RELATIONSHIP MONTAGE by Derek Andersen

Just as the conventionally attractive couple locks eyes, igniting a passion that burns with the fury of a thousand supernovas, “I’m a Believer” begins to play. / Cut to a long shot of the conventionally attractive couple skipping through an idyllic meadow, chuckling as they pursue a yellow butterfly. / Cut to the conventionally attractive woman massaging the man’s shoulders as he steps up to a carnival booth. / Cut to the conventionally attractive man ensnaring a bottle and bestowing a massive plush bear upon the woman. / Cut to a crane shot of the conventionally attractive couple breaking out

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LOOK WHERE WE’RE GOING by Anna Vangala Jones

Nina had informed him of the unplanned pregnancy that morning, as casually as she was now asking him to admire her appearance. She spun away from enjoying her reflection in the mirror to face him. She spread her arms and twitched her hips. “How do I look?” Amol observed his light haired, light eyed girlfriend, dressed in an Indian sari and covered in ostentatious gold jewelry, with a mixture of pride and amusement. She looked wonderful and yet wrong at the same time. Like an excited young girl playing dress up. So precious but not real. “You look amazing.” He

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ARMILUSTRIUM by Rebecca Otter

My dad plays chess like a mathematician. Each of his turns stretch on while he contemplates the board from every angle and I forget my grand strategy. To entertain myself in these gaps, I look where his gaze falls. When he mutters to himself, is he frustrated with my playing? Or is that another tactic meant to confuse me further? When he finally chooses one lucky piece with a heavy sigh, how that piece gleams in the TV light as he lifts it—slowly, as he does most things. My dad is okay at defense. But he’s ruthless at offense, felling

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HAVE YOU HEARD THE GOOD NEWS? by Darren DeFrain

In spite of my better judgment, I remain on Facebook for that awkward blurring of my professional, personal, and public lives. In that domain, I recently received a friend request from an older relative. Just a glance at this request and I knew it was the same advance-fee scam I’ve encountered a hundred times over; someone had acquired my relative’s likeness, name, and a few scant details. I decided to take the opportunity to create a reply with two primary goals in mind: 1) wasting the offender’s time and 2) creating a sustained and satisfying narrative arc out of the encounter.

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SARCASTIC MIND JAIL GOES TO A PARTY (W/ TRIPARTITE DENOUMENT) by Sebastian Castillo

“If anyone sees that he can live better on the gallows than at his own table, he would be very foolish not to go and hang himself.” —Baruch Spinoza for Kit Schluter   Another party, and the people who go to them. My former boss, whom I distrust on a fundamental level, invited me to his retirement party held at his vacation home on the coast. He hadn’t used it since the summer. At first, when invited, I said no. I had to wash my hair that night. But later, as so often is the case, I said yes. I

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MICROWAVE OVEN by Estrella del Valle (translated by Toshiya Kamei)

Don’t say my name, don’t say my name, when you know I have died, don’t say my name. -Roque Dalton I don’t know how it happened. I only remember walking in the woods with my strawberry basket. I wanted to pick a lot of strawberries on the way because my grandmother likes homemade cakes. She used to make them before she bought her house and had to spend many hours outside. She made them with egg white foams. The secret is to beat yolks and butter well, first yolks, then butter, and whip it for a long time, pour in

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THE GHOST OF 623 LAMPLIGHTER SQUARE by Alex S. French

“Good morning,” she says, coffee buzzing in her grip. “How’s it going,” Mike states, doesn’t ask. “Living the dream,” Dave quips. Sarcastic? Who can tell. “Do anything interesting over the weekend?” she tries. Mike staggers to the bathroom. Door thud her only reply. Dave surveys the break room awkwardly: ceiling panes, Nestea packets, trashcan—anything but her eyes. She sighs and walks away. # Meeting Agenda: First item: The jokes. “Happy to gather for another meeting that could have been an email,” Stan chuckles. “Ope, looks like Greg’s got the Monday face,” Andrew pokes. “Did I have a hard weekend, or

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SOMETHING WRONG WITH MY LIFE by Meeah Williams

I could sense it coming like a mule senses thunder. I had his cock in my mouth and I was trying to keep my neck from being too traumatized when he bucked his hips in short hard thrusts. It was like being a passenger in a car whose driver proceeded down the street by slamming on the brakes every three seconds. I’m getting whiplash just thinking about it. I watched people on the sidewalk stop, stare, and the expressions on their faces said “What the hell is that all about?” I leaned out the window and threw confetti at the

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IDROT by Levi Rumata

[ WALL LIFE  ] In the new curved shapes to come, how we’d imagined the arrival at a monument – something we’d rehearsed many times in anticipation of a disillusionment we’d known then only as some vague, signless desire – it was not as we could have guessed. There weren’t accompanying gestures or sightings of ectoplasm at the old cement factory. It turns out that, for much of our searching, it had been around. Like a landscape pulling apart stretched seethrough thin, so much so we were passing right with it. Screenprinting. On the house that still had its xmas lites

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D1NAH BREAKS THE SET LIST by Anna O’Brien

G1rl on the Road If, and this is an astronomically huge if, D1nah makes it through this song without her throaty howl cracking during the third refrain, Fage the drummer owes her $27.39. This is the cost of a soy caramel latte plus interest compounded weekly, the frequency of every gig the band now plays. So far, the wager has been compounded eight times. Fage is confidant that she’ll never have to pay up even if, on their five-hundredth gig twenty years from now, cynical, saggy, broken, and bionic, D1nah holds that “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh” in “G1rl on the Road” for its

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TOPPLED by Julie Zuckerman

The crowds coursing the streets below Marjorie’s apartment cheer and chant, and she hurries downstairs. Withered wives and working girls, wheelchair-bound and beach-bronzed beauties, one of the most spectacular sights she’s seen in her 68 years. They beckon to Marjorie, but she hesitates, grounded in place. Her uneasiness hovers around her like a swarm of midges. The most beaten down have ascended on the capital, together with bejeweled matrons of Madison Avenue, minivan-driving moms, and those in thread-bare, torn coats. With each stride, they discard the delicate attributes absorbed since birth, casting aside mantles of caregiver, nurturer, defender, peacemaker, forgiver,

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ROBOT MOTHER by Brittany Weeks

How is Raptor.  Who is Raptor. I forgot your boyfriend’s name. Raptor sent me an article about the water temple in Ocarina of Time. The article is from 2007.  Everly’s warmth is calculated. In her eyes I might be God too. Everly is asking for help strategically, she is earning love. My throat is tight and small and my arms weigh into the ground, Everly is amused by my amusement. When her voice becomes sticky sweet and high and she innocently dances on doe legs that look shaky but move quickly around Raptor, her eyes light up as he struts directly

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LEPIDOPTERA by Shelby Colburn

She told me she caught a moth in her throat. We sat in a roadhouse munching on fried pickles as snow fell past the window. She reached into her mouth with a finger and pulled her right cheek to the side like a hooked fish. I leaned closer to her face and peered down her mouth. There it was, a grey moth lodged in the opening of her throat. Its small wings fluttered behind her uvula and tonsils. She popped her finger away, closing the opening to the moth’s new home. “It chose me,” Priv said as she attempted to

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GENTLY USED by Olivia Holbrook

I sit outside on the hard concrete, feeling the cold seep through the fabric against my thighs, then through my skin, then to my bones. I hold the mug in my hands, they’re shaking. The warmth feels like something distant, warming my palms, making them sweat, while the air numbs my knuckles. And fingers. I see the light in the clouds, reflecting off of something that only my dilated pupils can see. It’s morning. But we’re still here, and I’m still seeing the patterns in the sky that are telling my brain, “you just might not make it to that

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THE INENARRABLE HEAVINESS OF SEEMING by Will Bernardara Jr.

“Perception of a state is not the state.” M. John Harrison A teetering bulb of dread and dream referred to – sometimes, by some – as Wes Boolean walks into a hardware store, his/its synapses scintillating with composite images of saw-teeth and conceptions of disjoining girl-parts. (Interjection: The “bulb” of the foregone ‘graph isn’t a floating sci-fi brain. It [the bulb] is impounded in the standard ossein case of a bipedal primate “person” = Wes Boolean. Thing is, the lump of gray mind-goo is the person; i.e., the “person” is a pattern ejaculated out of cerebral media, and so it’s

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NAKED STEW by Michael Graves

Today is Saturday, another date with my kitchen floor. While Gram’s famous hot dog stew simmers, I admire the double-mopped laminate that has already been host to four veteran potlucks.      Kurt’s pickup bleats, turning into the driveway. Spears of oak and birch fill the sagging bed. Kurt sees me at the screen door and side grins, his cauliflower ears pink from the chill. “Floors are dry,” I holler. He almost tumbles from the cab. “You sure? Want me to drive around the block a few times like last week?” “Just don’t get shit all over. Please? You’re covered in

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CONNECTICUT VAMPIRE by Adrian Belmes

This is what we burn. The dead. Our ghosts. And illness, like a brand, held long above the fire. Our misunderstandings do become our monsters we admire, for fear is nothing if not love of sorts, obsession. The village men below this home implore upon my grief and seek solution, save their wives, forgetting mine, your sister, and my dying son. You are not a killer, my unrested child, but these men do not know you as I did: a daughter and a weeping lung upon a bed that lies an empty tomb. What sins do we exhume for peace

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JUDGMENTAL CAT ON A WINDOWSILL by C. M. Lindley

1. On their second date, he will wear a shirt half tucked in, un-ironed, rolled up to the elbows. She’ll see the various tattoos on his arms but the one of a peony will be the one that confirms where she goes that night. “I went home w/ W,” she will text a friend, but the message will not go through, and so the next morning, she will imagine she might have imagined the whole thing. He will take them back to his house on J Street. He will still smell of saffron and garlic. Her family will still not

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MOTHERS by Melanie Czerwinski

Liv’s mother called, but Liv’s mother always called. I imagined her eggshell sheets on what would soon be her deathbed, the waxy fake ferns in the corner of the nursing home room. I imagined her bloated face on her dead body, as waxy as the fake plants. Disgusting. The aides were the ones who actually called. They would hold the phone up to her mother’s cheek, and she’d huff into the receiver about how she missed her daughter and how she should come visit. She was always out of breath. Liv would listen to the messages, then delete them without

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A BIRDWATCHER’S JOURNAL by Alexander Perez

Snowy egret overhead. First sighting of spring. A circular flight performed for a mate hidden deep in dead river reeds. He drops out of sight. Nothing except gray sky. (My script walks across the page like sandpiper prints in wet sand.) A fisherman floats by in his canoe, through the thin ice floes. (Floating mosaic of ice, geometry of winter’s disrepair.) He’s spectacled, black bearded. Mid-thirties? Despite the cool morning, he takes off his blue flannel overshirt. Strong arms. He casts a shining lure. A northern pike! The fisherman holds it up. I wave. We see a female mallard appear

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DRIVING THROUGH by Bojana Stojcic

We drove through the city today. We didn’t stop. We just drove through. We didn’t want to get out of the truck and grabbed take-away coffee with ground cinnamon in a drive-thru shared by a coffee shop and a bank, which was super convenient so while sipping it we made some transfers and paid bills. In the meantime, it started to drizzle, which was a drag and one more reason not to leave the truck. Besides, we got hungry, and decided to order low-carb turkey club lettuce wraps to go at a drive-thru diner. While listening to the live traffic

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D-O-D-E-C-A-P-H-O-N-I-C by Bryce Jones

The composer used his Guggenheim and several other grants for the purchase of twelve children. Pitching for conditioned octave he specified three teens with tinsel, flinty, and flintiest timbres, five prepubescent boys whose vocal chords had rashes of uniquely layered crackle, and four soprano toddlers of separately valued screech. His house’s twelve TV rooms were built for private occupancy. In one the tube was empty and the toddler hit the screen. Enacted blurs of violence against the reflective surface. Posing afterwards flexed muscles, elbows out-crotched biceps straining. Kissing a mirage of Barbie while she lasted hand-lined in the air. The

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THE PASSENGER by Anthony Dragonetti

When I can’t think of what to do, I have no choice but to go fast. I grab my car keys from under a pile of crumpled receipts by the door. I’d throw them out, but what if I need them someday? I could be audited. I could need an alibi. I focus back on the keys. It’s important to avoid rabbit holes. I can feel my tongue in my mouth. It’s time to go. I get in my car and fly out of my condo development’s parking lot in reverse and swing forward towards the ramp to I-295. It’s

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TIME PASSES FASTER AT SEA by Graham Irvin

In Korea everyone called my grandfather Pete because they didn’t know he was going to be a grandfather some day. When my parents got married Pete punched me in the face. He wanted me to grow up tough. My mom won’t forget the stories Pete told her about working radar in the belly of a battleship, seeing big green blips of terror appear and disappear. He told her they were bigger than the ship, by two or three times. My mom says, ‘What could that have been?’ When there was a big green blip approaching on the radar Pete thought,

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THE HEART OF MORALITY by Austin Ross

Daddy’s monster is back. That slightly musky scent of sawgrass wafts in across the Everglades as he slides a single bullet into the revolver. This is what I remember, all these years later. This incident with the revolver is familiar to me, a nightly ritual to cap off our evenings of foil-wrapped TV dinners and, for him, nearly a third of a bottle of whiskey. I have learned by now to keep silent during the ritual. As he examines the revolver in his hands, polishes the silver of the barrel with his sleeve, I think: he isn’t such a bad

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PEOPLE I WISH I WAS by Socrates Adams

ONE He writes a song a day. He keeps a diary next to his bed and every night, without fail, using his guitar, he transcribes thoughts into the book. The tunes are repetitive folk melodies. They are circular, looping reminders of the pattern of his days, weeks, months. He works as an actor. He attends read-throughs of scripts he likes. The projects he really loves rarely get off the ground. He is a dreamer and dreams of affecting the lives of other people. He lives alone. He’s tried relationships but they don’t fit with the rest of his life. He

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WE ETERNAL BEINGS by Jody Sperling

Mary died earlier this week: went into the hospital for routine foot ulcer debridement—common with diabetics—developed a staph infection, went under for a lung treatment and never woke from the anesthesia. We knew Mary from back in the day. I’d moved to Omaha to live with my grandparents, found Jesus (it’s not what you think) so I sent my buddy to live with them (proselytizers got to be proselytizing). My grandparents prayed before every meal. Mary was a banker who worked with my buddy in Omaha. Obesity led to her diabetes, which triggered her demise. Demise. What a word. It

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IN COMMON by Chance Dibben

Our heads were a perfect match for each other. Inside mine, a wasp that wriggled in and built a nest. It leaves periodically to get pollen, do wasp things, and then returns to the cavern of my ears. Initially, I couldn’t handle the itchy sensation the wasp made when it corkscrewed back into my head—my shoulders rising as if pulled, my spine wound in terror. Enough of anything, though, and you’ll get used to it. How the wasp has lived this long, is a mystery. Maybe it’s not the same wasp. Inside Amanda’s head is a thunderstorm. I thought she

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BLOOD! by Oliver Zarandi

The elderly lady bleeds every day in my favourite cafe. The owner accommodates this and surrounds her with buckets. He mops it up. Sometimes he puts her in a bathtub, right there in the centre of the café, and she fills it up, laughing and bleeding. People applaud and remark on her unique nature. I hate her, I tell my husband, I hate her with all my heart. He says nothing because he’s a coward. He carries on reading his newspaper and ignores me. He has beady eyes and untrustworthy hands. He has the bony toes of a medieval Jesus.

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THE FIRST TIME I PERFORMED by Benjamin Niespodziany

1. The first time I performed in Russia was under the direction of the king. His daughter’s best friend’s wedding was held in a refurbished factory that once made statues of the great whirling dervishes. I was the third piece of the matryoshka at the wedding, jumping out of a cloud once the song started to play. The fellow who fell after me broke his leg, and the rest of the event was a medical disaster. The king got drunk. We still got paid. 2. The first time I performed in Penn Station, an overweight man asked me to be

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TO CUT A WIDE SWATH by Therese White

I smell ammonia. Old people. We visit Great Aunt Alma for no reason. It’s Sunday, reason enough. Her room: a single cell, a single window. The bed backs into a corner. Her white bedspread, a canvas. Little blocks, cut from her underwear, lay stacked: pastel patches. Her arthritic finger points to them. Her mouth opens; no words exit. Tan knee-highs choke her calves. Her strap slips off her shoulder. Her feet are firmly planted in sturdy, black loafers. My grandparents are not surprised; they are blasé. I stand mute, wondering what language Alma is forgetting: French or English. My plain

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CHANCES by Conor McNamara

I’ve been exchanging letters with an inmate at Downstate Correctional Facility, the friend of a friend. In my letters I talk about my work, the woods and the hours. Even though I scoff at Lena’s “attracting happiness” theories, I encourage my friend’s friend to “keep his head up” and I assure him that he is loved. I decided that when I got laid off, I would drive to Fishkill, New York and visit him. Leaving my cellphone and wallet in a drab locker room that smells like puke, I cross the metal detector. And then I’m in the visitors’ center

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EXCERPT FROM ‘ALL PRETTY SORE’ by Alec Berry

David met me at the McDonalds and we bought McChickens before walking next door to buy 40s / Went to his apartment and drank, and then his roommate’s girlfriend came by and she told us how she slept with a dude in his 50s because it’d be something to write about / Ended up drunk late in the evening after the 40s because David kept a case of Hamm’s in the fridge, and then we called Walker, and I met Walker, and I realized Walker was weird, and we ran through the streets to my apartment and partied with the

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MY DAYS by Emily James

We hold hands and listen to him read our vows, grey mustache puffing above his breath. I picture him sucking a cigarette outside, a Bible tucked to his body, white robe blowing in the wind. Behind us, my mother’s arms hang from the hospital gown, her limp limbs our altar. Her eyes closed, two still coins. Our daughter keeps grabbing the wires. We unclasp our hands again and again. Stop it, we angry whisper. Come back. The beeps are steady, at least. Her moans have subsided, at least. Yes, I will take him, at least in sickness, at most in health. Her

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WHO LET THE DOGS OUT? by Josh Olsen

Instead of buying a new costume for Kelso, our 7-year-old Aussie/Collie mix, we repurposed an easy one from years before, and strapped a small rubber jockey to his harness. All of the puppy parents at the doggy daycare costume party kept referring to Kelso as a jockey, although technically he was the horse in the horse and jockey relationship, but still I failed to correct them, not wanting to be the asshole who insists the green guy with the bolts in his neck is actually “Frankenstein’s Monster,” not Frankenstein. There were no fewer than three dogs dressed like Wonder Woman,

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HOLD YOUR BREATH by Spencer Litman

Meet your wife in the hallway. Do not make the door handle click by turning it with too much force. Avoid kicking the toys scattered like landmines on the carpet. You do not want to wake your daughter, but you need to see her breathing. Walk to the crib rail like a procession of two. Place your hands on your wife’s shoulders in case she melts like she did when she found your son cold-dead in the middle of the night. Repeat this ritual while your daughter sleeps every forty minutes for the first six months of her life.  Try

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DAY JOB by Jon Conley

She was a big rottweiler who had had cancer for a time now. She was very big and sad and unable to move well so I went with Dr. Highmore to the house. I brought along a large contractor’s garbage bag and I don’t think I said anything the whole time. I never said a word in these situations though I had done this many times, been a pallbearer. Although, I would assist in assisted canicides before carrying the bodies away and I don’t know that a pallbearer ever assists assisted homicides. Anyway, I’m not a shy person. With the

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AJAR by Ankita Banerjee

He was at the counter flirting with a pixie cut. My eyes followed him the whole evening and I didn’t know what to do with myself. So I ordered my fifth gin and tonic, and when Sofie asked, “Why don’t you go talk to him?” I sniggered. It started raining outside – the worst kind. He was now purring to the little black dress at the corner table. She was small, with a little hunch on her back. I went out for a cig and argued with the voice in my head. “Perhaps it’s life coming to a full circle.”

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LITTLE SISTER, WHY HAVEN’T WE HEARD FROM YOU? by Timothy Boudreau

We remember the shy teenager who visited aunts and uncles with a novel and a piece of knitting.  The adult in an over-sized sweater, huddled in a corner over a cup of tea. Though separated by ten years we had similar interests and for a time considered ourselves creative people. We always meant to collaborate.  What happened? * Especially now I feel you may have insight to offer.  Wisdom from a place unknown to the rest of us. Thus enclosed find a few ideas.  Feel free to alter them in any way.  Merge your memories. Melt your vision over mine

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TROUT by Kaye Gilhooley

I took up fishing late in life. My husband says I fish too much. The smooth length of the rod in my hand is powerful. Did you know my Daiwa carbon 9ft rod is rated to 15 kg? 15kg! That’s the weight of a small child. I fish in the fast stream that borders the south of our farm. It’s the closest boundary to the house. It flows under the bridge and soon feeds into the river, wide and deep. I took up fishing when my daughter went missing. Trout. My brother called her that because when she was a

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THE TROLL BY THE EAST BRIDGE by Helen Armstrong

The thing that very many people fail to grasp about city planning is that a lot of planning goes into it: ha ha. This is always my gag at parties and it very often falls upon deaf ears. I’m uncertain whether people don’t want to find me funny, or if they just don’t understand my humor. When the troll by the East Bridge – creatively named by Richardson, the city planner before me, whose interests included golfing and beer and golf clubs – demanded a sacrifice or he’d torch the town, people certainly weren’t laughing anymore. And they weren’t laughing

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ETYMON STREET VIEW by Mike Corrao

She (subject) receives a note which says, “I am without past.” On the backside is a photograph of a street sign: Roberta Ave. The crossroad is obscured. What used to be green is now dull and graying. Its metal spine curves to the left. Backgrounds are warped by time. The subject is tasked with determining the origins of this symbol. Finding what has been vacated of context. Erasures performed without audience. Certain criteria are arranged to flesh out her process. Suites are dressed in ethernet cables and blue light filters. Rounds of copper are blanketed in rubberized shells. She moves

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GOOD BOY by Kailash Srinivasan

It was a mistake trusting your parents will come back to get you. It was a mistake turning your back to them, clapping idiot-like at the spinning top that lit up red in the dark. They left for Bombay, leaving you behind in Delhi with your grandma, your paati. Its summer—the city is a furnace, everything is melting. Your paati slips in the bathroom and fractures both her legs. With weights, pulleys, her legs hang in the air, like the hands of a clock: 2.10 p.m. Her loose, burnt-brown flesh hangs loose from her thighs. In brown shorts and a

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MEALS OF OUR CHILDREN by Will Gilmer

I put chicken breasts next to the eggs to thaw and wonder if these eggs were born from the birds whose bodies will become my dinner. I pull out oil from olives that will never become trees and baby bean sprouts who will never know pods of their own. I make double in case Trevor decides to come down for dinner. I know it’ll matter on how many pills he took, how much he slept today, and if he’s even here. When he vanishes I “run the circuit”, drive from flop house to flop house scanning over the buffet of

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INHERITANCE by Cavin Bryce Gonzalez

When she came hopping out of the bathroom holding an instrument that I mistook as a thermometer I was appalled that someone could be so happy about running a fever. She threw her arms around me and squeezed, squeezed like she hated me. But she didn’t hate me. She loved me. And that’s when I saw the two little lines, bright pink, glaring at me. It’s been four months since then. We’re having a boy. Every day her womb grows, life gestates. All of our friends are so excited. “You’re glowing!” they say. Or “About time!” Every night I watch

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THE SWANS WHO SAY MOM by Amanda Claire Buckley

The mother punches a mouth in the wall, and we climb through it. The mother punches a throat in the wall and the father puts a picture of daisies over it. We walk along the linings of the lungs and whisper we love our mother quietly to ourselves. We walk along the wall until it becomes the bottom of a lake. We walk along the bottom of the lake in the wall and we murmur to each other about our situation: our murmurs rise up like captions to cartoons. The bubbles fall out of the mouths of swans—we love our

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NILSSON SCHMILSSON by Anthony Sabourin

I was outside on my street watching an apartment building on fire. I was watching it with the people who lived in that building, the people who’d left it. At three floors, it wasn’t a big apartment building, but it was a big fire. It was crackling, and flames were shooting out of windows and smoke was filling the night sky. I looked at everybody. It was nighttime when the fire started, and so you could see these snapshots of how people were living inside their homes. A couple wore rumpled office clothes paired with sweatpants, caught between two routines.

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THE PROBLEM WAS STARTING by Alex Behr

The problem was coming up with reasons to scoop rice on the plate one more night. The stove worked. She could boil water. Pasta. Rice. Pasta. Rice. Boil and pour and scoop and swallow. The problem was the streetlight. The streetlight leaked through the blinds, and she could put the extra pillow over her head, but she feared the nightmares. She waited until the birds started singing or squawking or whatever they did at 4 a.m. from branches the cat couldn’t reach.  The problem was her son: she forgot to smile at him. But she scooped the rice. She scooped the pasta. She

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PRINCIPAL ALPACA by Richard Leise

Interim Principal Gregory Jenne has Alopecia universalis.  But he is accustomed to this; has dealt with the condition all of his life; survived the childhood taunts; rationalized the rejections; no longer dreams of eyebrows and eyelashes.  Having recently celebrated his thirty-fourth birthday, he assesses his present position. He finds that he is satisfied, proud of his accomplishments. Lesser men would have created excuses.  Weaker individuals would have hidden in their parents’ basements. He likes to think of himself as methodical. Scrupulous. Tall, his arms are longer than they should be, and this makes it difficult—no, this makes it impossible—for him

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BUMMING by Chelsea Harris

We’re outside the corner store bumming smokes off each other. He’s a redhead, says he’s got a bad habit of picking his face. The whole thing covered in craters. Our friend shows up, Andy. He’s got something to show us. We take a drive. Up the road there’s a car. Totaled. Hit a tree. We get out of ours and I slam the door, hard, a privilege. There’s someone inside the wreck. A crumpled napkin. A pair of puckered lips. Andy tries to pull her out but her body has been deflated. I poke at the airbags. She’s dead, the

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PARLIAMENT OF DRUNKARDS by Mbizo Chirasha

In previous years, the Mandozas hosted the New Years’ parties. They reared sheep and goats, and they invited the whole village to enjoy roast mutton. There was beer for the elders, but the young ones were relegated to raspberry and fizzy beverages. I learned about balloons and tissues at the Mandoza household. Mandoza himself was once our Father Christmas, until time burned his years into old age. But to my surprise, the Mandoza homestead this New Year was quiet. It was as if somebody had poured a bucket of ice-water to wet the embers of life in their home. The

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THE WHOLE FLOW by Angie McCullagh

I try to become liquid like she told me. I pour myself into heavy-bottomed glasses and over nubby sofas and down rucked, tan chests. I puddle onto the floor and sometimes throw myself into the wind only to splash back on bug-splattered windshields. To survive, she said, you have to learn to go with it. But my mother’s advice is bad. I learn this when my boy is first diagnosed and I think we can do it, I am flexible, Watch me drain my whole body into his syringes and make him better. I will do anything, anything at all.

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LIES ABOUT THE WORST WAY TO DIE by Dawson Kiser

There are a lot of shitty ways to die. A quick Google search of the worst ways to die will lead you down a not so wonderful rabbit hole of people drowning, burning, being eaten by animals, even falling in volcanoes. Not that I’m an expert on dying, but I’m walking into the hospital right now for my third year of chemotherapy and I’d argue this must be on the top 10 shittiest ways to die. Burning? That sounds horrific but from my limited research I found out you black out within 20 to 30 seconds. Your worst 30 seconds

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SHARP PAIN by Andrew Ciaccio

You can get by just fine being dull. You can actually do very well for yourself. My husband was an accountant in suburban Oklahoma at an office above an Applebee’s. He made six figures and drank from a coffee mug with Mount Rushmore engraved on it. He did this every day for 20-some years. Then on a snowy Tuesday, standing at the microwave in his windswept khakis, watching his leftover casserole go round-and-round, he lost his edge. Out the window, kids skated on a makeshift ice rink in the strip mall parking lot. The casserole boiled over then exploded as

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dear the eartH by JP Vallières

dear    the eartH sendar saying maybe the earth help sendaR   sendar in quest of the earth habitatioN sendar from nodaN   nodians now gone inexplicably removed from galaxY   dear   the eartH maybe help sendaR   sendar last one current in nodaN   big day of reckoninG only sendar livinG    dear   the eartH sendar an artisT   before big day of reckoning fatherman saying sendar not be artisT    dear   the eartH when existing fatherman saying sendar achieve license for galaxy rideR   sendar saying galaxy rider does not fit into artist incarnatioN    dear   the eartH sendar now shameful not knowing how to

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THE VAMPIRE BOYFRIEND by Jessica Drake-Thomas

I started ghost writing romance because it was under the table. I make good money, people are reading my work, and best of all, no one has to know where I am. These days, paranormal romance seems to be the big thing with humans. Specifically, Vampire Boyfriends. I don’t mind werewolves, aliens, or even dragon shifters. They’re all harmless enough. But I refuse to write about Vampire Boyfriends. When you live in the shadows, some things just hit too close to the truth. Anton Chekhov had a theory about guns in stories — if a gun is placed into a narrative, then

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WHITE GRAVY by Marcus Pactor

Mother said the old man had never been touched. I didn’t know what she meant by “touched,” but I had heard enough. That afternoon, I leaned over the fence and grated cheese into the old man’s backyard. His cat licked every cheddar shred from the weeds. Its intestines must have gotten clogged, but it lived. The cat disappeared after city workers buried the old man. Months later, a storm buried the eastern seaboard in golden, blanket-sized leaves. Far south of there, we savored the peripheral breeze. Mother had taught me to savor, whenever possible, the small pleasures which occasionally attended

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LIKE A FIRE DRILL by Gary Duncan

1 They found him in the stairwell, two days later. Wedged behind the door, his hand still clutching his chest. We had to evacuate the building and wait in the car park like it was a fire drill. All in our designated places, like we’d practiced. Editorial near the gates, then IT, then Sales, then Warehouse and Support. Some of the salespeople sloped off early, said they were going to the pub to sink a few for him. It’s what he would have wanted. He didn’t even drink. One of the women from IT, the one he liked but was

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SARAH W. by T.S.J. Harling

There is not yet a ghost in this place, but there will be.   A long time ago there was a school, then another school, and then different offices. I lived in a house with an upstairs and a downstairs, a basement and an attic. We were a family. I was a girl. This is what I remember, not what I imagine. Although nothing can be verified without a living body, here with me, to speak and either object or affirm. Then, I was always in an act. Of laughing, talking, dancing. There were others around me, other girls, and we

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IN PATIENT by Jenn Stroud Rossmann

When the IV pump pings to warn of an occlusion, she no longer waits for someone in scrubs to respond; she unkinks the tubing herself. In the hierarchy of beeps the IV occlusion alert is low, outranked by the chirping pulse-Ox monitor and the angry squawk of the bedside fall detection mat. King EKG checkmates them all. He dislikes her charts and schedules, cringes when she calls the nurses by name and remembers their children and hobbies. Order is a dangerous illusion. He imagines himself on a science fair poster, her little bean sprout in a milk carton. He is

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ELSA LANCHESTER’S ABORTION by J. Edward Kruft

Her own parents never married – an intentional thumbing of the nose to Victorian-era London – and she wondered, as she watched her husband padding off toward the pool, leaving his statuette on the piano, if she hadn’t best done the same. She loved Charles, and she was relatively certain he loved her – at the very least he adored her – but after four years as Mrs. Charles Laughton, Elsa was well aware of her husband’s preferences and proclivities and while on the surface it didn’t bother her to the degree a wife should be bothered, things changed that

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B.C. by Patrick Reid

I am running as a conservative in the primaries. My name is a big one, recognizable throughout most of the world. Last month I was on a cruise with my wife and her family. There were two formal nights. My belly. My belly heaved and burst over my belt, and on sauce night, I dropped a splash onto my button down, right on the part of my belly that, when I sit down, has the same presence as a balance ball. In college, a friend and I used the balance ball to do sit ups, 35 each, 3 times, on

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SPORES by Łukasz Drobnik

The superhero needs to save the city, but there’s a drunk man in her kitchen. He’s eating a banana. The way he snaps off the stem and peels the whole thing in one brutal movement is all too familiar. She closes her eyes, just for a bit, and thinks of the cool forest air, her cheek against the damp moss, his coarse hands under her blouse. When she lifts her eyelids, the peel is already lying on the stained blue tablecloth, as lifeless as roadkill. Outside, the supermarket is being attacked by red-furred flying monkeys. They grab trolleys from the

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DEAD MOTHER’S CORN OIL by Diane Payne

Long Distance Lover was happy I finally agreed to spend time at his dead mother’s cottage in the middle of nowhere.  I already lived in the middle of nowhere. After making the 850-mile drive to spend a week or two with him at his house in a real town, with real things to do, I dreaded heading out to the place where he longed to retire.  Ahh, her teapot wallpaper in the kitchen. Ooh, the moldy carpet in the living room. Woo, the surprising amount of kitschy lighthouses though we were nowhere near the lake. Then the biggest surprise. His

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NIGHTHAWK by Zach VandeZande

There’s a yellowy light. It’s not fluorescent. This is not the IHOP. It’s the other one. The local diner. Yellowed sign, yellowed menus, yellow, yellowy light. _________ Nothing that happens here is important. Important is elsewhere is the point of a place like this. This place is meant for in-between. _________ She is at the hostess station looking lost. Looking like a customer who doesn’t know if she should seat herself. The post-bar rush is over. A last-call-at-2am town in a last-call-at-2am state. But: it’s later than all that. There seems to be no one in the restaurant at all.

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NOW HE SEES SHADOWS by Gregg Williard

“Painting has been real eye opening for me. I mean, now I see shadows.” -George W. Bush I wanted to serve as an advisor to President Bush and his cabinet. I was 60 and had no qualifications. It would have taken years to move through academia and politics before I had even a remote chance of gaining access, so I decided to go the military route. I’d become a soldier. A soldier of art. When I reached the president and the cabinet all I wanted was to show them a bunch of my favorite books, movies, music and art and

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