THE FLIGHT OF LIU XIAN by Matt Zbrog

He stared out at the world through paneled glass. At his fingertips lay a suite of controls. Switches. Buttons. Joysticks. HUD. Chrome. Glass. Metal. All that blinking light. But Liu Xian focused on the world beyond, gazing out from the cockpit at a domed sky. He breathed in pressurized oxygen through a ribbed and rubberized tube. A voice in his right ear counted down. A voice in his left gave final instructions. And, for the last time in his life, Liu Xian did what he was told.  He fired up the twin jet engines. Cut tether with the launch deck.

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SATURDAY NIGHT (AT THE ER) by Fran-Claire Kenney

Trigger Warnings: anxiety, mental illness, self-harm, suicide At best (at first), it feels like mooching off. There are all these kids in the pediatric ward with oxygen masks gripping their faces like leeches, or their scalps shiny against the fluorescents, or their parents sitting watch in a casually tragic state of exhaustion next to big beds containing little, broken people. And there I am, looking twenty-one though I’m actually not, and I’ve got, wait for it, anxiety. Everybody says they have anxiety. People don’t just say they were in a crash and felt each rib snap under the car door.

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THE GATED COMMUNITY by Joseph Pfister

We received the brochure in the mail. It was printed on that thick paper, the fancy kind, with raised lettering. ESCAPE TO FLORIDA! it read. YOUR OWN PRIVATE PARADISE AWAITS! Everyone in our subdivision got one, but that didn’t matter. It was February, the ground brittle with snow. We were ready for a change. Overnight, developers transformed miles of Florida swamp into a mecca for the recently retired. Walk out your back door onto replicas of Sawgrass, Augusta, Pebble Beach! Work up a sweat on our racquetball courts! Cool off with water aerobics! Jazzercise! Sure, the amenities sounded nice. For

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THINGS TO SHIP TO AMERICA by Jessica Evans

Is heaven a proper noun? Here, I learned to love myself. To love the thick full shimmy of thighs against one another; to appreciate the height of my traps compared to the valley of my clavicle. I fell in love with butter churned from cream produced by cows who live only a few kilometers away. I learned to seek out the salted rotisserie chicken, its skin crispy and shimmering after hours on a spit. As much to bite into something with savage need as because there’s ownership that comes from eating simply to eat. But chicken is only good when

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I KNOW ALL ABOUT COMBUSTION by Allie Marini

On the night of your funeral, I stand in front of a raging bonfire licking its way up to the blacked-out stars hidden in the sky above & let the snowstorm the radio says is on its way whip oily lashes of my hair across my cheeks. Drag them like a dirty razor kisses the skin to let something bleed out—you know all about the bleeding. How quietly it leaches into pine straw. How pine straw crackles when you throw it into a bonfire burning in rusted-out washing machine drum in the backwoods of Alachua county. You know all about

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NO, YEAH. by Erin Gallagher

“You can play games or you can end it and move on.” Lit by twinkly string lights atop a shiny marble counter, apparently we’re not fucking around anymore. Soft pink and blue bulbs create a calm ambiance, steam rises from big porcelain mugs of herbal tea, and we are sparing no emotional expense. Play games: win, lose, flip your phone upside-down and wait two hours, three hours, reciprocate every unit of time you’ve ever waited, multiplied by three. We’re not talking about me (this time), and my advice is out of character, it’s…hopeful:  “Yeah, no, maybe just act as you

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CINNAMON by Gina Marie Bernard

“Your mother should have had them tear you from her womb,” my stepmom says. “For the wicked shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” I flinch but know better than to reply.  “What the hell, Darlene? You can’t say that shit,” my dad says from his recliner in the living room. As usual, it sounds more like a request. “I speak the Lord’s truth,” she replies, emphasizing each syllable with the wooden spoon she has pointed at him. “He will not abide your daughter acting like some filthy dyke.” My father looks from her to me. He shrugs and mouths,

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MY NONNA’S CURSE by Elizabeth Kattner

I have six impacted teeth. My mouth is overcrowded as the New York streets I wander. Too many people, not enough space. Life learns to grow upward. Skyscrapers. My teeth got the wrong message and push sideways. I take two tablets of ibuprofen to dull the pain. My coworker offers something stronger. Vicodin from when he tore his ACL last spring. I cut one of the oblong pills in half. It’s dangerous, but I was born in Columbus, the epicenter of the opioid crisis. I know to exercise caution. My coworker says I should get my wisdom teeth pulled. I

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PICTURES by Andrew C. Miller

Lauren watched her father saw through the apple pie with a butter knife.  “Want a piece?” He scooped out a chunk, slid it into a cereal bowl. “Got eggs if you’d rather, but no bacon.” He poured coffee into a brown mug, dribbling on the counter. Lauren shook her head, glanced at the half open door to the canning room.  During Christmas they agreed that mother would be more comfortable on the first floor. So they converted the canning room into a bedroom and carried down her things—loose fitting clothes, toiletries, framed pictures of the family and relatives, watercolors from

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“THE LINE” by Michael Seymour Blake

  Michael Seymour Blake is the author of the art book 12 Days of Santa Crying. Shirts featuring his art can be seen on hot bodies around the world. He eats, sleeps, doodles, writes, lives in Queens, NY. He easily gets lost. Instagram: @michaelseymourblake Fabulous (It’s True!) Website: MichaelSeymourBlake.com

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STUMBLING ON CONCRETE by Mileva Anastasiadou

I was overweight when I started the diet, but eating less didn’t help much. I lost some weight, yet I still feel heavy. I told him last night. My husband eyed me up and down, checking for excess fat, then said I look fine, but I don’t feel fine at all. I should move to Mars, perhaps, where gravitational forces feel less powerful, I said jokingly, or turn into a bird, I thought, only I didn’t say that aloud. He suggested exercise and I shrugged. I’m not certain exercise will help take the burden off of me, but I could

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PEN by Neil Clark

They put a bomb in my pen. It’s like that film Speed. In Speed, your man Dennis Hopper puts a bomb in a bus. Tells everyone as soon as the speedometer in the bus goes below 50 miles per hour, the bus goes boom. That’s what they did to my pen. If I stop writing, if ink stops leaving my pen, the pen goes boom. Bombs in buses, they do a lot of damage. Bombs in pens? Maybe not so much. But these days, who knows? I’m fucked if I’m going to stop writing to find out. My wrist is

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LIFE, AS OF NOW by Kamil Ahsan

The courtship practices of Shalimar Gardens spiked on Pakistan Day. His breath is raggedy. The trees brush the air with heart-shaped leaves, a reminder that the world is passing him by without noticing him sink—the cars that move too fast, the motorcycles that almost run him over, the people, oh all the people, so many people, everywhere everywhere everywhere… It’s nightfall. He’s never been to the Shalimar Gardens. He never needed to. Fate grabbed him by the collar and shook him before he had a chance to know what he expected. All around him is noise, very ordinary noise. He

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FRAGMENTS by Chelsea Plunkett

I. My mother tastes like the peanut butter sandwiches she made when I refused a homemade meal, Chai-spiced tea to soothe bronchitis, and a sprinkle of powdered sugar on brownies and banana bread. Her taste is stolen bites of cream cheese mixed with sugar as we make pumpkin cheesecake, steady instructions for achieving the streusel on sweet potato casserole, and chocolate frosting on birthday cakes.  In the time of new prescription refills, when she sleeps for days on end, sugar and fat dance on my tongue. It’s a momentary high from stolen food to fill an emotional void, whole boxes

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THE WITCH IS DEAD by Katherine Gleason

Jamey sprawls across the sofa. I place the box of Ding Dongs on the coffee table, and she laughs. “You remember,” I say. “Of course,” she says. “Mom loved those.” “And pretended she didn’t. We need coffee.” I slip into my galley kitchen and mix a few grams of a fruity Ethiopian with the usual beans. The blueberry overtones will blunt the waxiness of the chocolate. Cups in one hand, French press in the other, I trip over the cat, fall to one knee and, fists closed tight, stop myself with elbows planted on the back of the couch. Jamey

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BOLD NEW ‘DO by James R. Gapinski

The hairdresser takes too much off the top. Whoops, sorry! she says, holding out a piece of scalp for me to see. I take the little hand-mirror and inspect the damage. A swath of skin pulls away from my brow and wraps around, like a halo. I take the scissors and plunge it into the hairdresser’s leg. Whoops, sorry! I say. She laughs and smears the blood around her leg. It’s red and vibrant. She is liquid inside. There is a glossy sheen brighter than the brightest no-smudge, stay-on, fire-engine-red lipstick. The hairdresser smiles and says I think we should

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DEER by Jack Wildern

The petrol station has a toilet but no window. Behind the door, a song that she has heard before  plays. Or maybe she hasn’t. It’s muffled. The speakers’ range only extends to the shop with its packet sandwiches and cheap mobile phone accessories. She exits and catches a glimpse of him in the convex mirror above the window. His body morphs into a giant insect. A bloated beetle in jeans. “Are you listening?” He taps a finger on the counter. “I said pass me one of those cans…no not that one, that one.” He snatches the drink and fumbles a

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GIRLS OF THE ARBORETUM by Brianne M. Kohl

The girls of the arboretum are just girls. Nothing more, nothing less. They do not speak to one another. Why would they? The wind blows through their branches. Everything that must be said has already been said. The world is over four billion years old.  When no one is watching, the girls pluck spider webs from each other’s hair and stretch the silk across the grass, blade to blade. They spend hours measuring the spiral burrs of a pine cone. In moonlight, they find constellations within the veins of Maple leaves. The girls of the arboretum have not yet discovered

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1978. BATH, OHIO by Sean Williamson

He was driving drunk, a cigarette ripping hot, filter crushed between his fingers. Around a faraway corner headlights, beams reflected faint through the windshield, through his Kmart but that’s ok glasses. Tiny embers spit, excited by wind from the open window. He put out the cigarette, stuffed it into the ashtray blossom, grabbed a pack of Camel Menthols off the passenger seat, popped the top, flicked and flicked until a filtered end rose, then pulled it out slow between tight teeth. He pushed in the lighter. Headlights down the way grew at him, flare swelling in his smudged up glasses,

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DISPATCHES…FROM THE NALTREX-ZONE by James McAdams

Sadonna was always my last visit that summer before she died.  At Derek Jeter Rehab Center-Delray, we dispensed meds between 1900 and 2100. I’d start with the early sleepers at the sober house on 999 Swinton, then swoosh on Freaky Fred’s moped through the back alleys and garbage docks behind the strip mall to the sober houses on 9th and 10th streets, between the head shops and the Amscot. I dispensed Suboxone, SSRIs, SNRIs, B-Vitamins, and retrovirals for the former needle users. On a PRN basis, I distributed: hemorrhoid cream, Midol, hydrocortisone, aloe vera for suntan relief, dimethicone for chapped

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AN ALLEGORY by Dan Crawley

Take your brother to the orange grove, and do not let your friends throw rotten fruit at his head, or any other part of his body. Take your brother to Stop-N-Go, and do not spend these dimes on anything else but candy bars for you and him. Take your brother up to bed, and do not hide in the closet and scare him. Take your brother outside to play street football, and do not let your friends tackle him on the asphalt. Take your brother to school, and do not let him gawk and gag at all the dog poop

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CHEATER by Norris Eppes

I go there to ask why I go there. I go there to pick up trash from the sand. In the sand, I draw a heart with my toe. My initial. My wife’s initial. The initial of our shared last name. Then, I make two footprints beside it and let the incoming tide bury my feet.  An elderly couple walks toward me along the hard sand. I do not want to talk.  They stop and talk.   “We are from near the Austrian border.”  The man moves his cigar from right hand to left so we can shake. My hand is

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NEGOTIATIONS by Adrienne Marie Barrios

Mar∙riage, /merij/, noun: a series of negotiations.  At least, inside her head, it was. She had these little rhythmic mantras to keep from fucking it up, like my plate is on the left, or the left tray goes on top. She’d repeat it to herself, over and over again, like someone with OCD stuck in a tick—Left tray goes on the top. Left tray goes on the top. It wouldn’t do to burn one half of the muesli. My plate is on the left. My plate is on the left. It wouldn’t do to give him her sandwich; he hated

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GOD AT 60 by Bill Merklee

We started as marginal Catholics, going though the motions. Now I was having dinner with Kenny, the only one of us who’d stuck with it. Father Postlewaite to his parish. It’d been too long. “Andre still an atheist?” he said. “Yup. In Oregon. Found himself a nice godless girl.” “And Coyne?” “Still waiting for Armageddon.” Kenny grinned without looking at me, eased back in his chair. “Remember that comparative religion class? All those speakers trying to explain their faith before the bell rang?”  “The Baptist preacher in the powder blue suit? Right out of central casting.” “They’d never get away

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ALL WORKED UP by Linda McMullen

He often simply appears in my office, insouciant grin and silver hair: “I want to show you something.” In the age of #metoo, he is carefully respectful of a female subordinate. No hands ever touch in the exchange of— A binder with reference documents, paginated and neatly tabbed; a viciously indiscreet email from a colleague; a rare compliment on a memo from his own supervisor… Whatever it is.  For my eyes.   For me. Or: I’ve written his remarks for a major briefing the next day, and he invites me to pull up a chair, next to him, so we can

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¿CÓMO ESTÁ TU MADRE? by Phebe Jewell

Every morning Mom digs in the garden plot behind our house, dressed in a faded red shirt and ripped jeans. She refuses to wear black. “I’m done mourning,” she says. “I’ve been grieving since the day he enlisted.” Kneeling in the dirt, Mom turns the soil with a hand spade. It’s a small plot, maybe five by seven. She says she’s putting it to bed for the winter. No cover crop seeds yet, so there’s nothing to bury, just dark loamy soil she churns and churns. She’s still there in the afternoon when I open my Spanish workbook at the

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FAILURE TO BREATHE by Emily Withnall

The diaphragm wheezed and gasped. It was a broken accordion and with each push, the squeaking and squawking that emerged were evidence that it should surrender. There was no hope and what’s more, the attempts were painful—and embarrassing. The diaphragm felt defeated. This was an old, familiar feeling. It had never lived up to its full capacity, but over the years, awkward swimming lessons and less awkward singing lessons had strengthened it. The diaphragm knew what it was like to be useful and strong and to provide the satisfying, deep inhale and long sustained exhale. It was capable and even

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EXPANSE by Tyler Dillow

She talks to me at the bar. She talks about him. Him, the fucking bastard. How could you not fall in love with him and how could you not hate him? She talks back at me. On the front patio of the bar, she lies next to me and the inner mass of a star collapses inside her. The star collapses inside her earthly body. The star collapses the lives of crumpled people—people shrinking, people expanding.  Have you seen that Lars Von Trier film—fuck—what’s it called? You know the one where the leading actress is blonde and white and she

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“WHAT? NO.” by Scott Bryan

One time, at least, an elephant ate a bat.  It wasn’t a mistake, either. Nothing is. It wasn’t like the bat was flying around, all willy-nilly, and the elephant was yawning, as pachyderms have a tendency to do, and the bat just, like, zigged when it should have zagged, and instead of a mouthful of cud or hay or greens, delivered by way of a droopy, rough, wet schnoz, the poor elephant unintentionally brought down their ill-equipped herbivore’s chompers (humiliated and hiding behind the impressive tusks of fortune which had been bestowed by whatever glue-sniffing god to whom elephants pray

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INTERVIEW WITH JEFF JACKSON: “HOW DO YOU MAKE ART THAT HAS STAKES WHEN PEOPLE AREN’T PAYING ATTENTION?” with Chris Gugino

jeff jackson is a writer/playwright/artist/musician. he lives in charlotte, NC, and sings, writes, and performs with the group julian calendar. in october of last year, he released his second novel, destroy all monsters, which is a beautifully twisted novel with two sides, like a record (literally, you finish reading the first side and then flip the book over and read it from the back cover, returning to the middle of the book). destroy all monsters concerns an epidemic of musicians being murdered during their performances. there’s no tangible link between the victims, their killers, or the method in which said

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AFTER A MONTH, WE MEET FOR DINNER by Francine Witte

First thing I notice, new haircut, the grays dyed clean away. I’m careful with my words. Nice shirt, I finally say. I’m aware he never dressed this nice for me.  I found it in my closet, he says. The waitress brings a basket of bread. You look good, he says.  I can smell the scratches on his neck.  They smell like blood and sex and another woman. Would you like some bread? I ask. Cutting down, he says, pointing to his stomach, flatter than I recall. The waitress returns, and we order small.  Nothing that will take too long. The

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MARKS by Monica Dickson

‘The phantom scribbler strikes again’ – Biro on gloss, 1976 The cubicle door is freshly scarred, blue ink on institutional green. This is where John learns to read. John has been constipated since he started school. His mother takes him to the doctor and they send him to hospital where he drinks barium, so they can see what’s wrong with his insides. They let him take the x-ray home. There it is, a white cloud shaped like a question mark.   ‘Fuck exams’ – Compass on wooden desk, 1981 John could do better if only he would apply himself. John

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WHOSE HUNGER by Kristen Estabrook

In the hours prior to dinner, she studied her reflection in the mirror, checking and rechecking the flaws in her complexion, adjusting and readjusting the height of her hair, while thinking about sex. On their second date, he had asked about sex. He had asked if she was ready. She was not. “It’s only the second date,” she had said. She wondered if he would ask again and expected that he would. She wondered what she would say this time. That it was only the third? Then she remembered. Her period. Her period! She was on her period. That worked

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FILLING THE GOYA ROOM by Beth Gilstrap

One wouldn’t think my hands would sweat the way they do walking adjacent to you, with your khakis, too short and wrinkled, but here we are. Since day two of the retreat, your various states of beard have complicated my hair and makeup routine, my mind equally untidy. By day eight, we wander through the Carnegie Museum. Stand for photos under moose. Stare at fossils. Lives preserved in amber. Hooves dug from ice. Hulking jawbones. Wings cast in plaster and reassembled with unknowable screws and fishing line, hanging above our heads. We are long married to other people. My elbow

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LUCY by Paul Nevin

Lucy saw me first, so I didn’t have a chance to avoid her this time.  We were standing on opposite sides of the narrow road that ran along the beach, her by the sea and me in front of the shops. She had one hand at her hip, thumb up and forefinger pointed at me. ‘Hey Craig!’ she shouted, and when I looked over she pretended to shoot me with her finger and blow imaginary smoke from its tip. I clutched at my chest, which was the accepted response to this little in-joke of ours, while Lucy laughed and mimed

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BONES by Wilson Koewing

I slide the glass racks to the side and peer into the dish pit where Bones struggles mightily to scrape the charred remnants of bread pudding from a hotel pan.   “Bones, how are you holding up?”  “Good, Chef Adam,” Bones says.  “Let me know if you get overwhelmed.”  “Ah, shit,” Bones laughs. Bones is pushing seventy. He’s worked the dish pit at the country club for seven years. When he can escape the pit, Bones sweeps by the dumpster or deep cleans the upstairs banquet kitchen—tasks that take him far from the watchful eye of Executive Chef, Craig.  I discovered

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HEADLESS HORSEMAN by Liz Fyne

Years ago I had a terrible dream that my cat was guillotined. Afterward she rolled her eyes this way and that, and it came to me that as a head you have no options. Questions spin through your mind on their way out forever and you want to cry and flail but all you can do is roll your eyes. In my case there was no guillotine. What happened was more of a spontaneous disconnect, because the junction was loose and my life was full of shaking. People say bronco busting can detach your kidneys, but no one warns about

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BROWN RECLUSE by Cody Pease

Their arrival to the reception is further delayed when he sees a spider on the tongue of his boot. Both men refuse to wear the boot now. The taller man traps the spider beneath a glass, as his partner tries to decipher what kind of spider it is. A brown recluse. The two men debate on how to dispose of it. The taller man offers to throw the glass far from the house. To let it sit in the snow and melt when spring comes. The shorter man is too kind and stubborn; he does not want the spider to

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CHAMP by Emma Hodson

The man smells like smoke. He is moving into a new apartment on a street that used to be a bustling thoroughfare, but now is just another grey road. That is, the apartment is new to him, but not to this world. It’s close to his old spot, just a few blocks, but it’s noticeably more decayed. A beige building shoved in between a Thai place and pay-per-hour motel, a single tarnished mini van parked in the driveway most days. The apartment was built in 1973 when mom-and-pop shops dotted the street, bubbly hand-painted signs, and women doing their grocery

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A FAIR FIGHT by Alle C. Hall

The boat didn’t launch until 10PM. Allia and the three Swedish men she found herself with settled into the hold of the 25-foot cargo vessel ferrying supplies between Indonesian islands. They must have hit rough seas, because Allia woke in the dark to find the boat tipping right then left, as if God were running big fingers up and down the keys of a piano. There was rain and there were rats. When the boat tipped right, the travelers and the rats rolled to the right; when the boat tipped left, they rolled left. Without an ounce of condescension, the

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GATSBY EFFECT by Erika Veurink

The first time I had pneumonia, I wanted it to be seismic. I wanted it to almost kill me. Being fatalistic felt grown up. I laid in the West Village, drank gin from a jar and stared at where the wall hit the ceiling, the cross-like convergence, forever.  “There are crosses everywhere.” That’s what my basketball coach told me once before a game. If I was nervous or worried about a freethrow, I would look for a cross–in the rafters, the painted lines of the court, the referee’s stripes. And salvation meant something.  The first time I had pneumonia, when

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SCURRY by Vanessa Chan

As a killer pandemic swept through the world, my mother died from cancer, alone in a Minnesotan hospice facility. A thousand miles away, also alone in my Brooklyn apartment, I held my breath as my heart caved into itself, salted with guilt. A week later, I encountered my first common New York house centipede. He winked at me from the white walls of my apartment, wobbling on his many legs. “HELP ME,” I scream-texted at friends, paramours, anyone who would listen.  The centipede began dashing madly up my wall, pausing as if to catch his breath, then continuing his ascent.

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IT ALL STARTED WHEN THE CHALLENGER EXPLODED by Shannon Frost Greenstein

I sit, tense, breathless, eyes glued to the screen. I am thirteen years old. It is cold outside, the kind of cold that stings the tip of your nose and bites deep in your lungs when you inhale. It is almost time. We’ve been waiting all morning. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks, obsessively following the news for mention of launch preparations, reading Christa McAuliffe’s simple biography in The Inquirer: an ordinary history teacher, just imagine!  I’ve been lying awake at night, thinking about the infinite nature of space until infinity blew my mind and I couldn’t grasp

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BERMUDA by Danny Cherry Jr.

It was somewhere between the fifth and eighth rendition of the “birthday song” when I began to see the appeal of a tight noose and a wobbly stool. That’s what this job did to me. I prayed to the chain restaurant gods to put me out of my misery, but all I heard instead was the firework-like pops of sizzling meat and the chefs’ philosophical debate over which one of the new girls had the fattest ass. I sat on the milk crates in the kitchen and scrolled through the social media feed of my ex acting school classmates and

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SECONDARY PROBLEM by Kate Lindstedt

Tell your mother you are going to see a movie. Ride with Hannah in her gold Honda Accord to the liquor store on Harrison, the one that doesn’t card. Watch the sun skirt behind clouds while she buys a handle of Malibu. Fling ping pong balls into cups of Tecate at Chloe Peralta’s house. Take shots of blue liquor until the night whirls in your stomach. Wake up crying on shag-carpeted stairs because out of everyone here you will be the last to find love. When your mom asks how the sleepover was, say it was fun. *** Fly 2,586

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GLASS by Ross McMeekin

My neighbor wants to know about the fish tank, whether it still holds water. I want to know the same about the river running along the highway. There’s a lot of agriculture upstream, a lot of fields to irrigate. It’s midsummer, the sun is merciless, and the snowpack is gone. He rubs his finger on the glass, looks at it, and wipes his jeans. I need more money than I can make from this yard sale, and I think he knows it.  “So what did you keep in the tank?” he asks. “A better place than this.” I kept tropical

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SHORT STORY AS MODERNIST WITH HUMAN BRAIN by John Milas

for Marianne My classmates and I were waiting in line to hold a human cadaver’s brain. I took it with both hands when it was my turn. It was gray and smelled like tequila because we’d pulled it from a bucket of brains soaking in alcohol. It was heavy as if a generation of memories had accumulated within its rubbery noodles like a pile of dust. I thought if I dropped the brain on the floor by accident it would probably bounce like a spare tire.  My professor brought our class to the cadaver lab on campus because she told

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SAFE PASSAGE by Sharon Dale Wexler

Even though I know where the missing part of the toy gun is, I won’t tell. They haven’t asked. They ask each other but not me. Even if I tell them it’s under the kitchen table, that won’t be the end of it; they won’t settle down and sit at the table for the meal. The dog smells like a boy on a camping trip. The breeder promised to deliver at three. Safe passage. Once inside, right away, the dog squatted on the floor.  The boy was only here every other weekend and, therefore, never showered. At first, the dog

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COVER by Benjamin Kessler

The father is accompanying the daughter to the mall. The daughter wants very much to get her ears pierced, and while the father thinks she is too young, he has consented. Though only after making the daughter pull weeds from between the spaces in the driveway concrete. The father doesn’t simply give the daughter everything she wants. He makes her earn it, and this makes him feel like a good parent. He enjoys very much feeling like a good parent, especially in front of the mother.   The daughter wants candy from one of the turnstile vending machines and the father

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FIRST KISS AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Chelsea Voulgares

Convinced they were the only people alive in their shit California town, Opal and Matt sat together in a coffin in the basement of the funeral home Matt’s family owned. They planned to get as drunk as possible on the top shelf whiskey they’d looted the week before. “Give me the chips. I’m starving,” Opal said. When Matt handed them to her, she caressed his fingertips. He stared at her and scratched his nose. First came the droughts and then the fires. The air had crisped up. All that was nothing compared to what happened to the water, which in

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SALT IN THE BODY by Kelsey Ipsen

Ghosts do not come to me because I grew up by the ocean and my body is still full of salt. Girl; all limbs, all eyes and sudden fearlessness, dared the waves to become bigger and they did. And of course she was sucked under, tossed about, close enough to death. Of course she was rag-doll, rag-doll, rag-doll. Remember when your body was your body but now it is not. The feeling is like this. I know my body is other things, is waves, is salt. Is once a house/a host/a body with another body’s cells in it. The other

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FACT: HANNAH AND HER HUSBAND USED TO BE HAPPY by Jennifer Todhunter

Hannah passes out with the lights on again, the room as bright as day. Her phone is almost dead from staying up late sexting, slipped underneath the pillow on a bed that’s not hers—a bed she borrowed so she can sort her life, a bed too short for long legs, bent like figure fours on unfamiliar sheets. Hannah preset an alarm (and a backup and a backup for the backup), but she wakes when the alcohol abandons her system instead, her stomach pinched with unease, her brain brimming with a laundry list of what-ifs, always landing on the worst-case: What

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AT LEAST IT WASN’T ME by Andy Spain

George arches his back and reaches for the ceiling, fingers fully splayed in morning praise pose. His wife lumbers around him with a groggy scowl. “Great, gonna be late again,” she mumbles and bangs her leg on the bed frame, cursing softly as she clutches her shin. George winces and edges past her. “At least it wasn’t me,” he thinks. Strolling into the kitchen, George rubs his eyes and smiles at his two sons as they scurry around the breakfast table. The younger one waves hello, over-pouring milk into a glass. White cascades race down the cabinet edges and splash

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FISHSPLAINING BAUDRILLARD by Faye Brinsmead

The robo-guppy came in a tank with LED lighting, soothing ocean sounds, and coral reef background wallpaper. Proven stress-buster, Bernie said, handing me the box. There was some study in some journal. After 10 weeks of fish-watching, 75 percent of the subjects flushed their anxiety meds down the john. I took this as a hint he didn’t want to hear any more about writer’s block, impostor syndrome, the library’s overdue loans policy, or anything else connected with my PhD on Baudrillard.  He looks sinister, I said. Those mean little eyes. Must be in on the techno-gadget revenge plot. I took

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THE CLOCKMAKER by Lucy Zhang

Far away—further than the deli store only frequented by the patrolling police officer and a few custodians, further than the farm with three cows and a horse and several chickens guarded from preying hawks by a fishing line ceiling, further than the white oak tree and its branches striking outward, and certainly much further than the borders of the city—is a cottage. Planks of wood bar the windows shut; mold creeps across the brick walls; pipes wind down from the roof to the ground, and the sound of water dripping on metal beats steadily to the murmurs of wind against

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PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION by Zac Smith

Emo Phillips stands on a train. He thinks about all the fucked-up people he knows and wonders if people think he’s as fucked-up as he thinks other people are. The train conductor/engineer/driver person clicks on the intercom and thanks everyone for riding the train. Emo Phillips feels like he has never been thanked for riding public transportation. “Hey, am I fucked-up?” Emo Phillips asks. “What,” says Dan Brown. Dan Brown is looking at an advertisement for furniture. The train conductor/engineer/driver person clicks on the intercom and apologizes for the slow pace of the train. Emo Phillips takes off his mittens.

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THE TODDLERS ARE PLAYING AIRPORT AGAIN by Tucker Leighty-Phillips

They’ve partitioned everything: the slide is the runway, the jungle gym is the terminal, covered in tiny travelers; anything with mulch is part of the operations area. Nobody flies. Nobody ever wants to be pilot. The toddlers love every aspect of the airport except for flight. Tickle always wants to be the rampie, loading freight onto planes with his sandbox bucket. Dasha is the lav agent, as she’s the best at keeping the plane’s bathrooms within regulation. Everyone wants to be Bill Boyer, Jr, CEO. They fight over his stock options until they shove one another and you have to

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WOODED LOTS by Amanda Baldeneaux

Bess’s grandmother leans a sharp elbow into the worn armrest of her recliner, her chin pointed away from the kitchen chair where Bess sits, signing the contract for Ray, the homecare aid. Her grandmother has lived in the cottage at the nursing home for five years. The cottage lets retirees live independently but connected to the lodge and the cafeteria and the dorms where the older, less-resourceful people live. She doesn’t want to go there. Outside the cottage, a small slab of patio is littered with sunflower seed shells. Petals of white azalea blossoms, knocked free by the recent rains,

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BLACK HOODED NUN by Caroljean Gavin

Stunned, I took the subway and rattled off to work at the Starbucks on 51st and Broadway. My brain’s way of assimilating my mother’s news was to take customers’ orders while imagining plunging a knife into their chests. Would I have to struggle to penetrate their clothing? Would there be a slurp of suction when I tried to yank the weapon back out of their flesh and muscle to repeat? Would they fight? Would they be angry? Surprised? Terrified? What would they say? What would their eyes look like? What would it feel like to not turn back? To go

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THE PENCIL TEST by Grace Loh Prasad

I once dated a Famous Author—someone you might have heard of. He’d written half a dozen nonfiction books by the time I met him at a writers conference, and had recently published a surprise bestseller that was made into a movie. He’d lived and traveled all over the world as a journalist and was on the masthead of a venerable magazine.  The Famous Author was teaching a class on how to write and sell travel stories, which seemed like a good entry point for my first-person writing about Taiwan. After the conference I emailed him to introduce myself and mentioned

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TO TEACH by Tyler Barton

Whenever she passes a picture she’s in, Jewell closes her eyes. She laughs. Jewell’s earlobes are drippingly long, and her granddaughter Tanny would like to see them pierced nine, maybe ten times. This makes Jewell laugh. Jewell has been convinced by friends to join the poetry club, because, they say, Jewell is always finishing their sentences with a slant rhyme, and damnit they want the real thing! Jewell laughs at them. The poetry teacher is a bear of a man at a pottery wheel until Jewell is told he is the pottery teacher. Jewell laughs through her apology. The poetry

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IN THE TIME OF CLIMATE CHANGE (APOCALYPTIC VIEWFINDER #1) by Kathryn Kulpa

Flashing Obama I was feeding the cats and Barack Obama was there, at my back door, standing on the deck. He wore aviator sunglasses and a blue chambray shirt and jeans. I wanted to let him in but I had to keep one hand on my belt loop because I didn’t have a belt and my pants kept slipping and how awful would it be if my pants fell down in front of Obama?  I had things I wanted to talk about with Obama. I wanted him to convince Joe Biden to drop out of the race. Joe Biden is

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KILLING PLANTS by Aaron Kreuter

It was during Fletcher’s third week at the new job that he noticed Colleen’s plant didn’t look so hot. The plant’s big green leaves were sagging, nearly touching the desk. Nobody had asked him to take care of the plant during his ten-month contract, filling in for Colleen while she was on mat leave, but the plant was obviously thirsty. Fletcher filled up his coffee mug with water and poured it into the off-white pot, the soil quickly sucking it up. Just to be safe, he tipped in a second mugful; this time, a half-inch of water remained sitting on

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HUNGER by Tyler Dempsey

Robbed.  The ski-masked man squeezed my biceps.  “Easy,” I said.  He went, “Get in, fucks,” and nodded toward a black SUV, gun under Eddie’s throat. “Don’t even think about it.”  Eddie called shotgun.  That was yesterday.  Eddie’s my roommate. I’m 34. Too old for a roommate.  I fucked up.  Eddie’s on the couch. You could say “living” there. Old vomit, pink—like brain blended with Monster energy drink—arced but didn’t clear the cushions. My cat’s purring caked in matter needing chemicals to remove.  Ed’s stomach jiggles from a tank top. A hairy muffin hidden for later. Pink on his cheek, he

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THE STRAY SHAR-PEIS OF OHIO CITY by Meghan Louise Wagner

Every party we went to in the summer of 1999 was lit up red. Red drapes fell over windows. Red vinyl chairs sat in kitchens next to red retro tables. Red walls vibrated with red Belle and Sebastian. Red wine gushed from boxes on countertops. Red signs glowed in dive bars. Red Schwinn bikes got stolen off our friends’ porches. Red hair dye spotted our shower mats. Red Chuck Taylors tapped in bathroom stalls. We were only babies when we heard about the stray shar-peis of Ohio City. Mara, a thirty-something veteran of the scene who claimed to have once

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THE FLYING NUN, THE FROZEN DEAD: 1966-1968 by Gregg Wlliard

Recently deceased science fiction writer Harlan Ellison wrote a 1968 episode of the TV series, “The Flying Nun” in order, he said, “to fuck Sally Fields.” If he just had a chance to get close to her, he believed, he could persuade her to have sex with him. The episode was titled, “You Can’t Get There from Here.” Sister Bertrille (Field) crashes on a remote island after the wind dies down. Her glider-like head piece, or cornette, falls in the water and is torn, leaving her stranded. She discovers other castaways, a pair of feuding lovers, who eventually reunite and

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THE FALL by Sara Lippmann

Last night I passed out as you fucked me for 100 hours for 18 years on the living room floor. The mood was right: kids out, throw pillows deftly arranged, fire doing its snap crackle pop, flames licking the grate. There was wine and weed—an empty house!—so it could’ve been the freedom alone and not the fucking though I believe it was. We all believe something. I also hadn’t eaten and you know how I get (after a day, 100 hours, 18 years.) Your words: A woman needs food, sustenance.  A woman needs (insert here)  What I remember: four posts

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A TRANSVERSE PROGRESSION by Alyssa Jordan

iv. Late one night, Fred acted on a whim. She reached out to the one friend who still took her calls.  Together they stood, poised on a street corner with coffee cups in hand. The Friend was tall and blonde and intrigued. Red lipstick lined her mouth, wet like a bloody smear. She held a cigarette in her other hand, taking demure drags that did nothing to distract Fred from the pink smoke that curled around her shoulders. “How about them?” The Friend asked.  When she squinted at the couple heading toward the bus stop, Fred was met with a

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BODY BETRAYAL by Crow Jonah Norlander

When I reached the age at which my older friends started to complain about their bodies falling apart, mine really did. My infant son picked up a smooth piece and used it to soothe his gums. My wife palmed another, soft for warmth and whispers. Mom grabbed some with more defined edges to help set up her printer, while one other bit of me barely holding its shape looked on as dad skated around backwards. My boss’s part sat around ignored, waiting to get fired. The chunk of me attending to the Executive Board made the motion to call the

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WHEELS by D. T. Robbins

Fat-boy Brad, the same Brad who went, Hey, Cheese Factory!, to me on the bus because my teeth are a little yellow, stood in the middle of the street with Chris, the same Chris who almost drowned me in his pool last summer showing me what a washing machine was (you flip someone over and over and over and over until they can’t catch their breath and they start to cry and someone’s mom comes out and yells, What the hell are you doing to that boy?), looking at my bike, telling me how fucking gay it is because it’s

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YOU’RE LUCKY YOU CAME IN TONIGHT by Susanna Baird

Pickleball is a fun sport that combines many elements of tennis, badminton and Ping-pong, according to the USA Pickleball Association. Kids and teenagers play it. Seniors, too. I am middle-aged, but anyway, I play pickleball. According to me, pickleball is an okay sport you play with a paddle and a Wiffle ball. I play pickleball with my aunt in Arizona, the day before I fly home. She is a senior. She falls. *** The registrar in the emergency room looks like her name should be Gail, and she says You are lucky you came in tonight. Last night, 40 ambulances.

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GLOVES by Robert Stuart Powers

He had a dream, he says, about the rest of their lives on another planet rich with tech indistinguishable from magic. On his back, he holds his hands toward the ceiling, the cusp of dawn filling their disheveled bedroom, and describes jazz hands-ing away the deep gulf of scar tissue rippling down her body’s left side, from scalp to ankle, where the asphalt carried away almost everything. He was wearing these iridescent gloves that could remodel skin like wet clay. They could afford them because their parents (in the dream) were dead and left them money. He rolls back over.

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DURING THE YEAR OF RAPID WEIGHT LOSS, I BECOME UNCHARACTERISTICALLY EXHIBITIONISTIC by Amy Kiger-Williams

I’d like you to really look at me. You will see less of me that you would have seen before, but now I will let you look longer. This is where the inherent irony lies. As a consequence, you’ll see more of me than you ever would have before. Undressing in front of a stranger is a vulnerable thing. Your scars, your roundness, your concavity: everything that was never up for discussion before is now fair game. Bikini tops, wife beaters, hip huggers: these are all I wear anymore. The tighter, the better. Less is more. Still, there is a

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NEIGHBORS by Will Cordeiro

It was an in-service day at school, and the bus dropped me off at home three hours earlier than usual. The doors were locked. The extra key was gone. I tried to wedge a screen-window open. The neighbor saw me trying to break into my house. He invited me over. Reluctantly, I said okay.  My neighbor had me sit on a big velvet chair and handed me some chocolate milk and a plate of vanilla wafers. After I’d eaten them, he said he wanted to show me something. He opened a door to what looked like a closet. He entered

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YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE by Jesse Bradley

You never listen to what I say when it matters. You’re treating this as a ticket to be with other people. I should have seen the symptoms when you stayed on your side of the bed, your body sleeping on the edge, rather than close to me, our feet touching. The last straw was when you came home, your body reeking of musk, the way it used to when we made every space we touched burn. You were never mine and I was never yours. J. Bradley is the author of On the Campaign Trail (Long Day Press, 2020). He lives at jbradleywrites.com.

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IMAGINE WHAT MY BODY WOULD SOUND LIKE by Hannah Grieco

Twenty-year-old me had biceps. Back from a year away, rock climbing and waiting tables, fucking women for the first time. I walked differently. Strutting in my baggy cargo pants, flirting with those baby butch Oberlin girls. A new me.  In the college library lounge, short-haired, smooth-skinned girlfriends ran their fingertips up my sculpted arms and I ignited. *** This morning I wake to my daughter’s nightmare whimpers. Tucked under my armpit, bone-thin, her ribs pressing into my side. Always burning up, she wears only underwear in the house. No blankets except her lovey, clutched to her cheek in sleep. 4

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IN-BETWEEN SIRENS by Davon Loeb

The in-betweens are like waiting for something to happen, like flashes of red and blue sirens pulsing through my car, while searching for the police officer about to step to my window. And I watched from the rearview mirror, and would say and act exactly how my mother told me—to call him or her sir or ma’am, to be polite, to keep my hands on the steering wheel, to have my paperwork ready. And that my stomach was buoyant, and that my eyes blurred from tracking the sirens, and that I felt the spotlight sizzle on the back of my

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GIVING SPEECHES IN YOUR UNDERWEAR by Emily Painton

You are stirring onions, slowly caramelizing them. You can’t believe you’re married again. He’s in the other room, well not the other room. The long galley kitchen you’re standing in is attached to the living room. You can see him, sitting on the couch with his football game on, the volume turned way up, waiting for his dinner. He will not appreciate these onions you are laboring so long over. His favorite meals are ground beef tacos or chili. Two dishes you’ve grown to despise.  Later that week, you come home for lunch because he asked you to. He’s not

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A EULOGY by Michael Hendery

Cynthia B. Hurley, known online as @iBrake4Corgis17, was a well-connected woman visible across the social media landscape. Her beloved Instagram feed totaled 12,574 posts, and she amassed 836 followers after more than twenty-five years of daily engagement with the app. Cindy’s all-time, most-liked post was a photo from October 2031 of her wearing a Davy Crockett raccoon-skin cap, pretending to strangle the eight-foot-tall stuffed grizzly bear in the lobby of the Fern Creek Lodge which garnered 529 likes and spawned dozens of comments, including the expected accolades from her dear friends @tango4one and @winediva77. This post’s popularity surpassed her previous

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MOLD ON THE CEILING by Katherine Tweedle

Sophie had never thought twice about the décor in her mind palace. That was, until her counselor barged into her secret space and perched in her favorite armchair.  One moment, the women sat in an office tinted a chi-centering blue; the next, the room had transformed into a dim sitting room. Sophie blanched, her private life now public. Dr. Erwin seemed unabashed, if not actually bored, continuing to pull on a fountain soda the size of a prize pumpkin.  The room was Yin and Yang: clutter and cleanliness; one half as immaculate as a museum, the other half, a virtual

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HAPPINESS by Matthew Licht

My father wasn’t a traveling salesman, just a guy who never seemed to be where he was. A look crossed his face if someone came into the room where he was thinking or dreaming or scheming or whatever he was pretending to do, or spoke to him directly when he was present but lost. The look said who are you, what are you doing here, what do you want from me? Everything was fine. We lived in an acceptable house where hot meals were a regular feature. Then one day Pop came home with a monkey. The baby hadn’t begun

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AFTER AUSCHWITZ by Howie Good

To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. – Theodor W. Adorno We were taken off the train at night. “What are those bonfires?” I asked. A sarcastic male voice said from out of the dark, “You’ll find out, child.” It felt like I was on a bridge and there were two or three heavy trucks and the bridge was rocking—but there were no trucks. Even cows wondered what was happening. At one point we seemed to be following Beethoven’s footsteps through Vienna. Although democracy was dead, women and young girls were smashing jars of blood on the sidewalk in a

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I TOLD HIM I WOULD by Steve Chang

Before his accident, he’d called to ask if I’d go drinking with him. I told him, No, not tonight. I’d started writing again. Wow, he said. That’s cool! I guess, I said. We both listened a little longer on the phone.  * I would tell myself—in the months to come—that besides the lateness of the call, I’d had no reason to suspect anything might be wrong. I would tell myself that he’d always been fine, alone. I would tell myself all kinds of things before I could, finally, imagine us talking. Alright then, he said, getting ready to go. Write

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TIME TRAVELING ANTIQUE DEALER by Travis Dahlke

The owner of Beachman’s eBay store had it bad for my best friend Gedaliah. I didn’t trust him because his eyeballs were made three times smaller by his glasses and it was rumored he kept a time machine in his stockroom used for poaching antiques. The eBay thing was just a front and a former ketchup plant kept the whole operation mostly hidden from public view. Gedaliah paid nine hundred dollars for her walnut pembroke table but the bureau that Beachman sold me was a reproduction with drilled-in wormholes. Gedaliah’s table reeked of tea bags close up. The nails piecing

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NO EASING INTO IT by Lori Yeghiayan Friedman

November 7, 1994: I sat on William and Luke’s bed, listening to the ring, ring in my ear, each ring getting fainter like a distant alarm. I was about to hang up when someone answered—a man. “Hello,” he said, startled, like maybe I’d woken him up.  “Hi,” I said into the receiver of the beige rotary phone on my lap. I scanned The Yellow Pages opened next to me on the faded maroon bedspread. I checked the ad: Did I get the number right? I looked out their bedroom window and up at the night sky: What should I say?

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“PANDEMIC WAVES” by Michael Seymour Blake

Michael Seymour Blake is the author of the art book 12 Days of Santa Crying. Shirts featuring his art can be seen on hot bodies around the world. He eats, sleeps, doodles, writes, lives in Queens, NY. He easily gets lost. Instagram: @michaelseymourblake Fabulous (It’s True!) Website: MichaelSeymourBlake.com

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THE DUMPSTER GAME by Rachel Mans McKenny

The Hu Palace had a classy buffet, with slippery chopsticks that went into the dishwasher not the break-apart kind. Baxter raised himself on the lid of Hu’s dumpster, hanging off it with forearms and elbows as anchor. The graying cabbage landscape and jagged Styrofoam iceberg looked the same as yesterday. Then a faint scratching. Something was alive, a small something. His foot found a cardboard box island in the sea of decomposing food. The box took his weight, so he swung the other leg inside, pushing the trash aside with a sneaker.  A chick, brown wings folded under its body. 

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A NOTE TO YOKO OGAWA by Michael Farfel

a note to Yoko Ogawa, I think that others might say you make key lime pie like all other confections. You pick the fruit—found in trees and sometimes pockets—and you open it and line it up and chop. It takes patience, of course, to form the pastry dough and fold it out and fill it up.  I found a recipe, in the back pages of your books, a sort of misdirection in the language and the wording. A few drops of this, a subtle push and an open door. A room revealed. A kitchen and a stove. The fruit is

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THE PROSPECTIVE, OR WHAT I TELL THE MAN IN THE CAFE by Sudha Balagopal

My parents sent me to the movies with a man they found in the matrimonial columns of the Mumbai newspaper. They told me he was a romantic, a Bollywood aficionado. Perfect for someone like me who read Austen. They made concessions for this prospective from America, sending me out with a man for the first time, alone, at age twenty-one. My eyebrows stung—they’d been threaded and shaped into perfect crescents. The crimson on my nails and lips felt vulgar. I wanted to pull out the pins in my French braid, let my hair loose. *** You ask to meet with

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ADULT-ORIENTED by Kala Frances Wahl

I was seventeen with braces, bright pink rubber bands looped around the brackets in my mouth, when God appeared to me in a dream. He told me it was my destiny to be a porn star. I was peroxide blonde, big-breasted and flexible. I readily accepted God’s proposal. Once without direction, my life now had purpose, meaning, something tangible that I could grip onto and ride like a mechanical bull. The horns felt good in my hands. I attended Catholic school, but I didn’t believe in God. I wasn’t sure what I believed in. I wanted to believe I was

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THE PULL by Ann Kathryn Kelly

I’ve felt the pull for years, to see what’s out there, how it differs from what I understand of the world. I’ve traveled distances to feed the pull. One destination, while still in the planning, thrilled me. Africa’s “Big Five” beckoned: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, buffalo. I had my telephoto lens and a new bush hat—wide-brimmed, khaki-colored, with proper ventilation at the crown.  I pushed aside months of gripping headaches and growing fatigue, instead buying airfare, getting vaccinations. Nothing was going to sideline me. “You have a cavernous angioma.”  I looked at the doctor in his white lab coat with

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RAW HAND BURGER by EC Sorenson

They’re coming at me all the time now. I want this, I want that. Uppity bunch. In my day, students didn’t act like this. This lot spends the morning taking selfies. Spends the afternoon posting them places you never even heard of. All that staring into their own eyes—where’s it going to get them? So, anyway, one of them says I wasn’t using gloves. Okay, I say, talk to management. I say talk to management about why I am the only server here when there’s all of you and you all want your special ingredients and not what it says

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INTERVIEW WITH JAMES McADAMS by Jo Varnish

James McAdams’s Ambushing the Void is released this month by Frayed Edge Press. I caught up with him for a chat about his book, his writing process, and his inspirations. JV: Ambushing the Void is a collection of stories drawn together by themes such as relationships, loss, and nostalgia, and told through truly memorable characters. Professor Pankova and Teo are two of many that will stay with me. Did you draw from real life counterparts for these and other characters? JM: It’s pretty easy for me to look at a person, or read/hear about a person on a podcast or Tweet,

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REYKJAVIK by Jane Snyder

We took the kids on a tour of Iceland for winter break last year. It was Carrie’s first year of college, Tad’s third, and I wanted to do something as a family while we still could. The sun didn’t rise the whole time we were there but everybody seemed to be having a good time. The kindergarten class leaving the National Museum as we were going in, for instance. The children had big bags of candy and were laughing so hard they couldn’t stand it. As soon as they’d start settling down one of them would say something that sounded

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FAIR NIGHT NUMBER ONE by Tom Weller

Scrap Boys have each other. Scrap Boy 1, Scrap Boy 2, Scrap Boy 3, three prepubescent bodies lean and sharp as barbed wire, three backyard haircuts, three thunder-clap voices, three tornado spirits joined like the three chambers of a rattler’s heart. And tonight the Scrap Boys have the fair. Tonight they have snow cones and onion rings and rides that spin the Scrap Boys around and around and around and around until they can’t tell up from down. Tonight they have rock songs banging out of rickety speakers rattling their ribs. Tonight the Scrap Boys breathe humid night air full

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MANLESSNESS by Meg Pokrass

The pizza delivery boy stumbles at the front door. He’s a bit shy. Me and Mom order pizza five nights a week. I serve her slices in bed, this is where she eats. When I open the door to him, I’m like a puddle of a girl, not a woman yet, not full of issues. What I offer: freckles, smiles, a minor eye twitch. “Blaze on, you two! You and your momma are PIZZA QUEENS!” he says. This kind of thing makes me unnaturally happy about the trials of living with a family who has stopped cooking food. The delivery

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THINGS YOU DID AFTER YOUR BEST FRIEND DIED THREE YEARS by Mei Mei Sun

Things you did after your best friend died three years  and two personal renaissances ago. You mourn for six weeks, then use her death to excuse all of your shortcomings for the rest of the year. One night, your body full of hunger and youth, you carve her initials into your outer thigh with your father’s razor. Later, at a blazing house party, you trace over the scars with a hypodermic needle and black ballpoint ink. This is the memory you always go back to when you sob on the L.A. Metro on Tuesday nights, when even the security officers

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GLAD YOU’RE HERE by Dan Shiffman

You are the one who goes back for the remaining Christmas presents  while the rest of the family hugs in puffy coats by the doorway. The straps on the duffel bags pulled from the trunk of the car are rough and chilled. When you come inside, everyone is already seated around the fireplace or in the kitchen. They ask a smiling question or two, then the conversation floats  to the other side of the room. The dog—it’s a golden retriever; it used to be a Schnauzer—stretches and walks over looking for attention and reassurance. You pour a glass of Coke,

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ABOUT DINNER by Veronica Klash

You know what it means to have dinner. The meal that satiates before slumber. After the sky is drained of fire and flooded with ink. But what does it mean to have dinner with a man? To sit across from each other at that Thai place that just opened. To look at the menu and not see the words because his hand grazed yours and euphoria dripped from the base of your neck down your spine and he smells like mint and spice and something else that you can’t describe and you rush your inhale so you can breathe him

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OF ALL THE ANIMALS I PULLED FROM YOUR FRECKLES, THE FOX IS MY FAVORITE by Cavin Bryce Gonzalez

One night I was tracing my girlfriend’s freckles with my finger, tracking constellations across her chin and cheeks and eyes. Whenever I moved from one freckle to the next there was a tiny silver thread that connected them and before long her entire face was glowing. The fox came from a constellation on her chin. Materialized from nothing, a minuscule thing pawing at her lips. She wasn’t even surprised. Just took the fox gently in her fingers and placed it in a tupperware container. Every night I traced a new constellation and every night our bedside farm grew larger. Tortoises

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THE FIRST TIME I WATCHED PORN by Tyler Dempsey

In sixth grade (1997), my friend Tom invited me to church because I was a heathen and poor. (We drifted when he got really into drugs later, but from ages 11 to 14, we were close.) Because my mom worked—Dad vanished in 1990, returned for three days in 2014, and then vanished again—and I lived too far from school to ride the bus, what started as walking with Tom to church together on Wednesdays after school grew into going to Tom’s house weekdays until my mom got off work.  Tom and I practiced kickflips in the driveway for an hour,

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DOING IT IN PUBLIC by Angela Miyuki Mackintosh

Joey likes to do it in public. Other guys prefer the privacy of a locked door, a secluded bedroom, drawn curtains. Joey likes to do it that way too, in the bedroom or the kitchen or the hallway, pushed up against a wall or shoved into the carpet, but he’s not afraid to do it in front of an audience. The first time he did it outside of our apartment was at a party, after he caught me looking at another guy. He said, “You want to fuck him, don’t you?” I guess it made him really hot, got him

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EVERYTHING ELSE IS JUST EXPOSITION by Gauraa Shekhar

Carefully coded a fake Myspace account for Joel Madden—copied the URL from his skull-and-crossbones profile, pasted it into a Layout Stealer, added Steve Aoki and Junior Sanchez to my Top 8 Sent myself love letters from the account Showed off love letters from “Joel Madden” at band practice Threw some antihistamine pills from the medicine cabinet into a zip-lock bag. Kept the pills in the back of my school locker to feel beautiful and bad like Winona Ryder and the disaster girls on TV Once, during a middle school lunchbreak, made an elaborate display of secretly spooning a home-cooked meal

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JEWEL OF THE DELTA by Noemi Martinez

Once called the jewel of the delta, Delta Lake is a tiny man made reservoir where poor families would go and eat in the 80s, claim a table to have lunch or a picnic on the sand and have Easter Sunday cookouts. You’d get there by driving out towards Edcouch, a lonely stretch of a curvy road, tiny and desolate as far as roads go down here. Mom would take us some weekends when the truck was working and there was gas in the tank. As a treat, she’d say, “Pack the cheese sandwiches.” *** I couldn’t drive on expressways

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SING TO ME THE ONE ABOUT THE RIGHTEOUS EMBRACE OF THE INEFFABLE by Pat Foran

Something My name is Phineas and if I can get the pose right, a photograph of me will appear in the 1979-80 Ridgid Tools Two-Year wall calendar.  In a two-piece and six-inch heels, I am holding a No. 930 1/2-inch D-Handle Reversing Drill like it’s a semi-automatic weapon.  “I need a little more…something, Phineas,” the photographer said. “A little more serendipity, a little more world-weariness. Show me a righteous embrace of the ineffable. And a little more gam.” *** Level We were fixing up a place that needed fixing up. We were going to live there. Her parents were helping,

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DINNER by Christopher Linforth

At that time in our lives, we rose at dusk for the feeding shift. Still in our underwear, we crept downstairs and into the kitchen. Shiny black bugs skittered across the tile floor. The lazy cockroaches remained on the counter and in the tinfoil containers stinking of rotten noodles; a few silvery beetles disappeared into the seal of the refrigerator. In the living room our mother railed at the television, at the caregiver exiting the house. We heard calls for dinner, thuds on the floor, shouts for our dead father. We rubbed crust from our eyes, then surveyed the leftovers

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LITTLE KNIFE by Candace Hartsuyker

Finger  Deep in the bowels of the circus tent, the air is sage and sweetgrass. A bundle of snapdragon pods lie on the table, faces like skulls. The hermaphrodite gives me tea laced with rum in a teacup that has no handle. His index finger taps the cards, tell me what I already know. I am a girl who will live many lives. Body A man with a gap in his teeth, a gold hoop glinting in his ear. A thin, dirty hand. Every day a lemon. A yellow rind sharp as the sun. My lips puckering at the bitterness.

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IF WE MISS THIS ONE by Abbie Barker

The morning sun highlights imperfections—the cigarette burn at the edge of my seat, the dust on the dash, the dried blood hugging the edges of Grant’s thumbnail. He’s disheveled, unshaven, his black hair kinked from a restless sleep. I want to slide my hand over his cowlick and smooth it down. I want to talk about last night.  “Is there a later meeting if we miss this one?” I say. “We can still make it.” Multi-family homes flash by in tones of gray, in varying states of disrepair. We pass a park with an overgrown baseball diamond and a playground

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THE OLD LADY WITH THE GOLD LAMÉ PUMPS by Kerry Rawlinson

I wonder if you remember her? Whenever we’d pop into the pub, the Old Cock and Bull, she was always sitting up at the bar. Because you loved that place, (not to mention their beer), we popped in pretty much every night. Beautifully dressed, always alone, the old lady would be perched on the high stool, sipping one of her limit of two glasses of beer. Nobody even talked to her, which I found odd. Occasionally her wig would be squiffy; her crimson lipstick slipping sideways. She’d look up into the bar mirror and fix it with a tissue. But

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MIDGE by Tara Campbell

“I remember sailing in a ship.” Skipper’s voice fills the musty darkness of the drawer. “I mean, it was a small ship, more like a boat, I guess, and we were just floating, really, which maybe some people wouldn’t call sailing, but anyhow, I liked it.” Her tone brightens with the details. “It was a warm day but cool down by the water. The girl had taken us down there—” “What was the girl’s name?” I ask. I hear Skipper’s intake of breath, the way the memory catches in her throat, even though she technically doesn’t have one anymore, meaning a throat,

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THE YEAR I WAS MOST HUNGRY by Shane Cashman

When I wear my long, dark peacoat, I look like I’m about to betray my country; I instigate assassinations; I have affairs in 1964; I fly first class.  When ex-presidents die, the whole nation wears peacoats and flags at half-mast. We all of a sudden show a strange love for someone we used to curse––it’s that kind of love people only show once someone’s gone. We only truly love you once we’ve thrown you in your casket––we’re a culture of goddamned necrophiliacs.  The length of my coat reminds me I’m just over six feet tall; my height equals the common

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SOMEPLACE ELSE by Emma Stough

I am here now. Wide unexplained sky. How did I get here? Wait. Let’s stop. No, let’s start. We are here now. Again, I think.  Purple wallpaper. My family huddled around the TV watching Seinfeld re-runs. I am squeezed between Aggressive Older Brother and Sensitive Younger Brother—I am boiling with discontent.  My family huddles like this for decades. The living room stays the same: plush green sofa (embedded with chips and cat hairs, is the cat still alive?) and purple wallpaper. Purple like the dregs of the bitter plum tea. Purple like the dying breath of stormy sunset. Purple like

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BABES by Ian Anderson

She wants to know how it works.  It’s easy, he tells her. You create a profile on the Babes app, upload a couple pictures of your baby, fill out the profile, and then people can start Holding. Thirty dollars for the first hour; five dollars for each additional fifteen minutes.  They’re pushing their toddlers in the swings next to each other. She only knows him from the playground, but he’s always seemed like a good dad. Engaged. Attentive. The worst thing she can say about him is that he has a mustache. It surprises her to learn that he rents

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MEMORY PALACE AS MAZE by Kate Tooley

“Words fail…” No one says that anymore, but sometimes she still thinks it. She hears it in her mother’s squeaky, horsehair voice, the one that meant sarcasm: when her father put all the pots and pans in the oven to “clean them,” when the neighbor dressed her Persian cat in a tutu…But that’s not the only time words fail—quick footsteps behind her at two a.m., Ginny waving from airport pick-up after two months in Tucson, her dog’s muscles going slack before the vet has finished emptying the syringe—these are also things that cause a blank space, a lapse in words.

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SPAWN by Isabelle Correa

I was a thing among other things in the hazy scene of his bedroom after shotgunning a beer for the first time. I remember the red pocket knife and the aluminum bending into itself to make room for the blade so that the hole I pressed my mouth to was an inverted flower. I remember finishing first. I remember finding his room and collapsing on the bed in the wrong direction, my legs where his head would go, my bare feet propped against the wall on the bottom of a poster for an alien movie I’d never seen, my toes

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WHEN I WAS A PAPER GIRL by Sam Payne

Nana was always keen on telling me how working hard was important, so when I was thirteen, I took it upon myself to sign up with Turners Newsagents. It wasn’t long before a round came up. This pleased Nana. She was enthusiastic about bringing me up in the right way. “Manners and hard work, that’s all you need, my girl. Don’t let the past become an excuse.” By which she meant the death of my parents when I was nine, but we didn’t talk about them directly.  I delivered the morning papers to all the posh houses on the other

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ASSIGNATION by Joshua Hebburn

He bought flowers at the grocery store and put them in a wine bottle with a little water and an aspirin. He put them on the nightstand. There, for her, so the room wouldn’t smell of him.       He took the ingredients from the plastic bag that said, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You in red block font on the side. He took out the butcher block. He smashed, peeled, and chopped the garlic. He halved, skinned, sliced, and chopped the onions. He blinked, he blinked, he blinked. He put the onions in a bowl. He put the

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STILL LIFE, WAYNE COUNTY, IN AUGUST by Aliceanna Stopher

Buddy of mine used to have me over before his girl walked out on him. For supper, you know, or cards. Maybe beers, if one of us was going through it. We weren’t usually, back then.  More like, we thought we were, but really we weren’t. I’d bring him Dad or Bert, he’d bring me working, or not. We laid it all out, sorted through it.  I ran into him on my way to work, this one night before we was supposed to get together. He cancelled, standing all crooked, thumbs stabbed through his belt loops, and I thought he

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THE FAMILY THAT SKIS TOGETHER by Kim Magowan

“The family that plays together stays together,” Carol’s father used to say, though even at the time Carol had felt skeptical about that assessment, given her mother’s aversion to all forms of competition and her brother’s more specific aversion to losing. Oh, the way Alec’s skin would mottle, the way he would say, under his breath so their parents couldn’t hear, “Well, fuck you,” when Carol would knock his croquet ball into the trees. (And Carol would feel both elated and ashamed, or more precisely, ashamed because elated, and sorry for herself for having a brother who was such a

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THE SWADDLE by Janelle Bassett

I am at the sink, rinsing a food processor blade, when I hear the cry of a tiny baby. Carrot bits go down the drain, easy, but the insistent wailing isn’t going anywhere. I assume the sound is some sort of inner-ear repercussion from the electronic-tornado buzzing of the food processor, yet the sound continues even after I open my mouth wide to pop my ears. A baby is definitely crying and it’s an I’ve-been-left-alone-which-I-am-not-built-for cry. I look up and think back, “Didn’t my babies grow past the baby stage?” I consult the refrigerator where, sure enough, their recent school

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THE COAT by Sheldon Birnie

“Hell yes,” Dave answered when his cousin Lisa asked if he’d like to see something weird. Dave followed Lisa off the deck and back to where the cars were parked as the sun was sinking in the west, cutting through the trees in brilliant bars of gold. Down by the lake, children shrieked and splashed in the late afternoon heat. He was sick of answering his family’s questions about his dumb job and why his girlfriend, Sandy, hadn’t made the trip out because they’d “sure like to meet her.” Something weird, whatever it was, was certainly a welcome change.   “Dave,”

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DROSOPHILA MELANOGASTER by Hannah Storm

The fruit fly shares the same genes as a human. Its Latin name is “Drosophila Melanogaster,” which sounds awfully fancy for something attracted to rotten fruit and vegetable. I think about the time you told me I smelt ripe when you forced me onto my back in that room with the torn sheets. Fruit flies breed in drains, empty bottles and waste disposals, relying on a moist layer of material that ferments to grow their families. The adults have brown trunks, black bottoms and crimson eyes and are so small they can creep through windows and doors that aren’t properly

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CONSIDER RAVIOLI by Jane-Rebecca Cannarella

We’re three in a row and it’s warm like the way the bottom of a plate is hot and comforting after you microwave leftovers. Colleen and Sean both throw off heat to my right and my left, so much blue between both of them like the most blistering parts of a fire. And Colleen wants to know why no one will consider the plight of the ravioli. Pierogis and poptarts are pockets and appreciated. So she wants to know why I won’t give ravioli another chance. What’s to hate? We’re calling them raviolis even though the word is already pluralized

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RESCUE 60640 by Megan Carlson

Google Search History (retrieved 11/14/2019)  How to get salt stain out of Uggs How to make friends How to make friends in your 30s 60640 coffee shop  weather Chicago  60640 coffee shop NOT starbucks negative effects of caffeine alternatives to caffeine benefits of chamomile Making friends at coffee shop  how to talk to strangers how to be less awkward  how to be less intense with new people be less intense  be less  am I too much quiz  liquor store 60640 husband distant my husband is distant what do I do emotional connection in relationship emotional connection in relationship importance Instacart

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CHALK by R. J. Patteson

Look at a man’s shoes, would you look? You can tell a lot, they say. People look at your feet and see the left toe of your boot scuffed black and they don’t know that you do it for the wind, man. That you kick the shift up, up, up, man, you kick it. And for what? You say, “The wind, man, I do it for the wind.” And you scare your mother and other people’s mothers when you ride by, and maybe you get too close or you get too loud. They look at their sons through the mirrors

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A VERY SHORT STORY ABOUT TWO (THREE) FORMER FRIENDS by Eli S. Evans

On my fortieth birthday, my old friend A– sent me the following message: “Happy birthday, bro. Mark Fisher summited Everest last week.” As Mark Fisher and I hadn’t been friends for at least twenty years, this news was not meaningful to me except in so far as it provided a measure relative to which all of my own accomplishments in life suddenly appeared quite meager. And on the day of my fortieth birthday, no less! In bitterness, I composed the following reply: “That’s cool, but not as cool as when I summited your mom last night,” and only after not

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FOR A MOMENT by Dixon Speaker

Noelle was a response to Sophia. He learned relationships in a high school science class, each action creating an opposite reaction.  He peeked at the Yankees score while having sex with Sophia and it changed the atomic properties of rooms they shared going forward. Hives appeared on his back like islands of the Solomon Sea and he had to shit in a plastic hat for a month so they could run tests, which came back inconclusive. She hated his friends. He had visions of their wedding in an empty room made of wood. Noelle smelled more than Sophia because she

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UNCLE CHARLIE’S BICYCLE by Rick White

Esther lived in corners. And behind the backs of armchairs. In the black and white shadows cast by the TV which Ma sat in front of all day. Saturday afternoons was wrestling—Ma’s favourite—and the other kids, the other ‘no-hoper-kids’ the ‘wargs of the state’ all gathered round to watch. ‘That’s the Black Bomber,’ Ma would shout. ‘Sergeant Nitro. The Masked Intruder,’ she would shriek and holler from her sunken nicotine throne. Haloed in cigarette smoke—powder blue and sulfurous yellow. Esther was a mark, a low-carder; the perpetual victim of the rowdy, hyped up boys and their fighting ways. Clotheslines, DDT’s,

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ANTS by Mary Mattingly

There’s an ant infestation in my bathroom. They are relentless. Everyday, more squirming black dots swarm the sink, the countertops. Me, I’m fearless. I launch attacks on them with a safe-for-pets Ant and Roach Killer spray, twisting the green cap counterclockwise to cock it, holding it close to the sink to use the pesticide since at some point, the useless aluminum bottle broke and it no longer sprays confidently, just reluctantly pisses spray out. Still, it’s satisfying to watch the ants slow as the chemicals hit them. They drown in poisonous pools. I work methodically, chasing them to their home

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THE FULL LENGTH OF THE WALL by Darren Nuzzo and Toddy Smith

I watched him do it—down there in the alley beside our house. “Up to no good,” my wife said. “Can you handle it, Sam?” she asked of me. “I’ll handle it,” I told her. But I just watched. I watched this tall man from our bedroom window standing in the alley, near our things, near my wife’s car she’s almost paid off, near the flowers finally blooming from finger-painted pots, near my daughter’s purple tricycle we won in a raffle just last week, near all the things a husband is supposed to protect. I opened the window and leaned my

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IN A SMALL TOWN (CALLED AMERICA) by Christian Fennell

It’s getting worse, and Jake finished his beer, and together they listened to the rain on the tin roof of the drive-shed; the receptiveness of its falling; the comfort within its echoing.  Things are lookin up, said Jake.  Damn straight, said Jared.  I mean, now that things are great again, things are lookin up, and Jake stood and walked to the fridge and grabbed two more beers. He passed one to Jared and sat back down on the block of cracked white oak. He took a sip and looked at Jared. I went and saw the doc. Oh?  Said I’m

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JAKE’S DÉTOURNEMENT by Ben Robinson

The concrete slab lies resting at the centre of a clear perspex bowl that had until just now been full to the brim of cake mixture, a potential Victoria sponge whose life is suddenly cut short. As of mere seconds ago, the sugar, eggs, flour, and butter are splattered all over the tabletop and kitchen walls, the encounter played out in a split second flash of joyous rage and violence. The boy’s name is Jake. He was raised in an all-female household with four elder sisters whose relationship with him could best be described as fractious. Ever teased and chided

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ONE DRUNKEN M. LEVAR IN RELATION TO SMALL GROUP by Scott Malone

 To ease elaborations, an assumption will be made for the reader. That, from sober perspectives, stupor-induced antics most commonly associated with alcoholics are the chaotic, frenzied movements of temporarily broken brains; they contain zero scientific insights. This case intends to show Academia why the understanding is incorrect. And that, under objective lenses of scientific method and reason, significant behavioral patterns emerge in those chronically inebriated.  Like moths to light, Drunks are attracted to groups of people. More so, if the group is standing. A strange phenomenon—especially considering a Drunk’s near-constant lack of balance—that’s generated a sort of mythos-cult following in

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ANOTHER ROAD TRIP STORY by DS Levy

Two months ago, after flirting with a handsome Ojibwa who poured stiff Margaritinas, Fonda tottered over to the slots and maxed out her credit card, setting her back two grand. Which is why, heading south on I-31 after an afternoon wine-tasting in Traverse City, I’m surprised when she tells us from the back seat that her inner voice just whispered: Twenty bucks will move your spirit toward prosperity. Since her heart bypass last year, Fonda’s been on speaking terms with her gut. “You know that ‘feeling?’” she says. “Well, I’m finally listening.”  “Did your gut mention how long you’ll have

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FISH GHOST by Kevin Richard White

My sister spoke of a fish ghost that occupies a nearby river. She raised her voice as if her sentences had a weight. But in reality, she’s timid. “It has bones and fins,” she said, “but it is poor at cutting through the water.” “Amanda,” I said as she swayed, a wind tearing through my hoodie that she always wore. “Something like an urban monster.” Her eyes widened.  “Legend, you mean.” “Whatever.” It’s possible she’s correct. There’s always been rumblings from neighbors and lifers that there’s a creature existing in our milieu. Cameras mysteriously break when one gets close to

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WE COULD BE ANYONE by Alicia Bones

I knew I should feel sympathy for Laura, but her fire-bright face in the Abernathy-Smythe backyard unsettled me. She was telling me the details of her life, the really private, personal ones, though we’d only met a few times at parties hosted by shared acquaintances. “My father is a drunk, and my mother is sociopath,” Laura said, staring off into the fire.   Jesus Christ, was all I could think as I twisted up my fingers. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t even think of what I should say. I was well-adjusted, a truth about myself that had bothered me

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SENIORS ON THE MOVE by Mike Itaya

I’m Old Boy.  In the assisted living, they give me the journal, for a doodling. I write camphor, cancer. Camphor, cancer. I don’t give a shit. I’m Old Boy.  It’s Tuesday. And right off, things go bad. Somebody swiped Rundy’s anxiety candle.  “Who’s fucking with my aromatherapy?” He wants to know.  I used to drink. I don’t have the mind for it. My back’s fucked. I sleep out in the banquet hall, like a plank, waiting on them lunch ladies. I flash peepers and spot Rundy beneath the salad bar—guzzling stuff—working up to frenzy. He monograms his onesie with ranch

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DEADBOLT by Kami Westhoff

In her dreams, she can walk. She unclips the cord that connects her to the Emergency switch, swings her bloated-log legs from the bed until her feet find her one-in-a-million prints in her purple slippers. Though it’s been over a year since she’s stood unassisted, her legs neither quake nor collapse. Her wheelchair sits next to her nightstand, a foam donut pillow the color of bile positioned just-right by her caregiver. She thrusts her foot forward. It meets the earth as though it’s the ice she and her first husband carved into arcs and spirals, tufts of ice fluffing the

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CUL-DE-SAC by Christopher Linforth

In the backyard, firecrackers fizz in our hands. We dare each other to throw first. We draw the firecrackers to our mouths, chomp on them like cigars. Watch the fuses burn. Blue smoke drifts up our noses, down our throats. We hold the smoke inside of us, blackening our lungs, exhaling when we feel sick. Then we hear the gruff voice of our neighbor and the bark of his dog. He threatens to call our parents, CPS, the police. As we withdraw the firecrackers from our mouths, they bang. Fine gray powder coats our still-intact fingers. We laugh and throw

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MANDALA by Vallie Lynn Watson

He always walked me to my car when I left his house after sex, so stealing his albums was tricky. Not stealing. Borrowing. I started in month two, initially one album at a time, always only the record itself. He’d have to excuse himself to the restroom five or six times an evening, and I’d barefoot across his new carpet to just outside his bedroom, where the shelves began. I would slip an album out of the cover and into my messenger bag, take them home until our next engagement—he usually asked me back within a week—and after sex, put

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IRENE by Sarah MW

“Fancy a bite of my banana, Miss?” Teenage faces have a soft bluntness to them, a button-like quality as they wait to be chiseled out to their full adult contour. Joe’s face was the same, though unlike the others it sported a uniquely impressive beard, far from usual in a fifteen-year-old. He was grisly and monstrous; I heard he’d fucked his way through most of the pretty girls in year ten and eleven. Simpering, gum-chewing girls with clotted mascara and deep-set insecurities. He swung back, all too pleased with himself in his plastic chair, forcibly recumbent, legs wide like a

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ALL THE THINGS WE’LL NEVER HAVE by Christopher DeWan

I remember, there was going to be a birthday party for Michael. He was turning ten. Michael was always interrupting, saying things that weren’t funny or important, because he couldn’t stand not being the center of attention. My mom said it was because he didn’t have a dad. But Michael’s party meant I could go to the toy store to buy something I wanted, even if I would have to give it away. And the party would be a chance to see Karen. Karen was older and maybe that’s why she didn’t suffer so much from not having a dad.

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FERN by Abigail Stewart

He opened the box and immediately his face fell. The shoes were not only, clearly, the wrong size, but the wrong color. If Marcus were in fact a small child with a penchant for neon, they would be perfect, but he needed something staid and professional for work, a muted black, like the ones he’d ordered. He sighed, anticipating the personal inconvenience of someone else’s mistake. The website he’d ordered them from was a huge multi-billion dollar online outlet mall, part of the corporation, where everything was cheaper, delivery was quick, but you had to account for a quantity of

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MY TORNADO by Joshua Bohnsack

While I could reach outside my tornado, it was still difficult to hug my date at the end of the night. He never asked me specifically about the tornado, but he did keep asking if I was okay. I said, “Yeah. Sure. Thanks for asking,” and knocked the saltshaker over.  He took a pinch of salt and threw it over his left shoulder. “For good luck. It fixes it.”  “Ah.” I tried to do the same, but the salt grains got stuck in my tornado and I became reminded of my failure every few seconds, when the salt would wrap

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THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED by Sandra Arnold

We called him the Music Man because while he cleaned the headstones he liked singing along to the opera playing on his radio. Sometimes he threw his head back and let his voice soar to the sky, scattering the crows. His singing was so beautiful it softened the fears that lay hard in my heart. It brought Nettle close to tears and closer to remembering. Even Stuck Boy stopped his monologues long enough to listen. The three of us loved watching him at work though he rarely spoke to us except to tell us to bugger off if we got

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A HOME by Sasha Tandlich

Don’t look at me. Don’t look at me! She covers her face. There’s nobody there but the cat. The cat yells, jumps at something. See, it’s not just the cat. There are also the ants crawling in a line, stampeding through the too-big crack under the front door. She leans forward. Creak. The chair moves with her, rocking forward as rocking chairs do. This chair didn’t always live here. No. She didn’t always live here, either. There was the house with the porch. The house with the porch and the rocking chair being pushed forward and back by the wind.

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SEVEN IS A HOLY NUMBER by Jen Julian

And yes, that is how many children she has, and I’m talking of course about Mrs. Goth, who every year selects one of her children to be her favorite in a ceremony she performs for us: a blessed clique of friends and neighbors. She lines the children up on the lawn in white folding chairs, and we like to watch their faces brighten with tension, their shoulders rigid, and we like the springy carnal heat of late June, which makes us feel pagan. Mrs. Goth is not intentionally pagan. The truth is, she schedules the ceremony while her husband is

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JUMP by Neil McDonald

Arlene had felt like a criminal the first time. You’re thirty-seven, she thought to herself.   Don’t remind me, she’d say in jest, whenever her age came up in conversation. But here she was again, sneaking into the back yard in the dark. The first time she had done it on a whim, its strangeness a thrill in itself. It gave her a rush that was illicit, maybe? She wasn’t sure if that was the word. Now it was almost second nature, though she might still freeze a moment before beginning, not sure whether anyone could see her, wondering if there

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RIGHT BEFORE WE FALL APART by Elizabeth Crowder

We sit in cooling sand. You reach out a gritty palm. I don’t move closer. Eight years ago, on this same stretch of beach, with our swelling son arching your back like a comma, we vowed to love each other forever.  “Let’s play a game.” You twist kinky hair around a dark brown finger. The last game we played was at your parents’ Christmas party. There, in your three-bedroom, one-bathroom childhood home with the red door, you unclenched. Your voice became salty and slippery, an oyster shucked from its shell. You loosened, darkened, said the n-word with a soft “er.”

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THE PAIN WE DON’T TALK ABOUT by Amina Frances

I was six years old when my mother strapped me into the buggy of her bicycle and steered us both into oncoming traffic on the stretch of road behind the Mulberry Street house. A teen driver swerved and clipped us at fifteen miles an hour. I’ve had a raging pain at the center of my back ever since.  My father wrote off the accident as another one of my mother’s spells—silly little things—as if they were nothing more than temporary lapses in judgement. Maybe they were. Then again, maybe they weren’t. My Aunt May always said the woman had a

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AT HOME WITH THE MARTINIS by Joel Allegretti

4 p.m., Sunday, July 16, 1978 The white house with the gray trim at 33 Harper Road is the home of Elizabeth and Edward Martini. They were newlyweds when they moved to East Bedford, a Central New Jersey township, in 1957. They are both forty-four years old. Liz Martini, née Sprezzante, is a homemaker. Ed is an attorney in private practice. Liz is an accomplished cook. She makes homemade pasta. Last week, her skilled hands produced two pounds of pappardelle. Ed likes to work outdoors. He planted the juniper bushes on either end of the driveway and the impatiens and

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THE CLOCKMAKER by Lucy Zhang

Far away—further than the deli store only frequented by the patrolling police officer and a few custodians, further than the farm with three cows and a horse and several chickens guarded from preying hawks by a fishing line ceiling, further than the white oak tree and its branches striking outward, and certainly much further than the borders of the city—is a cottage. Planks of wood bar the windows shut; mold creeps across the brick walls; pipes wind down from the roof to the ground, and the sound of water dripping on metal beats steadily to the murmurs of wind against

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TWO TIMES BELOW by Ben Segal

For once I was leaving well enough alone. The rain was harder than average. My sweater was coming apart at the sleeves. This was when I was officed by the Pacific and could walk in the waves during lunch. This was when my colleagues wondered at the afternoon damp at my ankles, at the slight briny scent that came from below my desk. I placed a huge jellyfish over my head. It slipped on wet against my scalp and face and dangled plant-like to the edge of my collarbone. I thought of words like tendril and vine. My bald patch

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EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNT FROM THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND by Rick White

1 The vicar is an old friend of your mother. You don’t like him. When I ask why you say, “He didn’t give me an orange when I was little.” The orange represents the world; the candle is Jesus, “The Light of the World.” The toothpicks with sweets on them are the four seasons (of course). I have so many questions but I don’t ask, lest I burst into flames. “I like the liquorice all-sorts,” you say, as you pop one in your mouth.  2 I’ve always had a stutter, though I’ve learnt to control it over time. Whenever I

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GHOST by Alexandra M. Matthews

I rode the roller coasters again today. I called out sick from work, ate a small breakfast. I pulled my hair back in a tight braid so it wouldn’t whip me in the face on sharp turns. The park was empty. As long as I didn’t faint or vomit, there was no limit on how many times I could ride the same roller coaster. I nodded to the attendants and they sent me around once more. My grandfather used to say that roller coasters jumble the insides, cause nose bleeds. Enough scrambling and a person would come off the ride

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BEACH HOUSE by Jenny Stalter

Our house faces neither east nor west and sits in shadow. The tiny green house with the too much wicker. The tinted glass dishes full of seashells and tapestries accented with smooth beach glass. Oil paintings of seagulls. Mom really went for the beach look. Most people acquire a life over a lifetime, but it’s like she stopped in 1986. Stopped making a home, stopped making herself. The house smells like sour sweat and coconut rum. Mom, drunk on the couch as a permanent fixture, her robe hanging off the sofa, mouth open. I place a pillow under her head

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BABY DINGO by Emily Harrison

Boy finds Baby Dingo in the swell of the high noon heat. He waits for any signs of Adult Dingo, adjusting the too-big-for-his-head trucker cap. At home, Grandad is snoring heavy on the sofa.  Boy likes to wander off on weekends.  He wants to be a great adventurer.  Maybe today he is.  He checks his watch, surveys the dust bowl surroundings. The nowhere town below. Baby Dingo clambers across Boy’s lap and pushes its nose into the sweaty creases of his knees and armpits, licking the salt. There is no sign of Adult Dingo.  Boy pulls Baby Dingo up and

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THE MOON GOES ON by Lydia Copeland Gwyn

The tea warms through the paper cup and through my gloves. A tiny island of pleasure in the winter air outside my car. My head is still reeling with the conversations of the night. Friends from upstate New York, who drove here in their Prius. Their gentleman toddler who sat in the backseat through miles of I-81 without one solitary meltdown. The straw-bale guest house they want to construct next summer, where we can all stay when we visit. We being any friend who wishes to make the 12-hour drive. I can’t help but look up because the trees are

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I FIRST MET ZAC SMITH IN A BARN by Giacomo Pope

I was 250 miles from the nearest streetlight, and my shoes were covered in horse shit. In the centre of the barn was this dude standing on the stacked hay. He was foaming at the mouth and shouting at overfed livestock. Zac was watching these chickens try to kill each other and they were making all this noise, but over the top of it, you could still hear the poems crashing against cracked red paint.  The chickens were the stuntmen from Die Hard, and I was reaching into popcorn between my legs. I was sweating. The bigger chicken was digging its face into

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PROBLEM CHILD by Ellen Huang

Ariel often got in trouble for trying to escape. That was how he saw it, anyway. He spent much of his time enigmatically testing the limits of his body, such as a current frustrating inability to become liquid. “If cats can do it, why can’t I?” he’d grumble. He’d try to vanish into the air but trip over balls of yarn left around the house. He was losing the skill of leaving his body. He was losing memory of transcendent experience fast.  They considered him distracted. His eyes were often elsewhere, in a different time and place, some good old

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SUBFLOOR by Jason Fox

Your refrigerator is yawning. It spills an egg-yellow rectangle on the floor. A ticking clock somewhere beyond. Then the fridge door closes and seals itself with a magnetic kiss. Plum dawn darkness washes in. You barefoot-shuffle through a current of cold air. Past your trash can and over some spilled coffee grounds that stick to your feet. It starts in this good morning darkness. First, a warmth coming from below the floorboards. Not possible. This carriage house, which is more a renovated barn, was built in 1880. It has only earth beneath the floors. No basement, no crawl space, just

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MY PERSONAL BRAND by Matt Leibel

My personal brand is integrity. My personal brand is fresh, innovative thinking, and a commitment to excellence. My personal brand sets me apart, in the sense that many people refuse to stand within 50 feet of me, as if my personal brand stinks or something; my personal brand does not stink. If anything, my personal brand exudes a fresh, clean scent, evocative of wintergreen, or a cool spring breeze. My personal brand does not harm the skin. My personal brand contains no known carcinogens and has been extensively tested on laboratory rats. Unfortunately, one of the rats has recently escaped

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DEMOLITION DEMOLITION by Brett Stuckel

Saturday night, nine to ten to eleven. None of us had asked the skyscraper if it wanted a last meal, but I picked up a cheesesteak and a tall boy of Steel Reserve. I placed the cheesesteak on the altar of the abandoned security desk, poured all sixteen ounces on the mahogany. A steelmaker had built the tower as its headquarters but the company collapsed soon after. Not the skyscraper. It stood defiant, asbestos in its guts. My watch clicked over to Sunday and the countdown sharpened. Our crew of eight buzzed with the energy of the impending blast. The

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THE CORRECT HANGING OF GAME BIRDS by Rosie Garland

Rostrum  Select old, wild birds. Beware harsh beaks, horned spurs, claws toughened by years of defiance. Pierce the beak. Hang by the neck, the feet. Each man has his taste. Hook and hang them long enough to conquer disobedience. Pectoral girdle Keep them in the dark. Convert the cellar into a hanging room: a stamped dirt floor to absorb the moisture they shrug off, dense walls to absorb sound. Keep your birds separate. Even when dead, their warmth communicates from breast to breast, stirring discord. Syrinx  Permit yourself the luxury of appreciation. This bird is yours, now. Dawdle on the

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FOREVER by Jennifer London

Clara sat on the edge of the tub, smoothing the hem of her dress compulsively. Forever was an awfully long time, she thought. Forever was endless, sprawling, impossible. It was unnatural and unlikely. But maybe. Perhaps. Forever could be parties and dinners and clinking wine glasses. It could be laughter and snuggles and warm touches in the dark. For a moment the murmur of voices outside the bathroom door didn’t sound quite so ominous. But a memory came to her, as sudden and sharp as a slap in the face: her mother and father shouting at each other, a spray

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ENERGY FROM LIVING THINGS by Laura Eppinger

I examine the head of lettuce because he tells me to, but I don’t know what he wants me to see. Broad romaine leaves the color of spring rest outside his canvas shopping bag, sure. Just a few minutes ago, John shouted at me for putting my slicker on the wrong hanger in his coat closet, or through the wrong loop inside the jacket. It’s hard to keep track, since I needed to kick my muddy boots off before stepping through the front door. I thought I was following all the rules, but I missed another one, and this time

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I DIDN’T MEAN TO WRITE THIS. by Susan Rukeyser

I meant to write about young environmental activist Greta Thunberg and her impact, how she was received on her recent visit to the US. I loved how uncomfortable Greta made the “grown-ups,” including me. I was dismayed and unsurprised by the sexism chucked at her like crumpled, plastic water bottles: How dare she not smile?  But Greta’s visit coincided with the final stages of my divorce, and—perhaps you understand?—in that tender time, everything was metaphor.  ~ I read about a funeral held for a 700-year-old Icelandic glacier which had melted to the point that it could no longer move. It

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MURMURATION by Daniel Fraser

Chip Disco hated chips, and disco. He only ever danced alone. Chip worked the skeletons in the Blackpool Ghost House and had done for three years. Four rooms in, the skeletons crept out from a false cupboard that looked like it wasn’t part of the house at all. Everyone said it was the best bit.   The timing was everything; the timing was Chip’s special skill. Just when the customers thought they were safe, after fleeing from the slime pit and the array of plastic bats, Chip would catch them unawares. A camera hidden in a pumpkin took a picture of

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GIRLHOOD by Jodi Aleshire

A body washes ashore in the recommended section of my Spotify podcast radar. This isn’t the first or the fifth or the third time it’s happened and I’ve long since lost track of the tallies meant to keep them in check. Their faces have become nothing more than the black censored bars used with relish by shitty live television and their bodies, marionette pieces, hocks of meat articulated in a mockery of form. The podcast entices me to listen—a flashy title, a well-made header, a snappy byline—offer a glimpse into an abjection of innocence, voyeurism without the guilty intent. They

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LENA by Divya Iyer

I want this to be honest in a way that makes empires shake. I need to text Lena back, and if I do text Lena back with the right words, the ones that hum and whimper and shake and do not cajole (under any circumstances), I know what I would say. The crux of it is that, no, I wasn’t crucified and, yeah, I can’t tell sparkling water from holy water. I would tell Lena about the way loneliness grew inside me, a big sprawling thing, reaching inside for empty spaces, seeping in like ink on blotting paper, like all

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THE PUDDLE BOYS AT NIGHT by Hadiyyah Kuma

Though dripping a little, the puddle boys are no longer melting. It is late nighttime. They don’t have to sleep because there is nowhere they have to be for now. They hope they never have to sleep again, but of course this is idealistic. The puddle boys know this too, but it is nice to ignore, it is nice to be fully conscious and in love. Crossing the street is the best excuse for holding hands. Cars echo away from them; some move through and splash people’s face. Everyone forgives them. The puddle boys’ backs become green then red. Their

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THE BIRD by Mary Widdicks

There’s mud between my toes. Slimy, sticky, and covering the chipped pink polish that now decorates only the tips of my big toenails. It’ll be gone the next time Mom cuts them. The ground is hot even though the sun is starting to duck behind the trees, and I can’t stand still for very long or it burns the bottoms of my feet. I hop from grass patch to molehill along the side of the road, avoiding gravel and broken glass like a game of hopscotch, and trying desperately not to spill the water from the bucket dangling from my

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OUR LADY ENTERS THE CITY [IN THREE ATTEMPTS] by Sarah Arantza Amador

1. The caravel moaned as it crept up the wide, drowsy river mouth, and it was met at the city limits by crowds of urchins, prostitutes, and thieves in the early dawn. The city’s soldiers dropped the corroded chain between the twin fortresses on either bank of the river, and the caravel continued its lumbering penetration of the city. The boat finally pulled into port just as the bursars were roused from their beds, brought jostling through the crowds to meet the returning fleet. Down the gangplank came the parade of the king’s bedraggled men, the king’s bags of raw

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EVENTUALLY NOTHING’S COMING BACK by Gabrielle Griffis

First they converted five-thousand year-round homes into summer rentals.  The number of Airbnbs and zoning regulations filled the ponds with nitrogen and cyanobacteria, stuff that evolved 2.7 billion years ago. You stare at a sign that says keep kids away from scum. You think, something is desperately wrong, but folks just shrug, elated that the remaining ponds are six degrees hotter.  A woman in a bathing suit reads the same sign. “I’m glad I won’t be around to see what happens!” she says, snapping swimming goggles over hair the color of spider silk. She details her upcoming trip to a coral

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CRACKED by Nick Farriella

Someone who was once very famous, but not so much anymore, said, “Every whole person has ambitions, initiatives, goals,” about a boy who was very particular and wanted to press his lips to every square inch of his own body. This is not about said boy, but a different boy, a peculiar boy who had never read that story and whose goal was to crack every joint, every ligament, every air pocket and poppable piece of cartilage in his body. The boy was seven. The origins of this habit, to which he simply called “Cracking” were unknown to him, but

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EGGS by Emma Howard

I’m just going to write stream of consciousness  I don’t like women I admire I’m scared of them I’m scared I’ll never be like them and I’ll always laugh at every joke and be afraid of feeling angry and letting people know every time I was angry I ate a lot of something really salty or really sweet and kept the wrappers in my bag so roommates wouldn’t see them in the trash can  I remove them at irregular intervals, when I’m in public by a trash can and I don’t know anybody there I move to a new one for

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PETS: AN ANTHOLOGY edited by Jordan Castro (Review by Matthew Boyarsky)

Pets: An AnthologyEdited by Jordan CastroReview by Matt Boyarsky I’ve been bitten by a dog exactly once. The dog’s name was Nelly. She jumped on me in what I thought to be a gesture of playfulness before she tore into my forearm.  Nelly’s owner screamed. How could someone so good at making her happy do something horrible? “Do you need help?” she asked. I told her I was okay, that the dog was just doing her job. A dumb thing to say. The owner seemed the type of person to have her animals up to date on their shots, and

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A CIRCULAR SCAR by Shannon St. Hilaire

A guy I dated briefly once asked about my mother of pearl ring. Everyone knows a ring has a story.  “I won’t tell you,” I said before I could stop myself. Then I corrected, saying I bought it off Etsy, but it was too late. I would never tell him the story of my ring, because to know and understand my ring was to know and understand me. If I told someone about my rings, about this ring in particular, it would signal to me that I trusted them, and they trusted me, too. And I had no interest in

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SNOWBANK by Frances Badgett

The night comes on so quietly, a hush riding each flake to the ground. The snowman slumps against the brambles, overwhelmed, the new snow wet, heavy. The quiet is unsettling, and all Mara can hear is the hiss of tinnitus in her left ear. She pops in headphones and listens to a meditation, the brain’s static between the breaths. The pressure of trying to relax wakes her up, agitates her. Paul’s on the porch, muffled thumps and the creak of the front door. She opens her iPad and checks to see the constellation overhead. Hydra, a favorite of hers from

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WHAT IT HAD IN ITS MOUTH by Arielle Burgdorf

What can make viewing it so memorable is the fact that as each day passes, the rock changes colour depending on the light and atmospheric conditions, and never remains the exact same permanent hue.   Red, the only color that stays with you. A massive red rock, rising out of a grassy field. Sun warming the stone, casting shadows in the crevices. The golden, reddish-brown fur of a wild dog peeking out from behind a bush. And the final red, rusty, dark splattered all over the white jumper. A baby, missing from the jumper. The same question, on yours and

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A GROCERY LIST FOR A SAND DUNE by K Chiucarello

The grains could never contain me. I had always been a shape-shifting blurry little thing packed tall behind foundation slabs, their windows blown out with the shutters ringing loose, paint chipping off the front tooth. When the coastline birthed me, I was a miracle of wonder: pretty as a Cadillac slicked straight, my mother said. Daughters of the fishermen ran atop me, ribbons rippling in the breeze, pairs of feet driving down towards my candied belly, full of a momentum that had me wanting the snow. I explained by long way of lecture to the hills what it was like

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VIEWS LIKE WHITE ELEPHANTS by Frank Jackson

The couple found a spot on a beach with no one in front of them. Sunset was an hour away. She pulled out her phone and scanned the view. He grabbed a couple of beers, opened his own and started chugging.  “Hey Babe, how’s it looking?” “Oh my God, it’s going to be perfect.” “A gorgeous sunset post at the end of summer. I can feel it — this one’s gonna blow up for me.” “Well I was going to post it on my feed.” “Well we can’t both post the same picture at the same location. People will know

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THE HANDS REMEMBER by Andrea Rinard

I sit on the bench outside Publix. A little boy ran by me in light-up sneakers when I was almost, almost, almost to the door, and suddenly I could hear Caleb’s feet, encased like two meat loaves in the shoes I got him before he started K-3, drumming against the cart. He was so careful not to kick me after that one time–Don’t hurt Mommy!  I’d had to let go of the cart and sit down because everything was narrowing down to a tunnel with Caleb at the other end. I tried to count my breaths, and I told Tom

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LITTLE DISTRACTIONS by Sherry Morris

Maybe because I’m bored, I agree to see Barry’s fish tank. I’d just returned from three months in Europe where travelling with a circus through France or catching live octopus to grill for lunch while house-sitting on a Spanish island was just how some weeks played out.  I was back in Waynesville now, broke, regretting I’d come back too late to start the autumn term at the state university. The main attraction in Waynesville was the Walmart Super Center, which had never been that super. My dad knew somebody who knew somebody who could get me on at the cake-mix

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DCUQ ANGRUQ by Hugh Behm-Steinberg

A discussion in one of my classes, about metafiction, memory and torment, led me to bring up Chuck Jones’s classic cartoon, Duck Amuck. None of my students had heard of it, but that’s typical: they’re students. Still, before showing it in my next class I wanted to see the actual cartoon and not just rely on what I remembered when I first saw it as a kid. I mean who didn’t love the scene where Marvin the Martian takes Daffy aboard his flying saucer so that none of Bugs Bunny’s disintegrator blasts would ever singe his black feathers again?   But

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ALWAYS AND ONLY JUST ALMOST by Felicia Rosemary Urso

Strangers came by to give you gifts: a fresh fish on ice in a styrofoam cooler, metal frying pans, a machete, two bottles of rum, a bunch of bananas the size of my torso. At night, we played gin rummy, shared liters of Kava and waited for a full moon. In the daylight, you showed me the jungle and explained every root or plant I could use for sunscreen or gelatin shampoo. I woke up picking my scabs, legs stuck to the leather couch on your porch. Nineteen and sick for you. You were two hours late when you pulled

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PISS SHORTS by Doug Ross

Kyle got his piss shorts ready. They were his last pair, he would have to wear jeans for rafting. He took the bag that held his snacks. Dumped them onto his sleeping bag. Stuffed the shorts in. He couldn’t do knots so he spun it until the handles wrapped around themselves.  He left the tent, looked outside. The timing was right. The boys had eaten breakfast. They were all watching smoke on the one mounted TV, listening to the teachers talk about how they would get home now, if they would need buses.  Kyle walked away from the campground and

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CRY BUG by Gregg Wiliard

CRYBUG!!! CRYBUG SAY WE IN DANGER AGAIN!!! CRYBUG SPEAK FOR WHITE RACE PEOPLE, ‘CAUSE THEY IN DANGER AGAIN!!! CRYBUG CRY, WE IN DANGER AGAIN!!!! AGAIN!!!!!! CRYBUG GOT HOT BLACK TEARS AND SUCK CUP FEET!!!!! CRYBUG CRY, WHITE PEEPS, WE IN DANGER AGAIN!!!!!!! HOT BLACK TEARS CRY COLD WHITE FEARS, SAY, WE IN DANGER, AGAIN!!!!!! CRYBUG LIKE PAUL REVERE, ONLY WITH SUCK CUP FEET TO STICK TO CEILING UPSIDE DOWN! THIS ALLOW HOT BLACK TEARS TO FALL INTO BEER IN SPORTSBAR ALL OVER AMERICA!!!!! ALL OVER AMERICA, BEER TURN BLACK WITH CRYBUG TEARS!!!!! WHITE PEEPS, WE IN DANGER AGAIN!!!!!!!!

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COLLABORATION by Parker Young

I was writing a fantastic tale about two little sheep who have nowhere to go but up. The main question that animates the whole story is, will the sheep go up? It seems that they should—they have no reason not to. Certainly, they can’t go any further down. We all have limits.  Anyway, that was the story I was writing, and the writing was going quite well until my wife began changing the words of the story at night, when I wasn’t looking. I’ve got no proof, of course, it’s only a feeling I have, but a strong one. For

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LAST WORDS by Jayne Martin

There’s usually two of us, but it’s Christmas Eve and I got nowhere to be. Anyway, she’s just a little bit of a thing, barely 90 pounds from the looks of her. I can roll her onto the gurney.  The Super found her after complaints about the smell. I don’t smell nothing no more. Fucking freezing in here.  “No rent. No heat,” he said. Asshole should be charged with murder. But who’s gonna complain?  Place is neat as a pin. Something my mom used to always say. Neat as a pin. Still don’t know what that means. Mom would have

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