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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 |

Thieves Jargon

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Heather McShane

Heather McShane lives in Chicago, where she works as an editor at an encyclopedia company. She hails from Omaha.

On Saturday mornings, Bernard wakes up before his mom. He stays in his room until she calls for him. He busies himself with play like all 10-year-olds. However, unlike other kids his age, Bernard is really anxious. He's been known to pace. And his blood pressure is amazingly low. It's almost the same as a resting adult's. He has no idea what all this means, but he's heard people say such things about him before. He doesn't really care -- as long as he gets to do whatever he wants. If a teacher asks him to do something he doesn't want to do, he will try to speak like a grown-up: "But my blood pressure is really low. Are you sure that's a good idea?" Such talk usually works.

Bernard does something he wants to do now. He takes all his socks out of his top dresser drawer. He splits up each pair and puts the duplicates in a pile on the floor. He puts a bouncy ball in each remaining sock and places them all in a row on the edge of his bed. He picks them up one at a time.

In a little voice, he says, "My name is Laura. I like lollipops. I'm shy. That's all."

In a deep, scratchy voice, he says, "My name is Pepperoni. I like pepperonis. No just kidding. I don't eat pepperonis because my name is Pepperoni. I just eat cheese."

In a high-pitched voice, he sings, "My name is La-la-la Bo He-he. I like to sing. Tee-hee-hee. Fa-la-la."

In a fast voice, he says, "My name is Kerry Wood. I like to pitch." He throws the socked ball into the wall. He dances around, laughing. He has made himself hyper. He pulls all the socked balls off the bed's edge and lets them topple on the floor. He tries to walk on the socked balls and does an exaggerated fall on the bed. He catches his breath and looks up at the ceiling. That's when he remembers his mom's still asleep.

He stands up and starts walking around the room. He begins to talk to himself, softly and nervously, "Should I go see if she's awake? Will she come in here if she's awake? Will she yell at me? Maybe I could just say I forgot she was asleep. Should I pretend to be asleep? Yeah, that might work."

Bernard gets back into bed. He pulls the covers to the side. He figures he'll hear her if she comes this way and so he'll have time to get under the covers before she gets there. He's on his back. He puts his legs in the air and pretends he's riding a bicycle -- or better yet, a unicycle. He goes backward and forward. He's a clown in a circus. There's a gang of circus kids on unicycles. He's the leader. They ride around and give cotton candy to the kids in the audience. That's after the cotton candy is handed to them by a grizzly bear. The grizzly bear gets the cotton candy from the monkey in the whale costume running the cotton candy machine. The cotton candy is blue.

"Ouch, ouch, ouch," Bernard cringes. His right leg has cramped up. He rubs it with his left hand and covers his mouth with his right hand to muffle the pain he wants to shout. He pulls the covers over him and grumbles, "Growing pains."

He closes his eyes. He wonders if his mom's legs ever hurt the way his do. What about his dad's legs? His mom always tells him he's like his dad. She says they have the same muscular build. His dad was one of those competitive fast walkers. It's little wonder then that he walked in Bernard's mother's life and walked on out. His father already had a family of his own.

Bernard has heard that his dad has hair like his: thick and black. Bernard's dad would shave off most of his body hair when he raced in the summers. He just left the hair on the top of his head. But in the winters, when he returned to his hometown, he would grow a beard and let the rest of his hair get really long. He would train with all this hair. Before his first race, he would shave. It never failed that his first racing time of the season was always better than expected.

Bernard does wish he knew his father. Maybe when he gets older, they can meet and talk at length. When Bernard is a father himself, he hopes his kids get to meet his dad. He plans to have many kids and a beautiful wife. He wants to be an engineer.

Bernard realizes that he's still a little tired. He looks at the clock: 5:30. Oops, he didn't know it was that early. He's not even sure if cartoons are on yet. He might as well go back to sleep for a while. Maybe his leg will stop hurting.

He dreams about his dad. He sees his dad sitting on the side of his mom's bed. He's shaving his legs with a big kitchen knife, and all the hair is falling on the wood floor. His dad runs to his mom and shakes her awake. He hands her the knife. She begins to shave the fat off her legs. It comes off in clumps and melts on the floor. She calls to Bernard, "Please get a box and put this in it." She points to the mess. "Then please take it and dump it in the ocean." Bernard gets the box and scoops up the fat with his hands. It feels pretty slimy, but he doesn't mind. He walks out the back door. It's brown and gray outside. The sky is overcast. A few plants are starting to pop up through the old dead grass. He crosses the field into the forest. It's quiet, and he quickens his pace. He comes to the end of the forest and sees the ocean. He walks down the embankment. He stands on a large rock and empties the box's contents into the water. He hears a sound to his left. He looks and sees a walrus on the beach. He walks toward it, but he's not getting any closer. The icy water touches his feet, and he jerks awake.