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 it back in its cover, fetch a fresh one. By month three I was exchanging ten at a time, and by month six, eighteen, the most I could carry in my bag. He never mentioned any missing, and he certainly hadn’t noticed the condition I returned them in. He said he’d not played music since the summer, but I was scared that he didn’t want me around for the music. I always made the short drive home in silence.

I missed him, in the in-between. Sometimes there were phone calls, about our day, about our faraway families. He did most of the talking while I painted on his records, repeating dots, lines, and swirls, starting around the center label and fanning out, playing the record backwards, pulling fine-tipped brushes over the surface of the grooved vinyl, until side A was nothing but a kaleidoscope of color. I bought a kid’s turntable and let the B-sides play wavily, lifted by the uneven, dried paint beneath, while I slept.

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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 receiving a response remembered that A–’s mom had just recently died of something unpleasant involving, if I was not mistaken, her colon. Some months later, another old friend, J–, asked me if I’d heard the latest from A–. “No, and I don’t expect to,” I answered, and for the sake of explanation told him exactly the same story I’ve recounted here. When I finished, he was uncharacteristically silent at the other end of the line, at which point it dawned on me that it was actually J–’s mother, and not A–’s, who shortly before my fortieth birthday had died of something unpleasant involving, if I was not mistaken, her colon.  

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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 head out. I cleared my throat to sell it to my wife that I might have it in me to yell, just how a man has it in him to yell. But I just watched. I watched this man spell his name with pee on our red brick wall. He had two hands on it. He moved left to right, knees slightly bent and angled outward so that his jeans wouldn’t drop any further. His long flannel was pulled up and stuffed between his teeth. His hips thrust forward like he was doing the limbo. He shuffled the length of the wall like a number of things that might shuffle the shoreline: a fisherman, a photographer, a lifeguard — no, not just a crab. He traveled a great distance, something I’ve never had to do being given such a short, weak name: Sam. But this guy, he really moved. The full length of the wall, like I’ve said. Two hands on it, like I’ve said. And just like that, it was over. He opened his mouth and let his shirt hang. Pulled up his pants, buckled his belt. He stepped back from the wall. Centered himself in front of his work. Admired it briefly. Pulled out his phone to take a picture. Held the camera sideways, had to. The wall lit up, eleven letters dripping down red bricks: Constantine. Now that’s a name. 

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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 amend and annotate. We talk about politics—TV, movies, books—and our colleagues—

—our spouses.

Or: By 7 p.m., he says, “I just want to go home and sit on my couch.”  

I say, “Me, too.”  

He grins, “You want to be on my couch?”  

And then: half-laughing alarm. “Please forget I just said that.” The word career-ending hovers; I am painfully aware of my own femininity.  But he doesn’t want to stifle the burgeoning… unspoken… whatever, either, so he launches into an anecdote about his runaway mouth. And one or the other of us references a “No touching!” moment from Arrested Development.  


And I shut my door, sometimes; I try to dispel this abysmally adolescent captivation. I tell my private rosary: I’m a mother. A professional. An adult. I adore my husband.  

And I—we—

—chose work rooted in realism. And devoted to the art of the achievable.  

Then I remember we have a meeting to prep.  

Or we have a joint phone call in his office.

And our building has an open-door ethos.

And so I open it again. And I vacillate between self-loathing at becoming such a morally compromised cliché and vapid daydreams that would embarrass a self-aware twelve-year-old.  

He pops his head in the door. And I try, so very hard, to suck in my cheeks.

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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 teacher is twirling with joy at something Lucille Clifton said. “That woman is a loon,” a poet in a wheelchair whispers. Laughing, Jewell watches the poetry teacher teach, but then she sees that the poetry teacher walked out of her apartment that morning and screamed a mean thing because she saw a ticket on her windshield, but then—and this is what tickles Jewell—when she saw that it was only a papery yellow ginkgo leaf, the poetry teacher screamed an even meaner thing. Jewell discovers this moment in the poetry teacher like a crumb in a man’s beard. As the poetry teacher speaks of inspiration and fearlessness and squeezing the muse’s two cheeks, Jewell sees through to the room where both screams started, small as pepper seeds. Jewell’s hand is up. The poetry teacher says, “Yes, you?” Jewell slides down out of her chair and crawls across the carpet toward her. “Here,” she says. “It’s a haiku.” Jewell doesn’t listen to her classmates’ gasps as she peels a leaf from the woman’s shoe. The yellowness turns to orange in her mouth. Then, blue. She can’t laugh while she chews or she’ll puke.  

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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 login
  • Instacart customer service 
  • Instacart login help 
  • what’s my fucking password
  • can tea get you high?
  • can chamomile get you high?
  • household items to get you high
  • is cooking wine the same as regular wine? 
  • amount of alcohol in cooking wine
  • alcoholism quiz
  • drinking in moderation 
  • drinking alone normal
  • do all men have intimacy issues?
  • lonely in my relationship  
  • alone in my relationship 
  • I feel alone
  • finding emotional connection outside relationship 
  • finding emotional connection outside relationship NOT divorce 
  • adoptable dogs 60640 
  • adoptable cats 60640 
  • funny cat videos 
  • depression
  • alternative medicine depression 
  • benefits of lavender
  • can lavender help me 
  • help me
  • help me
  • help me
  • adoptable dogs rescue 60640
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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 bread is piled high in the basket.  The smell is filling up the air between us.  When I look at him again, he has the eyes of a ghost.

My shoulders sink, and I grab a piece of bread.  I bite into it, final and hard, because, frankly, it lets me.

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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 there and a table and a chair. And with caring, and with time, the pie reveals itself.

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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 been about her age if the cancer hadn’t gotten her.

Not much in the fridge. Lettuce, brown and wilting. One of those single-serve cups of ice cream in the freezer. Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. I find a spoon.

“I was a Deadhead,” she says. “Followed them everywhere.” 

I dip the spoon into the ice cream, raise it to my lips. “You don’t mind, do you?”

“Oh heaven’s no. No reason for it to go to waste,” she says. “Sorry to inconvenience you on Christmas Eve. I thought I’d be found before this.”

People who say those that have passed are “dead and gone” don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. 

“Where’s your family?” I ask.

“Why, they’re all around. Just waiting. Don’t you see them?”

The room swells with Christmas music as children sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and dance around a brightly-lit tree. Grownups sip eggnog by a mantel hung with stockings with the names Charlie, Susie, and Mary.

And there in the middle of the room, she stands, looking vibrantly alive, her arms outstretched toward me. “You’re welcome to join us.”

It's not the first time I was made such an offer, and I can’t say I'm not tempted. I toss the empty ice cream container into the garbage and walk over to the lifeless form on the floor. 

“I’ll take good care of you,” I say and gently place the sheet over her unseeing clear blue eyes.

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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 covered. I think about the time we met, how I was bruised and broken, how you flew to my side, hovered around me, your tanned arms winged in a false promise. The reproductive potential of a fruit fly is enormous, and given the chance they can lay five hundred eggs. Your first girlfriend had an abortion, you left your second after you boasted how easy it would be for you to get her pregnant. You tell me this as you lie, limp and damp, and I see your eyes turn red with tears. Soon you’re snoring. You don’t hear me creep away to mop up the smell of me, or move to the window above the bins, where I watch their bags spilling into the car park. Your snores sound like the buzz of five hundred flies surfacing from the fetid food when I leave you in your waste.

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