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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GOD AT 60 by Bill Merklee

We started as marginal Catholics, going though the motions. Now I was having dinner with Kenny, the only one of us who’d stuck with it. Father Postlewaite to his parish. It’d been too long. “Andre still an atheist?” he said. “Yup. In Oregon. Found himself a nice godless girl.” “And Coyne?” “Still waiting for Armageddon.” Kenny grinned without looking at me, eased back in his chair. “Remember that comparative religion class? All those speakers trying to explain their faith before the bell rang?”  “The Baptist preacher in the powder blue suit? Right out of central casting.” “They’d never get away…

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LAST WORDS by Jayne Martin

There’s usually two of us, but it’s Christmas Eve and I got nowhere to be. Anyway, she’s just a little bit of a thing, barely 90 pounds from the looks of her. I can roll her onto the gurney.  The Super found her after complaints about the smell. I don’t smell nothing no more. Fucking freezing in here.  “No rent. No heat,” he said. Asshole should be charged with murder. But who’s gonna complain?  Place is neat as a pin. Something my mom used to always say. Neat as a pin. Still don’t know what that means. Mom would have…

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ABOUT DINNER by Veronica Klash

You know what it means to have dinner. The meal that satiates before slumber. After the sky is drained of fire and flooded with ink. But what does it mean to have dinner with a man? To sit across from each other at that Thai place that just opened. To look at the menu and not see the words because his hand grazed yours and euphoria dripped from the base of your neck down your spine and he smells like mint and spice and something else that you can’t describe and you rush your inhale so you can breathe him…

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ENERGY FROM LIVING THINGS by Laura Eppinger

I examine the head of lettuce because he tells me to, but I don’t know what he wants me to see. Broad romaine leaves the color of spring rest outside his canvas shopping bag, sure. Just a few minutes ago, John shouted at me for putting my slicker on the wrong hanger in his coat closet, or through the wrong loop inside the jacket. It’s hard to keep track, since I needed to kick my muddy boots off before stepping through the front door. I thought I was following all the rules, but I missed another one, and this time…

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THE YEAR I WAS MOST HUNGRY by Shane Cashman

When I wear my long, dark peacoat, I look like I’m about to betray my country; I instigate assassinations; I have affairs in 1964; I fly first class.  When ex-presidents die, the whole nation wears peacoats and flags at half-mast. We all of a sudden show a strange love for someone we used to curse––it’s that kind of love people only show once someone’s gone. We only truly love you once we’ve thrown you in your casket––we’re a culture of goddamned necrophiliacs.  The length of my coat reminds me I’m just over six feet tall; my height equals the common…

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STUMBLING ON CONCRETE by Mileva Anastasiadou

I was overweight when I started the diet, but eating less didn’t help much. I lost some weight, yet I still feel heavy. I told him last night. My husband eyed me up and down, checking for excess fat, then said I look fine, but I don’t feel fine at all. I should move to Mars, perhaps, where gravitational forces feel less powerful, I said jokingly, or turn into a bird, I thought, only I didn’t say that aloud. He suggested exercise and I shrugged. I’m not certain exercise will help take the burden off of me, but I could…

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CHAMP by Emma Hodson

The man smells like smoke. He is moving into a new apartment on a street that used to be a bustling thoroughfare, but now is just another grey road. That is, the apartment is new to him, but not to this world. It’s close to his old spot, just a few blocks, but it’s noticeably more decayed. A beige building shoved in between a Thai place and pay-per-hour motel, a single tarnished mini van parked in the driveway most days. The apartment was built in 1973 when mom-and-pop shops dotted the street, bubbly hand-painted signs, and women doing their grocery…

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WE COULD BE ANYONE by Alicia Bones

I knew I should feel sympathy for Laura, but her fire-bright face in the Abernathy-Smythe backyard unsettled me. She was telling me the details of her life, the really private, personal ones, though we’d only met a few times at parties hosted by shared acquaintances. “My father is a drunk, and my mother is sociopath,” Laura said, staring off into the fire.   Jesus Christ, was all I could think as I twisted up my fingers. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t even think of what I should say. I was well-adjusted, a truth about myself that had bothered me…

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GIVING SPEECHES IN YOUR UNDERWEAR by Emily Painton

You are stirring onions, slowly caramelizing them. You can’t believe you’re married again. He’s in the other room, well not the other room. The long galley kitchen you’re standing in is attached to the living room. You can see him, sitting on the couch with his football game on, the volume turned way up, waiting for his dinner. He will not appreciate these onions you are laboring so long over. His favorite meals are ground beef tacos or chili. Two dishes you’ve grown to despise.  Later that week, you come home for lunch because he asked you to. He’s not…

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