TENDERNESS by Anthony Sabourin

The Doomsayer is at work.  He takes a sip of black coffee from a styrofoam cup. He mumbles to himself and barks like a dog and screams into his elbow as one would muffle a cough. He takes another sip of coffee, gargling it and spitting it into the street; wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. Across the street the train is stopping, and soon the morning rush will be streaming by on the stretch of street before him, walking in their harried steps, a tension in the inconvenience of being a person around other people, already…

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MOONRAKER by Robert Warf

GREENHOUSE My father’s hands are large and calloused with supple jointed thumbs. I have my mother’s hands. I’m a man. Not a man like my father. A man like my mother. I’d tell you about my mother’s hands, but I can only say so much for so long about a good thing. But I’ll tell you about my father. I’ll tell you something. MOONSHADOW Oil rig at sea. Drillers drilling. Sweat. Dripping sweat. The moon overhead. Men work under lamplight. Roughnecks with rough hands. Hands of a father. Smoldering filter in dirty fingers. Dirty fingers of my father’s dirty work….

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SCARAB by Jihoon Park

I see a scarab beetle on the sidewalk on my walk home from the bar. Instead of stepping on it, I scoop it up with the Yellow Pages on the driveway and place it on the ficus tree next to the garage door.  I’m very nice when I’m drunk. I fall into bed next to Janine. She is awake but she does not want to talk to me. She probably wants me to shower and get the whisky smell off, but I still have some dignity left. I am my own man and tonight I want to sleep in my jacket and jeans.    In the morning,…

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WRITING PROMPTS AND CHANGING VIEWS by Sabrina Hicks

At a time when real life is crushed into an acronym, IRL, to accommodate social media, texts, curated accounts, all I crave is something real, someone to talk to, my father’s voice, my mother’s strength. Dani was annoyed that her father sent her a text asking how she was doing, as if the weight of their collective damage could be written with thumbs. Knowing he won’t answer your phone call, you text back fine not explaining how you got fired for taking too many days off, caring for a woman he once loved.  A strong memory of color. I’m driving…

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VISION QUEST by Joe Cary

Nestled in his sleeping bag, Randy had fallen asleep alone under the desert stars, but here is stirred by a slithering along his naked thigh and a rattle under his armpit. Half asleep, he imagines he’s dreaming, but a Stone Age part of him wrings his spine and cascades adrenaline. The rattlesnake brushes Randy’s ankle and traces halfway up his ribs, so smooth and cold he wouldn’t have placed it but for the harrowing sound. A collision of fear and logic keeps him rabbit-still. The slick, thick thing slides across the old bruise left by Phil’s wingtips and curls around…

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JUST OUTSIDE THE TUNNEL OF LOVE by Francine Witte

And Benny Jones telling me about Darlene. In other words, he pulled me through to unlove me.  Something about how love is a crispy pepper one minute, but then it goes wilty and soft. I told him I’m not a goddam pepper and get to the goddam point.  Problem is, I gave Benny Jones my heart too fast. My heart is a bristle I keep in my pocket and I can never wait to give it away.  Benny Jones sat in the boat in the Tunnel of Love, all squirm and tangle of words. Friends, he was saying, and didn’t…

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BLACK CANYON CITY by Chloe Lauter

It is October in Arizona and the desert is dark and merciless when we drive into Black Canyon City. Perhaps it would be safer to keep driving, perhaps it would be safer to drive all night, but your face is shadowy with fatigue. It’s only for the night, you say. We see the rows of neat trailers as we turn off the highway, surrounded by dust-soaked single-family homes and dirt roads thin like sidewinder tracks. At the end of the main road, the night erupts into screaming fluorescence, the dollar store that is a drugstore and party décor and office…

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SELF-LOATHING WALKS THE TOWN by Amy L. Freeman

Despite the early morning’s scorching heat, Self-Loathing strides down the street in Anytown, USA, slapping mosquitoes from his neck. He reaches his first house, the leaves of its magnificent oak tree motionless in the heavy air. With a quick sidelong glance to ensure no one is watching, Self-Loathing shimmies up the tree and leans forward to peek into a second-story window. Wearing just boxer shorts, fourteen-year-old Richie is leaning over his bed, scrubbing at his sheets with a damp green hand-towel. He’s using his other fist to pound his thigh as he tries to also scrub away the image of…

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LIKE HUMMINGBIRDS by Shome Dasgupta

Like when we sat on the sun and watched the world simmer in our heads, brother—remember that time? And how you were so furious and the words from your mouth smoldered, drifting towards every star, making sure there was no void. The pain. The pain you felt became ashes in my own body, and I’m so sorry, brother. I was helpless. And as much as I felt your pain, there was nothing I could do to take it away from you. Your skull vibrated as the smoke left through every pore of your body, and I just wanted to hold…

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APEX PREDATORS by Nicole VanderLinden

Jessa hears a bear. Only it’s not a bear. It’s the wind nudging against the nylon of our tent, but my new wife has never camped on a grassy bald in the Smoky Mountains. So when she elbows me, whispers, is that a snout? where the fabric pushes in against her sleeping bag, I say, probably. I say, you didn’t bring in a candy bar, did you? She knows this story, that tent walls aren’t really walls and that a bear can slice right through them, drag you away for a bit of chocolate. Next to me, I feel her…

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