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DUCK, DUCK, OWL by Michelle Ross

The ducks are a pair—Mallards from the pond in the nearby park. Every evening, they claim the shallow end of the swimming pool, float in languid circles. They’re not threatened by the woman watching them from the canvas chair. They don’t even startle when she goes inside the house to pour more prosecco.  The woman is a divorcée—she’s lived alone in this house twelve years. Her grown daughters transplanted thousands of miles away. Boyfriends have spent the night from time to time, but there’s no boyfriend now.   The woman notes the elegant (pompous?) curve of the ducks’ breasts and necks.

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AND WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT by Francine Witte

First time I met my brother, he was a hum in my mother’s swelling belly.  *** When he was 10 and me 14, we’d mock our parents’ arguments. We’d sneak up to the attic. He’d put on Dad’s soggy fedora and kick my bottom hard. When I flinched, he’d say, “hey, that’s how Dad does it.” *** I remember the first dead rabbit. It was the winter it wouldn’t stop raining. Always on the edge of snow, but not. My father scowled at my brother, who was something like 11. “What’d you go and do that for?” He shook the

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THAT GIRL by Sarah Freligh

we used to laugh at, the girl who walked the hallways head-down, cold-shouldered by lockers, who blistered her fingers twisting Kleenex into flowers for homecoming floats the cool girls would ride on, yeah, that girl was nobody we knew until she went missing and then we remembered how in first grade she peed a puddle that spread and smelled of cheese and fish and scattered the class until the janitor showed up with a broom and a pail of red dust, remembered the Show and Tell in fifth grade when she shared the broken glass she’d found on the street

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WE THOUGHT YOU MIGHT LIKE TO KNOW by Jamy Bond

That your mother is dying alone in a room at St. Francis. The stale sighs of a ventilator echo through the hallways, pumping one last moment of life into her over and over and over. There’s a sad sliver of hope in the sound of it, and in the silence that follows.   She forgives the insolence, the years you spent overseas and never called, the sporadic letters full of vacancy, even your cold indifference to her cancer diagnosis. She has mostly forgotten your teenage shenanigans: the time you snuck bourbon into your lunch box and drank it at school, nights

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OUT OF JOINT by Miranda González

Edgar was a man with a peculiar malady. It wasn’t just that he had a voracious appetite for all things internet and a quick temper. No, it was that when he read something online that upset him, his nose became, quite literally, out of joint. Each time he furiously disagreed with a news article or a post from an opinionated relative, the cartilage of his nose would turn ever so slightly—imperceptibly—counter-clockwise. The phenomenon seemed to begin following a particularly distressing piece of journalism about an out-of-state investor buying up his favorite Texas burger joint. (He could never enjoy his patty

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MOMENT by Chad Redden

A little raccoon, more sponsor than mascot, came with the moment, came down the tree. We waited below the tree, Ryan and me. Waited for the racoon that came with the moment, but it was a tall tree, it took some time. For the racoon. For the tree to grow that tall, how many years I cannot speculate. I cannot look at a tree and say how much time it took for a tree to grow. It took some time for the racoon to reach the ground. After a while Ryan had to leave, before the racoon could reach the

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BEFORE THE FATHER/DAUGHTER JAILHOUSE DANCE by Meg Pokrass

1. Before seeing your daddy you wait with the other girls who have criminal daddies and you size them up. Your nose doesn’t hide like theirs does, doesn’t hang down in shame. It dangles smack in the middle of your face like a lifelong promise. You’re proud of your strident, unapologetic nose, the nose you inherited from him. “You all waitin’ to dance with your bad daddies too?” one of the droopy girls says. You aren’t interested in bonding with fools. You wonder if these girls wake up to the sight of a mother pulling crust from her eyes, saying,

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RESTORATION by Myna Chang

Nobody tells her how to remove her father’s blood, how to cleanse the pools and spatters of a life stolen. The county sheriff doesn’t warn her about the stickiness, or how very much of it there is, puddled on the floor between the cash register and the chicken feed. He doesn’t tell her about the crust that will form if she puts off cleaning until the day after the funeral. No one helps her call the professional crime scene cleaners in the city. Their phonebook advertisement mentions special equipment and emotional distance. They promise ‘restoration’ — but she is outside

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MAMÁ’S MORNING by Moisés R. Delgado

Mamá kept her morning in the bathtub. But why a morning, I once asked, why not instead call her moons a night? Or a waxing? Or why not simply call them moons? Without a moon, mamá said, the night would be dark—my moons are anything but dark. But to be a morning, mamá said, wouldn’t you give anything to be a morning—to even be one panel of light? I wish I could have been more like mamá. I know she prayed the same. When she called me her cielo we both knew which sky she meant. On what would be

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RETURN TO PLANET CLOWN by Nathan Hoil

Clowns vomit clown food. Clowns vomit anything dead that they find in the neighbor’s pool. I am looking so sharp I am made out of scissors. I do not remember a happier day.  The lungs in my stomach are hungry for air but I go back in the house and try not to think about all the dead clowns in my yard. Not even my loved ones love me.  “You’re too cute,” I say to a clown moments before they light me on fire.  I always thought I would live to see my own ghost. The horizon is a drug

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