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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 |

The 12th installment sees the apes in hyper-mad mode, scooting along highways to strange places. Click here for details on three celebratory shows scheduled for late September in Chicago, Cleveland and Ann Arbor, respectively. Read on for Brian Welch's 'The Agony of the Young Suited Man,' #12's send off, below, and to order:

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c/o Todd Dills
4038 Clairmont Ave.
Birmingham, AL 35222

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#12 also features new fiction by Amina Cain, Joe Meno, and Doug Milam.

Brian Welch

When my brain starts flaking and the snows come up, I go across the bay for some soul tonic. I take the dirt road and maybe fall on a patch of ice, but some sprains and bruises just make me feel more of a man when I get there. They sit on dirty logs in the center of a silo that has no roof and lob their hearts into the licking flames of a campfire fueled by cans and plastic.

The smell is horrific, and they breathe deeply through their noses.

Charles and Rop and Longnails and Rexus are kings of a dirt patch. When things run low they hike into town with their sticks and visit the old haunts, sit upon stools and lean against poles and lie about life on the hill with their hands on their hips. They get drunk in the summer and cut crop circles with rusty scythes. The farm tools hang and rust along the curved steel walls of the silo.

I climb over a snow bank and see the low flicker ahead, like a giant table candle where the shadows move like a prizefighter. I stand outside the flap and flare my nostrils to see the steam. Across the bay I can see the several lights of the main road. They dim in the coldness like dying flashlights. My head and chest is flaking hard tonight. The river is frozen and I might want to walk out there and fall through the ice.


The beer is warm from all the hands holding onto the glass. Rop is gone asleep from exhaustion, from all the fantasies he has told about himself that he thinks they believe. I sense that conversation has ebbed, so I talk about the big one I caught through the ice that morning that I didn’t catch.

“We saw you out there, all huddled, like you was praying for fish,” says Charles. Charles is the leader of this band of aging princes and the one I look at when I speak.

“Prayer is low and weak for a man. I remember that time I stuck my bare knuckles through the ice and came up with a ten-pound smallmouth, right after I burned up the church.”

A big slam and then in comes a young lean thing in a business suit ripped at the elbows and knees. He’s got some smeared blonde hootch with him, and they are both panting and clutching each other.

“Don’t tell them we’re here. All we wanted was something hot and lusty on my desk. They ran us out,” he says.

“I need it all the time,” says the hootch. “They saw me with my skirt up on my chest and knew I didn’t care. We’re going to Mexico to love in peace and blue skies.”

“Can’t work no more because of our solid love,” says the young man in the suit.

When Charles is looking I strike the golden youngster harshly on the clavicle. He goes down on top of the rotting corn stalks and moans that it was richly deserved. Teh old boys jump up like cats.

“Take that rake down upon him, soldier!” goes Longnails.

“Ladies won’t come near me. I got scabs that won’t heal!” says Rexus.

“She ain’t no kinda decent woman!” says Longnails.

The young suited man is in terror and backed up against the salt-crusted wall.

“Take her and have her! Let me in and here is your maiden to lie upon!”

He runs on all fours to the place beneath the tractor. The leaked oil doesn’t freeze and he has it all over his cheeks, pigeon shit on his lips.

“I’m common! Let me live and we’ll bring more here. We’ll die from oversnatch!”

The hootch tries to say something, but Rop is up now and he beats it back into her lungs.

“By Gawd get me that shovel.”

We go at the young horny businessman from all sides. I throw my pitchfork like a javelin and it hits him in the kidneys. Rexus takes him in the eyes with a screwdriver. He is running like a boar around the silo and baging into things. The blonde, sweaty hootch is up in the tractor seat and shrieking. I climb up the back and tear the large golden hoops from her earlobes. She goes fleeing out into the night snow with red streaks running down her shoulder, which will make tracking her easy.

When he is fine and dead, we make a crown from the hootch’s earring and necklaces and place it tight on his broken head.

The old boys always stop the flaking that goes on inside of me.