MALE ENDURANCES by Nora MacLeod

My college friend asked me out for drinks and named a bar equidistant to our offices and apartments. The last time I went there a dentist had hit on me with his Argentinian friend who claimed he worked for the CIA. The time before that I’d fainted on the sidewalk during a first date, it was the best date of my life. Arriving at the bar, I felt as though I was returning to the dumping ground of a dead body, coming back to touch his hair and maybe sit on his rotting face. In a dream I felt I…

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LETTERS TO MACKENZIE by Blake L. Bell

I We were wild girls. Raised with dirty feet, tangled hair. Our dogs followed us down the roads we walked, but our mommas rarely did. We played hard, fought hard, loved hard. Fate cheated us from being sisters, so we bound ourselves together with blood ritual. We couldn’t go downstairs to the kitchen to get a knife, afraid of waking momma. Instead, we broke a jar in the upstairs bathroom and sliced our thumbs open; our skin peeled back, vessels bursting and spilling over. We pressed our cuts together and imagined our blood forever combined. “Soul sisters,” we said, sucking…

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TENDERNESS by Anthony Sabourin

The Doomsayer is at work.  He takes a sip of black coffee from a styrofoam cup. He mumbles to himself and barks like a dog and screams into his elbow as one would muffle a cough. He takes another sip of coffee, gargling it and spitting it into the street; wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. Across the street the train is stopping, and soon the morning rush will be streaming by on the stretch of street before him, walking in their harried steps, a tension in the inconvenience of being a person around other people, already…

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ANTS by Mary Mattingly

There’s an ant infestation in my bathroom. They are relentless. Everyday, more squirming black dots swarm the sink, the countertops. Me, I’m fearless. I launch attacks on them with a safe-for-pets Ant and Roach Killer spray, twisting the green cap counterclockwise to cock it, holding it close to the sink to use the pesticide since at some point, the useless aluminum bottle broke and it no longer sprays confidently, just reluctantly pisses spray out. Still, it’s satisfying to watch the ants slow as the chemicals hit them. They drown in poisonous pools. I work methodically, chasing them to their home…

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ADULT-ORIENTED by Kala Frances Wahl

I was seventeen with braces, bright pink rubber bands looped around the brackets in my mouth, when God appeared to me in a dream. He told me it was my destiny to be a porn star. I was peroxide blonde, big-breasted and flexible. I readily accepted God’s proposal. Once without direction, my life now had purpose, meaning, something tangible that I could grip onto and ride like a mechanical bull. The horns felt good in my hands. I attended Catholic school, but I didn’t believe in God. I wasn’t sure what I believed in. I wanted to believe I was…

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IRENE by Sarah MW

“Fancy a bite of my banana, Miss?” Teenage faces have a soft bluntness to them, a button-like quality as they wait to be chiseled out to their full adult contour. Joe’s face was the same, though unlike the others it sported a uniquely impressive beard, far from usual in a fifteen-year-old. He was grisly and monstrous; I heard he’d fucked his way through most of the pretty girls in year ten and eleven. Simpering, gum-chewing girls with clotted mascara and deep-set insecurities. He swung back, all too pleased with himself in his plastic chair, forcibly recumbent, legs wide like a…

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THE BIRD by Mary Widdicks

There’s mud between my toes. Slimy, sticky, and covering the chipped pink polish that now decorates only the tips of my big toenails. It’ll be gone the next time Mom cuts them. The ground is hot even though the sun is starting to duck behind the trees, and I can’t stand still for very long or it burns the bottoms of my feet. I hop from grass patch to molehill along the side of the road, avoiding gravel and broken glass like a game of hopscotch, and trying desperately not to spill the water from the bucket dangling from my…

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A CIRCULAR SCAR by Shannon St. Hilaire

A guy I dated briefly once asked about my mother of pearl ring. Everyone knows a ring has a story.  “I won’t tell you,” I said before I could stop myself. Then I corrected, saying I bought it off Etsy, but it was too late. I would never tell him the story of my ring, because to know and understand my ring was to know and understand me. If I told someone about my rings, about this ring in particular, it would signal to me that I trusted them, and they trusted me, too. And I had no interest in…

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HAPPINESS by Matthew Licht

My father wasn’t a traveling salesman, just a guy who never seemed to be where he was. A look crossed his face if someone came into the room where he was thinking or dreaming or scheming or whatever he was pretending to do, or spoke to him directly when he was present but lost. The look said who are you, what are you doing here, what do you want from me? Everything was fine. We lived in an acceptable house where hot meals were a regular feature. Then one day Pop came home with a monkey. The baby hadn’t begun…

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THE SWADDLE by Janelle Bassett

I am at the sink, rinsing a food processor blade, when I hear the cry of a tiny baby. Carrot bits go down the drain, easy, but the insistent wailing isn’t going anywhere. I assume the sound is some sort of inner-ear repercussion from the electronic-tornado buzzing of the food processor, yet the sound continues even after I open my mouth wide to pop my ears. A baby is definitely crying and it’s an I’ve-been-left-alone-which-I-am-not-built-for cry. I look up and think back, “Didn’t my babies grow past the baby stage?” I consult the refrigerator where, sure enough, their recent school…

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