ADULT-ORIENTED by Kala Frances Wahl

I was seventeen with braces, bright pink rubber bands looped around the brackets in my mouth, when God appeared to me in a dream. He told me it was my destiny to be a porn star. I was peroxide blonde, big-breasted and flexible. I readily accepted God’s proposal. Once without direction, my life now had purpose, meaning, something tangible that I could grip onto and ride like a mechanical bull. The horns felt good in my hands. I attended Catholic school, but I didn’t believe in God. I wasn’t sure what I believed in. I wanted to believe I was…

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IRENE by Sarah MW

“Fancy a bite of my banana, Miss?” Teenage faces have a soft bluntness to them, a button-like quality as they wait to be chiseled out to their full adult contour. Joe’s face was the same, though unlike the others it sported a uniquely impressive beard, far from usual in a fifteen-year-old. He was grisly and monstrous; I heard he’d fucked his way through most of the pretty girls in year ten and eleven. Simpering, gum-chewing girls with clotted mascara and deep-set insecurities. He swung back, all too pleased with himself in his plastic chair, forcibly recumbent, legs wide like a…

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THE BIRD by Mary Widdicks

There’s mud between my toes. Slimy, sticky, and covering the chipped pink polish that now decorates only the tips of my big toenails. It’ll be gone the next time Mom cuts them. The ground is hot even though the sun is starting to duck behind the trees, and I can’t stand still for very long or it burns the bottoms of my feet. I hop from grass patch to molehill along the side of the road, avoiding gravel and broken glass like a game of hopscotch, and trying desperately not to spill the water from the bucket dangling from my…

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A CIRCULAR SCAR by Shannon St. Hilaire

A guy I dated briefly once asked about my mother of pearl ring. Everyone knows a ring has a story.  “I won’t tell you,” I said before I could stop myself. Then I corrected, saying I bought it off Etsy, but it was too late. I would never tell him the story of my ring, because to know and understand my ring was to know and understand me. If I told someone about my rings, about this ring in particular, it would signal to me that I trusted them, and they trusted me, too. And I had no interest in…

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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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THE SWADDLE by Janelle Bassett

I am at the sink, rinsing a food processor blade, when I hear the cry of a tiny baby. Carrot bits go down the drain, easy, but the insistent wailing isn’t going anywhere. I assume the sound is some sort of inner-ear repercussion from the electronic-tornado buzzing of the food processor, yet the sound continues even after I open my mouth wide to pop my ears. A baby is definitely crying and it’s an I’ve-been-left-alone-which-I-am-not-built-for cry. I look up and think back, “Didn’t my babies grow past the baby stage?” I consult the refrigerator where, sure enough, their recent school…

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IN A SMALL TOWN (CALLED AMERICA) by Christian Fennell

It’s getting worse, and Jake finished his beer, and together they listened to the rain on the tin roof of the drive-shed; the receptiveness of its falling; the comfort within its echoing.  Things are lookin up, said Jake.  Damn straight, said Jared.  I mean, now that things are great again, things are lookin up, and Jake stood and walked to the fridge and grabbed two more beers. He passed one to Jared and sat back down on the block of cracked white oak. He took a sip and looked at Jared. I went and saw the doc. Oh?  Said I’m…

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LIFE, AS OF NOW by Kamil Ahsan

The courtship practices of Shalimar Gardens spiked on Pakistan Day. His breath is raggedy. The trees brush the air with heart-shaped leaves, a reminder that the world is passing him by without noticing him sink—the cars that move too fast, the motorcycles that almost run him over, the people, oh all the people, so many people, everywhere everywhere everywhere… It’s nightfall. He’s never been to the Shalimar Gardens. He never needed to. Fate grabbed him by the collar and shook him before he had a chance to know what he expected. All around him is noise, very ordinary noise. He…

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THE FLIGHT OF LIU XIAN by Matt Zbrog

He stared out at the world through paneled glass. At his fingertips lay a suite of controls. Switches. Buttons. Joysticks. HUD. Chrome. Glass. Metal. All that blinking light. But Liu Xian focused on the world beyond, gazing out from the cockpit at a domed sky. He breathed in pressurized oxygen through a ribbed and rubberized tube. A voice in his right ear counted down. A voice in his left gave final instructions. And, for the last time in his life, Liu Xian did what he was told.  He fired up the twin jet engines. Cut tether with the launch deck….

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WHAT IT HAD IN ITS MOUTH by Arielle Burgdorf

What can make viewing it so memorable is the fact that as each day passes, the rock changes colour depending on the light and atmospheric conditions, and never remains the exact same permanent hue.   Red, the only color that stays with you. A massive red rock, rising out of a grassy field. Sun warming the stone, casting shadows in the crevices. The golden, reddish-brown fur of a wild dog peeking out from behind a bush. And the final red, rusty, dark splattered all over the white jumper. A baby, missing from the jumper. The same question, on yours and…

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