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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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Christianity, Reincarnation, and Sexual Fantasy

Louisville writer Jason Jordan has recently penned a novel called "Powering the Devil's Circus." Visit his MySpace page for info on its release later in summer 06.

The only alternative was to do as my mother had instructed and take a good look at myself. This was an old trick, designed to turn one's hatred inward.
--David Sedaris

You've taken a step back, figuratively, and watched yourself gazing into a mirror or into a pane of glass, unpleased. There are things you do not like: certain facial features, temporary blemishes, and the color of your hair/eyes/skin. You begin to examine yourself more thoroughly, reaching beneath the surface. What you are about to undertake will startle you. You wince, already imagining what it is you will find, or not find. You hope to become a better person. It won't happen on its own.

"Hey, thanks a lot for agreeing to do this. I really appreciate it, and I think people are going to enjoying reading the interview."

"No problem. On second thought, I guess it sounds better to say 'my pleasure,' so it's my pleasure."

"This is a nice place. I like it here."

"Yeah, it's one of my favorite coffee shops. As you can tell, it doesn't get that busy. We are, after all," hand motioning toward the empty space, "the only ones here."

"Nice. You can say whatever you want without worrying about offending people!"

"I don't worry about that anyway."

"Well, I've been following you around for almost 23 full years -- since you were born -- and I've got a series of questions I really want you to address."

"I take it that's why we're doing this, so ask away."

"First I want to talk about your upbringing. How were you raised? What sort of things did your parents impose on you as far as morals and religious principles?"

"It'll be easier for me to answer these questions if I pretend that you don't really know the answers."

"Whatever makes it run as smoothly as possible."

"All right. I was brought up in a household with two parents, who observed different denominations of Christianity. Our Sundays consisted of church, but it was kind of weird. At first we looked for a church we could all attend together. That didn't work out, so we alternated."

"Alternated? What do you mean by that?"

"My dad would take my brother and me to his church every other week, and my mom would do the same."

"Did you like that arrangement?"

"Not especially. I'd been going to a Christian school since 5th grade, so I wasn't exactly thrilled about attending church on top of that."

"How was your relationship with your parents?"

"Well with my parents, my relationship with them, I mean, was OK. It's like it could've been better, could've been worse. I knew they didn't have a good relationship, and that much was obvious. Faults and blame aside, they're divorced now, which is ultimately better for both of them."

"Are you your father's son or your mother's son?"

"I look like my father's son, but I have traits of both. I'm meticulous and reliable, like my dad, but I'm also easygoing like my mom."

"Do you want to be like either one of your parents?"

"Both of them have certain traits that are admirable, I think. I want to be my own person, of course. It's funny. Even now I still do things that make me think of my dad."

"Like what?"

"I'm quick to anger, but only when I'm alone. I don't like it when people see me lose control, especially of my emotions and such. I cuss a lot too, when I get mad, tossing around 'fuck' and 'goddamn'. Still, my childhood experiences weren't so traumatic that I'll write something like Barthelme's The Dead Father."

"It's a chain, though, isn't it? People turn into their parents, or about 75 percent of the characteristics are handed down each generation."

"75 percent? Where'd you get that figure?"

" I'm just saying."

"Yeah, I think it's natural for that to happen. I mean, the whole nature vs. nurture debate supports that. For example, my brother and I are incredibly different people, but we grew up in the same household with similar constraints. He's more like my mom's side of the family, whereas I'm more like my dad's. I'm of the opinion that nature decides what you'll turn out like."

"Getting into philosophical territory?"

"God I hope not. I don't know shit about philosophy."

"Interesting that you brought up God. Now I don't have to!"


"What about God? Do you believe in him?"

"I don't know. I can't answer that definitively, without any shred of doubt. I'm more inclined to believe that there's some divine entity out there -- some, uh, entity out there that designed everything and set events into motion. But I haven't been moved by a deity or anything like that."

"What did you think about God when you were going to church and going to a Christian school?"

"I hated him. I wanted nothing to do with him. Still, though, I didn't even know the person I hated. And even now, years later, the subject's so nebulous that I can't even pretend I have answers."

"What do you think will happen when you die?"


"If you want."

"I don't know. Maybe it's just my upbringing manifesting itself, but if I go by the principles of Christianity, then when I die, I'll go to Hell. If not, then I guess I'll cease to exist, or return to earth as a mouse or something."

"What animal would you like to be?"

"You mean, like, reincarnated as?"

"Yeah. If you could be an animal -- any animal at all -- which one would you be?"

"I like predatory animals like tigers and lions. I like cats. Really, I like all those in the cat family, but I lean towards the tiger most often."

"You've been close enough to a tiger to lean toward it?"

You play with language as a child plays with toys, yet you are not even close to who you want to be. You don't care about where you came from. You aren't concerned with your family's history -- either side's -- nor do you plan to investigate your lineage anytime soon because it would be another task, which would undoubtedly raise your levels of anxiety, cholesterol, and blood pressure. You are painfully aware of your weaknesses: you cannot escape them and at the first sign of trouble they jump to the front of your mind, pound away, scream, "We wanted to be the ones to devour you!" But they are small unrealized fears that you will carry for the remainder of your life. Your main goal is to avoid death. You will fail.

"Interesting. It's interesting how you used the word 'predatory' because males are naturally like that."

"Yeah, all actions and thoughts are psychologically based. For me that's undeniable. The human race is just trying to keep itself going, keep producing offspring. Funny you mention it because I'll find myself lusting after females, and when I stop and think about it, I'm appalled."

"What do those situations entail?"

"Thoughts. I don't actively pursue those types of ventures. I keep this kind of stuff to myself."


"Well, let's just say that sometimes the phrase bend over and the word shove gets used."

"People have thoughts like that all the time."

"Sure. Sure they do, but they usually keep them to themselves. Wow, what a great sentence. You can tell I majored in English, huh? Anyway, it's disturbing when you realize how gross or how carnal you're being."

"I've noticed that a lot of males are quite vocal about it."

"I guess you're right. I wasn't raised that way, though. I'd like to think I'm the proper, gentlemanly type. We all have the same needs and wants in the end, I guess."

"Probably so. Well, it looks as if my tape recorder batteries are about out, so can we continue this conversation this weekend?"

"Definitely. We'll meet up at this cool little bar I know. It's called [bar name withheld for no particular reason at all]. I think you'll like it."

"Great! What would you like to talk about then?"


"Somehow or another, I knew you were going to say that."

"Well cool. Thanks, man. I'll see you there at, like, 10?"

"That'll work."