ACTIVE SHOOTER TRAINING by Jason Peck

We’ve attended such lessons before, briefings that point us to hiding places and escape routes, drills that teach us quick action and suspicion toward our coworkers. But this seminar is different. This is the best workplace shooter training this company has ever had. People who attended the first sessions this morning still recall them with awe on their coffee and smoke breaks.  Life-changing, they say. An eye-opener, they say. But mostly—very good. We can already see their transformations. They walk straighter, talk bolder. Evelyn in accounting says she will hear the training again. Roberta from legal holds her calls in…

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POLICING HEAVEN by Fred Pierre

To worship the leader is to worship our god, say cult members before they’re arrested. How does religion make you feel? Certain death, stake chips on the hereafter, or spin earth for a sunrise tomorrow? Truth is, you’ve been duped by your broker and hoodwinked by your minister out of your promised immortal treasures. “You’ll see your whole family in heaven, my friend,” said the minister as he lay dying. Certainty grows when we parrot dogma. To get into heaven, the test is quite simple: Choose kindness before your self-interest. Only one in ten makes it. So many sublets in…

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CATGUT by M.W. Brooke

Most days your mother languishes on your couch watching reruns of Law & Order. Doctors can’t explain what’s wrong with her brain. You drive her to appointment after appointment between harp lessons—a merry-go-round of CAT scans, MRIs, acupuncture, marijuana, experimental doses of ketamine, prescriptions for epileptics. Nothing calms the tension behind her eye sockets, like a harp string constricting under the chill of night. During rehearsals in third grade, your fourth octave C string snapped from the tuning pin and whipped across your eye. The harp yowled in your arms, a feral cat too close to human hands. Harp strings…

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PLUCKED by Faye Brinsmead

The firebird came with excellent references. Polite. Super-tidy. Throws herself into housework. Mows the lawn like she’s skinning a wolf. Plus, there was the exoticism. Her shimmering plumage trailed over my Ikea shelving and hand-me-down brown velour sofa. Evenings, as we slurped insta-noodles and binged on Netflix, she fanned out her tail until the dim room was full of jeweled eyes. She didn’t know if she belonged to the peacock clan.  Maybe. Her golden beak hooked the last gluggy spiral. Her family wasn’t big on that. On what? I asked. Um, family.  I’m kinda on my own. Of course, there’ve…

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DIRTY LAUNDRY by Lisa Johnson Mitchell

I pour bleach over the mound, purging, once again, the family secret: Daddy’s arrest—indecent exposure. Socks fall in. Slipped them off right before having sex with my husband, during which I thought of Benjamin, high school lover.  Will Mom die today? Bed sore as big as a baseball. Not eating or drinking. Been seven days. Hampton Gardens is five minutes away, thank Christ. Flannel nightgown, shove it in, hope I don’t have another nightmare where I’m digging into my giant thigh with a knife, the insides like a Christmas ham. I told Mom I loved her, that she was the…

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THE MELT by Jennifer Todhunter

My son doesn’t turn from solid to liquid or liquid to gas when the melt occurs. He remains in the same state physically, but mentally there is a shift. Heat has been applied in the form of my disappearing from his line of sight, or heading to the bonfire for a beer, or talking to a friend who is a guy who is not his dad, my ex. There is a fusion when the melt occurs, his person to my person, a shadow that follows me wherever I go, that demands we leave this instant, that cries as if I’ve…

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EULOGY by Dan Melling

Derek came in sad-faced because Alastair’d died, said, Alastair’s dead, but I’ve not worked in seven months because the pub’s been closed, so I said, Who’s Alastair? Derek’s face got sadder, said Big Alastair, with the jewelry and I remembered him. He was a dickhead. I said, Oh yeah, and got Shelly over to talk to Derek, but Shelly wouldn’t care either. Alastair was a dickhead who always wore two watches and two thick gold chains and a ring on each finger and whistled when he wanted a pint and one time slapped a girl’s arse as she walked past….

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JONAHS AND THE WHALES by Avra Margariti

You tell me your father Jonah was eaten by a whale when you were a boy. Right before your eyes, you say. One moment you were fishing together in your old boat; the next, the beast breached, snatching your father between shadow-thin teeth as if he were bait. You had to row yourself back to shore. Your spindly arms took weeks to regain sensation. Your heart never did.   Is there a Jonah here? the delivery person asks as they hand me a loaded speargun wrapped in brown paper. Your name is also Jonah. The junior who will soon outlive the…

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THREE FLASH STORIES by Michael Haller

WORK   I answer a phone for the company. I sit behind a desk in a room and answer the telephone when it rings. When the telephone is not ringing I sit in my chair and wait for the phone to ring. When the phone rings I pick up the handset and listen to the voice on the other end, and when the voice is finished saying what it has to say I hang up and try not to think. Then the phone rings and I answer it. My boss tells me I am doing a splendid job, but I…

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GOTTERDAMMERUNG by Howie Good

Welcome to the Age of Autonomous Machines, where the brown bears of Kamchatka are cold, ragged, and hungry, and under perpetual ban, and rivers brim with jizz and blood, and fish have the twisted mouths of stroke victims, where saints travel incognito on New York City subways and God speaks to them in a gravelly two-packs-a-day voice, where a peeling billboard declares it’s time to look ahead to the past, when the public gallows stood silhouetted at dusk against a sky of faded red plush. & Blinking like a sick mole against the harsh white light of the desert, the…

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