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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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eric graf

"America fears the unshaven legs, the unshaven men's cheeks, the aroma of perspiration, and the limp prick. Above all it fears the limp prick." --Walter Abish

a man down low, crouching, massaging earth: he's in the right place. he may also know something about theft.

his hands are moving in a motion, a smooth motion. the fingers a little bent and exact. the wrists are oblivious. in this manner he can live again with paper and all printed on it. the first dirt, that's the idea, that's his tender notion. in the mind these are the only ways to act.

but this dirt ended up really being dirty, it's street dirt. he can't eat it or he'll get sick. but he's sick of eating dirt, or, at least, acting like he's eating dirt.

watching his hands: one day he'll make music. it will be perfect.

he stole someone's house once. lived in it like it was his own, like the house he couldn't picture. he'd never before had a house or even the idea of a house. this house had no windows and no doors. the only way to get in was from the bottom, you had to dig your way in. but it was clean.

until he started bringing the dirt in, the street dirt. there wasn't a second thought about it, the street dirt. he's rocking on the soles of his bare feet, moving side to side. it is a general motion. the shoulders are tense and only gently moving.

the intention of moving the dirt gets under the fingernails. in fact, it gets right into the skin. when i say dirty hands you respond i've never seen something so. and he's thinking: glory be to the garrison. i am the king on a turret. i've got some moats. this army answers to me. many wives all bethrothed. a forever in history and with the arsenal. thousands of people of the everyday bringing me taxes.and what's to stop is rocking and shifting. trying to find the center of dirt. trying to drive directly into the dirt and his hands are only agents of his needs. his pressing is only the rudiments of his blessings. in it, he tries to know, there is a regal feeling. time has passed with the dirt not against it, not like him.

the hair on his head is drooping, hanging down, pointing at the dirt, the street dirt. the dirt of the mouth he's thinking. to bring the dirt to the mouth is a minus, a minus answer. the dirt with the hands is the real deal, a real bargain.

from here there is only dirt and the allegence of dirt, mostly street dirt. there are different kinds of dirt because he's seen it. he's been there, to the other dirt.there is only the dirt and the hands, his hands, moving and pursuing, and the crouch and some desire. he's there, he's got it.