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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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Joe Meno

We flash it at each other. We steal because we have a stun gun, and so we do whatever the fuck we want. We rule this school and this town, and so the cops can go suck it. We make sixth-graders piss their pants. We are like the barbarians. We got garbage bags. We put what we want in the garbage bags and carry them over our backs. The stun gun is Flick's mom's, to keep away her ex-husband, but we took it from the glove compartment of her fuck-colored Pinto, and we ran off into the woods and looked for something to shock but couldn't find anything, so we went and shocked somebody's cat and it smelled like hot furry death. We could see its skeleton for a second, when it hit, then its eyes got big and its tongue popped out and some girl saw us and came running towards us and I looked over my shoulder and saw the cat get up and walk away. The girl called it "Milky," I think. I thought about that girl, feeling sad and worried that her cat would not be OK, but I swear to having seen it get up and walk away.


We take things off people's property. Charcoal grills, big wheels, tricycles, baseball bats, plastic swan flowerpots. We ride around at night and take whatever we can carry on our bikes. Flick has a radio attached to his handlebars that we stole off some fancy girl's bike. We can't ever get anything good on the radio but country and western, so that's what we put on and we go around and stop to take stuff we see. If we like it, we take it, that's it. We ride under the stars and we look up and think how we might put them out, too. Sometimes we just take stuff and junk it. We throw stuff off the bridge at the barges in the channel below. In the summer, we see the water moccasins, who ride the barges up the Mississippi, crossing back and forth over the steamy brown surface of the canal. We shout at the snakes, "You Nazis!" and throw lawn chairs at them.

We sit in Flick's room, lying on the floor, and talk about what to take next. I lie on the floor and stare out of his fuck hole of a room and watch to see if his sister will come home. Mary Margaret is her name. She is blond and fluffy in white sweaters with MM monogrammed in pink on them. I once saw her steal a piece of angel food cake from the Church bake sale. I would lie on that floor all day if I knew she would be coming home.

Mary Margaret is on the pom-pom squad in school. Her school is connected to ours, but she is in the junior high, and we aren't. She calls us shits and won't look at us if we see her in the schoolyard. During pep rallies, she's the one at the top of the pyramid of girls, all in white and red. There is a flash of her legs before, like a jackknife, she falls and is caught at the bottom, and all of them are smiling so big it's something you can't stand to look at it.

I will lie on that floor and stare and Flick will talk and talk and talk and I will watch and hear their front door open and then the steps -- two at a time is how she climbs -- and then Mary Margaret will be at the top of the stairs and in white and red and there will be the puffy pom-poms in her hands, which she'll throw on the ground.

What I did was to take one of them before I went home the other day. Flick was downstairs getting glue to fix a military sword we had stole out of the backseat of somebody's Plymouth. The sword kept falling apart, and you couldn't hold it because the handle was too flimsy, and I looked up and saw the pink and white and red pom-poms lying at the end of the hall and walked on down there and Mary Margaret was nowhere to be found, because it was Saturday and she had gone with her mom to the Arts and Crafts Fair to sell crocheted angels and so I took one of them pom-poms and put it against my cheek like it was her hair maybe, all soft and crinkly, and then I went back and stuck it in my garbage bag.

We keep stuff at our hideout by the gravestone of a horse, in the woods beneath the tree line, by the farm that was bought out by the Baptist Church. Somebody must have loved that horse to bury it and give it its own grave. The grave is white and etched and it says, "Maple, A Good Horse and Great Friend," and there is an oval photograph of the horse laminated there and we tried to chip it off but it's stuck there pretty good. What we do is go to the gravestone and walk past and there is what is left of a wishing well, which has been broken up, and we pull up the bucket and that's where we put the things we want to hold onto. That's where the stun gun is. And some other stuff you don't need to know about.

We were emptying our bags and I took out one of the pom-poms and Flick said, "Where did you get that?" and I said, "I don't know," and he said, "It looks like my sister's," and I said, "Well, I wouldn't know about that," and he pulled it from my hand and I grabbed it and pulled it back and we were fighting over the pom-pom. Flick up and punched me in the neck, then the chin, and I still hung on, until he got dirty and poked me in the eye and I let go and fell on my back, covering my eye and Flick said, "There," like it was over or something.

Somewhere in the distance then, the sky was falling.

Illustration by Reno