BAD CAT by Anthony Varallo

Yesterday I met the bad cat. He was lying on our neighbor’s driveway, sunning himself in the last of the day’s warmth. He had gray fur, slightly mottled with black, and white paws. His eyes were closed, restful. When my family and I walked past, the cat yawned and stretched his tongue the way cats sometimes do. The cat blinked at us for a moment, curiously—pleasantly, I thought. “Here kitty-kitty!” I said. “Psst-psst!” “Dad,” my daughter said, “don’t do that.” “Do what?” I said. “Cats love that sound.” “Please, Dad,” my daughter said. “It’s embarrassing.” “Plus,” my son said, “I…

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WHEN YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE A GUN AND NOT A TARGET by Sutton Strother

He’s the only other person you know who loves David Bowie. Not like your friends tolerate David Bowie for your sake or how your mom only knows the radio hits. He knows all the albums you talk about, every deep cut. “Modern Love” is his favorite Bowie song (killer drums, he says right before the first verse kicks in), so on days when there’s a test in his class you listen to it while you dress for school. It reminds you not to hate him, no matter how difficult he makes the questions. There’s power in the not-hating. And when…

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TOGETHER WE GROW by Katie Oliver

My boyfriend is a plant enthusiast: the more exotic the better. Old man’s beard, elk horn, fishbone. The bedroom is particularly full of them. They hang from curtain poles, draping down like Rapunzel’s hair. Distressingly phallic cacti loiter in corners; succulents take up space where they shouldn’t. Cacti are a type of succulent, he tells me. Whatever, I reply. You’re succulent, he says, and bites my neck. I roll my eyes. I go along with it, because it’s easier. When I get back from work, more seem to have appeared. Did you buy more plants? No, he says, flipping through…

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THE FOUR SEASONS by Trent England

She was sixty-nine, he was seventy. In the kitchen she baked two halves of an apple sprinkled with cinnamon. He drank iced coffee and did his Sean Connery impression. She pulled down a shoebox from a shelf in the closet and read her old journals. He took photos of their Pontiac and tapped on his phone and in a few minutes it was officially for sale, online, a part of their history up for grabs. She got a root canal that cost more than three mortgage payments, back when they had a mortgage. He bought a new phone that cost…

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HOW I LEARNT TO DRIVE by Roseline Mgbodichinma

Sometimes brown girls can wear black. Not the colour, but a mood, a presence, a halo. I hold my aunt’s hand as she struggles with the chain. I want to tell her there’s no use, it can’t cage her spirit, but I stop myself. The Ward smells of grudges and longing. What is madness, if not a pile of lost love and mercy? There is something about blue that’s retrograde. It’s the colour of sky fading into evening, the colour of hospital bedsheets the severe cases lie on. Scratch on the walls suggest a previous occupant might have had claws….

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THE HEAT by Connor Thompson

Because of the heat, she decides to sleep downstairs. “This old townhouse funnels the stuff upwards like acid reflux,” she says. She slips from the sheets, props the standing fan under her arm.  It’s fine by him; he relishes in spreading out on the bed without her. (Starfishing, she calls it.) He listens to her footsteps recede on the stairs and unfurls his limbs to the four corners of the mattress. Above him the ceiling fan carves circles in the air, striving to please. Two days ago an ambulance came down their street at an un-ambulance-y pace and pulled its…

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HOME SOON FOR A HOME COOKED MEAL by Paul Rousseau

Dad is not here, but he should be, soon, from work. He doesn’t drink and he’s not having an affair. He is a big man, I know. He likes red meat and horseradish. My sister’s boyfriend works, too, at the train depot, but him and my sister are both upstairs already.  Mom puts butter rolls in the oven at 425 degrees. Lying on my back in the family room, I have my feet on the grille of our gas fireplace. I test myself to see how long I can rest my feet on the glass part where it’s hot. I’ve…

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SELF-MAINTENANCE by John Chrostek

I live at the bottom of an old apartment tower and my tub won’t stop filling up with water. The building, weary from a century of American life, funnels its sewage down through my unit’s pipes until it all gets stuck up tight and rises with a fury, bubbling and nasty from the drain. For days, my every waking moment has been spent dumping bucket after bucket of the hot, dim water down the toilet and calling out for help. The calling out is pointless, of course, for what raw marrow remains of my voice gets trapped in my apartment,…

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A LOST AND WORDLESS FEELING by Becca Yenser

for Abby Vasquez   All of our friends are dying but they are the ones to blame, so we shut up about it and sit outside at their old favorite bars, drinking set-ups until we puke. The bars are named after animals or phrases: Red Fox, Crow Bar, Haymaker, Lost and Found. Our friends shot themselves in one-room apartments, jumped from bridges, hung themselves from garage ropes. They had dark hair, shiny hair, green eyes, red beards, brown eyes, dimples, scars, cellulite. They stooped when they walked, or danced on bikes, or wore layered sweatshirts instead of coats. They played…

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LIVER MUSH IS AN ESSAY ABOUT MY MOM by Graham Irvin

I want to talk about liver mush. Liver mush is a breakfast meat from Western North Carolina made of boiled pork parts and corn meal. It’s my favorite breakfast meat. It’s my favorite word. Liver mush is more than pork parts and corn meal, though. There is also sage and black pepper. But, liver mush is more than breakfast and sustenance too. It’s something close to that, but not exactly. It’s home but not home, but not exactly. Liver mush is more than a piece of fried pork parts and corn meal. Liver mush is more than old white dinner…

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