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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 |

Todd Dills' biweekly column

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Emerson Dameron

A bell chimes, then chimes again. "Twenty-three. Going up." I clutch my brown bag and hop aboard. Compared to our close-quartered break area, the twenty-ninth floor lounge is Harry's Velvet Room.

Inside the elevator cabin, I notice the plastic, arrow-shaped casing missing from around the UP light. A bare bulb flickers alone, as though wrestling sleep. The elevator creeps upward about two feet, groans, and drops.

My descent accelerates. With each second, I've got a lot less far to fall.

Fuck. Even if I survive this (quick: what're the odds? carry the four...), I'm going to be late. No one's going to know I'm stuck in an elevator wreck, not until I've missed all my appointments. They'll be irritated. They'll curse my name.

I suspect that's how this happened. The other day, I walked with a friend, and because we don't have much to discuss, we goofed on George W. Bush's tortured locution. We rounded a corner and who stood there but the chief exec himself. I played it cool; I praised his comic timing. He didn't seem all that pissed, but I think I saw him mouth the phrase "son of a bitch" as he proceeded. He cursed me; thus, I must now suffer and die horribly, like all the kids I called "dickweed" in school. That explains this.

Now I won't show up, and someone else will curse me. I'll be transferred from limbo to hell.

I pound my fist against the heavy doors. No one hears. No one thinks to listen. Everyone's preoccupied. I punch the emergency button. Red plastic shatters. Blood shoots from my knuckles. It gets in my hair as I give the Boy Scout salute.