THE COLLAPSE OF A STAR by Jamie Etheridge

We sit in the van parked on the railroad tracks not knowing if the train is coming, or if you are going. You want to die. You said so and we believe you. Momma cries out, “Bill, please,” over and over and we wait, inhale then hold, for you to decide.  It was always like that. Random moments of drama; life or death, on the side of the road. That time in Texas in the middle of the worst blizzard in thirty years. The truck’s engine exploded and we were stuck, freezing, as semis whooshed past on the highway and…

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ON THE STREET CORNER by Lina Lau

To see him again—tall, lean, crinkling eyes, thin lips tugged into a smile, always dry from working outside high up in the trees, a ‘tree doctor,’ he called himself—my stomach drops like it did when we first met at seventeen, him walking into the shoe store where I worked, later returning to ask me out, the first time picked up by a boy meeting my parents and we strolled the boardwalk in and out of circles of lamppost light, illuminating, fingers intertwined, his large hands enveloping, and now two decades later on the street corner in front of his parked…

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REST STOPS AND PARKING LOTS by Aaron Burch

Because I didn’t want to pay for a hotel. Because I could afford to pay for a hotel, but it seemed like a waste. Because, as much as I enjoy sleeping in and then being lazy and watching TV in bed, I wanted to get up and moving and on the road as soon as possible. Because I’d paid for and slept in a hotel the night before, and I’d do so again the night after, and I thought a night in my car would both save me a little money and make me appreciate the nights when I did get a hotel.

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LOW VISIBILITY by Jillian Luft

We’re in a blizzard, the sheer white of it haloing our Nissan Maxima as we careen across the northeast interstate, miles and miles away from the tropical green swelter of our backyard, the cicada buzz of Florida. Starting somewhere in New Jersey, the weather blots out the roads, swallows exit signs, engulfs my parents, younger brother and me in its silent magic. Our burgundy sedan skidding slightly as our mouths open in unison to the light falling soundlessly outside. For the first time in our lives, we feel like the lucky ones. Sole witnesses to a quiet miracle, a record-breaking…

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C by Lisa Lerma Weber

It was another sweltering summer night in our godforsaken little town, the odor of cow dung and hay heavy in the air. My maroon Ford Escort was sitting in a dimly lit corner of the McDonald’s parking lot, a bunch of misfits standing around it, trying to figure out what trouble to get into. You and I were lying in the trunk next to a pile of scratched and scuffed skateboards. I turned towards you and smiled. You smiled back. You were always smiling, something I liked about you. We leaned into each other, our lips meeting for a brief…

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I DEFINITELY NEVER LOVED YOU by Cory Bennet

It’s that time of year when California burns. It will peak in the Fall when the shadows begin to grow longer. There was a lightning storm across the Bay Area last night and fires today and ash falling from the gray sky. My knee is torn up from skating but I’m restless tonight so I cruise the neighborhood inhaling the poison air.  Once the fire had torn through my parents’ neighborhood, we tried to return but the cops had all the roads closed. My stepdad knew a way through an orchard. We came upon the house and it still stood….

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GRIEF IS AN EMPTY SHELL by Robert Julius

When I left for California in the summer of 2013, I knew what I was leaving behind. I was abandoning a home that had grown toxic over the years, from my mother’s addiction and the ensuing fights between her and my father. I was leaving behind the rural countryside of western Pennsylvania. I was leaving behind two best friends, two brothers, two parents, and a sister who had been in and out of prison for the last five years. I was also leaving behind an old me, and all my old pastimes, including my terrarium of land hermit crabs that…

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LACERATION by Victoria Buitron

When an iguana’s tail falls off after a scare, I’ve wondered if it feels the pain of a halted human heart or the shame a woman feels after being sexually assaulted in public. On many mornings, I’ve rested on a hammock below robust mango trees hoping an iguana didn’t fall on me. If a branch buckled under its weight, the crack of thin bark would reach me before I could see a green smear plop onto the ground. I’d cover my head with my arms or a book in startled anticipation. Once, my dog woke from a nap beside me…

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ALTO by Kathryn M. Barber

We’ve spent this summer in your house, the one that belongs to your father, the one that’s brimming to the top with a hundred thousand ghosts. Memories haunt this house: your parents, still together; your brother, asleep down the hall; your college girlfriend, alive, her laugh echoing across the staircase. We sleep beneath a framed photograph of that girl you loved so much, the one whose car went off that bridge we drive  across every day. She’s the only thing that reminds me you’re capable of love, that it can even exist inside you. The way you grieve her is…

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CONDEMNED by C. Cimmone

My mother smoked her favorite cigarettes in the kitchen. Smoke billowed out into the living room and crept down the halls. A small television muffled the evening news as the three of us chewed away at overdone meat. Splatters of hot bacon grease slid down our throats as my father hurried through tough threads of roast. He ran the tractor after supper; and my mother splashed hot water around in the sink as she yelled at me for not finishing the black-eyed peas. “Black eyed peas are good luck,” she’d belt.  Holiday evenings were much the same. “Too much sage…

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