FRAGMENTS by Chelsea Plunkett

I. My mother tastes like the peanut butter sandwiches she made when I refused a homemade meal, Chai-spiced tea to soothe bronchitis, and a sprinkle of powdered sugar on brownies and banana bread. Her taste is stolen bites of cream cheese mixed with sugar as we make pumpkin cheesecake, steady instructions for achieving the streusel on sweet potato casserole, and chocolate frosting on birthday cakes.  In the time of new prescription refills, when she sleeps for days on end, sugar and fat dance on my tongue. It’s a momentary high from stolen food to fill an emotional void, whole boxes…

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SATURDAY NIGHT (AT THE ER) by Fran-Claire Kenney

Trigger Warnings: anxiety, mental illness, self-harm, suicide At best (at first), it feels like mooching off. There are all these kids in the pediatric ward with oxygen masks gripping their faces like leeches, or their scalps shiny against the fluorescents, or their parents sitting watch in a casually tragic state of exhaustion next to big beds containing little, broken people. And there I am, looking twenty-one though I’m actually not, and I’ve got, wait for it, anxiety. Everybody says they have anxiety. People don’t just say they were in a crash and felt each rib snap under the car door….

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I DIDN’T MEAN TO WRITE THIS. by Susan Rukeyser

I meant to write about young environmental activist Greta Thunberg and her impact, how she was received on her recent visit to the US. I loved how uncomfortable Greta made the “grown-ups,” including me. I was dismayed and unsurprised by the sexism chucked at her like crumpled, plastic water bottles: How dare she not smile?  But Greta’s visit coincided with the final stages of my divorce, and—perhaps you understand?—in that tender time, everything was metaphor.  ~ I read about a funeral held for a 700-year-old Icelandic glacier which had melted to the point that it could no longer move. It…

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A CIRCULAR SCAR by Shannon St. Hilaire

A guy I dated briefly once asked about my mother of pearl ring. Everyone knows a ring has a story.  “I won’t tell you,” I said before I could stop myself. Then I corrected, saying I bought it off Etsy, but it was too late. I would never tell him the story of my ring, because to know and understand my ring was to know and understand me. If I told someone about my rings, about this ring in particular, it would signal to me that I trusted them, and they trusted me, too. And I had no interest in…

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WHOSE HUNGER by Kristen Estabrook

In the hours prior to dinner, she studied her reflection in the mirror, checking and rechecking the flaws in her complexion, adjusting and readjusting the height of her hair, while thinking about sex. On their second date, he had asked about sex. He had asked if she was ready. She was not. “It’s only the second date,” she had said. She wondered if he would ask again and expected that he would. She wondered what she would say this time. That it was only the third? Then she remembered. Her period. Her period! She was on her period. That worked…

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ALL THE THINGS WE’LL NEVER HAVE by Christopher DeWan

I remember, there was going to be a birthday party for Michael. He was turning ten. Michael was always interrupting, saying things that weren’t funny or important, because he couldn’t stand not being the center of attention. My mom said it was because he didn’t have a dad. But Michael’s party meant I could go to the toy store to buy something I wanted, even if I would have to give it away. And the party would be a chance to see Karen. Karen was older and maybe that’s why she didn’t suffer so much from not having a dad….

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WHAT IT HAD IN ITS MOUTH by Arielle Burgdorf

What can make viewing it so memorable is the fact that as each day passes, the rock changes colour depending on the light and atmospheric conditions, and never remains the exact same permanent hue.   Red, the only color that stays with you. A massive red rock, rising out of a grassy field. Sun warming the stone, casting shadows in the crevices. The golden, reddish-brown fur of a wild dog peeking out from behind a bush. And the final red, rusty, dark splattered all over the white jumper. A baby, missing from the jumper. The same question, on yours and…

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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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