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**PRINT: FRIENDS FROM CINCINNATI: Installment 24 features this part coming-of-age short by Chicago's Patrick Somerville, author of the Trouble collection of shorts out in 2006. | PAST BROADSHEETS |

Columbia College Fiction Writing Department


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IF FRED DRYER HAD BEEN SAM MALONE
---
Jeremy Wilson

Jeremy T. Wilson's work has appeared on his own site, in scores of antidrug pamphlets from the late 80s, in countless entries to the "I Saw You" section of the Chicago Reader, and as numerous text messages sent to Ryan Seacrest. This is his first story that takes place in Manhattan.

Her dad had a heart attack one night when they were watching the TV show Hunter. Hunter and his sidekick McCall were stuck in some creepy house and her dad keeled over right there in front of his Salisbury steak TV dinner. How are you supposed to get a girl to sleep with you after she tells you a story like that? She says after her dad died she got obsessed with Hunter. She says she went around answering every question with, "Works for me," until her mom sent her to a shrink that snapped her out of it. She says she has every episode on VHS tapes recorded off of TBS. She says she got an autographed picture from Fred Dryer that says, "Sorry for your loss, Fred Dryer," after she wrote him a letter telling him about her dad. She says everything in her life is relatable to a Hunter episode. I wish there was one where some thirty-something hipster tried to hook up with this gorgeous wreck of a woman in a seedy apartment in Manhattan. Maybe then if I asked her to sleep with me she'd be able to say, "Works for me."

It would be much easier had Fred Dryer gotten the part of Sam Malone on Cheers. Everything would be different right now. This girl Leslie -- freckle-faced, short-haired, pale-skinned, attractively morose Leslie -- would certainly more readily agree to go home with me had he gotten this role instead of going on to the wildly less popular and exponentially more violent and dramatic role of Hunter. If Fred Dryer had been Sam Malone there would have been no Hunter, or at least a wholly different Hunter, a Hunter Leslie's dad would never have watched because it didn't star Fred Dryer, his favorite football player of all time. Instead, they would have watched Cheers, a show a million more people are devoted to, including me, and when her dad died on a Thursday night while they were watching Cheers, her obsession would have been with the comedic Fred Dryer as Sam Malone instead of the dramatic Fred Dryer as Rick Hunter, and everything would be different right now.

She would have gotten obsessed with a classic sit-com and not a stupid cop show which in turn would still have compelled her, in honor of her dad, to pursue the acting bug that he always encouraged, but instead of choosing serious drama as her outlet she would have turned to humor to salve her wounds and as a result would have shined in her high school production of Funny Girl and gotten elected "Class Clown." She would have gone on to star in college renditions of raunchy and hilarious plays where she would have been greeted with flowing compliments regarding her comic skill and natural timing. She would have moved to LA and gotten incredibly lucky landing an agent and a small part on Friends where she would have stolen the episode therefore resulting in a recurring role. She would have gone on to win an Emmy award for Special Guest Star where she would thank her dad and Fred Dryer. And then one day she would be visiting a friend in Manhattan and would agree to come to a party because that friend of hers begged her to even though she didn't want to go, and she'd end up talking to a man who shared her sense of humor and made her laugh with his extensive knowledge of her favorite show. And instead of discussing her many misfortunes with references from Hunter, they would spend hours talking about their favorite Cheers episodes, reciting all their favorite quips from Norm ("Women. Can't live with 'em Pass the beer nuts."), discussing the genius of Cliff Clavin's Buffalo Theory regarding the natural selection of brain cells during beer consumption, deciding whether or not the show got better with Woody or was better with Coach (they would agree on the equal merits of both characters), and debating when exactly the whole show jumped the shark (she would say when Rebecca joined and Diane left; he would say more specifically when Rebecca and Sam think about having a baby). Then they'd leave the stupid party to go to his place and watch Cheers DVDs. They'd watch all of Season Five, Diane's final season, and get so emotional when Diane leaves Sam in the end they'd start kissing and they'd end up sleeping together and wake up to a breakfast he made of eggs and toast and fresh orange juice. She'd look happy and beautiful wearing only his T-shirt from the real Cheers bar in Boston, her hair all morning messy, and her cold feet covered in white socks too big for her feet. He would tell her he'd never seen anyone as beautiful or anyone look as happy in that particular kitchen, and she'd think that was funny and ask, "Why just the kitchen?" Then they'd spend the rest of the day, the rest of their lives, moving from room to room, house to house, city to city, checking to see if she was still beautiful in all the new and wonderful places they would go. It would become the inside joke they always shared, just a few words and a look. She would toss her hair and ask, "Here?" And he would always answer with something insurmountable, "absolutely," or "unequivocally," or maybe even "without parallel."

But instead, Fred Dryer played Rick Hunter so we're standing in the cramped mess of what counts for a kitchen in Manhattan trying to keep from spilling tears in our drinks. Leslie is smoking a cigarette and the black eye liner under her eyes makes her look older and sadder then she could truly possibly be and yet I still want to sleep with her.

I touch her small wrist and move close to her lips. I whisper, "You know Fred Dryer was actually up for the role of Sam Malone on Cheers?"

She turns away from my move and exhales her smoke into the dim light, "Really? That would have sucked."




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