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….

Continue Reading...

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…

Continue Reading...

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…

Continue Reading...

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…

Continue Reading...

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…

Continue Reading...

NORA LIVES IN PIECES by Mason Parker

Everything crashed into its true form following the blackout in New Orleans when Nora missed her flight and we drove to Little Rock, buzzing as trashy manic fairies. The Ozarks flopped and rolled, redefining themselves every few miles. Nora had proposed to me after pissing on the fence of an electrical transfer station somewhere outside of Austin where the grass grew through the chain link. I laughed at her, and she said, “I’m fucking serious, mate.” “You wouldn’t want to marry me, Nora.” “Fuck man, I love America. We could get dual citizenship.” “It wouldn’t be worth it. I’m a…

Continue Reading...

LISTING by Michael Todd Cohen

MARBLEHEAD, MA — ESTATE SALE BY YOUNGEST SON 4 bedroom / 4.5 bath with 5,679 sq ft. of ample space for nuclear family on .26 acres. Below listed are the items for sale and a description of the property. Not listed but offered for the specific buyer: being told as a child you would be disowned if gay. BASEMENT Offered in sale: workbench at which father and youngest son built miniature soapbox derby car for Cub Scout competition. Mostly father—who hip-checked son saying, “watch out, watch out,” as his hulky frame jostled miniature car parts into a sleek red bullet….

Continue Reading...

A MOST DEPRESSING WEEK by Chris Milam

Monday I tell my therapist that her milkshake brings all the depressives to the yard. She laughs. I laugh. I don’t tell her I spent hours the night before trying to think of something funny to say to her. I also think: I love you. I think: you plus me equals happiness. I think: when does this session end? I think: I want to sleep with you to help murder the pain. She goes on about reframing or something. I’m still focusing on my joke. Time’s up. Fuck. Tuesday A murder case on Dateline. A beautiful wife is found dead…

Continue Reading...

LAND LEGS by E.D. WELCH

Bittersweet day, this final one together. Frighteningly agenda-less, we wander through the aisles of small, art-filled stores, awkward in each other’s company, unaccustomed to hanging out like this. “Do you want to go into this one?” I ask him at each store.  “I don’t care.” His only reply. I learn he likes art galleries—oil paintings, to be exact. I didn’t know. Our aimlessness leads us eventually to the beach, where we find our land legs again. The beach: yes, we spent many, many hours at the beach together during his childhood, so this we know how to do. He shows…

Continue Reading...

LETTERS TO MACKENZIE by Blake L. Bell

I We were wild girls. Raised with dirty feet, tangled hair. Our dogs followed us down the roads we walked, but our mommas rarely did. We played hard, fought hard, loved hard. Fate cheated us from being sisters, so we bound ourselves together with blood ritual. We couldn’t go downstairs to the kitchen to get a knife, afraid of waking momma. Instead, we broke a jar in the upstairs bathroom and sliced our thumbs open; our skin peeled back, vessels bursting and spilling over. We pressed our cuts together and imagined our blood forever combined. “Soul sisters,” we said, sucking…

Continue Reading...