Short

IS IT OK IF WE DISCUSS YOUR SISTER? by Mitchell Duran

On the day of her funeral, twisted roots and ashen rocks jutted from the edges of the concrete vault. I had never seen a grave before. I had never seen a casket. I had never seen Earth displaced with that kind care and disregard. After carrying her, side by side with the family, our fingers stiff from the cold of morning, we placed her final bed on the mechanical lowering-device. A part of me wanted to do it myself. The impulse felt foreign, but close. A part of another part. After, I was told the help always did it, that

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SQUAT STANDS by Richie Smith

The high school gym was filled with jocks and weight lifters and I didn’t fit in with any of them. People like Irving Ackerman, the strongest Jewish kid in the school.  Irving didn’t know me. I lifted the lowest level of weights, but I resolved to change this. I was going to work out to grow big and strong. I found a body building program in the back of a comic book. “Universal Body Building” had the logo of a muscle man hugging a sexy woman and promised to send me weekly lessons which would transform me into a hunk

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STORYTIME by Robyn Blocker

What’s up, beautiful people? So y’all know how when you type the first couple letters of an email address and a list of contacts pops up—all the ones that start with that letter?  Like, imagine it’s “D” for Dave, the guy you’re hooking up with. Not Hot Dave with the boat or Quik Lube Dave with the ink, but the Dave whose brother OD’d back in ’99 at the rock pit behind the Big House. Right, Sad Dave. The Dave you send naked pictures to as an inside-joke cue that you want to buy from him. (Rumor alert! It was

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THE GRANDE CALAMITY DIAMOND DESCENDS INTO THE MAELSTRÖM by Dolan Morgan

I needed a break. So when my brother gifted me the cruise ticket, it felt like he’d done something useful for once. But there was a catch. “It sinks on purpose,” my brother said, laughing. “Like, while you’re on the thing. Straight into the ocean, down it goes. The whole big ship. And they don’t tell you when, it’s a surprise. One minute you’re over by the pool deck in margaritaville or whatever, and then—wham! The boat is sinking, just like that. You’re gonna love it.” Byron worked in real estate and routinely ended up with promotional items that nobody

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MEPHISTOPHELES by Emily Kiernan

Judging by the state of his teeth, the vet estimated he was five years old, but Ella thought he was older than that—a persistent street-cat scrawniness, knots they could never comb out of his long, black fur. She’d had pets before, but he inspired a desperate love in her the others had not, a need to hoist him up in her arms and wrap his skinny body in hers, to protect him. The friend who had found him in the alley behind the Get Go station called him FluffFluff, but Ella had been reading Faust, and she named him Mephistopheles.

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WILD RELEASE by Evan James Sheldon

The ballroom was empty except for stacks of chairs along the walls and the man staring at the ceiling. With no one around him in that large space he looked very small. I waved my arms over my head but the man didn’t notice and kept on staring at the ceiling. He was off in his own world. I pulled out my weed pen, which most people mistook for a flash drive. Even though weed was now legal, I was still secretive. Learned furtive behavior from all my high school friends having misdemeanors for possession.  The Toy Voyager conference was

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LOVERS by Michael Farfel

The two of them live in a small house that overlooks a somehow smaller lake. He has family money and neither of them have to work, but he finds meaning in his work (development—of what? we’re not quite sure) and she writes poems. The house is ancient and the rooms are cold.  They often lay in bed until long past midmorning, even sometimes past noon. They argue about who will make coffee, always finally decided by who has to pee first. It’s usually her. The house, which the locals say is as old as bones, is older. It is rickety

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JOE-DOG by Michael Haller

Joe was helping his ex-girlfriend Claire move out of her apartment (“the apartment where I grew as a person more than my previous four apartments”) while simultaneously helping his recycled girlfriend Lori move into the same apartment. (“Fucking creepy, I’m disinfecting this place when she’s gone.”) The apartment was a one-bedroom in trashy-trendy North Cumminsville, a blighted warehouse district in one of the mid-sized Ohio cities beginning with the letter C (not Canton, not Chillicothe, not Coshocton). Claire could no longer afford the rent in NC due to unpaid bills and the troubles they bring, and middleman Joe, a friend

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CAROLINE EATS HER FEELINGS by Gabrielle McAree

I half-expect Chris to be draped in an American flag like a patriotic version of Jesus. Since enlisting, he’s all pro-war now, existing in a blind state of sacrosanctity. He shits red, white, and blue, and has Uncle Sam on speed dial. They grab beers together, talk sports. Bald and uniformed, no one would know that just last week Chris lit illegal fireworks off his parent’s pontoon and drank vodka tonics before noon. That he suffocated lizards and shot small dogs with bb-guns, gratified a Wendy’s. Growing up, his parents thought he was going to be a serial killer, not

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THE SPRING PAGEANT by Richard Mirabella

Danny’s niece, Joan, sat at the newspaper covered folding table in front of the TV and painted the bear head he’d made for her school’s spring pageant. He trusted her with the head, when he would trust no one else with something he’d made, especially a child, but Joan understood how special it was to create objects. Joan didn’t destroy, and never had as far as he knew. Craig and Shannon, her parents, hadn’t complained about it anyway. Every book Danny ever gave Joan still existed intact.  From the entryway of the kitchen, Danny watched her lay brown paint over

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