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 |

Columbia College Fiction Writing Department

Back to Itineraries Index

Eric Lab Rat

Eric Lab Rat lives and writes from the Chi, Ill.

12:30 PM: Arrive at gates, am buzzed in.

1: Someone needs to clean the microwave. The whole reception area smells like beef and bean burrito. A beetle runs over my foot, I decide against squishing it.

1:15: Peter searches me, lets me in.

1:39: God walks in. Shorter than I thought he'd be, but better groomed. Classic good looks. Reminds me of a young Sean Connery with a Charlton Heston muzzle.

1:40: Million dollar handshake.

1:42: I suggest we leave the sterility of the office and hit a bar where we can really get to know each other.

1:43: "I like your style." Wish I'd brought a tape recorder, instead of a legal pad, just for that. "And I know just the place." Holy shit, I'm about to go to God's bar. I wonder if it's okay to say 'holy shit.'

1:44: Ponder Can you hear my thoughts right now? No response.

1:45: Don't fuck with me.

1:46: Sorry. Really sorry. Didn't mean it. Very petty of me. But, seriously, can you hear my thoughts?

1:47: "Only when you think them really hard -- you'll get an embolism that way, you know."

1:56: God has really plebian taste in beer, but he's a phenomenal tipper.

1:57: Everyone at the bar calls God 'Terry'.

2:15: Catch God staring at the bartender's rack.

2:16: God catches me staring at the bartender's rack.

2:17: Nods, smiles, clinked glasses.

2:22: Whatever I order, God wants to taste.

2:30: "Ready to get down to business?" / "Sure."

2:33: Softball questions.
**God's favorite color is silver, which is why he salted the clouds with it.
**He works out six days a week, mostly weight machines and ellipticals.
**Untucking his shirt to show me his abs: "Not bad for an old man, huh?"
**He prefers Japanese baseball to American, but football to soccer. He never liked the Oilers.
**God's favorite names are Marisol and Sari, and though he's "not a fan" of men's names, he's always liked the way Mephistopheles rolls off the tongue "softly, and elegantly" and "it's a shame how no one can use it."

2:58: On Mephistopheles: "It's too bad it had to happen as it did. I think we both did things we regret and now we can never go back. It's too bad, you can't turn back time though." / "You can't?" "No." / "You can't?" / "Nope." / "Damn."

3:08: God is slurring his speech a little. He buys a round for the bar, a made-up drink called a Jordanian Slammer. We laugh as the waitstaff scrambles to concoct something worthy. I detect a hint of tequila, guava, honey, and something else I don't recognize. Not bad for something that doesn't exist.

3:09: "See that? You just witnessed creation!"

3:10: "You know, Terry, you can be a real ASSHOLE." The entire bar shuts down, the bartender drops a glass. God/Terry looks at me for a full minute without blinking or speaking and I'm sure that this is the last thing a man sees before getting turned into a pillar of salt, and then he lets out a big belly laugh. The bar takes one collective breath and sighs, relieved. Business as usual.

3:11: Terry -- I figure it's okay to call him that now -- saunters over to the jukebox, "You like the Boss?" / "Excuse me?" / "BRUUUUCE."

3:12: He hits the jukebox with the back of his fist like the Fonz. "Born to Run" plays. He knows the chorus but is kinda iffy on the rest, mumbling through most of the verses while getting louder and louder until he's screaming the part where Springsteen is like "BABY WE WERE BOOOORN TO RUUUUUUUNNNN!"

3:13: To the bartender: "I think God's buzzed."

3:14: "Oh yeah, Terry is a total lightweight."

3:17: God looks like an idiot rapping all three parts of "Brass Monkey."

3:21: Ditto "Thunderstruck."

3:24: Ditto "Brown Sugar."

3:28: Ditto Salt N Pepa's "Push It," which he let the bartender pick.

3:34: "Terry, your musical tastes seem pretty steeped in the 1980s." / "Naw, it's just cause we're in a bar. [To the bartender] A BAR WITH A SHITTY JUKEBOX SELECTION." / "Hey, fuck you Terry." The bartender makes a face and cups her crotch, before returning to a crossword puzzle. God turns back to me: "Besides, it's not like you can get down to Rossini in a bar." / "You're right." / "That's fucking music." / "Excuse me?" / "You know, music for when you wanna get down with your lady. Rossini. Wagner. Prince." / "So, God is a heterosexual?" / "Sure, why do you think I made procreation between a man and a woman?" / "So, is homosexuality a sin?" / "Fuck no! People get off on a lot weirder shit than each other, I can tell you that." / "Like what?" / "Anything. If it's out there and it can be fucked, there's someone out there fucking it right now. Ridiculous shit. Have you ever seen a man fuck a nautilus?" / Terry says this so nonchalantly, I can't help but laugh. We talk about music some more. Given his predilection for the 1980s he entertains me in one of my favorite debates: Punk vs. House. We agree to disagree.

4:00: "Another round! Something thick! Something you can set on fire!"

4:01: I hit him with a surprise: "How much of the Bible is true?"

4:02: Ten percent. Tops. They don't even get the names right.

4:03: "Really?" / "Yeah, it's like a fucking star bio." I'm surprised to hear him balk. "Those Jews did a fucking hatchet job on book one."

4:04: "...but they're really good people, I love 'em. Really."

4:05: "Is that why they've had to overcome so much adversity over the years?"

4:06: "Fuck no! They did it to themselves."

4:07: "How so?"

4:08: "With their own fucking bad press."

4:09: "It sounds like you're still not very fond of them."

4:10: "Look, you're a writer. How would you like it if someone wrote a book slandering you, making you look like an abusive egoist with no self esteem and then signed your fucking name to it? You'd be pissed. You'd be mortified. But it's not like you'd spend the rest of your days persecuting them almost to the point of extinction just to make existence a fucking Sisyphian task."

4:12: "I don't know, Terry..."

4:13: "Well, sure you would, but I've got more class than that. TWO TALLBOYS!"

4:14: "So you're not particularly a fan of the Jewish faith?"

4:15: "No, fuck 'em. And not just them... the Jews, the Catholics, Islam, the Ykchrichtine--that last one isn't from your planet, a real bunch of zealots over there. There's life on other planets, by the way, but they're so far apart they'll probably never meet."

4:17: "OK, so...which religion do you like?"

4:18: "I like the fun ones."

4:19: "Care to elaborate?"

4:20: "No."

4:40: "So, I've got one last question. Are there any children, outside of Jesus?" / "Jesus isn't my kid." / "What?" / "He's a stepchild, like Adam and Lilith. I made him but he was born of a virgin birth." / "So, if you had a child, he would be conceived..." / "The same way you were, ugly and sweaty and full of passion, and maybe not even that. Maybe it would be an accident. Maybe I'd do it the normal way and be there at the hospital holding her hands and..." / "So, you don't have children?"

4:45: "Who's got the time? The whole world is my children and all that but really I'm just an old man who's lucky enough to have a lot of friends and a lot of girlfriends and a lot of pets to keep me company on those nights when I feel all alone."

We ended the interview there. That was it, his real rock-star moment. He was drunk and tired. Almost contemplative, but too far gone to really form the thoughts he needed. I think I saw a tear drop out of his eye. To think what some people would do to catch a tear from a miracle statue and here I was, watching Terry flick one of his own onto the dirty tile. Terry. This was my last interview. The magazine didn't pick up on any of his humanity. HOMOPHOBIA! SEXISM! ANTI-SEMITISM! By the time the Pro-Lifers picked it up I was done. I cashed a big fat check and blew as much of it as I could as fast as possible.

The whole experience gave me a lot to think about. The most important thing I learned was that I didn't really like writing and doing interviews. I really liked Terry, but, to be honest, there were a lot of times that day that I felt scared for my own life. The business isn't worth all that. Especially with the big heartbreak at the end. It's heartening to know that, whatever I do next I'll be doing it with the knowledge that someone is watching over me, someone that really doesn't give a shit, but is still kinda, sorta, vaguely rooting for good things to happen.