THE SCHWINN by Rob Kaniuk

Mike showed up yelling and hollering about “the perfect gift” for Murph’s 40th birthday. He insisted everyone eat dinner and he’d give my dad his gift after we all had cake. Brylcreemed white hair, D.B. Cooper glasses, and one of his teeth, rimmed in gold, that twinkled when he smiled. It was a sly smile that was there whether he was handing me a butterscotch or crushing my hand purple in a handshake. He lived in a cabin, kept goats to maintain his lawn, and always had a paper bag filled with quarter sticks of dynamite.  Mike was nuts, but…

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LIGHTNING STRIKES by Emily Livingstone

Once upon a time, something truly devastating lanced out of the sky and struck the protagonist, turning him into a tragic hero. He was dead and born again in an instant, a demigod with a one-line history of having killed his whole family in a madness borne of squabbles between gods. He went on to perform twelve labors beyond human capability. He married a new wife and ascended to Mt. Olympus, a god-immortal.  Or, once upon a time, there was a woman whom the earth swallowed. In fact, it may have swallowed a whole town, but then she climbed out…

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AT THE ANIMAL LEVEL by L Mari Harris

I was not born with this rage. I don’t remember when it first entered me. (Yes, you do.) Nor do I remember when I first realized everything I saw was faintly veiled in red: the city streets, the faces of people I passed by every day, my reflection in the mirror as I brushed my teeth. (Are you sure about that?) Now, I drape this red rage over me like a hooded cape made of velvet and ermine. If I tuck my head just right inside the hood, I cannot see the trim of white that once scampered along a…

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BACKFLASH by Rebecca Portela

There it is. That particular tone that wakes me up from a dead sleep. Primal, sometimes guttural. Almost inhuman. Or so very human, more human than people ever dare to be. I feel for my phone in the dark. Corner of the nightstand. Lamp. Glasses. Phone. I get out of bed with less urgency than the last time and even less than the time before that. I flick on the lights and watch her for just a second. Hair in her face. Fists clenched. Body convulsing. I check the foam padding I put on the side of her nightstand from…

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LETTER TO MY FORMER SELF ON THE 20th ANNIVERSARY OF RECOVERY by Elizabeth Muller

Letter to My Former Self on the 20th Anniversary of Recovery: Hey, kid. Yes, you. You don’t think this term applies to you anymore—you’re fifteen, after all—but believe me, it does. I wish you knew how much.  You’re about to leave the dusty hellscape you’ve called home for the last two months, relearning how to eat so that your weight can go from 85 to 90 to 100. It cost $80,000 and your father won’t let you forget it. You’ll feel much better about the barbed wire fence once it’s behind you. You’ll keep a little barbed wire in your…

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AMERICAN LAKE by Aaron Burch

Did you grow up near water? What did you think of when I asked that—lake, river, ocean, pool, other? Do you like to swim? Do you remember learning how? Did your grandmother live not on a lake, but near? Walking distance? Do you have fond memories of going to your grandmother’s house, getting one of the large towels she kept for you in the bathroom, one of the inner tubes she kept in her garage? Do you remember being little and using actual inner tubes on the water, not an inflatable pool float or tube like you might buy from…

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LIPSTICK BOTTOMS (CHICAGO, IL – JULY 2008) by Taylor Byas

It’s past 2 am on the southside of Chicago when my aunt Danielle, my father’s older sister, brings me and her daughter Ginai along for a late-night alcohol run. With each step, every part of my aunt ripples. Her hair is half-pressed half-shrinking from the dry summer heat. On her right thigh, clear packing tape covers a hole where she says a spider bite ate away at the flesh. I am too young to know that “spider bite” is a euphemism for an infected track mark. “Damn girl, you wore those shorts just for me didn’t you?” a white man…

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SEISMOLOGY by James Sullivan

In 2011 I was in a 3-tatami room.  * That means a tall man can lie down only in one direction.  * How do we measure a room? A living space? I don’t know the square footage of my Minnesota apartment. Only that it’s the smallest in this building, maybe the smallest anywhere in town. But when my neighbor moved out and my landlord offered me his place (“It’s a lot more spacious, maybe $10 more a month.”), I didn’t even look before deciding against it. * You never know when you’ll need that money. For supplies. For an extra…

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THE BEEP by Jason Schwartzman

I am his tutor and he is trying to tell me about an unknown variable. About X. But he has forgotten that it’s called X.  “The mysterious thing,” he says, laughing.  I love him for this. I will tell everyone I know about the mysterious thing.  During one session we’re in his apartment and I hear a beep. Just one beep. The microwave, probably.  “I’m really sorry,” he tells me, tensing up.   Sorry for what? It feels like I’m missing something.  “Totally fine!”  On the walk home I wonder why he was so on edge. Then I forget about it,…

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DOGWALKER by L Scully

I  Once, when you were still a girl, you loved another person. At the time, they were a girl too and you relished in your mutual girlhood from the roof of the funeral home in which you lived. You stayed in the funeral director’s suite and put up strings of tiny lights and a record player your girlfriend restored from the 70s. You would lay in the park with this friend of yours, heads on each other’s chests, nights spent giggling and intertwined. When they were a girl and you were a girl they were magic. You would crawl out…

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