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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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Heather McShane

This mother loves her child. This mother is fat. When she hugs, her boobs do a number on a kid's face. They feel like figure eights.

This mother is pretty twisted. She's also extremely smart. She's lied so much in her lifetime, she doesn't have a clue what the truth is anymore. This makes her lies even more believable.

She tells a story about the outdoors arts and crafts fair. She walked from booth to booth -- all by herself. Anyone looking could have seen her dark black roots because her hair was matted to her head with sweat. No one was looking, though, and when she didn't notice that the curb ended and she fell, no one came to help her up. It's too bad her teeth weren't any stronger; she could have used them to lift herself up and out.

Her teeth are big. She has a pretty smile. But her nose and ears are small. They look incredibly small when she wears her big, red plastic glasses. In truth, she's the one who decided she needs the reading glasses. A trip to the ophthalmologist a year ago yielded her a perfect score of 20/20.

This is like her, though. She's one of those people who will take cold medicine to prevent a cold from delivering itself to her. She's convinced her general practitioner that she has terrible, breath-holding menstrual cramps. Of course, he doesn't know that menopause has already reared its dizzy head for her.

The pills he gives her help her slough off her days. She lays in bed a lot during the day. There are so many crumbs.

When her 10-year-old son comes home from school, she gives him a hug and asks how his day was. She asks him what he would like for dinner. She doesn't care that he wants pizza almost every evening. Then they do his homework. She very much wants him to excel in school.

After that, they watch sports on TV together. They search the channels until they find a few options and then switch back and forth. She has already placed bets with her bookie during the day. Her son just thinks she's really enthused about sports when her teams win and really disappointed when they lose. He doesn't realize that that's how they have the little money that they have.

In the hours that she's up after he's in bed, she spends some of the time researching teams. She doesn't like to lose. She likes to bet on more than one team at a time so she picks between two and seven teams and places what is called a parlay. No matter if she wins or loses, she takes a bus to the bar to meet the bookie on Tuesdays. She orders coffee, he a whiskey sour, and he always leaves the bill for her to pay. Occasionally, he'll send a runner. Actually she thinks it's strange he doesn't always send a runner.

On very rare occasions, the bookie will come to her house after Bernard is in bed on Tuesday nights. While she's waiting for him to arrive, she usually works on whatever jigsaw puzzle she has strewn across half of the dining room table. He comes in just long enough to exchange any money and fit one piece.

After that, she reads. Sometimes she reads a book a day. When it takes her longer than a day to read a book, she has a hard time separating her own thoughts from those of the people in book. The books provide fuel for her lies.

She's dozing off while reading. Her eyes are opened slightly.