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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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Todd Dills

8:18PM: 'The game, here, in proposal to America,' intones the author, 'will be called Agony.' Listen. Feel laughter bubbling up from your gut but only half-escaping your lips, the result being a small kind of wheeze that feels like it wants to be a good deal louder. The author does not laugh, nor does the rest of the crowd. Glance down at friend sitting at your feet and, considering quickly the wide, bright gleam in his eye, laugh one big, full HAH! this time and stare at the floor as he holds back his own laughter with his own small kind of wheeze. Let the games begin: who can hold the laughter back the longest will take the contest.

8:23: there are no winners, as the author reads on to the point of explanation of a small portion of the game which will be called Agony, the celebratory parades which, he says, will be called 'Spanking the Whores....during Spanking the Whores, the main activity will be the Spanking of the Whores,' and the groans and guffaws issue forth from all surrounding himself, the author, seated upon the little folding chair in the middle of the hall. And he draws the allegory further....

8:45: inhale the clean air, clap, as author finishes, finally, wonderful wonderful life! Oh Agony! Hear short announcement giving the okay to smoke here in the hall by the windows. Move promptly thereward.

8:50: oh smoke smoke smoke in your eyes, lungs, hair! Oh absolute wonder! Upon inception of second author's own intoning, begin kneeling down and, on the way, think to yourself of how you've heard this before and did not much dig it. Likewise, accidentally kick your own beer into a full-tilt spill and subsequent beer-can fizz overflow, soaking a poor comrade's scarf and...Shit! Shit! sorry, um... ___ . 'Sallright,' the kind man says, 'it's happened before' and his ladyfriend handing you a tiny tissue for the oh-so-big puddle of beer: 'Don't know if this will help much, but...' Thanks, thank you.

8:56: as author reads on, scoot centimeter by centimeter away from the slowly encroaching puddle at your right.

9:30: will author ever finish?...one needs to use the restroom. Stand. There are other things to be doing, certainly, than standing by this cold window here listening to this and...lady stares at you from across the room, jotting notes on her pad. Look away.

9:31: look back. Still staring, laughing. Smile. Laugh. Look away.

9:35: look back. Not staring. Reader reads on.

10: finis. Agony ensues, via the odd angered outburst of a former ladyfriend, the anticipation concurrent with the odd stares and general gorgeousness of non-former-ladyfriends, all of whom, at the very thought, make your near-drunken head swim with mute incoherence. Fight off the attack. Count to three. 1, 2....

10:30: three. Off on a journey to a bar in a dark, industrial part of town with your friend and cohort to spaceage drunkenness, Mr. G., foil to all your silly schemes this evening, though he smarts at your explanation of the scene -- the woman, this woman, absolutely beautiful in her self, all powerful and yourself scared a little shitless at the entirety of the thing thus far, a few, brief, outrageously drunken encounters -- you have not exactly been on the best of your behavior, which may be expected, though you're not quite certain of this, either - and the majority of which cannot, will not ever again, be called up by your soaked brain, but all of which leaves one sick with anticipation about how to conduct oneself and...upon arrival at bar, far in advance of said woman, sit with cohort and put back cans of Old Style, one after another after another.

10:55: obligatory BUSH conversation. It's becoming such, obligatory, the man the President a veritable freak of born-again Southernism, a kind of Southernism you know too well as a clearheaded, simple wrongness of impulse, mean and arrogantly one-sided on every possible issue, one-sided to the wrong side of the coin, it's true. There's another kind, as well, though it's scarcely recognized.

11:15: oh dear woman! Oh agony of thump in chest, emptiness of beer and wallet! oh agony of puzzled looks shot from concerned bartenders! Can one even stay in this place? Ask cohort this very question: receive puzzled look from himself, puzzled look again then from the woman, most certainly arrived, who now sits at your right. Receive complimentary beer from a drunk who leans up over your left shoulder to order himself a cheap can.

11:33: oh dance! You cannot dance, any longer, it is certain. Your legs once moved, years ago, they did. Now, if they are not wheeling around a bicycle they do not otherwise know much what to do. Do not talk. Stand at rear of hall, swaying, beer in hand, eyes slit to a black line. You are monstrously drunk. Think of your own proposal, for America, here, Agony, no, not agony; the game will be called The Furies. During the Tipping of the Cows, dancers in the bars will Tip the Cows, the monstrously drunk and whimsically confused by beer in hand and the others in the trash, whiskey long excreted. The Cows will be put on freight trains to places none have before been and end back where they began, here, in the wood-paneled hall with these souls, ghosts, all. Oh agony of drunkenness! which inevitably ends badly. Sway along with the choked rhythm of your soaked brain. Dear dear....

?AM: fog.

12:47: look at watch in bathroom. Excrete. Emerge to the scene, yet again, ghosts from years past, when you traveled around wildly uncertain of anything and nothing at all at once. Comprehend this fact: time can not move in reverse, in spite of the itinerary Brodeur once wrote. It is impossible. Move to dance. Fail, crashing into dwarfish woman, girl, who scowls.

1:38: lights go up; eyes slit further, and woman is found ushering you, hand in crook of your left arm, out of the door and to car. Do not speak. Think nothing, nothing. Ponder mentioning this to woman, who drives in beautiful silence, not laughing, not grinning, not frowning. She is too drunk to drive. You are too drunk to think. "I think nothing," in the voice of Darth Vader or just the most expressionless thing you could summon, for this is the truth of you, at this point, and people do not talk to each other about themselves. Drink, dance, fuck, books, movies.... But you do not say it.

1:55: home, in car, outside. It's cold, you say. She says, What's wrong? high-pitched, squealy, laughing. I think nothing, you say, but it comes off wrong, like you think nothing's wrong. She cringes when your hand rises to her shoulder for a goodbye something-or-other, a pat, you guess, a gesture of goodwill, but you do not quite know what you are doing. She thinks you will try to kiss her, but you are simply patting her shoulder, you think, then: as one would a dog, Jesus, what are you thinking, here, man? your mind runs on. You think something. Oh agony of miscontrued miscontructions! Determine that bartenders, among the humans, are prime instigators of the condition of agony.

See you, she says. Yes, see you soon.