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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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Tom Bradley

Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy.

--Wordsworth, Ode on Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood

If you and your pals are still youngish enough to tout yourselves as being in a state of psychosexual flux, there's a whole rigmarole of complex and expensive depravity you'll want to engage in. These are the disorienting sorts of extravagances where, for example, in an advanced form of the game of "chicken," you pay a homosexual gigolo to come sodomize the gang.

Well, you yourself don't actually take part in that particular depravity. But you do look at the bought homo and talk to him while your pals all line up, ready to stick slightly saggy butts in the air, to see who'll be brave enough to panic last. Just listen to those cheeks snapping shut, their boyish blush of zits already drying up, too soon.

It's icky, almost unmentionably icky. But there's an elemental beauty in its sheer advancedness. You must admit that it would be difficult for a gang of professedly straight pals to devise a more advanced game of "chicken."

And, of course, you are left with nothing to show for these extravagances but the conviction that you must start getting sedulous about asking normal women out on dates. Pull yourself together, act regular for once. No more slags with nine pounds of crumbly metal embedded in their navels, earlobes, nipples, eyebrows, nostrils, labia minora, perinea, rectal rims, and, my dear, you can hardly even begin to imagine where else.

Because, after all, a strict regimen of carousing with just other pals and mutilated slags can lead to emotional regression and, yes, homosexuality -- or at least, in your yet semi-informed mind, you seem to recall hearing about some vague connection between those two conditions, doubtless a residuum of the psychoanalytic climate of opinion left over from the days when you were even more callow than you pride yourself on being now. And, you remind yourself, there's nothing more ridiculous looking than a borderline-overripe cock queen, pudgy to boot.

You fear nothing more than the irreversible process of emotional regression. You remember the chills that shot through your skull the first time you were exposed to that publicity shot of John Lennon, eyes closed, his body curled bare-naked like a foetus around Ono, who was fully clothed and staring right into the camera in hideous cannibal triumph. Total regression that was, on the part of the author of "I Am the Walrus." What comes before the in utero state? Nothing. That particular Beatle was begging to be annihilated; that haole kid's timing couldn't have been better.

Now, how would such a thing look in your case? Especially grotesque. For such a healthy-sized man as you to curl foetally around such a petite, even diminutive creature as the female of the species -- well, your husky shinbone alone would obliterate her from view (whoever she was), from the shank of her knee to the bridge of her no doubt sweet button nose. It would be simply too-too silly.