Fiction

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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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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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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OPEN TO AN OCEAN by Tommy Dean

He circles the fountain like an animal pushed out of his habitat. The heat smothers his body. It’s the tenth day above ninety, and still they—the powerful men he imagines sitting in a tall building chewing on ice and swiveling in office chairs whose leather seats cool these men’s backs as they laugh at the little boys like him—won’t open up the water tower reserves. He flaps his hands at the sun, but it trains its unforgiving eye on his narrow shoulders. He’s heard about invisible rays, but today they punch and slap, making his skin as tight as the

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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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henry gifford

WHAT COMES ALONG by Henry Gifford

An arachnid in the corner carefully traipses through the crack, under where the baseboard just fails to meet the worn and oaky floor. He weaves himself, and step by step by step times eight he finds himself new diversions: a knot in the hidden wood or a crumb that’s been swept into his corner by the fat old man who comes and goes every morning and night and sleeps on the thin bed that doesn’t quite carry him. With these he can make a day last longer or shorter, go faster or slower, all depending on what he wants. He

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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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