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**PRINT: KIND OF LIKE BIRDS, by Mairead Case. The rules for teaching writing in the local juvie? 1. Don't talk about sex. 2. Or drugs. 3. Or therapy or suicide. The latest in our new mini-broadsheets series, with new fiction from Lydia Ship as well. We encourage active participation in distribution from any interested parties. Follow the main link above for more.

**PRINT: LIFE ON THE FRONTIER, by Chicago resident and native Kate Duva, is THE2NDHAND’s 33rd broadsheet. Duva's been plying the brains of THE2NDHAND readers for several years now, and her characteristic stylistic mix of arch-weird and arch-real in story makes for an explosively brittle manifestation of reality in this the longest story she's published in these halls, about a young woman's sojourn at what she sees as the edges of American civilization, Albuquerque, N.M., where she works as a nurse in state group homes for aging mentally disabled people. Catch Duva Feb. 8, 2010, at Whistler in Chicago at the second installment of our new reading series, So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel? This issue also features a short by THE2NDHAND coeditor C.T. Ballentine.

AFTER DETOX Jamie Iredell
CHARLIE's TRAIN a novella by Heather Palmer
INJURIES Jeremy P. Bushnell
WING & FLY: THE2NDHAND @ AWP, Steel, Brick, Whipsmill, Samurai | Todd Dills

Katie Ziolkowski

Ziolkowski lives and writes in Chicago, where she's contributed to the Newcity Chicago weekly and her fiction has been published in Dark Sky and Boston Literary Magazine.

We stare at them a lot, the twins down the street. Not because they're twins or even because they're conjoined at the spine. We stare mostly because they don't look like twins. They don't even look like they should be related.

Bohemian Pupil Press, Chicago publishers of the South Side Trilogy

They take walks around town in the summer, stopping in stores just to say hello. Mikey saw them on his first day in town and said, "Those two really like piggy back rides, huh?"

"They're stuck like that, dingbat." I explained.

"Yeah dingbat," Joe added. "Be more sensitive."

We only know them as Ketchup and Mustard because Mikey and me, we get egg McMuffins every morning and they stop in McDonalds before school to get toppings for lunch. Ketchup, as we know her, is the one with legs and arms long enough to reach the pumps to squeeze ketchup and mustard into little paper cups.

"I bet if we tried to do that we'd get kicked out." Mikey says.

Ketchup wears her sister like a backpack. She pumps out the mustard and passes the filled cup over her head, placing it in her sister's smaller hands and leaving a yellow stripe on her cheek.

That's Mustard back there. She has bright, white hair that never fails to catch the light. Even in the dark it shimmers. They say that she is Ketchup's guardian angel and that someone up there made a mistake. I've become an expert on that hair. Sitting behind her in Biology every day, I try to figure out where one starts and the other ends. But that hair always steals my attention and Biology dissolves into me contemplating whether she would feel it if I stole a few strands. At night I dream about plucking her off like a ripe apple and keeping her in my locker.

Ketchup looks like the rest of us humans. Her face is more freckle than skin. Tom Felding made a joke in fourth grade that God sneezed on her and forgot to clean it off. It stuck for a while and people called her booger face. That was before we all realized Mustard was pretty. By eighth grade no one could say a bad word about the twins. All you could do was stare. As they walked, Mustard's head bounced. it was like a buoy floating in the ocean. Her hair swung with unnatural velocities. Any other girl would have to pull something in her neck to achieve such height.

Their dad has a joke about it. I overheard it once at Open House. The parents were in Mrs. Field's classroom, and in his chuckling voice, he said, "Hell, if they weren't connected, I'da sworn she cheated on me! Am I right?" He laughed and the parents laughed; but the twins' mom crossed her arms, and when her husband patted the top of her head to show he was kidding, I felt sorry for her.

The next night me and Joe and Mikey decide to follow them home after a football game. Only once do we have to hide behind a tree because Mikey forgets we are supposed to be quiet and kicks a rock. Staring only at their back while we stalked a yard behind, they could almost pass for one girl. Mustard's hair is tied up in a high ponytail and I wonder if her arms could really reach that high.

It's real easy to find their house. All you have to do is follow the branches. A block in every direction, the trees bend toward their house. Over the years, after the twins were born, the trunks slowly began to bow and leaves began to droop, as if drawn to them. It was so gradual that the neighbors hardly noticed until a botanist came to investigate the odd foliage phenomenon.

"It must be because we have the brightest little girls," their mother was quoted saying in the Suburban Times, though the botanist concluded that it probably had something to do with the plant food their father used in the garden. In the picture accompanying the article, their mother and the twins were smiling in front of their house. They stood under two low branches like a frame. Mustard had to wrench her neck to the right to be seen over her sister's shoulder. She looked like a decapitated head, but we knew she was so much more. It's the general consensus among the male population that it was sometime between eighth grade and sophomore year of high school that Mustard grew boobs. We used to wonder if they bumped against Ketchup's back when they walked.

The thing about bent trees is that they're easy to climb. Me and Joe and Mikey watch outside the twins' dark house for a light to turn on. This is how we figure out that their bedroom is on the second floor and that they are actually happy. We get in a row, lying with our stomachs on a branch, and watch the sisters. Joe leaves after half an hour and Mikey eventually falls asleep, but I stay and I watch.

They sit in front of a mirror for a really long time, just talking. At some point I realize that they can never naturally look one another in the eye and it makes me more sad than the time I heard they weren't going to live past 25. Mustard braids Ketchup's hair the whole time. She leans back and tugs hard at the handle of a brush and even from far away I wince because I keep expecting her to break off. Every once and a while Ketchup swings her hand in a broad circle over her head and playfully whacks Mustard in the face and they laugh. Eventually they come back from the bathroom in pajamas and lie in bed on their side with their heads parallel and speak to the wall.

It was when Ketchup got hit by a car and survived that people really started suspecting that Mustard's angelic appearance was more than superficial.

"Hey dingbat." Mikey says, as we wait in the parking lot for school to start, eating our egg McMuffins. "Do you think it's true?" The twins walk inside, one backpack on Mustard's back and another cradled between the two. "Maybe she is an angel."

I didn't believe it myself until Mustard scored a secret date for Ketchup at Senior Prom because it had to be nothing short of divine intervention. His name is Tom Felding and Tom Felding is no easy catch, especially for a girl with 2 spines, 2 necks, and 2 heads. Although the 4 boobs may have played a part in Tom Felding's decision.

It must have been tricky, how Mustard pulled it off. Mikey heard that Mustard passed him a note in class and that Tom Felding was under the impression that he was going out with Mustard -- not Ketchup. But how could Mustard write a note without Ketchup passing her a piece of paper, a pen, and without using Ketchup's back as a desk?

Joe and I, we didn't buy it.

Joe said he heard that one night Mustard hit Ketchup over the head, knocked her out and called Tom Felding on the phone, intentionally misleading him into a date with her, knowing the whole time it was for her sister.

What we do see firsthand is Ketchup's eyes lighting up and 2 heads bobbing in the air as she jumps with excitement. It turns out that Ketchup's not the only one with a surprise when I realize that I am jealous.

The school rented out a boat for senior prom and decorated it with streamers that very quickly disintegrate from wind and water once the boat sets out. Mustard spends the whole night wearing earmuffs and a blindfold to give Ketchup privacy. Ketchup has on a pink dress that had to be altered with a hole in the back for Mustard, who wears a plain black t-shirt but is still the prettiest girl there. Her nose curls up under the blindfold and every once and a while she licks her dry lips. We think she falls asleep on the dance floor because as Ketchup and Tom Felding shuffle back and forth her body slouches and sags. Her arms relax onto Ketchup, who just smiles and wraps them around her neck like a scarf.

The boat turns out to be a disaster. After an hour out on the lake, we have to turn back because someone discovers flooding in the girl's bathroom and the captain suspects it may be an old hole opening up anew.

It's not until we dock that Mikey and I get word something is wrong. An ambulance is waiting for us on land, and before anyone is allowed to leave, we see Ketchup and Mustard lying on their side on a stretcher.

Carlie McNeil, rumor has it, was all set to go to the dance with Tom Felding and when she found out that he ditched her for the Ketchup and Mustard twins, she was determined to set the record straight. We hear that she punched the twins out when they came into the bathroom. We hear that Ketchup's head smashed into Mustard's head and they ended up on the floor. We hear it sounded like firewood popping and there was a crunch like teeth. We hear that the only reason Ketchup survived was because her head was propped up on Mustard and out of the reach of the water.

At Mustard's funeral they lower an empty casket. It must be the only funeral ever where the dead body watches its own descent into the ground. They dress her in black and tape her eyelids shut. I guess she must be heavy because Ketchup sags lower and lower as the day goes on. By the time the coffin is out of sight, she's on her knees.

"Do you think she'll still get ketchup from McDonalds?" Mikey whispers. "Do you think she'll switch over to mustard now?"

There are a couple attempted surgeries, but every one of them fails because it requires the doctors to break the spinal cord. Ketchup isn't expected to live much longer. We think she doesn't even want to. They throw a black blanket over Mustard, and Ketchup continues to trudge about life.

I note a strand of the blond hair sticking out from under the blanket in Biology. I move in my seat and the light reflecting off the hair moves with me. It seems to me that she would have wanted me to have them. I tug so quickly that only Mrs. Field sees, but she doesn't say anything.

Later, I heard that Mustard's hair kept growing after she died and after Ketchup graduated. It grew so long that one day Ketchup tripped on it and they had to shave it all off.

Once I had the strands of hair, I didn't know what to do with them. For the longest time, I would hold the ends with one finger and stroke them with the other. They never lost their shine even after 5 years, but eventually I lost track of them. They probably ended up in a vacuum bag or stolen by the wind when I moved out.

I only see the twins once more -- on the street, taking their morning walk.

"Hi Ketchup," I say.

"What did you just call me?"

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