"Talkative little thing."

"Jesus, Dale, it's seven thirty in the morning."

"Three in the morning for me. You know, LA time."

"Yeah, great. LA time. Who the fuck is James Hetfield?"

"Which is it, Dale or Beaufort?"

Dale freezes, his index finger still raised, mouth open, then draws a breath to address Macy.

"Well, darlin', Dale is my given name, but early on I came to prefer Beaufort. For obvious reasons."

I sigh and explain to my girlfriend: "Beaufort is the name of the Duke who invented badminton."


"Alright, the Duke of Beaufort's estate was called Badminton, where the game was first played."

"More precisely, yes. Although the game finds predecessors in...".

"It's et alii, by the way."


"You said et al earlier. It's et alii."

My brother cannot abide being interrupted when talking about badminton and gives Macy that look, bulged eyes, protruding jaw, the shitkicker's promise shit is about to get kicked --in other words, Beaufort is about to drop into Dale mode, and since neither my girlfriend nor I need two hundred and fifty some pounds of Appalachian fury on top of us at seven thirty in the morning after a night of LSD indulgence, I intercede.

"Macy's starting the Anti-Brevity Movement."

"The say what now?"

"The Anti-Brevity Movement. Last semester it was Girl Power Through Nationalism. Uh...".

Macy, suddenly equipped with a cigarette, sits up, her left arm securing bed sheets over the lower portions of her breasts.

"In our point-and-click age, things are too easy, too much is abbreviated, and inevitably this will lead to a total lack of meaning."

"What the hell is this woman talkin' about?"

"What the hell are you talking about, Dale?"

"I, for one, do indeed have a point, at which I will arrive given the opportunity."

There's no point in resisting. When we were kids, Beaufort would sit me down in front of the television and explain that Top Cat represented inner city aspirations of upward mobility in the face of obsessed, bigoted local law enforcement, or that The Smurfs were commies, every last one of them, led by their Red svengali Papa. It wasn't until later that I was forced into conversation, when I was approaching puberty and he was only a year or two away from declining a full scholarship at the nearby university to head west to escape our father and fulfill his dream of becoming one of 'The Incredible Dogs of War,' Metallica's road crew. When I was aged twelve, Beaufort somehow managed to manipulate me into decrying The Cosby Show as Black Separatist propaganda. Even with three years of undergraduate philosophy under my belt, there's no contending with a good old boy after he's had a few beers. I peer over the edge of my bed and count the crumpled cans. It's going to be a long morning.

"Now, as you may know, little one, I toured with Metallica some years ago."

"Yeah, Beaufort, when you call me and Mama and greet us with a 'Metal up your ass!' we get the point."

"You toured with Metallica?"

I cringe, squeeze Macy's thigh, and shake my head. If there is one thing Beaufort cannot stand being questioned above badminton, it's Metallica.

He's surprisingly composed in his reply: "Now, missy, I can see how you might besmirch the band, based on their current state of... what have you, but I knew the boys before they turned into pissy-pants city queers."

"Goddamnit, Beaufort, what the fuck is the point?"

"Badminton, damnit. That's the goddamned point. Badminton. Silver Lake, 1984 --now Silver Lake is an area in LA."


"Well, in Silver Lake the tour had damn near reached its nadir. Hetfield's estranged wife was trying to take two of the man's Ferraris and Ulrich was sniveling about his portfolio. I said, 'Hell boys, you need some goddamned physical exertion, some exercise,' so I went out and bought a badminton set. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a regulation set, but those plastic doohickeys you might find at neighborhood Kmarts. Regardless, the boys took to it. Damn naturals. Ulrich, for all his bitching, has the damndest serve you could imagine. Like Tim Wakefield's knuckleball, to cite a current example. Hetfield, as I alluded to earlier, can move like a goddamned gazelle in the backcourt. With Burton in the forecourt, they were goddamned unbeatable. And Hammet...well, Kirk pretty much prances around and shrieks like a woman whenever the shuttlecock comes near him, but no matter."


"The point is that I'm wondering if you can imagine why heavy metal types make such good badmintoners. For indeed, it was not only the boys in Metallica that could play. That GNR tour, as unfortunate as it was, saw some of the finest shuttlecocking known to man. When we toured England I videotaped a match and dropped it off at IBF headquarters there in Gloucestershire. Slash is still an honorary grand champion. In fact, the only metal band I saw who couldn't play were these sort of... well, they conducted themselves with a certain air of general faggotry, all painted up like Jezebel and dressed like bumblebees...".

"Oh, yeah--Stryper!... I think."

"Right yeah, well these Stryper boys were strutting through the Hilton lobby pissing away in plants all the Boone's Farm strawberry wine they were sluggin', and flipping cigarettes at the busboys, yelling to every lady in sight that they could make her see Jesus. Now, Hammet couldn't bear to hear a lady insulted--you know, he was very chivalric, in that weird Errol Flynn sorta way, but still. So, he challenged these transvestite Jesus boys to a game. Of course they were all pushawing us, but it came down to a bet. Hammet put up some of his finest carnival glass against the drummer's yellow and black striped vinyl overalls. Kirk really did fill out those overalls."

"Beaufort, why do heavy metal dudes make such good badminton players?"

"Really did fill out those overalls. Well, now, life on the road can be hard. Tours are long, and the old amusements of whiskey and pussy can be lost on even the manliest man, or heterosexually-inclined, if you must. Why, I remember one night in Reno Kirk came in and wept on my lap, talking about how if he saw one more nubile young woman pleading for him to autograph her exposed titties he'd go mad. Course, maybe Kirk isn't the best example, considering his, well... the man does have a pierced labret and enough hair gel to make Exxon Valdez look like a mudpuddle if he were to go swimming, but nonetheless... look at the current tennis game. All big serves. Even the once gentle confines of a squash court are now little more than a war zone. But badminton, the floating shuttlecock, feet clad in sensible shoes atop mowed grass, this 'birdie,' this magnificent fowl doomed to fall, but for that brief instant, at its peak, you're there with it. You and the shuttlecock are nowhere together. Regardless of who you are, nevermind your caste or creed or... heretofore or thereafter or adherence to whatever fancy sodomy law, it does something. It touches you. It doesn't matter who you are, Metallica or transvestite Christians."