HOME by Madeline Anthes

You say you’d follow him anywhere, so when he asks you to move across the country, you do. You say you’d do anything for love, and you love him. He wants you to love your life with him. You try. Your rented house has plain beige walls. It’s in a suburb and has a fenced-in yard. You don’t have dogs or children to use it. The kitchen is tiny. You bump into each other every night as you fix your lunches for the next day. You’re watching infants at a childcare center. You change diapers and clean spills all day.

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IN WHICH PHOEBE DOES NOT MAKE THINGS HARDER by Devan Collins Del Conte

Phoebe was practicing being blind. She was nine years old and alone in her hotel room. It was supposed to be fun, but it wasn’t. There was no under-the-bed in which to hide, in case of a knife-wielding intruder. The closet, too obvious. She squeezed her eyes closed and reached her arms in front of her, sweeping them to either side. If the lights blinked off, she’d remember this slope of chair-ridge, the whisper of the bedspread against her thigh. Here was the sharp edge of the wall where the room narrowed to what her mom would call a foyer,

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THIS MESSAGE WILL SELF-DESTRUCT by K. Noel Moore

On December 7th, 1953, Adelbert W. “Dutch” Sherman, an unassuming man, did something to shock the whole of America. He died. Some several hours after typing that line, I got tired of staring at a blinking cursor, and shut off my computer. “This book,” I announced to the empty room, “is putting me through Hell.” I had thought of scrapping it more times than I could count. But, Hobbs was releasing his book on the Sherman case in a year, and I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t one-up him. The problem was, Hobbs and I were starting from

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DOMESTIC TERRORIST by Meeah Williams

That morning I had my usual breakfast: a bowl of pimples soaked in apple cider vinegar. However, this morning the pimples were inflamed. Each pimple had a little demon erupting from its infected head and each demon was bending over and showing me its hairy ass. The meter lady came to the door and wanted to read my tonsils. I said “I don’t have tonsils anymore. They were removed when I was five.” She said, “Exactly” and made an angry hash mark on her little clipboard beside my name. I threw a symbolic kitten at her back as she clomped

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GARGOYLE by Zac Smith

I sit on the front porch to get out of the apartment, to watch the children practice soccer in the field across the street. My neighbor comes in and out with his dogs. Every time, I pet the dogs while he tries not to make eye contact. He is out of shape. Tall, but bloated. I see this. I remind him by looking at his body. When he looks at me, I look at his stomach. His gut, how it pokes out between the drapes of his flannel shirts. As I look at his gut, he looks at my gut.

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ROTTEN TOOTH by Kim Magowan & Michelle Ross

Blinking in the darkness of the school auditorium, Rajiv spots his ex-wife Sangita. Her filmy green shawl is flung over the back of the empty seat beside her, reminding him of how their daughter, Alisha, puts a plate and cutlery out for her imaginary friend, Mr. Potato (not to be confused with the toy with the interchangeable facial features). The first time she did this, Rajiv thought Alisha was setting a place for her mother, and he’d wondered if the intention might actually conjure Sangita. “You saving that seat for Todd?” Rajiv asks Sangita. Her boyfriend, pink-faced with thick, blond

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claire hopple

GRIP by Claire Hopple

Let us tell you about Louise. At the moment we started to really pay attention, she was stuck behind a vehicle that read “Criminal Transport Unit – Dept. of Corrections” on the highway. When traffic cleared and she finally made it to the park, she was handed a universal key to all the glass showcases by her father. “Add more furnishings to the blue-tongue skink cage,” he said, gesturing toward an open box on a picnic table. Louise pulled what looked to be a mini tiki hut and micro lounge chairs out of the box and headed toward the showcases.

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BIO by Nick Perilli

Ernest Scheetz is a writer and carpenter living in Hudson, North Carolina. He smells like sawdust. Other work of his can be found in The Coyotee Review, New Langdon Quarterly, Triage Journal, New Coke Magazine, Holden Press, Instrumental Annual, Endeavors Review, Found Horizon, Form Letter Journal, Synecdoche Zoo York, String Lights Theory Magazine, Dwayne J. Quarterly, The Exorcism of Emily Prose, the garbage, Muted Xylophone Literary, The Flea Market, the Scheetz family plot, the eyes of his first son, the eyes of his dead father, Dreamboat Lit, Tourniquet Journal, Tall Tales & Ice Cream Horror Review, his friend’s copy of

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LAND SPEED by Alex Evans

On October 24th, 2011, Oscar Valentine broke the land speed record riding his Schwinn through a suburb outside of Madison, Wisconsin. People said that this was impossible, that Oscar Valentine, being neither a professional high-speed driver nor a legal adult at the time of the achievement, could not have exceeded 760 miles per hour. Others cite the vehicle as their source of skepticism. Not only does a bicycle seem an unideal method by which to compete for speed, but a close friend of Valentine has publicly stated that the tires on the Schwinn were nearly flat that morning, and he

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LILY IN THE LIGHT by Megan Pillow

Lily isn’t sleeping, but I still try to get up from the bed without making a sound. The curtains are closed, and I open them a peep so that a thin shaft of light comes in, not enough so that anyone from the outside can see us. The shaft travels to the bed, to the body lying there, like someone has traced a line across her belly with a golden brush, and beneath that lick of gold, her skin, oh, Lily’s skin lights up like one of those paper lanterns that you set on fire and send into the sky.

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MAPLE & GOO by Anith Mukherjee

The Orb glowed, the room shook, pink slime dripped from the ceiling. The Orb shuddered. The Orb split open. Gestating ultraviolet flesh. Flesh appendages reached out and grabbed Maple by the neck, they pulled her into The Orb’s living centre. She felt blood circulating around her, absorbing her. She faded and dissolved. She did not scream. It felt like a kiss. * Town Nouvelle Vague is a paranoid city. Steeped in irony and sarcasm. Sincerity was outlawed. No one knew what anyone was really thinking. There was a constant underlying analysis of meaning. The paranoia fed into the general theme

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GLASSMAKING by Jason Kane

In their twenties love was ineptitude—being there to fail together. Separately they delved the snowy miles between Erie and Rochester. A quest for meaning, those birthplaces their only landmarks, logical lapses in the dense contract language of northern hardwood. Their paths converged in a college poetry workshop, a group exercise where they fixed their willful corrections onto a hapless third’s verse. She had green hair and wore face jewels. He wore steel toes and a red bandanna, ebony plugs in stretched earlobes. She worked at the campus library circulation desk. He worked on cars and bused at a diner built

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FOOTNOTES by Erin Cork

Stopped at a red light, Malfunction Junction. A seventies model Chevy pickup ahead of me, bull balls dangle from the trailer hitch and a faded bumper sticker that was probably added when the truck was new, “Disco Sucks”.  There’s a man-child anywhere between the ages of 18 and 30 in the driver’s seat. It could be a hand me down, his father’s rig. I’ll never share the memory of peeling the backside from that sentiment and slapping it on the tailgate in front of me. But I do have a scrapbook full of goose bump gospel moments in the fellowship

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A SHADOW THE LENGTH OF A LIFETIME by Sheldon Lee Compton

The last address was easy to remember. But in a year living on the outskirts of downtown Portsville, Calup still confused First Street with Second Street about every other time. Maybe that’s what happened with his last letter. Confusion was now his general state of mind, even on good days, when it was only mild. At eighty-six years old, there were more days when he could remember what was in his lunch box the day the Number 2 tipple burned on Shelby Creek than he remember what street he lived on. The post office lady pulled to his mailbox. He

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LIKE NEEDLE TO RECORD by Tomas Moniz

Terrance tells me choose a record and I struggle. He’s a new friend. A very sexy friend. I need friends. We have one in common, Metal Matt, who’s orchestrated this meetup, aka blind brunch date, slash hook-up. But with friends with records like these, you know. Plus I don’t want to offend. There’s Rihanna, understandable. Peaches, okay. But the predominance of ‘80s music stupefies. The closest thing to metal: Alice in Chains. I figure sure why not. I pull the album from the shelf.   I say, How’s this, and hold the record high. He’s in the kitchen constructing our

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THE COAT by Robert John Miller

You don’t wear coats. You wear layers. You’re outside, what, five minutes, ten minutes at a time? Apartment to bus. Bus to work. Next door for lunch. Coats are such a bougie luxury. What are these people preparing for? Ice fishing? Everest? You’re never more than ten seconds from a clean well-heated place. But you tire of the questions. And there’s an online flash sale. Maybe a coat would be nice. Remember: You know nothing about buying coats. But that one on sale looks like the ones everyone has. Red patch. White thread. Maybe a goose is involved. Two days

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wilhelm scream

THE WILHELM SCREAM by Gregg Williard

Before her senior year of high school she spent every day of the sweltering summer on the side porch of her parents’ house writing an essay on existentialism while her little brother, back to her and arms outstretched for balance, inched past the windows outside, wobbling on a ledge no deeper than his heels until he lost his balance and plunged, screaming, into a sea of lava five feet below, then climbed up the drain pipe and did it again, all morning, every morning: inch along the ledge to Kierkegaard, lose balance to Heidegger, wave arms to Hegel, scream piercing

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MORE by Tyler Dempsey

Servants scatter. The psychoanalyst enters the room. He regards his surroundings: Apollo’s wife, Aphrodite, scrolls Facebook. Her Admirers lounge. Various articles—bedside tables, a rocking horse, bowling pins, Fruit Roll-Ups—lay adrift across the floor. Aphrodite refurbishes goods, like Fruit Roll-Ups, from thrift stores. Apollo enters, his humor betrays immense slaying. He approaches an Admirer, slays him. Tosses a bloody scimitar to the recliner. The Admirers scoot over. He sits. —How do you feel? —Tired. He cracks a Pabst Blue Ribbon, gallantly. Loosens his golden codpiece. Apollo props his heels on the dead Admirer. —I was whipping adversaries. The sun was angling,

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AUTOGRAPH PARTY by David Williamson

All the girls have their binders and they are all beaming, and she just has her arms all covered in her sleeves and wondering if her mother will come back before the party ends. It appears to her that the ends of Beth Beachie’s mother’s mouth almost touch her ears. Beth Beachie’s mother smiles crazy and starts it off by going to the record player and dropping the needle. A song plays that she thinks she’s heard before in a department store. Beth’s Beachie’s mother rings the bell. All the girls bounce around the floor and come together like atoms

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JEANETTE by Steve Anwyll

I’ve never worn a wig before. But as she walks up to the van. I know for a fact that hers isn’t on right. The netting isn’t supposed to be down so far. It ruins the illusion. It makes her look insane. But who the hell am I to judge her motivations? Mark takes the large rolling luggage from her. He does his best to stuff it into the storage space behind me with all the other bags. A noble feat I’m sure he’ll fail. Until I hear the latch gently catch. And envision our belongings shooting out the back.

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THERE WAS A LADY WHO HAD SHARKS UNDER HER SKIN by Philip Webb-Gregg

There were bears there too, and tigers and wolves, and all manner of carnivorous things. She walked around all her life, not knowing why she hurt so much. Always wondering why she was so hungry and so thirsty; always leaping at passing flames without a thought for her skin, which was worn and scarred from so many lost opportunities. And she would roar, sometimes, in the night, without knowing why. Or her mouth would suddenly be full of fangs and the taste of blood. And she would weep for the death she felt in her stomach, and kneel upon the

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REFILL by Fernando Schekaiban (translated by Toshiya Kamei)

Here I am again, in this café that has transformed into a shelter of excuses. I don’t know why I come back here every week. But I know myself and my pretexts. Some say I’m patient – those who value me the most – while others call me nuts. I’d say I’m in love with the sound my favorite chair makes – the one in the only corner available to customers – when you drag its wooden legs. OK, the chair is not the recipient of my love, nor is my visit to an “overcrowded” place, which allows me to

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ACHE by Josh Denslow

I fell in love at age seven. Twice. The first time was with the exquisite pang I felt when I pushed my loose upper right lateral incisor with my tongue. I’d withhold that sweet ache for hours, as if I was the drug dealer and my best customer at the same time. I’d wait as long as I could, yearning for a fix, and finally another push and the engulfing ecstasy. I never wanted to lose that power. But the damn tooth ditched me while I was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and it didn’t even have the

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MY SEASONAL EMPLOYER by Caroline Galdi

I was told to meet the driver at 300 King Lear Street, which was in this subdivision full of these corny ‘medieval’ names. Court Jester and Shakespeare and shit like that. It was like the developer was stealing street names from a book of word-search puzzles. There was a sign that said “REAL HOMES”. At the end of the street a bunch of the houses were still wrapped in plastic. Later the driver told me they brought the townhomes in in pieces and then assembled them on the spot Ikea-style. I said that was weird but couldn’t explain why. I

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FRIEND WITH GOITER by RJC Smith

The problem with my friend Johnny was the goiter on his neck, because not only was he self-conscious of his own conspicuousness, but I also found it terribly distracting—it reminded me of the plums on the plum tree in my backyard, which my parents cared for as if it were another child, i.e. a sibling of mine, which is a depressing story in its own right. When I looked at the goiter I wanted to bite into it and my eyes reflected this and sometimes Johnny saw, and the look Johnny always gave showed a combination of reproach and general

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FRANKENSTEIN, NOT UMA THURMAN by Travis Dahlke

You were Mia Wallace for Halloween and I was sexy Harper Lee. ‘How to fake blow’ was stained on your phone’s search history under the spiderweb cracks that cut up my fingers where I typed in my name. In all honesty, I wasn’t even going to leave the house, but stoned in bed with headphones digging into the pillow is not where new friends are made. Dancing at the church party, we saw four other Mia Wallace’s, each with blood running from their nostrils to the bleached spores of their mustaches. I thought we’d reek of fog machine juice forever,

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SCUFF MARKS by Alecz Yeager

The corner of a tortilla chip rested vigilantly against the surface-smooth chest of Ivan’s “School is overrated” t-shirt. Next to it pooled a puddle of drool that was escaping from the twelve-year old’s chapped lips. The remainder of chips lay hidden beneath his hand that limpishly slept inside a plastic cereal bowl. It was five o’clock in the afternoon, and after eight hours of middle school boredom, Ivan had come home, sat in his favorite chair, cracked open a root beer, and began eating chips and salsa: a perfect mirror to his father’s drunken habits. When his mother woke him

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CHILDISH THINGS by Barrett Bowlin

Hours after I first hear her voice in line at the bank, I make peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for the both of us with tall glasses of cold milk, edible memories from decades ago, and then she and I move to the daybed, together, her voice as cozy and warm as a mother’s breasts. “Point to something pink,” she says, my fingers on her chest. Her voice is bright and clear, a sparkling peal of sound, a live version of the recording made for the Little Reader for Girls I remember having in second grade, the one that took

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BOREDOMS by Grant Maierhofer

I’m a better tabloid than citizen. A friend of mine once wound up on the cover of their city’s something having passed out near the lawnmower he worked. He’d fixed up nearby within a building for soil and various landscaping tools and nodded off on a hillside holding his penis. I met him in treatment. He’d left one day for court and returned with pornography flat against his belly, tucked and sweated within jeans. He’d exhumed it and hatched a plot to scoop away the ceiling’s makeup and tunnel into the female rooms. I hid that night seated on the

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STUNG by Sheree Shatsky

Mary found her honey bee the same way as her momma and her momma before. She paid for him. She first saw the fine young man while watching the Billy Graham Crusades on television.  He sat next to the big man himself and she liked how his suit shined in the sunshine. It was enough to make a girl pull out her credit card and tithe online and that she did, adding a note—More where this came from should you email back stating the name of the spiritual being sitting left of the world’s finest preacher. Deacon Willis, came back

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DOGS AND THE SMELL OF GIN by Scott Manley Hadley

In the years since my nan died, I’ve taken to drinking gin. She always smelt of it, it reminds me of her. I didn’t realise what her scent was until I was a student, only a few years before cancer killed her. One morning after a party, I woke up not alone and was confused by how vividly the smell of the room made me think of my grandmother. Diving into old memories, I sought repressed images of cross-generational incest, but (thankfully) there were none. I sniffed harder at the smell of the room and realised what I recognised and,

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RHETORIC, GIRL! by Amie Norman Walker

Radio wire mutated with the Cicadas, every Midwest heart bled to this expectation.  Knowing of no reason for time to come undone she perched herself on the couch as Carjone’s car snaked the driveway. Elevated humidity levels sweat the brows of every surface as evening rolled over, drooling for nightfall’s reprieve. Unstable minutes turned around the clocks face before he walked in with blood on his hands in a stride unfamiliar to her. She stared at him, her head cocked left and her lips pursed tight until they popped open with confusion. A need for her reflexed in his shadow.

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THE HARVEST SEASON by Brian Morse

Henry had to abandon his car. It was clear that the winter storm had curbed all travel, as massive snow serpents slid across the vacant highway. Had he hit a deer, or was it a person? Either way, any visible evidence had disappeared, and the car wouldn’t start. He was on the highway miles from civilization, but the county’s landfill loomed close like a craggy white mountain, where a single soft green light pulsed. He fled for help. Snow quickly filled Henry’s boots as he plowed through a deer run toward the dump. Before squeezing through a small hole in

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THE WEEPING NUDE by Jennifer Lewis

“Get up.” “No. It’s not even light out. I want to sleep.” “You heard me.” He lights a candle, then another. Then claps his hands. “Move!” She smells the turpentine. Hears the clinking of glass bottles. The room is freezing. Tiny sounds of the night drift through the walls. A horse kicks a stone, then neighs. “I’m not posing,” she says. “I’ve told you before. You never have to pose. You must be yourself.” The Weeping Nude, Edvard Munch 1913 This makes her smile. She likes being different than the others. Not another archetype, or myth or stupid symbol. How

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CONTACT LESS by Adam Lock

Reaching with a blind hand, Rebecca pulls a loaf from the back row and reads its scarf. David buys the wrong sort; he buys bleached, ghost-bread, even though he knows she doesn’t like it. The price of bread is an economic barometer. There’s a trick to selling a house: bread in the oven. She sniffs the loaf. Bread is as old as farming, as old as the domesticated dog. She wants a dog. David doesn’t. In the UK, we throw six million loaves into our waterways each year. This disrupts the whole ecosystem and is bad news for amphibians, fish,

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nick gregorio

STILL, BIRDS by Nick Gregorio

Joe’s head bursts and fills the office with blue birds. Singing, chirping, flying figure eights around the ceiling fans. The red-faced, foamy-mouthed ranting Bill just popped Joe’s head with should’ve produced something more vicious. Snakes exploding in every direction like those gag cans sold at junk shops in malls. Or badgers, gnashing their teeth, snarling, sinking their teeth into people’s calf muscles. But blue birds flying, tweeting Jackson 5 tunes, swooping, diving, gliding, barrel rolling over the network of cubicles is…I guess that sort of thing just doesn’t add up for me. Standing in a mess of bird nest that

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georgia bellas

TO ANYONE WHO DOES NOT BELIEVE IN TIME MACHINES, I INVITE YOU TO MY PARENTS’ HOUSE by Georgia Bellas

I wash dishes. I am 12, 27, 14, 19, 31. I am two in a yellow shirt and checked shorts and a bowl cut standing on a chair at the sink, hands clasped above the soapy water, grinning open-mouthed at the camera while my mother is in the hospital recovering from another Cesarean section. I am nearly 43. The age my grandmother died. There are bubbles. Lots of bubbles only my mother can make, her knuckles raw and red. We use a dishcloth here, not a sponge. There are systems. Taxonomies unfathomable to the uninitiated. Flour is in the second

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CVS by Sean Thor Conroe

April 2018— It’s been two months since I’ve purchased anything besides tobacco and rolling papers since I’m two months behind on rent and it’s been two months since I got my SNAP card approved and my check from my construction gig has yet to arrive and every bike delivery payout I get goes straight to keeping my almost maxed out credit card almost maxed out, but tonight I’m making a concession since my next credit card payment isn’t till the end of the week and I can’t, haven’t for the life of me been able, to find any of my

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DIRTY SHIRLEY by Sophie Jennis

I have a rash on my neck and it must be because I wear my short necklace to bed every night and it tries to choke me in my sleep. I look over to my left at the wine bottle left over from my time with A. I think I wear the necklace to bed because I miss him. His hands did what I wanted them to and he wore the same sneakers as my dead grandpa. For the first time, I wonder what shoes my grandpa was buried in. I strongly consider asking my grandma and then decide against

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ANALOGUE by Sara Kachelman

I share a face with a famous killer. Before I was nobody. Now women ask to have their pictures made with me. When we stand together I slide my hand down their backs until they quiver. It thrills them. I am a dangerous man! The killer kills women. He says it is not sexual. I know him. We stood next to each other in a lineup. I admit he is attractive. We shook hands at the station. “You are good at what you do,” I said. “You are good at what you do,” he replied. Then he winked. I had

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MORE MORE MORE by Neil Clark

First thing on your first day, you were instructed to go down the basement and have a picture taken for your security pass. Down there, they told you a joke and said, “Now hold that smile and look at the camera.” ‘Click’ They printed the photo and handed it to you. You were pleased with how it turned out. Your smile was genuine. The joke they’d told you was a good one. Then they passed you a piece of sticky tape and said, “Stick the photo to your forehead, please. And smile a little more.” ‘Click’ They printed the second

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LOVE IS THE PLAYGROUND OF THE THING by Michael Mungiello

This love story has nothing to do with me. I’m not involved. Even the small parts—the earrings, the dog, the money—I only care a little bit about. What’s actually important is how it ends. It ends on a boat. I started following Lorenzo because he lived next door and he looked exactly like me. It was an added advantage that he was ignorant of almost everything. For example, he never noticed I was following him. I followed in my car and on foot, I took buses I didn’t have to and sat in the row behind him. Lorenzo always wore

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THIS IS WHAT I WANT by Tina Wayland

This is what I want. I want to change the locks on our front door. My front door. I want to pry the deadbolts from the wall, break them with a hammer. Feel the echo of every strike travel up my arms and through my skin, settle in my bones. I want to throw away the key that hangs from your belt buckle, forget the way you’d bend your hips to the lock like a dance, swaying to catch the keyhole, then tumbling into the room as the door swung open, catching your balance on the picture of us that

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A STROLL THROUGH THE ENGINE ROOM by Gregg Williard

It had been arranged that she would take a stroll through the engine room before supper. Captain Venkman had assured her that they would hold a place at the captain’s table for her if she were detained. Not for his command were the martinet’s peevish demands. He prided himself on, not only an “untight” ship, but a downright anarchic one. “I have found over the years of our voyage, Randi,” the captain had confided on their first interview, “that a rudderless, aimless, and frankly lost ship is no place for unnecessary rules.” “Some might differ,” Randi protested gently. She sensed

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A SELECTION OF ESSENTIAL K(NOT)S by Anita Goveas

How to tie a Slip Knot A simple loop in a piece of rope, this functions well by itself on the surface. It’s easy to undo, remake. The void it creates is reaching out for something, wanting purpose, to be entwined. Some may tell you it cannot be defined, but these are the people who tell tales of elusive mermaids and fiercely protective sea-serpents. How to tie the Fisherman’s Knot Tie a loose knot with the working end of a rope around another rope. Best used to tie two separate but equal pieces together quickly, but not so quickly that

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ARBORIST by Lanny Durbin

Guy was just standing there in my backyard. He was hacking at the Sweet Gumball Tree that reached up through powerlines and my touched my neighbor’s roof with its old, outstretched arms. Chopping at it with an axe. I’d been watching him for fifteen minutes from my kitchen window. He’d barely gotten through the stiff bark. The spiky little gumballs that grew from the tree’s veins were raining down on him. He just kept chopping, chopping, chopping. This was bullshit. I’d called off work again, spent the morning willing myself from the bed. I’d driven across town to the used

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TIME-EATERS by Kaiter Enless

“I don’t have no problem.” “Sure seem like you do.” He shook his head, a fractional gesture, noticeable only due the couple’s proximity. “Well, I don’t. Was you what started yappin.” She folded her arms below her breasts, turning slightly away, staring at nothing, muttering, “Fine.” “Yeah. It is. Why you being this way, Lyla? Ain’t never was like this between us before. Now, all a sudden, you’re constantly screwing up your face, hmph-ing all over the place, snapping at me for no good reason, constantly try’n ta start something…” “Ain’t try’n ta start nothing.” “Good, cuz there ain’t nothing

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ANIMAL HOUSE by Kara Vernor

Hard Rock Hare clamped headphones over his ears and hopped around in front of the stereo. He liked The Clash and Black Flag, but today he listened to Johnny Cash. He thought Cash was good too, if not a little somber. Stoner Hare reclined on the couch and smoked a joint, first watching his roommate’s pogo, then becoming distracted by the involuntary twitching of his own nose. He focused on it, his eyes crossing a bit, and tried to still it with his mind. The Tortoise barged in, as much as a tortoise can barge. He said, What’s going on

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SURVIVOR! by Julia Tausch

The grouchy buildings of The Six, the dirty snow’s hectic dance – it was all far beneath me now. Keely, my thirteen year-old niece, had taught me to call Toronto “The Six.” She reeked of perfume that seemed to combine garbage with vetiver and beets but was surely expensive. The smell emboldened me – rot and beauty enmeshed. It blurred my warring worries and desires. So far, I loved flying. The soothing keen of the engines; my seat a mini-empire, a customizable media-pod; the shiny dossier in my seatback pocket pregnant with a secret I was itching to share. I

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alone i am always smoking by Clare Schneider

Tobacco companies support nicotine patches because, studies have shown, that without counseling, nicotine replacement therapy hardly ever works. Tobacco companies view all “nicotine products as a way to support smoking” i quit smoking for you and then you left me. this seems unfair. Girls who start smoking before age 15 are nearly 50 percent more likely to get breast cancer a woman watches me intently as i smoke outside a restaurant a man walks past me while i’m on the phone smoking someone sees me smoking in my car and rolls up their window my drunk uncle rubs my shoulder after i

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SHE GETS A LOT OF HELP by Kristina Ten

“You have a beautiful home here,” says the man’s boss, taking note of the layered window treatments and the gleaming hardwood floors. Over the mantel hangs an abstract painting of a female nude—tasteful, the boss thinks: wide, flesh-toned brushstrokes, no embarrassing details. All of this bodes well for the man, who the boss knows is angling for a promotion. That’s why the boss has been invited to dinner at the man’s house, and why he’s told his wife, who was invited as well, though more as a courtesy, that the night probably wouldn’t be of much interest to her. The

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PABLO’S HAIR by Sandra Arnold

When we got to the farm Bill explained that the dead boy’s parents had asked him to keep the pregnant mare and her two year old colt till they found a buyer, but none of the guys who came to look at her could even catch her. “Don’t worry, Beth,” he reassured, “I’ve asked Pablo to do a bit of schooling so she’ll be calm enough for you to ride.” We turned the corner into the barn and saw the colt tied to the fence. His mother, a beautiful bay, was tied to a pole while Pablo, sweat soaking into

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EXCERPTS FROM THE MEMOIR I NEVER WANT TO WRITE ABOUT MY BLINDNESS by Zack Peercy

Me, Myself, and Eye My earliest memory is my mother’s panicked expression as she grabbed my face and told me to look at her. I assured her, as best a three-year-old could, that I was looking at her. I had developed a lazy eye, but that wasn’t my first foray into the world of eye troubles. When I was thirteen months old, I was a quiet baby who didn’t cry, but whose eyes darted back and forth and watered continuously. I’m told my eye pressure at the time was 40, which is extremely high. I was diagnosed with open-angle juvenile

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THE FILTHY OLD MAN by Connor Goodwin

The filthy old man crunched his hand and tossed an empty can over his shoulder, eyes on the road. It landed on a pile of other cans and started a noisy avalanche of aluminum. Some of the crushed cans were tied up in yellow plastic bags from Super Saver, but most were loose and littered the floor. When he had time, he’d take them to the can guy. The can guy operated out of a parking lot. It was just him and a bunch of flies. The compactor looked like a tall semi-trailer. At the base was a conveyor belt

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COMPLACENCY DESCRIBED BY TEST SUBJECT 6 by Cavin Bryce Gonzalez

The terrarium has always been. It’s made of glass with a great mesh lid on top. A lamp provides warmth throughout the day. We were once scientists and art teachers and coffee baristas. Now we’re just people. Some still go by their name. Some go by titles. They call me Six because I was the sixth one to wake up here. When the mesh lid is drawn back and The Hand reaches down from above to deliver food and presents we rush to the center, fight for our scraps despite there being enough. The youngest of us scuttle off with

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GARBAGE GIRL by Jules Archer

It’s trash day. I know it by the cramps in my belly. Not the calendar on the fridge. Or the City of Evanston’s website. Or my mother’s finger, poked in the face of my father as a reminder to take out the trash because last night’s rotisserie is starting to smell. Once a month, ever since I turned twelve, my cycle’s synced to the sound of the garbage truck. Not the full moon or the new moon or the tides. I cramp and menstruate on trash day. My stomach is like Adele, rolling in the deep. But I can’t make

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marston hefner

SO COME BACK, I AM WAITING by Marston Hefner

“You won’t see me again.” I thought she was wrong. This is such a small city. I thought I saw her at the farmer’s market. I thought I saw her at my yoga studio. She is everywhere I go. Her name is Leah. She is the woman who causes me mental pain. If you asked me if I loved her, I’d say of course. I wouldn’t even make exaggerated hand motions. It is her, driving my car down the 101 after a weekend in San Francisco. I’m in the passenger seat listening to my iPod. She puts her hand on

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FORAGERS by Jaime Fountaine

My mom brought this new guy, Jeff, home, and they want to have dinner together at the table, like I’ve met him before. He’s cooking, which I think is supposed to impress her. She never cooks, so joke’s on him I guess. Right now the joke is on me, because my mom is doing the thing she always does when she meets a guy where she pretends to be a totally different person, and expects me to do the same. She says men don’t want you to like them too much right away. They want to work for it. She

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THE DEATH OF JANNICK MEISNER by Avee Chaudhuri

David Tilker is a brewer located in San Antonio, Texas, and he hired me last spring to write his biography. During his vetting process he read some of my work, including two stories here at X-R-A-Y about a character named Jannick Meisner. In the second of these stories, “I Was Married By A German Expressionist,” Jannick officiates a wedding for two close friends and orchestrates a violent and spectacular confrontation with a guest during the ceremony. This guest is actually Jannick’s secret lover. Jannick’s antics intrigued David Tilker and he asked, in a hopeful tone, if the events of that

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lily hackett

ANIMALS by Lily Hackett

I only ordered so I could have the wine got for the cat’s man. But in the takeaway box, they had black shells and polished eyes. They had big claws. I searched for ‘Clawed prawns’. Crayfish. I left a message. I saw one twitch, thrash in the sauce. Its shining eyes were on me. It crawled out from the tub. The seven legs went click across the tub’s rim and click click, softly, on the wooden table. It moved clumsily, trailing chopped shallot. The second followed. Each was as long as my hand. They had toad bellies and dog whiskers.

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THE LIGHT AND STARS by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips

A couple of days ago somehow I wrangled an OK Cupid date to drive down an hour from Virginia to come sit with me on my porch. And he read me Merwin like he’d never read Merwin out loud to anyone before. If you don’t know who Merwin is, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you ain’t as smart as me- I just went to writing school. But Merwin is an old ass prolific poet who lives in Hawaii and likes to translate other languages and talk about “light” and “stars”. And while this OK Cupid date was reading ol Merwin

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MY BEST FRIEND, HER BIG HOUSE by Jessi Gaston

I live with my best friend in a mansion. My room is a small box. Sometimes we go swimming in the mornings, other times only I do, in white underwear that’s small and classic and only gets caught up sometimes on the insides of my thighs. It’s purple outside when we finish swimming, and I use my grey towel to dry up so I can have wheat thins inside. We close all the windows and watch tv on my best friend’s tv set while we sit on hard wood benches. Then we go to sleep before the Sun comes, in

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colleen rothman

ASSASSIN by Colleen Rothman

Between bites of avocado toast, I tell her first. She sucks her breath and smacks the table, rustling the ridiculous pussy bow on her polka-dot blouse. Despite her vow not to cry, mascara clumps her lashes in betrayal. It must not be the waterproof kind I talked her into during our last mall pilgrimage. Better than sex, the glistening pink tube bragged, as though it knew something we didn’t. She asks what’s on my bucket list. Watching The Bucket List, I tell her. I’m on my third Bellini. She asks whether they have Make-A-Wish for grownups. Yeah, why should sad

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ran walker

TALONS by Ran Walker

Her story went like this: When she was three years old, she was playing with her brother in the backyard, when an enormous hawk swooped down, latched on to her, and lifted her from the ground. The only thing that stopped her from being carried away was her brother grabbing hold of her legs and snatching her from the bird’s grasp. The only evidence the incident had even occurred were the parallel, permanent scars left on her shoulders. We had been dating for a month before she told me that story. I smiled and tried to play it off, but

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cathy ulrich

THE FORMER DANCER’S HUSBAND by Cathy Ulrich

This man who’s in love with you, he’s married. You play in the symphony orchestra together. He’s a second violin. You play the oboe. What he likes best about you, he says, is the purse of your lips when you play. He is sharp elbows, good posture, freckling of gray hair at his temples. His hands are very soft with you. His wife used to be a dancer when they met. She doesn’t dance anymore. You know how it is, says the married man. How there were things you used to do and now you don’t, you know how it

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ABANDONED TOYS ‘R’ US LOVE STORY/ABANDONED SPORTS WORLD LOVE STORY by Jordan Hayward

abandoned toys ‘r’ us love story stone cold steve austin sits unaccompanied by a military grade transport vehicle, unflinching in someone’s captured breath, hidden amongst a dark spot on a crowded aisle, watchful and waiting beneath elsa’s hollow glare and woeful pale complexion. piped music aches in surges from corners and unmarked spaces in the ceiling, whispering ‘so many times’ or ‘say you were the only / toy for me’ underneath ruptured squeezes from a presumably cheap keyboard. aisles creak with age, while skateboards precariously occupy spaces in plain view. the ghost walks with a wry shuffle from sports to

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A WANTED WOMAN by Paul Beckman

I told him not to call anymore so he started sending me postcards. I had my lawyer tell his lawyer onay on the postcards or any mail. Then the texts started. This time we went to court and the judge gave him a restraining order and we left figuring that was that and no more and good riddance to bad rubbish but the planes started flying low and slow pulling messages—I Love U— I Miss U, etc. So it was back to court and the judge threatened him good and added planes to the list and threw in drones for

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I AM SPACE MAN by Amanda Tu

I used to think my greatest challenge as a writer was identifying, in the most precise possible terms, how I feel. Most of the time, though, I know what I feel. This is palpable when I am stricken by an emotion I’ve lived through before. No matter how traumatic the sensation—the icy terror of being found cheating on a sixth grade reading quiz calling to mind the chilling shame three years earlier when my dad caught me illicitly scratching off a lottery ticket—there is comfort in believing that feelings are drawn from a massive, but ultimately finite, palette. Perhaps the

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marcantonio

JUST MARRIED ON BRIGHTON PIER by Tomas Marcantonio

The two women with blood sprinklers in their eyes stood at the railings and looked down at the water. It churned about like great whips of cream under a lazy spoon, throwing petulant fountains of oyster salt over the groynes. Foam bubbled at the shore when it came in with the morning tide and seagulls barked at the brooding ceiling of grey. The flags along the pier whipped against their poles with heavy slaps. ‘The doughnuts are smaller than they used to be,’ Poppy said. She brushed the sugar from her fingers and fished the pebble from her pocket, a

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bram riddlebarger

MARBLES by Bram Riddlebarger

“Sit down and take a load off,” said Jack. “We’ve been working like the queen’s bees.” “Yeah,” said Tommy. He was tired. “Which one did you go out on today, Tommy? I thought I saw that #4 sagging a little.” Jack wasn’t joking. Tommy was real fat. He was tired, too. “No,” said Tommy. “I stayed on shore and flirted with that cute little Amy. The one with only one eye. Besides that, she’s real cute.” “Are you shitting me?” “Nope,” said Tommy. They drank warm beer out of brown bottles. Jack couldn’t believe this Tommy. “Hitting on the ladies,

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chelsea houghton

SISTERS ARE NOT DOGS by Chelsea Houghton

My sister ran away when she was fifteen. She disagreed with my parents about something – she’d been a bad girl most likely, I don’t know, I was too young to be included. We’d never really got along. I was happy, it was quiet without her. No bitching or barking in the middle of the night. Always taking the best bits and leaving me with the scraps. We didn’t hear from her for weeks. She’d been sleeping in friend’s rooms, once in a neighbour’s garage. She was fed and cared for from place to place, until her friend’s parents found

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oliver gaywood

TEACHING MY BELLE THE ABCS by Oliver Gaywood

Annabelle always answered her aunts accurately, as abruptly and authoritatively as an adolescent. Their ambitious attempts to addle gone awry, the astonished aunts acted aloof afterwards, averting avuncular attention. Boastfully, I birthed a bright and bubbly baby. Belle behaved brilliantly and blossomed beautifully. The bairn boosted brainpower by borrowing books before bravely badgering bigger brothers; battling, besting then beleaguering Bobby and Billy. The clever child collected certificates: creative calligrapher, crossword completer, chess champion. Certain with challenges but clumsy with chatter, companions cold-shouldered the classroom chief. My darling’s dad was delighted his daughter devoured details. Daddy diarised daily, diligently depicting developments:

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salvatore difalco

VÉRTIGO by Salvatore Difalco

Juan rose to pee in pitch darkness, his eyes fluttering. He found the toilet, but peed all over the unraised seat, splashing his shins and toes. Catching jeweled glints of chrome and glass, his eyes oriented to the darkness. Incomprehensible, his next move—he lurched right, toward the bathtub, and not left toward the door, which led to his bedroom. The shins, bright with urine, walloped the side of the bathtub and his body pitched forward. A reflexive extension of his arms kept him from face-planting the tub. Swollen and contused, the left shin blazed to the touch. Juan screamed and

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kevin bigley

PUNKER by Kevin Bigley

Leslie stalked the stage with the palpable anxiety of a mountain lion locked in an exhibit. His shoulders were hunched, guitar still echoing the final chord from the previous song, his face bleeding rivers of perspiration. He slithered from end to end, fighting existential hysteria. “Play ‘Ready to Go’!” cried a fan near the lip of the stage. “Come on, dude. Play it!” Leslie ignored the fervent fan, wiping his damp forehead with his already drenched t-shirt. He sweat profusely, battling his intense flu-symptoms. He had a fever of one hundred and two degrees. His stomach flipped like a rabid

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ashley naftule

BENJAMIN ORR IS SINGING ON THE CORNER OF THOMAS & MCCLINTOCK by Ashley Naftule

Pennies are spilling down my throat. I can feel the copper pieces smelting as they pass through my lungs, pooling at the bottom of my guts. Something cold and sharp is waiting there to greet them. It takes some effort to peel my head off this hot pillow. I’ve never slept on a pillow this big before: it’s as big as the bean bag I had back in my dorm room days. My cheeks are burning and a strange scent has hooked its fingers into my nostrils, like the way a cooling pie on a window sill can hoist cartoon

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brad baumgartner

TO BE OR NOT TO BEFUDDLE by Brad Baumgartner

Drowned out, like an ant’s ear drums (having not yet “ears to hear” in order to “listen and understand”), as it sits, uncertainly, on a twig placed atop the crevice between a washing machine and a dryer, is our consciousness of Consciousness. The twig is also a razor’s edge, on which the ant balances itself, and in which lurks the seed of the failure of gravity. On one side of the razor’s edge the ant enacts faith upon its future, knowing in full measure that it will not fall if it maintains (via will) the clarity of balance. On the

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william falo

THE RESCUE by William Falo

The sirens wail and I howl along with them. My human sleeps. I lick his face and feel coldness. Why doesn’t he get up? I bark and lick. He doesn’t pet me. Something is wrong. My tail hangs low and I whimper. I spin in circles, but not happy ones. The door is banged open and two men come in with a bed on wheels. I stand in front of my owner and growl. “It’s okay.” One says while the other one grabs me. I am small. He puts me in another room and shuts the door, but I stick

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jason graff

A LEER FOR A TOOTHACHE by Jason Graff

Katie just wants to rip it out. A length of string, some fortitude or, even better, a burly man in uniform, a marine or naval officer would do. Clearly, it was the eye tooth on the upper right side of her mouth that was the trouble. Why shouldn’t a stranger pull it out? How much better would a dentist be than some twine, a golf cart and a driver with a heavy foot? She sips her iced coffee through a straw whose tip has been stained by her lipstick. She knows she wears too much but “they” say men like

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babak lakghomi

I KEPT LOOKING FOR IT by Babak Lakghomi

After working as a dish washer, my sister found me a job that paid more than the minimum wage. Every morning, I had to wear a wetsuit and dip my hand deep into a pool of sewage for a sample. Sometimes I had to get into tanks and wash off sludge from filters with a hose. Otherwise, I mostly sat in a control room full of screens with the other operators. I kept an eye on pumps turning on and off, numbers changing on screens. I had only dropped out of college in the third year, so this was the

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troy james weaver

CALCULUS by Troy James Weaver

Calculus, 8:00 A.M.—Concentration is already an issue, even when I’m on my meds, and this asshole named Martin, who knows where I sit and why, was in my spot when I came running into class five minutes late. I took a seat in the back, deciding it was a waste to even try to pay attention. It was spite on his part, no doubt, a power play, him just being his dickhead self, probably because I’d fucked him within the first week of class then ghosted his ass, like, man, I don’t owe you shit, get it? And like most

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danny swain

I AM A WRITER by Danny Swain

I make up symptoms to get unnecessary hospital treatment. Because I’m a writer. I don’t bathe for years and scratch smiley faces in the dirt on my body. I photograph the faces and send them to random strangers through the post. Because I’m a writer. I drink booze until my soul intrudes on the secret meetings between God and Satan. Because I’m a writer. When my dog died I had sex with it. Because I’m a writer. I hang out with tramps who I only speak mock Chinese to. Because I’m a writer. I traveled forty miles west and tried

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RELAX INN by J. Edward Kruft

Pat sat in his boxers on the edge of the bed, digging into his ear with a Q-tip. When Barb finally turned off the hairdryer in the bathroom, he called to her. “I sure wish you hadn’ta done this.” “What’s that you say?” asked Barb, entering the room in her slip. “I said,” he emphasized, “I wish you hadn’ta done this.” “Oh,” she swatted the air, “they’re nice enough folks.” “I don’t even know why they’re staying here. They got that goddamn travel trailer just sitting there, wasting away.” “Well, they’ve been on the road a long time. Mitzi said

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