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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.

MR. C.I.A. Gretchen A. Van Lente
PICKY and BLACK MANTA Quincy Rhoads
WING & FLY: MILAM, WIRTHLIN w/ mobile fiction; also: EDGAR MOLLERE, ERIC DURCHHOLZ | Todd Dills

Pitchfork Battalion (Jim Murphy, Todd Dills, Nadria Tucker

Written for the occasion of and performed at THE2NDHAND's September 2009 reading in Birmingham to coincide with the city's ArtWalk festival.

"Okay baby, I'll get out. You can find me in Palm Springs. I'll be there..."
--Frank Sinatra to Ava Gardner, 1952

This cement mirage, this teal and aquamarine
monument, this mountainous bonfire, perfect

simulacrum of an oasis, a blue-flame basis
of cool dreams, apart from all the gruesome

greens and blacks of valley land that floods
and parches according to the seasons. Here

our air is dry, but we can dreamily dip into
the chlorinated ocean and gaze at those majestic

legs that gleam poolside through coal-colored
goggles, our hearts and bellies sunk beneath

the waterline. A town that flickers like summer
light on waves, a pure pipe dream, it's whatever

in the dictionary is the opposite of Hoboken --
which brings Sinatra himself inevitably into this

picture, along with all his trappings. He's set
sail on extraordinary renditions of the martini--

clear gin seas and vermouth mists, and so bobs
from the corner booth through swinging doors,

drops the growling Pontiac into drive and plants
a flat foot on the gas. He tightens his tie, ties

his shoelaces, buys a velvety box of chocolates
on Palm Canyon Drive and dumps them in the tub

where she's under bubbles in a champagne rage.
Oh baby wouldya can the naked aggression already?

This and other roles from acting lessons. They box
their shadows, dancing, landing rabbit punches --

I know all too well EXACTLY who "you" are.
Cigarette stubbed, water slapped, and arms upthrown

My mother told me to expect this. I should have
-- and all the other dirty laughs we love

them for. The camera slowly pans away and back.
Bruise-black darkness saturates the screen and then

it's ours -- the dream of desert light, the good joke
and the getaway, the thick T-bone and the deep wine,

the pills for play and staying power, the moony
curves of floor-length gowns and the shine from

silk fedoras. Most of all -- our fortunate distance
from the past, and our luck not to have to live it.
--Jim Murphy

When I was 10 we played in the creek and gamed after crawfish and snakes. You were lucky if you caught the former.

The creek's origins: Who knew? We took it for granted that its burbling was permanent, and it was at least to a large degree consistent, existing for us, for our enjoyment -- origins damned to hell. Me and Justin and two black boys, Marcus and I can't remember the other guy's name, maybe Todd, actually -- my name, that much more reason for me to forget it.

The creek ran through neighborhoods all over town, though I knew it only for the two blocks it followed Meadowbrook Lane and maybe a half-block upstream, where it emerged from underground. I can guess now it'd been diverted through a sort of extended culvert when a high-density commercial-zoned highway was built in the 1950s, to later be run up and down late, late at night by weekend redneck dragsters drunk on hubris and youth.

We could become them, we knew, the creek had the power to turn us into whatever it was we wanted to be, even Marcus and Todd and, if I remember it right they even wanted to become those night racers, wanted it more than Justin and I, maybe, already knew some things about cars, VW Beetles with remanned Porsche engines and stinger exhaust pipes louder than a five-alarm church fire. We hid our premature cigarette packs from our mothers and fathers in a road drainage culvert long cemented dry as a bone, so the cigarettes were safe. Safe, that is, until we developed our addictions. By then we'd stopped hiding them anyway.

We wouldn't go back.

But before all that, Justin catapulted or was catapulted, as it were, from his bike and mawled by a either a Doberman or a Boxer bulldog in one of the adjacent neighborhoods where the concentration of redneck drag racers was high, and it was Marcus who made light and airy our time at the creek, thrilling us at once with song and ferocious squawling to keep at arm's length and more the pit bull of the old lady with an ever-small house but a massive piece of property, to our eyes; the creek ran down the street at her lot's extreme front end. She had the best rocks for crayfish on the block, the worst for snakes -- it was her yard in which rested the dry culvert where our cigarettes kept house and home.

The day Justin was back in effect, out of hospital and released finally from the Doberman or Boxer's proffered injuries and back to his wits and the neighborhood, parental dog patrols had combined with the town's animal police, such as they existed, in the wake of the attack to come down hard on all leash scofflaws, at least in our part of town. But still, there was the matter of the old lady's pit, most normally chained up but not for all time, and we were at the creek, and Justin was skittish, staying under cover of the main culvert for his smoking and betraying his fear with an exaggerated "Yeah man, I'm cool" manner. He poised the cigarette between his index finger and thumb like a joint, not that I knew what that meant, at the time.

"Cool it, phony," Marcus said, echoing Salinger, though that might have been well beyond any of our reading comprehension levels.

"Fuck you" was all Justin could come up with, tossing his smoke with an aggravated hiss into the piss-stream trickling through the culvert this day, walking then out into the light with an almost imperceptible quake in his hands.

"Don't worry little man," Marcus, playing the elder statesman. "I got that bitch." And it was no idle boast. When the beast came barreling from around the back of the house predictably, ominously barking her doggy tune, jowls aflutter, Marcus had a chorus of growls to answer her. The approaching juggernaut then slowed, then stopped as the young man launched into a chorus to the tune of the first song on Michael Jackson's Thriller.

I say I'm tired of all these dogs
Chasing me on my bike.
I'm say I'm tired of you fucking dogs
Trying to catch me up with a bite.

And it went on.

Some dog's always trying
To bite my ass while I'm biking
I don't fucking like it. . .

And even into verses he went, by the end of it all the extraordinary rendition sending in a kind cackling chaotic roll call the exterior three of us, two Todds and even a Justin included, outside the intensity of the moment electrifying the form of young Marcus, our friend, the lot of us laughing like the end of days.

Before us, on the retreat: a whimpering beast, left stupid by song.
--Todd Dills

A woman standing in front of a mirror in Birmingham, Ala.

Gonna be an extraordinary rendition of "Dirty Diana," if I don't say so myself, and I do say so myself. Michael Jackson's dead, and I look amazing. This dress is amazing. Gotta love Spanx. He doesn't know about the Spanx. I'll slip off to the bathroom and pull them off right before.

What if they don't have "Dirty Diana?" New book of songs. I could try that Miley Cyrus. What is it?

(Singing.) Noddin' my head like, yeah. Movin' my hips like, yeah.

God, that song sucks. Catchy, though. KJ. KayJaay. Karaoke Deejay. Deeeeeejay. VeeeeJaay. Alan Hunter. Taylor Hicks. Shit. Grease tickets went on sale today. Nosebleed's gotta be all that's left. Would Taylor Hicks still be good from row QQ? Would he be good if I didn't know his name? I love him.

(Singing.) Movin' my hips like, yeah.

Yikes. Do not bend over. Too short. Hot, though. Is that a smudge? Dark in here, like really dark. Smudge or… Shit. Pop it or cover it with concealer? Yuck. Hmmmm. Blood. Great. Tissue, STAT. Let's see, was this from the stress, the French fries or the dirty pillowcase on the bed? Must do laundry. I gotta go. Stop bleeding.

Starz advertise? Bet I could sell them. Troy sucks. What was that thing he said earlier? He put his desk there so the air vent can blow up his pants? Creeper. Teresa will loooove that.

My mom would love that. Would've loved that. Shit. Just forget about it. You're going out and you're gonna have a good time. She's gone. Fucking cigarettes. God I want a cigarette. No more cigarettes. You're still here.

And you have a date -- maybe the big date. The one where the clothes come off. Or not. That is the biggest chin whisker I've ever seen on a woman. Is that gray??? Tweezers, tweezers, tweezers…..here. No gray hairs.

Yes, the bleeding has stopped. Spanx cutting off circulation. Can I handle this for how many hours? At least 6 -- probably more. You can handle it. Handle it.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was an extraordinary rendition of Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." Applause applause applause. And, bow. Shit. DON'T BEND OVER!
--Nadria Tucker


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