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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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Marc Baez

Tom and Elaine and Adam and Chuck are sitting on floor having just played Twister.

Tom: I have an idea. Let's pool our money together for tattoos and get the muse of blurred thought and the god of decomposition drilled into our chest muscles as a way of supporting the outcasts of experience!

Elaine: I want one on my back of an emaciated sleepless wonder laughing at magnificent speeds.

Adam: My tattoo will be four words: Death to all writers.

Tom: Then you haven't read Shakespeare, chump. King Lear. The Tempest. Hamlet.

Elaine: I love Shakespeare!

Adam: Shakespeare is a buried zero.

Tom: Don't listen to him, Elaine. We'll get images of Shakespeare pumped into our eyes' crackling blood-vessels. Then we'll get tats of steel workers on our hands, fly to France, walk into the Louver, and bitch-slap every painting in that place.

Elaine: Then we'll get hitched. And then we'll buy a house beside the sea and sit on the beach digesting grape juice and sandwiches and have parallel feelings about the surf.

Adam: Screw her. Marry me. I'm imaginative in the sack and strong. Look at the girth of my arms!

Elaine: So what? My vagina will make his penis feel spectacular.

Tom: Will you marry me, Elaine? I promise to photograph you on rooftops, out-compose Beethoven in my spare time, and to speak in such a manner as to make you feel your mind is being carried away in a basket woven out of every branch of knowledge.

Chuck: I promise to be envious of your union and end up brooming floors in one of those small, Midwestern towns full of ice and footballs where nobody reads anything but the instructions on utilitarian machinery.

Adam: Forget them, Chuck! We'll get our own house on the other side of the sea and sit on the beach with a watermelon, eating our cold pink grub as their marriage coughs and disintegrates.

Tom: So now it's us two against you two.

Adam: You bet it is. Have you ever sky-dived, Chuck?

Chuck: Can't say I have.

Adam: It feels like you're melting into air-conditioning.

Chuck: Wow! Let's go!

Adam: We will. And after our vows we'll sky dive onto the roof of our new beach home, then dash inside and have gentle sexual intercourse on a bear-skin rug. Civilization lightly humping on a surface of dormant wilderness.

Chuck: Will you civilize my greasy wilderness of unwashed hair with a Barber's comb?

Adam: Of course. I love you.

Chuck: Even though my teeth resemble petrified baby-turds?

Adam: They're my turds now.

Tom: Let's get out of here, Elaine. We got marrying to do. Paradigms to ignore. Children to create and feed and love with you in your tanned prime and my ears full of hair and loud symphonic music.

Elaine: I give those two a day and they'll be locked in an insane asylum, their somatic cells turning into Sylvia Plath headaches and committing suicide by the millions.

Adam: Me and Chuck just got married while you were babbling and wanna be left alone!

Tom: Oh yeah? We just got married as you just said that! Come on, my love. Let's go sit on our beach.


Tom and Elaine stand up, walk maybe fifteen feet away from Adam and Chuck, and sit down.


Adam: Look at them. Minor leagues.

Chuck: Can I rub your kneecap? I'm not hungry for anything except I wanna rub your kneecap.

Adam: Rub it baby, rub it.

Tom: Ahh, I love our beach. Free of pollutants. What shall we do today my love?

Elaine: Let's have a witty conversation about dreams.

Tom: Dreams! Did you know that every night we have hundreds of dreams, most of them lasting only a few seconds, like sips, little hummingbird sips of our unconscious.

Elaine: The world of the unconscious.

Tom: And if you watch someone when they're asleep you can see their eyeballs rolling from side to side trying to keep track of this unstable landscape as it keeps changing.

Elaine: Accelerated evolution.

Tom: One second a hill morphs into the Renaissance, or one second you're being infiltrated by light thrown away by EL Greco, and the next you're humping a period at the end of a sentence in Madame Bovary. And there's literally hundreds of these scenarios every night, all of them having something to do with memory it's said.

Elaine: Thought in general.

Tom: So our dreams are these wild little construction workers, fastening thought A to thought L, resulting in realization Q. You wake up with a feeling.

Elaine: Something has happened.

Adam: Gee. What a witty conversation. You should've blown it through an antique flute with your apple-cheeks simmering, and me and Chuck could've done an interpretive dance.

Elaine: You're nothing but garbage with a jutting belly.

Adam: Hey Chuck, those jerks over there like to have quiet, invalid talks about dreams, and I'm sure one day they'll join a meditating flock of philosophers on Mount Everest and whoop it up while munching on high-altitude snowballs for dinner. But since we're faster, stronger, and smarter, and therefore have more effective things to say, would you like me to tell you what the world is?

Chuck: Sure.

Adam: The world is people. And people are sexually reproducing bits of scum, grabbing at various pumps and pouring out children in all directions with the children themselves merely greedy sticks in skirts and baseballs caps swallowing volumes of sugar and humiliating each other without mercy.

Chuck: Wow! Thanks!

Elaine: If we took an infant's mind and made it one thousand times dumber for every second since the Big Bang, we might have something as moronic as you guys.

Adam: You're lucky there's a sea between us.

Chuck: We're not morons! Can a moron do this? A, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, and z.

Elaine: Actually, it's you that's lucky there's a sea between us or I'd be pinching your jugular vein.

Adam: If there weren't all these chunky miles of sea between us, first I'd build a rhetorical funhouse around my love to give him something to play in. Then I'd kick your head while singing Dylan's Positively Fourth Street.

Tom: Look Elaine! It's our child James! His face so daydreamy, white and weak. He's whispering something in my ear. He's saying that Adam is a waste of arms, hair, skin, legs, blood, face, breath, glucose, bones, veins, muscle, enzymes, heart, stomach, kidney, anus and brain.

Adam: Tell your precious James I just imagined the glisten of a shredded infant.

Elaine: Sorry. But twenty years have passed and James is now a famous actor playing Hamlet on Broadway.

Tom: His eyes just naturally carry the right amount of moisture and delirium, and his mind just the right amount of savagery and intellectual mother's milk.

Elaine: Our gifted son and the lucky audience.

Adam: That's nothing. Our son is a great artist sprinkling the hot-blooded details of his years across canvases for minds to absorb in constructive wonder. And he's the first great artist to give his work away. The public holds his work. Not a wall. The public holds it in their hands, sweating into his visions.

Elaine: How did you get a son? Did he wiggle out of your urethra?

Chuck: We found him on the street.

Elaine: A street punk.

Adam: He's not a street punk you odd breasted skank! He's a great artist.

Elaine: Well, besides being the world's greatest Shakespearian actor, our James is also the world's greatest social leader. You've heard of the Million Man March. Our James organized the Billion Tongue French Kiss. Blacks, Whites, Asians, Latinos, Indians, Arabs, Straights, Gays, Cops, all making out under the sun.

Tom: Saint James. Sir James. He's been canonized, knighted, worshiped by everyone from the round elderly judge looking for a dark snack, to the kid searching for elated candy sparks in the rule maze.

Adam: Your boy might organize big fat make-out sessions and be the greatest Shakespearian actor, belting out the wordy-spit of that over-emotional freak night after night to confused audiences. But it's just been discovered that looking at our boy's paintings is a vaccine against death.

Tom: Ten more years have passed. My hair is an intimidating silver. And Elaine has become more physically beautiful with age while you two are bald and look like hypnotized cowards.

Elaine: Not to mention that your beach is clotted with fast food wrappers and triple heart attack families, while our beach is occupied by seashells, and individuals doing pure mathematics. And your boy has died and nobody remembers him anymore.

Adam: You killed our boy!

Chuck: I'm hungry.

Adam: Focus Chuck! They killed our boy! Now I'm gonna kill your boy. I plunge a knife into his chest. And now he's dead and everybody in the world except for one guy in Sydney Australia laughs their ass off.

Tom: I just built a time-machine out of cinnamon gum and human temporal lobes and knocked you unconscious with my exceptionally good-looking fist before you could stab my boy.

Adam: In my unconscious state I figure out how to construct a time-machine out of Time magazine, and when I wake up I build it and block your punch and knife your boy again.

Elaine: I gather all the paintings your street punk ever did and throw them into outer-space where they float around, an idiotic disembodied comic-strip.

Chuck: What year is it now?

Tom: I think it's 2030.

Adam: I drive my time-machine back to 15 or 16 whenever it was Shakespeare was alive and show him a video of your boy doing Hamlet, and he writes on a piece of paper for me to bring back a note saying "I William Shakespeare saw James doing Hamlet, and you might as well have dropped a blonde hair-piece on the stage and kicked it around."

Elaine: So both our boys are gone, my boy remembered and loved. And your boy's corpse buried under the sea like a diseased erection. His work remembered as a boring trick.

Chuck: One day the sea will die and we'll lick its bones.

Tom: It's dying right now. The waves are overweight and full of tumors. They're slowing down. Coming to a stop. The sun is bombing it. Desperate families, all teeth and psychosis, dunk in bowls, take final sips, and nod off into eternal numbness. Thirty years has passed. The sea, everybody is now gone.

Chuck: But we have survived this apocalypse just as corn survives the sphincter. We crawl toward each other through the sea's bones.

Tom: The sky is empty, all screamed out.

Chuck: Our boys are dead.

Elaine: Me and Tom reach you and strangle your warm, astonished throats.

Adam: Damn you!

Elaine: We then curl up and grin with our fingers wobbling like chaotic magic wands.

Tom: We then eat your bodies and urinate into each other's mouths for sustenance.

Elaine: The energy we gain from your bodies and our urine feeds our conversation which is growing huge and warm, almost vagina-like in its lippy intensity.

Adam: Then you die you bastards. Then you die!

Tom: True. But you died first.

The End.

Marc Baez lives and writes in Chicago.