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**PRINT: STERNUM AS 3, by Louisville writer Jason Jordan, is No. 34.1, the latest in our mini-broadsheet series. What do you do when your best friend in high school has a peculiar ability to pull bones from a "compartment on the underside of his left forearm"? Why, built a skeletal replica of him, of course. This issue also comes with five prose pieces from Rick Henry's "Then" collection.

**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.

JUST SAY NO Ben Tanzer
ASYMPTOTES Michael Balatico
AFTER THE FLOOD Pitchfork Battalion
WING & FLY: Bubbling up in Nashville, gassing it to Chicago | Todd Dills
CHARLIE's TRAIN a novella by Heather Palmer

Paul Lask

Eric walked to the bar to meet his new girlfriend. After his third whisky soda, hers vodka soda, he ordered steins of foreign beer. The bartender, a tall man with a patchy beard, told them they were strong -- "just so you know," he said -- and Eric nodded and thanked him.

As he and Carol talked Eric realized he was now in a relationship. That over the last couple weeks he'd told her good amounts of his family's history, and that he does sit-ups in the morning. He'd told her he wanted to one day buy a truck to move to a quiet place with. She'd told him about her upcoming vacation to Greece, and that her managerial position in social work, with its vacation time and benefits, would be here when she got back. She'd admitted to having an occasional panic attack, and once an eating disorder. She was 28 years old.

Bohemian Pupil Press, Chicago publishers of the South Side Trilogy

A few minutes into their beers they were interrupted by a guy wearing a corduroy jacket. He touched Carol's shoulder, then saw she was with someone and backed away his hand. He asked how she'd been.

"I've been good, thanks. Greg, this is my friend Eric."

"What's going on?" Eric said, shaking hands with Greg.

"I'm here for the Drag City Records thing," Greg told them.

"Oh, is that what this is?" she said.

Greg looked around, then leaned his ear at her. "What's that?" he asked.

"This thing tonight, it's for a record label?"

"For sure," he said, waving at someone. "Hey, I'll talk to you later. Nice to meet you, man." He blended off into the small crowd.

"I hate to do this," she said, slumping her shoulders.

"What's that?" Eric asked.

She put her fingers to her lips as if holding a cigarette.

"You know I don't mind. Come on." He got up and began putting on his coat.

"You're sure?"

"Hell yeah, come on."

While she smoked they held hands and she stepped in place. He felt he could go for one, too, but the smell was enough. When one of the three guys smoking by the door said, "Hey Carol," she waved hello with her cigarette hand, half-smiling as Eric loosened his grip on her other. He stared across the street at the long black windows of the Viking Ski Gear store, by where her car was parked. They then walked back in.

As he sat down Eric noticed a musician he'd once peed in an elevator with. They'd been drunk on airplane bottles in a hotel lobby in Philadelphia, where the hotel worker rushed back and forth, dropping armfuls of bottles and collecting dollar tips from the circle of musicians. The next day the musician and his roadie slept through their bus call, and Eric's band drove them into Central Park, New York, where they were playing a big show. Eric's band didn't have a bus or shows like that. Shortly after that tour Eric quit playing music.

"I know that guy," Eric said.

Carol looked down the bar.

Eric nodded and the musician came over. He had on a wedding band and his hair was neatly parted down the middle.

"What's up, Terry?" Eric said.

"Hey buddy," Terry said.

"Hey, so this is my friend Carol."

She shook Terry's hand politely, with her hand arched.

"Yeah, me and this guy used to tour together," Eric said.

"Pissing all over elevators and shit," Terry laughed.

Carol squinted.

Eric said, "Yeah, I wasn't going to tell her that, but that was pretty funny."

"Yeah, no shit," Terry said, and pointing toward the end of the bar, said, "good to see you buddy, I got to get back to this."

He patted Eric's shoulder then strolled back. Eric looked at his beer. It was finished. She had about a quarter left. When she got up to use the bathroom he smiled but she didn't return it, and he wondered if it was the elevator or Terry only saying goodbye to him. He watched as the bartender poured Terry and the guy next to him a round of shots. The bartender took one, too. They were also drinking the foreign beer, quickly, and Eric thought if he was married he could have his night out, where he wouldn't have to drink this slow.

Before she sat back down, Carol smoothed the bottom of her plaid shirt.

"Why'd you let go of my hand outside?" she asked.

"I don't know. I didn't fully let go."

She asked, not blinking, "Why'd you call me in the first place?"

"I thought it'd be fun. You know, see where this would go."

This had begun after she'd dropped a piece of paper with her number on it in a bar in another neighborhood. She'd told him more than once that she'd never dropped numbers before. He'd called and they'd texted through the week and had drinks the following weekend, and another week passed and now here they were. Earlier, when their beers were full, she'd told him about a car accident she was in when she was younger.

"I used to have this Ford Probe with those stripes on the side."

"The racing stripes," he'd said.

"Yeah! My brother wanted me to take him skateboarding first thing one morning. I'd still been in my under, undergarments, and my mom's gardening clogs. We'd been stopped at a stop sign where the corn was too tall to see around and when I pulled out this guy in a van totally flew into us." She rammed her hand into her other hand.

"Whoa. I'm sorry. Were you guys alright?"

"Oh yeah, we were fine. My brother was more upset that he couldn't skate."

He'd been about to tell her that his cousin had also been in a car accident, as something to help them bond, but then corduroy, and outside smoker guy, and Terry all intervened, and as she finally finished he pushed his empty to the edge of the bar. She set hers next to it. The bartender pointed at them and Eric shook his head. The bartender asked, "You guys aren't driving, are you?"

"No, no. Thanks," Eric said, standing up to leave.

As they walked out, Carol said, "Well, I am."

He thought about it. He realized he hadn't thought about it. Being a walker, Eric could drink as much as he wanted, unless he took out his bike, where he just rode on the sidewalk, like the day-drunks did.

"I can drive," he said.

"Not my car," she said, switching the keys from her left hand to her right. She'd put on white cotton gloves. He hadn't noticed her do that.

"Well," he looked across the street at her car, a two door from the mid nineties. "We can always walk. They only ticket on plow nights. I don't think they'll have to tonight."

She didn't answer. With her gloved finger she held her keys by the ring and began crossing Fullerton Avenue. He followed her to the middle, where they stopped to let a round of westbound traffic pass. The relationship was ending.

"Take your time then," he said, unnecessarily holding her door as she got in. She shook her head and started the car.

Another round of traffic came as she shut her door. He moved onto the sidewalk, watching her nose her headlights toward the stream. As she joined, Eric started his walk home.


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