LENA by Divya Iyer

I want this to be honest in a way that makes empires shake. I need to text Lena back, and if I do text Lena back with the right words, the ones that hum and whimper and shake and do not cajole (under any circumstances), I know what I would say. The crux of it is that, no, I wasn’t crucified and, yeah, I can’t tell sparkling water from holy water. I would tell Lena about the way loneliness grew inside me, a big sprawling thing, reaching inside for empty spaces, seeping in like ink on blotting paper, like all…

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THE PENCIL TEST by Grace Loh Prasad

I once dated a Famous Author—someone you might have heard of. He’d written half a dozen nonfiction books by the time I met him at a writers conference, and had recently published a surprise bestseller that was made into a movie. He’d lived and traveled all over the world as a journalist and was on the masthead of a venerable magazine.  The Famous Author was teaching a class on how to write and sell travel stories, which seemed like a good entry point for my first-person writing about Taiwan. After the conference I emailed him to introduce myself and mentioned…

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HE’S USING A LANDLINE by Cyndie Randall

He tells me he’s touching himself. His breath is so dense, I wipe my ear and shift to obedient, a gargoyle holding fast, sparing the temple’s body from storm water. My thoughts answer inside like a limb jerk: Why would I be touching myself? No nothing is happening in my panties. I don’t use that word. How many people and objects is he betraying by calling me from work? One, his wife. Two, his buddy’s office where he’s hiding at three in the morning wiping semen from the buttons of the keyboard. Three, the keyboard. Four, his parents, who had…

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2005 by Tom McAllister

2005 In February, LauraBeth (then my girlfriend, now my wife) flew to Iowa City to visit me for my birthday. It was colder there than I had ever thought possible—negative thirty degrees, factoring in wind chill. The kind of cold that would kill a Martian. The college students still went out at night in short skirts and t-shirts, because they didn’t want their jackets to smell like smoke. These two years in Iowa City were the last time in my life when I would know what it felt like to sit in a bar with dozens of smokers, lit cigarettes…

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HOLES IN THE STOMACH PROVIDE WINDOWS INTO DIGESTION by Kate Lohnes

Picture me a babe no words throated there has to be context. Like pigtails at Brookfield Zoo, once I lost my mother, all greeneyed bulbous, looking window through at tiger sleeping on riverbank, sketchers and ratted jacket rattled I was child then, was child once. Not here temporally isolated at this locus where you touch me [touch me touchme pleasetouchme]. Carbonbodies grow in time with nutrients so I ate once, you know, thick chilled carrot mush and chicken tenders but that mole I have here has always marked me cain.  Under canopic and dense Dublin smoke settles on pores and…

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WRESTLEGY by Timothy Parfitt

We met under the spotlights, cast as Macduff and Banquo in our high school’s production of Macbeth. Alex and I became fast friends. We goofed around a lot back stage, smoked a little weed in the alley. My big moment was when I got to run onstage and yell “horror” until the word lost meaning. When the production was over, Alex invited me to join him and his other upperclassman friends in their backyard wrestling league. Boys playing dress up, immortalizing our daring feats on a bulky 90s camcorder. I played a janitor in coveralls and wielded a mop. We…

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ROUTINE by T.J. Larkey

My girlfriend works late hours, without any real breaks to eat, so it’s my duty to feed us when she gets home. I take this duty seriously. Not serious enough to learn how to cook, but serious enough. I sit in bed fully dressed, waiting. Then she calls me as soon as she’s off and tells me about her day while I drive to the nearest fast food place. It’s our routine. I like routine. It keeps me in line.  “You’re a boy that needs to be kept in line,” she tells me. “Yes,” I say. “I like routine.” I…

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A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIRE by Marina Flores

Firefighters in reflective neon suits stormed into the blazing Texas Thrift Store as helicopters circled the building in surveillance. The flames that escaped from the structure’s openings whipped and stirred together like vermilion lovers beneath a glassy black sky. A generator on the roof of the thrift store flickered—once, twice, like the first few seconds after lighting a sparkler on the Fourth of July—seconds before an atomic cobalt and orange explosion. Fire swallowed the structure in one gulp, almost offended by the attempt to save the remains of the building with hose water. That night, not much light was needed…

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OUT by Michael Lehman

I walked out of the desert to get on a bus, and the driver threw me off in Phoenix. He said I was too dirty and shoved me out the door with a big bucktoothed grin. I changed my ticket at the counter. Immigration cops wearing body armor with black-and-white American flags on their shoulders were standing at the exits barking for papers. Past them, the valley floor was baking, the air full of dust. I walked by a campus of telephone company buildings, surrounded by glistening lawn and a cyclone fence topped with razor wire full of snagged plastic…

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WHO LET THE DOGS OUT? by Josh Olsen

Instead of buying a new costume for Kelso, our 7-year-old Aussie/Collie mix, we repurposed an easy one from years before, and strapped a small rubber jockey to his harness. All of the puppy parents at the doggy daycare costume party kept referring to Kelso as a jockey, although technically he was the horse in the horse and jockey relationship, but still I failed to correct them, not wanting to be the asshole who insists the green guy with the bolts in his neck is actually “Frankenstein’s Monster,” not Frankenstein. There were no fewer than three dogs dressed like Wonder Woman,…

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