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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 |

THE2NDHAND's broadsheet installment #14 features new fiction by Susannah Felts, a new feature culled from THE2NDHAND's best-of anthology ALL HANDS ON: A THE2NDHAND Reader (click here for info on ordering) entitled "Errol, Inland." You know what we like. Read on for Gretchen Kalwinski's untitled "Elements", also in #14, or to order, send $1 to:

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c/o Todd Dills
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Birmingham, AL 35222

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by Gretchen Kalwinski

I. Earth
"Have you ever met an angel?"

The 62-year-old schoolteacher always wore a shapeless dress in a drab green or gray color, clip-on earrings, and had very big (dyed black) old-lady hair, waved at the beauty salon every week.

The second-graders shook their heads in unison. A lot of front teeth were missing or too big for the rest of their faces.

"Oh, I bet you have. You just didn't know it. I'll tell you something that happened to me when I was your age. My family, you know, we were poor and didn't own a car, but I had choir practice that went until nine o'clock every night, and had to walk all the way back home. Usually, my older brother met me outside the church doors and walked with me, but one day he wasn't there. I waited and waited, and finally, when it was beginning to be dark outside, I started walking home by myself. My family lived almost a mile away, and I was afraid, but suddenly, a big white dog appeared and started walking with me, staying close by. We walked, and I sang some of my choir songs to the dog, and talked to it, and it just stayed by my side on the sidewalk. We passed two men when we were close to my parents' house, and the men started whispering, turned around, and started to follow me. I was very frightened, because they were getting closer and closer, and I walked faster and faster, hoping to make it to my parents' house before anything bad happened, but then the white dog turned around and began barking and snarling at the two men, jumping up on them, and they ran away. We were only a block away from my parents' front porch, and the white dog sat there, licking my leg while I unlocked the front door. I turned the key, and called for my mother to come meet the dog that had saved me, but suddenly, the licking stopped, and the dog had vanished."


II. Water
What talent,
to take something like temperature
and make it your own thing, to personalize it.

Utterly selfish, it knows its goal,
nothing will impede its path
or change its course.
Unafraid to intrude,
to be crude, rude;
it shocks for attention.

Invasive and extreme,
ice is a kidnapper.


III. Fire
The Illustrated Children's Bible depicts Sodom and Gomorrah burning in the background in a desert city in flames. How did this go, again? Wasn't it that God in his wrath at the corruption and debauchery of Sodom set the city aflame and told Lot and his wife to run away without looking back? Right, and the wife, in a supremely human moment, craned her neck to look back on the destruction, and was turned immediately into a pillar of saltů. In the illustration, Lot's face looks horrified to realize that the entity that was running next to him a moment ago is now immobilized and hardened in sodium, the expression on her face frozen in anguish. He doesn't look back, though, keeps running, escapes the fires, and is saved, later perpetuating his familial line by sleeping with his daughters.


IV. Air
Saturday, late afternoon. Whenever this woman is around, the atmosphere smells as though it has been misted with Estee Lauder perfume, along with Coty powder and roast beef sliced thinly in her basement. Today, at 4:30PM, McDonald's smells like Estee and grease as soon as two women (half sisters) in their sixties walk into what they call a "restaurant." One of them pays for sandwiches and potatoes, while the other says hello to their friends at the next table, and prepares the booth with napkins, utensils, and packages of salt and jam. (They will put most of the packets in their purses, before they get up to leave.) When they finally sit down, they take out their wallets and even up for the meal that the first sister paid for a moment ago. They this down to the penny.

They will linger until 5:20PM and then walk to their nearby church to attend 5:30 mass. The church will smell of myrrh and Estee, then, and the women will sing hymns, echoing the wailing choir overhead.

They know this town, and love it without bounds for the fact that it is the only one they've ever known. The exit ramp to this highway is the beginning and the end of their world. The Roller Dome and bowling alley are around the corner, as is the strip of more "restaurants" and no-name bars, nowadays, a convenient location for truckers and transients. The place is an island.

The woman made her last appearance in the church on an August day. There was no breeze that day, and the air smelled of Estee on a granddaughter's neck, almond cookies, dusty books, and that thinly sliced roast beef.

The woman believed in salvation, a man on a cross, that the good would be rewarded, and that the meek would inherit the earth. Long ago, she read the one book of the Old Testament dealing entirely with erotic love. In Song of Songs, 2:4, "your breasts are two fawns / grazing in a field of lilies." And 2:2, "Let me lie among vine blossoms / in a bed of apricots / I am in the fever of love." Long ago, she read Robert Browning's love poems and starred in pencil the ones about passion and loss.



Gretchen Kalwinski lives and writes in Chicago.


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