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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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Tom Bradley

My favorite Mormon nephew, Bryce Barkdull, once had a severe identity crisis in which he was having difficulty determining his relationship, as a person, with the workaday world.

So I wrote him an email message, telling him that it wouldn't be shameful or unmasculine, if it was what his heart truly desired, to remain within the household and perform the hearth-maintenance and child-care functions, which were, after all, legitimate work as well.

And I suggested that it was perfectly natural for a fellow to want to lie around watching Jack La Laine vintage videos, making plans for All the Eternities, and whatever else flitted into his mind, meanwhile allowing the little woman to go out and win the bread.

Sensing that Bryce was at a turning point in his development as a man, I chose to express myself in terms the younger generation could relate to:

"Make yours one of these modern role-reversal situations," I wrote. "Get relevant, nephew of mine, get with it. Hit the little missus with this: 'Listen up, Sow Gash! You wanna wind up a lazy no-goodnik like everyone else in your family? What are you, unliberated? Don't you wanna take up the reins of power in this family unit? What'samatter, Bitch, are you afraid a little wage-earning will turn you into a lezzie like it did your mom?'"

I continued as follows: "This, basically, Bryce, is the manner in which we men must communicate with women in the domestic context. Take it from me. Never mind that your mother-in-law is no invert, as far as anyone has been able to ascertain."

I admit that I'm not quite comfortable at the keyboard, but Bryce is no circumcised critic in broad syndication, either. In any case, the letter convinced the young father to lease out his large but efficient wife.

She got all teary at first, and I wasn't surprised by her initial reaction. Of course she would chafe about being forced to venture out of such a neighborhood: it was Hog-Heaven. Right within waddling distance were a Pizza Hut, a Dairy Queen, a McDonald's, a Kentucky Fried Chicken, a Skipper's Fish and Chips, and, for dessert, a Baskin Robbins, all close enough to the Barkdull hovel to hear the rats rustle in the dumpsters.

Plus she had another gluttonous need that she wanted to indulge full-time instead of going out and working like a responsible citizen. And I warned my nephew in no uncertain terms:

"Heads up, kiddo. Keep an eye on her shitty penis-substitute of a baby. She won't want to leave off being that ravenous, cannibalistic thing known, simply, as Mom. You can almost hear the peptic enzymes roar in that word. These god-damned females. Vicious creatures of their appetites is all they are."

I felt obliged to press the point: "She has kept that polymorphous pervert hanging off her squirt-bag for an abnormally long time, like some pagan-assed Escondido beach whore. The kid will eventually start biting her, mark my words. That's one huge fucking organism starved for red meat. She will finally have to wean it once and for all, unless she wants to catch titty-tetanus; and when the house-ape begins screaming from hunger pains, because daddy is catatonic and there's no food in the apartment -- well, that'll finally get Mammy off her lard ass."

I went on to inform my nephew Bryce that he'd better separate the pair of them in any case. They'd been developing that spine-slithery telepathic symbiosis you sometimes see, where the baby learns to peer right through his great uncle, even over the phone from eight hundred miles away. He can't even talk yet, and he's lying clear across the squalid apartment, ten feet from the receiver; nevertheless, he lays bare your soul and, somehow, non-verbally indicates your weaknesses and secrets to the mom, and she starts looking to the baby, or to her own reflection within its wide eyes, instead of to you, her husband's father-figure, for answers and motivations."

But infants are nothing without their mamas close by. Just meconium- and sputum-machines.

"I die today," is what she had reportedly said on the morning of her first day of work. It sounded like a line from an all-girl's parochial high school play. But, melodramatic or no, when necessity called from Peensy's rosebud maw, she turned out to be a darn good businesswoman, quite bloodthirsty and amoral, lucky for her various dependents. And the checks keep arriving in my mailbox, like Social Security.

Peensy. What a name. I figured for sure they'd call the little pill Jeremy or Jason. Or Shawn. But, Peensy? That's pretty rich. Even for an eggplant baby. A tar baby.