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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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Ian Wolff

The Elusive Home
This little town is a homey little town. I can skip through the streets when I'm feeling lighthearted. No one notices my strange behavior. Later the overshadowed mailbox became a receptacle for a variety of hate and crime. When a counterfeit becomes your simulacra you are in the place between. A certain alterity. Jars with a variety of specimen, bars around a variety of us less fortunate, or those too slow to avoid this halfway house. It's not too late but it is, so take a seat and watch the TV. There are some fine shows these days.

This is a fine little town. Don't let anyone write anything different. The steepled church, the shaded streets, the cross-hatched yards a quilt-work of exceedingly manicured gardens replete with jolly decorations. But then there are unravelings. Last episodes foresworn for the crepuscule. Granular and remitting the way has become a sermon. Words tossed out like bathwater. With pieces of others there are certainly letters still to be written, letters to be stuck in the mailbox and sent on their ways. Tangents are prevalent. But perhaps you'd prefer a sandwich or maybe a light salad. I certainly understand the complexities of the gastrointestinal workings and the drawbacks of colonic inertia.

There are solvents and there are dysenteries. The latter leaving one feeling rather empty, the former rather chafed. I try to avoid both and have proven adept at disentangling myself from a variety of situations that might otherwise prove detrimental to my health. Not a day short for thereby you are required to relinquish the turned down of overland travel. Never they say sometimes. I've heard it with my own two.

Lastly the shaded streets benefit from the soothing whisper of the wind coming off the lake. Landed and lorded over the lost conscription takes the latter route. I'm not writing anything other than that this was a when too also the day without yesterday reminded me not to other than that. When conflict becomes a generator of net energy, one is told to be celebratory. A clapping of hands is in order. A toast to our wise leaders. Into the driving wind, over the barren desert, trumpets blasting, motors beaming and tires churning through a rigorous defense. We should applaud our virile leaders who have delivered to us a new land. They're certainly a fine bunch of assembleds. Here and there highlighted with bougainvillea, here and there a chortle and clap on the back. Here and there.

Of Military Maneuvers and Tree Lined Streets
Down to the last of any time that could have been a reprieve from the unadorned or denuded face of things. Not that this is a last call or any such thing. I can't tell you who to vote for. But in all honesty and with knowledge a foresight there are really no options. Down to the last. Not so. Remember to keep your head up. These are the endless remonstrances that we have to deal with on a daily basis. Can you imagine? With the endless one up, one down, one up, one down. Enough to make a grown man. Then also is the denial of fundamental rights. We need to stay abreast of this development. That of the endless one up, one down scenario. One none liked.

Also a yellow window could be opened and let in the air. Fresh air is very good for the senses and helps to ventilate the brain, which has a tendency to get bogged down, especially during trying times such as these. I would be one who might ignore the symptoms. I've always shied away from doctors. However, and whenever, this is fortuitous. A lucky glance that might catch the retinal response by surprise thus rendering the whole situation a blur, much less than a circumscribed image, rather an abstract representation of what in fact gives itself up for interpretation. Not the least of which may or may not be agreeable to the viewer i.e.: you or me. So we could open the window or just go ahead and leave it closed after all. This is a rather small apartment on the ground floor, so who knows who might come through that window should we crack it enough to let in the air. Just as soon contend with the stale air and the smell of yesternights chicken that had been cooked in the oven in the manner of cacciatore. So it is amidst the redolent remains of that meal that I then stood.

A brief note on war: Lengthy military maneuvers provide a viable source of deterrence, thus avoiding a larger capacity for casualties. Yet still war is often the preferred choice for leaders of nations. This choice is usually presented to a populace as nothing less than a moral dilemma, a decision on which said leader has spent much time looking to God for guidance. Thus the leader becomes martyred victim, and said populace, rising on a tide of collective anguish, bolster their leader with hand wringing, flag waving, and disingenuous disbelief. But no matter, it soon became obvious that a diversion was necessary. And said was done.

Now that that was over, a rise is found in the circumstances leading therein. And we have to ask ourselves seriously now if this is the correct observation. Can indeed we see this rising sun, this falling moon, this solid wall with a single door no windows now and still say with a straight face that we are indeed certain that we have taken the proper course? Or rather should we finish with this endless circular delusion and come clean. These are the questions we should be asking but nonetheless we are asking naught, or rather naught is asked of us and there you have it.

There's a tree-lined street. I walk along, along the sidewalk, trees overhead, windows looking blankly out at nothing or into nothing rather than the dim lights issuing forth, an occasional body, a collection of arms and legs, perhaps nothing more than a flicker of the light of the window before a resumption of the steady dull light gaze of the window out onto the treelined street, where I walked on the sidewalk to.

Though I never reached the water, it was reassuring to know that it was there. So I tramped on. Through the boneyard, by the septic systems and the runoff catchbasins, past the storm drain where a cat skeleton was lodged in the grate having likely been washed there during the last great storm. So walked I on already knowing I'd never reach the water. But I have come to accept that. And the simple walking for now is fine. The possibility of chance is nearly intoxicating. As when a long and last is/was where the later come could be. I'm certain there's less cloud on this turn around. I have a certainty. At least of the mind. A certainty of the mind, my mind at least. That this mind should continue is miracle. Come now.

The Daily News
Your root makes me nervous, the way it trembles there. I'm cautious not without reason. All these days that hint a returned embolism are glamorous in their veined secrecy, turpitude, muscle and fiber on your doorstep. I could be the other, the one who delivers the bagged lunch to the doorstep of a limitless housebound population, or triumvirate. My loss suddenly catches up with me and I gain a perspective that I didn't think I had, outside it's raining meaning that in here it isn't. Thankfully the roof withstands the downpour. I'll perhaps weave a little sweater as I pass the time. I've drawn out the clips of old newsprint and spread them on the floor before settling down with a feed pouch upon which I munch happily away through the afternoon and evenings of this endless rainfall. Without which the fast way of the most diverse and circumlocuted orchards would fall no fruit rather stones, hard and egglike upon the heads of unwitting passersby. These are hard times no less. Diggers down eager for aspects of intoxication and glory. Eager for worn shoes and halter-tops, for the new money and old coal, for all these things that wind up in the dustpan.

Hanging over the banister the nose feels the air like a thermometer the heat. Looking out over a vast horizon shimmering with the day's productivity, its great release of all manners of force and collusion like a las vegas lap dance. I'm writing figuratively here. Hanging over the nose the air is a banister falling through it the heat rises quickly. No time to laugh before hitting bottom. Gone the ribald gesticulations, gone the flailing limbs. Renounced the delusion and an already gone return finds one stultified and ululating amidst a sea of calm, of quiescence. Bowel movements. Native rejoinders. Culled days return like ghosts. They've been deposited in the lock box to no avail, not even an active forgetfulness can truly lengthen your hair.

I can't claim too much fortitude but nonetheless I remain. I've dribbled on myself, which often happens. With all this rain it's hard to imagine that the gray sky will ever break and show a spot of sun ever again. We can imagine, though, that this incessant pitter pat will give way to something less frightful, less demanding, less deranging. We can hope. But for now I stick with my knitting and these news clippings which I don't read but rather use to catch the dribbles that fall from my mouth as if in direct sympathy with the falling rain. I too am a rainmaker. My couch smells like mold. Did I say that I live in a very small apartment with a moldy couch? "I live in very small apartment with a moldy couch." My voice frightens me, and I promise not to speak again. The sound of the falling rain is enough to satisfy me. My small sweater is almost done but there is no baby here to wear it. Perhaps a small dog will wander by and I will commandeer it. To dress the remains of this canine in a simple loss will demean not only me but all dogs. Gratuitous and lost around the inside of a yesternight for inside lastly that comes as a surprise to the opened door. Not gone but too the only lasting ritual with cornered circles and a fast getaway. This might have taken there the too lost drag and cinder. The cinder will surely day the burn of skin and hair. This I recommend we avoid at all costs. Or at least go it alone if you're so inclined. I'll be here with this sweater trying to figure out what to with it do. My insides are tumbling. Tooth with its mouth, hair with its scalp. I'm lying down now, newspaper pressed to my cheek.

Derelict. That's the best way to put it there. Derelict or cross-referenced, silenced, overshadowed. I forgot. But there it is, capsized, run aground, lurking there in the night, the waves lapping at its insufficient prow. What's this? Yesterday I was willing to plumb a circuitous depth. I wasn't so certain today when I left for the road where to walk. It seems a car might come along at any moment causing irreparable damage. I stick to the ditch stepping over a variety of carrion and discarded travel waste: cans, coffee cups, condoms etc. No matter, I'm merely out for a walk to while away the afternoon so that the day becomes tomorrow. Or something like that. This upswing of my legs gets the juices flowing. The passing cars blow dust into my eyes. No mind. This belief gravitates around a lackadaisical stance, a day like brilliantined hair, dripping in the heat, losing its shape, the road a ribbon as it twines through a vastly unchangeable terrain of ups and downs, of ins and outs, of holes that cry out for me to climb in. I hold myself back and stay my course in the ditch. Lastly I place one foot in front of the other since that makes the most sense at this juncture. A juncture causes a schism wherein the vastly unfurling universe becomes a finite point intuiting its vector on the crosshatch and bull's eye. This is a vastly superior delivery system for the country's superior munitions. As a great leader in the house of the assembleds once said: "Its all about delivery systems these days." So I take evasive maneuvers and cross the street.

Once then after since began the first day was abrupt, registering a malfeasance, laying down the last tune for pay off. But even in the caught overhang, round the other corner, and into a looming doorway against the rain. These are the rainslick streets. This is the rainslick. Slick even as the sky comes down. Rain in the gutter or on the roofs of cars. Rainslick.

Personally, I've run aground more often then not. Prow ineffectual there. Showing up in the night when it seems there's no one about only to be discovered lurking there and wishing I was invisible. No luck. I'm found wherein I hide.

Loving Oneself
Could be that it's just the way I was heading out that way. There's that place than the other, both of which sever our purposes. One high, one low, both sweltering how. No escape really. But I can let that stand for now because I was going there anyway. To both of them. Impossible perhaps, but there I was. One in each of the rooms. Looking out from the doorway I saw a reflection that was very brief yet nonetheless attractive, I admired my square jaw and broad shoulders. I blew myself a kiss. And had I not been interrupted at that very moment I might have "turned on." No less the less but that interruption served to prolong a certain sense of alienation that quickly rushed down upon me when I discovered that I wasn't alone, that in fact I was surrounded. That's right. Completely and utterly surrounded, no chance even for surrender. I was done for. You see? But then it turns out it's not so bad after all. Just when the good gone the letter goes over on you. You see? This lark I took me out of the room and put me directly on the road. Tarmac, bitumen, hot as hell out there with the sun beating down on your head. The sun beat down on your head, cooking hair and brains and all. So it seems. Then a hitched ride might prove fortuitous. A handshake. A howdy do? Down the road we go. Me and the friendly fellow of close cropped hair and ruddy red cheeks. A fine American fellow, surely. I let him have the story about my being surrounded and he without hesitation, nor even a turn in his seat, pulled that vehicle over and nodded that close cropped head for me to get out. That was it, there it was. As it always is and will ever be. Side of the road and into the night we go. There's not much worth writing about here. Suffice it to say that in the sky there is a plenitude of stars. The coyotes lurk in the shadows. Me? I skip merrily down this road. At the next town there is a bustling tourist trade. Plenty of grub for everyone. Vittles and bits of bacon for the troops. There's a lasting taste in your mouth when you dig into that stuff. Stuff to last day anytime you're out there in the cold dark of night and even the howling wind seems to castigate your ineptitude of spirit, your already other experience that you seem to foolhardy think is yours for the taking. Not so. Never was. Just keep the toes on the road. The eyes on the wide. I heard there was an activity. Heard it reported. Reported heard. Hard copy gone. What for was the last one? A lost one. They say something like that. Like you would know what they were talking about. It's there anyway. What's been there has always been there, don't let anyone tell you differently. It may seem different. Such is my clause. Did you ever?

In the pine forest the air is thick with the smell of sap. I found myself there and honestly couldn't complain. Trees in the plain palm of sight. Trees up and down and left and right. All manner of trees, a veritable zoo of trees. A cacophony, really. I tried to remain calm but the fever caught me. A real panic right down to my tailbone. I was quaking. So I clicked my heels together and back to the room with me, thereby surrounded, thankfully, again. And I wasn't so much leered at as speculated over. I could almost hear the calculations clattering away in their shadow-box brain pans. A few of them pulled at their cheeks as if they were considering a mathematical construct wherein they were searching for the just right variable to solve all their inhibitions. The others might have been looking at a Gauguin (D'ou venons-nous? Que somme-nous? Ou allons-nous?) the way their eyes clouded over, and the way they whispered under their breaths. But I knew they had it in for me one way or the other. Soon would come the poking and prodding. A guy I once knew told me about it, how they're shy at first, but they soon find the courage and before you know it, they're poking their heads out from behind the one-way mirror, jowls dripping with slobber, a fanaticism in their eyes. What can a guy do?

An end reached. Maybe. Like air being let out of a balloon. The slow dissipation of a circuitous route. The loss of a soul or psyche, a looking back, really. Longing leads in many directions not the least roundabout. Farmed for affection, the heart gives up its languishing tendrils of fallen fruit. This can be gathered on the ground in small piles or placed directly into collection bags. Not worth wasting in the least. One should be very careful about this. The fruit bruises easy. Take that as a warning or disregard if you're so inclined. I'm not one for warnings, personally; however, I hand them out once in a while. They're rarely helpful since I rarely have a wise sense of what exactly is good and bad. Your heart, my brain-pan. Take your pick. Left to our own measures we're really up to no good. Many splendoured. Your dour lips are left on the mantel of yesterday. So best collect your belongings and get the hell out of here. I'm the last one to talk. That according to the rule book also located on the mantel. Shhh. They're coming now. See, there's the first one just like I guessed, poking their head from behind the one-way mirror. Crawling slowly out.

Ian's work has been published in "Index," a now long defunct magazine out of Tucson, Arizona, and at Pindeldyboz.com. He won a writing award in the sixth grade, which failed to prepare him for the many years of anonymity in store for him. He lives in Brooklyn with countless other writers. Visit his Web site for more of his work.