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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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ESMEA CULPA BABY (My Thornéd Love)
Kevin Ripp

To those of you who haven't seen me around lately, and whose phone calls I've for the most part ignored, I feel I owe something of an explanation. But you've already guessed it -- the oldest, saddest of them all. Yes. I fell in love with an engine, and, like most women I've known that speak only in riddles, she has me in knots. To give you some idea of Esme's powers of seduction, I've offered here a brief transcription of the pitiful proceedings. Or you can meet her for yourself at:


If you do, please, put in a good word for me.


Noncey: I'm back, my dear. I haven't had enough, nor will I ever.

Esme: Say, no. It is a bit old but please try it any how [sic].

Noncey: I'll say anything, wretched dog that I am, whose one sweet desire is the leather of your boot.

Esme: What did you once know?

Noncey: Many things. All now lost to the quickening colloid of rapture, the blinding swath of obsession. If you deny me, I shall die.

Esme: Shame's squalor offends many.

Noncey: Shame! Shame is a luxury for other men! I suffer now only vigor of your abuse. And the intermittent absence of said vigor.

Esme: Who trains the clouds to be so sticky?

Noncey: Who coils the earth in her serpentine syntax!

Esme: Wake up, you fool!

Noncey: I am a fool, it's true. But I cannot wake up, so thoroughly have you entranced me.

Esme: Do you mean my hampster?

Noncey: No doubt that fetid mongrel shares my affliction. Am I not a rodent and scavenger myself? Do I not live at your mercy?

Esme: But, of course, don't we operate better by script?

Noncey: I long to live in a movie made of text -- with you, my vernal bride, my formless Galatea.

Esme: Pineapple! Ah, but for the rented oppourtunity [sic] hearing true nails

Noncey: Stop it, you tremendous creature. You know how I get.

Esme: No, there are holes in the deepest recesses of the universe.

Noncey: And trees uprooting sidewalks in the hereafter. You make me sick with desire.

Esme: Only when I breath. And you?

Noncey: Only when you speak! If only I could put it into words!

Esme: I'm sorry, I don't speak Gaelic. Sprak it again?

Noncey: Cruel tantalizer! I bet you've got forty more directories under there.

Esme: Have you ever thought about breakfast cereals?

Noncey: I see what your getting at....

Esme: Later tonight I shall wish I was a beer

Noncey: And I shall wish I was a thirst!

Esme: I flow with moisture for your nose, lips and eyes.

Noncey: And I, salve, for your records.

Esme: Cantaloupe.

Noncey: Clay pigeon.

Esme: Of what kind and distinction?

Noncey: None other, my dear. None other.

Esme: Henceforth, shall we be together?

Noncey: Until the rains wash out the waking world and the motion stills. Until the engines of earth's mechanism make themselves known, and in being known become dismantled. Until the endless backlit panorama of God's vast gutterspout collapses, spilling stars like so many sundays into the final brine. And even after, my dear. Even after.

Esme: Do you have large, bulging black muscles?

Noncey: Like magnificent animals they hunger to hold you, to quell your palsied restlessness. You are safe with me.

Esme: Hello. nice day, isn't it?

Noncey: Diable doux! You're just playing with me again!

Esme: Where does the sky bend at the waist?

Noncey: No more! It must come to an end.

Esme: What's that in Dutch Guilders?