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**PRINT: A GAME I ONCE ENJOYED, by Chicago's Patrick Somerville, is THE2NDHAND’s 32nd broadsheet. Somerville's work previously appeared in No.24 in 2007, and this Somerville’s second broadsheet since the release of his short-story collection, Trouble, in 2006 marks the first since his novel The Cradle launched into the cultural imagination with coverage in the form of reviews in places as high as the New York Times Book Review. Don’t let that turn you off, though; Somerville’s work is viscerally humorous and elegantly dramatic as the best out there, as evidenced in this epic story, about a chess game whose stakes might well be higher than its players know. Also in this issue: a short from Ohio scribe Daniel Gallik.

**WEB: THE CLEANER Amanda Marbais
WING & FLY: CellStories.net launches (& Annalemma redesigns) | Todd Dills
NAMELESS Dennis Foley
GUNS Paul Kavanagh
FORECAST: Chapt. 8 of a serialized novel Shya Scanlon
SMOOTH Spencer Dew

The Cleaner
Amanda Marbais

Marbais received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She currently lives in Chicago and teaches at Columbia College and Loyola University.

My friendship with Alise is about to end because I stalk every guy I get a crush on. When it was making me happy, she was OK with it. Every Sunday I had coffee by her plant-filled windowsill and watched the El screech by and recounted something funny -- running from his car, slipping on some trash before I could clear a fence, my hat blowing back like a heron's crest. At first, she thought I was making the stuff up to entertain her. Boy, was she wrong.

Columbia College Fiction Writing Department

I began by e-stalking. Now, I drive around the neighborhood, and occasionally take public transit. It is so cold my hands freeze. My fingers are covered with ice shards if I forget my gloves. Forget is inaccurate. I lost them last month and am too lazy to go to Walgreen's for another pair, even though they are only a dollar ninety. When I tried his door/window, the metal blistered my gloveless hand. I left skin behind. I doubt he noticed, but there I was, part of me on his double-pane, brass-latch window. Welcome home!

"Why are you stalking him? He's seeing someone," she said.

"I know that." Even though I pretend to accept his relationship status, I am waiting for him to break up. I will be standing on the sidewalk, snowy fresh. I'm sure she sees this snow-globe suspended in my head.

"Move on," she says.

"Sure," I say. When she stares at me, I turn toward the window, though it's unnecessary.

The next day I hide under the El tracks and walk the neighborhood, my eyes focused on his lit window. Perhaps he is there. On his doorstep, I hear barking. Hidden, Private and Obtuse are his very large dogs. These particular dogs are actually men, his close friends. Honestly, they are out of my league. But, I Facebooked them and they accepted my friendship. Perhaps there's a chance. Alise gives me a look. Pity? She avoids the same cliché remark. But one day out of desperation she says, "Why don't you go online?" Everyone tells me to write a personal for Bust or the Reader.

"It's just like letter writing from other centuries," she says.

"Only not private." I pick a string from my dress, unraveling the hem.

Behind the wavy glass of the salvaged window suspended in the center of her living room, she hangs a tree branch. "If you are concerned about contacting someone for the first time, adopt a persona," she says.

I squirt half a honey-bear into my coffee. Its plump belly makes a slurp as it gives up its clover.

"I'll pick an assassin's name, like Whip-it. Or, the Cleaner." I am kidding.

Hmmm, she says. Her noise is as cliché as the online remark. "That's your problem, right there."

"Really?" I say.

Her lips pressed whitely together, she gets up to clean her cup with a long attachment, a sponge. I see her reflection in the toaster, in the window, and probably in my eye, if I were outside of my body and could see myself. She is minuscule, at once zip-lining across a canyon with me and also an advocate of Ajacks, her movements purposeful.

A month passes. Across the room, she leans on the window, her hand a bloated starfish against her belly. Her tree sways with woven catalpa pods, yarns that touch her shoulders. She sighs and lifts her chin toward the ceiling as if watching a tiny film. I know this is her look of mild interest and irritation. She doesn't comment on my blue skin, a by-product of stalking the night before. She has made a frittata in a freakishly gigantic skillet, a pan too huge for her apartment, like a fish maladapted to its environment. It is hopeful, if cookware can be hopeful.

Memory stings. I wait for my coffee to recount the night. I was under the El tracks when I heard buzzing. It is not bees, but a Vespa, just passing. Another of his friends?

As a genre, hit-man movies like The Professional are great. But, Jean Reno is less interesting in the sunlight. I think he would agree. Having found gloves, I smoke, heart stopped, wrapped in vinyl. Not the vinyl of a coat, an album, or a suit -- one of a womb. One outside the other, outside the other and outside the other. I am surprised by my crush's sudden presence. He parks illegally. If I could read intent in his tire movements, I would say they were brazen, but cold. But this type of object doesn't speak.

"Yes," says Alise. Her voice is like a preacher's. She knows I have not gotten online. She removes glass cakes from a bakery box. One is covered in Pillsbury gel frosting, the other with orange slices. It is as if I get interested in three books at once, and cannot finish one.

"If we met in some public place, if he stumbled in to me accidently-on-purpose, I might be more disheveled, but attractive."

"Yes," she says again. This response carries fatigue. Pregnancy?

He saw me, and I had to run. But I tripped on a beer can, windmilling my arms as I fell on a fence and split my lip. I ran. I escaped further embarrassment, unmoved and unfettered. I rub the crusted stitch and the seam of blood.

"Of course he didn't help you. Want some cake?"

"He didn't have time."

"Don't do it anymore."

I have discovered someone else, so, of course, I will. When I don't answer, she stares out at the clattering El. Finally, she returns the leftovers to the bakery box, her movements minuscule and measured. She sets the box on top of the fridge and pushes it toward a hidden place in the back.

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