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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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Penelope Memoli

"Are YOU gonna walk out?" Chris Rael asked me as he turned around in his desk that morning in homeroom.

"Hell yeah!" I said, trying to sound like I was actually a part of this walkout thing everyone had been talking about before school. Chris raised a suspicious brow at me and picked at the front portion of his Vanilla Ice pompadour before turning back around, I don't think he wanted me to be a part of the walk out. See, a few days back that episode of The Wonder Years where all the kids had a walkout in protest to the Vietnam war was on TV. And today was January 17th, 1991, and the U.S. had declared war on Iraq the day before. It was eight minutes till nine, and at nine, we were all gonna make peace, by getting up and going home. It was all going to be very cool, and everyone at John Adams Middle School was all excited because now we had a war, something exciting was happening, we had a reason to just get up and leave school, a reason to act like kids on TV and a seemingly honorable reason at that. At least we did until the principal Ms. Coffee came over the intercom.

"Attention students. Please be advised that any student who leaves class without permission, for any reason, will be suspended. Any student who leaves class without permission for any reason will be suspended."

"Well they can't suspend the whole school," Chris said, loud enough for Mrs. Hernandez to hear from her desk in the back of the room where she watched us from behind.

"Oh yes they can!" she said, in a voice that came from where her giant, pink-tinted glasses pinched her piggy pink nose. From then on, talk of the walkout became whispers and folded triangles of notebook paper. I had a big decision to make, was I going to get suspended for something I believed in? What did I believe in? I believed that I wanted peace in the middle east, and somehow, leaving school was going to bring that. I also wanted to do what everyone else was doing, or else I would only get to hear about the big walk out 2nd-hand from the cool kids who had enough guts to leave. I wondered what Scott Haarp was going to do. I looked at him over in the corner, leaning over his red three-prong folder doodling flames and carnage on the cover in blue pen.

Scott Haarp. He was this heavy metal guy at my school, his name was cool because it had a lot of unnecessary letters, and I'd always try to pronounce the extra T and A when I said his name. Scot-t Ha-arp. Ironically, Scott had a little extra T and A of his own. But despite the pudge, I thought he was the hottest guy at our school. He was the tallest guy in 7th grade, and he also had the longest hair, second only to Donna Purcella who could sit on her long midnight locks. Scott's long, auburn hair flowed from his over actively oily scalp contributing to his over actively oily face, down his beefy shoulders, over mountains and into the river valleys formed by the folds of his black acid washed denim Metallica jacket, and stopped at the waist of his acid washed jeans. He was always combing his hair with this little blue plastic oval brush that he kept in his inside pocket. The brush was flat, about half an inch thick, and on the back there was a little tab, like a fruit can pull ring, into which he'd insert his middle finger, strapping the brush to his hand, bracing it for the ride through nearly three feet of soft amber waves, like a skier moving downhill on a mountain of soft powder. Every class, before the tardy bell, and before the bell to let us out, from forehead to tip, he'd do about ten sets, and then put the comb back into his pocket. Sometimes he'd clean out the hair and toss it outside, he said that the birds built their nests out of the hair, and now all the nests in Albuquerque would be shinning.

It was a funny thing about that brush. We had the same one at our house, only ours sat next to the kitchen sink, and had a cake of soap resting on it. My mom got it a Tupperware party and she didn't know what it was. She thought the bristles kept the soap dry, which they did. So each time he brushed his hair, I couldn't help thinking he was brushing his hair with a soap dish.

Five minutes to go. I re-rolled the cuffs of my tapered, acid-washed jeans, so I'd look perfect for the war, while watching Scott for signs that he was preparing to leave. He didn't carry a back pack, only his red three-prong folder and pen, which he'd tuck behind his ear after he'd comb his hair, then once the bell rang he'd just get up, no preparation, no fumbling, always a very dignified exit. And if I was to have a dignified exit, there would have to be no fumbling, no deciding, just get-up-and-go. And once we walked outside, whatever we'd do out there, Scott would think I was so brave, so patriotic, and if I didn't walk out, he would think I was so smart for not being a follower. I flinched, thinking he was about to put his pen behind his ear, but he was just picking nose. He wiped the prize on the inside collar of his Master of Puppets T-shirt and continued to draw, drizzling a little blood off the end of a song lyric.

Then Ms. Coffee came over the intercom again. "Attention students. Will all students immediately report to the commons between A and B building. Report to the area between A and B building immediately."

When we got there, there was a Peace Rally waiting for us which consisted of yellow ribbons and girls with lipstick peace symbols and, in some cases, Mercedes symbols drawn on their cheeks. We all held hands and sang Give Peace a Chance, channel 13 came and filmed us, and then we all went home that night to see ourselves on the news. Not Scott though, I watched him walk right off campus, down to Taco Bell for a 7 layer. A week or two later, there was no war, and the Persian Gulf support T-shirts all ended up at Pic N' Save, for 70% off.