VEGAS by Mackenzie Moore

I shudder, feeling the heat as I approach the straightaway where all you see are the shells of casinos looming. Blink-182 cranking, asking me what my age was, again. I keep ticking past billboards that tell me when the buffets will return. I jam my foot down on the accelerator. Tempt fate with out-of-state plates. I think about five months earlier when we peeled away, me from the curb at Terminal 2, and him off to the Mirage for the weekend. It feels like years. I-15 north is an unavoidable corridor, but I hadn’t considered that I’d get a visual…

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DEAR ALISON by Stephanie Parent

I’ve used you so many times. In college application essays, you were the tragedy I experienced early in life, the loss that made me wise beyond my years and allowed books to speak to me so deeply I was determined to become a writer myself.  (I wasn’t wise beyond my years, and I never wanted to write as much as I wanted to read.) I recycled those same essays for graduate school applications, but when I actually made it to a master’s program and depression snuck up on me like a springtime drizzle, then slammed down all at once in…

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SITTING ALONE by D.T. ROBBINS

I had a dream about you. I sat in a pew that only had enough room for two people. Its red velvet had faded, its wooden frame splintered.  Someone played piano, sang a song for you, about you. The congregation sent up a crescendo of angel voices, enveloping the atmosphere, like a child wrapped around her father’s leg.  And me? I lost it. I bawled, wailed.  I’d saved that seat next to me for you, but you never came.    The dream-song, a melody I’d never heard before, stayed in my ears after I woke. I considered whether or not…

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OBIT by Jesse Salvo

Published Wed, Jan 13, 11:53 p.m. ET Jersey City, NJ This item is dedicated to the living memory of David Graff, a friend of this paper, who passed away this week in a manner very much unexpected to those who knew him well. David, who died Thursday, was born in Michigan to a family of middle income, attended the University of Chicago under dubious circumstances, failed out under less dubious ones, spent two years writing grants for legal nonprofits, discovered no dignity in the work, detested labor, detested snobbery, moved back to Detroit, fell in love, became engaged, took a…

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HEAVENLY LAKE by Kristen Loesch

It might be June, or it might be July. I can no longer keep track of the days. It’s that halfway point of a Hong Kong summer, when the heat turns everything soupy. The days and nights run together, and the usual strictures of time and space begin to crumble. How long have I been with my British boyfriend? Long enough for him to have bought a new camera. He’s an avid photographer, one who’s always itching for a worthy subject to capture. One day he finds one: Let’s go off the beaten track, to Xinjiang, China’s westernmost province, to…

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MOONRAKER by Robert Warf

GREENHOUSE My father’s hands are large and calloused with supple jointed thumbs. I have my mother’s hands. I’m a man. Not a man like my father. A man like my mother. I’d tell you about my mother’s hands, but I can only say so much for so long about a good thing. But I’ll tell you about my father. I’ll tell you something. MOONSHADOW Oil rig at sea. Drillers drilling. Sweat. Dripping sweat. The moon overhead. Men work under lamplight. Roughnecks with rough hands. Hands of a father. Smoldering filter in dirty fingers. Dirty fingers of my father’s dirty work….

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INCANDESCENCE by Evan Senie

We set the fire up in your backyard with only three logs, two on the bottom and one perpendicular across the top. I was quiet around you then, cautious. I’m afraid I still am, forever worried about possible endings. The fire burned for hours once it got started, but initially it was stop-and-go. We fed pages from the phonebook into the empty spaces, watched the flames cause each to curl inward, the ink running down in a purple wave until it burned itself out and was replaced. When the logs caught, it was just their edges, little strands of wood…

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FOREIGNER by Rachel Laverdiere

When the cockroach and I lock eyes, I’m almost relieved. You’ve half convinced me that I’m neurotic. You say I imagine the scrutiny of the old ajumas at the outdoor markets, the side-eyed stares on the train to Kimje, the personalized attack by the orangutan at the Taegu Zoo. Yet, I’ve caught these glossy black orbs peering at me from above the window overlooking the hall. A hand’s-breadth from the closed classroom door. My only means of escape. I twist the pinching wedding bands your mother had made for me when we came back to Korea to exhibit our newborn…

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WRITING PROMPTS AND CHANGING VIEWS by Sabrina Hicks

At a time when real life is crushed into an acronym, IRL, to accommodate social media, texts, curated accounts, all I crave is something real, someone to talk to, my father’s voice, my mother’s strength. Dani was annoyed that her father sent her a text asking how she was doing, as if the weight of their collective damage could be written with thumbs. Knowing he won’t answer your phone call, you text back fine not explaining how you got fired for taking too many days off, caring for a woman he once loved.  A strong memory of color. I’m driving…

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BLACK CANYON CITY by Chloe Lauter

It is October in Arizona and the desert is dark and merciless when we drive into Black Canyon City. Perhaps it would be safer to keep driving, perhaps it would be safer to drive all night, but your face is shadowy with fatigue. It’s only for the night, you say. We see the rows of neat trailers as we turn off the highway, surrounded by dust-soaked single-family homes and dirt roads thin like sidewinder tracks. At the end of the main road, the night erupts into screaming fluorescence, the dollar store that is a drugstore and party décor and office…

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