PEOPLE WATCHING by Michael Seidlinger

You aren’t alone even though it still feels that way, long gaps of nothing between discussions that seem to have everything to do with the weekend, which leads you to the assumption that tonight won’t be much. You are with someone familiar, been around, floating along with the same circle since as far back as you’re willing to remember, and you are both searching the shopping mall for the others, convinced that they had told one of you to meet them at the food court. “Why, I have no fucking clue,” he says. But that’s really not ever worth considering…

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DOG PERSON by Troy James Weaver

For over an hour she’d been thinking about killing the baby. Was it a baby? A toddler? He sprawled between two exhausted, resigned parents four rows behind her. They had been in the air for six hours, somewhere over the Pacific, and she’d just had it already with the carts of stale food, the fake smiles, the snoring old men, and now, now more than anything, the crying of the kid, especially after having had the worst sex of her life that morning. It went on and on and on. She tried to plug her ears with her fingers, some…

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DETECTIVE STORY by Joseph Grantham

There was this woman’s voice. It came on the radio at about 11 p.m. every night. The jazz station. KCSM 91.1. Think her name was Dee Alexander. She told her listeners to breathe in fresh air and exhale negativity. She told us to love our children and to take care of ourselves. She told us the world needed us. I’d always hear her in the car on my way home from the gym. She made things better for a little while. I didn’t have any children to love but I needed help taking care of myself. I was going to…

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LITELIFE by Jimmy Chen

The receptionist hid the instant message regarding the logistics of an imminent gathering behind her work email, though the only thing visible to others in the waiting area was the back of her computer, which featured a ubiquitous apple with a sole bite mark in its side. Those who waited did so with the fragile purposefulness of people completely consumed by their phone, and so weren’t actually “waiting”—an anti-event generally marked by ennui and restlessness—but rather, simply tending to labyrinthine text threads and neglected emails which, therefore, imparted a sense of accomplishment they ultimately found pleasurable. Behind her, on a…

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OLIVER by Kevin Maloney

I was sitting in a McDonald’s in Elkhart, Indiana, eating a Big Mac, crying and swallowing. The beef, or whatever gray rubber they wedge between the white bread and Thousand Island, was foul and made my stomach churn, but under my disgust was the pleasure of my unshackling. In Burlington, Vermont, the communist outpost where until 13 hours ago I’d lived in unhappy matrimony, everybody was vegetarian or vegan. Somehow, I’d gotten sucked into that nonsense; for eleven years, I’d subsisted primarily on kale, a leafy green that tastes the way doilies look. It was my wife’s doing. She wanted…

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A GOOD BARGAIN by xTx

I am 4’9, 323 pounds. I cannot leave my house. I cannot lift myself from the couch. I cannot find the remote control. I cannot rub my feet. My butler robot can only make so many fried egg sandwiches. My maids have been instructed to black out all mirrors. I cannot remember what my face looks like. The sheet I wear is beige. How will I clean myself without you? If you went to KFC and bought a bucket of chicken and drove to my house, when you used the intercom at the main gate and I heard your voice…

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TURNS OUT, IT WAS BONE by Mieze Zuber

It was early spring, nearly like now, before Columbine, and I was drinking again in that bar perpendicular to the office where they’d housed me. I was with a couple of the bankers and J., the gay man who refused to admit what he was. He knew I knew, and that I wasn’t going to judge, that I liked him as he was. So he hovered close like security, almost like a pimp, and he was lovely to drink with and say much of nothing to. I slept over at his, overlooking the river. I took men back there. He…

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LIMITLESS by Chris Dankland

Rhubarb Jones died choking on vomit in her teenage bedroom. Her favorite kpop album still hung in the air when her corpse was discovered nine hours later. The name of the album was Limitless. She had set it on repeat. An hour before, she had slapped together and eaten a ham sandwich. It was the only thing she could manage to make on {a high amount} mg of xanax. Pre-sliced slivers of ham inside two pieces of bread. She fell asleep four times, mid-chew. But she swallowed it down. She passed out on her bed with the crumb-littered plate only…

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