Fiction

THE WOODHOUSES, THE MARITAL BED IS LAVA, SLEEPWALKING by Ariel Clark-Semyck

the woodhouses “greensleeves” floats through the halls of the high-rise & stops in for the showing.  the new tenants are young & comely.  they pay no mind to the plea of the piano or the hospital stretcher rounding the corner.  the woman’s blonde hair curls inward at the ends, teasing the tip of her heart-shaped face.  the man wears a powder blue linen suit & slaps her ass while the realtor isn’t looking.  they each excrete a gasp when they see the living room.  they make a show of admiring the antiques, the burgundy drapes.  they take a thoughtful glance

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ACTIVE SHOOTER TRAINING by Jason Peck

We’ve attended such lessons before, briefings that point us to hiding places and escape routes, drills that teach us quick action and suspicion toward our coworkers. But this seminar is different. This is the best workplace shooter training this company has ever had. People who attended the first sessions this morning still recall them with awe on their coffee and smoke breaks.  Life-changing, they say. An eye-opener, they say. But mostly—very good. We can already see their transformations. They walk straighter, talk bolder. Evelyn in accounting says she will hear the training again. Roberta from legal holds her calls in

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POLICING HEAVEN by Fred Pierre

To worship the leader is to worship our god, say cult members before they’re arrested. How does religion make you feel? Certain death, stake chips on the hereafter, or spin earth for a sunrise tomorrow? Truth is, you’ve been duped by your broker and hoodwinked by your minister out of your promised immortal treasures. “You’ll see your whole family in heaven, my friend,” said the minister as he lay dying. Certainty grows when we parrot dogma. To get into heaven, the test is quite simple: Choose kindness before your self-interest. Only one in ten makes it. So many sublets in

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CATGUT by M.W. Brooke

Most days your mother languishes on your couch watching reruns of Law & Order. Doctors can’t explain what’s wrong with her brain. You drive her to appointment after appointment between harp lessons—a merry-go-round of CAT scans, MRIs, acupuncture, marijuana, experimental doses of ketamine, prescriptions for epileptics. Nothing calms the tension behind her eye sockets, like a harp string constricting under the chill of night. During rehearsals in third grade, your fourth octave C string snapped from the tuning pin and whipped across your eye. The harp yowled in your arms, a feral cat too close to human hands. Harp strings

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PLUCKED by Faye Brinsmead

The firebird came with excellent references. Polite. Super-tidy. Throws herself into housework. Mows the lawn like she’s skinning a wolf. Plus, there was the exoticism. Her shimmering plumage trailed over my Ikea shelving and hand-me-down brown velour sofa. Evenings, as we slurped insta-noodles and binged on Netflix, she fanned out her tail until the dim room was full of jeweled eyes. She didn’t know if she belonged to the peacock clan.  Maybe. Her golden beak hooked the last gluggy spiral. Her family wasn’t big on that. On what? I asked. Um, family.  I’m kinda on my own. Of course, there’ve

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DIRTY LAUNDRY by Lisa Johnson Mitchell

I pour bleach over the mound, purging, once again, the family secret: Daddy’s arrest—indecent exposure. Socks fall in. Slipped them off right before having sex with my husband, during which I thought of Benjamin, high school lover.  Will Mom die today? Bed sore as big as a baseball. Not eating or drinking. Been seven days. Hampton Gardens is five minutes away, thank Christ. Flannel nightgown, shove it in, hope I don’t have another nightmare where I’m digging into my giant thigh with a knife, the insides like a Christmas ham. I told Mom I loved her, that she was the

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ANGRY GNOMES by Sarp Sozdinler

“What can you do?” The hot dog vendor sighs from behind the mist of steam. He fishes for a stick of sausage and then plops it on the sliced bread. “New York is a falling city.” Never before has June given the street talk any credit, that New York is this kind of place or that. The signs have been following her since she moved downtown over a year ago, but she often chooses to look the other way. Avoid it or not, those cream and mustard stains in the vicinity of hot dog carts and ice cream trucks aren’t

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WILD RELEASE by Evan James Sheldon

The ballroom was empty except for stacks of chairs along the walls and the man staring at the ceiling. With no one around him in that large space he looked very small. I waved my arms over my head but the man didn’t notice and kept on staring at the ceiling. He was off in his own world. I pulled out my weed pen, which most people mistook for a flash drive. Even though weed was now legal, I was still secretive. Learned furtive behavior from all my high school friends having misdemeanors for possession.  The Toy Voyager conference was

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LOVERS by Michael Farfel

The two of them live in a small house that overlooks a somehow smaller lake. He has family money and neither of them have to work, but he finds meaning in his work (development—of what? we’re not quite sure) and she writes poems. The house is ancient and the rooms are cold.  They often lay in bed until long past midmorning, even sometimes past noon. They argue about who will make coffee, always finally decided by who has to pee first. It’s usually her. The house, which the locals say is as old as bones, is older. It is rickety

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CLUTCHING by Melanie Maggard

Maybe you’re off the highway, cleaning out the deep fryer at a bowling alley in a college town in Virginia, the alleged state for lovers. You’re a boy in jeans and a Fresh Prince t-shirt, a short apron splattered with an eagle rising from a pool of blood. Townies and good ol’ boys order deep-fried chicken wings, burgers, nachos with canned cheese sauce the color of cantaloupes. They heehaw, drunk on Buds and Jim Beam, high on the split they just picked up in the last frame. You cringe with each dropped “g,” but we’re all dying, anyway. You’ve dropped

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