DARLING by Suzanne Grove

We were fifteen, our bodies slick with baby oil, as we tanned on her lawn in old beach chairs rusting at the edges. I was pouring flavored sugar down my throat when Julia told me the devil seduced my parents. The candy’s raspberry tang hit my soft palate, and I coughed a fine blue dust that tasted like medicine. I knew her parents were evangelicals or born again or fundamentalists, all words I could say but didn’t understand. Her father wore jeans to church. The faded denim Wranglers rode high up his waist and tugged at his crotch.  His leather…

Continue Reading...

GOD VISITED ME IN BALDWIN, NEW YORK by Ryan Norman

A sad poem picked me up at the train station. I missed my stop and he was annoyed that I wasn’t paying attention. It was my first time traveling alone. The day was long. I traveled two hours into Grand Central Station and had to get to Penn Station to catch the LIRR. This was before Waze and Google Maps. I was lost before I started, but there I was. Eighteen, standing in front of someone I met at college orientation. I melted in his eyes—already a puddle from five hours of train travel—making connections, walking in the summer subway…

Continue Reading...

SCARAB by Jihoon Park

I see a scarab beetle on the sidewalk on my walk home from the bar. Instead of stepping on it, I scoop it up with the Yellow Pages on the driveway and place it on the ficus tree next to the garage door.  I’m very nice when I’m drunk. I fall into bed next to Janine. She is awake but she does not want to talk to me. She probably wants me to shower and get the whisky smell off, but I still have some dignity left. I am my own man and tonight I want to sleep in my jacket and jeans.    In the morning,…

Continue Reading...

VISION QUEST by Joe Cary

Nestled in his sleeping bag, Randy had fallen asleep alone under the desert stars, but here is stirred by a slithering along his naked thigh and a rattle under his armpit. Half asleep, he imagines he’s dreaming, but a Stone Age part of him wrings his spine and cascades adrenaline. The rattlesnake brushes Randy’s ankle and traces halfway up his ribs, so smooth and cold he wouldn’t have placed it but for the harrowing sound. A collision of fear and logic keeps him rabbit-still. The slick, thick thing slides across the old bruise left by Phil’s wingtips and curls around…

Continue Reading...

THE SCHWINN by Rob Kaniuk

Mike showed up yelling and hollering about “the perfect gift” for Murph’s 40th birthday. He insisted everyone eat dinner and he’d give my dad his gift after we all had cake. Brylcreemed white hair, D.B. Cooper glasses, and one of his teeth, rimmed in gold, that twinkled when he smiled. It was a sly smile that was there whether he was handing me a butterscotch or crushing my hand purple in a handshake. He lived in a cabin, kept goats to maintain his lawn, and always had a paper bag filled with quarter sticks of dynamite.  Mike was nuts, but…

Continue Reading...

LIGHTNING STRIKES by Emily Livingstone

Once upon a time, something truly devastating lanced out of the sky and struck the protagonist, turning him into a tragic hero. He was dead and born again in an instant, a demigod with a one-line history of having killed his whole family in a madness borne of squabbles between gods. He went on to perform twelve labors beyond human capability. He married a new wife and ascended to Mt. Olympus, a god-immortal.  Or, once upon a time, there was a woman whom the earth swallowed. In fact, it may have swallowed a whole town, but then she climbed out…

Continue Reading...

AT THE ANIMAL LEVEL by L Mari Harris

I was not born with this rage. I don’t remember when it first entered me. (Yes, you do.) Nor do I remember when I first realized everything I saw was faintly veiled in red: the city streets, the faces of people I passed by every day, my reflection in the mirror as I brushed my teeth. (Are you sure about that?) Now, I drape this red rage over me like a hooded cape made of velvet and ermine. If I tuck my head just right inside the hood, I cannot see the trim of white that once scampered along a…

Continue Reading...

SELF-LOATHING WALKS THE TOWN by Amy L. Freeman

Despite the early morning’s scorching heat, Self-Loathing strides down the street in Anytown, USA, slapping mosquitoes from his neck. He reaches his first house, the leaves of its magnificent oak tree motionless in the heavy air. With a quick sidelong glance to ensure no one is watching, Self-Loathing shimmies up the tree and leans forward to peek into a second-story window. Wearing just boxer shorts, fourteen-year-old Richie is leaning over his bed, scrubbing at his sheets with a damp green hand-towel. He’s using his other fist to pound his thigh as he tries to also scrub away the image of…

Continue Reading...

PLEASE FORGIVE ME, MIDNIGHT ANGEL by Timothy Boudreau

That morning Cristina’s husband Charley brings her breakfast from the Diner,  gray hair tufting from under his ball cap as he hands her the bag with an egg and cheese sandwich. “Why aren’t you coming again?” she asks as she unwraps it.  “Off to provide another goddamn eight hours of superior customer service,” he says. That’s been his life: jobs with name tags and aprons, jobs where the dickhead customer’s always right.  “Make sure you eat before you leave,” he goes on. “Give my best to her family.”  “Not sure who’s even left.” “Wasn’t for staffing issues, I’d be there.”…

Continue Reading...

“FIND THE PATTERNS”: A Review of Chloe N. Clark’s Collective Gravities by James McAdams

To lift one particularly apposite description of a character in “Like the Desert Dark,” Chloe N. Clark “likes thinking about ‘ifs.’” Collective Gravities, her third collection (The Science of Unvanishing Objects, Finishing Line Press; Your Strange Fortune, Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), posits a world replete with paranormality. Like a symphony, these stories repeatedly touch upon the same subjects, explored, revealed, and experienced from a diverse variety of narrative perspectives. We can represent the frequency and range of this symphonic collection numerically.                     Subjects (admittedly subjective): # Stories these subjects occur in: astronauts/paranormal investigation…

Continue Reading...