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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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Patrick Dugan

Many, many years ago, there was a Farmer who ignored his crops and planted a maze of large green hedgerows. One day he urged his Wife to walk through the maze before she condemned it, but inside she couldn't make out one end from the other.

"I have had enough," she said. "You spend all of your time with those shrubs. How will that feed us? You need to plow and plant the fields."

"I can't," the Farmer answered. "Plowing would ruin what I've built."

"Winter will soon be here," she said. "And we will have no crops and no spare gold for firewood. We will have empty bellies and we will wither away."

"That may happen," the Farmer said.

But word had spread that the Farmer had created a beautiful maze. Hedgerow farmers from beyond the mountains visited it. "It is beautiful," they said. "Please take this gold for the pleasure your maze has given us." But the Farmer rejected the money.

By autumn, the Farmer's house had fallen into disrepair, and there was no harvest, and the Farmer and his Wife's bellies were empty.

"If you didn't plant those shrubs in the field," the Wife said, "we would have crops to harvest and to eat; we would have full bellies; and we would sell what we could not eat to repair our house. You could charge farmers for walking through the maze."

"That is true," the Farmer told her. "But I did not create the maze for that."

Months passed. The hedgerows flourished. The farmhouse became drafty, cold winds running through it. Early on the morning of the first winter snow, the Farmer wrapped himself in a quilt and walked into his maze. He had visited many mazes when he was a young man, but his maze was the most symmetrical, the sharpest, the smoothest, and the most difficult to walk through. This warmed him. He followed straight corridors and turns until he found the center, lay on his back, and, now tired, fell asleep.

Months later, when the spring winds thawed the earth, the Wife buried the Farmer in the dirt beneath the hedgerows, and now the hedgerows grow tall. During the summer months, farmers from behind the mountains and across the seas study this corner or that corner of the maze, write papers, and argue. Children play in the corridors. At night, teenagers copulate in corners. At harvest people decorate the hedgerows with stalks of corn and hope for a bountiful yield. Each year people come, people dance, and people celebrate the Farmer's accomplishment. So many people come that the Wife has paid a man to tear down the farmhouse and replace it with a castle.

Patrick Dugan lives and writes in Ohio. He maintains a Web site: www.geocities.com/peedugan.