She was exposed. He hadn't seen her parted thighs in almost 21 years since the baby was born, and more than just aging had happened in that time. The weight gain. The accident. One or two affairs that he knew about. One or two that he didn't. Maybe even one or two that she forgot herself. It was hard to tell what happened to those thighs. Wars had taken place there but the media isn't interested in small scale tragedies. She quickly peed and wiped and flushed, cheeks burning and praying he hadn't turned around in the shower stall. But she knew he had. When they first starting dating she thought she understood. Now she had learned that he was just comparing the spider veins and cellulite on each thigh, ticking off mental assumptions into fact. She washed her hands and left.

Shelly Holder

LOVE AND COMPUTERS - robert john miller

She's shooting Paul Auster quotes at me like I give a fuck. It's 5 AM and we haven't slept since yesterday's 5 AM. I actually like Paul Auster so it's nothing personal against him and nothing personal against her either, or her needs -- which for the record I've tried to put before my own for the last 7 hours -- but I tell her she needs to get some sleep soon to reset the fucking programs running in her fucking head before they completely fucking crash, because worst-case-scenario some people accidentally wipe their heads clean and have to reinstall everything that ever made anything make any fucking sense at all to them, not that we're probably going there right now but I ask her are you understanding what I mean? She tells me that being tired is no excuse for gratuitous use of the word fuck and I tell her good night. Then she says he says, "There is nothing people will not do, and the sooner you learn that, the better off you'll be," and do I agree? I tell her it's an obvious fucking no, because the one thing she won't do right now is sleep.

Robert John Miller
Poetry! Poetry! Poetry!
Peter Davis

CREDITS - parker tettleton

I fuck myself. I say never three times. There is a movie in this movie in this. I say hello. Fish are named after capitals of invisible cities. I say so. There is a movie in this movie in. I say flush for a dumpster. The sound of a sound never made. I say equations for haunted mice. Toupees & hookers bubble I‘m too tired not to do this. I say quite jelly. There is a movie in this movie. I say your sleeve in my combination platter. Nothing is an even bigger loser. I say trees rhyme. Microwave the lovechild of platter spackles. I say bubbles in a fence. Garbage is an impossibility. I say possibility in Spanish. I am nothing is. I say you licking my third missing popsicle. There is a movie in this. I say movie for fish capitals. Oil combines your slight uncle. I say bits of apartment roof moon. I bite. I say I forgot where to end. I leave sperm where it can meet fish tacos. I say angle you angel this. Fish are a refuge flooded. I say you meet me invisible. There is a movie in. I say merely. Nothing is love. I say baked goods are hookers. A dumpster requires an adding machine. I say breathe in rhythm to hospital sex. My Spanish is a very attractive popsicle. I say oil your sister weekend. Taco garbage is hello from the haunted. I say jiggle on my twist with your choice of aperitif. There is a movie. I say mice love is uncle. Dead trees are garages your attorney drinks through. I say bubbly vegan inferiority tape. Angels are licking limerick tacos. I say add me never. Once a microwave is in the dark. I say toasted boulevards. Trains are flower pots on a ledge outside in thirteen beliefs. I say scream the window Pulitzers. There is a. I made a you out of refrigerator convicts. I say hooker jelly requires toast. A double negative is baking popsicle degrees. I say cracks in the window unit’s outlook. Spackles fish in hospital sisters. I say ledge intuition. Flush bubbles through moon inferiority. I say my sperm is toasted floods. There is. I say quiet homely impossible. Three loves flower mice. I say sex spackled roof trains. Fences lick inferior weekends. I say refugees fuck eight capitals. Bake doubled sperm platters in toupees. I say dead tacos slightly drink. Nothing myself. I say rhythm garaged pot angles. There.

Parker Tettleton
Barry Hannah

URSULINE - michelle reale

Ursula is loveless and covered in fur. She knows just three people in the new country. In my country we all look like this, she says. She invites them to her apartment luring them with vodka, deep tissue massage and haircuts, her specialty. “Oof”, she says to one, his hair like a big hat , just like the kind they wear in the old country. She begs to be stroked. They grimace, but begin softly. Then, harder, as though she is a dirty stray off the street. They drink and talk amongst themselves. She catches a word here and there. Ursula swigs vodka and croons a sad song in a language that makes her throat hurt and her eyes tear. The more she cries, the more the hair grows, thick and lackluster. The fur under her eyes is wet and matted. Her friends’ feet shift in their cracked little shoes, looking to escape. One of them takes the scissors, attempts to cut the thickest parts. Ursula, hysterical, pushes the foreign hand away. The blades are dull anyway. She hears their voices from the dimly lit stairs. They leave just enough vodka to get her through the night.

Michelle Reale
Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives
Brad Watson

CLOUDY ALL DAY - howie good

The Wild West, I tell myself, never existed. Hearing that, the six Indians get up from their table and leave. The bartender, suddenly trembling, spills some as he continues to pour. I feel like I’m crossing the Sierras alone, but also upstairs riding the pretty saloon girl. She sees a glimmer of something that no one else does, the hangman placing a black sack over my head.

Howie Good
White Shades of Pale
Christian Landers

THE WAY IT CAN BE - gay degani

Josh fired a blunt, sucked it down, exhaled a borealis of smoke. A trick, she thought as he moved on her, his hands pirating her breasts, her belly, her legs, between her legs; him constructing crystal edifices; her fingers stretched taut in search of sparklers, prism splinters, clusters of coincidence.

Gay Degani
About Things That Are Lost and the Places That Things Get Lost By
Andrea Kneeland


From the smoking section came a trio of wise-men dressed as wise-guys in impossible track suits. They carried gifts of Goldschläger, Tic Tacs, and rum, and they stood there stupidly, staring at my wife writhing on the floor by the foosball table. When the doctor arrived he extracted a stethoscope from his satchel, followed by a pair of pilot's headphones, and said: Damn this birth is loud! And it was. It was so loud, in fact, you couldn’t even ascertain which eunuch was whining on the jukebox or the two teenagers from Texas puking in the men’s room. No, tonight all you could hear was a brand new light screaming into the world like it already hated the place. If you shut your eyes everything sounded so severe, but if you opened them just right and let them readjust to the beerlight, you could see the makings of a miracle as it happened. And it happened to be a boy, or at least we thought so for many years––until he began running around with prostitutes and tax collectors and raising the dead like a roof.

Ryan Ridge
Nietzsche's Horse
Christopher Kennedy


adolf wolfli

X - marnie shure

The shadow on the x-ray is actually almost lovely, my sister told me: a flourish on something as static as bone. I wasn’t prepared to believe her but when she took the square cardstock envelope from off her bed and turned off the lights and pressed the contents against the apartment window to push the sun right through I saw just what she meant. Like a Rorschach test on her lumbar curve. Or black coffee out of a jittery hand, or shade without a tree. Like the spiders our mother saw in the corners of her two failing eyes, spiders she called the nerve death, vertebrates just passing through. We were sort of museum-silent and looked at it and not at what it looked like, a portrait in negative space. I asked her then why she was keeping it in her bedroom. Isn’t it really quite good-looking though? She asked back.

Marnie Shure


The static from the speaker pierces the afternoon. The clown behind the wheel stretches his arm out the window, drops a cigarette and fixes the aerial.

Come to the show. See ferocious creatures; the most amazing … remarkable … unforgettable … Come to the show, see for yourself. We won’t be back this way again.

His voice doesn’t convince. A seal balances a beach ball, applauds itself, does that deep-throat seal thing; a fat woman in a tutu holds a hula-hoop in the start position; clowns tease the strongman; a chimp in ring master attire throws sweets at onlookers, shrieks. The ringmaster, the actual ringmaster, twists his moustache and cracks his whip. People close enough remark on how the glint in his eye suggests he isn’t all good. Rain starts to fall and the truck rolls on.
Kevin O'Cuinn
Donald Ray Pollock


She couldn’t remember how many times she nap-fucked him. She remembered the dreams of Mary Shelley though. And how he misplaced his arm along her thunder thighs on two occasions. The first occasion, she remembered him saying: Don’t just leave your vagina, and the second he said: I can’t remember your flesh in the darkness.

They both had problems with remembering. It was probably why they had their rendezvous’. She came from the shadowy side—the one where if you dropped something you could never find it again—and he came from the lighter side—the one where you mash fucking with something more.

Tonight, she didn’t know what to say to him. She came up with,

“My body’s been used up on pretense.”

He said, “Baby, poetry’s for forgetting. Let’s just pretend the present has no future or past.”

Shelley’s Modern Prometheus came into her mind. Ya know, punishment for all the fire’s light.

Jon-Michael Frank

WINTERKILL - howie good

I’m standing in the crooked window of a feeble yellow house drawn in crayon by the child I was. Friends disappear like incautious snowflakes. Hearts hunch their thin shoulders against the cold.

You don’t know who I am or what happens next. If an underworld informer told you, would you believe it? There’s a “s” as in salt, there’s a “n” as in November.

Office girls visited on their lunch break. The flowers were leaking blood. Children couldn’t stop sobbing. You can still see the marks where the nails went in.

No need for thorns. Thorns are obsolete. Fire, fire, madmen scream and stab themselves in the neck and arms with dirty needles. Got a minute? Shine a light down the abandoned Turkey Fat Mine. Summer shines up from the bottom.

Howie Good
The Anthologist
Nicholson Baker

FOUR SCORE - sam martone

The old springs beneath the cushion squeak. She on top straddling me, our clothes disappearing into the patterns on the carpet. She is loud but maybe the tours will think it is the ghost of Lincoln. “He had a high-pitched voice, don’tcha know,” one of the mothers will say. This chair, the one in which Lincoln sat on the day of his debate with Stephen A. Douglas, is one of the college’s main attractions, a claim to fame. But today, we have blocked the doors with chairs, newer ones that he did not sit in, preventing any entrance. The room is Booth-proof. She comes at the thought of no one assassinating us, but I cannot stop thinking of the possibility: that someone might find his way in here, put a gun to my head. Then, we hear a pounding at the door. Security has shown up to investigate the barricaded room and the way it moans. I do not want to leave, to stop, but we have to—they have caught us here before, and in the steam tunnels beneath the dormitories, and in the back of the mailroom, where we pressed our hands into piles of love letters as we shuddered. We scoop up our clothing and crawl through the window. The next time I am in this room, someone will tell me that the Lincoln Chair is out for repairs, and I will imagine the sound of a Philadelphia Derringer firing shot after shot.
Sam Martone
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

GETTING OVER A PRICK - jacqueline doyle

Marcie started it by calling him a prick, a real prick.

"Yeah, well I seem to remember you liking my prick," Eddie replied.

"All women say that. It doesn't mean anything. Your dick's nothing special."

"Just like your cunt, cunt."

There didn't seem to be much to say after that. Tomorrow she'd go out and buy a pet, something unusual. An iguana maybe. Her friend in Brooklyn says they eat cockroaches. Or a rabbit. But they nibble on the furniture. A rooster. There's plenty of room in the back yard.

Yeah, a rooster. She'll call him Edward. Eddie hated that name. Or maybe just Dildo. She definitely likes the idea of waking up to the crowing of a cock.

Jacqueline Doyle
Live from Fresno Y Los
Stephen D. Gutierrez



From this distance they could be celebrating birth, death, the end of the black plague—the marble floor is bright flesh with blue veins so convincing you’d bend to kiss it if you weren’t clutching the wrist of distance itself. The body itself: more space than matter and the space between bodies a long-distance phone call. How you will go home tonight with ceiling plaster in your hair knowing that up close clouds have holes and how a hand doesn’t know emptiness until someone fills it. In the space between breaths I will call you: come down. It’s not that I’ve figured it out, how distance can feel like perspective, space between subject and object so safe it startles the livid heart, which pauses as often as it beats. Oh I’ve done it again, inserted myself into a party I’m no part of. I’m sorry but I just want to be the moment in which you happen, and the crystal teardrops between your knees, quivering—

Ashley Farmer
Anne Carson




Finding a Polaroid of God in the parking lot of a place that sells camping equipment would make your day, no doubt. Think about it— all the people you could convince that faith is true, something to nurture, something to last— something for the coffee table, or a climate controlled vault complete with security and intercom, an heirloom for the child’s child.

Here the cynic adds: what about the fool’s fool who loses the photograph – that one great loss you never recover from. Should we weep? Do we help look for it? Take out an ad? Flea markets or eBay?

And if we were that fool, all flimsy threads that hold us above the ground breaking, what then?

I don’t think I could bear the sort of carelessness that leaves God, alone, a casualty of a heartless commerce that steals the soul – whatever that is.

And what’s to be made of the lucky one who stumbles over such a find? Happy accident? Synchronicity? No. Give that one your pity. There’s no place but down.

Some losses are final, but discovery, like Keats’ lovers, is the terrible tease.

Sam Rasnake
Varieties of Disturbance: Stories
Lydia Davis

CHECK OUT BOY - nicole monaghan

I’m the cashier at CVS who girls feel weird buying tampons from. They know I’m thinking about them going home and sticking things inside them, that I’m guessing sometimes it feels good, a little like I might but smaller.

It’s dumb to pay a premium on a loaf of slice bread but I respect, in a perverted way, those career ladies who don’t have time for the supermarket. They stop here on the way home from whatever jobs require them to wear enough perfume that I smell them coming before they pass the photo kiosk.

My brother called me fag, said cashier implied girl and when I said screw you he said, fine check out boy. That makes sense.

I’m only doing this till school starts. Then I’m studying to be a financial planner, teach people how to build up their empires instead of pissing them away.

I feel a little bad for the shy girl with the pads because she’s pretty. She looks like having me ring her up is the worst thing she’s ever had to do.

Nicole Monaghan
Famous Fathers & Other Stories
Pia Z. Ehrhardt

DISTANCE - daniel romo

Remember when the match was lit. Remember when the taste of fire was tangible? Remember you said, “Anything can happen when kerosene’s involved.” Remember the scent of feathers singed? Remember when the frazzled wings carved constellations into the night. Remember the second the sullen eyes made contact with ours? Remember the squawks sounded like birth. Remember the hues of helplessness and horror? Remember when the last feather flew. Remember when you were afraid of the dark? I try to forget it too. But it was beautiful… remember?

Daniel Romo
Claudia Rankine


The Poisoned Well stains the street two doors up from us—a constantly re-piling black cloud—and can’t stop having babies every few months or so, adjusting the straps of gas masks over their faces, straps slapping to their skulls, and shoving them off to the street corner so they can mill about, dead-eyed, slack-jawed, waiting for the horrible school bus to crank open its doors and spirit them off to the death camps.

“Thank God,” she says. When they’ve gone, she says, “Thank God.”

The Toxic Flakes is the worst kind of knotted-up fibrous tumor, a rain-swollen blackhead, clicky with static and that clinging kind of co-dependency, hot and suffocating like polyester pants hot out the dryer. His kids are totally afraid of him, largely avoiding consuming meals in his company, those complex conspiracies of restrained farts and burnt tongues. They avoid helping out in the yard as he scrapes heaps of wet leaves off the gristly stump-field, lumpy—a throat full of misgivings.

It’s always raining in their horrible house, damp and rambling with homework assignments half-flushed down the toilet, the yellowed skeletons of forgotten housecats, needled jaws dried open in anticipation of the meal that might’ve saved.

David Peak
the orange eats creeps
grace krilanovich

VINTAGE MODELS - alexandra isacson

Anna dropped off vintage clothes at the cleaners. She desired to do a shoot, but her model friends had moved to NYC, LA, Portland, and China. While summering in Greenwich Village, Anna hadn’t put up anything new in her store; however, her long, flowy dresses were still selling internationally, and she and her clothes were featured on vintage fashion blogs. Pre-Raphaelite paintings infused the consciousness of her rural, windblown shoots. While making art in the Village, someone she didn’t know from her hometown messaged her about modeling. She looked vaguely familiar and might work. At home, Anna sorted through a new package of 57 vintage dresses she bought for 33 cents a piece on line and others for half price at her favorite thrift store. She rushed out to drop off more clothes at the cleaners. A beautiful clerk helped her, and the silk pieces flashed static in their hands. Photos, poses, and vintage clothes shimmered through her as she realized who she was.

Alexandra Isacson
Cloud and Other Stories
Jason Jordan

CREVICE - tasha coryell & michelle gerber

She crawled out of a crevice, having not been anywhere before, but with the slight memory, like a gentle residue, of having spent the afternoon with her father, listening to the entirety of his Beatles music collection. She had the sensation that this memory had been somewhere deeper. Somewhere that moss would’ve grown had there been water and sunshine, but this place lacked them both. There was the distinct feeling of relief as she emerged into the daylight, as though the sixties pop music had been resounding across a landscape blooming with cracking and rusty train tracks, overlapping and colliding and leading only back to themselves. Crawling out of a crevice she wondered what sort of giant hole she had gotten herself into now. A hole with a sky, but she didn’t know what a sky was. All she knew was that it hurt her eyes. The trees here were earnest. They spoke to her like John Lennon. As she pushed herself up from the ground and dusted off her clothes, she noticed her hands: imprints from blades of grass, and she decided her body was a canvas, an Etch-a-Sketch, a womb, a tree with rings. One ring, she points, a woman was born. This woman was born from the spot where rust ate away at a car and the wood bees gnawed at the log cabin. She was born from an absence, much like everyone else. She knew this: an empty space can be potent. See the tree branches lapping on the shore of a brick landscape, lapping onto another brick landscape, brick chimney chutes exhaling brick chimney chutes, and behind them an empty factory because people don’t need cartridges for typewriters anymore. She sticks her finger in her ear. It’s empty too except for the yellow wax. She sticks her finger in her nose. At least this abscess has hair. She wraps her fingers around her other fingers and realizes she can hold herself. She can identify her organs, the way her skin is her novel, showing age, a rust-colored tinge, somehow a reflection of her very own sky, of her birthplace, of the people and things that have been discarded in her lifetime.

Michelle Gerber
Girl in the Flammable Skirt
Aimee Bender

HOROSCOPE - tasha coryell & michelle gerber

In the next week these are the things that will happen to you. You will wake up, because this is what must occur to begin. Your eyes will change; in your newfound compound vision, you will see his back, and you will see your kitchen in the summertime, quietly making a small meal at sunset, and remember that familiar smell of opening trees and the clicking sound of gears as you ride your bike in circles around your hometown. Eat a grapefruit. It will remind you of your father and of ridged spoons and being spoon-fed. You will think about the placement of things in your body and where the organs lie this morning. When someone tells you something with certainty, say “no!” and leave. Refuse all advice. Think about your brain and how when you hone certain things for long enough, the possibilities of other things begin to dry up; they become overgrown, imprecise, forgotten. You will stop picturing things that you once wanted: the way things look different when you love them. You will start a puzzle. You will regret having started the puzzle; you will begin a book. You will realize you are re-writing a book you’d already wrote, so you will go and find that old book and read it. Then you will go to a different coffee shop and watch a middle-aged couple from over the rim of your laptop. Watch their hands, their bodies leaning in across the table, how they don’t have to look up: they already know. You will make a list of the things you know about yourself. The first thing will be that you are uncertain. You will no longer be able to continue the list because you won’t know what to write. You will want to know things. You might chalk it up to the condition of things; say it was situational. You can delay blame even longer. This week, you will say you didn’t lose anything, you will say there was nothing to begin with, you will show the wrinkles on your hands and say you have thicker skin; this week, you will make no progress. It will end and you will think about the future after this week. You will think about last year when you lay in the grass holding hands and you will think about now and the absence of someone. You will think about this and make statements like: I have never wanted forever except after people are gone. You will read your horoscope and wonder if you made the wrong decision.

Tasha Coryell
Good, Brother
Peter Markus


'gift horse' - barry graham

LAUGHTER - letisia cruz

Little masterpieces fell out of the sky. They were red and black and white. You were electric when you touched me. I was swimming in you. The room lit up like the sun, and I think we were glowing.

That’s how I remember it anyway. What about you?

It rained. The AC was broken and we fucked. I was sweating like a pig.

That’s lovely. Really.

I wasn’t finished. Your hair smelled like coconuts. I was drunk with you or in you or both. And when you kissed me, I prayed for tornados and hurricanes just so you wouldn’t leave.

What do you pray for now?


Do you think the grass is greener when the stars are all aligned? Because it looks greener.

I think the grass is greener when you’re here.

Even when it rains?

Especially when it rains.

Letisia Cruz
The Angel's Game
Carlos Ruiz Zafon

FIRST - lauren becker

First, do not be beautiful. Men will turn heads briefly and look back for beauty. Challenge them with an elbow. Move away. They will smell perfume and feel you pass. Elbows and feet are not dead giveaways. Not even mouths. If you are not beautiful, you may speak. Even the truth. But then there are eyes. If they see them, they will know. If you want this, look up. Think hard about wanting. If you do not succeed entirely, if you are beautiful in some light, the man who needs to be seen always will move around you, hit your foot, dangling from your crossed leg. Uncross it. He will wait for you to see, to do. Do not look, as he would not otherwise. Upset his custom. Make it yours. Make him make you beautiful.

Lauren Becker
The Progress of Love
Alice Munro



A nurse in white clogs hurried along the corridor. She had to give the boy with the cuckoo clock heart a sedative. His family stood around the bed like awkward strangers. The doctor, a smoked-down cigarette between his fingers, had excused himself. He had been trained to observe the observable. The dusk was all old doors and blank windows, a memorial to lost sailors.


The crowded elevator disappeared between floors. Pedestrians stood weeping at the crosswalk. She still loves you, said the old man walking a dog on a rope. I smelled the salt of the nearby tears. It took two or three matches before the light would stay lit.


The light doesn’t last all that long, of course, but as long as it lasts, we become like souls with red-painted toenails, the fallen factory chimneys along the Merrimack, dancing peasants scantily clad amid the snow of a Russian prison camp.

Howie Good
Human Smoke
Nicholson Baker

COSMONAUT - j. bradley

The house is a pulmonary system of pocket universes. We lose ourselves in the vacuum of Auto-Tune, drift toward the outer rims of conversations and plastic Dixie cups. Bottles of Banker's Gin collapse like white dwarfs in our throats. In the morning, we will smack our lips, ruin the cotton in our cheeks; our heads are capsules with cracks in the seams.

J. Bradley
Grease Stains, Kismet, and Maternal Wisdom
Mel Bosworth


The Poisoned Well stains the street two doors up from us—a constantly re-piling black cloud—and can’t stop having babies every few months or so, adjusting the straps of gas masks over their faces, straps slapping to their skulls, and shoving them off to the street corner so they can mill about, dead-eyed, slack-jawed, waiting for the horrible school bus to crank open its doors and spirit them off to the death camps.

“Thank God,” she says. When they’ve gone, she says, “Thank God.”

The Toxic Flakes is the worst kind of knotted-up fibrous tumor, a rain-swollen blackhead, clicky with static and that clinging kind of co-dependency, hot and suffocating like polyester pants hot out the dryer. His kids are totally afraid of him, largely avoiding consuming meals in his company, those complex conspiracies of restrained farts and burnt tongues. They avoid helping out in the yard as he scrapes heaps of wet leaves off the gristly stump-field, lumpy—a throat full of misgivings.

It’s always raining in their horrible house, damp and rambling with homework assignments half-flushed down the toilet, the yellowed skeletons of forgotten housecats, needled jaws dried open in anticipation of the meal that might’ve saved.

David Peak
the orange eats creeps
grace krilanovich

DAUGHTER - len kuntz

I drove to LA to find her. A few times I thought I saw her on the 405 sporting new hair color and different clothes, adjusting the lay of her bangs in the rearview. But when I finally found her she was naked except for a pair of stilettos and a g string. I should have looked away from the stage. I tried. She slid across the spot lit floor. Her eyes were sharp and focused. In them I saw myself and every sin. She arched her back like an acrobat, her spine as pliant as rubber. She wanted me to see the bills stuck inside her waistband, none under twenty, two or three Franklins. When she flipped forward I expected—I don’t know what I expected actually—but I didn’t anticipate her looking so much like her mother all those years ago, a virgin then, us unwed and me unraveled. I didn’t expect that. She grabbed my neck tie, twisted it, “What now, old man?”

Len Kuntz
Naughty, Naughty
Meg Pokrass and Jack Swenson

THE ART OF ADULTERY - angela rydell

Jenny sat three tables from her lover’s wife, idly sketching the woman’s face, amused by the natural narrowness of her eyes, how far apart they were. As if this made it harder to see, distance a feature of her being. She drew the high, broad brow, unfurrowed. Not the kind of woman who holds onto worries. She would let go. Move on. Jenny fleshed out the angular cheekbones, weak chin, wondering if she chose Dean partly because his wife made him an easy choice. Small, petite, barely an obstacle. Though not without beauty. Jenny sometimes wished she too had eyebrows as shapely. Lips as full, held in a mild, faultless smile. Jenny set her pencil down, couldn’t bring herself to edit slight exaggerations—a hardening of the jawline, an uneven complexion—or finish the lines pulling at the corners of the woman’s mouth and eyes. But could she leave it like this? She had the urge to get closer, take a long and careful look. Drop a spoon, roughly scrape her chair back, force Dean’s wife to look up, stare her right in the eye. Then Jenny would decide what changes she needed to make.

Angela Rydell
The Corrections
Jonathan Franzen


"pelican one" - bl pawelek


We store the illegals here by the dam, so thick we can walk on their heads. Sometimes we do. Not kids, not grandmothers, not if we can help it the women. We photograph them with facial recognition cameras, and once they’ve been digitized, computerized, and disseminated, we ship them out. Then we gather before the dam, all of us standing where they were, awaiting the next batch, facing that concrete concave rising fan.

It takes a long time for them to come, squeezing us up and out, but eventually it happens, more of them than us, and us, lighter and whiter, standing on top of that sea of bobbing brown heads. No matter how light your touch is, how swiftly you move, you feel them sink beneath you when you step, and you wonder, How can they stand it? Strong necks, I suppose, and the weight of those around them, holding them up.

Good thing for them there’s a lot of them; it would be too much to bear alone. But the brown river fills up and moves on and is gone.
Paul Griner
Cloud Atlas
David Mitchell

FOLK - michelle reale

We tried to be fascinated by one another in the car on the way to the folk festival. We’d met over e-mail. He wrote with dashes like Emily Dickinson and I fell for it. He picked me up at a Denny’s on the highway, asked me not to smoke when I slid one from the pack. We had things to say, like the fact that he petrifies citrus fruits on windowsills and has a lime back from the summer of ’87. I told him about my fascination with the two drums of Ireland, the Lambeg and Bodhran and how my loyalties can become easily divided. The air-conditioning was full blast. My eyes went dry. We ran out of things to say. At the festival we saw each other but he just looked straight ahead like he didn’t know me after all we shared. On the way home we passed by a ramshackle house with a statue of a big wooden bear, his claws out. On one side was “Welcome”. On the other side, “Go Away.” I lit my cigarette and didn’t care. “Imagine that,” I laughed. He rolled down the window and looked the other way.


He unjesused himself on his twenty-ninth birthday by saying so: I was, I'm not, I don't, I can't, I won't, etc. No lightning scorched him, no thunder scolded him, no tractor-trailer ran him over, no assailant shot him in the chest, no earth reached up to capture and bury him alive. In his kitchen, he made his children peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. They ate them pleasantly while watching television.

Kyle Minor
Amelia Gray

QUESTION - gary percesepe

The eagerness of objects to be what we are afraid to do cannot help but move us.
—Frank O’Hara

Aren’t we acting terribly pre-9/11? Someone has to smile as she comes back from the bathroom. I can’t say I’m sorry. Does she think everything stays the bloody same?

Oh, you’re here.

When you smile airplanes go off course. Thundering windows of hell will you forever speak Rudy Giuliani noun verb 9/11? Or pocket your carpenter’s pencil? Clear the room of smoke? Shit, the soup is on fire. My father is at the back door with the roses. The strange hills are still warm from the feet of worn travelers. And still the manna falls. If you were an enormous bullet you could lodge here in my open shirt. Downstairs, we scream and wash our hair.

THREE FICTIONS - mary hamilton


Having waited for the hour that was just after dinner, but before bed, Caroline braided her hair into two ropes falling over her shoulders and down to her ankles. She pushed spoons and forks into the braids so they would form a sailor’s ladder up the mast of her body to her skull where the blond hair pulled and the scalp turned red. Caroline walked in the muddy sunset light to the middle of a nearby field where sometimes kids played soccer and sometimes they flew kites and sometimes they would lie in the grass and make sense of the clouds. Caroline stood in the middle of the field and invited the buzzing bugs and spastic flies to climb these ladders. She invited them to make a home in her hair. To nest and cuddle. Her only hope, that when it turned dark, their bodies would light up and she would have made for herself a crown on fire.


Jill stood akimbo considering the cardboard box of 12 adorable kittens that had seemingly been abandoned next to this here dumpster. She counted them three times to make sure that it was an even dozen and not a baker’s dozen with one extra kitten thrown in for fun. She counted her hands, she had two. She counted her pockets, she had five. That added up to seven and still left five kittens meowing and pawing and the walls of cardboard and turning their noses at that sour garbage smell. Jill hunched down so it looked as though she was sitting in an invisible chair and she set one kitten on each thigh and one on each shoulder and one on top of her head. And she walked home like this. Delightfully weighted down by 12 adorable, cuddly and fuzzy cutie pie little kittens.


Natalie held the taco in her right and a 32 oz Coca Cola in her left. The taco quickly losing it’s battle for existence in the fury of Natalie’s bites and intermittent nibbles to catch any stray thread of avocado or onion or cheese or bean juice or sour cream or tomato or onion or cilantro or salsa or jalapeño or grease. She held the straw of the Coca Cola close enough so that any coughing or wrong tube emergency would be easily remedied by the ready availability of carbonated delight. Natalie was sitting in this corner booth celebrating the end of a raw and red sunburn that had lived and died on her shoulders. The resulting sepia tones of her skin showed no sign of the peeling, the shedding of skin that seemed to last weeks. Now her shoulders were smooth and soft and just aching to be touched by fabric. She was celebrating the morning, when she pulled her cardigan over her shoulders and slipped it off again, the grinding pain noticeably absent. She repeated the action. Cardigan on, cardigan off. She felt every little fiber of the cotton move over her skin. She repeated the action to feel it again. And again.

Mary Hamilton
Handle With Care
The Traveling Wilburys


jenny perkins

COWARD - nathan stretch

He pushed the ring on to his finger and slid it up and down the strings of his guitar; making music in the underground apartment. The songs were jaundiced as they took shape, crawling from the sound hole on thin, weak legs to collapse and lie on the floor—piling on top of one another and suffocating—each emerging derelict finishing off the last with a huff and a flop and a sigh. The ring met the guitar strings with recognition, the four bottom of which were wound wire, and they danced to the sound of their music dying; a serrating grind up and down the fretboard.

Nathan Stretch
The Wind Up Bird Chronicle
Haruki Murakami

BLACK SUMMER - sabrina stoessinger

There was that one night when me and Sonny went down to the lake and dug ourselves down into that great big sandbar that had come up a ways off shore. The water was so shallow and warm and we waited there real quiet and still for what musta been hours until the minnows finally swam up and nibbled on the tips of our bodies. I liked how they tickled me; it felt magic and electric like little pin pricks all over. Sonny, he said the minnows wouldn’t touch him, that they were scared of him just like everyone else. But I checked. Those minnows were there trying to feed on his pieces too. I told him they were there, hundreds of them, but Sonny said he couldn’t feel a thing.

Sabrina Stoessinger
Horses of the Night
Margaret Laurence


how does he know that i am blank and blackness. how does he know that inside here there is nothing. empty space. that i don't feel anything until my forehead is smashed against a rough wall. i just came inside you, he says after a distance. i know, i say. but only because i feel sticky on the inside of my thighs. then it all returns slowly. my vagina hurts and i remember that it hurts. and i think fuck not again, not again as i smile at him like that was just great, like he did something no one else could do. wow. you men with your cum you're just amazing. my forehead and palms are skinned from the wall and a day or two later i'm still bleeding. but i am an empty bucket. willing and waiting to receive disease. and i don't care. don't really care. i really don't care.

Ani Smith
Frowns Needs Friends Too
Sam Pink


You once let me stroke your thigh through your shorts and even if it was pretend I poured tons and tons of language about how all I want is to adore you into your cells. It did nothing as always, but I got a little stolen something for that night’s loneliness.

I wish every beautiful woman I see would let me hang out with her constantly until she starts repeating herself and seems boring. Then I wouldn’t have to feel sad about her not being mine. That would be like one hell of a service.

Picture everyone you’ve ever known in the same auditorium. If we could make them all make eye contact it would be totally disgusting. The strongest males would want to look at the most beautiful women with the best bodies. Some would ride their stares like war gods while others would simply let go.

Peter Schwartz

GOAL - john tait

Fine drizzle is whipping down on us, dripping off the rusted lip of the old cantilever stand. We’re going mental. I feel the full heaving force, the surge of bodies behind me, the stale smell of drink, tobacco, body odor, wet denim, and boiled onions filling my flared nostrils. I soak up the animal roar that rolls around the dark empty roof space and echoes back off the cold concrete. I jump up and down, grabbing hold of the man in fronts’ coat, shouting in his face. He has a mustache. Looks a bit like Basil Fawlty. He grins back, not caring, he’s seen me around. My mate Rob has clambered up on a barrier and is hanging onto the cage, screaming obscenities at the pissed-off home fans across the dividing lines of fences and police. His eyes are rolling as he punches the air and gives the finger to their element, mocking them. His black leather jacket gleams with the wet.

Jon Tait
Arsenal of Spitwads
Misti Rainwater-Lites

THE STORYTELLER - sarah galvin

I will spend hours and hours shopping for bike parts online, taking in T shirts I found at Goodwill, and reading Jean Genet, while you watch me and touch yourself. I’ve always wondered why you tape your mouth shut when you do that, it seems unnecessary.

Sarah Galvin
The Man Suit
Zachary Schomburg


Nicelle Nicelle

OF TIDINGS - donna d. vitucci

Watch the girl girder the mid-December bridge. Instead of splash, she lifts; instead of plummet, she birds, skinny-legged stork lugging a backpack purse. Babies fill her throat. Her taste buds stir. Given half the chance, she'll eat her own. Her face is moon-like but even the moon can be cut off by a cloud.

Under threatening skies, still falling, the long fall, the fall of stories, fall of decades, shedding hope, she inhales through one nostril, exhales out the other, prayer gliding in a threadbare parka. She banks into the bath. She will drown before she spits. She will turn to fable. She will kiss the river and fan out face down, our angel. One big gulp. She, and all she's held back, or will never spew, expelled.

Minnows fuzz the froth, their fins kiss her, comprise an aura visible from space, from the highest-peaked Star in the East, and the deepest Hudson stones, blessing all, any, amen, while waiting, waiting. Even the fish suspend their faith.

We, we lean our camels in the direction of Herod, shoulders caved, hearts split over this cog in a wheel, one Jackson Heights girl among countless teens mulling bridges. We've a tale and we tell it in all the known languages, twitter, travel, move on, spilling the news and betraying our blood. We're eyewitnesses, and goddamn it, we'll tell the world what she couldn't, we make it ours, will testify in the flood-lit desert, in the terrifying, shiftless world. We will nod at His name. On hearing hers we shall bow. We cast palms on their paths. We will pass the word.

WHAT JIMMY WANTS - linda sands

To be fucked.‭ ‬To be fucked up to be fucked on,‭ ‬but never,‭ ‬never does he want to be fucked over.‭ ‬He wants to tell the girl on the bar stool that he calls the shots. ‭ ‬He wants to tell her about that time‭— ‬that time he thought he was going to die except when he tells her it will be that he believed he was going to become God.‭

He was fucked up then.‭ ‬You can’t take all that shit and not have something bad happen.‭ ‬The doctors told him he did it because he wanted to die.‭ ‬But Jimmy knows better.‭ ‬He did it because he wanted to live,‭ ‬in a bigger place,‭ ‬in a wider place,‭ ‬in a place where the girls came to him,‭ ‬where they beckoned him with their angel wings,‭ ‬where they straddled him on a cloud.

He stares at the girl on the bar stool,‭ ‬at the crack of her ass.‭ ‬He wants to be the only one she looks at on her way out the door.‭ ‬He wants her to straddle her Harley FatBoy,‭ ‬flip her long red hair over one shoulder then crook her finger in his direction and beckon.

SHAPES - molly bond

Lights flash in the dark, filling my eyes with shapes. The motor hums in steady bursts. My hands against the steering wheel become tentacles falling from my arms, ghostly and freckled. My shoulder is wet. I slide down in the leather seat so I can reach the pedals.

I feel a strange sense of companionship with the other drivers. I wonder what it would be like to live on the highway, driving on and on. I would feel free, a balloon let out of the sticky hand of a child. We are all in the same situation.

A black ribbon of asphalt ebbs and flows. Farms line the road, the perfect plots of land lined up, a game of checkers. I'm stuck behind a towering SUV. I swerve to the right lane, pulling in front of it, even though there's nothing to see.

Molly Bond
Collected Stories
Raymond Carver


Eyes dart staring,‭ ‬searching for them.‭ ‬The real one.‭ ‬Must be.‭ ‬A halo round his head with a sign for her somewhere if she could only.‭ ‬He will,‭ ‬they will,‭ ‬it will.‭ ‬Out in the field she practiced saying what she must say when it is there.‭ ‬Right.‭ ‬If he makes mistakes it will be alright,‭ ‬if she makes mistakes.‭ ‬He will fix it,‭ ‬set it upright on its head,‭ ‬the things they do and not look back.‭ ‬A child in the wilderness tells the story of what‭’‬s right from the every night book which is‭ ‬probably never never.‭

Neila Mezynski
Beyond Desire
‭Sherwood Anderson

DOCTOR LOVE - meg pokrass

The doctor I love admits he is slightly infatuated with a patient - one who is dying. He tells me this when wiping semen off his chest with a kleenex after I have made him come in and around my soft hand. He says her name is Alabama.

I ask if she is beautiful. The patient that needs so much care.

"How many Alabamas can there be?" he says.

He talks about the cactus she loves the most, the one she calls "Jim", with long white human looking cactus fur.

"Do you call cactus fur, 'hair'?" I ask.

"Good question," he says.

He touches my fake hair and releases a groan of approval. I tell him they are made of real hair from living girls.

Meg Pokrass
Jack Swenson

AFTER ALL - greg dybec

They tell us how naïve we were to have sprawled lethargically in fields of ash and chase down the remaining blackbirds with stones in hope of some bird-mash gumbo sprinkled with bark. These new men in masks say that we are lucky to be alive, since we’re just young children and all. I don’t trust them. Their masks cloud their eyes and there is no telling if the faces underneath exist or not. They tell us that we are on the threshold of a new world, and that the apocalypse wasn’t so apocalyptic after all. They explain that new ferns and hollies are beginning to sprout toward the Eastern coast, and soon enough we will see schools and hospitals once more. I don’t know what they mean, but I’m hungry and there are crickets still left over in our bunker, at the edge of woods where cracked road meets a wrinkled blanket of ash.

Greg Dybec
Love and Hydrogen
Jim Shepard

IRIS - rick hale

I'm going to wash my belongings and pile them all together in the same room.‭ ‬I'm going to shut the door and allow them to become familiar with each other.‭ ‬Then we will go to Mexico.‭ ‬I will eat biscuits.‭ ‬I will go outside.‭ ‬The sun will look dazzlingly light and secure,‭ ‬and I will give it a new name.‭ ‬You will introduce yourself to me as Iris.‭ ‬You will pick up your white stick and take me out into the desert.‭ ‬We will hunt for things,‭ ‬holding our guns and looking through our sights at unimportant things.‭ ‬Your rainbow eyes will fall on me hard.‭ ‬My body will wake up lying in your bed with my head on your chest.‭ ‬I will tell you about the time I washed all my belongings and went outside.‭ ‬You will tell me about the snowball effect,‭ ‬that it is not an accumulation or gathering of speed.‭ ‬You will tell me it is an explosion.‭ ‬A firecracker of cold white powder fanned out across the pavement like the eyeless spread of an albino peacock's tail.

Rick Hale
The Journey to the East
Hermann Hesse


'AFTER THE PRAYER' - bl pawelek

DEWEY - rick hale

My placid uncle enjoyed the‭ ‬1990‭ ‬shore of the lake in a plaid lawn chair.‭ ‬He had a fishing pole with an empty plastic milk jug where the hook would normally be.‭ ‬At night he'd cast the jug out through the evening bugs clouding over the water and it would come down with a hollow splash.‭ ‬Reel in,‭ ‬cast again.‭ ‬Splash.‭ ‬There was a giant lidless jar of Vlasics open beside his chair.‭ ‬He would allow himself a pickle every time he bopped an alligator's head with the jug.‭ ‬Fonk.‭ ‬It was usually pitch dark,‭ ‬but he could tell when he'd succeeded by the sound of thrashing and clapping jaws out in the water.‭ ‬My uncle would crunch a bumpy pickle with his teeth.‭ ‬His large laughs would go out through the marshy air like storks,‭ ‬invisible in the dark as they flew to peck at the lizards‭' ‬rough green skin.‭ ‬But there came a day when those alligators learned to follow the jug to shore.‭ ‬They slid out of the pale green water,‭ ‬smashed the jar.‭ ‬Pickles slopped out and the label got all wet.‭ ‬Vlasic.‭ ‬My uncle laughed as he ran.

Rick Hale
The Journey to the East
Hermann Hesse

TRANSPORT - howie good

I clambered aboard as ordered.‭ ‬It was dark inside,‭ ‬though it wasn‭’‬t night and wouldn‭’‬t be night for hours.‭ ‬Ghosts of lost objects patrolled the aisle.‭ ‬I leaned back and closed my eyes.‭ ‬When I woke up,‭ ‬fire was cradling my head in its lap.‭ ‬We were far from anyplace I knew.‭ ‬The woman reading to her seatmate hesitated over certain words‭ ‬– verdigris,‭ ‬exculpatory‭ ‬– as if she feared their meaning.‭ ‬Others passed around a Polaroid of a brick wall.‭ ‬Poor everybody,‭ ‬I thought.‭ ‬The sun,‭ ‬suddenly below the horizon,‭ ‬continued to breathe with difficulty.

Howie Good
The Arrival‭
‬Daniel Simko

TEXT MESSAGE TO SPOONMAN - stefanie karlina greene

Just watched a kid with no chin, but somehow squeezed into skinny jeans, windmill his arms as he skipped across an intersection. I'm at a loss for words.

Stefanie Karline Greene
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde

DRY CLEANING - justin c. witt

You don’t expect to come home one day and find a midget fucking your wife.‭ ‬It’s not something you can prepare yourself for,‭ ‬yet there he is,‭ ‬wearing that ridiculous Zorro mask,‭ ‬smacking her in the hip yelling‭ “‬Ho‭! ‬Ho‭! ‬Hooo‭!” ‬over and over again,‭ ‬neither one of them realizing you are there.‭

“HOOoooooOOOoooo‭!!!” ‬the midget screams,‭ ‬his ass-cheeks jiggling like Jell-O at each pelvic impact.‭

You remember that you forgot to pick up the dry cleaning,‭ ‬the words repeating themselves inside your head as you turn and leave the room.‭ ‬“Yes‭” ‬you say,‭ ‬walking back down the hall,‭ “‬the dry cleaning.‭”

Justin C. Witt
The Sporting Club
Thomas McGuane

TO CHINA - caroline kepnes

We’re lovely people,‭ ‬Dan and I.‭ ‬We came to China because the mother spirit wants us to take in a child who already breathes rather than create anew.‭ ‬We’re ready.‭ ‬Dan plays jazz trombone,‭ ‬he’s as‭ ‬New Orleans as they come.‭ ‬I’m a financial planner for divorced women.‭ ‬We’re also regular.‭ ‬We eat peanut butter,‭ ‬mainstream,‭ ‬organic,‭ ‬we have a line on what really matters.‭ ‬Dan and me,‭ ‬we’re good people begging.‭ ‬I was adopted.‭ ‬I know what it is to make family.‭ ‬

But the family won’t get made,‭ ‬not entirely.‭ ‬I can’t get a line on little beige Derry.‭ ‬He’s mine but he doesn’t want to be mine.‭ ‬He’s a fish that gets away,‭ ‬not from Dan though.‭ ‬He wants Dan’s song.‭ ‬Dan looks at me different.‭ ‬I can see his first wife in his head,‭ ‬the paws on way she had with the babies they made.‭ ‬I hate jazz now.‭ ‬Jazz doesn’t give a shit.‭ ‬I play tight pop when Dan’s not here,‭ ‬pop doesn’t brat out on you and wander to daddy just because.‭ ‬I hit Derry yesterday.‭ ‬Dan can’t see it.‭ ‬He doesn’t know Derry’s skin like I do.‭ ‬Dumb jazzman,‭ ‬good daddy though,‭ ‬I’ll give him that.


I fell in love with a girl I've never met.‭ ‬She writes like a whore and speaks like a poet.‭ ‬I like it when females write like deranged,‭ ‬drugged out sex addicts.‭ ‬I think maybe they're just like me.‭ ‬And I've never met anyone just like me.‭ ‬If I could clone myself as an identical female twin,‭ ‬I'd fuck her/me all day and hit her and not say I'm sorry cuz I don't lie to myself and she/me would know anyway.‭ ‬I would cum deep in me and lick it out and kiss her/me and make us taste us/it.‭ ‬If I could transfer a brain between bodies,‭ ‬I would switch my brain into my cloned identical sister's body and hers into mine and let her/me fuck me/her until she pulls out and covers us with us and the neighbors would complain.‭ ‬I would hold her/me/it up against a wall and the phone would ring and it would be God and he would be judging me and the neighbors would complain again.

LIKE FIVE O' CLOCK - parker tettleton

She pulled the book off its shelf. It meant something else now. He’d quote her in the mirror, at the backs of buses that kept her moving, something she’d said without saying. He would remember for them. She’d forget, without him, the way she wanted. Garland and lights were on her stub. The station was packed, like five o’clock, except it wasn’t.

Parker Tettleton
Kim Chinquee


jenny perkins


She said I have to believe. She said it was important and why she had called me after a year--not to have sex, though I asked to be sure. From Guadalajara, she came to North Carolina knowing no English but soon was doing poetry readings. Now, she was in a cult.

She pointed to her palms. “See the sparkles of light? That is the holy light. I have been anointed.”

“It’s the recessed halogens reflecting off some oil or sweat.”

“I can talk in tongues.” She talked in tongues.

“I can talk gibberish.” I talked gibberish.

“It’s ancient Aramaic. That hasn’t been heard in thousands of years.”

“Then, how do we know what it sounds like?”

She stood, short but all long black hair and cleavage. She laid one hand, sparkling palm down, on my heart and the other on my back. She prayed over me and fell into the tongues. We were in Starbucks.

“I’ve done what I can,” she said. “You have to save yourself.” She was crying.

“And you have to fuck yourself.”

Much later, when God came, I was sorry about that part.

S. Craig Renfroe, Jr.
William Gay

THE BREASTSTROKE - dawn corrigan

When we got back from space it turns out we could fly. Oh, not all 517. Only those who'd traveled beyond low Earth orbit had acquired the ability. Two dozen. And it wasn't really flying so much as a kind of swimming. There was no zooming through the air like Superman. Rather, you'd be thinking about what zero gravity felt like, and you'd take a step, and then instead of your foot landing on the ground it would land on air, which I know doesn't make sense but that's how it happened. The air would bear your weight and you’d swing your other foot forward, and that foot would land higher than the first, as though you were climbing an invisible staircase. And then--you couldn't help it--you'd push your arms together above your head and then separate them, like a person doing the breaststroke. And your body would follow. Once you had enough height there were loops, and flips--all in slow motion, like moving through a dream.

The twelve who’d walked on the moon, they could fly like Superman. Or so we heard. They never let us see, and they never came to our parties.

Dawn Corrigan
The Lone Pilgrim
Laurie Colwin

THE OPENING - jenny breukelaar

He waved his thing at her and called out to her trying not to think about the hole in his sock but she just kept walking, tap-tap-tapping with her cane and her eyes were like pearls. She looked like she was drowning. He loved her pearls. One morning when there was no one else around to hear him, he offered to lick them. She never said anything.

She stopped then in front of him, this silent girl with drowned eyes and she waved her magic wand in front of her. Wave wave. He froze and his dick went limp in his hands. Sunlight fell down on them from between the dark branches.

Jenny Breukelaar
Nightmare Town
Dashiell Hammett

A SPECIAL BELT - chelsea hogue

Nothing is left but silence. At least he has that. Roberto is laying in the trench, surrounded by a scene of no striking faces, just a monogamous flow of ordinary. He can look up the side of the mountain that almost looks human.

He’s a Spanish conquistador building shelter out of palm branches, regal, cool, calculated yet impulsive, taking native prisoners. He looks over his mangled armor, coiled around him now like a sardine lid, hundreds of feral guinea pigs’ tiny claws clinking over his breastplate.

He’s a martyr. He’s a soldier. He’s a young boy sitting inside a large bugle horn, painted candy-red, sitting cross-legged, laughing.

Revisiting everything Barry Hannah

WHAT BETSY WANTS - linda sands

She wants to keep him around longer than a night. She wants to be more than his fuck buddy, the one he calls when he wants a piece of ass without buying it dinner. She knows she’s not pretty enough for him, not skinny enough or nice enough and her crooked teeth, she figures they might have something to do with it, although he never minds feeling them skim across his cock.

She wants him to shut off his phone when he walks in her door because the chime and ding of all those pretty girls calling him gets annoying after a while and she has to try even harder to please him, even harder to get him to understand she is so much more than this naked girl standing in front of him willing to do anything he asks at any time.

TELL ME - walter campbell

She tells me that it always smells damp this time of year, like everyone left their gym towels in the sewers, and the smell’s leeching up. It makes me wonder what the locker room at her gym smells like.

She tells me that everyone gets sweaty, and they glisten like glazed donuts this time of year. It makes me wonder if she eats donuts, because I find myself no longer wanting to eat them. Ever.

She tells me that the last time it was this time of year—meaning last year—she was with another guy—meaning not me—and he became insatiably horny with the change in season. I start to tell her I’d prefer not to hear about that when

she tells me that she’s glad I don’t get that way this time of year. It makes me wonder if I should tell her something about my ex that I’m glad she’s not.

She tells me that her favorite time of year is the other time of year. It makes me wonder why I don’t have a favorite time of year.

Walter Campbell
Sharp Teeth
Toby Barlow

FRUSTRATION - blake wilcox

“Shit,” Jones said, “I cannot write this stupid story.”

His husband, Mel, piped in. “Well,” he said, “think of a river running down saccharine banks, cascading over rocks dotted with quartz like the chips in the ice cream I bought, which is delicious, just so you know. That’s you. You’re the river. Or, no, the words you’re writing are a river, like a river of ink, but distilled, or something, because if you were a river of ink, you’d be all over the page, and nobody could read it. But, hey, that might be ironic, right? Probably something like that. You’d know better than me, sweetie-bear. My sweetie-bear, the writer river rider of ink, over those rocks, kicking some rock ass, because that’s what you do—you kick ass, baby. And I know you can do it. A hang-up here and a stint of writer’s block there is nothing in the grandest schemes of things, the great literary cosmos you traverse every goddamn day and wrangle those glittering stars down for the puny mortals like me to look upon and squeal and squirm with delight, oh yes.”

“No,” Jones said, “I’m pretty sure I just can’t write the story.”

Blake Wilcox
The People of Paper
Salvador Plascencia


'DARK DAYS' - alyssa davis

A BROAD - scott akalis


scott akalis

Only 3 words. All he knows: No habla espanol. Streets smell of diesel smoke like daddy´s old tractor. Why so many stray dogs? No birth control, she says. For the first time he's white and tall. The sun burns his head. The ceiling bumps it. The bed is safe.

Scott Akalis
Straight Man
Richard Russo

EFFIGIES - eric bennett


eric bennett

You collect statues of Jesus. Line them neatly on every ledge in your shrinking flat. You arrange them – rearrange them until the order is right. One Jesus, two Jesus, red Jesus, blue.

You set the plastic sacred-heart Jesus on the mantle next to the-Lord-is-my-shepherd Jesus with bronzed lambs. You shift the three inch high replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta so their spoon-smooth faces capture the ambient light. You position, reposition, and position again until there’s a shape to the silence between you and the icons.

Even though you’re an atheist you believe in God. But you surmise he doesn’t believe in you. So, you gather his images and arrange them throughout the apartment. You require his manifest presence – his eyes on you.

You stand silent in the center of the room. Lift your hands shoulder high, palms out. Listen to the silent thunder of the Lord of hosts and know the statue alignment is ideal. Your mouth rarely smiles but inside your brain, you smile.

All eyes are on you. Reaching deep into your mouth and scooping out a prayer, you speak into the hush. You begin, “Now that I have your attention...”

BEARDED AND BEETLED - henry vauban


henry vauban

I grew a beard to hide the beetle in my mind or the other way around. Black dogs aren’t always lonely and not everything that looks lost is lost. Only $9.99 limited time only always ends up dusty yellowed plastic at a flea market with all the other broken watches.

I wear codeine on my post-surgery foot and beetle to the bathroom.

I dress like Peter Pan hit by a sedan and pincushion my belly against thrombosis.

The neighborhood cats are fat but never allowed indoors. My neighbor bangs and bangs his house green but my utility bills are rising and the windmills keep turning and the coal keeps burning and whatever happens at nuclear power plants isn’t slowing down either.

“Yo can I bum a cig?” some kid asks me on the street.

I am made of money and giving cigarettes to kids is cool.

The audacity of strangers with outstretched arms not even pretending to be broken down and ashamed to beg.

I take stock of my mustard jar drinking vessels. I’d give one to a polar bear for his coat.

I kiss glaciers. We are the same.

Henry Vauban
The Dictator is Drinking Alone
Amber Sparks

CTRL. ALT. RIOT GIRL - melanie williams


melanie williams

Disconnect, conclusion. Her lips an overdue rent check. Her bones the frame of my borrowed futon. Caution tape, her tongue. And green lights. Saying “go,” saying “later.” Saying nothing.

Melanie Williams
We Disappear
Scott Heim

WOMAN OF THE DAY - michael herman


michael herman

I'm a man, and I have needs. Yesterday, I'm walking to work. The sky is blue and looks like the sky. The grass is green, looking like grass. The tress, flowers, and plants—all looking like trees, flowers, and plants. It's early. On my way to work I find a ten dollar bill on the ground, then run into an old friend I haven't seen since high school.

"Hello, old friend," I say. "I haven't seen you since high school. You've aged, but you still look like you—as you should."

"Hello," my old friend says.

My old friend leads me back to her apartment. We talk. She makes me coffee, and we have sex. On my way to work again, I notice that the ten dollar bill is gone and ninety dollars is missing from my wallet. Everything still looking like it should—the sky, grass, trees, flowers, and plants. At work I can't help but think of my old friend. She hasn't changed since high school, but that's okay, because I like her just the way she is—as she should be.

Michael Herman
The Box Man
Kobo Abe

LYZ AND DUNCAN - lavinia ludlow


lavinia ludlow

This morning, my band mates discussed their relationship deal breakers.

“If he lives with his parents,” Joleen said.

“If he smokes,” Ella said.

“If he won’t eat out my ass.” Meet Lyz. She’s captain of her roller derby team. Enough said. Well, not exactly.

Apparently, Lyz used to be fat. Like really fat. Like needing the surgery fat but a few years ago she began puking up everything she ate instead. No one had ever seen her not fat, so after all that fat melted off, she became this hot girl who fronted an East Side punk band, and thereafter, she capitalized on ever opportunity that presented itself, in terms of what she wore, how she posed in pictures, who she hit on, who she allowed to hit on her, who she kissed, fucked, you get the picture.

She’s gone around with my best friend Duncan for months, and I’ve never once disapproved, but since her admission, I haven’t been able to look Duncan in the eye.

Tonight at the bar, he says to me,

“I have a funny taste in my mouth.”

I grip my bottle of Guinness Extra Stout and chug before he can ask for a sip.

Lavinia Ludlow
A Little Love Poem
Tony O’Neil



chelsea hogue

The retard that all of the other retards admired was Janel. She was only a little retarded. At the yard sale they were instructed to all hold hands. Janel picked out a long silver necklace with assorted lockets on the end, a cowboy toothbrush holder and rubber banded Monopoly money. All of the others, instructed to stay together, began asking if there were, perhaps, more cowboys.

Chelsea Hogue
Revisiting everything Barry Hannah


- chris cocca



kyle minor

The old man sat on the steps of the Dorr Street Clinic and hoped they’d take his plasma and give him fifty bucks. If this was an old preacher story he’d be homeless, but he had a home in the back room of his daughter’s girlfriend’s house three streets back. He waited all afternoon for the nurse to come outside and call his name, but she never did. If this was an old preacher story, he’d fall asleep on the sidewalk and none of us would know his name, but the nurse knew his name and it was Clarence. Around five o’clock the security guard came over and gave him six bucks to get some cheap whisky from the liquor store next to the pizza shop. If this was an old preacher story, somebody would have given him a dime and not cared that it wasn’t enough to get some cheap whisky from the liquor store next to the pizza shop. After he got the whisky, he drank some of it and started walking home. If this was an old preacher story, a little child would run out in front of a speeding city garbage truck on Dorr Street, and if this was an old preacher story, the old man would run like we’d never seen him run before, throw his body in front of the dump truck, and push the child to the safety of the median in the split second before the dump truck crushed his head and body and all the bystanders gathered around to marvel at his sacrifice. But the old man was just walking home. It was getting dark, and he forgot to get some bread for his daughter and her girlfriend. He hoped they would leave him alone for not getting the bread. If this was an old preacher story, all the people of the city would gather for a grand memorial at Maplewood Cemetery, and an old preacher would deliver the news of the homeless man’s sacrifice, and remind the gathered how we can’t judge a man by his outward appearance. Something would stir in the heart of a small boy in the crowd, and he would begin to believe that the purpose of his life was to help those less fortunate. He would grow up to build a homeless shelter downtown, found a job training program, a rehabilitation center, a halfway house. But nobody died, no one was saved, no one bothered the old man on his walk home. When he reached the house, nobody asked about the bread. He went back to his drafty room, turned on the television, and drank some of his whisky. If this was an old preacher story, this could be your life, if you didn’t renew your mind. The consequences of sin haunt you even in the here and now. But there was a cop show on the television. A car chase, a sting operation, the bad guys got it in the end. The old man watched with pleasure, and he drank the whisky, and that brought him some pleasure. He went out into the living room and sat for a few minutes with his daughter and her girlfriend, and that brought him some pleasure. Sometimes he scratched up a dollar and bought a lottery ticket and hoped to win his millions, but if he did, he thought, this is what he’d do with it. Watch cop shows on television, drink his whisky, sit for awhile with his daughter and her girlfriend.

Kyle Minor
The Union Jack
Imre Kertesz

SPUN OUT OF - kenneth pobo


kenneth pobo

Control—I say, in a library parking lot with an old couple walking to their car and talking about tree surgeons, that I would like to see America fall. You say you’d like to see America be great again. Tennis, no love. A cop comes.

At the police station, I’m turned over to the FBI, the CIA, the ABC, the 123. Stern people ask about my opinion of One Life To Live—do I prefer it when Karen was cheating on Larry Wolek or now when gay characters marry. Larry wouldn’t like that. I figure it’s best to have no opinion, to wrap any view I have in old newspaper and hope fish sellers can peddle it.

“Do you truly love America ?” some former pop star asks while looking in a mirror.

“Yes,” I blurt, hoping door number three will open and my dream kitchen appears.

Jail. Distance. No letters in or out. Duct tape on my lips and genitals. Maybe I got my wish— America did fall. Hard. And in its place? A commercial. Cialis. Swiffers.

Kenneth Pobo
Tunneling to the Center of the Earth
Kevin Wilson



rebecca gaffron

You might want to cover your face, in case your boss likes that homemade porn shit. What would he think? You know, if he saw you lying on your bed fucking yourself. Or what about that guy from the book shop, the one who kind of smiles at you, but always disappears before you get up the nerve to say hello?

He might not know it’s you. He’d be sitting there, rubbing himself, watching that rubber cock split you open. And just when he’s in danger of blowing a load all over the keyboard, he sees the way your chin juts as you cum all pixilated. It reminds him of that day you wanted to ask if he’d like to join you for coffee. He recognizes you from a single magical moment that drained away in the eleven steps from the door to the counter and left you asking in a zombie voice for the latest tabloid rag.

Rebecca Gaffron
Touch Me
Alan Stewart Carl

WHAT SANDRA WANTS - linda sands


linda sands

She wants another woman. She’s not sure which one, but she knows the girl needs to have big tits, because that is what she sees when she’s lying in bed with her husband and the lights are dimmed and she whispers, baby? What are you thinking of, as his hands run over her flabby stomach and she squeezes her own breasts. And he says, dutifully, You Baby. You.

And she wishes he’d lied. She wishes he’d said another woman. Even maybe that he’d picked the same one she was thinking about- the waitress at the restaurant, the blonde with the plunging top and the tattoo of the horned angel on her breast.

That’s what Sandra wants. Yes. Right now. That girl in this bed baring that tattoo and pulling Sandra’s hands away and replacing them with her lips.

Linda Sands
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
Wells Tower

MOURNING - alec bryan


alec bryan

The rain: slanted drizzle, grayscale backdrop, leafless trees drenched. The populace of black parasols, feathering the rain, raven-wing-like, down the acrylic coated nylon onto the already soaked greens. Parasols grouped tight, snug, closer than amphibians morphing into frogs in desiccated ponds, gasping for air, for space, confined only by circumstance. Closeness like this is never wanted.

The plot of earth is pried open, exposing the wet sloppy clay interior, modest puddles of uneven proportions pock the hole.

An ecclesiastic groan from the pastor, an imitation of life, a veritable dyslogy on death, a fabricated ray of light battered by the onslaught of rain, battered back into the mouth from whence it came, back into the sealed casket, back into the mother’s womb, battered back into the dirt, back into time immemorial, then, no more groans, no more words, just rain and a miniature casket lowered into a hole.

Shovelfuls of clods cover the entire opening until the casket is slurped back into the earth, and all that remains to be done is the smoothing of dirt once the rain stops so the grass sods evenly, and for two doltish umbrellas to leave the scene—like the others did minutes before.

Alec Bryan
Robert Bolano



brett fogarty

She says something about Asheville and the districts (or was it neighborhoods?) I add, “enclaves” and another voice says, “borough”. Every city is beautiful in Spring, even the kids are better behaved, my wife talks of their little hands folding neatly into one another’s.

I map the things that correspond in her mind: Districts to cities, Art Deco buildings to beauty, folded hands to even tempers. She says, “quarters” then “parishes” and we pass a man on the sidewalk reading aloud from filthy spiral bound notebook. He catches my eye and pleads,

“We must protect the lion and the lamb from the wolves in our ancestors stolen clothing. Mothers and fathers- Action!”

On the car ride home we talk about architecture over a soft rock station that puts the kids asleep. We get to a bridge over a half-frozen river and on the far bank there are dozens of equally spaced road flares going off, glowing red in stark black. I push the accelerator down hard and it jolts the kids awake. My wife yells, she asks me what the hell do I think I am doing. I shout back,

“I don’t know, I don’t know.”

Brett Fogarty
The Phantom Tollbooth
Norton Juster

SHIM SHAM SHIMMY - ryder collins


ryder collins

My boyfriend becomes the Dalai Lama whenever my back’s to him. I keep crab-walking frontwards, but there’s espresso to be made and those hydroponics, and at night I have to dance.

Ryder Collins
Kafka on the Shore
Haruki Murakami



DUMB THINKIN' - kenneth pobo


kenneth pobo

It’s a Saturday night and the sky is a pair of broken glasses.

Dindi listens to old country music. Cal Smith sings about a wife who is guilty of dumb thinkin’. She’s not married. In fact, she’d like to take marriage and feed it so much cotton candy it dies of terminal over-sweetening.

She’s been in 27 relationships, loathes that word. Love should never have more than two syllables. Sometimes she’s full of dumb thinkin’. Sometimes he’s full of dumb thinkin’. Sometimes they’re full of dumb thinkin’. Sometimes dumb thinkin’ gets pregnant and a very intelligent baby is born.

She’s only wanted to murder ten of her ex’s. The rest she wants to be dirty magazines stored in the attic and only discovered when she climbs up to get Christmas decorations. She hasn’t actually killed anybody despite several invitations.

Without glasses, she dopes around. So does the sky. Except it does so with clouds and the sun looks so hot serving pale guests in a bright yellow frock.

Kenneth Pobo
The Bloody Chamber
Angela Carter