THE SURPRISE by Aisha Hassan

The funeral prayer was almost over but I didn’t care, and Safia needed me here, and since she’s the one who did the dying, her word is as good as God’s. I stood at the back so the rows of hunched women would ignore me for now. The mosque was bloated with hot air and I could smell sweat blooming beneath white prayer robes. Rotting hearts, too. I imagined Syed’s heart, fleshy and dark, emitting the stench of a hammered mouse, thumping inside his hairy chest. He was on the other side of the partition where an Imam’s voice sang…

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FOR OUR OWN PROTECTION by Kara Oakleaf

After the white-hot blast flashed across the sky, after the air turned toxic and we all zipped ourselves up inside government-issued suits like garbage bags, our breath misting on the clear plastic squares that let us see through our hoods, I started watching Jay. He’s always been across the street, as much a fixture as the maples lining the sidewalks before the flash, before everything burned and the trees became charred silhouettes. After school, Jay used to push the mower in neat rows across the front yard while I sat on the porch with my homework. That boy walking toward…

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TWO BOYS DOWNTOWN AT PLAY by J. Edward Kruft

They were to meet at the Ben Bridge clock, as usual. Aaron arrived first, in his Spandau Ballet t-shirt and Levi’s ripped at both knees, last year’s ski-jacket, unzipped as it was a warm day. He stood smoking his Camel as a murder of boys came by. “Fag,” one of them called and they all laughed and looked over their shoulders and pointed and laughed again, and Aaron, he blew smoke from his nose. He watched Matt approach from 4th Avenue. Matt, with his shoulder-length hair, in his Smiths t-shirt and paint-splattered cords and green Spiewak parka that was torn…

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WITHOUT YOU, I’M EVERYTHING by Felicity Fenton

They went away, left her for others. They called less. They texted less. Soon they were running into each other in the parking lot of the dump, rushing to get back to things. “You look great.” They didn’t mean it. “You seem great.” They didn’t mean it. “So great to see you.” They weren’t sure. They boasted about busyness. Their kids, their houses, their husbands. She was busy felting socks for refugees. They were busy driving sports utility vehicles. She was busy searching for working pay phones so she could call her grandmother and tell her she had been places….

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TO THE RESIDENTS OF NINETEEN-SOMETHING WEST NELSON by MK Sturdevant

To the Residents of Nineteen-Something West Nelson, I had sex in your living room. At the time, it was a fetus of a room, a zygote of a house. Your living room had just been set on its paved frames and caissons like a mother hen about to lay some furnishings. You know those tall, narrow windows trending in the new builds around ’07? The streetlamp light was gushing in, there was no glass, just these wings of Tyvek flapping like a slack sail at midnight on the open sea.  We had gone for sushi in Bucktown. We were both…

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SPREE by Meg Tuite

Mom has an entire fortress of pillows that she readjusts around her body.  “Barricading my skin against bedsores. Stay in one place for too long and you’ll have to order another ass from Walgreens.” Amber prescription bottles layer her bedside table. She marks the empties with a black X, doesn’t throw them away until a refill has been secured.  Rustling toes mow through bed sheets as Mom drags up another mini-vodka with her feet. The bottomless cascade of that clear liquid is her Niagara Falls. She is queen of the mini-island. Bottles are stashed away in pockets, beds, pillows, shoes,…

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UPHOLSTERY by Corey Farrenkopf

Silva left the tacks on the floor. Rick said to. Sweep up after, it saves time. The upholstery shop smelled of pulled cotton, dry foam, and whatever scent the furniture carried from its original home. Sometimes it was garlic, sometimes mothballs and wine. The plaid wingback chair propped before Silva held an odd copper aroma. He pried rusted staples from the armrest with a pronged screwdriver, tapping its steel end with a rubber mallet. Sometimes the metal was so old it turned to dust beneath Silva’s blows. Just leave them. I’ll cut them out later, Rick would say from behind…

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TIME TRAVELING ANTIQUE DEALER by Travis Dahlke

The owner of Beachman’s eBay store had it bad for my best friend Gedaliah. I didn’t trust him because his eyeballs were made three times smaller by his glasses and it was rumored he kept a time machine in his stockroom used for poaching antiques. The eBay thing was just a front and a former ketchup plant kept the whole operation mostly hidden from public view. Gedaliah paid nine hundred dollars for her walnut pembroke table but the bureau that Beachman sold me was a reproduction with drilled-in wormholes. Gedaliah’s table reeked of tea bags close up. The nails piecing…

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ALWAYS AND ONLY JUST ALMOST by Felicia Rosemary Urso

Strangers came by to give you gifts: a fresh fish on ice in a styrofoam cooler, metal frying pans, a machete, two bottles of rum, a bunch of bananas the size of my torso. At night, we played gin rummy, shared liters of Kava and waited for a full moon. In the daylight, you showed me the jungle and explained every root or plant I could use for sunscreen or gelatin shampoo. I woke up picking my scabs, legs stuck to the leather couch on your porch. Nineteen and sick for you. You were two hours late when you pulled…

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STILL LIFE, WAYNE COUNTY, IN AUGUST by Aliceanna Stopher

Buddy of mine used to have me over before his girl walked out on him. For supper, you know, or cards. Maybe beers, if one of us was going through it. We weren’t usually, back then.  More like, we thought we were, but really we weren’t. I’d bring him Dad or Bert, he’d bring me working, or not. We laid it all out, sorted through it.  I ran into him on my way to work, this one night before we was supposed to get together. He cancelled, standing all crooked, thumbs stabbed through his belt loops, and I thought he…

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