NO TAKE BACKS by Nikki Volpicelli

The phone calls and it makes me anxious. I mean the phone rings, a person calls. It’s been so long, I forget what to do.  “Britt, you there?”  I hang up. Princess. Who else? She’s the only one who still remembers the landline to my dad’s house. Her dad’s house. Ours. Was. Past-tense. She calls back immediately, and this time I know better than to answer just because it rings.  I haven’t talked to my sister in 10 years and I don’t plan on starting now. It’s not sibling rivalry, not just two girls fighting over a boy. Sure, back…

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FRIDGE by Xueyi Zhou

Say you just move into a new apartment. A freshly finished apartment with a lingering smell of paint. The apartment is not big but it’s your own, and that’s something. You work hard for it, wall by wall, for a tiny cell in a honeycomb. However, a bare box with only a man inside seems more like a lock-up than a lodging, which means now you need appliances. Your choices are limited by the small space and your thin wallet. But you decide to treat yourself, to get something nice. To make it cozier, more like home. You are torn between an air-conditioner and a fridge….

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ALTO by Kathryn M. Barber

We’ve spent this summer in your house, the one that belongs to your father, the one that’s brimming to the top with a hundred thousand ghosts. Memories haunt this house: your parents, still together; your brother, asleep down the hall; your college girlfriend, alive, her laugh echoing across the staircase. We sleep beneath a framed photograph of that girl you loved so much, the one whose car went off that bridge we drive  across every day. She’s the only thing that reminds me you’re capable of love, that it can even exist inside you. The way you grieve her is…

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RIDING A BIKE THROUGH THE LONELY CONTINUUM OF TIME by Christian Fennell

His name was Leonard. He was riding a bike. His arms held out to the sides of him, his mind never trapped by his own self, never buckling under the weight of what he should be, or shouldn’t be, understanding the truth of himself, always, in this world, hard as that was, and of course, in this moment too, riding a bike through the lonely continuum of time. He smiled at his knowing, where others couldn’t—or fucking wouldn’t, and he was right, and knew he was right, and always would be. He rode on, his arms still there, to the…

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HORSESHOES by Mary Alice Stewart

She says it big and like a threat and smiling, horseshoe in hand, “I don’t like losing,” and she swings, lets go, and hits the stake head on. A ringer—iron rings against iron and I hold my drink up and shout for her. The game is alive again. Kayla plays inconsistent. It’s sometimes hard to watch, some bad throws, can’t even get one close, then she gets pissed off and you can see in her face that she’s decided it’s over for her and she’s just going through the motions. It’s awful playing her when she gets all fixed like…

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SONG FOR AN EMPTY WORLD by Miles Coombe

The road is lit with street lamps. It’s weak, bulbs on the edge of giving out, but the glow is still there. I am in his bed, a fresh bruise over his eye this time, and curled into his side. He feels smaller with my arms around him. My eyes are closed and I see an explosion of grey in a room too white to be real, and where I know there should be screaming, my own included, there is only static. He wakes, with a hammering heart and a cry on the tip of his tongue. Something inside him…

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EXCERPTS FROM THE NOVEL VENICE by T.J. Larkey

Tough I’m lying on my floor, next to my bed. My bed is this big padded mat that rolls up and can be moved very easily. It’s comfortable, but I like the floor better. I believe that lying on the floor for a few hours a day will toughen me up. I was a spoiled kid, very soft, so I’m always looking for things to toughen me up. That’s how I got here. I got it in my head that moving to a big city I’d seen in movies and television, where I didn’t know anybody, would somehow make me…

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THE LIFE CYCLE OF TEMPORAL BIOMATTER ATTACHMENTS by Jemimah Wei

This is completely unsexual, but ever since the ex left, Jennie has gotten into the habit of sticking her hand down her pajama pants and cupping herself to sleep. It started in week five or six of the lockdown. One day, she woke up and her hands were in her pants. Both hands, under her pants, resting on top of her underwear. This happened occasionally, even before the ex moved out. Usually around the middle of the month, when she could feel her body beginning to slush. Whenever it happened, Jennie would periodically stick her finger into the folds of…

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HAM SANDWICH, DRY by Caroljean Gavin

One day, in the middle of the week, a Wednesday or a Thursday, in the humid summer, with the air conditioner broken, and the ceiling fan so feeble, I fell asleep under my down alternative comforter and had a dream of walking through a lush field, thick blades of grass slithered against my legs, dandelions swung in the breeze, little hammocks for lazing bees, and when I woke up, covered in a loose sweat, I walked down the stairs step by step, blinking my eyes open, open and closed, flexing my fingers, balling my fists, and I went to the…

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WHEN THE FIRST HUSBAND DIES YOUNG by Dan Brotzel

When your first husband dies young, you feel shock, you feel sick. You hurt, you bruise, you ache, you sting. You feel nothing at all but also everything, way too much. Reality has been swept from under you. There’s a big hole, a gap, where your life should be. Nothing makes sense. You’re trapped in a nightmare that can’t possibly be yours. Everything is panic, anxiety.  You keep running up against the hope that this is all an illusion, that soon you’ll be able to get your head round it, feel differently about it, send it away. You keep thinking…

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