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THE BEEP by Jason Schwartzman

I am his tutor and he is trying to tell me about an unknown variable. About X. But he has forgotten that it’s called X.  “The mysterious thing,” he says, laughing.  I love him for this. I will tell everyone I know about the mysterious thing.  During one session we’re in his apartment and I hear a beep. Just one beep. The microwave, probably.  “I’m really sorry,” he tells me, tensing up.   Sorry for what? It feels like I’m missing something.  “Totally fine!”  On the walk home I wonder why he was so on edge. Then I forget about it,

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AFTER SWITCHING ANTIDEPRESSANTS, THE NIGHT STRETCHES by Matthew Mastricova

After switching antidepressants, the night stretches over his body as he lies next to you in bed, thinking about dying again, even though he would never tell you that. He would never tell you that for months it has been creeping out his mouth—his death, his parents’ deaths, his students’ deaths, the death (or non-death) that comes in the after death. When he is lucky, he can find an anchor: a pair of your socks balled hidden under the table or a can of apricot La Croix chilled for days. Leftovers of a from-scratch meal you cooked that he packed

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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