SQUAT STANDS by Richie Smith

The high school gym was filled with jocks and weight lifters and I didn’t fit in with any of them. People like Irving Ackerman, the strongest Jewish kid in the school.  Irving didn’t know me. I lifted the lowest level of weights, but I resolved to change this. I was going to work out to grow big and strong. I found a body building program in the back of a comic book. “Universal Body Building” had the logo of a muscle man hugging a sexy woman and promised to send me weekly lessons which would transform me into a hunk…

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HOT SAUCE GLOW by Jody Rae

Is it true we’ll spend the next nine months across worn-down Neapolitan-chocolate-brown carpet that we tell ourselves we’ll cover with a rug, but never do? The cinder block walls are painted dried vanilla ice cream on warm pavement. Like a wound that won’t heal, the thick drapes won’t close all the way and they bleed a strawberry sunset over Wide Open Spaces, an autumn-tinged campus and the regal-yet-defunct Boise train depot.  For a split second, I think you are giving me the cold shoulder when I come home from class and you are asleep with your eyes open and, yes,…

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TELL ME YOU’RE A HOT MESS WITHOUT TELLING ME YOU’RE A HOT MESS by D.E. Hardy

I should have known it was a bad time to have a friend over. I was 15. My parents were divorcing, the house divided into a his/hers venn diagram, the kitchen being the overlapping space. I should have foregone the offer of a snack, and led my friend straight to my room that was squarely situated on the her-side of the floorplan. Better, I could have suggested my friend and I walk to her house where we could have eaten whatever we wanted. Even in before-times, my family rarely had anything good in the fridge.  I should have shut the…

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DESPERATELY SEEKING ARISTOTLE’S FRIENDSHIP OF VIRTUE by Chris Kelso

Let’s argue that reality is plural: the solipsistic loneliness of individual perception becomes our first hurdle. We try to get over that by sharing some kind of rudimentary interior with others—where common goals and grammars can unite and define us as joint proprietors of a greater cognitive space. So how do you deal with people not liking you? What strategies can you call upon when you reach out for connection only to find an opposing electrical charge exerting its repulsive force against you? It seems strange to imagine that in the age of social-media anyone would reject this idea of…

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THE MELT by Jennifer Todhunter

My son doesn’t turn from solid to liquid or liquid to gas when the melt occurs. He remains in the same state physically, but mentally there is a shift. Heat has been applied in the form of my disappearing from his line of sight, or heading to the bonfire for a beer, or talking to a friend who is a guy who is not his dad, my ex. There is a fusion when the melt occurs, his person to my person, a shadow that follows me wherever I go, that demands we leave this instant, that cries as if I’ve…

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EULOGY by Dan Melling

Derek came in sad-faced because Alastair’d died, said, Alastair’s dead, but I’ve not worked in seven months because the pub’s been closed, so I said, Who’s Alastair? Derek’s face got sadder, said Big Alastair, with the jewelry and I remembered him. He was a dickhead. I said, Oh yeah, and got Shelly over to talk to Derek, but Shelly wouldn’t care either. Alastair was a dickhead who always wore two watches and two thick gold chains and a ring on each finger and whistled when he wanted a pint and one time slapped a girl’s arse as she walked past….

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THE FLIGHT PATH by Megan Peck Shub

The morning my friend passed away—not a euphemism here, for passing is just what she did, through her protracted process, a slow shifting from life to whatever it is that is not life—some engineers launched a rocket at the Cape. I’d flown down from New York at 4 AM, but I arrived too close to the end for me to cut in, so I stayed at my parents’ house, waiting for the call.  That night, in someone’s backyard, my other friends and I, we stood there, conscious of our collective remaining behind. It was one of those suburban Florida backyards,…

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TANKERS by Mackenzie Moore

I thought my grief would come out like my mother dumps out her purse.  If you’ve ever seen that woman turn over her tote bag, it’s like the Niagara of tidbits. You need a poncho just to block the crumbs. Everything comes spilling out into a big old pile: Armani lipstick that costs more than my phone bill; floss picks, Altoids, crinkled napkins with phone numbers of networking colleagues; one wooden “eco spork” used, but wiped clean on one of the aforementioned crinkled napkins.  It’s an absolute mess but my god what a sight to see.  That’s not what happened….

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MOZZARELLA by Megan Navarro Conley

After they drown and bloat with water, white people look like mozzarella cheese. Not the shredded kind in resealable bags, but the smooth spherical cheese in the little wet bags near the deli counter. Sometimes I buy this cheese from Trader Joe’s because plucking it off the refrigerated shelf makes me feel fancy. I like to turn it over in my hands, cup it in my palm while waiting in line. I learn this fact about white people and cheese while standing in a river. I am nineteen, and I still think I’m going to be a doctor. The director…

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TELOGEN EFFLUVIUM by Brooke Middlebrook

Is when your hair falls out from stress. Your hair’s heading for the exits but the name rolls off the tongue.  Perhaps it’s because I take scalding showers, or I eat too much Annie’s Macaroni & Cheese. Sure, it’s organic, but nothing good for you comes as a powder. The best part is the bunny tail you press to open the box. External forces cause follicles to enter a sleep cycle. Hair loss, when inherited, is called alopecia. The old nature vs. nurture question, like we’re not all tired of that debate.  Someone I know is laying in an ICU…

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