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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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Thomas Shade

Thomas Shade lives in Chicago. During a heated bidding war over his last novel, he fell in with the wrong crowd. He has given up writing and currently interns for the Viking Youth Power Hour. You may contact him there. .


My lady and I used to rent a cabin on the Michigan side of Lake Michigan and spend a week full of beautiful nothing there in the summer. The cabin was crap: old as hell and full of holes and occasional rodents and cheap old furniture. But it was at the edge of the woods, right above a little bluff that sloped down to the beach and the big lake lapping at the sand.

Cottage Copy

Wake up in the morning and jump in the lake. Then: sit around all day, sipping cold drinks, grilling meat, smoking joints, reading, etc. Big campfire and real stories on the beach in the moonlight. Sweatshirts, roasted marshmallows. Maybe a guitar, even. Cornball shit, all the way, and almost perfect.

It was there, sitting around the cabin or on the beach, that I finally got around to reading Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet. I could never do it in the city -- couldn't get the focus to linger over the flow of the words. Very poetic. Too poetic to coexist peacefully with all the heat and noise and dirt of the big, dumb city.

The man who owned the cabin was named Bob. He was an older man with white hair and a short white beard, and his body was tight and tanned and leathery and around his shoulders he had a dusting of salt-and-pepper body hair. He lived with his family in a big house in the middle of all the little cabins spread out over their big piece of land. I overheard Bob telling a story about sailing along the shore in a heavy fog, the air getting cold and the fog too thick to even be able to make out landmarks on shore -- just the line where the water met the beach and then an epic white fog. It was getting dark and they were lost at sea and getting a little nervous. And then they saw two figures walking along the beach, and they called out to them, asking where they were.


So they were close to where they needed to be, which was a little town called Pierport. And then they were there and they sailed past the pier and into the middle of the harbor, and there was a perfectly clear sky above them, full of stars just beginning to shine. And the water was calm and smooth.

This story made me want to be a sailor. A man that knows his way around a boat: I like that.

And so I have this vision of myself, my illuminated, fully-formed self: living in a cabin on the shore of Lake Michigan, with a boat, making a living crafting wooden furniture and writing for the papers or something. I would have a dog, and spend a lot more time bare-chested. I would stop being a pussy and I would enter the World of Men.

B-but-but, um, just wait, once-once, but... A real man might just do it. But I'll pussyfoot right up to death's door, waiting, waiting until everything is just so -- like some degenerate sex fiend who has to have all the props in place and the costumes just right. I am amazed at the depths of my own mediocrity even more often than I'm astounded by the blinding light of my genius.

It ain't easy being cheesy.


Money gets funny and change gets strange.

and also

She smelled like a movie star and burned a hole in my...


1) I would pick the spot and buy the land (I would get a good deal), and I would build the house myself and run it on solar power -- off the grid, baby! I had thought lighthouse briefly, but no; something too conspicuous and answerable about a lighthouse, and God forbid you would actually have to fire that thing up and save a ship. Too much responsibility.

2) I would have sharp knives and axes and a woodshop of some kind with tools. Many chairs would be made, and even more tables. I would occasionally sell a piece of furniture for an obscene amount of money (enough to live on for 4 months). Who would buy them? Only the most discerning, and of course the stray rich tourist who had heard tell...

3) Stacks and stacks of books, many of them about the Greeks and sailing (separate topics).

4) Two comfortable chairs.

5) No television. No television? Maybe.

6) A loaded pistol in the drawer of my nightstand; a shotgun in the closet.

7) I would clean fish. I've actually cleaned a fish before, as a child, and I remember it as a positive experience. Which is strange, since I've always been such an incredible pussy. But for some reason I went fishing, caught fish (sunfish and walleye), pulled 'em off the hook and hours later I was ripping their guts out with a sharp knife and then frying them in butter.

8) Wouldn't hunt fowl or deer -- never had any experience doing so, and don't know if I'd be able to gun down a deer. That is to say, if there were a grocery store within a day's walk, or a garden nearby, or fish to catch. When it comes to my aversion to gunning down graceful, sentient creatures, all bets are off if it's a matter of survival.

9) I would really be a first-class flake.


I will play the banjo, and there will be campfires on the beach (often). In the basement part of the house, in a super-secret room, I will grow first-class pot (like a Cannabis Cup winner) -- not a lot, just enough to keep things interesting. There will be only one TV, in the Boom-Boom Room. I will garden and have thousands of vinyl records. There will be a recording studio (top-notch). Maybe a darkroom (b&w). I will take photographs of nature and the lake and cars that roll by on the road (but the road won't be too close to the cabin). There will be little guest cabins for friends to come visit. I will smoke a pipe and have a dog. Tai chi at dawn, if I feel like it. Sun porch with comfortable big leather chairs and shelves and shelves of books. Framed maps on the walls (maritime charts, etc). Cold beer in the refrigerator. No: cold beer in a beer case with sliding glass doors like they have in bars... No. There will be a goddamn bar in the cabin (will probably have to be in the secret basement part).

A shed which will be a woodshop. I will make furniture and write for the papers, as I've said before. I will have a P.O. box in town, and the people at the post office will know my name.

Please stop by if you have the time.

Illustration by RENO.