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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 Jarvis

In dive bar. Alone. Again. Sitting, arms occasionally akimbo, but mostly folded on top of one another on bar, staring at blue neon light perched on showcase, the same blue neon light that brought a certain sense of peace to R. I feel a certain sense of peace while playing badminton, and only then, but the last time I attempted -- in all earnestness -- to play a game in a gravel backyard complete with burned out couch and burned out metal trash can and 1976 Mercury Zephyr with smashed windshield sitting atop an impressive patch of weeds -- in short, a scene speaking my native Athens, Ohio, such that I murmured "Mama" before every serve -- two six year old twats came scampering, swiping the shuttlecock from between my thumb and forefinger, leaving me to stare at sometimes close friend/sometimes distant acquaintance in genuine shock and throwing my racquet into weeds in genuine McEnroeian fervor, screaming "dirty little sluts, I could sell you in Tijuana for ten bucks and a six pack," R. pulling me away, me whispering in the collar of R's T-shirt how when I was a child I was taught respect, and that you either told the truth about your life when asked, or even weren't, or you kept your goddamned clot shut.

I stare at blue neon light and let all this go, and try to convince myself that I, too, am at peace.


Nuzzling Janet's underarm as she snored to take in her scent, the white powder of her antiperspirant churned into milk by sweat and various movements necessary to achieve various lovemaking positions. Occasionally in the early morning when she woke me seconds after biological imperative woke her, the milk had dried into flakes on the tip or bridge of my nose. Laughing, she flipped them away while crawling atop me, me muttering something about Lenny Dykstra, who, for whatever reason, occupied my dreams all last winter, she laughing "Joey, Joey, Joey...". Then, fully alert, I basked in the effluvium of her morning breath and remained still, really almost happy.

On the phone, she in Boston or LA, me asking her not to bathe during the two days before she returned, citing Napoleon as having made the same request of Josephine when returning from campaigns to cover my neurotic tracks, knowing I never had to cover tracks with her, me cackling aloud at the thought of some poor cunt having to maneuver his horse through battlefields, turf ripped from the pitch by cannonballs, grass and dirt pelting his face, an entire brigade dispatched to stop him, the enemy fearing he carried plans promising a crushing defeat, but he escapes in a torrent of lead, his horse squeezing between columns of cannon fire, his whip relentlessly slashing into the hindquarters of the steed, the pride of France swelling in his heart, or bosom, even -- all to deliver a note to Josephine asking her to marinate in her own juices. Janet sighing and saying "Napoleon, huh? Well, you've already got the syndrome, baby."

Remember it is Sunday night and survey the bar. Wish I -- I, memememe -- were at the Green Mill, drinking soda, smoking, and making eyes at aloof dwarf cocktail waitress, as I am wont to do on Sunday evenings, the Lord's day being when the poor in spirit and mournful and meek and righteous and merciful and pure in heart and peacemakers and persecuted and reviled gather for open stages and slams of poetry and brag incessantly about being poor in spirit and mournful and meek and righteous and merciful and pure in heart and peacemakers and persecuted and reviled, to frantic applause and shouts of "That's right, tell it," and "You go, girl."

I shift feet like a meek, reviled boy on a playground and examine surfaces of ice cubes in glass, contemplating victimization chic. The bartender walks between me and the blue light. I nod when prompted by her speech suspensions, and when she simply leans against the bar, fist on hip, tongue lodged in cheek, I say whatever it takes to get back to the light.


Janet, fully odorous, giving me head in the back seat of a taxi from O'Hare to Huron and Western, my stomach tightening and hips slightly rising on occasion, on each occasion her teeth digging down and in, me staring out of the cracked window at projects around the United Center, and whatever life was it was simply the thing on me, in me, opening me. Think how the incident -- when related -- is at best a Penthouse Forum letter, but if I could harness one slip of the sweetness, I'd have penned the greatest poem.

I am vaguely aware of a smack in front of me on the bar and having something -- currency, doubtless -- snatched from my fingers.

I am Appalachian, goddamnit. I AM A MINORITY. Ice-T was the first to point this out when he spoke at the local university, me a tenth-grade whelp in the front row, he saying, "Y'all poor as fuck; you know there ain't no color 'cept green. Black folks don't hate y'all; you just gotta let 'em know you're down." Me at a field trip in Columbus at the natural science museum some weeks later, squeezing between my chaperon, who waved four bills angrily at the defiant clerk on the other side of the gift shop counter, me saying to clerk, "It's okay, sister, I'm down." She screwing her eyes, examining her fingernails and releasing from her diaphragm a: "MMMMMMMMMMHHHHHHHhhhhhm." Then having asked my guidance counselor about it some days later: "Yes, Joey, you're all technically minority members. Your 2 point doesn't have any bearing on it; OU must accept you, but still, keep trying. Your progress in remedial math is truly impressive," six months of truancy and marijuana following. Then of course Jesse Jackson came, as he always does, to talk to people fervently about things they already know. That's the only reason I got into university, that's the only reason I got into grad school -- these fucks looking at my portfolio and thinking, hell, maybe even saying, well, goodness, he's from Appalachia; he grew up in gravel backyards with burned out couches and burned out trash bins and 1976 Mercury Zephyrs with smashed windshields sitting atop impressive patches of weeds, and judging by his writing, he is a gynophobe, or even a misogynist -- what better way to boost our standing and brainwash a young man into hating his gender and race?

But, a white male by any other name still smells as acrid as Seven Trillion Years of Oppression.

So, then, yes, the limey and I walking down streets in San Francisco, he explaining a YOB was another word for a lad, but couldn't remember what it stood for; me offering, "Young and Ostentatiously British?" he not smiling at all. A sticker on back window of compact car: "Welsh-Franco-German Heritage," and it is there, as plain as day. I am 2.376 infinity Cherokee.

GodDAMN, English-Appalachian-Cherokee Coalition. Give me my fish and chips, 1984 canary yellow Z28 and firearms and whiskey, you fucking oppressors.

My blue light gone. I am asked to leave. "You want your guns and liquor, Napoleon?" I shift feet in like manner as before and try very hard to explain to the bartender that my name is Joey and all I really want is another beer.

**...that only the author could appreciate due to his (my) inability to achieve distance in relation to experience(s) of such magnitude that they leave him listening to Smiths on repeat on shite PC speakers, occasionally chiming in with chorus lyrics and/or various MorRissean caterwauling of various pitch, but mostly thinking, "yes, yes -- that's it, that's it" while biting on bedsheets, careful to avoid pillows -- in short, an inability to establish narrative point of view -- the very transmission of real life into fiction, this inability failing all principles of Columbia College Chicago's FictionWritingDepartment (where the author carries a somnambulistic 4 point) and its founder/figurehead/thou-shalt-have-no-other-gods-before-he.

Joe Jarvis is one of two or maybe three forebears of the STUPIDIST literary tradition. And meanwhile, he has moved from Edgewater to relatively more exciting Chicago neighborhoods. He may be contacted: joeygervais@hotmail.com.