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**PRINT: COLD WAS THE GROUND, by Chicago's Scott Stealey, is No. 34 in our broadsheet series. Gina, protagonist, a rather lonely condo dweller/office manager, strikes up a fleeting friendship with one Porgo, an Eastern European construction worker who is burying on her property what Gina takes for a time capsule. But the metaphorical fix is in -- Porgo, an ESL student, may be leading Gina in directions she canít exactly get her head all the way around. Enjoy. Chicago writer Stealey is editor of the Please Donít online mag.

**WEB: A PROTAGONIST READS THE UP-TOP DESCRIPTION OF HIS OR HER OWN LIFE Matthew Brian Cohen
DOGS ON A PLANE Todd Dills
ANARCHIST CLOWNS STOLE MY MONEY Patrick Wensink
WING & FLY: Bubbling up in Nashville, gassing it to Chicago | Todd Dills
KETCHUP AND MUSTARD Katie Ziolkowski
AFTER DETOX Jamie Iredell
A CASE FOR FOREIGN INDEPENDENT FLICKS Katrina Gray
CHARLIE's TRAIN a novella by Heather Palmer
HIDEOUS BOUNTY: THE FRONTIERSMEN | Andrew Davis


A PROTAGONIST READS THE UP-TOP DESCRIPTION OF HIS OR HER OWN LIFE
---
Matthew Brian Cohen

PROTAGONIST feels lost in familiar places. PROTAGONIST already wants to quit the new job, or is unemployed, looking, and against all better judgment, hopeful. Is a creature of habit -- buys same brand of whitening toothpaste that has produced negligible results and masturbates to the same celebrity nude Photoshops and watches animals kicking their owners' crotches on YouTube. PROTAGONIST is doing the things they wrote under "aspirations" in the high school yearbook, but feels irrationally guilty for not getting "more" out of life, and writes letters to Congress about causes they wished they were more informed on, or puts supermarket shopping carts in the cart return spot, or gives spare change to bums on the sidewalk, even the irritable and religious ones.

THE LEFT HAND: Soap, Lit

PROTAGONIST meets unemployed layabouts or co-workers at nearby pub or tavern for drinks and pepper turkey with brie paninis. Feels bored but unsure why -- conversation is consistent and smart, though full of cable news talking points and prolonged chewing. Keeps up with daily gossip and DVRs Bravo reality shows and Discovery Channel specials. Refers fondly to ex from college, or high school, or last month -- wishes things could have worked out, but cites irreconcilable differences, like relatively poor hygiene, and plot devices from Seinfeld reruns. PROTAGONIST smiles when saying this -- art imitates life, imitates art, etc.

PROTAGONIST is alone in New York, or drowning in New York -- a summer of air-conditionless sex, a winter of bad tips and malapropisms, a year of napping for too long and Leslie Feist bangs, or balding. Spends weekends mailing query letters to publishers, or agents, or mom and dad. Dresses well when running errands at the drug store or Staples. Can't live without iPhone, or recently deleted Facebook for iPhone app. PROTAGONIST wants to feel more connected, or less in-authentically connected. Remembers names with mnemonic devices, or has photographic memory and claims mnemonics to feel modest, or more normal.

PROTAGONIST laughs at own jokes, but feels OK with this, since they are genuinely funny. PROTAGONIST listens like a fourth grader, remembering main ideas, lost as to specifics of location or time, or is comfortable in a new life imagined through someone else. Did well on GRE, or did not take it, but thought intently about purchasing a large pack of mechanical pencils before deciding they'd never remember to buy lead. Spent summer of junior year in school, which was European in style or geography, or nearby, and ate French bread pizza and smoked too much weed. PROTAGONIST is content, overall, but battles brief yet intense feelings of depression with pumpkin pie, A Christmas Story, and the occasional good cry. Has some regrets, but waves them away because "What can you do?" Wears t-shirts of bands don't listen to anymore. Is sick of everything in this cubicle, or one-bedroom studio, doing nothing of value, owning too much, trapped in stifling productivity, or wasting time, only to feel relieved and optimistic when kissed gently and repeatedly on the cheek by a significant other. Wants to believe in astrology, because it would explain everything.

PROTAGONIST doesn't want a lot. PROTAGONIST would be happy with a decent-paying job, in a smaller city with not that much going on, if only for the simplicity, or the lower rent and cooler temperature, or the possibility of a sweetheart who knows how to make pumpkin pie. PROTAGONIST thinks this is what America's about, or what America was founded upon, or what Europeans think America's about. PROTAGONIST just wants a family, deep down, if only to have the company, if only to feel authentically connected, if only to confide in co-workers and layabouts, "I'm living life to the fullest." Wonders if this is "selling out". Wonders if "selling out" means feeling part of something. Wonders what their haircut says about them. Wonders if 20 percent is the new 15 percent. Wonders what bands are "hot," how bands become "hot," if "hot" is the new "vintage." Wonders these things in a Starbucks on Fifth, drowning in a gigantic coffee with soy milk and cinnamon. Thinks this tasted better last year, when PROTAGONIST made it at home, wearing old gray sweatpants with a broken drawstring, or long ago, wearing underwear and a vintage band t-shirt, quoting Ralphie to someone who isn't laughing. PROTAGONIST fears the weight gain that comes with bingeing, or stained teeth, or violent hangovers, and in moments of epiphany, insists life to be only a series of comforts and consequences suffered privately, alone. "This is life," PROTAGONIST insists. "It is out of my hands."

PROTAGONIST sits on the roof of city apartment, struggling with future failed creative endeavors, or insomnia, or world peace, looks to the stars, and always feels lonely.

DECISIONS



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052010