THE COLLAPSE OF A STAR by Jamie Etheridge

We sit in the van parked on the railroad tracks not knowing if the train is coming, or if you are going. You want to die. You said so and we believe you. Momma cries out, “Bill, please,” over and over and we wait, inhale then hold, for you to decide.  It was always like that. Random moments of drama; life or death, on the side of the road. That time in Texas in the middle of the worst blizzard in thirty years. The truck’s engine exploded and we were stuck, freezing, as semis whooshed past on the highway and…

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THE PHONE RINGS IN SEPTEMBER 1979 by Derek Maine

My father did not speak to me. He sat in his faded blue recliner, I remember that, and watched Star Trek on Saturday nights. Other times he watched golf or read Lawrence Block. Sometimes he would ask me to get him a beer or to stop running in the house, but he never spoke to me.  I have a son now. He complains I talk too much. I’m constantly asking him about how he’s feeling. I know this is not totally healthy and my wife helps me notice this when I do it too often. But, son, my father did…

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AT THE POLICE STATION, WITH SKETCH ARTIST by Alana Mohamed

The most startling thing about him was the realization that he must have been beautiful when he was younger. I like to look into people’s faces and imagine them other ways: older, younger, dying, terrified, on the brink of extreme cruelty. This man did not look capable of cruelty, though it was dark out and difficult to tell. He seemed like a good man who had grown up and seen life turn in on itself and now he was in a hard way, with such a striking face and such deep lines. It was a foggy Tuesday and I was…

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C by Lisa Lerma Weber

It was another sweltering summer night in our godforsaken little town, the odor of cow dung and hay heavy in the air. My maroon Ford Escort was sitting in a dimly lit corner of the McDonald’s parking lot, a bunch of misfits standing around it, trying to figure out what trouble to get into. You and I were lying in the trunk next to a pile of scratched and scuffed skateboards. I turned towards you and smiled. You smiled back. You were always smiling, something I liked about you. We leaned into each other, our lips meeting for a brief…

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NOSTALGIA by Timi Sanni

I fumble with my keys and find the odd, crooked one that opens my apartment. Relief instantly douses the fire of anxiety burning through me. At first turn, the door unlocks and opens and I almost fall flat on my face. For a split second, fuzziness fills my mind like a giant wad of cotton. The thought of burglars crosses my mind but is quickly replaced by the overriding smell of onions wafting from the kitchen. Two people had been robbed in this same building last month and I never fail to lock the door behind me when I come…

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THAT’S MY BOY by Jo Gatford

The cartoon cat hits the cartoon dog over the head with a wooden plank and an angry lump rises from the top of its head. The dog’s face turns red and steam escapes its ears like a whistling kettle. The cartoon cat is frightened. He presses the lump back down with his finger but it returns the moment he lets go. The dog is furious. The kettle blows. The dog chases the cat around and around and around. Frantic music plays.  We teach our son the word ‘gentle’ by stroking the back of his hand over and over but he…

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I DEFINITELY NEVER LOVED YOU by Cory Bennet

It’s that time of year when California burns. It will peak in the Fall when the shadows begin to grow longer. There was a lightning storm across the Bay Area last night and fires today and ash falling from the gray sky. My knee is torn up from skating but I’m restless tonight so I cruise the neighborhood inhaling the poison air.  Once the fire had torn through my parents’ neighborhood, we tried to return but the cops had all the roads closed. My stepdad knew a way through an orchard. We came upon the house and it still stood….

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GRIEF IS AN EMPTY SHELL by Robert Julius

When I left for California in the summer of 2013, I knew what I was leaving behind. I was abandoning a home that had grown toxic over the years, from my mother’s addiction and the ensuing fights between her and my father. I was leaving behind the rural countryside of western Pennsylvania. I was leaving behind two best friends, two brothers, two parents, and a sister who had been in and out of prison for the last five years. I was also leaving behind an old me, and all my old pastimes, including my terrarium of land hermit crabs that…

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TASTINGS by Colin Lubner

Nose So once upon a time this chick gets a job with her boyfriend at a liquor store and two months in he quits after some regular has a seizure and crashes forehead first into a refrigerated shelf of Sierra Nevada.  In the incident’s aftermath she calls the drunk a drunk. Her boyfriend, meanwhile, deems the victim a sort of tragicomic invalid. And while they hadn’t contemplated separation prior to this fight, not once, this divide is by itself enough. He’s a romantic. She doesn’t know who she is.They are different people, he tells her. She agrees. This is some…

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LISTING by Michael Todd Cohen

MARBLEHEAD, MA — ESTATE SALE BY YOUNGEST SON 4 bedroom / 4.5 bath with 5,679 sq ft. of ample space for nuclear family on .26 acres. Below listed are the items for sale and a description of the property. Not listed but offered for the specific buyer: being told as a child you would be disowned if gay. BASEMENT Offered in sale: workbench at which father and youngest son built miniature soapbox derby car for Cub Scout competition. Mostly father—who hip-checked son saying, “watch out, watch out,” as his hulky frame jostled miniature car parts into a sleek red bullet….

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