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,…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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.”…

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“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…

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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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