andrew higgins

DULUTH by Andrew Higgins

The plane fulfills its purpose: we are no longer ascendant. The engine winds down smoothly, a game show loss sort of draining. The tarmac is ice-sheathed but our skid in was mild. Men outside in reflective gear gesture meaningfully towards the hull, and we look at them through the ovular windows with a small, first-world pity. My body is still hallucinating movement at six-hundred miles per hour. We are all seated uncomfortably, waiting for permission, exchanging mild sentiments until we can get off. The thin fury of air-conditioning is louder than before. The seatbelt chime rings, finally, and we all

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BURGLARS by Francine Witte

I used to wish my parents were burglars. That would have been more honest. Instead, we had to live in a shadow. It looked like a house, but it was a shadow. All dark and hushed and Daddy about to lose it anyway. Always about to lose everything on some bad business deal. Some neighbor or something would tell him a mountain of lies, and Daddy would climb it like a stupid goat. One night, I woke up to my mother screaming. Daddy started pounding the piano keys. When that didn’t stop her, he pulled the vacuum out of the

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SPD TOOK MY BLIND DATE AWAY by Braxton Younts

Once she told me she was an Iraqi war vet, I was hesitant to meet up with her, but I was lonely and horny, so I invited her to join me at my neighborhood bar after work. Back then I was more attracted to militant feminists. I liked my women brooding over gender politics, listening to Bikini Kill, tattooing their arms, and dressing in combat boots. You know the one: mohawk haircut, bone through her nose, and an anarchy patch on her black leather jacket. Studs intricately arranged as if bedazzled by a seamstress on meth. Let me see if

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TRIAL by Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle

The mystery shopper is ambitious, athletic, with a big dick. It looks good on you. I’ve been here for a while. I ask him what his Myers-Briggs type is and he says he is an INFP. What, INFP, but I’m an INFP. You don’t seem like an INFP, I don’t know if you are actually one. I am, he says, that’s what I got when I did the test. Ok, I say, I’m going to the test right now and pretend I’m you while I’m doing it. I walk the perimeter of the mall. I really want to buy something

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MICHAEL by Sean Thor Conroe

Michael, who stayed posted out front of Walgreens, requesting eats from entering and exiting Walgreens customers, was presently posted out front of Walgreens, requesting eats from entering and exiting Walgreens customers. “Yo what’s good,” I said as I approached, timing this utterance and my gaze, should he choose to reciprocate either, with the moment we crossed paths, so as to avoid a prolonged interaction. Michael averted eyes and seemingly deliberately pretended to not see or hear me. Kneeling, he adjusted the Velcro on his foot brace, through which his enlarged, pale, callused toe was visible. Once past the San Pablo

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zac smith

FLIPPED by Zac Smith

Brad flipped his car after hitting a fire hydrant, right downtown, right on Fifth Street, right near our old apartment, the prefurnished one with the broken window and the red wall and the kitchen that had bookshelves instead of cabinets, he was driving, something happened, who knows, he hit the hydrant and the car went upward, upward, from the height of the hydrant and the height of the curb, and the car veered upward and over the hydrant, and the hydrant’s base cracked under the weight and pressure of the car and the angle of it, and the cracked base

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troy james weaver

HOOKS by Troy James Weaver

A few days after I heard the news, that he’d tried to carve a hole for himself inside the earth, I wondered if it were possible for a man to rip out his own vocal chords. One night, I actually Googled it, came up with a bunch of misleads. Wouldn’t have mattered anyway—I’d just get a little black board and hang it around my neck and write it all down for him with chalk. The things I saw, the thoughts I had. Voices still exist, even if you can’t hear them. Maybe it all came down to selfishness. For a

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EXCERPT FROM “COLLEGE NOVEL” by Blake Middleton

The next day around 6:00 p.m. Jordan drove to the corner store near his apartment and bought a Peach Cisco. He drove down I-95 with the windows down and drank Cisco and listened to Propagandhi. In the song the lead singer sang about sticking an American flag up someone’s asshole. In the parking lot of Eric’s complex Jordan sat in his car and swallowed an Adderall then drank some Cisco. He walked toward Eric’s apartment. All the apartments looked the same. People were starting to come home from work. Jordan walked up the stairs to the third floor. He knocked

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joseph haeger

UNCLE POOH’S SECRET RECIPE by Joseph Haeger

The first time I made grits I used water, the same way I made my oatmeal. Granted, I’d never had grits, but was told it was a staple food in the south, so when I saw a two-pound bag for a dollar at the Grocery Outlet it seemed like a no-brainer to give it a shot. I mean, this was a food that helped mold a culture. The red sedan in front of me slows down, or I come up on her too fast. I tap my brakes to keep a comfortable distance between us. My speedometer reads thirty-five exactly.

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melissa goode

HERE WE ARE NOW by Melissa Goode

We play this game. You say something nice. I say something nice. You say something mean. I say something mean. We fuck. You aren’t so into it now. Your nice isn’t that nice—beautiful, really? That sounds like a lazy lie to me, but it’s my turn to say something nice. Your mean isn’t that mean. Something about my driving, like I care. You say, “Are we just trying to manufacture feeling here?” “Yes.” “Let’s keep it simple,” you say and take hold of my ponytail and pull it hard. “Better,” I say. “Make it meaner.” You do, making it hurt—I

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A SILENT MOVIE by Chris Dankland

On the sixth day, Victor started staring at Antoine’s feet. A pang shot through him every time he saw Antoine’s plump toes wiggle. They were soft, pampered feet that had only walked on the prostrate backs of others. I bet they’re tender, thought Victor, licking his cracked and bleeding lips. Like the winged feet of Mercury, Antoine’s feet had only trod the most rarefied of airs. He didn’t even carry his fucking camera onto the boat, thought Victor, snarling. The chauffeur had done it. Antoine appeared to be passed out. Not dead yet, his chest was still moving. But how

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HOW TO TAME A FERAL CAT by Katherine Beaman

It was a point of personal identity for Lula that she refer to no plant as a “weed” and refrain from assigning labels of “good” or “bad” to any creature. Her property: a lot which was adjacent to her daughter Valerie’s own house, and on which sat a mobile home with two attached porches and a mess of plant matter almost entirely obscuring it. Corpses, or almost-corpses, of junebugs lie scattered and belly up all over. Many an afternoon, Lula would study the cat the hung around by her fence. She would glance over at him from her chair on

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AN ESSAY ON BIGNESS by James Tadd Adcox

I am a man who never needs to do what other people tell him to do. I am so much bigger than they are. When someone tells me to do something, I give them a look. It is a calculated look. In this look, I share with them the artificiality that lies at the base of this interaction, and indeed all of our interactions. It is a look that says, “Whatever you might tell yourself about rights and authority, we both understand the physics of the situation. Perhaps, after you have told me to do a thing, I will do

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FRIENDHYRE by Leland Cheuk

Feedback Entry Form: I really wanted to go to DonutFest but none of my actual friends were as fervid about donuts as I, so I thumbed FriendHyre on my phone and hired someone for just $20. I thought of the cost as a surcharge on the event, which had a $50 cover for all the donuts you can eat from the top ten artisanal vendors in The City. I bought two tickets and met up with Damon at 9 a.m. in front of The Copper Mine, that warehouse concert venue by the river. We shook hands, exchanged pleasantries, and went

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jennifer greidus

ALTOIDS BURN SO GOOD by Jennifer Greidus

Cheetah’s mom is dead. So’s his dad. He lives with his almost-deaf uncle Grant. His uncle plays a lot of solitaire and has a lot of different girlfriends. When Cheetah was in fourth grade, Uncle Grant was a volunteer fireman. He laughed a lot. He made casseroles and brought them over on Sundays. Now, Uncle Grant doesn’t put out fires, cook, or even laugh. For three months, he hasn’t left the apartment. Uncle Grant made Cheetah change the locks because the rent’s been overdue since June. Cheetah would like to be a volunteer fireman, but he can’t until he’s eighteen.

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benjamin devos

THE LOBSTER by Benjamin DeVos

I clock in at Pirate Cove and try to find a good place to hide. I stay in the bathroom as long as possible. Until my boss barges into the stall and tells me to get my ass in gear. The shift’s starting. The first table is always the worst because I’m not ready to act like a pirate. I’m never ready to act like a pirate. My first table is a father with his daughter. “We are ready to order,” the father says. “I want to get the best of the best.” He’s young, but his hair is already

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IN THE END DAYS YOUR FATHER COMES TO VISIT by Frankie McMillan

He wants a photograph of the baby in the bath. Or maybe lying on a sheepskin rug. You say you haven’t got a sheepskin rug and the baby’s already had a bath. Your father says, ‘ Well make up your mind, sweetheart.’ He wants a photograph of his grandson before he gets back on the plane.   He picks the baby up, holds him by the window for a closer look. ‘There’s nothing wrong with him,’  he says. You point to the baby’s hairy legs. ‘It’s nothing,’ your father snorts. He declares the baby perfectly normal. He unscrews the cap

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dylan gray

RAW LIVER by Dylan Gray

i am eating a bagel as the fucking cat jumps onto the counter and stares me with what i feel is hate. from the first day we met, the cat and i were never close. it was dereck’s cat. we bought it together, but it was more of his idea than mine. the cat and i kept our distance. when we broke up, he left the cat. it started throwing up all around the apartment. whenever i tried to go near, it would start scratching at the carpet. another morning, while i was sleeping, it sneezed in my mouth. i

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kai ming mckenzie

BUS PORTRAITS by Kai Ming McKenzie

A man on a bus is writing in his day planner There is a slender man who spends every morning bus ride one winter scratching out notes to himself in a little day planner. He looks so busy that we who are seated near him are tempted to try to read over his shoulder to see what he is writing about. He has tiny and meticulous handwriting, and he writes straight through the delineated intervals of his days with a fine-tipped pen. Everything is done with quick and efficient motions, which paradoxically give the impression that there is something wrong,

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clio valentza

A CATALOGUE OF TEMPORARY OBJECTS by Clio Velentza

One by one they sat for their portraits. Littlest ones first. They stopped at the door and undid their braids. They rubbed their hair with vinegar and pinched their cheeks. The oldest ones were fearsome, they didn’t know how to listen anymore. One pricked her finger and spread the blood on her lips. They rolled up their ribbons and stuck them in their shoes. They spat and brushed their eyebrows. One by one. Littlest ones first, these ones still had hope. The photographer had one grey eye and one black. He would close an eye to look at them, and

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jocelyn hungerford

FAITHFUL by Jocelyn Hungerford

A cool Sydney night at the beginning of spring. We were smoking a joint on the verandah. The lights on the harbour twinkled and the possums were rasping out their mating calls. He’d been ‘scraping it together’ for a year, he said, to be able to come here. A few weeks’ respite. Fights, a kid, a mortgage, a business. ‘Why don’t you leave?’ I asked. He looked shocked. ‘Because she’s my child. I won’t do to her what was done to me.’ I hmmed and murmured a soothing noise. I could feel his mood sinking. It seemed to be my

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sam phillips

BE SCARED OF YOUR YOUNG by Sam Phillips

What if it’s all torn down, she asked me. I thought this was an odd question coming out of such young mouth. I wondered what exactly it was they teaching her at the preschool. We, me and her mother, me and my wife, are giving nearly half of our income to to that place. What if it’s all torn down, she asked again and I had to figure out how to reply. Time was running out. Well what if what is all torn down? My reply was hopeful, I wanted the next words she said to recapture her innocence. The

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james mcadams

WHERE WE MARCHED, HIS FINAL YEARS by James McAdams

Here’s a pic of Dad and me marching at the Inauguration Protest, January 20th, 2017, he’s holding the IMPEACH TRUMP sign I duct-taped to his hand. He voted for Trump but that didn’t matter—what mattered, according to his neurologist, was that he get fresh air, sunlight, and exercise, away from the confinements of Lush Horizons. This one, yes, that’s him marching with the pink Breast Cancer Awareness cap at the Women’s March, January 21st. His gait palsied, hands slapping the air, mind still in the 60’s, the decade he said changed everything, the decade I was born. At the airport,

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shook

THE 11 SIGNS OF BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER by Carey Cecelia Shook

(According to the National Institute of Mental Health, and also Me) 1) Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating.  When I was five, I’d sneak sandwich meat, pudding, cereal—anything quick and easy to snack on—into my room and hide it so my parents wouldn’t find out how much I was eating. I did this until I was nine when my mom cleaned my room and found moldy bologna under the bed. Since then, I mindlessly eat almost every time I eat. I can’t control myself. I’ve been doing it

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VICTORY PARTY by Sheldon Lee Compton

He talks to me through the trees. Not through them, like he’s standing on one side of a treeline and I’m standing on the other, but like he is the trees. We will stay together, become taproots, strong and lasting, he says. Or we are both oaks. Discussing trees and strength becomes tedious, and, sometimes, he starts in about my little sister. Those conversations don’t last very long. *** The Olympics. 1984. Summer, because both Daddy and the man were wearing tshirts instead of coats. And because I’ll always remember Katarina. It was their fight that brought the police to

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michael prihoda

THE HYPOCHONDRIAC SOCIETY by Michael Prihoda

The Hypochondriac Society met every Thursday night in the basement of Knox Presbyterian Church. The church was like a Russian nesting doll: the Presbyterians on Sunday morning, some Mennonites on Sunday night; a children’s Montessori school met in part of the basement during the week or whenever the hell kids attended school nowadays and for a while I think Paul, this one guy I knew from somewhere (maybe he served me food at Shish, that Mediterranean deli on Grand near the university that I generally avoided because, well, undergrads) said Monday nights were AA meetings but I didn’t buy that.

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nikolas slackman

SHAVER by Nikolas Slackman

“All of my hair is leaving me.” But I was the one who’d shaved it all away. To say it left me was a compulsion to attract that rich melancholy self-lovers look for. I knew within mundane choices was the opportunity to feel abandoned. I’d electric razored the whole thing top-down and looked like a flesh pear. I ran it against the arms, down the back, around the tits. A little cut up shaving the neck, but the cuts from nerve damage jitters don’t count, I’d said. Tweeze the brow, but you always tweeze the brow. I could feel George’s

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kevin sampsell

THE RAZOR by Kevin Sampsell

This is the black shirt my ex-wife gave me before the divorce. The one her father used to wear. I have another one just like it, but it has long sleeves. These short sleeves fit me better. I imagine her dad wearing it. Standing outside, on the roof of his house, a cool breeze blowing through the looseness of the cloth, against his sloping shoulders. His arms, freckled and tired at the end. Patches of gray hair, waving. I wonder if he died in this shirt. Probably not. You don’t pick a black shirt to die in. I look in

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WE CLEAN UGGS by JP Sortland

Yes. No. Hand washed. No machine. He was the only man who shined shoes at George’s Shoe Repair. The tiny refuge was located below ground at the 51st and Lexington subway station. Yes. Hand. Wash. Personally. You’ll like. There were two or three ladies of an implacable foreign origin who also shined shoes in silence. Customers predicted the mystery women came from Bolivia to Tajikistan and everywhere in between. Buddy’s origin was clear as mud too. But wherever he’d come from before ending up at George’s had made him an amicable fellow. Unlike the shoeshine girls, the patrons of George’s

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kristin lafollette

SHOOTER by Kristin LaFollette

I was walking next to Maureen at a slower pace than usual. She was always walking slowly, mostly because she was usually talking too much. I was actually surprised to hear from her when she had called me the day before. It had been months since I’d heard from her. I knew it was because of the incident, but if I was truly being honest, I wasn’t sorry for what I’d done. Maureen had always been a subpar friend, even if we did claim to be “best friends.” Every time I had a crisis situation going on in my life,

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SONNY CROCKETT CIRCA 2004 by Ryan Hall

The chain-store you were employed at made so many bad decisions that you pictured board meetings full of cross-eyed and drooling executives, giving power-point presentations that were actually crude finger-paintings rendered in their own feces. And it was there, at the end of things, that you met Ricky. He first showed up wearing faded acid-washed jeans and neon blue cowboy boots, with fluffed and teased hair pulled into a pony-tail. He walked right up to you, stationed in the cafe slinging shit coffee and stale snacks for every third customer that didn’t ask where the nearest Starbucks was. Standing in

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nayt rundquist

DUETS AND THE CRACK IN EVERYTHING by Nayt Rundquist

She’ll break open the world, just a bit, and tell them how they’ll end, how they’ll get there, who’ll wrong them along the way. They’ll drown in it, their fates, choking to take it all in, no matter how certain they’d been they could swim. But she’ll be there, on the shore, waiting to pull them sputtering back to present, steaming stew to fend off the chill. Creaking floorboards in her age-shriveling hut groan as she grunts across them, fists stabbing her curving spine. Her clawhand brandishes her knife, her only artifact that still carries a sheen. The blade slices

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bud smith

RIVALS by Bud Smith

Last night a cop came uninvited to the party and tasered people for ten dollars. He was a year away from retirement, and so, was relaxed, even breathing from the mouth, acting like a pal. A lot of guys tried the taser. One even was shocked while he was downstairs in the shower. The cop got so excited. Three women did the taser too, holding hands together sharing that electric. They paid $3.33 each, pretending to be Siamese twins. It was whatever it was. They secretly hated each other. They publicly hated each other too. When the taser ran out of

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SOMETIMES HEROES CAN’T WEAR BROWN SKIN by Delvon Mattingly

In times of life-and-death, nobody quite grasped the concept of “be quiet.” But for us, it didn’t matter. My peers panicked, whimpered, some nearly hyperventilated—but nothing outclassed the tormenting screams coming from an adjacent room. Nothing could abolish the cackling gunfire, bullets penetrating walls and possibly bodies. Nothing stopped the killer from heading to our room next, glaring at us with a face of apathy, drawing our attention to boast about his body count, and how we were going to add to it. Nobody could do a thing, except for me. I wouldn’t consider my actions gallant. I charged the

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michael mungiello

MILK by Michael Mungiello

I’m on my way to mom’s apartment. * I’m at mom’s apartment. Wow, nice. She’s really spruced up the place. Mom? I’m in here! Down the hallway, wood floor, wood walls, wood doors, wood frames around photos (of me as a baby, me at my wedding, none in between); plants. Mom? Kitchen. Mom’s cluttered kitchen, Tchotchke salt shakers, detergent blue water sitting in the sink, a mini-TV in the corner and a little man saying in the Voice of Concern A Storm Is Coming. I look at the whole scene through the linty light coming through mom’s drawn translucent curtains.

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WARMAR by Sean Kilpatrick

One day I could speak the language hidden beneath my scabs. There were alphabets above the vacuum overhead that revealed themselves to me, but it was like diving after a flea with safety scissors. Almost enough grown to fill a coffin, still using gunshots to count sheep at night, I discovered, quite by fluke, much to the chagrin of the anorexic model whose head I crayoned off, how repugnantly negotiable human beings found love. I needed a denomination of stray to be cast adrift with, someone also awake, bowed out of society, willing to mate, common sense of history notwithstanding,

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marston hefner

LOOK AT IT RIGHT IN THE FUCKING FACE YOU METH FUCK by Marston Hefner

He was just having a terrible anxiety attack on how this was all going to end. Berry was in the darkness of his room when he realized he was willing to go to any lengths in order to maintain his own personal property and respective riches that no one but himself had earned in his own lifetime with no trust fund or outside help but the sweat off his back and his best faculties put to use and the 20 mg tablets of Adderall he’d been prescribed ever since he burned out and thought everything was coming to an end

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EXCERPT FROM “DRIFT” by Chris Campanioni

Born Under Punches The things I recall, I recall in zip pan, POV, a pullback shot without mise-en-scène. Or in darting moments, a brief flash, a passing scent, transposing and unblinking, and utterly distinct. Yet the whole of history favors similarities and slight anachronisms. The schism of time is in a class all its own, and even now I am racing through hallways of my subconscious without taking notice of the hall itself. The lino. A railing. Reverse angles by which you see your own self speaking. Everyday details. Everything passes. As a rule, I strive for lucidity in loneliness,

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LIL ULYSSES 666 by Paul Curran

It feels weird talking to a camera. I must look like a terrorist or a school shooter. I’ll turn off the light. That’s better. Your music sucks anyway. What makes you say that? I thought it sounded funny. You’re the one who asked me here.  Let’s rape and kill some kid. Do you mean physically or metaphorically? I mean metaphysically. That’s predictable. Many lyrics are worse. Are you taking notes? I heard you faked your own death. Glued on a beard and hitched a boat ride to Indonesia. Killed a backpacker and stole her passport. I’ve got the scars to

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scott garson

FUTURE COOKIE by Scott Garson

They were running a charter school out of a city building that stood in a quiet bureaucratic limbo of disrepair. Hanes had laryngitis, but Gutierrez asked him to cover L3 for the teacher whose name he always forgot, a twenty-some boy who was unable to smile without blinking convulsively, as he might with a fist in his face. The boy had a cold. Meanwhile the boy’s students showed up, took seats, and moved to straighten themselves in their endless fight against sleep. Hanes knew one or two. Yevgeny, Ukrainian man, droll, somewhat pedantic. Fallou, kid from Senegal, hard-core: stocked dry

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teddy duncan

THEME PARK SUICIDE by Teddy Duncan

I’d been to six flags before and I knew that there was a ride called goliath that you could manually unbuckle the seat belt even after the ride had begun. I don’t fully understand what I was thinking at the time but I don’t think anyone does when you get away from a sickness like that, like when you have a stomach ache and forget what it feels like for your stomach to be normal and you wish and hope and pray for it to be normal and for the stomach ache to end, so that normal becomes a glorious

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tara isabel zambrano

BUBBLEGUM by Tara Isabel Zambrano

The girl has created a bubble with 1/3 cup of glycerin, 1/3 cup water and 1/3 cup dishwashing soap after her third psychiatrist visit. Years ago she was a perfect baby― a head full of black curls, big eyes and a wide smile. After she turned five, something went wonky with her neurotransmitters. The doctor wrote a new prescription, and the girl didn’t want to pop any pills. The bubble’s supposed to last at least for a month because of all that glycerin. The girl lives inside the bubble. It wobbles when the girl floats like a butterfly, like cotton

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HEAD TO TOE by Molly Montgomery

One day, Penny woke up with her consciousness in her feet. She could still feel her head, blink her eyes, watch the procession of sunlight from her shutters ripple onto her bed, but it all felt very far away. Closer to her, the flannel blankets cushioned her arches and as she flexed— her feet that is, but it felt like she was stretching a larger muscle, like her back— her toes popped out of the warmth of the blanket, giddy like bright-eyed children, singing at last, at last it’s our turn now. They waved, creating a breeze in the rumpled

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SHE HAS DISCOVERED COSTCO by Shannon McLeod

It’s Friday the thirteenth and day number four of your leave. You’re taking some time off work since “the incident.” You’re at the DMV because you’ve been meaning to go for months but you’re always working when it’s open. You’re afraid of seeing your students’ parents in the waiting area. You’re wearing the same Alf T-shirt and stretched-out underwear you’ve had on for the past two days. You’re pretty sure you stink. You glance at the people sitting beside you and determine they are too old or too young to have children in middle school. You may never return to

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shane kowalski

CRAWL ON ME by Shane Kowalski

A lot of times, after having disgusting sex at her slow nephew’s cabin, we’d just get very sick of each other and begin volleying hurt back and forth. Don’t call my nephew slow, she’d say. I have a cousin who’s slow, I’d say. It’s okay. My nephew’s not slow though, she’d say. Have you met him? I’d say. She’d put her silver hair up, spit in my shoe. I’d tell her not to do that. Oh what are you going to do, she’d say. And I wouldn’t do anything. Why am I thinking of this now? …I think it’s because

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CHERYL by Michael Seymour Blake

There was a loud crash outside the apartment. We were in bed talking about leaving the city just as we always had around ten p.m. every night for the past million years. I’d bring up a photo of some paradise with green grass and a nice big blue sky, no skyscrapers or office buildings in sight, and Terry would go, “Yep, that’s the place for us,” and then we’d settle back into our misery and forget all about it. I was delinquent with two of my loans, Terry took a pay cut to save her job, and we had a

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DESERVED IT by Sebastian Mazza

But I know, it’s my own damn fault. – Jimmy Buffett The lightning bolt lit up the parking lot, fizzing, spitting, then evaporating into the gloom. After my eyes adjusted, I could just make out Dad’s fuzzy supine form across the lot and the man still standing over him. Before that night I’d never seen the man, who looked a bit woebegone and clumsy and irresponsible, a bit stocky with a bristly mustache, but not like a truly bad person, even now in memory. I’ve tried to pull up anger at him but end up mad at Dad instead, at

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marc olmsted

ART NAZIS by Marc Olmsted

Spainhammer’s gone, of course.   Flattop blond muscleman Viking male stripper and street hustler who wrote for Curtains’ ReSurface, grumbling about not getting paid, and mad at Crazy House Press publisher Enoch Poorboy (whom he threatened with a syringe of his own AIDS blood ) – that was the event of Floyd Lice’s “ironic” Hitlerian performance rant at the Bijou, where my Japanese friend Tony Amida ran into the famous Satanist’s daughter “who was surprised they let Asians in.”)   I liked Mick Spainhammer and sat on Tony’s back porch 1988, both of us smoking cigarettes, as he discussed the

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I HOPE THERE’S NUZZLING by Marisa Crane

The universe is held inside a crunch bar. Everyone knows it. We are all just waiting for the sloppy giant to unwrap that beautiful blue wrapper and take a big bite out of it. And then what? Well, fuck if we residents of the universe know. We’re just here. Will time stop? Cease to exist? Learn how to dougie all on its own? Will Saturn and Jupiter finally rekindle their romance or will Venus slip on her lace thong and distract Saturn yet again? Will the protons and electrons set aside their differences and make a pot roast together? Or

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edward mullany

NINE STORIES by Edward Mullany

Bay Ridge I’d fallen off my barstool and had been helped back up onto it by the man who’d been sitting next to me and who was laughing at me, or with me, as I was laughing at myself, though this man wasn’t someone I’d known before I’d entered the bar that afternoon, several hours earlier, when I’d found myself on the street on which it was located, having walked a long way, without much purpose or direction, from the neighborhood in which my apartment was, and in which I’d been arguing with the person with whom I’d been living

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christopher gonzalez

MINOR GRIEVANCES by Christopher Gonzalez

Adam tells me no one else will be by the water after such a bad snowfall. Edgewater Park should be deserted: just us and the lake, frozen into solid hills. It would be quiet, which I preferred—I kept quiet about a lot. Like the Grindr app I downloaded onto my phone as soon as I turned eighteen. How I’ve scrolled down that wall of guys, those photos of abs and round bellies, and the few faces concealed beneath the bill of a trucker’s camouflage snapback. I’ve tap-tap-tap-tapped the flame icon on a number of profiles, hoping to create a breadcrumb

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r.e. hengsterman

GRANDMOTHER by R.E. Hengsterman

A low metal growl rises, and I leap from the bed. Ten… nine. By seven, she’s reached the cornered hill of Fletcher and Fields. Her brakes protest with a tinny squeal. By five, I’m half dressed. At three, the throaty rumble of the eight-cylinder engine grows.  By the time I reach zero, Grandmother has arrived. She slides from the bench seat of her station wagon and navigates the piles of dog shit left by our beagle.  Her pink, black-strapped handbag drapes her forearm. Her coifed hair is motionless. She has pressed her clothing into fine lines of order.  Mother, Father, and

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isabella esser-munera

BANGKOK by Isabella Esser-Munera

He begins to paint. Frescos. No. But layers. Layers. There are faces. Clouds. He paints feverishly. Time is obsolete. His hand is limitless; it isn’t his. His body; not his. He makes love to himself in paint. ~ It is July 4th and he takes the four pieces that are left from the box in his drawer.  He eats them quickly and quickly lays down on his bed. It is a mat, long and thin. The room is bare and feels like it is opening. Like a box, as though the walls were slowly falling away by a pulled string. The

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wayland tracy

THE ELEPHANT EATS THE DOG by Wayland Tracy

I’ve rested my eyes upon the kit cat clock that keeps manic vigil of my darkening apartment. Either this or another video of fish eating birds, and I’ve figured out how all those end. Its eyes shift front door to back door, synchronized with pendulum tail, sixty back-and-fourths to the minute. A maroon coat with white beard and a clock face on its belly grasped tightly by claws. And a bowtie. And ears like devil horns. Surely the devil keeps time, is timely, time of our lives. But I’m waiting for those eyes to break rhythm, waiting for those orbs

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harris lahti

DARK WOODS by Harris Lahti

Another flashbulb blanches the room white. “Smile,” her mother tells the purple, howling baby swaddled in its crib. Everywhere the baby—in picture, on magnets, JPEGs plastered across the internet. Roswell can’t even pull a frozen pizza from the refrigerator without being confronted with its alien face. Roswell flips the channel from the couch. A nature documentary. Onscreen, a peregrine falcon divebombs an unsuspecting pigeon, and the baby’s howls mix with its cries. “I think I’ll have a beer,” she tells her mother. “I think I’ll have some unprotected sex,” she says. “Or maybe I’ll take the truck out for a

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s.f. wright

THE PAINTER by S.F. Wright

Lands wanted to be the next Jackson Pollack; his parents and siblings told him he should pursue a field in which he could get a real job. But Lands couldn’t see himself as a professional, and he figured, while he had the chance (his parents would pay for college, even if it was art school), he might as well study what he wanted. Art school was, at times, memorable. Lands didn’t live the promiscuous, bohemian lifestyle he imagined an artist-in-training would, but he did get laid once (a fellow student who later left school to join a religious convent after

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joel tomfohr

UBERLIFTER OR MY BUM HEART OR WOMEN WHO REJECTED ME OR THE RAIN TREE IN THE GOLDEN VALLEY by Joel Tomfohr

Which brings me to this afternoon, like many others this summer I hope. How I was out by Lake Merritt, out next to the giant Children’s Fairyland sign and the fountain, out on that hill right there in the sun trying to you know, like, melt into the earth. That’s my goal. To melt into the earth. And, if I can’t do that, then raise my vitamin D levels as much as I can. And nothing really in particular happened; I guess this: An older man pushed his bike up next to my head to get my attention while I

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DIPIETRANTONIO

KENTUCKY SHITS by Giovanni DeJaneiro

Steven lived alone in a small house on a cattle ranch at the bottom of a hidden valley.  He didn’t have city water, air conditioning, or internet. The kitchen stank. Empty beers crowded the table and counters and stovetop.  A flyswatter hung on the wall—flies hummed through the air. Dishes towered in the sink. Bright orange slime curdled in a dirty saucer, seemingly the source of the hideous reek. He inflated a mattress in the family room, where a floral couch faced a huge wood stove.  Grains of rice, toenail clippings, bottle caps, and dirty tissues overspread the coffee table.

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EYE UPON THE DONUT by Gregg Williard

“She could be one of them.”  Matt nodded toward the end of the counter.  A Japanese woman of indeterminate age with fuchsia hair and an aqua hoody sat alone with a donut and coffee. Jake had never seen anyone eat a donut the way she did, from the outside surface moving in, turning it with each nibble until there was nothing but a perfect ring around the center. She placed it on the counter to study between sips of coffee. Matt whispered, “She’s here every Saturday morning.  Orders coffee and a cake donut, always real careful not to bite the

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jenny fried

EYE BITES by Jenny Fried

What You Need to Know I cut off a rat’s head with a guillotine, and it told me I looked like someone who ate cereal for every meal, which was one I hadn’t heard before. I do not in fact eat cereal for every meal, but there’s no use fighting with a rat head. I learned not to argue when I tried to kiss someone and was so nervous I missed her mouth. At first she told me it was cute, but later she said she didn’t know why she bothered with me. I got lost in the forest once.

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sara chansarkar

NOT FOREVER, SNOWMAN by Sara Chansarkar

You be my Christmas, Snowy. Keep me company this holiday season, that’s all. No Forevers for me, now. Forever lasted only four years and 17 days and left me with this I-am-sorry-note on a neon post-it stuck under the coffee machine, this black-and-white check scarf hung between my coats, and a weight pulling me down like dumbbells attached to my body parts. I’d seen that little minx and the sorcery in her mascaraed caramel eyes ─ the liquid ones made to steal ─ as they bore into his. She’d smiled at me wicked as she sized up my full body.

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BUTTLOAD by Caleb Echterling

The king’s chief of staff flipped the display numbers. The occupants of the blandest room in the kingdom clutched their flimsy tickets, and sucked in a collective breath. Trumpets flared, and a crier bellowed, “Petition the King Day, now serving A377.” A group of well-dressed, barefoot gentlemen rose to their feet. “That’s us, move aside,” they said as they elbowed through the crowd into the throne room. “Your majesty, we are representatives of the Cloth-Sellers Guild. Look!” They each thrust one bare foot into the air. “We all have different sized feet.” King Rupert stroked his beard. “I’m afraid the

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PLAGUES AND OBLIGATIONS by Simon Henry Stein

After nine days of nights, I went. On each of those nights I hadn’t gathered more than four hours of sleep, adrift still-dressed from the previous day on a bed that used to boast plural ownership. On three or four of those nights, I twisted toward the ceiling and tried to mumble a prayer or blessing so quiet it wouldn’t bother anyone, not even me, but failed. Baruch atah Adonai––blessed are you, Lord. That’s as far as I would get. There’s even a prayer to wake up having slept without sleep greeting death halfway, the Hashkiveinu. I don’t remember the

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LAYING ON HANDS by Aaron Buchanan

At Garron Lake Baptist, all the hands were up in supplication to God as bodies swayed and voices sang “Just As I Am.” In the front, Pastor Charlie Schmidt was laying his sweaty, psoriasis-afflicted hands on Grace Switowski. Pastor Schmidt prayer was heard above the din of chanting, moving bodies. His voice elevated above the song, booming out over the microphone clipped to his lapel each time he said “blood” of our savior, Jesus Christ. Grace Switowski was 24. Stringy brown-gray clumps of hair fell from patches on her mostly-bald head like wet papier-maché.  At the front of the worship

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louis dickins

DROP SHOT by Louis Dickins

Sonia is ashamed of her husband. She’s sitting with a crowd of people at the local tennis courts in horror, as her husband Paul prepares to serve. He hasn’t won a game, and he and his opponent are deep into the third and final set. It’s a hot, windy day at the South Morang Tennis Club. There’s a barbeque sizzling in the corner and cups of cordial set up for the kids. It’s the quarterfinals of the local tournament, and Paul’s lifelong dream of winning the cup is being violently dismantled. At 48 years old, Paul is seriously overweight and

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mike corrao

NO THANK YOU by Mike Corrao

becomingplateaubecomingmachinebecomingplacebecomingbodybecomingbirdsongbecomingdirectionbecomingstasisbecomingmattressbecomingthinbecomingessencebecomingmaterialbecomingpersonbecomingurnbecominganimal (or No Thank You)   There are a thousand plateaus spanning across this plane. Each occupied by strange machines eating each other, who stare at the remains for as long as they can bear to. “What kind of fucking place” is this: somewhere locked within itself. A body that crawls out of stasis, so tired of its previous immobility that it stretches out in every direction until it is so thin that it cannot see itself. It feels like there is a jackhammer at the face of my chestplate. And it’s telling me that I’m late for whatever I’m

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THE TURTLEMAN by Patrick Reid

The turtleman has dark green skin, a thick, spongy surface, like wet clay. The turtleman lives by the lake. The turtleman has long, smooth legs, and even longer, skinnier arms. The turtleman reads fiction. The turtleman writes screenplays, hoping he will eventually sell one to Hollywood, but he doesn’t let his hopes get too high, because he knows a lot of depressed screenwriters who have long since lost their creative spark. The turtleman has a mere bump for a nose, slits for nostrils, and two large eyes, cartoonish, mostly white. The turtleman has a shell. The turtleman walks on two

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harris lahti

BONDO by Harris Lahti

That summer I started working at Lexington Home for minimum wage. I spent shifts convincing residents to swallow pills brimming from paper cups. It was a powerful position. Or at least that’s what I told friends. I told them I could’ve swallowed every pill if I wanted. But the only question anyone ever asked was: “What happened to you?” I was permanently limping. My hips, shins, elbow were riddled with lumps and eggs. The city of Albany was full of cracks that stopped skateboard wheels dead and, it seemed, I’d found every one. I discovered the pink goo of car

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kevin hatch

RENTAL by Kevin Hatch

My sister was a Blockbuster Video. She was a happening place. She kept her aisles clean, her shelves organized. Children begged for candy inside her. Families made special trips to see her. My sister was the church of Friday night. She was too inviting. A track-star type took her out, filled her with words and other flesh. Made her too-family. Made her un-happening. Made her un-rewindable. Her posture changed. Late-fees and rental-rates changed. People tried to be polite. She breathed dust in their face, forced expired candy in their hands until they just stopped coming. My sister drove her Honda

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