BEFORE THE FATHER/DAUGHTER JAILHOUSE DANCE by Meg Pokrass

1. Before seeing your daddy you wait with the other girls who have criminal daddies and you size them up. Your nose doesn’t hide like theirs does, doesn’t hang down in shame. It dangles smack in the middle of your face like a lifelong promise. You’re proud of your strident, unapologetic nose, the nose you inherited from him. “You all waitin’ to dance with your bad daddies too?” one of the droopy girls says. You aren’t interested in bonding with fools. You wonder if these girls wake up to the sight of a mother pulling crust from her eyes, saying,…

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THE COUCH ATE MY MOTHER by Julia Breitkreutz

The couch unhinges its gray jaws and my mother’s unresisting body sinks into the wide gap between the soft cushions. When I first notice that the couch is eating my mother, the slight folding of her pelvis into the gray polyester fabric is so subtle of a shift that I would have easily glanced over if not for the noise—thick and wet—like leaving the YMCA as a kid. With a beach towel wrapped around my small frame, I remember how my orange Crocs quickly filled with a thin puddle of water that had dripped off my body. The sound of…

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ROLLING by H. A. Eugene

The day came when he didn’t know what else he could possibly do, so he climbed up a great hill and lied down on top of it. And then he started rolling.  He accelerated, faster and faster, and after a few exhilarating bangs and bumps, found himself, once again, at the bottom. But he didn’t stop there. He kept on rolling—through the woods and into town. Eventually he rolled into the city, underneath the highway that bisected its sprawling map, past the train tracks, and beyond the outlet stores that marked the suburb’s edge.  Rolling, rolling, rolling.  Until houses changed…

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REST STOPS AND PARKING LOTS by Aaron Burch

Because I didn’t want to pay for a hotel. Because I could afford to pay for a hotel, but it seemed like a waste. Because, as much as I enjoy sleeping in and then being lazy and watching TV in bed, I wanted to get up and moving and on the road as soon as possible. Because I’d paid for and slept in a hotel the night before, and I’d do so again the night after, and I thought a night in my car would both save me a little money and make me appreciate the nights when I did get a hotel.

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AT THE POLICE STATION, WITH SKETCH ARTIST by Alana Mohamed

The most startling thing about him was the realization that he must have been beautiful when he was younger. I like to look into people’s faces and imagine them other ways: older, younger, dying, terrified, on the brink of extreme cruelty. This man did not look capable of cruelty, though it was dark out and difficult to tell. He seemed like a good man who had grown up and seen life turn in on itself and now he was in a hard way, with such a striking face and such deep lines. It was a foggy Tuesday and I was…

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SHOSTAKOVICH’S THIRD FUGUE by Derick Dupre

Dmitri finds himself on a deep south farmhouse tour. He’s not sure of how events have contrived to bring him there. The last thing he remembers is packing a bag, he was folding clothes and packing them, though he’d be at a loss to say where he was originally going or why. Outside the heat is murderous. While walking down a wide hall behind an oblivious but garrulous guide, Dmitri’s distracted by the virtuosity inherent in the hand that made a certain crown moulding, stops to admire it, fails to take his meds as he should every day at this…

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RESTORATION by Myna Chang

Nobody tells her how to remove her father’s blood, how to cleanse the pools and spatters of a life stolen. The county sheriff doesn’t warn her about the stickiness, or how very much of it there is, puddled on the floor between the cash register and the chicken feed. He doesn’t tell her about the crust that will form if she puts off cleaning until the day after the funeral. No one helps her call the professional crime scene cleaners in the city. Their phonebook advertisement mentions special equipment and emotional distance. They promise ‘restoration’ — but she is outside…

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MY MOM TOLD ME TO EAT TINY SANDWICHES by Dough Mahoney

my mom took a picture of me walking to the car. she took a picture of me in the car. we drove towards eatonton, georgia. i wanted to vape but couldn’t. or i could, but it would ruin the trip. i didn’t vape. i read a few pages from black jacobins. i asked how long the drive was going to take. five hours, my dad said. i thought he was joking. i asked if he was joking. he said he wasn’t joking. five hours isn’t too long, i said. i drank coffee from a thermos. i finished the coffee. i…

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MAMÁ’S MORNING by Moisés R. Delgado

Mamá kept her morning in the bathtub. But why a morning, I once asked, why not instead call her moons a night? Or a waxing? Or why not simply call them moons? Without a moon, mamá said, the night would be dark—my moons are anything but dark. But to be a morning, mamá said, wouldn’t you give anything to be a morning—to even be one panel of light? I wish I could have been more like mamá. I know she prayed the same. When she called me her cielo we both knew which sky she meant. On what would be…

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RETURN TO PLANET CLOWN by Nathan Hoil

Clowns vomit clown food. Clowns vomit anything dead that they find in the neighbor’s pool. I am looking so sharp I am made out of scissors. I do not remember a happier day.  The lungs in my stomach are hungry for air but I go back in the house and try not to think about all the dead clowns in my yard. Not even my loved ones love me.  “You’re too cute,” I say to a clown moments before they light me on fire.  I always thought I would live to see my own ghost. The horizon is a drug…

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