ADULT-ORIENTED by Kala Frances Wahl

I was seventeen with braces, bright pink rubber bands looped around the brackets in my mouth, when God appeared to me in a dream. He told me it was my destiny to be a porn star. I was peroxide blonde, big-breasted and flexible. I readily accepted God’s proposal. Once without direction, my life now had purpose, meaning, something tangible that I could grip onto and ride like a mechanical bull. The horns felt good in my hands. I attended Catholic school, but I didn’t believe in God. I wasn’t sure what I believed in. I wanted to believe I was…

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ALWAYS AND ONLY JUST ALMOST by Felicia Rosemary Urso

Strangers came by to give you gifts: a fresh fish on ice in a styrofoam cooler, metal frying pans, a machete, two bottles of rum, a bunch of bananas the size of my torso. At night, we played gin rummy, shared liters of Kava and waited for a full moon. In the daylight, you showed me the jungle and explained every root or plant I could use for sunscreen or gelatin shampoo. I woke up picking my scabs, legs stuck to the leather couch on your porch. Nineteen and sick for you. You were two hours late when you pulled…

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IN-BETWEEN SIRENS by Davon Loeb

The in-betweens are like waiting for something to happen, like flashes of red and blue sirens pulsing through my car, while searching for the police officer about to step to my window. And I watched from the rearview mirror, and would say and act exactly how my mother told me—to call him or her sir or ma’am, to be polite, to keep my hands on the steering wheel, to have my paperwork ready. And that my stomach was buoyant, and that my eyes blurred from tracking the sirens, and that I felt the spotlight sizzle on the back of my…

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THE STRAY SHAR-PEIS OF OHIO CITY by Meghan Louise Wagner

Every party we went to in the summer of 1999 was lit up red. Red drapes fell over windows. Red vinyl chairs sat in kitchens next to red retro tables. Red walls vibrated with red Belle and Sebastian. Red wine gushed from boxes on countertops. Red signs glowed in dive bars. Red Schwinn bikes got stolen off our friends’ porches. Red hair dye spotted our shower mats. Red Chuck Taylors tapped in bathroom stalls. We were only babies when we heard about the stray shar-peis of Ohio City. Mara, a thirty-something veteran of the scene who claimed to have once…

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WHEELS by D. T. Robbins

Fat-boy Brad, the same Brad who went, Hey, Cheese Factory!, to me on the bus because my teeth are a little yellow, stood in the middle of the street with Chris, the same Chris who almost drowned me in his pool last summer showing me what a washing machine was (you flip someone over and over and over and over until they can’t catch their breath and they start to cry and someone’s mom comes out and yells, What the hell are you doing to that boy?), looking at my bike, telling me how fucking gay it is because it’s…

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GIRLHOOD by Jodi Aleshire

A body washes ashore in the recommended section of my Spotify podcast radar. This isn’t the first or the fifth or the third time it’s happened and I’ve long since lost track of the tallies meant to keep them in check. Their faces have become nothing more than the black censored bars used with relish by shitty live television and their bodies, marionette pieces, hocks of meat articulated in a mockery of form. The podcast entices me to listen—a flashy title, a well-made header, a snappy byline—offer a glimpse into an abjection of innocence, voyeurism without the guilty intent. They…

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NO, YEAH. by Erin Gallagher

“You can play games or you can end it and move on.” Lit by twinkly string lights atop a shiny marble counter, apparently we’re not fucking around anymore. Soft pink and blue bulbs create a calm ambiance, steam rises from big porcelain mugs of herbal tea, and we are sparing no emotional expense. Play games: win, lose, flip your phone upside-down and wait two hours, three hours, reciprocate every unit of time you’ve ever waited, multiplied by three. We’re not talking about me (this time), and my advice is out of character, it’s…hopeful:  “Yeah, no, maybe just act as you…

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SCURRY by Vanessa Chan

As a killer pandemic swept through the world, my mother died from cancer, alone in a Minnesotan hospice facility. A thousand miles away, also alone in my Brooklyn apartment, I held my breath as my heart caved into itself, salted with guilt. A week later, I encountered my first common New York house centipede. He winked at me from the white walls of my apartment, wobbling on his many legs. “HELP ME,” I scream-texted at friends, paramours, anyone who would listen.  The centipede began dashing madly up my wall, pausing as if to catch his breath, then continuing his ascent….

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THINGS TO SHIP TO AMERICA by Jessica Evans

Is heaven a proper noun? Here, I learned to love myself. To love the thick full shimmy of thighs against one another; to appreciate the height of my traps compared to the valley of my clavicle. I fell in love with butter churned from cream produced by cows who live only a few kilometers away. I learned to seek out the salted rotisserie chicken, its skin crispy and shimmering after hours on a spit. As much to bite into something with savage need as because there’s ownership that comes from eating simply to eat. But chicken is only good when…

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THINGS YOU DID AFTER YOUR BEST FRIEND DIED THREE YEARS by Mei Mei Sun

Things you did after your best friend died three years  and two personal renaissances ago. You mourn for six weeks, then use her death to excuse all of your shortcomings for the rest of the year. One night, your body full of hunger and youth, you carve her initials into your outer thigh with your father’s razor. Later, at a blazing house party, you trace over the scars with a hypodermic needle and black ballpoint ink. This is the memory you always go back to when you sob on the L.A. Metro on Tuesday nights, when even the security officers…

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