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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MY DOUBLE by Michael Loveday

I made a cardboard cutout of me. Clodagh, I called her, and my family took to her well. That first evening at the dinner table, they didn’t register any difference, as they slurped and gnawed, licked their lips, and gorged on their lavish daily meats. At last, I was spared the disgusting sounds of them eating. I spent more time alone in my bedroom, reading tales of the headless Dullahan grinning on his night-black horse, and slowly starving myself, praying that I would one day become invisible.  My parents grew to like that Clodagh endured, without disruption, their long-and-short-of-it stories…

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FREAK DEATHS by Aishwarya Mishra

Lasya transfers to our school in the peak of summer when the heat makes us more mirage than matter. Our mothers warn us against going out, but we want to see that translucence that makes us inquire after her surname.  “That house is Lord Krishna’s mouth,” our mothers say, “containing the entire universe within it.” The air-conditioners are dismantled first. The first time we step inside their house, we find it throbbing like the angry vein we sometimes see on our fathers’ foreheads. Lasya’s Ma gives us watermelon juice to cool our stomachs and tells us of the family that…

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HORSESHOES by Mary Alice Stewart

She says it big and like a threat and smiling, horseshoe in hand, “I don’t like losing,” and she swings, lets go, and hits the stake head on. A ringer—iron rings against iron and I hold my drink up and shout for her. The game is alive again. Kayla plays inconsistent. It’s sometimes hard to watch, some bad throws, can’t even get one close, then she gets pissed off and you can see in her face that she’s decided it’s over for her and she’s just going through the motions. It’s awful playing her when she gets all fixed like…

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THE MILK BOTTLE LEGS OF THE HIGH WIRE WOMAN by Frankie McMillan

1 When I look at her legs I see upturned milk bottles, and I’m talking here of the glass bottles that milk used to come in and I love the shape of those legs, I could stay out all night on the frosty grass looking up at the wire and Miss Tatyana walking the wire in silence, only the guy ropes creaking and the twang of the metal pulley, and you know, those legs get my score, those legs belonging to Miss Tatyana all the way from Russia where they didn’t have glass milk bottles, only Mr Stalin, his mouth…

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AFTER SHRINKING by Hannah Cajandig-Taylor

We lived in a pale blue dollhouse with three stories & a basement. Obsessed over hot air balloons & weather blimps. Collected snowglobes & birdcages & convinced our giant neighbors to order countless pizzas by jumping on the remote buttons until a commercial with extra-large pepperoni flashed across their TV screen. Until we snuck enough triangular pizza box tables to furnish the place. Grew make-believe green beans & perennials on the roof. Protected our cardboard porch with Venus flytraps. A drawbridge. Toothpick mailbox. The works. Repainted our plastic appliances with glittering silver nail polish. Sharpie’d our heights on the wall,…

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EXCERPTS FROM THE NOVEL VENICE by T.J. Larkey

Tough I’m lying on my floor, next to my bed. My bed is this big padded mat that rolls up and can be moved very easily. It’s comfortable, but I like the floor better. I believe that lying on the floor for a few hours a day will toughen me up. I was a spoiled kid, very soft, so I’m always looking for things to toughen me up. That’s how I got here. I got it in my head that moving to a big city I’d seen in movies and television, where I didn’t know anybody, would somehow make me…

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WELCOME TO THE RECKONING by Omar Hussain

Your family’s old brown and blue station wagon pulls up to the house. It’s not your house. It’s never yours. At three-years-old, you’ve already lived in four dodgy houses, a mobile home, month-to-month condos and rent-controlled apartments. This is your grandfather’s house. He tells you and your parents that you’re welcome to stay for as long as you’d like, but you’ve heard that one before.  The wagon comes to a stop. The gears slam into park. Your dad is screaming about something—the latest rage attack. He gets out of the car, paces around the hood. To the passenger side door….

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