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**PRINT: A GAME I ONCE ENJOYED, by Chicago's Patrick Somerville, is THE2NDHANDís 32nd broadsheet. Somerville's work previously appeared in No.24 in 2007, and this Somervilleís 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. Donít let that turn you off, though; Somervilleís 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.

THE CLEANER Amanda Marbais
WING & FLY: CellStories.net launches (& Annalemma redesigns) | Todd Dills
NAMELESS Dennis Foley
GUNS Paul Kavanagh
FORECAST: Chapt. 8 of a serialized novel Shya Scanlon
SMOOTH Spencer Dew

C.T. Ballentine

Ballentine coedits THE2NDHAND.

Merth and Carmen always hold hands when they walk to the grocery store. Even when it's cold. On their way home the weighted plastic tears into their fleshy palms. Sometimes they buy a large bag of long grain rice. Sometimes they buy a sack of potatoes. But never on the same trip-that's too much weight. They learned that the hard way.

Outside the front gate Merth has something to say.

Columbia College Fiction Writing Department

"Did you ever..." he starts.

"Did I ever what?" asks Carmen.

"Oh, never mind."

"No, tell me."

"It's nothing. I forgot already."

"You did not."

"I did."

Carmen's father calls. They talk for a while; then Carmen starts cleaning the apartment. She always does that after her father calls. Now she's scrubbing at coffee stains with a blue sponge. Those stains have been there for a while. They're not going anywhere.

Merth is watching a documentary about the space program. He doesn't want to clean the apartment. But he hates feeling lazy.

"Do you need help?" he asks.

"No, I'm fine."

"Are you sure?"

"I like doing this."

"You do not."

"I do. It relaxes me."

"You don't look relaxed."

"That's why I need relaxing."

Merth gets up and hugs her from behind. He turns the television off. He kisses the back of her neck. He's pretty sure she likes that, but he can't remember. Maybe it was one of his old girlfriends who liked that.

Carmen does like it. She smiles. Who doesn't like having the back of their neck kissed?

For dinner, Merth and Carmen have potatoes and broccoli.

"Do we have any more rice?" he asks her.

"You want rice with your potatoes?" She wrinkles her nose.

"No, I was just wondering." He takes a bite. "I thought I might pick some up tomorrow. If we were out."

"Oh. There's about half a bag left. We should be fine. For about a week, anyway."

"That's good."

They finish eating and wash their dishes with the blue sponge. They've never had a dishwasher. Merth doesn't like them. Carmen doesn't care either way. Merth washes and Carmen dries. Afterward they sit on the couch together.

"Do you want to finish watching that documentary now?" asks Carmen.

"It's already over," he tells her.

"Oh," she says.

"It'll be on again, I'm sure."

"I thought it was a tape."


"I'm sorry."

"That's OK. It'll be on again."

Carmen rubs the back of his neck. Her palms are soft and warm. Merth smiles.

They go to bed together, Carmen and Merth. They cuddle close and kiss. They do not make love. Merth doesn't mind. Carmen does, sort of.

Merth dreams that he is an astronaut. In his dream, he has always wanted to be an astronaut. He has worked long and hard to get where he is. Today is the big day. Today he is going to the moon. In his dream Merth is very old.

Outside the launch pad Merth is kissing Carmen goodbye. They hug close. Merth feels Carmen's hands on his skin. They are no longer soft; they are rough and calloused. Merth's rocket explodes into the dreamy sky.

In his dream, Merth is sad. This is all he has ever wanted, to be out in space, but he is sad nonetheless. All he can think about is Carmen's hands, how they aren't as soft as they used to be. As the Earth fades into a tiny ball below him, he wants to leap from the rocket's tiny window and fall all the way to the grocery store.

"I love you, Carmen," he says, but she can't hear him because he is in space.

When they wake the next morning Merth wants to make love. Carmen smiles.

"There isn't time," she says.

"We could make time," says Merth.

"We have to go to work," says Carmen, still smiling.

The two walk to work together, Merth and Carmen. They hold hands the entire way to the train.


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OUR FRIENDS AT The Left Hand make great soap, salves, balms and other natural hygiene-type stuff, in addition to publishing a zine and running a book swap, a performance series and more from their Tuscaloosa, AL, homebase. When they offered to make something for us, we jumped. We introduce THE2NDHAND soap, an olive oil soap with a quadruple dose of Bergamot, "for the readers we've sullied..." Price is $6, ppd.