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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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Peter Relic

Having lived barren seasons on jennet carrion and chalky termites, I, eydent aardwolf, determined to splurge. I ordered a blood clot latte and for an hors d'oeuvre a pail of gray paté. The repast came spread on a thick stock paper listing fortune options. The box marked "wretch like me" was prechecked, so I folded it into an origami porcupine and slipped it into the pink slot in the bumpy wall. The ceiling was made of saran wrap that had been melted into a rippling plastic skin. Having heard the report of a smallpox infested blanket thrown over the moon, I remained a nonbeliever until big chunks of glowing and infected cheese started hailing down, bouncing on the saran skin ceiling. The boy behind the counter's body began petrifying before my eyes, starting from the ground up: bright blue boots with black veins for laces, thick legs covered in bark, neck like a Ticonderoga pencil, and a very handsome head of peat moss to go with his wooden face. He had a bright future as a model of the polo top variety, provided they could photoshop him a personality. Grande blood clot! he spat, and set a wet wrench on the stained glass shelf where the Encyclopedia of Natural Disasters lay open to the page on Pompeii. I took the wrench and hid it in the pocket of my hooded sweatshirt, because the weather was turning me into a sad sack of splinters. Which reminds me to tell you to ask me about the time at the downtown YMCA when after an air bath I forgot the combination to my locker; everyone had left for vespers when the custodian finally came down with his heavy wirecutters. He clipped my lock, and once warmed up snipped off the little toe on my right hand and a golf tee that had been imbedded in my knee since eleventh grade. I left with the lava-streaked linens. When I got to Swearingen's tent and showed Little Ernie my hot clot and brillo pad septum, he told me I should quit drinking invisible ink. Then he spackled himself right into the sky. He's been writing up there ever since.