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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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CROP CIRCLE TURF WARS; Episode IV: Exploding Deer, Another Failed TV Pilot
Benjamin Jared Gilton

MY FIRST CAR, as an ambitious 16 year-old, was a 1983 Oldsmobile Toronado. "This Silver Bucket," I called it. Coasting down Mid-Michigan roads, 1990, I felt like the most sophisticated teenage attorney in town, mostly because my uncle was a lawyer and he passed the car down to me.

I met Kelsey Smith at the Lansing Mall while I was carousing with a friend, testing new strategies of picking up women. Kelsey was 13 years old (I was 15) when my best buddy Chad picked her up with an impressive move. Two days and one telephone call later, I had stolen her heart from his careless hands. She was mine.

Kelsey was not allowed to have a boyfriend until she turned 14, which was fortunate because I passionately disliked escorting exotic women about the town with my mother in the driver's seat. Just wasn't very sophisticated, and what kind of a briefcase-toting, aspiring attorney would I have been to have a chaperone to contend with while I was trying to score some prime hoochie?

Eventually Kelsey had a 14th birthday and I had a 16th, for which I received the silver Toronado. I liked going over to her parent's house better than her coming over to mine. She felt more comfortable about flashing me her boobs in the comfort of her own home. I was over at her house one Friday night eating popcorn. She had already shown me her boobs while the popcorn was in the microwave. She thought it was so hilarious too, because her mother and father were in the other room staring at the TV. She giggled a snickering chipmunk laugh and I blushed, whispering, "Are you sure you should be so bold here with your damn folks in the other room and all?"

She laughed again with a little tease.

Her dad must've stirred at the commotion, recognizing the likes of the flamboyant nymph living right here under his own roof, for he came pouncing from his loveseat and into the kitchen. I was positive he was going to lay a good slap atop the helmet of slicked hair I had gelled upon my dome. I ducked, but it turned out to be purposeless. He hadn't swung at all.

"Hey Ben," he said. "I want to show you something that I think you'll like."

The microwave beeped and Kelsey tended to the popping corn as I followed Mr. Smith off into some cold distant backroom. The door slammed shut behind me as I entered, and an overhead light flashed on. I immediately freaked as I noticed all these eyes staring down upon me from the walls. Deer eyes. Owl eyes. Pheasant eyes. Boar eyes. All kinds of beasts and their eyes. And the eyes were still socketed into the horrifying faces -- a whole room full of stuffed game, neatly positioned. A mahogany gun cabinet sat along the north wall. Through the glass I could see Mr. Smith's finest hunting rifles complete with sight scopes. He told me some of them were loaded, "Just in case."

I started thinking about getting back to the popcorn and this man's daughter's fine, abundant boobs. "Pretty neat, Mr. Smith," I said, and started to back away from the doorway.

"Not so fast," he said, "I've got more to show you. Something real special." I noticed that he was missing a tooth. He grabbed my arm and led me deeper into the room. "Shhhhh," he said. Then he pushed down on a stuffed beaver's tail and I could hear gears turning inside the wall. The gun cabinet slid on a track off to one side, presenting a deep room. Mr. Smith grabbed a lantern off the shelf and lit it. "Follow me son," he said. Deep in the innards of this secret room were all the makings of a tiny war. Rifles, pistols, knives, cannons, landmines, uniforms, helmets, maps, and ammunition.

"All these," he began, "are real weapons and equipment used in all the wars fought throughout modern times. I have quite an extensive collection which began with my tour in Vietnam, which sparked my interests, and I've collected battle memorabilia ever since."

I was standing beside myself. Next to beside myself. I was in awe. This was the single-most coolest place I had ever stood in my entire life. I grabbed a Nazi helmet on my head and said, "Heil Hitler."

"Careful, damn it!" he said, taking the helmet. "Don't touch anything. It's all very delicate. Just to look at and wonder what it was like. You know?"

"Yes," I said but 'no' I meant. What was the fun if you couldn't play? I grabbed a grenade out of a wooden crate marked "LIVE EXPLOSIVES" while Mr. Smith had his back turned to me. I slid the little bomb down the front of my pants. I shook my head up and down for the next 45 minutes as Mr. Smith dragged me on a guided tour from the French and Indian War all the way up to Cambodia.

Convinced he had held my attention long enough, Mr. Smith finally dismissed me, making me promise not to utter a word about this hidden bunker. I returned to Kelsey and the bowl of buttery popcorn, both of which were waiting patiently for my mighty return. Her and I watched the first half of "Beetlejuice" before we started kissing heavily. Then she flashed those damn jugs again. This was by far my favorite part of being in high school.

She felt down the front of my pants over my jeans and exclaimed, "Wow, you're all grown up now big boy."

She chuckled like the chipmunk that was rigidly preserved in her father's hunting room. It was the grenade that was hard in my pants, and for which she gave response, not my pecker -- but I suppose it probably could've been that too. She then announced, "You are in for a very special treat tonight." She pushed her hair back over her ear and began to unzip my jeans.

"No," I said, "hold it right there. I don't think it's the right time for this kind of business."

"Awe, c'mon," she pleaded, "you're not afraid of a little ole tongue action are ya?"

"Your tongue isn't little. It's gigantic," I said, wanting nothing more than a little of whatever she was offering. But I knew that any extra mischief would seriously increase the odds of my whole pelvic region exploding. Not to mention the rest of the entire nicely-decorated but badly smelling basement. I had to get the hell out of there fast.


SOMEWHERE IN THE relative proximity of midnight, I did. As I drove the Silver Bucket I saw something quite queer flashing from out of the south farmland: a bright yellow beam of light, blocked almost entirely by tall, frozen cornstalk corpses. The flashing light made the dark road glow as well as the surrounding banks of pure white snow.


Then Dark.


Then Dark.

This was a one-way dirt road I was driving down, nowhere even remotely close to anything. But I was not timid and I was not scared. I was brave. I sped up and hit about 80 mph, blowing past a rectangular white blur that read SPEED LIMIT 45. And there was a dangerous element called "black ice" on the roads that night. Very dangerous indeed. Seemingly out of nowhere stepped a mighty Michigan buck with a rack of antlers big as oak trees. He stepped directly into my fast-approaching path. I saw the yellow blinking light gleam in his eye as he gave me one hell of a mad-dog stare. I gently tapped the break, which immediately locked up the tires due to the road conditions.

I went into a series of 360-degree spins. The radio faded to static. I vomited, spraying against the insides of all the windows. A stench rose as I spun and spun, wildly into the silence of the darkest night of the year.

I suddenly came to a rest, backwards, facing the way from which I had come. The tires never regained traction and became buried into the muddy slush of the south side ditch. The vehicle went quiet.


"I'm Dead."


"Happy to be alive." I unbuckled my seat belt and tried to open the driver's side door. "Won't budge." Slid across the seat to the passenger's side and tried the other door. "It budges slightly but hits something solid and moves no more. There's not any crawl space there either."

So I reached over and turned the key, but not all the way, just enough so that the power windows would work. And I slid my window down to notice that my path was obstructed by a great big tree. So I slid my skinny body out and slipped out and fell into the snow.

There wasn't any sign of the wicked deer. No flashing yellow lights either. I considered some options: (1) I could have fallen asleep at the wheel and dreamt the whole thing.

Or (2) I could be delusional and need immediate attention from men in white coats.

I investigated for tracks in the snow. I retraced the skid marks across the unpaved road. About 10 yards away were the tiniest little hoof prints. I followed the tracks into the cornfield. I listened to dead stalks crackle under my feet as they froze in the three-foot snowdrifts. The tracks led deeper. I followed further. My eyebrows began to freeze. My nose began to run wildly.

And before too long it became quite apparent that I'd gone too far. Seen something wrong. Something that couldn't be erased from memory. And they saw me too.

"There's Six Of Those Son's Of Bitches!" Six mighty bucks walking on their hind two feet. I caught them red-handed with bundles and bundles of rope. One was holding onto a two by four plank that was tied at both ends by a single strand of twine. He was stepping onto it to push the corn stalks over.

And his buddies were looking at a blueprint drawing and instructing him where to go and stomp. They were mapping out other nearby areas with all the other rope and it became fairly obvious what the hell was going on there. They were making crop circle formations; and they were quite pissed that I'd spotted them.

They stomped their feet and kicked snow up as they did, snorting out their angry snouts, antlers pointing threateningly in my direction. I started slowly backing away.

I said, "Sorry there fellas. This isn't what it looks like. There must have been some sort of horrible mistake. You see I was just...."

Two charged me. I turned and started to sprint back to the road but got no more than two or three steps when I was slammed hard in the back with what felt like a huge wooden claw. Then I felt the second set of antlers hook me up by my belt loops and toss me 20 or so feet into the air. I did a semi-somersault and landed flat on my lungs. All the air blew from my body. I was little more than a flat tire with a pulse. They surrounded me. I could feel the warm breath upon the wounds on my back, while I lay there politely and bled. Apparently the deer weren't considering letting live witnesses walk out of there. To find out that they've been behind the crop circles all along! one of mankind's biggest dilemmas, one of the Earth's great hidden secrets! Deer!

I sat up, planning to plead for my life, but the looks on their faces shattered my confidence. "I'm not making it out of this field alive no matter how funny a joke I tell," I said. "No matter how much money is in my pocket. No matter how many times I saw Kelsey Smith's boobs this week."

Each deer backed up twenty paces or so. They had me surrounded. I thought of some really ridiculous things while I prepared myself for a painful death. I thought momentarily about those big boobs wrapped tightly in a pink shirt. I thought about eating popcorn, watching scary movies.

The lead deer signaled with a dip of his head.

I thought about the layout of Kelsey's house. And then about her cheerleading costume. And then about her elaborate collection of HeLLo KiTTy pencil boxes. The deer all burst into motion, kicking up mud and snow and bolting toward me. I sat up and faced them.

I thought about her mother, also young and beautiful. And then about my Toronado stuck in the damn ditch. The enemy deer got closer and closer. Too close. Much. I thought, 'Should I lean forward to hasten my defeat?'

And then I thought about Kelsey's father. Fat and balding. Wearing glasses. Spitting when he's talking. I asked myself, 'Was Jim his name?' And then thought about his elaborate collection of weapons from the wars....the grenade that was in my pants! The inspiration rocketed me to my feet. I hollered into the wind, "If I'm going down into a snowdrift tonight, the least I can do is take one of you bastards down with me."

I grabbed the grenade from my underwear and clutched it tightly in my right hand. My eyes squinted as I focused intently upon the leader. He snorted and accelerated, dipping his head. I pulled the ring out of the bomb much the same way I'd seen done a number of times in war movies. I reached way back across the mound like a big league pitcher. I lifted the left leg high in the air with my wind-up. I snapped forward like an over-flexed coil and stretched out long with my right hand extended. I released the powerful grenade with grace and precision.

It hit the deer square in the nose and detonated.


The explosion left a smoking hole in the ground about three feet deep while deer innards, frozen dirt mounds, and bloody snow rained all around me. I felt good all at once.

The other deer stopped dead in their tracks. They looked to their fearless leader, or at least the charred hole in the Earth that became his memorial. And then they looked to me. I reached into my pants and faked as though I was going to pull out another way to unleash the gates of hell upon them and they thought intelligently about their chances of survival and sprinted away into the distant fields and further off into the deepest forest.

I stashed the crop-circle manufacturing equipment in the mammoth Tornado, raised my collar, and proceeded to walk the mile and a half back to sweet Kelsey's house. A place where I knew one could whip up a mug of hot chocolate in a hurry, if one were so inclined.

Benjamin Jared Gilton leads the charge against inhumanity, we firmly believe, as evidenced by the above (and in spite of the late claims made by the U.S. Government). His trips to Chicago have lately been lored as pilgrimages, of sorts, during which he attempts along with us by all counts to win new, untarnished followers, those uncorrupted by shame, false pride, the strange practice of deer worship, or the rabid instinct to hector. Join him, and us, in his crusade: bjgilton@yahoo.com.