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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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It was the sound of his voice. He sat there down to dinner with them and it was the sound of his voice that made her begin to fall in love. Of course it was that strange, possessive, desperate eight year old brand of love. Leti listened to every word that dropped out of his mouth as they ate. "Pass the salt, please... This is real good Mrs. Martinez." Stupid words really. It wasn't that he'd said anything particularly brilliant--it was his voice. It was a voice that was very round, milky and slightly raspy. That sound of his voice along with the tinkling of forks on plates, the scraping of knives--the tinkling for her created lovely fairy music--it sprinkled. It dusted everything in glitter and she wanted to capture the sound of his voice.

"Leticia, are you OK?" Her father asked. She sat upright, aware of herself. Her face grew red. Could they see? Could they see how she was trying to pull his voice out of his mouth--to hold it in her own chest? Her face felt hot. She swallowed.

"Estas callado," he said to her bewildered. She was quiet, yes. Usually, by this time in the dinner, Jimmy would have kicked her underneath the table to get her to stop humming--but she'd become so intent on listening she didn't want to make a sound.

Steak and mashed potatoes and green beans and salad. That's what they were eating. That's what was on her plate. She smiled weakly. "I'm fine." But she felt sure that her father could tell that she liked that boy. And she felt sure that that was wrong. She was too young. At eight she was too young to be in love. But she felt certain. Later, Leti would try desperately to find the thing that had struck her as so unbelievably endearing about Mark and when she remembered, she remembered it at the piano. Her fingers tinkling over the keys to an old old sequence of notes she remembered from childhood; a simple phrase she'd tried to duplicate in sound and pitch on the piano. "That was real good, Mrs. Martinez." Except his voice wasn't like a piano. More like a clarinet back then, more like a saxophone now. And Leti figured that there must have been some sneaky vibrational frequency--his voice must have been set to her body's vibrational frequency and that was why she so desperately clung to his image all these years. That was it. It was his voice.

Mark looked at her across the table and chuckled. It was a knowing look. She imagined he could read her thoughts and she blushed again. "Esta dundita," Jimmie said across from her. She's in a dumb trance. At least he said that in Spanish and not in English for Mark to hear. And Leti wanted to jump up on her chair, climb up on the table and push Jimmie's plate of food onto his face! Rub the mashed potatoes and steak and green beans in real real good 'til he looked like one of those ugly paintings Mama took them to see at the museum.

But Mama was sitting at one end of the table and Daddy at the other end and she knew she couldn't, wouldn't dare.

"Jimmie, no dices eso," Her mama's voice was soft and rich like honey. "Don't say that Jimmie, that's not nice."

Jimmie, showing off in front of his friend pointed across the table at his sister. He pointed in the air, his finger centered right where her nose was in his field of vision, "But Ma, she's got her mouth open and she still has food in it--she hasn't swallowed. She--," and he said this part low, for Mark's benefit, but they could all hear.

"She looks retarded."

That was it.

Leti's temper took over her eight year old body. It was a fierce tiger-like animal that clawed within her skin and manipulated all her bones and moved her limbs. It was not her, she'd said later through sobs, it was the tiger. But she leapt on the table and reached her hand out--a little claw with long but brittle fingernails--out to scratch her brother's face. She would not let anyone call her retarded. She beat up that boy on the playground and she would NOT let her brother do it--especially in front of this boy--this boy she loved.

"Leticia!" Her mother yelled, stood up and reached down the table. She grabbed Leti by her leg and arm and started pulling her off the table--dragging the plates with her. The milk spilled. Leticia's knee landed in Mark's mashed potatoes. They were surprisingly warm and mushy on her skin. The plate scraped against the table, under her knee and crashed to the floor as her mother yanked her down.

Her father jumped up and grabbed the back of Jimmie's chair tipping it backwards and pulling Jimmie out by the collar to save him from his sister and to punish him for calling her retarded at the dinner table in front of company.

Mark was amazingly calm about the whole thing. He pushed his chair away from the table and just watched, his eyes wide with amused shock. There was something funny about the way this little girl suddenly transformed herself into a dangerous animal.

Germania (in the case that you have vague and/or exigent concerns regarding this enigma) is the real-life basis for the brilliant comic and/or television series and/or fictional character known as Wonderwoman.
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