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**PRINT: KIND OF LIKE BIRDS, by Mairead Case. The rules for teaching writing in the local juvie? 1. Don't talk about sex. 2. Or drugs. 3. Or therapy or suicide. The latest in our new mini-broadsheets series, with new fiction from Lydia Ship as well. We encourage active participation in distribution from any interested parties. Follow the main link above for more.

**PRINT: LIFE ON THE FRONTIER, by Chicago resident and native Kate Duva, is THE2NDHAND’s 33rd broadsheet. Duva's been plying the brains of THE2NDHAND readers for several years now, and her characteristic stylistic mix of arch-weird and arch-real in story makes for an explosively brittle manifestation of reality in this the longest story she's published in these halls, about a young woman's sojourn at what she sees as the edges of American civilization, Albuquerque, N.M., where she works as a nurse in state group homes for aging mentally disabled people. Catch Duva Feb. 8, 2010, at Whistler in Chicago at the second installment of our new reading series, So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel? This issue also features a short by THE2NDHAND coeditor C.T. Ballentine.

**WEB: CHARLIE'S TRAIN, PART 4 Heather Palmer
MINNIE LEE's FUNERAL Anne Whitehouse
BASEBALL Alec Niedenthal

from the novella by
Heather Palmer

In the previous installment, Charlie made contact with his first lead source, an accountant/abortionist who offers to tell all over breakfast. Then -- broke, famished -- Charlie passed out. In good company, fortunately....

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 5 | PART 6 | PART 7

Time's pass
Morning sun shines through Charlie's eyelids. He wakes, head in armpit, lowers his head to smell the pit's sweat. Up and to the sink he washes his face, looks for a clock. His own rests in his jacket, a place for time -- under the chest. Lets the sink run, sprinkles water through his fingers and stares at the drops, the way they spray off the thumb, trickle down the drain. His stomach grumbles, unfamiliar to him, he scolds it with a thump to his gut, which had shrunk out of lack. Off with the water, wetness warms the back of his neck. Charlie peels the hair from skin-sweat, fishes into his jacket for that old watch. Franny's father, near death, gave the watch to Franny. She at his bedside: --I have no use for it, perhaps Charlie.

As she passed it to Charlie the old man's eyes, too crusted to cry, sunk.


Franny has so little tact, how quickly she passes the watch through her hands, as if to avoid time, her's and her father's.

Charlie fingers the watch, places it beside the notepad, bends to kiss her father's head, but the man's eyes lock Charlie - see-through -- close.

Franny had said the blessing.

Blessings Charlie forgets until food's already eaten. Now every time food enters his mouth he remembers he isn't blessed. He eats so little now. That's how Charlie learned the body fights back. He eats without prayer. The food rots and the stomach grumbles and the pocket-watch reads 7:50 a.m. He will not be late to the accountant's. He dresses: the watch in place, notepad beside, a pen firmly through the wire-spiral, his pants, shoes, socks folded over. He leaves the hat so the sun gets to his skin. Charlie tries to pray for breakfast, humble his stomach. But it's only obligation, he knows, shuns. Want must be desperate in prayer. A twist to the knob meets the empty hall. He waves to the maid and envies her focus. Once out the hotel doors his feet speak. C'mon, now, c'mon.

A case begins
Dole serves sausages and eggs benedict, steel cut oats and brown sugar, tea with cubes, raisin toast. Charlie slurps tea, declines eggs/sausage, lusts for the oatmeal on the stove.

--Toast please.

--That's all?

--Yes, I'm not especially hungry. I've been having trouble eating.

--Nerves? They do that to people.

Charlie sits back in the wicker chair in the upstairs apartment of Dole's place. A plate of cinnamon toast tempts, but Charlie's stomach drops in memory: he hadn't paid Graves, he hadn't gone back to pick up that amount from Lina, and he knew he couldn't do that until he had a good lead.

Charlie leans forward, hound-like. He forces his body to investigate, but the brick in the gut forces him back. He gives up.

--Dole, I've come here to get a story, and I want to be up front.

Dole waits with coffee in hand, a fork in the sausage, mouth empty.

--I don't want a story about a man who gives abortions, and, well, we both know I've been sent to do just that. So I'm wondering if you can help.

--How could I help?

Charlie looks at the toast -- burnt around the edges. He bites the crust. It's dry in his mouth, sucks moisture, only a pleasant sweetness from the sugar.

--What if we spinned it in your favor?

--Is that even possible?

Charlie drops his toast.

--Say a lady comes, a lady in unfortunate circumstances, and you advise her, and she accepts your advice. Say I get to know this woman, and we reveal that she would be, in a way, saved by you -- by your work. And then, even more, you advise her in finances.

Dole, half-finished with his sausage, scoops the oatmeal.

--I suppose you can write what you like. Write whatever you want.

Charlie feels his throat thicken, chokes on the burnt end of toast lodged there and falls into a coughing fit. Dole pours orange juice into a thin, pink glass, and Charlie gulps it down. Once Charlie is sure he can breath, he pushes back the toast, buries head in hands.

--Oh Christ. They're not coming at all.

Dole clears his throat. Charlie looks at the half-finished sausage, the oats, the spoon on the table, at Dole, smiles meekly, sips his juice, feels cold wet his tongue and spread to the roof of his mouth.

--It's a lot to think about, I realize. Charlie wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.

Dole offers a napkin, says:

--Not that it's any of my business, but you've hardly eaten. And I know it's not my cooking.

Dole stops, sets his fork face-down. Tries again.

--Why do you want them to come?

Charlie stands.

--Dole, I have quite a bit to do today, not the least of them tending to my financial situation, which, unfortunately, now involves you. So, I must be off. Thank you for breakfast. Dole stands with his guest.

--I will be expecting you tomorrow?

Charlie turns his head, searches Dole's face but finds sincerity, and upon finding it, thirsts.

--Do you mind if I take another sip of the orange juice before I leave?

Dole hands Charlie the juice.

--I will see you in the morning.

Dole opens the door for Charlie's exit, reminds him of the time. Charlie nods.

Pay, day
Charlie walks in, spots the water fountain. A drink, perhaps, beforehand. A clock reads 10:30 a.m. Lina has seen him, the water fountain only a few feet from the desk. She stands. He must speak, but the water fills his mouth, and Lina begins.

--Got anything for me?

By this Charlie assumes she means a lead. No, he wants to say. Of course I don't.

--Dole is a strange man, much more complicated than you think, and lucky for me ... us, he admits everything.

Lina bites the fuller lip, Charlie watches her skin sink between her teeth.

--Don't do that.

Lina stops. --Excuse me?

Charlie's hand jerks and water spills. They both look to the floor where liquid splashes tile.

--Are you OK?

--Like I said, Dole admits to everything, which isn't really interesting. So I intend to do a different kind of story.

--A different kind of story?

She walks to her seat, sips from the mug, which has a black ring around the upper lid from overfull coffee.

Lina motions for Charlie to sit. He refuses.

--On his character.

Lina tips her head: --I'm asleep already.

--Accountant by day, abortionist by night. What kind of man is that? What could be more interesting?

--It could work if you do it right. That doesn't mean Calloway will like it, but for now, doesn't matter.

Charlie fills his Dixie cup to the brim, leans his elbow against the fountain.

--There is something else.

Lina goes for the mug, frowns at its empty. Charlie searches the room for a coffee pot, wonders how she refills, asks.

--From home, I usually bring a canteen...

She bites the upper lip again and he winces as she continues...

He writes in the notepad: Coffee burns her numb/stress in a mug.

--You remind me of someone I knew.


--Well, know.

Lina nods, unwilling to ask what he needs to admit. Charlie takes it upon himself.

--She drinks a lot of coffee, morning and night especially. And smokes between drinks.

Lina stops writing, her pen in the palm of her hand, loosely gripped.

--I remember at lunch she would pick at the grapes, eat the crusts of Louise' bread, and smoke. I'm surprised she's in such good health.

Charlie stops because he thinks he hears Lina speak. --I'm not like that.

Charlie sees Franny in Lina's stare: the energy, pupils wide, unsteady hand, an addict's twitch.

But Lina is right, her eyes dip lower than Franny's, and he can see he has floundered. He goes to the water fountain, wrinkles his nose. --My mistake.

--Come with me.

Lina walks out. He looks behind at the displaced objects on the desk, wants to question her, but she's at a heated pace, her legs fast to the corner, and he follows. They reach a coffeehouse, she points to the table, directs him to sit. Back in minutes with black coffee, she sinks into a chair. --That's better. Now you can talk.

But he's done, watches her legs cross, her eyes guarded. --You said you would pay me the other day?

Lina sets her coffee down.

--That's all I wanted to say, I mean, before I got into the whole Franny thing.

Lina uncrosses her legs, crosses them again, hands rest in her lap. --Come back to the office with me. She waits for Charlie to finish his coffee, but he gives Lina the half-full cup.

--This is yours.

--Drink it later. Unless you don't like it cold.

--I like it cold.

She straightens her slacks, fiddles with her hands until one falls atop Charlie's.

--You must really miss her.

Charlie struggles to keep his hand still, wants to pull back, her touch scorches. He needs a smoke. To distract himself he reads street signs. Wells, a street he likes. His hands drop to his trouser pockets-one brittle with cold, the other, burnt.

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 5 | PART 6 | PART 7

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