SELF-MAINTENANCE by John Chrostek

I live at the bottom of an old apartment tower and my tub won’t stop filling up with water. The building, weary from a century of American life, funnels its sewage down through my unit’s pipes until it all gets stuck up tight and rises with a fury, bubbling and nasty from the drain. For days, my every waking moment has been spent dumping bucket after bucket of the hot, dim water down the toilet and calling out for help. The calling out is pointless, of course, for what raw marrow remains of my voice gets trapped in my apartment,…

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A LOST AND WORDLESS FEELING by Becca Yenser

for Abby Vasquez   All of our friends are dying but they are the ones to blame, so we shut up about it and sit outside at their old favorite bars, drinking set-ups until we puke. The bars are named after animals or phrases: Red Fox, Crow Bar, Haymaker, Lost and Found. Our friends shot themselves in one-room apartments, jumped from bridges, hung themselves from garage ropes. They had dark hair, shiny hair, green eyes, red beards, brown eyes, dimples, scars, cellulite. They stooped when they walked, or danced on bikes, or wore layered sweatshirts instead of coats. They played…

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DUCK, DUCK, OWL by Michelle Ross

The ducks are a pair—Mallards from the pond in the nearby park. Every evening, they claim the shallow end of the swimming pool, float in languid circles. They’re not threatened by the woman watching them from the canvas chair. They don’t even startle when she goes inside the house to pour more prosecco.  The woman is a divorcée—she’s lived alone in this house twelve years. Her grown daughters transplanted thousands of miles away. Boyfriends have spent the night from time to time, but there’s no boyfriend now.   The woman notes the elegant (pompous?) curve of the ducks’ breasts and necks….

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AND WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT by Francine Witte

First time I met my brother, he was a hum in my mother’s swelling belly.  *** When he was 10 and me 14, we’d mock our parents’ arguments. We’d sneak up to the attic. He’d put on Dad’s soggy fedora and kick my bottom hard. When I flinched, he’d say, “hey, that’s how Dad does it.” *** I remember the first dead rabbit. It was the winter it wouldn’t stop raining. Always on the edge of snow, but not. My father scowled at my brother, who was something like 11. “What’d you go and do that for?” He shook the…

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THAT GIRL by Sarah Freligh

we used to laugh at, the girl who walked the hallways head-down, cold-shouldered by lockers, who blistered her fingers twisting Kleenex into flowers for homecoming floats the cool girls would ride on, yeah, that girl was nobody we knew until she went missing and then we remembered how in first grade she peed a puddle that spread and smelled of cheese and fish and scattered the class until the janitor showed up with a broom and a pail of red dust, remembered the Show and Tell in fifth grade when she shared the broken glass she’d found on the street…

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SEXY REXY’S HOMECOMING FEAST by Steve Gergley

For his fortieth birthday, Lance bought himself a red-tailed boa and named it Sexy Rexy. When he returned to his empty apartment, he masturbated to a video on Pornhub called “MASSIVELY JACKED STUD ANNIHILATES SUBMISSIVE TWINK.” Then he turned off his phone and set up Sexy Rexy’s living enclosure, feeding tank, and hide box. For dinner Lance ate an entire chocolate cake and washed it down with half a bottle of champagne. Then he smoked a pack of Marlboro Lights and threw up in the bathroom for half an hour. After a long, hot shower in which he threw up…

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CONSIDER YOURSELF HOME by Aimée Keeble

You and I at the window with our bandit teeth all exposed. Mine tallow, yours anodizing with the stale gold of nicotine, crap coffee that lives petrified in a jar. I’m your artful baby and I slip into shops first and blast back my chest. Hiya! And you coyote low behind me scoping with your dull sly eyes. Side by side at a counter and you’re velvet and torn at the creases but I’m no better (no worse) and my shirt is soppy and sags, better to stuff the gaps with. We’re proud as we unwrap our sandwiches in front…

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BIRDS AREN’T REAL by D.T. ROBBINS

My girlfriend tells me something’s off in our relationship. Says we’re missing a spark or magic or whatever she calls it.  I go, Oh, you wanna see magic? She goes, Yeah, idiot, I just said that.  So, I wrap an old t-shirt around her eyes and lead her out into the field behind our apartment. It’s all a big surprise. The ice chest is full of beers and pastrami sandwiches and the chocolate cookies she baked last month. I put a slice of bread in a Ziplock bag with the cookies to keep them fresh. The cookies stay moist and…

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WE THOUGHT YOU MIGHT LIKE TO KNOW by Jamy Bond

That your mother is dying alone in a room at St. Francis. The stale sighs of a ventilator echo through the hallways, pumping one last moment of life into her over and over and over. There’s a sad sliver of hope in the sound of it, and in the silence that follows.   She forgives the insolence, the years you spent overseas and never called, the sporadic letters full of vacancy, even your cold indifference to her cancer diagnosis. She has mostly forgotten your teenage shenanigans: the time you snuck bourbon into your lunch box and drank it at school, nights…

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THE PURPLE TREE by Alienor Bombarde

It was not her favorite tree. It was simply where the children met. The tree was tall, its purple leaves like curtains, shielding its trunk. It was where, when she was four years old, she first saw Pasang. Pasang was the first and only newcomer the children ever knew. His father had come to work on construction plans. Pasang had a round face and a soft pink mouth. Even before she knew that people could use mouths for anything other than eating and drinking, she liked the look of it, its softness and slight downward turn. Those were the days,…

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