COME HOME NOW by Danielle Chelosky

When apologizing to you for fucking up, I’d buy you flowers. The first ones were blue—not like the sky, but abrasive and ethereal like from a video game. I broke the stems so they would fit in my bag without peeking out, and the color dripped onto my palms and stained them for days. If it were red, it would have felt accusatory; this ultramarine was comforting, safe. * The risk for fucking up was lethal. Not for me, but for you. * I was seventeen. I fell in love fast, curled up against you while we watched movies. My…

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UNDERTOW by Tara Stillions Whitehead

We pinned their name tags to our knitted sacks. Reynolds. Solomon. Childs. Kennedy. We wrote their room numbers on our wrists and waited for them on the cement benches near the commandant’s office. We sat with our legs crossed, condoms in our back pockets, while they marched the line in their parade uniforms. We tracked sand from dorm to bedroom sheets. Someone’s mother washed their civvies and kept them in the guest room or the pool house, convinced we were the ones doing the civilizing. There were boys whose names we couldn’t share. Boys whose names we’d seen taped inside…

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WHEN YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE A GUN AND NOT A TARGET by Sutton Strother

He’s the only other person you know who loves David Bowie. Not like your friends tolerate David Bowie for your sake or how your mom only knows the radio hits. He knows all the albums you talk about, every deep cut. “Modern Love” is his favorite Bowie song (killer drums, he says right before the first verse kicks in), so on days when there’s a test in his class you listen to it while you dress for school. It reminds you not to hate him, no matter how difficult he makes the questions. There’s power in the not-hating. And when…

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LIVER MUSH IS AN ESSAY ABOUT MY MOM by Graham Irvin

I want to talk about liver mush. Liver mush is a breakfast meat from Western North Carolina made of boiled pork parts and corn meal. It’s my favorite breakfast meat. It’s my favorite word. Liver mush is more than pork parts and corn meal, though. There is also sage and black pepper. But, liver mush is more than breakfast and sustenance too. It’s something close to that, but not exactly. It’s home but not home, but not exactly. Liver mush is more than a piece of fried pork parts and corn meal. Liver mush is more than old white dinner…

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MOUNTAIN MUSIC by Michael Seymour Blake

All kinds of warning lights are flashing on the dashboard, and the front bumper is mostly held together with duct tape. Chelsey and I are driving my cousin’s car through the Catskills, searching for a trail that leads to an abandoned hotel at the top of a mountain. It’s supposed to be crumbling and overgrown, a long-ago meeting place for communists. It’s getting late, but we figure we have time to hike out, see this thing, and get back to the car by sundown. The GPS has us turn up a narrow, dirt path that circles the mountain in a…

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PET by Danielle Chelosky

The night we met, I showed up at your apartment with fishnets shoved inside my bag. I was too nervous to wear them as I walked from my car to your door. I got catcalled three times anyway. Catcalling is really bad over here, you told me while we ascended the stairs. You took the lead; I followed timidly. I couldn’t take in your apartment as we stepped inside because I had too much going on in my mind. Your room, though, came across as beautiful—the light soft and careful, your bed sheets floral and muted, your walls white with…

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THAT’S ALL YOLKS by Alex Juarez

I think about crawling into Arizona’s skin. It would be easiest to go through her eyes. A few years ago, I read an article about a girl who while on meth performed self-enucleation. Her pastor found her screaming, “I want to see the light,” while holding her eyes in her hands. I don’t want to hurt Arizona, but I think if I could slip inside, we would be easier. Before our alarms go off, she has a headache, so she presses her palms against her face and groans. I mirror it to make her feel like our emotional bond is…

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IMAGINE THE SECOND COMING by Stevie Trujillo

Silencio, our guide whispered.  Just then, we were ambushed by hundreds of orange bursts, swirling and darting in every direction, while thousands more blossomed in the pine branches overhead. The sound of their powder-thin wings fluttering so close to my ears tickled the back of my neck, like angel whispers. I raised my shoulders and giggled.  Adult Monarchs normally live three to four weeks, but the ones that migrate south are part of a special generation born towards the end of summer, called the Methuselah. They live seven or eight months—about nine times longer than the average lifetime.  Imagine living…

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ARE YOU MY MOTHER? by Allie Zenwirth

A I used to get these pangs of want, filled with unnamable desires. You would find me jumping. You would find me erratic. I want to make something. I want to dance with somebody… I want to feel the heat with somebody… yeah… With somebody who loves me. Я хочу. I want… I want… I want… I don’t know… I want…  If you were that stranger at the bar you would ask me, “How do you have so much energy?” and I would say, “I don’t know,” and then  jeté away.  Now I’m drained, all my juice is gone. Instead…

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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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