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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 5 Heather Palmer
IN THE AIRPORT Bradley Sands
MINNIE LEE's FUNERAL Anne Whitehouse

from the novella by
Heather Palmer

In the previous installment, Charlie writes, Charlie gets paid, Charlie begins to miss at least one of the women he left behind, about whom we are about to learn....

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 6 | PART 7

Good sense Ann Marie lets Charlie borrow Graves' old typewriter. She lugs the thing across the hotel to Charlie's room. When he opens the door, she's wrestling to hold it, looks at him like he's a puppy not hungry enough to beg.

Columbia College Fiction Writing Department

He takes the typewriter. Deflects. --I paid Graves.

Ann Marie leans against the door. She pulls hair off her neck and piles it above her head. The night before another man had Charlie's same exhaustion. Anne Marie brought him tea and biscuits. When she knocked on the door, his flannel shirt drenched with sweat. She set the tea on the counter. --Now come sit down, this is a warm biscuit, good for sleeping.

The man ate, told his story while she stood in the door. Ann Marie realized her job: to stand in the doorways of lost men, offering night tea and biscuits.

She picks up Charlie's mug. --Are you going to drink this?

She drinks it before Charlie can answer.

--I got that job.

--What job?

--Newspaper work.

--So I've heard. You told Southford told me. What about?

--The article?

She nods yes and Charlie realizes he had considered Ann Marie to be the shy, apron-wearing woman that happens to sit behind a front desk only because her situation demands it.

--A man who gives illegal abortions.

Ann Marie drops her hands, the only sign of surprise. --And does he get paid? She stands on one foot, a finger on her mouth presses the bottom lip.

--Yes, he does.

--Then it's merely a business transaction, illegal as it is.

Charlie stares at Ann Marie.

--I had no idea you felt strongly on the matter.

Ann Marie slaps her hand against the wall. --Actually I could care-a-less. I'm just saying, this man's getting a lot of attention.

Charlie slinks back to the bed-frame and sets the typewriter on his lap. He nods, which she understands as a dismissal. She accepts it, picks up the hot water mug and untouched biscuit, looks from plate to Charlie and speaks low.

--You should eat.

Charlie barely nods, thinks of the first sentence -- perhaps a note on Dole's coffee pot -- the nervous man's drink.

Charlie jumps when Ann Marie starts again. --I wonder what your Louise would say.

--Louise? What's it got to do with her?

Ann Marie props the tray against her hip.

--Nothing, just she's a woman -- Franny, too. I was only thinking of Louise because she called. Charlie's face flushes. he grabs Ann Marie's wrist.

--She called? How come you didn't tell me?

Ann Marie pulls her arm back.

--I just did.

She leaves the room but Charlie's quick at her back. --Well what did she say?

--Now you're interested in conversation? Ann Marie recognizes the raw glare of urgency, anticipates anger.

--Just tell me what she said.

--She says you should call.

Ann Marie goes for the doorknob, stops. --And to be frank, I'm shocked that you haven't.

She leaves Charlie dumb in his door. He watches for a second, slaps himself, and rushes to her side. Once there he grabs the biscuit from the platter and shoves it in his mouth, chokes as he chews, punches his chest and chokes again. Ann Marie watches crumbs spew. He bawls.

--I need to use the phone.

What must be done
--I'd like to make the call. I have the number.

Charlie's hands shake the phone he holds while Ann Marie waits outside the booth. He hears the operator dial, then the dial tone. He hangs up, steps out of the booth and leans against Ann Marie.

--The number's no good.

--What do you mean? You have the number right there.

Ann Marie holds her hand for Charlie's crusty book of phone numbers.

--How old is this, Charlie?

He wraps his hands over her wrists, a firm grip. But she asks again and he must let go.


He grasps for the book. It tears, too thin to take mishandling. He scrunches to the ground and she kneels.

--She gave it to me when we first met. I remember she had no makeup on, and I thought how scandalous of her, and for everyone to see, imagine that! She smiled, and I thought that equally distasteful. That's Louise. I don't know why I asked for her number at the time. I did ask, though, and she had this little book and a letter of some sort she was going to send by post. She asked me if I had a stamp. I said I would be glad to get her one. We walked to the post office, but then she decided not to mail the letter. She ripped open the envelope and tore it up, handed me the book with her number in the first blank space. I was a fool cause I didn't take it right away. In the middle of the street she yelled: Now you call me in two days, cause that's the natural amount of time. I said I would.

Ann Marie props her elbows on Charlie's knees. --So it's very old?

Charlie laughs at her practicality. He sees her in the half-light from the window, thinks how pretty she looks, says so.

--No romantics. You've got too many far as I can tell.

Ann Marie helps him up.

--What about you?

--What about me?

--You and Graves?

--Graves was a navy man. She stops as if that's all the explanation Charlie needs, but then starts again. --I worked in this hotel with father, and we saw lots of people. My job was to serve refreshments. You'd be surprised how many people want coffee at night. I guess you can't sleep for so long you stop trying.

Ann Marie drifts. Charlie watches before bringing her back:

--And that's how you met Graves?

--Graves never had trouble sleeping. I liked that about him, but he never wanted anything. I got to worrying, cause those types that don't ask up front always want more. You know?

Ann Marie looks at the telephone booth and notices the phone off the receiver, props it back.

--So I told father. Mother had left, it was me and him, but then that's not important, but it is, in a way, cause I knew men by him, all the things you'd ask your mother I asked him, or didn't. Well, I asked him about this one navy man who didn't want anything. He said, bring him cigarettes. That was it. I went to the corner store that night. Graves opens the door and looks from my face to the plastic bag in my hands and says. --What's this? I didn't know if he meant me or the bag, so I said, Cigarettes. --You smoke? I blushed. I remember blushing, cause I was so ashamed he thought I smoked. But then he says --Let's have one. And he closed the door and we went on a walk.

Ann Marie blushes.

--We got married the next year. He wanted out of the navy and Papa was too old to handle this place, so Graves took it.

Charlie just looks at her.

She nods. --I thought I would go to school. I like languages... Didn't you say Franny knows languages?

--No, I didn't.

--She seems like the kind of person.

--She is. Her father was French, married a Dane, so she knows those two. And then she took to Spanish cause of her mother's health. They went to Spain in the winters.

--I bet she knows some Italian, too.

--Probably a little.

--And Louise, does she know any languages?

--Louise, ha! She knows some Creole maybe! New Orleans' baby.

They both look to the book in Charlie's hand. His sweat had greased the edges blunt and oily. Ann Marie takes it, crushes it in her hands and tosses to the trash.

--It's no good now. Try the operator.

Charlie walks to the wastebasket.

--It's hard to get rid of some things.

Ann Marie lets Charlie uncurl his fingers, take up the book and fold it in his jacket.

--I think I'll write that article, then call.

--Of course.

She passes him. He calls. --Where you going? Ann Marie hesitates.

--To my husband.

Charlie doesn't answer but heads to his room to write. He's fast with the article, hands over the keys to finish before he's ready. Sets the typewriter aside and walks to the telephone booth in the back of the lobby. Shuts the heavy door and dials 0. Yes, operator, I'd like to make a call.

Smoke speak
Charlie's hunched against the booth, one knee props his elbow that supports the hand that holds the phone. If he could he would sit, but the space doesn't allow it. He waits, taps his finger on the side of the phone. The lobby is empty save two middle-aged men in blue workpants, off second shift. They talk then stop. Charlie knows they'll go for a drink any minute, but worries they need to use the phone, although this is unlikely seeing that neither have looked this way since Charlie dialed. The phone rings, someone picks up. It's Franny.


Charlie notes her tobacco-singed voice, husked rough around vowels.

--Is anyone there?

--It's me.


His elbow slides off his knee and the phone jams into the wall. A loud boom, he hears Franny cower.


--Yes, sorry. I'm calling to...

He can't remember why he's calling. To make sure you're coming? Could he just ask -- are you coming? He imagines her answer. No, I'm sorry. It can't happen. And she'd say it like that, like an act of God.

--Louise called.

Franny laughs, same as her speech, wry.

--You know Louise, how she fusses. I told her just the other day, 'Louise, there's no need. Charlie's fine.' But she thinks too much. It's in her head.

--I've written an article.

He tells her because he knows she won't care. --It's about abortion.

--I assume you took the negative view.

--I didn't really take any view.

He waits.

--No such thing.



Maybe that's the difference between Franny and him. He withholds when Franny confronts. --Well... I hope Louise is alright. Can you tell her I love her?

Franny laughs. Says --We'll send money.

--I don't need it. Just tell Louise what I said, will you?

Charlie taps the phone, speeds his finger to the rate of his heart.

--Louise was concerned. I said to her, 'You know Charlie...'

--You know me.

Franny catches him. --We do, don't we? Know each other.

She stops, lets the silence. Charlie finds it familiar, a cushion between them he thanks, curses. --Damnation! I'm sorry.

Franny forgives by ignoring him.

Charlie lowers his head, hears her settle the phone to the receiver, then the dial tone.

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 6 | PART 7

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