Home | Archive | Itineraries | Events | FAQ | Columns/Links
Advertise | Newsletter | About/Subscribe | Submissions | Art Walk | Books | THE2NDHAND Writers Fund

**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 |

Back to Archive Index

Ian Wolff

Winter: Crosswords
Without a certain gladness there's a relentless soliloquy of sadness. Nor certain but sure and regarding this there's the functioning of my lower intestine that's brought into question on this sultry night. Long cast the radiant and bemoaned, the relinquished and delinquent. I'm not telling the moon or the sand. But there is a pause, a break in the clouds, a ray of this light that was already a shadow. So then the ultimate altitude is reached, the air thinning, the no longer ground far below. If I was standing on a rocky outcropping no longer so. So there's the last of the retreat, there's the last of the show, there's the last of any certainty that went the way of the last wave on the sandy shore far below. With the night comes the surety, alterity, and the other light that is not light but the darkness on the shore of the ocean where this beach is far below. Or over then the waves we can see as just glistening there as a field of corn from above at night on the sultry air and the waving breeze and this august night. Without which a phantasm of spectrometer, of our retinal response, of dopamine coursing through our brain. I might argue that there is but the shadows to depend on. I'm not certain, but sure these shadows remain as long as the angle of incidence remains just so.

Without which I might have been led to question even then the redundancy of the night's causation, of the night's resistance to day even as the waves, on the beach again, crawl up the shore and wrap around my feet. Could I be here on this shore? Again then there is a forced halting. A halting lockstep, the echoes of the farthest front line rippling even here with dull thuds and booms, orange glow on the horizon.

Even then after a turning back or the crenellated afternoon ago that couldn't have been sufficient for even a lackluster lunch, even a paltry sandwich will do. Before though and a little to the left is that high cliff from which we most certainly hurtle ourselves. A quick flight, short fall. But in a minute the role is reversed and again there's the forest afternoon in a long, gauze-lined maze of surgical procedures and infected wounds. A short trip home.

As a field of corn from above at night, I am also countless and blended. My heads are numerous rising here and there in the shadows, where there is neither known nor any unknown, only the rows upon rows of similitude, redundancy, mute vegetal growth. When I move forward, I move much the same. And when I'm still it's as if I'm a spinning top. There is no peace at times like these. We feel them closing in, in numerous/monstrous personifications of their innate hate and depravity. You might smell it on the wind. I can feel it come up from the ground like the odor of a French cheese. It permeates, fills this house of mine, six rooms all smell. The living room: a reek shack. The bathroom: the same. Dining room, bedrooms one, two and three: there's no getting away from it.

The peeled angles offer a certain restraint, a defiance against the long blowing days and the salt air. My turpitude is tranquil here, unfettered and unencumbered. Though I'm certain soon the pilings will fail, dry rot having set in. Already when the wind blows there is a slight rocking sensation. It's only a matter of time. Until then, though, I work away at outdated crossword puzzles.

Summer: A Standard Analysis of Sandwich
We reminisce. As surely we could have already with that memory we are translucent in our love and this little skip, which carries us along the sidewalk under the winter sun amidst the snow and the mud. Having our little dance underway, we must be happy at least about this. A sun is worth our trip alone. A sun is our sun on our brow or at least our hair, warming it there a bit. That would be a memory. Certainly a thought of it, or a phantasm of that day that was under the sun with the snow and the mud. All wrapped up in one, said the man at the deli, wrapping our cold cuts for us and handing us the nicely wrapped package, all wrapped up in one, as it were. I take the package, thankful for its tidiness and eager for its contents. I'm quite puckish, as it were. Already looking forward to making a sandwich, as it were. I did just that too, when I returned to my kitchen and set out the proper utensils and condiments to go about this chore of assembling the sandwich, as it were. But when the sandwich is gone, I miss it. I might attribute this to a lingering hunger, or perhaps a shortness of memory. The sandwich eaten is the sandwich forgotten. At which point it's time to move on, to undergo a distraction so that the loss of the sandwich can be absorbed into the general loss of the life that is lived accordingly, according, at least, to the standard analysis of sandwich loss, of which I suffered.

The sandwich gone, I am free for the rest of the day, or rather if the night should be, the sun having gone down, I am free to the night or even the day if the sun should have risen thusly as I stood there in the kitchen, light overhead deceiving the morning or the night, as the case may be. The sandwich was left behind, or so I thought, though still I stood in the kitchen. I haven't much else to do on this occasion that is now, save to gather about me the warming embrace of that which is this kitchen, the place where we always seem to wind up lingering. Maybe some unconscious relation to the food that has been prepared in not only this kitchen, but in countless kitchens since the very first kitchen, however little resemblance that first kitchen may have had to this kitchen, or if it could even be called a kitchen in the first place, it being not much more than an assembly of blunt stones and a fire pit, if I may be so bold as to presume, yet nonetheless serving the purpose of a kitchen in the most general sense of the term. So in that regard we are standing with all those who came before us, when we linger in kitchens. We are breaking bread with the first upright. We are sitting down with kings and queens, we are philandering with the filthiest and ascending with the most devout.

Fall: The Foundering
Our greenest grass finds its replacement from the bottom up. A growing thing, this absolute abandonment of conditions, of our hope or even our pride, lost surely in sands overseas as lost here at home on the grass-fed landscape in which we reside. Hail the certainty of the loss, and give rise to a foundation for metrical analysis. Our run is fulsome, full-chested, acrobatic. Our greenest grass-fed landscape hails our certain end, or even that beginning in which we look at ourselves. I couldn't have been anywhere but there in the green grass of lawns and hanging laundry. A laundry lawn of yesterday. Fall of my instinct, fell of my knell, knee of my groin, hope of my hind. If I were to somersault on the lawn, certainly it could be a festive romp. Would you join me?

Though without even these lawns, sun soaked in the afternoon, gin and tonics, slowly rolling cars, glinting windscreen piercing an afternoon tranquility, driveways, sweet smell of asphalt hot under the last rays, we lounge here, taking in the last of the day, sipping our cold drinks, thinking: questions? Do we have any? If so, might we mark the afternoon by counting them off like a grocery list? Not likely. More innocent in our gazing, I stick to the glass in hand, its cool sides glistening with beads of sweat as another car passes and I turn to my companion, a veritable shaker, a remorseful dissident, a real rabble-rouser, a malcontent, and I quote: "Man can think in the sense that he possesses the possibility to do so. This possibility alone, however, is no guarantee to us that we are capable of thinking."

Spring: 0 Degrees
The ice over the pool is impermeable. It has frozen several inches thick. We pull out the skates from the closet and make figure eights. Somewhere below we are certain there is unfrozen water. But you wouldn't know it for the solid surface of ice. There's no sign of melting in sight. The thermometer outside the kitchen window reads 0 degrees. We don't stay too long outside, only long enough to make a few circuits around the pool before we run back inside, our faces red from frozen air. Our mothers take the skates from our feet, unlacing them carefully, then blowing on our poor blue toes, breathing life back into our withered appendages. Our mothers' eyes are crystal clear, the color of ice, our mothers' lips, though, are warm and red. Our mothers' mouths are minor furnaces in a frozen landscape, glowing embers in a snowstorm. Our mothers' arms are strong enough to lift us and soft enough to rock us to sleep despite the chattering of our teeth. Our mothers' hips bear our siblings one after the other. We welcome them with reservations, knowing that now some of the precious warmth from our mothers' mouths will be spent on these small new teeming bodies.

When they grow will they remind us of our fathers? The fathers every year go out into the snow and never return. They are replaced by others, ones that come up from the basement where they plan the future. A sign, written in black ink on an old cardboard moving box tacked to the door that leads to the basement, reads: " 'Out with the old, in with the new.' Old American proverb." And they come up after politely knocking, and wait for the mothers to answer. The mothers only answer when the last wave of fathers have pulled on their hats and headed out into the cold with their threadbare overcoats and ineffectual loafers, as if they were merely heading off to work on a balmy Spring morning, and not into waist-deep snowdrifts.

How we look after them when they leave, the rough bristle of their unshaven cheeks against ours already a dimming memory. We watch their backs hunched against the cold, we wonder what the cold must feel like away from the glow of the house, outside the brief aura of light that still emanates from our windows. What happens when they can't see the house anymore? What might they find out there? Could there be other homes and other mothers? Perhaps there is peace out there, cooling quiet tranquility among the leftover trees and rolling hillsides, under the soothing grey blanket of sky that seems to stretch on forever.