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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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MY MASTER OF PUPPETS: ode to things not done
Todd Dills

I have never been one to pick on (or pick fights with) the underdone or -dog, however you like it, though I once put a young man in his place when he refused to quit making reference to me as 'Pickle'. I kicked him in his rather large butt. My brother delighted in stating the fact: that I 'Kicked his butt,' a statement which was forever followed by a long spiraling giggle, high-pitched and whiny like a good Southern child's. My brother and myself both, some twenty years later, now might be one of those underdone. His talk is low and slow, primed with Budweiser, his gut now outstrips mine by an inch or so. The basketball court, a great equalizer, reduces our spongy muscles to dirty laundry and not-even-close-to-exquisite pain.

'Battery is found in me.' I do not know what the hell this means.

I have never been addicted to any kind of psychoactive drug. Cigarettes, sure. I am that hideous type who smoked his first at age 8. He snuck out of his house at 2AM with a degenerate friend, found a full pack of Benson & Hedges and an unused matchbook in a playground deserted and darkened, haunted by nothing but the ghosts of Confederate soldiers, so some say, real wussies anyway. At 13 he gets busted his first day in high school crouched under a picnic table on lunch grounds with a Marlboro between his teeth. By 14 smoking near a pack a day in the bathrooms between classes. At 25 the basketball court reduces his spongy muscles to dirty laundry and chest to a burning, dried-up boxwood bush. Barry, my friend and design man VW-hotrod/Honda-motorcycle mechanic and great old enjoyable chum... Barry watched me drink and smoke for the first time in years this summer in Sumter, SC, and figured out loud that if I had changed at all I was at least on the way to the grave. He laughed after he said it. But I figure I can go at least a day without the stuff. And that's a start.

I never ever really did get into H.P. Lovecraft. He's like Jules Verne with skulls, which I can do without.

Again, I have never been addicted to any kind of psychoactive drug. I have never been deemed insane by any psychiatrist or psychologist. I did once roll around on the sidewalk drunk on Division Street in Chicago, in front of a Puerto Rican market at 3AM. I screamed and rolled around and wallowed in grime and wailed at great friend and sometime lover Anna. She told me I was insane, and I believed her, particularly when I woke up the next morning and called Barry in SC and told him all about it, because he told me the same thing. You're Goddamn insane, boy, he said. Thing I know is she was drunk too and strung out and tense with all kinds of head shit. She threw my bullshit right back at me. She clocked me square in the jaw, actually. In spite of it, I really loved her being here, because she's not often. I love it when they come around, up from SC, over from Germany and England and Pennsylvania and Georgia and Mississippi and Canada and all over everywhere because I miss them all, all the old friends, Aunts and Uncles, my folks, people I've never met. All of you, everywhere, let's meet in the Jarvis Motel in Swan Quarter, NC, take the ferry to the islands and wait out a hurricane with grins and cheap gin and beer. Barry can play the guitar for us. We can dance in the rain.

'Leave me be.' I love this phrase, as it is most often spoken in my mind by a gangly stooge who rocks on his front porch and smokes 24/7 and drinks whiskey, mutters it to passersby. Leave me be. Because this is what he wants, more than anything‹war, heaven, hell, whiskey, cigarettes‹the man wants to be left to himself.

My great brother and I and some others want to start a secessionist movement based in Chicago. We want to occupy an apartment building or a house on an already bombed-out street on the far-West side or something, so what's the big deal?

I declare myself and this apartment the Sovereign State of 2639 Spaulding.

That sounds wonderful.

We've never had any real war, me and my great brother, these others. No heroes to ever have been disposable or even disposed of, though our childhood glam-metal idols might fit here. I'd like to think at least that we disposed of them at some point. Though they're probably still there in the bones and blood and piss.

Jim Bakker's PTL Praise The Lord headquarters was set up in Fort Mill, SC, just twenty minutes up the road from where I grew up. Back in the 1980s I couldn't wait to get my driver's license so I could wheel up to the big wooden Heritage U.S.A. sign on highway 21 and shower it with a torrent of eggs. By the time I did get my license, Bakker was in jail and the place wasn't worth the attention. On a Friday night I got together with my brother and some people I haven't seen in 10 years or more and we spun up and down Cherry Road in Rock Hill throwing eggs out the window of my Mustang. We were trying to hit the rednecks that hung out by the road in the K-mart lot. Those boys were mean. We nearly died that night.

I was in bad rock bands for years, but I'll have to admit I've never played a 15 minute instrumental song at a memorial service for a dead bassist.

We might dance in the rain on a dock at Swan Quarter, if happen we missed the ferry. We might run straight up the islands and play in the sand at Kill-Devil Hills. We might build the first airplane, or cause a wild ruckus. Let's throw televisions out of our motel rooms at the Jarvis there. Let's sit back on a beach and drink and watch the storm as it rolls in, throwing water on us and wooden beams from all the collapsed piers and cigarette butts dredged up from the bottom and beer cans and fish wriggling in midair and glistening like sun on a meniscus. Let's stand up when it's over, shake the water from our pantspockets and crack open a can, await the next one.