TWO MICROS by Caleb Lyons

  It Was Clouds On my way to his house in Malibu, a song about life and death in Los Angeles played on the radio. At the house, the artist carefully signed his work and handed it to me. I wrapped it in glassine and told him his show in New York looked good in the pictures. He gave me a bag to gather avocados from his trees. We talked about how great Chicago is and why we left. 3 years later, when the artist died, I went back to the house in Malibu to pick up his final piece….

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DOG DENTIST by Stephanie Yu

Dog Dentist comes home, takes off his shoes, puts his feet up on the table, and says in a voice too loud, “Man my feet are B-A-R-K-I-N-G, if you know what I mean!” He laughs uproariously to himself. A joke intended only for one. I’m fixing up his favorite: meatloaf and mash. After a day of grinding down dog teeth, he’s only in the mood for food that is barely reconstituted. My meatloaf is a special recipe that’s super moist. More “fudgey” than “cakey” so the enamel faces zero resistance on the way down. I can tell that sometimes Dog…

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HARDING’S REFLEX by Kira Homsher

It’s an involuntary reflex, like how looking at the sun can make some people sneeze. Whenever Harding drives past a 7-Eleven, he has to turn around and buy a pack of cigarettes. To be clear, he is not a smoker. He buys a cheap pack of whatever color looks most appealing in the moment, regardless of brand, then smokes exactly one cigarette in the parking lot before stuffing the pack in the glove compartment and driving to his destination.  He particularly likes packs in yellow. And sea-foam green, because they look clean and soapy.  If he had to explain it,…

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THREE HOOKERS AT THE HOT DOG STAND by E. Nolan

This guy, Bobby, called asking for money. He was with three hookers at the hot dog stand and they needed to be paid. He had enough to buy them each a hot dog, but that would only hold them off for so long. Soon they were going to find out that he was broke. The skinny one was almost done with hers, he was telling me, and, lowering his voice to a whisper, he said he knew she wasn’t going to ask for another one. She ate as if she had other things on her mind, like where’s my goddamn…

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BAD CAT by Anthony Varallo

Yesterday I met the bad cat. He was lying on our neighbor’s driveway, sunning himself in the last of the day’s warmth. He had gray fur, slightly mottled with black, and white paws. His eyes were closed, restful. When my family and I walked past, the cat yawned and stretched his tongue the way cats sometimes do. The cat blinked at us for a moment, curiously—pleasantly, I thought. “Here kitty-kitty!” I said. “Psst-psst!” “Dad,” my daughter said, “don’t do that.” “Do what?” I said. “Cats love that sound.” “Please, Dad,” my daughter said. “It’s embarrassing.” “Plus,” my son said, “I…

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TOGETHER WE GROW by Katie Oliver

My boyfriend is a plant enthusiast: the more exotic the better. Old man’s beard, elk horn, fishbone. The bedroom is particularly full of them. They hang from curtain poles, draping down like Rapunzel’s hair. Distressingly phallic cacti loiter in corners; succulents take up space where they shouldn’t. Cacti are a type of succulent, he tells me. Whatever, I reply. You’re succulent, he says, and bites my neck. I roll my eyes. I go along with it, because it’s easier. When I get back from work, more seem to have appeared. Did you buy more plants? No, he says, flipping through…

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THE FOUR SEASONS by Trent England

She was sixty-nine, he was seventy. In the kitchen she baked two halves of an apple sprinkled with cinnamon. He drank iced coffee and did his Sean Connery impression. She pulled down a shoebox from a shelf in the closet and read her old journals. He took photos of their Pontiac and tapped on his phone and in a few minutes it was officially for sale, online, a part of their history up for grabs. She got a root canal that cost more than three mortgage payments, back when they had a mortgage. He bought a new phone that cost…

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HOW I LEARNT TO DRIVE by Roseline Mgbodichinma

Sometimes brown girls can wear black. Not the colour, but a mood, a presence, a halo. I hold my aunt’s hand as she struggles with the chain. I want to tell her there’s no use, it can’t cage her spirit, but I stop myself. The Ward smells of grudges and longing. What is madness, if not a pile of lost love and mercy? There is something about blue that’s retrograde. It’s the colour of sky fading into evening, the colour of hospital bedsheets the severe cases lie on. Scratch on the walls suggest a previous occupant might have had claws….

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THE HEAT by Connor Thompson

Because of the heat, she decides to sleep downstairs. “This old townhouse funnels the stuff upwards like acid reflux,” she says. She slips from the sheets, props the standing fan under her arm.  It’s fine by him; he relishes in spreading out on the bed without her. (Starfishing, she calls it.) He listens to her footsteps recede on the stairs and unfurls his limbs to the four corners of the mattress. Above him the ceiling fan carves circles in the air, striving to please. Two days ago an ambulance came down their street at an un-ambulance-y pace and pulled its…

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HOME SOON FOR A HOME COOKED MEAL by Paul Rousseau

Dad is not here, but he should be, soon, from work. He doesn’t drink and he’s not having an affair. He is a big man, I know. He likes red meat and horseradish. My sister’s boyfriend works, too, at the train depot, but him and my sister are both upstairs already.  Mom puts butter rolls in the oven at 425 degrees. Lying on my back in the family room, I have my feet on the grille of our gas fireplace. I test myself to see how long I can rest my feet on the glass part where it’s hot. I’ve…

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