NO TAKE BACKS by Nikki Volpicelli

The phone calls and it makes me anxious. I mean the phone rings, a person calls. It’s been so long, I forget what to do.  “Britt, you there?”  I hang up. Princess. Who else? She’s the only one who still remembers the landline to my dad’s house. Her dad’s house. Ours. Was. Past-tense. She calls back immediately, and this time I know better than to answer just because it rings.  I haven’t talked to my sister in 10 years and I don’t plan on starting now. It’s not sibling rivalry, not just two girls fighting over a boy. Sure, back…

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SMACK by Chella Courington

Meet me @ Aquarium, he texted. By jellyfish, 7. She would perhaps, most likely, but not before researching jellyfish, for she knew his habits, the way he liked to make it impossible for her to say no wherever they were.  Adults spawned daily if given enough food, and for most, spawning was triggered by dim light so the entire population bred every day at dawn or dusk, floating through water, dropping eggs and sperm, tentacles (though she preferred tendrils) never touching. While most men she’d known like to roll against her in the morning, he was a night creature. Fortunately,…

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FRIDGE by Xueyi Zhou

Say you just move into a new apartment. A freshly finished apartment with a lingering smell of paint. The apartment is not big but it’s your own, and that’s something. You work hard for it, wall by wall, for a tiny cell in a honeycomb. However, a bare box with only a man inside seems more like a lock-up than a lodging, which means now you need appliances. Your choices are limited by the small space and your thin wallet. But you decide to treat yourself, to get something nice. To make it cozier, more like home. You are torn between an air-conditioner and a fridge….

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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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QUEER VISIBILITY by Brooke Kolcow

I disappear in large groups.  -John Elizabeth Stintzi, circa 2014 I know it’s starting when my legs begin to prickle like they’ve fallen asleep. They fade away and no one notices. My arms go next, numb from my fingers up to my shoulders. The beer I’ve been drinking falls to the floor and I wince. The bottle bounces once and rolls across the kitchen linoleum. Without legs, I can’t bend down and without hands, I can’t pick it up, but at least this time it doesn’t shatter.  Once, at a Halloween party in grad school, my cocktail glass broke when…

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THE EXPLODING TREE by Kevin Richard White

She’s feeding you remains of her meal. Like you’re some animal child.  There’s a tattoo of an exploding tree on her back and right shoulder blade: black ink like paint splatter on her smooth skin, roots pulled up, snapped branches, drifting leaves that become new birds. Hair covers it, but not often. One day, you woke up, and it was there. You were angry about it at first, but then you realized you had a lot in common with that tree: You both couldn’t move and had nowhere to go fast. You open your mouth. You want more of the…

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TRIPTYCH OF FALLING STARS by Wayland Tracy

Every night I hear the screams of myself far away. I beg for help but I will not help. In a ditch by the tracks, full of golf balls and bones of careless creatures. White quartz set in circles. I lie down and I am falling. Can’t find the earth. The noises of town rattle like deathbed confessions. Trains hurtle past. The stars encroach. We once had lights that prolonged days. I scrounge for bones with meat clinging on. I once had a table. Pictures of people stuffed into cracked walls, maps that do not help me. No children anymore….

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THE END by Zac Smith

The seasonal jobs came back to town aboard a gleaming, diesel caravan. We all stepped up to carry water and dirt and to do all the other things that would be asked. Brought our resumes, our lunch boxes, our good gloves. Someone was going to see us, buy our labor for a week or month—see something useful in the junk, like Giacomo did as a dropout teen, buying a rusted-out chainsaw to bond with mom and get it running again. And just like that ideation, we’d take off for somewhere else full of better promises. This we knew, believed, felt,…

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RIDING A BIKE THROUGH THE LONELY CONTINUUM OF TIME by Christian Fennell

His name was Leonard. He was riding a bike. His arms held out to the sides of him, his mind never trapped by his own self, never buckling under the weight of what he should be, or shouldn’t be, understanding the truth of himself, always, in this world, hard as that was, and of course, in this moment too, riding a bike through the lonely continuum of time. He smiled at his knowing, where others couldn’t—or fucking wouldn’t, and he was right, and knew he was right, and always would be. He rode on, his arms still there, to the…

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MISSING by Brian Brunson

Recollection A: He has a distinct memory of being told the story about Uncle Ringo’s missing index finger. More like he remembers that at one point it was a distinct memory. But that was years ago, when he was five or six, and nothing from way back then is distinct. Still, he is sure that his mother, standing in the kitchen, making fried chicken for dinner, told him and his brother that their Uncle Ringo lost his finger when he was sixteen in a meat grinder in the deli he worked at after school Recollection B: Somewhere, sometime, he is…

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