HYDROGEN AND HELIUM by Peter Krumbach

I misspell people’s faces. Cup them in my palms, kiss some, give a playful tug on the jowls of others. Good evening. Never better. Burghers of landfills and oak-lined boardrooms, white-collar criminals and donors of kidneys. Calculated together, they equal a mean designed to obscure the edges. I apologize, parties do this to me. The low ceiling track lights, the shag underfoot, the heads bobbing like olives in brine. I could have sworn it was Frank. Dressed as Biff. I bend to greet the elders collapsed in mid-century chairs. Boredom, meet urgency. I bend to your aunt Wilma, who turns…

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FROG CIGARETTES by Brendan Gillen

Two at a time, take the steps ’til I’m out of breath. Mom doesn’t know. Attic stiff with heat. Cobwebs like lightning. Know I’m after something important, just haven’t found it yet. Up here there’s a tool chest by the mannequin. Been around long as I’ve been sneaking up. Since I was seven maybe. The years feel like gym class. Around and around and leave me dizzy. The dust is thick and my eyes itch.  Not supposed to be up here because it’s where Dad used to come and hide. Maybe Mom thinks part of him is still up here…

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COME HOME NOW by Danielle Chelosky

When apologizing to you for fucking up, I’d buy you flowers. The first ones were blue—not like the sky, but abrasive and ethereal like from a video game. I broke the stems so they would fit in my bag without peeking out, and the color dripped onto my palms and stained them for days. If it were red, it would have felt accusatory; this ultramarine was comforting, safe. * The risk for fucking up was lethal. Not for me, but for you. * I was seventeen. I fell in love fast, curled up against you while we watched movies. My…

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A VIEW FROM THE CITY by Elliot Alpern

I see the backs of your shoulders—there you are, right there—on a bench by the harbor, where it’s windy, and where there’s a nice clear view of the monster ambling toward the city.  “Hello,” I call out. You look each way, left and then right and then left again, but not behind, and so I jog lightly to your bench, take the seat beside you.  “Hello,” I say again, this time a bit breathlessly.  “Oh,” you say, “hey, I thought I heard your voice.”  You look the same. And that’s with some years, a different haircut, a sort of quiet…

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LIZARD BLOOD by Alisha Wexler 

Tuesday I wake up damp with a clenched jaw. Dirty towels on the ground reeking of mildew. Why do people record their dreams? Dreams are trout in bare hands—let them slip free! Mine are so generic anyway. I pluck out my teeth one-by-one like daisy petals. He loves me, I say with blood pouring down my hand, he loves me not. I move on. I weasel out of New York lease. I get out of bed. I go into the bathroom. I put on the clammy moist bikini hanging over the shower rod. I lay by the kidney-shaped pool in…

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THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER by Gabrielle McAree

Dad has the emotional range of a runt-sized peanut. He hates the internet, roundabouts, tap water, trash collection, anyone called “Jerry.” He doesn’t trust directions and believes the government is listening in on his conversations. Dad grows a four-inch beard as an act of defiance, because it looks nothing like his driver’s license picture, and swears off technology. His collection of gray hair disappoints him, so he buys an electric blue Camaro.  *** When Dad turns 63, I pick up a cake from the store. Half chocolate, half vanilla to curb his untreated bipolar disorder. I remember to be vigilant,…

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HOW THE WIND DOES BLOW AND BLOW by Kevin Grauke

If you’re smart, don’t ever let Claudette Aarons catch you reading anything, not even a magazine, because if she does, she’ll for sure say, “You know what you should be reading instead of that, don’t you? You should be reading Dorothy Scarborough’s The Wind.” Don’t ask her how come, because she’ll tell you how come for an hour. And don’t lie and say you’ve already read it, because then she’ll expect you to discuss it forevermore. And don’t ignore her, either, because she’ll just take that the same as if you’d asked her how come. Your best bet is to…

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MY MOTHER TOLD ME YOU COULD ONLY KNOW THAT ORANGES WERE GOOD IF THEY SMELLED LIKE FLORIDA by Megan M. Garwood

At the grocery store, I am buying whole milk and skim milk because I like to put whole milk in my coffee and I like to use skim milk in my Smacks. I am reaching for a gallon jug when I feel someone grab my butt with a heavy hand. I turn around to see a man with little expression pat my rear. I ask him what does he think he is doing and he smiles and tells me to have a nice day. I am scared but also complimented. I am in the cereal aisle now, and I think…

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DENOUEMENT by S.S. Mandani

“Sure, I’ve eaten cookies well into adulthood. Some days all I eat is one cookie. I break little bite-sized pieces off and revel in the ‘gasm that is sugar, butter, salt, flour, chocolate, pecans, jam, or what have you. I eat chocolate chip cookies, of course, but lace cookies are my current obsession. My taste buds ride a buttery, crispy wave, cresting into a smile. I have disliked certain cookies. Usually, though, I get over myself, and find a redeeming quality. Growing up, I hated those jam cookies served with chai. You know the ones? But one day the light…

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THE MARRIAGE TEST by Bailey Bujnosek

In a long-forgotten society, there was a test people had to pass to get married. The test had one question. The question was multiple choice. If you were a woman, the question was: You have one plank of wood. Do you: Affix it to the wall to support your husband’s golf trophies? Burn it to provide warmth for you and your family? Ask your husband what he wants to do with the wood? You know from other records that the question and answer choices were different for men. You also know that there was a correct answer that, if circled,…

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