YOUR HOUSE ON ZILLOW by Stephanie King

You died on a Wednesday. In the years since, when the anniversary falls on a different day of the week, everything feels off somehow. That dreamy, floaty feeling of a day, like trying to describe what it is to have loved – but not like that – a man who is gone. They say men and women can’t be friends, but it was never a problem.

Now your wife has put the house up for sale. I guess the mortgage was too much to handle on her own. I scroll through the real estate listing like playing the world’s worst first-person shooter game. Click. There’s the accent wall I helped you paint, back before accent walls were passé, the rich maroon color reminds me of your mother’s homemade cranberry sauce on all those Thanksgivings, or Manischewitz at the seders I spent with your family after mine moved away. Click. The nursery I helped fill with absurd baby gifts, retro toys that you already had tattoos of. Click. The rose trellis in the backyard where we snuck out to smoke weed and your wife pretended not to notice, because she didn’t allow smoking in the house, but when we came back in, she had put out a cheese tray or just-microwaved popcorn.

We’d been a pair since you moved down the street from me in the summer of our twelfth year. Our hijinks progressed from slipping salami through the locker slats of our enemies in middle school to the fall break when we were both home from college and took your grandma’s mobility scooter “mountain biking” up on the trails up behind your house. We took nips from a ­­­­­­­­­­pint of Wild Turkey you’d stolen because we weren’t old enough to buy one. We had to push the scooter home after the battery died, laughing so hard we almost pissed our pants. Your grown-up house is all the way on the other side of town. Someday, whoever buys it might discover the Halloween plastic severed foot we hid between studs when we replaced the drywall after a leak in the upstairs bathroom.

The house pictures don’t capture the sound of your laughter, bouncing off the walls. The living room looks staged, not like the place where I spent the night on the sofa whenever I got too drunk or it snowed too much to go home. The guest room doesn’t mention that it’s the room you died in, downstairs because you got too weak to make it up to your own room, the hospice nurses discussing your care in hushed voices in the hallway while we sat around the kitchen table poking at sandwich trays we were too disheartened to eat. I see you everywhere in the house, looking for your shadow lurking behind the ornate standing lamp in the living room or in ceiling corners like a spirit in a horror movie. Now I am your haunted house, everywhere I go.

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DIVORCED by Amy Barnes

A car the size of a house rams our house that’s the size of a house. Thunder from a 1986 Thunderbird shakes me out of my canopy bed to the window to the street. It’s the moment I know my mother is a liar, a big one. She lays there lazy for too long or maybe not long enough, in her satin-sheeted bed and satin-matching lingerie with a man who isn’t her husband or my father. Her lipstick is smeared and our house is too, a brick mouth opened up on one side. When the red lights encircle our house with the car-shaped hole in it, Mama staggers out wearing this not-father-man as a blanket. It’s not enough to hide him or her. The neighborhood sees extra glimpses that should have been kept secret -- breast tops, upper thigh thunder, rumpled bedroom hair. My brother and sister and I all stand in the cul-de-sac all in our night clothes, clothed by midnight, staring at the full moon-shaped hole that has appeared in our house galaxy, stars guiding insurance adjusters and curious neighbors who watch papers float out, folded blowing into the sky. My mother and father’s signatures land in front of our house when the papers settle. We argue over who gets what name or what parent but it’s late and we have school and cold feet so everyone goes back to sleep, except me. I follow the policemen until they find my father a sidewalk away drunk on moon and moonshine next to the battering ram car that we used to take together to the beach and back. The muscle car isn’t parked next to oceanside muscle men anymore, just idling on the curb by a curbed man sobbing into his I went to Virginia Beach and all I got was this t-shirt t-shirt. There are hangers full of my father piled in the back seat next to fast food robe wrappers and receipt pillows and balled-up Kleenex and lawyer lists of divisions of property and parents. I stand by him in bare feet and bare anger, pat his bent shoulders and ask if he needs directions home.

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BABY ON BOARD by Natalie Warther

It’s not a lie. It’s just a sticker. A sticker that says there’s a baby on board, when technically there is not. Can you blame me? You’ve seen how careful people are around a new mother. Otherwise, they are reckless. Besides, people lie about much worse. And there is no sticker that says “Be careful, please, I have a lot of student debt.”

Plus, it’s not like there aren’t important things in my backseat. The screenplay I’m writing about a boy who wants to play major league baseball, for example, and a pile of towels from my mother’s garage.

Why should I want a baby anyway? My sister and her husband had a baby. They sent me a picture in the mail. Everyone looked scared.

Last week there was a whole list of specials at Vons because the 4th of July was coming and people needed beef and various dips. I grabbed my coupons and my grocery bags. On the 1, an SUV to my left matched my speed. We traveled together for too many seconds. I accelerated, but so did the SUV. The driver was looking at me, I could feel it, he was burning holes into my profile. I wanted to tell him to keep his eyes on the road, but our windows were up, and I was trying to keep my eyes on the road.

I sneaked a glance. It was a woman. She was motioning at me to roll down my window, so I did. What else can one do? The freeway blew into our cars. She was shouting at me, we were both pushing 80, she was shouting, “WHERE’S YOUR CAR SEAT?” I got a better look at her. 40s. Three kids in the back. “YOU NEED A CARSEAT FOR YOUR BABY!” The kids were staring at me: their first criminal. This woman is crazy, I thought, and then I remembered the sticker.

“I DON’T HAVE A BABY!” I yelled, but she didn’t hear me over the traffic.

“I’VE GOT YOUR PLATES. I’M CALLING 911.” She passed her purse back to one of the children to get her phone. All of them looked in horror at the pile of towels in the back.

I panicked and shouted louder, “THERE’S NO BABY ON BOARD! I DON’T HAVE A BABY! I DON’T HAVE ANYONE!” She heard me this time.

The SUV accelerated and I switched lanes, tetrising myself deeper into the system of cars who handled me with care. I am a fake mother, and a bad writer, and a common liar, and maybe a fraud, but the freeway forgave me. They made room for me. They indicated before turning and allowed me to merge. The Volvos, the Mazdas, they flanked me, escorting me, and before I knew it, I was where I needed to be, parked in a good spot right by the doors.

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Mr. Chavez stands in front of the classroom and talks about peas. Green peas, yellow peas, wrinkled peas, smooth-as-Mr. Chavez’s-bald head peas. He says when two different varieties are sown together under a blanket of dark, loamy soil, they sometimes yield plants with pods containing green and wrinkled peas or yellow and smooth or maybe they’ll come out the same shade of chartreuse as the faded bridesmaid’s dress hidden in the back of your mother’s closet, the one she wore the night she met your father and got drunk on wild dandelion wine for the first time and conceived you, although she’ll never in a million years say so. You can tell just fine by the way her fingers wrap themselves around the hanger as she keeps shoving it further and further back until it’s pressed tight against the wall.

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THREE MICROS by Evan Jerome Williams


Carl is a cobra with nine eyes. Carl has seven too many eyes, and none of them see well. He has difficulty finding eyeglasses that work for him on account of his extra eyes.

Carl needs eyeglasses to read. He is a scholar studying applied reptilian physics, a discipline primarily concerned with asteroid-detection and trajectory-disruption techniques. Carl needs eyeglasses so he can protect us.

Carl found an eye doctor who used to be a pirate. The eye doctor poked out seven of Carl’s eyes with precise stabbing motions, then made as many eyepatches with equal precision.

Carl looks like a badass. He has the right number of eyes for eyeglasses now. Carl is going to save the world. 


This Is A Threat

I bought an orange sweater at the mall and decided to wear it to my dermatology appointment. Dermatologists study my skin because it is multi-layered, and that is unusual. They want to understand it. When I got there they asked me to take the sweater off. “Please, sir,” they said, “we need to see your layered dermis.” I couldn’t take it off. “I can’t,” I told them, “It’s a new layer of my skin.” I tugged at it. “See?” I said. They walked to the other side of the room to consult their notes. They consulted one another. They all nodded and came back. The dermatologists fanned out around me. “This is a threat,” they said. “Take off your sweater,” they said. “Take off your sweater so we can study you.” They anaesthetized me and peeled it like a sunburn.



Amos is a man I met in a hot tub. Famous. Famous Amos in a hot tub with me. This makes me famous. Amos says so, in the hot tub where we are both famous. Amos has cookie shorts. Chocolate chip, I think, or raisin. Raisin cookie shorts for Mr. Amos in the hot tub.

We are in Hawaii. I can’t remember if I mentioned that. Famous people are more common in places like Hawaii. Maybe I should omit this detail. Or alter it.

Amos is a man I met in a hot tub. Famous. Famous Amos in a hot tub with me. This makes me famous. Amos says so, in the hot tub where we are both famous. Amos has cookie shorts. Chocolate chip, I think, or raisin. Raisin cookie shorts for Mr. Amos in the hot tub.

The hot tub in Arkansas. Arkansas where few famous people are found at leisure. Arkansas, so unfamous as to be infamous for its unfamousness. Mr. Amos and I, famous, in the Arkansan hot tub. “Do you want some cookies?” he asks. “Yes I’d like that,” I answer.

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THREE MICROS by Carolyn Oliver

Sunrise House

In the sunrise house walking on stilts, the snake-filled water rises. It’s Sunday morning. I am old, very old, my joints as conspicuous among my limbs as the lead strips between stained glass. I’ve lost my glasses. It’s not my house, but the house of a friend. You are not so concerned about what kind of friend he is to me because you are fixed on the snakes. They are not venomous, not large, not hungry, and though I have lost my glasses I can see the lovely bands of red and black and gold roiling through the water that slips up against the breakfront, the wicker rocker, the pine sides of the bookshelf. I am still afraid, you know. I’ve lost my glasses. We have been here a long time, well supplied, because no one is coming to save us. No one can catch a house on stilts. The air rushing through the windows is warm, the water—more alive than water ought to be—is cool, it’s a washcloth in the feverous night. I’ve lost my glasses and of course we are not in love and there’s nowhere we should be but here, this Sunday morning in the sunrise house.


Courting Disaster

The trick is to offer the unexpected: a drive to the market, an hour on the lake, saint-like conviction. Avoid ostentatious gifts. Bring fragile tokens: orchids, eggs, joy. He might need some time. While you plan, keep your mind occupied with the long game. Save for the ring. Name your children. And then, when he’s done waiting to happen, maybe tomorrow, or a good year, or some quiet heat-hazed afternoon in your hometown, he’ll accept your proposal. There’s the striking smile, then the settling: his face bland as a sugar cookie, ordinary as summer ice melting before you have a chance to drink.


Cross My Ocean

After we outgrew the hollow circle and the taste for falling together safely, we learned to lock our limbs into lines, face off equal across the blacktop. Bolder than whisperers,

some kid picks, and they call for you—come over, come over—either to break through their arms, bash fingers into fists, slam brick and skim tar, free—or to spring

back between ranks, belly full of ache, claimed.

come over, come over, come over, come over, come over, come over, come over, come

Now schoolyard sharks circle, don’t eat. They turn tender arms and fingers fronds to catch and keep. No one falls. They play until the sea’s all anemone and teeth.

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a multi-level triptych [1] Woodsman's Lint-Licked Pocketsafter Leśnik, the Slavik forest deity [a] Woodsman protects the forest by writing messages into the rocks. Messages in clock talk Woodsman doesn't understand. Messages in dirt. In fur. In bark. Important forest, he writes. Formative forest. Former corner, cornered form. [b] With beard of grass and vine, Woodsman wears skin of reed and tree and string. His stomach is a lake of fish. The torch he carries bares a blue flame. It assists in guiding his moon, in practicing the magic of being alone. Silence hangs like a stranger from his blanketed shawl. [c] Townsfolk knock on Woodsman's door but rarely does Woodsman sing. Hands of shamrocks, hands of stockings, pocketed stones to throw days later. The cave is vacant. They've named it. It pours from within. [2] Witch in Her Cloud Coughs Away from the Town [a] Witch collects an assembly of teeth. Horse, wolf, fox, man, beast. A new pair to wear every day. When night arrives, she returns the teeth to their jars as if to the jaws where once they helped. She closes her eyes. Her mouth like a child's, as soft as cave. [b] Witch lives in a cellar behind the stove and is known to mimic a mouse. She spins thread to honor the dead and climbs back up to her cloud. [c] This is Witch with the horse made of crows. Witch with the most vocal of vocalist ghosts. Her footprints, her claw marks in the bark of the trees. Her bear paces its cage. Her bear is so decorated in circles and still it does not help. [3] Play [a] Witch, Woodsman, Horse and Bear prepare a miniature play. A play on explanation, reads the letters in the bark. A play about town. [b] The stage is the forest. The townsfolk arrive in nines. Everything melts, swells, regenerates, opens. Townsfolk laugh up fully grown townsfolk. Bubbling, festering, elderly births. Woodsman knocks and saws down their horns. From launch to harvest, the moon turns into an orange. Then later a point, then later a skull. [c] Witch grabs with hands of ash. Witch touches trees and touches leaves and touches Woodsman and touches townsfolk and everything is coated in ash and many rush to cleanse but many, too, remain, leaving their stains in place, feeling this charcoal darkness, their feet spread wide like trees.
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I am building a space ark. I have the raw materials to begin. Many can be salvaged from the junkyard, which is the humble throne room of heaven’s inheritors.

Not that I believe in metaphors. We are all best served speaking simply, plainly, and with a cube of bullion under our tongues.

I have collected 130,000 pounds of aluminum rather easily. It took the better part of a century, but I am blessed with dreamless sleep all nights except Sunday, when I drown myself again and again in my indoor jacuzzi until my wife prepares the coffee.

To make a space ark fly, you must affix to its siding the wings of a sizable angel tribe. I was not compelled to do the butchering personally. Thanks be to God, he had them mailed to me first class on dry ice.

God does not need assurance of his own pardoning, but I have it on good authority that angels do not have functional nerve endings.

There is much that displeases God in the world he spawned. Lobsters, for example.

At the stroke of midnight on New Millennium’s Eve, the angel wings will stir with holy motion and the ark will initiate celestial ascent. You and I will not be aboard.

This is well. My children died so many thousands of years ago, and I have begun to move pieces of my home and body into the junkyard. Tomorrow I will move my neck and jacuzzi. I have been promised that my parts will be well used by the needful. You and your friend there are welcome to approach. Come see how easy I am to disassemble.

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SMALL SMALL GOAT OR 羊鬼泡面 by Emily Lu

  1. I was the most vocal opponent of article 94.1, a new hospital by-law permitting employees to outsource labour to ghosts. I wrote to the department head an ostentatious but sincere email defending the sanctity of patient care. They referred me to another committee, started a new subcommittee, requested further submissions of appendices, etc. The next day, I went to find the ghosts.
  1. When I remembered the small small goat, it was a month later. I opened the fridge expecting death. It was standing on a side dish where I last saw it, unaffected by the cold. Its eyes unblinking. My immense relief sat horizontal in my chest, teetering, solid.
  1. I had been blamed immediately for it. All of my roommates believed I had something to do with its appearance.
  1. Easy, there were loads of ghosts around the hospital these days. I found a team on lunchbreak in the east stairwell. Their leader was a resident doctor which was for the best because they all loved to please, even after death. I e-transferred five ghosts to start immediately.
  1. The small small goat’s hair was stuck up on one side, giving it a stormblown appearance. I offered it what I had on hand: antacids and deluxe instant noodles. After 3 minutes, I lowered the small small goat into the as advertised luxurious six-packet soak. The water level came up to its chin.
  1. I no longer responded to email. The ghost team lead visited to discuss extending our contract. I set down the instant noodle cup. The steam curled in front of her.
  1. If this were a Cdrama, the misunderstanding would last at least ten years. If this were a Kdrama, by episode 16 I’d find out I killed her through some prior oversight. If I were the glowing, oily sheen protagonist. If she told me she only consumes redemption arcs in the afterlife, I’d believe her.
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SONATA by Daisuke Shen

For a long time now, all sound has been damp. Wrapped in mildew, white-fleeced, everyone’s voices turned to mist. I am the only one not contained within this quiet—me, who has always wished to be, more so than anyone else; me, the girl who could never stop singing.

I had tried all of the tricks, of course: stuffed my mouth with lagan scrounged from sea beds, weaned off of proteins and greens, hoping to become weaker. Yet the avalanche of notes poured out of my mouth like sludge; my crazed melodies frenetic and pinched as sand fleas.

The silence started two years ago at that strange rehearsal, where a man wearing a blue silk scarf played a piece on the piano outside of M. Franco’s cake shop. None of us had ever seen him before, nor seen a piano that size. We held our breath as he positioned himself on the bench, his fingers stretched and hovering above the keys. Perhaps this was the one we had been waiting for. Because of my incessant singing, I stood toward the back of the audience as I always did. 

He began to play a symphony familiar to all of us, though there was something sinister to it, I realized—he had ripped away its flesh, plunged his fingers into its insides to rearrange the notes. Why did no one else think the mastication of this piece to be sinister? But everyone was amazed, unable to look away. 

Even through my warbling, I heard the piano cry out as the man wrung its felt throat dry; its strained screams contorted in his hands into the softest lavender.

Long after he had strapped the piano onto his back and taken his leave, everyone continued clapping until the world was wrapped in static. Even their bodies became muffled, less opaque, dipping into one another’s on the street.

I, however, absorbed the piano’s grief. If people regarded me with contempt before, they now term me traitor to this town and its silence. I reside in a grey room in a grey building they have built underneath the ground, with just enough light that I can see the pen with which I write this letter, the only comfort that damned sonata that I sing again and again, as if I can be the one to save it.

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