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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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Maren Oslund

Third grade play on nutrition. I'm the mustard, she's the ketchup. Chosen for being the scrawniest. No lines, but a big job.

"Walk to the front of the stage next to the buns."

Bobby and Joey, the only kids who get to play themselves. Chosen for being large. Many lines, many jobs, but this job revolves around us.

It is a simple idea: Bobby is to flip me over, hang me upside down over the bun, and Joey is to do the same to her, the most beautiful girl our small classroom has ever seen.

Opening night. Auditorium seats full of parents and camcorders.

We wait at opposite sides of the stage,
   · signal,
   · smile,
   · walk to the buns,
   · wave to the crowd,
This is easy...

Bobby picks me up, and as he flips me, he grabs onto my waist and the slippery yellow costume pants pull up as I go down. I fall onto the bun (Katie McCarthy) with nothing below the waist but my Hamburglar Underoos bought special for the occasion by my mom the day before.

I see nothing...
       But ketchup, upside down, laughing in my face, beautiful as ever.

Heart broken.

Close to fifteen years later, I'm a senior at the state university down the street. The rest of the class left for big jobs, big schools in cities 20x larger than home. I find comfort in my parent's home... same room, same free laundry.

I am just out of a bad relationship. The kind of love you will be thinking about the rest of your life, desperately trying to remember what was wrong in the first place. I can't get the break-up line out of my head...

"You embarrass me."
"You embarrass me."

McDonalds right off route 16. I'm a Burger King kinda guy, but the King is closed for remodeling. I walk in wondering if I would be allowed to get a kid's meal. I want the toy... need some excitement. I'm waiting in line behind a large guy wearing a shirt that reads "Meat Is Murder." My turn comes...

Kids meal in hand, I turn to find a seat. The place is empty except for soy boy on one side. And there, to my right is a blond, beautiful in a red tube top. Probably home visiting from her first choice college, probably way out of my league. But feeling adventurous and missing my ex, I sit at the table across from hers.

I catch myself staring... she looks so oddly familiar, but I can't place the face.

We make eye contact and she smiles. I smile back and as I go to take the first nervous bite of my hamburger, the ketchup and mustard plummet onto my white shirt, specially pressed by my mom for a job interview today. She laughs.

Maybe it's the shirt. Maybe it's the laugh. But it all comes back.

McDonalds right off route 16. I'm the mustard, she's the ketchup. I knew she looked familiar.

And the song in my head plays:

the years can hardly catch up,
with the years of playing catch up.
must there always be a catch?"

Maren Oslund has been confused by song number 22 on The Good Life's Novena on a Nocturn. Maren may be contacted: marenoslund1920@earthlink.net.