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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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Germania Solórzano

So for those of you who are familiar with the Nicaragua tales from last year**, I just wanted to update you briefly on the mother-father driving situation. They now know how to get around quite well, but that hasn't stopped the constant barrage of driving...advice? suggestions? directives? from my mother, which can be wearing at times but also, feels quite necessary at others. Today I found myself clutching at the door handle in a strangely silent terror, as we wound around sharp turns on a narrow stretch of road overlooking Managua down below. The more ma tells dad to slow down the more annoyed he gets and so refuses to slow down as a matter of principle, meanwhile I am silent silent, wondering if I am indeed prepared to die (which will lead into the next topic of interest).....

"So you are not a practicing Catholic," Mom makes a direct hit. Target flinches. Debates as to mode of response, indirect evasion of topic? blunt honesty? outright lie?

"No," Germania answers.

Sylvia looks suddenly very prim. Purses her lips in a mild display of dissapproval. She is controlling herself. I wonder if she will start crying.

"So, are you happy about that?" she asks my father. (Somehow he is to blame... or rather he led us into this conversation by declaring that my mother has turned into a nun since they have moved here -- which I fear may not have as much to do with just her church volunteer work and proclaiming Jesus's involvement in EVERYTHING!... I fear some sexual insinuation there, so of course I say NOTHING -- but prior to this comment he made me laugh by saying, in Spanish of course, that don't we think that God and Jesus get tired of their names being put in everything? For example, when my father makes a wild turn and my mother proclaims, again in Spanish, that we should all thank God and Jesus for protecting us and saving us from certain death.) -- (Actually she says a little prayer, right there on the spot, whenever we evade disaster... Gracias senor por protegernos en nuestra viaje al mar... Thank you Lord for protecting us on our trip to the beach. Does this annoy me? Yes. She wasn't like this when I was a kid. Religious, yes, but not calling on God and Jesus every five minutes -- we evade disaster a lot.)

Which leads back to my mother's response about religion: "We are all going to die...." meaning -- prepare! Prepare your lowly soul! Sinner thou!

That is the snippet of the uncomfortable conversation about religion. I will not go into more of it here because, thankfully, we didn't go too far in depth (I think because she just didn't know how to convert me at the moment). However tomorrow we are waking at the wee hours of the morning to go to Chinandega where some priest is going to say a mass for my cousin Tete. It seems that Tete has a cancerous condition similar to the one Guru had. Although with these Nicaraguans it's hard to tell what they are talking about, pathologically speaking. They have the strangest and most unscientific ways of discussing physical ailments. Earlier this year my family proclaimed that Fryda, my cousin, had been cured of her epilepsy (of course there was a celebratory mass). Meanwhile, last time I checked, there is no such thing as a cure for epilepsy. I say nothing, of course, not wanting to rain on the parade. But now Fryda's sad because she's had siezures again. (But she's okay. She probably had the seizures because she stopped taking her meds after some quack declared her cured.)

We went to Montelimar, the fancy beach. It was once Somosa's (the old dictator's) private beach. Then the Sandinistas began to create a resort out of it. And now it is quite fancy. Spent the night there. Swam in the swimming pool. Swam in the ocean. I love the sticky salty smell of ocean. Got burnt. Nice. We saw a wis (pronounced wees) -- a very pretty yellow bird that sat quite coquettishly on its branch, looking quite stuck-up. It allowed me only two pics before it got fed up with me and flew away. Also saw the largest butterfly I've ever seen in my life. It flew by so fast I wasn't able to fully appreciate it. All I can say was that its estimated wingspan was about three inches across and its wings were blue. My mother said she thought it was a flying fish.

Saw fields of sugar cane. The plants are very tall, over six feet. They have a fluffy white spray of fibers on top like wheat. Except they are white. So rows and rows of these with their heads bowed looked kind of like puffs of fake snow.

Also, to continue the nature theme, saw a rat. The rat was outside in the patio sitting quite comfortably on a cushion on the rocking chair. Just chillin. My mother freaked out completely and started screaming for the gardener (comes once a week). The poor guy didn't know what she was screaming about. (when excited my ma now speaks in a mixture of Spanish and English and often forgets that those around her do not know English). Then the poor garderner had to chase the rat. Now that is a sucky job. The rat ran up the lime tree. I didn't know they can do that... which leads me back to the rat itself. The rat was not your typical big ugly lug of a rat that you see in the alleys or subways of Chicago. This critter was quite spry, had a very pointy snout and actually reminded me more of a squirrel than a rat, except for the unfortunate fact that its tail was not fluffy like a squirrel's, but was in fact very rat-like. However I suspect it is not an ordinary rat but some sort of rat-squirrel species.) So eventually the gardener said he caught it and killed it and tossed it over in the vacant lot next door. My mother was very upset. She thinks the rat is somehow a reflection on her. She, for some reason, is unable to make the connection between the overgrown weeds in the lot next door, and their paradaisal garden full of rat-delicacies such as bananas, plantains and chayote (a sort of squash, I think) and the appearance of said rat. Anyway, I don't think the rat is dead. I think the gardener was slick and said he killed it cause he got tired of chasing it. Though it was somewhat amusing and morbid at the same time to see the poor man chasing after the little thing with his machete drawn. I certainly did not want to see the grisly execution.

Amanda L., I taught my parents the two yiddish words you taught me: kvetching and dreying (is spelling correct?). There was major dreying at my cousin's b-day party. We kept making like we were going to leave, but we never left. Finally my father stalked out to the car and put the dreying to a halt. I'll have to check and see that these words are used now in conversation, so they are not lost.

Josephina, EVERYONE knows that you saved the day by finding my passport. The entire Rodriguez clan is grateful to you for your fine organizational skills. Gracias. Gracias. Que Dios te bendiga. May God bless you for finding my passport. Thank you Jesus for giving me such a fine friend who knows how to find passports in crates of unfiled bills.

Now I will be struck by lightning. I know it.

**This tale, in a series of six reports, was broadcast via e-mail to our Editor and a number of other trusted associates of Ms. Solorzano. We regret that, as of this publication, access to last year's tales is nonexistent. Trust the references, friend, ride with it. And enjoy ---ed.