STORYTIME by Robyn Blocker

What’s up, beautiful people? So y’all know how when you type the first couple letters of an email address and a list of contacts pops up—all the ones that start with that letter?  Like, imagine it’s “D” for Dave, the guy you’re hooking up with. Not Hot Dave with the boat or Quik Lube Dave with the ink, but the Dave whose brother OD’d back in ’99 at the rock pit behind the Big House. Right, Sad Dave. The Dave you send naked pictures to as an inside-joke cue that you want to buy from him. (Rumor alert! It was…

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THE DOGS WENT BACK ON ALL FOURS by Evelyn Winters

The man went out to get the mail. He opened the mailbox and looked inside. There were envelopes and a magazine. The magazine was Gourmet. It was a monthly for his wife, but his wife was dead. The periodical people probably didn’t know she died. If they do find out will they cancel her subscription? he wondered. The night’s air was brisk and clear. Walking weather. The street was quiet. He was one of those sad men you see walking around with their eyes on the pavement. Trudged in the rain. Trudged under the sun. Dragging his feet. But now…

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GONE BABY GONE by Patricia Q. Bidar

Arthur and I are lucky. A client of mine on 110th and Broadway—I clean houses—had a family thing and needed to leave the country for a few months. Arthur and I could stay. It’s late morning. The door buzzer sounds and Arthur springs up. His old friend, Joey Chestnut. What we know so far is that Joey’s gotten clean, or at least a lot cleaner than the last time we saw him. He has a lady now. Maybe she’s a calming influence. Now Arthur and Joey are going on a fishing weekend. They’re traveling light because just yesterday Arthur’s Pacer…

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THE GRANDE CALAMITY DIAMOND DESCENDS INTO THE MAELSTRÖM by Dolan Morgan

I needed a break. So when my brother gifted me the cruise ticket, it felt like he’d done something useful for once. But there was a catch. “It sinks on purpose,” my brother said, laughing. “Like, while you’re on the thing. Straight into the ocean, down it goes. The whole big ship. And they don’t tell you when, it’s a surprise. One minute you’re over by the pool deck in margaritaville or whatever, and then—wham! The boat is sinking, just like that. You’re gonna love it.” Byron worked in real estate and routinely ended up with promotional items that nobody…

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LAST-DITCH EFFORT: A FAMILY DRAMA TOLD IN NINE CHAPTERS by Torrey Kurtzner

Flip a Coin Christmas morning, 1999. My mother and father were seated on a couch in our living room. Neither seemed to acknowledge the other’s presence. Instead, they both stared lifelessly at a nearby wall. Holiday festivities be damned; it was just another day in matrimonial hell for my folks. My father awkwardly turned to face my mother. “Merry Christmas,” he said begrudgingly, holding out an envelope. “It’s an Applebee’s gift card.” My mother glanced at the envelope and sighed. “I don’t think I love you anymore,” she said. “Oh?” “Yes. You’re not surprised, are you?” “No, not at all,”…

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THE DOCKMASTER MUST NEVER SEE THIS by Claire Hopple

Gretchen starts with ditching her cell phone. She connects a landline and absconds with an old friend’s answering machine.  She receives a message from a wrong number telling her to meet at a houseboat by the river tomorrow at nine. The voice doesn’t specify whether that’s A.M. or P.M. She plays the message over and over, repulsed. The following day, she settles on a bench beside the river. There’s only one boat. It’s docked directly in view of the casino. It’s not a houseboat. Not at all. Regardless, this must be the place. Hampered by the stranger’s lack of specificity…

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MEN WHO CAN’T HUNT by James Cato

Who but Leatra would sashay onto my lopsided porch late for a 6 PM appointment, her pink top with ribbons tied tight across the front. I didn’t correct her when she called me a masseuse but felt the beginnings of dislike before she lay naked with a towel slack at her hips on the table. Resisting the urge to yank her platinum braid, I ran grapeseed oil on her back in a drizzling loop.  Who but Leatra would tighten at the mention of my brother Ely. I told her how this therapy studio had been his bedroom before he vanished,…

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TWO MICROS by Grace Q. Song

MAGICIAN’S HAT You find an upside-down magician’s hat on a table. It’s made of velvet, smooth as moonlight between your fingers, and a stripe, broad and white, wraps around its base. No one’s around. The first thing you pull out is a wand. Next, a deck of fresh cards. Pigeons and rabbits who disappear into the dark corners of the room. These are ordinary things you’d expect to find in a magician’s hat, nothing too surprising. So, you keep pulling and pulling, magic trick after magic trick, until things finally begin. The twenty-fifth item is a red Starburst, followed by…

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THE EARTHWORM by Jennifer Ritenour

Earthworm unfurls from an egg. No siblings. Only this one worm of two sexes. E wiggles in fluid and then presses herms face against the soft wall of the cocoon. A beat comes from the other side. Aware of hermself, E is now alive. E thrusts and pushes until the wall tears. Darkness, slick cool mud. The cocoon is now deflated behind herm. The lub dub, lub dub, lub dub is the pulse of Mother Earth and also the beat of herms five hearts. Earthworm slides through the dirt. Stomach pangs. E opens herms mouth. Soil flows in and through…

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MEPHISTOPHELES by Emily Kiernan

Judging by the state of his teeth, the vet estimated he was five years old, but Ella thought he was older than that—a persistent street-cat scrawniness, knots they could never comb out of his long, black fur. She’d had pets before, but he inspired a desperate love in her the others had not, a need to hoist him up in her arms and wrap his skinny body in hers, to protect him. The friend who had found him in the alley behind the Get Go station called him FluffFluff, but Ella had been reading Faust, and she named him Mephistopheles….

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