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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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Kyle Beachy

Originally from St. Louis, Kyle Beachy now lives in Chicago with his beloved pooch. He teaches for the nice people at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, who were also kind enough to give him an MFA in Writing. His work has appeared in Otium and as a Featherproof Minibook.

And now, on top of everything else, where in God's name was the meat? On Monday she'd bought two-and-a-half pounds of Cajun turkey, and now, suddenly, mysteriously, there was only enough for one sandwich. Just who, she wondered, was in charge of turning the world to such complete shit? She stood with one hand on the open fridge door, wiped a shirt sleeve across her mouth. First the note she found in Rick's jacket, then her vomit, which she only had time to dab at and clean halfway, and now this sudden and mysterious shortage of meat.

Her children's feet scampered from the bedrooms to the bathroom at the end of the upstairs hall. There would be consequences following the details of this particular morning, among them that one child would have to settle for peebee and jay. She felt the heat of the morning sun on the back of her neck and wished it would go away. A few minutes ago she'd come downstairs and picked up Rick's jacket, which he'd forgotten on his way to work. She heard and felt the paper crinkle inside one of the pockets, assumed it was a dry-cleaning ticket, removed and opened the folded piece of paper, read the note, and immediately vomited on the carpet by the front door. But finding the note didn't excuse her from preparing lunch now, did it? Car pool would be here in ten minutes. Vomit all she wanted, these sandwiches wouldn't make themselves. She bent at the waist and rummaged deeper into the meat and cheese drawer, removed blocks of cheese and tossed them to the floor, but found no more meat.

Alex was older and probably deserved the meat. Growing boy, thirteen years old, each day looking a little more like pulled taffy. Skinny Alex in dire need of meat to surround those fragile bones. Meat and more meat to become strong to become confident to become successful. Grow up strong and virile and find a wife. Produce children of his own. Raise them on meat. Then one day throw it all away for some piece of office ass on the side because he's too goddamned meat-fed to appreciate the beauty of what he has.

At work, Rick went by Richard, and the note began "My Dearest Richard," so whoever this note-writing tramp was, she likely worked with Dick. Whenever she was angry at Rick she called him Dick, not despite but because it was childish, and if motherhood had taught her anything, it was that nothing in the world was so cathartic as the parlance of children.

Katie should get the meat. Sweet Katie made her bed, almost every morning. And when dinner was over cleared not just her own but often someone else's plate. Age ten, Katie, and already winning praise from teachers for her feminine mettle, selflessness, and a childish dalliance that was driving the third through fifth-grade boys just flat out mad. A lovely girl, with eyes green as moss and an effortless smile that could warm a room from halfway through the door. Katie, lovely little girl who would grow into a lovely woman. Lovely enough to someday charm the slacks right off a happily married man, claw her way between a man and his wife, tear their marriage to shreds with her lovely little hunting talons, hunting meat with her claws and God dammit what had she done wrong? What had she done?

Now the woman, approaching forty, mother of two, wearing fuzzy cotton pants and a long-sleeved shirt speckled down the front with bits of still-wet vomit, stepped back from the open fridge and picked a slice of turkey from the bag. She nibbled and stared deep into the refrigerator, beyond the milk and OJ, back where everything was white and simple and good. The kitchen ceiling creaked as her children finished getting ready. Car pool any minute now. But just what more was she supposed to do? How do you stop a daughter from growing up into a sex woman who destroys marriages? What lessons could prevent a son, an innocent and adorable meat-eating boy, from turning into a lying cheating dick-driven man?

She lifted another slice of turkey from the bag and swallowed without chewing. The back of the refrigerator was smooth and clean. She kicked away a block of cheddar and eased slow and gentle down to her knees. So clean and smooth and white. She leaned forward. With both hands she cleared a path through the refrigerator, brushing jars and bottles out of her way and leaning her upper half into the bright and cool little world. Mayonnaise and margarine fell to the floor. She elbowed the gallon of milk, heard it clunk against on the tile. It was only here, right up close to the back wall of the refrigerator, that she realized it wasn't in fact all that clean, that actually there were small brownish spots, from Coke, maybe, splattered against the white. She licked her fingers and rubbed at the spots, then saw more to her left, then a few more down by the crisper. She again licked her fingers, then ran them over the corners of her mouth.

Even within the thick walls of the refrigerator she heard Katie and Alex stomp down the stairs, stop at the bottom and, almost in unison, scream Eww at the half-cleaned puddle of vomit by the front door. She closed her eyes. The spots were gone. Alex yelled Mom and Katie yelled Gross, then Alex yelled Mom again, and this time it was a question, and then came the friendly honk of the carpool outside, ready to take her children away. The mother ran a tongue along the inside of her teeth. She felt chunks of leftover vomit. She swallowed. Breathed.

Cool in here, she thought. Pleasant.