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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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Brian Welch

He, tall in the saddle and in great plumage, rises up in the stirrups as he turns into the driveway. He ties his snorting mount to the bumper of the Toyota. He goes to the lawn and spreads his vast blankets out vastly, and lays into his harmonica like a dying man.

He has a doll for sister, one with a red plaid dress and moveable eyelids. They move independently of one another, and when one is down and the other is up the girl looks like a deranged slut. Mabel thinks she is beautiful, no doubt because it came from him. He tried to impress me with a dead man's finger on a chain but I can see it is not real by the manufacturer's inscription under the nail.

Mother goes for beer and cards when he rides in, not returning for days. She is in great pain for him. She leaves by the back and takes the long way across the creek and over the cornfield so as to not let herself die from the sight. I sit in the bay window and see him swinging Mabel around the fire, but his brain is on the prairie in its boots, I can see. His eyes are closed and his jaw is toward the heavens filled with feathers and scalps.

When the nights get very cold and he is lonely, he kneels at the door and bends, head down and his mustache handles bobbing lightly. He never removes his boots. At the kitchen table, near the soft glow of the candle he carries with him, I can see how fierce and handsome he is. His hair is blond and grows in thick tufts that fall down over his ears. He has small thin lips that rarely part. The color and shape of his eyes, of which I have been called a reminder, are gray and square. He does not speak. He would not dare eat our food.

In the fog of the morning he is out on the gravel, whispering confidences into the ear of Collector of Souls. The beast closes her eyes and long cords of snot drip from her heaving nostrils. He leans into the driver's side mirror and brushes his golden locks with great care and reverence. Atop his steed, he pauses at the end of the drive and turns his head back toward the house, inhales deeply the cold air of morning and burns away into the trees. I am a child of history.

Brian works as a corporate private eye for an insurance company and writes in Denver, CO, where he moved, from Chicago, in 2001. Contact him here:bwelch25@yahoo.com