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

Featherproof Books

Kevin O'Cuinn

5) Paradise, New Zealand, couple years back... 'I'm looking for the road that leads to Paradise,' she said, having rolled down the window all of three inches. 'Aren't we all?' I replied, more statement than question.

She killed the motor and got out of the car.

'No,' she said, 'understand, I'm really looking for the road to Paradise.' She could have been anyone, and I was being paid good overtime to stand at that corner and divert the starstruck. 'I'm not sure what you mean, lady,' I said. She kind of looked familiar though.

Peter Jackson was reshooting a couple of Legolas's moments from the LOTR trilogy. The Regathering of The Fellowship, invitation only, Paradise, New Zealand. Paradise takes its name from a duck that inhabits the area, The Paradise Duck. I swear to God. The couple of hundred hectares only look like Paradise, coincidentally. What are the chances?

'I forgot the code,' she continued, 'and I left my Palm Pilot back at the hotel.' No way was I buying this shit. 'I know you're just doing your job but -- I know! Look, my tattoo!' Sure enough, there it was, her tattoo. It looked genuine enough, but still, she could have been anyone. I mean, since Frodo showed his to Leno...

'So which way? I know I'm close.'

'Lady, like I said, I'm not sure wha--'

'I'll have your ass canned for this!'

'Don't drive angry!' I called, as she burned rubber into the wrong direction.

I saw her later at the shoot, so obviously somebody cracked. She had her ears on by then and was talking in gobbledegook to the other elves. She was telling them about how we met, and how she'd forgot the code.

'Big deal,' I muttered from where I sat behind her. She looked over and I caught her eye but she didn't recognise me, I had my make-up on by then. I gave her a big sexy wink and licked my lips at her, while fondling my crotch.

'That's gross!' she hollered, and The Fellowship downed their cups of tea, but by then I'd been swallowed up in a group of 50 orcs, high-fiving and back-slapping.

6) 1947, the 7:48 from Folkestone to London. There was only ever standing space on the morning commute. But nobody ever complained, not back then. Damn shrapnel though, but...stiff upper lip, and all that. So, this young lassie, she always boarded after me, green eyes. Damn stunning if I may say so. But I'm not a fool, I know she wouldn't be interested in an old codger like me. Then fate intervened one Friday morning: the train lurched and threw her into my arms. Bloody hell, I thought, what now? So there she was, arms wrapped around my waist, holding on for dear life. She felt firm against me; I'm still trim, it wouldn't do for a chap to let himself go. As she slowly rose to her feet, I could feel her breath on my neck. I lowered my mouth to hers and inhaled the bitter smell of chicory, ersatz-coffee -- rationing was still on-going.

'I've been waiting for years for this to happen,' she said, with closed eyes, 'years.' I lost interest instantaneously, I don't know what the devil came over me. 'Scusi,' I offered, 'no parla Inglesi.' And that was the end of that. Thereafter I took the early train.

7) Mid-90s, Berlin, a club. She breezed across the dance floor like a ghost. She was good, damn good. I caught up outside. There she was, sparking up, inhaling.

'Want some of this?'

'Thanks. Say, how do you move like that?'

'Practice. Think you could learn?'

'Weeeell, I dunno, I think--'

'Call when you're sure. My card. 40 Marks an hour.' It was an out of town number. 'Don't you have a cell?' I inquired.

'You're not in my circle of trust,' she explained.

'Come on,' I said, 'you're not for real.' But she was, she was as real as real gets.

So I called and made an appointment, and learned to walk like a ghost. It took forever, months.'

Sometimes, to show me a maneuver, she'd lean close enough forward that I could taste cold smoke from her mouth. It's something that never fails to nauseate me, so I always made sure to have Altoids with me, or Tic-tacs. Tic-tacs made her sneeze. Just the mint ones, though, not the orange or lemon ones. When she sneezed it sounded like 'Chi! Chi! Chi!'

I loved to watch her sneeze, so mostly I carried Tic-tacs. She began a lot of her sentences with, 'My boyfriend...' Her boyfriend was an intensive care nurse. Her boyfriend kept frogs that barked. Her boyfriend had her name tattooed down his side, in Chinese pictograms.

'But it could mean any fucking thing,' I said, dumb like I am.

'It's my name.'


'Sssshhhhh,' she said, 'I've heard enough.'

I still don't believe that shit about barking frogs, though.