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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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Peter Vaeth

"Love is a fabric softener," I yelped, but Lucky wasn't listening. He was concentrating on the ballgame, lapping Old Style out of a souvenir coconut. What does he need to hear about love? He's an expert. He's been with the same sheepdog, Precious, for almost ten days now. Things are in the works, marriage-wise.

"Run with great alacrity towards the pillow so as to beat the thrown spherical object!" Lucky woofed.

I tried watching the game to get my mind off my break-up with Darling, but it was boring. Our hometown team, The Pirates, was losing -- again. It was the same old story. Whenever they managed to hit the ball, which wasn't often -- it's not easy with a patch over one eye -- they barely made it two steps on their peg legs before getting thrown out. It hardly seemed fair. The Cardinals were flying circles around them, literally. I couldn't believe Darling had run away with that pudgy boxer, Meathead. I guess German shepherds aren't her type.

"Love makes everything static-free and better-smelling," I howled.

"Mr. Umpire I disagree with your decision concerning the eventual destination of that previously thrown instrument of play, disagree so vehemently, in fact, that I have begun to wonder whether your eyesight is not in need of prescriptive correction!" Lucky barked. Then he slurped the last of his beer, snagged the empty coconut between his teeth, and with a violent head-whip threw it high in the air towards the aisle. On the run the chimpanzee vendor threw up floppy hands and snagged the coconut with a clap. Shaking his head and fluttering his lips, the chimp cracked another can and started pouring.

"Love is the Snuggle bear, all pink and warm and fuzzy," I moaned.

The chimpanzee, not without magnanimity but quite politely nonetheless, sidled down the aisle, holding the freshly poured coconut of Old Style with two hands so as not to spill, and bowed as he handed it to Lucky. Lucky responded by chewing up a five-dollar bill and spitting it high into the air towards the aisle. The chimp started running to get under it but a burly iguana at the end of the row whipped out his tail and tripped him. The chimp landed face first in the aisle. The crowd rejoiced with barks, meows, squeaks, and gurgles. The chimp, not without dignity but still quite embarrassed, dusted off his apron and patiently picked up the Old Style cans and stacked them back on his tray. Then he turned to the heckling crowd, curled back his considerable gums, and hissed.

"Without her love t-shirts cling uncomfortably to my pudgy torso, revealing my not un-large-for-a-male breasts. Metaphorically."

Lucky still wasn't listening. He'd resumed watching the game after the iguana-tripping-the-chimp incident. "Use your practice-honed judgment and genetically superior eyesight to judge accurately whether the just-hurled round projectile will pass through the imaginary zone that extends 17 inches horizontally and vertically from your knees to your armpits!" he barked.

If you haven't noticed, Lucky has a cloying, if rather articulate for a terrier, manner of cheering. He likes to call himself the Breeder of Minimalist Cheering, but his rooting is actually long-winded. There's nothing minimalist about it. Minimalist cheering would be like "Go! Score! Win!" What Lucky does could be more accurately termed Logically Explicit Cheering.

"Connect your wooden tool with the red-seamed white circular object in such a manner that it, i.e. the circular object, will land in an area of the lush green playing field currently unoccupied by a glove-wearing member of the opposing team!"

"Without Darling's love, trousers are cardboard-y and do not conform fittingly to my legs, revealing the knobby-kneed awkwardness of my gait. Metaphorically."

"Listen, Spot," Lucky barked, finally turning away from the game to face me, snout-to-snout. "There are plenty of dogs in the yard. Ants in the hill. Chimps in the trees --"

"Fish in the sea --"

"-- Fish in the sea. Mice in the alleys. Etcetera."

I nodded and yelped in agreement. Lucky was right. Move on, I told myself.

Lucky turned back to the game and bow-wowed, "Swing that club made of ash with the precise timing and angle necessary to propel the cowhide-covered orb of cork into the festive crowd, thus earning yourself an unchallenged trot around the pillows to the pentagon shaped plastic dish!"

"Go! Score! Win!" I woof-woofed.

Peter Vaeth lives in Chicago. For more of his writing, visit www.fictionfunhouse.com, an online magazine for which he is mostly responsible, though a clown might tell you otherwise.