SMACK by Chella Courington

Meet me @ Aquarium, he texted. By jellyfish, 7. She would perhaps, most likely, but not before researching jellyfish, for she knew his habits, the way he liked to make it impossible for her to say no wherever they were.  Adults spawned daily if given enough food, and for most, spawning was triggered by dim light so the entire population bred every day at dawn or dusk, floating through water, dropping eggs and sperm, tentacles (though she preferred tendrils) never touching. While most men she’d known like to roll against her in the morning, he was a night creature. Fortunately,…

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THE MILK BOTTLE LEGS OF THE HIGH WIRE WOMAN by Frankie McMillan

1 When I look at her legs I see upturned milk bottles, and I’m talking here of the glass bottles that milk used to come in and I love the shape of those legs, I could stay out all night on the frosty grass looking up at the wire and Miss Tatyana walking the wire in silence, only the guy ropes creaking and the twang of the metal pulley, and you know, those legs get my score, those legs belonging to Miss Tatyana all the way from Russia where they didn’t have glass milk bottles, only Mr Stalin, his mouth…

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AFTER SHRINKING by Hannah Cajandig-Taylor

We lived in a pale blue dollhouse with three stories & a basement. Obsessed over hot air balloons & weather blimps. Collected snowglobes & birdcages & convinced our giant neighbors to order countless pizzas by jumping on the remote buttons until a commercial with extra-large pepperoni flashed across their TV screen. Until we snuck enough triangular pizza box tables to furnish the place. Grew make-believe green beans & perennials on the roof. Protected our cardboard porch with Venus flytraps. A drawbridge. Toothpick mailbox. The works. Repainted our plastic appliances with glittering silver nail polish. Sharpie’d our heights on the wall,…

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HIGHWAY 25 by Lindsey Heatherly

I remember that night we parked at the drive-in on Highway 25 and steamed up the windows before static on the AM station switched over to previews. Previews came before a raunchy, college-age comedy, alternating between raindrop rivers and lip-locked intermissions that cut through windshield fog. Foggy windows were smeared by my gray cotton jacket through your steady hand. The hand that sat on my knee during a panic attack on the drive back. The drive through dark and rain and a flooded road too immersed for good traction on those too-old tires. Tires that skidded across water when you…

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ILLUMINATION by Audra Kerr Brown

Three weeks after her miscarriage, Guinevere fell in love with the lightbulb. A 40-watt incandescent globe from the dining room wall sconce. She removed the lampshade in order to stare at the glow of its tungsten filaments, the bare harp sitting above the bulb as a halo. You are beautiful, Guinevere would say. Absolutely beautiful. The light had an electrical heartbeat, a faint buzzing, as if bees were trapped inside. She liked to unscrew the bulb from its socket, marvel at how perfectly it fit in her palm. How warm it felt. How round, how small. Audra Kerr Brown lives…

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JUST OUTSIDE THE TUNNEL OF LOVE by Francine Witte

And Benny Jones telling me about Darlene. In other words, he pulled me through to unlove me.  Something about how love is a crispy pepper one minute, but then it goes wilty and soft. I told him I’m not a goddam pepper and get to the goddam point.  Problem is, I gave Benny Jones my heart too fast. My heart is a bristle I keep in my pocket and I can never wait to give it away.  Benny Jones sat in the boat in the Tunnel of Love, all squirm and tangle of words. Friends, he was saying, and didn’t…

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THE BEEP by Jason Schwartzman

I am his tutor and he is trying to tell me about an unknown variable. About X. But he has forgotten that it’s called X.  “The mysterious thing,” he says, laughing.  I love him for this. I will tell everyone I know about the mysterious thing.  During one session we’re in his apartment and I hear a beep. Just one beep. The microwave, probably.  “I’m really sorry,” he tells me, tensing up.   Sorry for what? It feels like I’m missing something.  “Totally fine!”  On the walk home I wonder why he was so on edge. Then I forget about it,…

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AFTER SWITCHING ANTIDEPRESSANTS, THE NIGHT STRETCHES by Matthew Mastricova

After switching antidepressants, the night stretches over his body as he lies next to you in bed, thinking about dying again, even though he would never tell you that. He would never tell you that for months it has been creeping out his mouth—his death, his parents’ deaths, his students’ deaths, the death (or non-death) that comes in the after death. When he is lucky, he can find an anchor: a pair of your socks balled hidden under the table or a can of apricot La Croix chilled for days. Leftovers of a from-scratch meal you cooked that he packed…

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THE TODDLERS ARE PLAYING AIRPORT AGAIN by Tucker Leighty-Phillips

They’ve partitioned everything: the slide is the runway, the jungle gym is the terminal, covered in tiny travelers; anything with mulch is part of the operations area. Nobody flies. Nobody ever wants to be pilot. The toddlers love every aspect of the airport except for flight. Tickle always wants to be the rampie, loading freight onto planes with his sandbox bucket. Dasha is the lav agent, as she’s the best at keeping the plane’s bathrooms within regulation. Everyone wants to be Bill Boyer, Jr, CEO. They fight over his stock options until they shove one another and you have to…

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AN ALLEGORY by Dan Crawley

Take your brother to the orange grove, and do not let your friends throw rotten fruit at his head, or any other part of his body. Take your brother to Stop-N-Go, and do not spend these dimes on anything else but candy bars for you and him. Take your brother up to bed, and do not hide in the closet and scare him. Take your brother outside to play street football, and do not let your friends tackle him on the asphalt. Take your brother to school, and do not let him gawk and gag at all the dog poop…

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