THUMBLING - marcus speh

They fucked every night like weasels. Making love seemed to be the only way to fend off the sure knowledge that they’d both wrinkle and die one day. Before daily sex they’d tried: community work; mad shopping; robbing a bank; overeating and puking; complaining; bullying other couples. Only when Kate got pregnant though an army of doctors had assured her that she was barren, did they slacken and returned to a less heated cycle of lovemaking. Ms Dobbs, who lived next door, was glad for it and resentful, too: she slept better now but her dreams got as dull as they had been for the sixty years before the young couple moved in. But things change when they change. As Ms Dobbs sat down to finish an embroidery of a baroque scene showing a shepherd leaning on his strong staff looking at a lolling Virgin Mary, she suddenly noticed a small door in the wall. It wasn’t taller than a thumb and in it stood a perfectly formed, handsome young man who beckoned her with his little finger in the most delightful way so that the old lady willingly put her handiwork aside.

Marcus Speh
New Grub Street
George Gissing

ONE WAY TO RIO - kevin o' cuinn

The band’s previous singer got some Old Time Religion and just couldn’t—anymore—sing stuff that condoned and sometimes encouraged shoplifting, weed and giving head. Judith assured them she had no issue. There had been other applicants, the guys told her: like Marina and Maud. Maud had ties and couldn’t tour, Marina could tour but couldn’t sing. Judith said she could do both, and if they were nice she’d do them too. The whole age thing though, one of them said, We kinda wanted someone our age. She asked if they knew Virginia Plain and started in before they could answer; Baby Jane’s in Acapulco, we are flying down to Rio. They were sold, all four—two lead guitars, bass and drums. Is your passport valid? Both of them, she said. They laughed, said Good one, you’re in. High-fives and Heinekens. How'd you hear about us? She’d seen the ad in the supermarket, on the wall beside the wanted posters. Her year book picture; so much younger then.

Kevin O' Cuinn
Baby Leg
Brian Evenson


But then I’ll have a bad day and being touched will seem like a necessity.

Elizabeth Ellen
A Sport and a Pastime
James Salter

THE POINT OF THE BOTTLE - caroline kepnes

Vera snaps, “What’s the point?” “The point of what”, Charlie says. Charlie reads the news. Vera hates the news. She’s an artist. Charlie’s favorite item today:  Bottle lost in a Maine nor’easter is found twenty years later by a beachcomber in Northern Ireland. Vera sighs. “There is no point”, he says. “It’s just beautiful.” He wants her back, he plays, “We’re so white right now, with The New York Times, the eggs benedict and the sugar substitutes. You don’t get any whiter.” “It’s your newspaper,” she says. She won’t play. The waitress comes up, alabaster white, Jet Blue eyes. “The tip’s not included”, she says, smiles, goes. Charlie pats the newspaper. Vera will paint today. In his experience, black girls thrive on incidents like this. The point of the bottle: A bottle has no points, literally. Rounded things float eternally like a fat whitey in a chlorine lazy river. “What’s so funny?” she asks. He leaves a big tip and the waitress clings the bills, nudges the busboy, “My mom is wrong. New Yorkers aren’t cheap.” Beto doesn’t speak English. He sees the photo of the beach, the woman. He will swipe this art and tape it on his wall. Beautiful.  

Caroline Kepnes
Riding on Duke's Train
Mick Carlon

WEST KILL - adam moorad

He pawns his Fender. Buys a bug zapper from the Salvation Army. He hangs it from a branch outside. She plugs it in when she’s bored and horny. She knows him, how the crackle of static placates his inner voice. She sits him on a bucket. Squirts a tube of lube into her hand. He examines her bosom, warts protruding from it like quartz nuggets on a pewter sheet.The zap of a bug kill volts through the mosquito screen. Die motherfucker, he says. She shushes him.  Says, take off your stinky buckskin, The smoke of thorax drifts in through the window and spreads itself. She drizzles a translucent gel across his forehead. Her hands tremble.He flares his nostrils, murmurs, Die motherfucker. Die.

Adam Moorad
Kendra Grant Malone and Matthew Savoca


Marion Alice Cook (28) of Port Orange, FL, walked into the Dunlawton Ave. KFC this Saturday with, observers report, “her money in her hand, like she just wanted to give it to someone—anybody,” (Angel B. Williams, age 47; customer) before immediately exiting the restaurant. Friends Pauline and David Kester offered no explanation, though were eager to mention her “close relationship” with “challenging music,” “Twitter” and “KFC Snackers.” Cook, when asked for a comment, seemed to glaze over, passively stating: “I thought I knew what I wanted.”

Lohel Hochberg
The Physics of Imaginary Objects
Tina May Hall

MICE - carol deminski

I lay in bed. Eyes open. Every sound is a mouse scrabbling across the floor. He hasn't called in days. I haven't called him either. I hear a click and imagine a baby mouse gnawing on electrical wires behind the dresser. There's tapping. It must be mice crawling behind the baseboard. I can't sleep. I'm not thinking about why we're not talking. The mice are chewing holes through sweaters in the bottom drawers, curling up beneath where the pilot light keeps the stove warm. When the sky lightens all the tapping and ticking and scrabbling stops. I don't hear the mice anymore. I get up and turn on all the lights but I see no sign of them. I didn't get any sleep. We're still not talking. Tonight or tomorrow night.

Carol Deminski
Letters From New Orleans
Rob Walker



DARK LOVE - kim goransson


The body lay on the riverbank, its face a cool and tangled mask of seaweed and regret. Seeing off the curious gulls, inspector R. inhaled the salty-repugnant perfume that all expired beings waft of. Turning his attention to the set of footprints leading away from the body that, sure enough, appeared to be one-footed, he began to hum.


I am the darkness that swallows all. I know a dark love. My heart is a thousand-feet-deep stone chamber that you will never pry open. I have been known to murder babies only to return them to their mothers in pieces. I am the original motherfucker. Hear hear, who is calling, I am the darkness that swallows all.


Inspector R. carefully replaced “Mass in B Minor” on the turntable and with the first note sank into the abyss. Walking the narrow corridor with the 111 doors again: the terrified screams, feeling every handle. There was the unbearable stench, both familiar and strange. There, in his left shirt-pocket, heavy and close to heart, lay the solitary key.

Kim Göransson

Life and War with Mikey Fatboy Delgado

Mikey Fatboy Delgado

A MAN OWNS HIMSELF UNTIL THE GATE - shannon elizabeth hardwick

I'd rather be a tree than you any day. She drew diagrams whenever she was nervous. Made lists and stuck them everywhere. A tree stands still. That's all. A tree doesn't mind distance or noise or earthquakes or babies.

Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick

The Giving Tree

Shel Silverstein


Thomas Jefferson – now recognized by scientists as a disease that only coincidentally took the shape of a man in early America – has been detected in a number of household objects. Shipments of Chinese toys are reported to be contaminated with the politician and are being recalled due to isolated incidents of fatal child legislation. A vaccine is being developed – but is years from completion. Some speculation has arisen that Thomas Jefferson accumulates in closets and under beds. Children have demonstrated profound ability to recognize the viral presence. Adults are asked to avoid areas wherever there is a screaming or frightened child. Some religious conservatives have suggested that there are no people, but only the many manifestations of Thomas Jefferson – humanity merely a temporary accumulation of a hive-like intelligence that we have only just glimpsed and can never hope to understand.

Dolan Morgan


Philip K. Dick

SIDESHOW - daniel romo

The Chinese contortionist has several suitors:

The lion tamer who stuffs his head down the beasts’ throats claims, “My ability to elude the deadly jaws of the jungle shows life with me will be breathtaking.”

The trapeze artist boasts, “Our love life will be a display of aerial courtship and passion, complete with funhouse mirrors and swinging chandeliers.”

And the greybeard ringmaster who rescued her from Beijing poverty reminds her, “Remember, I’m the greybeard ringmaster who rescued you from Beijing poverty.”

But at night she slinks out of her dressing room to be with The Fat Lady, away from numerous suitors enamored with the way her slippery noodle body bends. Instead she’s content to curl into a taboo embrace of security and comfort with a stationary body that never ends.

Daniel Romo
The Angle of Yaw
Ben Lerner

WHOLE LIFE - gary v. powell

In 1987, we sold life insurance. After selling family and friends and the few easy marks they referred us to, we cold-called, my partner Mahoney and me. We stalked the chiseled streets of Chicago, coked-up predators in wool-blend suits.

We overcame objections: You don’t mind your wife whoring herself out after you’re gone? We closed with: No one plans to die, but you can plan for death. We carved the hearts of guys with mahogany desks and suburban aspirations.

Once, between pitches, I heaved in a gutter; vomit freezing on contact, pizza chunks glittering like rhinestones. We summoned guilt, conjured insecurity. It’s okay if your kids shop at Goodwill? We created dreams and painted nightmares. Pay me a little today or the tax man a lot tomorrow.

The Great Lake lay gray and flat as a policy binder. We cut lines with razor blades on its indelible surface, inhaling them in the marbled Men’s Rooms of venerable law firms. We saved the souls thrown from the Sears Tower, catching them in our financial safety net.

We explained the difference between term and whole life. You can rent or own. Landlord or tenant; what kind of man are you?

Gary V. Powell


Andre Dubus III


She keeps saying, “Neti Pot” and it’s all I can do to not scream and cover my ears.

Neti pot. Neti pot. Neti pot.

It’s every fifth word. Every fourth. I want to make her stop saying it, but her hospitality keeps me quiet.

Neti pot.

And now she’s describing how it works. And now she’s describing how it doesn’t work. And now she’s demonstrating how it works. And now and now and now.

She leaves and comes back with the Neti pot. It’s in a small box. It’s out of the small box. I want to get up. I want to leave. Saline solution. Warm Water. Fill levels. More demonstrating. Nostrils. Head tilt. Nasal cavity. Flow. Drip. Flow.

I cringe and hold back my real face. The one hiding under the nice face. I sip my drink. I eat a cracker. I eat a piece of cheese. My real face is begging her to please stop saying it. Please stop. I don’t want to hurt you. Please. Stop.

I am on the verge of. I know what that means now. I know I will now be able to sympathize with certain horrendous news stories. I will whisper, “Neti pot,” after I read them and then try to fold the paper away without tearing it apart with clawed hands.



Roxane Gay

INDUCTION - erin fitgerald

Fold time into a tight, careful accordion and fan others with it.

If you are not angry, you must eat bacon. Tug hard on its black crunchy outline with your sharp little apnea-ground teeth. Each time your upper and lower molars connect, think of the person you'd most like to tell to fuck off. Your progress should be measured by the number of people it takes to chew through a piece that is the length of your middle finger.

If you are not tired, you must eat almonds. Place them on your tongue and let them drift in your mouth as they see fit. Breathe slightly through your lips, if this allows to you remember a sweeter taste. When the almonds tell you that they are bored, grind them into a paste and swallow them. Do not pause.

If you are not sad, you must eat hardboiled eggs. Tap them gently against your plate, and nod vigorously when the sulfuric fumes curl around the broken shell. This life, this possibility, it has died so that you may live. Observe the grey layer that is visible between the yolk and the white. That is the soul. Swallow it whole.

Erin Fitzgerald

Death Wishing

Laura Ellen Scott


SCRATCH THE PAGE - melissa duckworth

A SERPENT TO STING YOU - nicola belte

We haven’t been out together for ages. We bicker like fuck when we’re drunk, but his sister’s been nagging because she just moved and it’s Halloween and she wants a party. What’s wrong with that?

We go as Frankenstein and his bride and I wear a white nightdress and a black beehive. He’s in a torn jacket with lopsided shoulder pads, covered in green facepaint that’s already looking patchy.

She’s made blood-red rum punch with candy skulls and luminous chopped off fingers floating in it. He drinks most of it and starts eying up Morticia, leaning in really close and looking at her tits telling her that joke that I hate.

The bolts fall off his neck and my wig begins to itch and he pisses on a pumpkin in the garden because he can’t walk. I slap his face and he tells me I’m a boring bitch.

In the morning, our heads ache and the washing machine rattles. For months, our sheets are green.

Nicola Belte
The Crimson Petal and the White
Michel Faber

FLORES DESHOJADAS - laura elizabeth woolett

after the painting by Ramon Casas i Carbó

Defloration. Defoliation. Lost flowers, lost leaves, lost spillages on sheets. Pink perfumed tissue paper. The carnival is over. Confetti on concrete, Cadiz. Deflowered maiden, half-asleep, fumbling over the cool stone shade. Not a stitch on body. Not a hair on pubic bone. We are lost. We are in despair. We look pure and smell impure, as the daylight impinges, stretches across our numb, wormlike sleep (seeping sickly, alcohol-sweet into consciousness). A little white dog is scampering. A little white dog is sniffing the untarnished blue-black hair. A little white dog relieves itself, unseen, on the public pavement.

Laura Elizabeth Woollett
The Malady of Death
Marguerite Duras


He did not know the train from its whistle. But who did anymore? Everyone blamed the economy for everything: terraces pocked with animal tracks, a series of refrigerator failings, tornado warnings dispatched to the wrong counties. I’d like to airlock you, he said to her. But you’re better for burning. But he didn’t say it, of course. He was talking to himself. At the gallery on the night they met, the painter took the knife, smeared it across the horizon. All the other people there were salt and chert: celebrity weddings; ladders and mattresses. And every morning now the raw husk of sex pulls through the trees like a swallow finding his home. But if we fucked the au pair, she told him as they stared at three panels in black-and-white, our names would change at midnight. The next morning: a white bird hovered in the neighbor’s kitchen. He whistled, and it whistled back. The coffee pot sputtered a row of dazzling notes. Even the streetlights couldn’t help themselves. Like lamps in the desert.

Jay Robinson
O Holy Insurgency
Mary Biddinger


once upon a time we took every living piece of us through every dirty trench we ever found and lost and discovered it was dead weight, that whatever the uniform or code of light, however we angle ourselves, it’s still just a grab at kite wind, mercury, but it’s okay; none of this has been gentle for a very, very long time.

Peter Schwartz

'Nothing or Next to Nothing'

Barry Graham

SOLILOQUY ON MA - bobbi lurie

Ma warned me about women. Ma could be disarming and disturbing but she believed in spoiling me and my sister because she was Cuban and Cubans believe you need to spoil children to give them happy memories to fall back on when life turns into LIFE, the way my mother saw it: through cancer, mental breakdown, institutionalization. I did visit her there but my sister didn’t. My sister moved to Cuba with one of our cousins. The restless spirit of an older sister can be a motivating factor for someone as attached to family heritage as me. “Your sister is a slut,” said Ma over supper. I know that’s a reason I tried to hide my interest in women from Ma. “They’ll always disappoint you,” she said. “All my women friends stopped calling after I got sick.” She never got over this. Dad tried to call her friends back to her but Ma broke down before anything could be done. Sarah, my sister, was already gone. “Me duele el corazon pensando en ella,” Ma used Spanish, the language of compassion, for all emotional statements. “No me dejan, mi hijo precioso." So, I’m the son that didn’t go.

Bobbi Lurie
Scham / Shame
Robert Kelly, Birgit Kempker

PLAYING EVERY DAY - molly lurie-marino

Finally, after some hourly's credits rolled, I let my air out. Five AM, another moon passes his face, laying on concrete outside. Saw him get into some fight over origin of species, a where you from? and throw half a closed fist.

Guess the guy said the two looked the same to him, Cubano, Siciliano, whatever, right? Chains, dancing, drinking, dictators. Or something. And his laugh exploded, Capiche? he said, fingers splayed. This bicho, mi papi, disagreed. Well, the facts are just a lot of things that don't change, puto, he said, but who knows what that means. I looked out the window, stopped watching the boxed friends of late-night.

He pushed the other guy, Irish by the way he held his drinks and his gut. Three of his friends showed up—four Irishmen with a fifth, there's a statement—my Señor Perdedor lay in the steps, and morning came, paper boys gathering in a circle while the moon and sun exchanged words. Every day we play, he'll say stumbling in later, sun and moon shaking, and I'll turn back to the TV. But for now, I wait.

Molly Lurie-Marino

X - PERIMENT - howie good

What did the doctors say? you ask. Something about Nazis and interrogation, the clicked heels of polished black boots, and that if my devils ever leave me, my angels will take flight, too.

Whom pain has brought to despair, but not yet to death, boulders, a tree stump, room after room of covered mirrors, if you’re going through hell, keep going.

Ten years or more of pills and ashes and the endless black windows of empty streets. Is it me? Is it? Or is there really a bird with a broken branch for a beak?

Howie Good
The Devil All the Time
Donald Ray Pollock


GARDENING IN SUMMER - ross mcmeekin

After every rain we’d take hammers out into the garden. We’d crack snail shells, get sticky film on the hammerheads. The best finds were under long leaf lettuce and at the base of the spinach and chard. Little circles of moving stones in the shade of the tomato plants, beneath the broad leaves of summer squash.

Once we tallied the results we’d fill our palms with table salt. We’d drop one grain at a time on brown slugs and see how many it took before they rolled over and showed us their grey bellies. The big ones fled. The small ones balled.

Sometimes, crows would gather. We’d grab our guns. If we downed a few, we’d tie up their legs with twine and hang them from the awning of the porch to scare the rest. Afternoons, we’d drink and watch them spin in the breeze. Within a few nights, they’d disappear, twine broken. We never found out what took them.

Ross McMeekin
The Longest Part of the Night
Midge Raymond

THREE SHORT FICTIONS - parker tettleton

Three Left Over

One day is wherever if it’s still there. In five minutes there might not be a third sentence. There is, this time, & here is as relative as I get.

Nothing Papa

I wasn’t born anywhere this year. Stripes walk in. I’m always non-birthday. Don’t you love a cigarette when it’s an Elliott Smith song? No one inherits social security. There isn’t a fucking way I’m showing my id.

In Front Of Me I’m Looking

I love you enough to not, include the rest. If there is a line this is one. The correct response after so much certainty is Where are my yellow Chuck’s? I don’t own or have any. In this way, everything is said all of the time.

Parker Tettleton
Owls Do Cry
Janet Frame

STAMPEDE - kelly scott

He told me a story about when he was a child in Missouri, when farmers in his town began keeping bison.

“Do you know how high bison can jump?” he asked me. I shook my head. “Neither did they,” he answered, explaining how the ranchers had rounded the bison up, not expecting them to spill out of the open-topped trailer like a waterfall. He was still sleeping when he felt the thunder of the stampede, the plastic dinosaurs falling off the shelf above his bed.

“Wow, why didn’t they try to stop them?” I asked him.

“You can’t stop a stampede,” he told me. “You just have to let them run until they get tired.”

I imagined him haunted by this notion that nothing could be done to keep them from running. He must have thought about it when his wife left him, taking his children with her. I thought about it when we made love, his hands roaming my body with an absent-minded lust.

You have to let them run until they get tired. They will not stay with homemade chili or impromptu sex in the bar bathroom.

So this is what it feels like when they leave.

Kelly Scott
Normal People Don't Live Like This
Dylan Landis

SPEAKER PHONE - josh olsen

My neighbor stood in my front yard, talking on her cordless phone. Who knew why, but she had the person on the other end on speaker phone. While she remained her usual cold and stoic self, the woman she was talking to was sobbing in French, and I concluded that it must have been her sister. I had recently been informed that their mother had been diagnosed with a rare and inoperable form of brain cancer, and so I assumed that that was what they must have been talking about, but why she was in my front yard, and why she had her sister on speaker phone, for everyone to overhear, whether or not they understood French, I had absolutely no fucking idea. She seemed oblivious to the fact that I was sitting, in plain sight, on my front step, reading a book, less than ten feet away from her. Of course, I couldn’t understand what her sister was saying, but the anguish in her voice was universal – unmistakable – and it was only after a smiling woman walked past and greeted us both with a heartfelt "Good afternoon!" that she decided to continue her conversation in private.

Josh Olsen
Grant Morrison

JUICY - michelle morouse

Tomato tributary merging with watermelon river breaching mayo dam at counter’s edge and Tiger within a whisker of tripping Joey, knife in hand, and Sarah at the grill scorching eggplant. Sure, she’s old enough, Joey’s old enough, when you were their age…. And it’s art, it’s science…. And the rest return, hauling stuff-we-already-have from the roadside stand, chopping, peeling, whisking, sautéing, so certain they could soar if everyone would keep the hell out of their way. It’s in the downstairs freezer, not the deep freezer the refrigerator freezer and Tiger yowls and scratches from the laundry room. And Wow the steam from the corn is really making your hair frizz up….and Grandma did it this way and Aunt Josie did it that way and then I’ll do it this way and you will love it. Then it’s three months gone and there’s ruby sauce, congealing gravy, the roots, the warm and crusty, crisp duck skin, quince and cinnamon, and you save the last sip of wine for after the last bite and it’s too damn fast.

Michelle Morouse
You Think that's Bad
Jim Shepard


Henredon and his wife sold their L.A. house in 1990 for $275,000 because she was lonely in L.A. They pull up to it and see new people in his living room. His wife says their living room. You can’t go back in time and please start the car so we can go back to Vegas. The car won't start. No, really. The battery is dead. The homeowners are named Packard. They love their house ($1.3 million). Their batteries work. The Packard man braces the battery clip and Henredon hopes Packard will fry, the wife too. How silly, says his wife on the way back to Vegas. We could never afford it now anyway and they were such nice people. People you will never see again, he says. She says nothing. She is a blackjack dealer and she will tell the story to all her players. She will say her husband should get over it and the tourists will agree because they want to win money. She will leave out the most important part of the story, the part where Henredon wanted those Packards dead. That way, she will get tips and maybe someday they can buy their house back.

Caroline Kepnes
the narrows
anne petry

SCARECROW - john oliver hodges

She hated that he would wink at her. She hated that damned wink. She’d be talking and he would wink. And his shins were sharp enough to cut garlic. He wanted to wrap his leg around her at night, but what woman would stand for that? He proved with a tape measure that she was five foot six instead of five foot seven. It gave him pleasure, didn’t it? She hated his long eyelashes, and his big lips that seemed made for kissing, these beautifully shaped little red pillows. There were so many things about him that she hated that she could talk on about it without repeating material. Whenever he tried talking about himself, her list of stuff shut him up. She was coming out of her shell. She enjoyed telling him what a selfish bedraggled scarecrow he was, how lost he was going to be without her. He blew it. He would not be able, ever, to look in the mirror because he would know that he was just exactly what she told him he was: a scarecrow.

John Oliver Hodges
Citrus County
John Brandon




Gravity pulls at her toes as she sits on the couch, her legs dangling off the edge. Gravity stretches her legs into long, thin strands of plasticine. Gravity changes her DNA.

Her voice is softening into someone else's and her body is eating itself from the inside. She's lost several muscles and a lung already. She clutches her kidneys at night. She carries her heart inside her purse to keep it safe.

She lives with a man who loves her. The man shows his love by plucking out the hairs on her head and body. He does this while he fucks her, while they watch TV. Only a few strands remain.

Tonight, she drinks red wine and spins and spins. She covers her body with glitter and paint to transform it into something visible. Tonight, she flies, over her neighbor's balcony, over the bushes, the jasmine, and into the pool below.

When the man that loves her finds her there, floating in the pool, he notices how the water clings differently to her hairless parts. He mentions this to the forming crowd. They nod in agreement. The glitter and paint spread out from her body, forming wings in the water.

Sandra Ketcham
Paris Spleen
Charles Baudelaire

FORECLOSURE - jay robinson

Once, they spent evenings at the defunct Drive-In. Movie screen as a billboard no one was watching. Its sun-bleached Wal-Mart logo. Weeds as tall as them, taller. Stalks like wrists. Cracks in the pavement you could lose yourself in. Sometimes they parked in a spot overlooking town. His house in the distance covered in fog or the permanent haze of post-industry. He munched popcorn. She told him, Isn’t it fun to watch the place where you grew up disappear, one foreclosure at a time? She lit a joint, inhaled, clouded the car. He brushed seeds onto coffee-stained floor mats. Later, at twilight, she rested her head on his shoulder, described the purpose of bioluminescence in mating. Her hands buttoned and unbuttoned the collar of his shirt. Moonlight blinking off pale brown shell with each movement of her fingers.

Jay Robinson
O Holy Insurgency
Mary Biddinger

ON GOING BLIND AT 40 - michael d. joyce

In this bleak topography I saw now composed only of shades of grey and smears of nonsense I reached out and painted lines of black and white, etching out borders and shapes and making the ethereal tangible. I traced the outlines of mountains and the boundaries of rivers and the bricks of castles and with this self-created, self-practiced cartography I am able to explore and claim and conquer.

Sometimes when I explore this world I think I am just conquering myself. Why? Because making sense out of nonsense is the human condition. Because I'm human. Because I can't see the colors and shapes that others do. Because all the world that is, is within the human mind, and I will exert my will--my will for you--over our collective castles in the air. Because intertwined with the physical stuff that makes humans beings are the arbitrary concepts of reality--there, beneath and around and embedded in the sinews and veins and all of them crisscrossing our bodies is what it means to be alive. Because inside you I know we humans, capable of higher thought, are equal part reality and equal part imaginary.

Michael D. Joyce
American Skin
Don De Grazia

DARK WINDS - dillon mullenix

Jim rolls around in bed. He has to be at work in a few hours. There is cigarette ash on his stomach caught in sweat. He hates showering, and doesn’t. His woman is snoring next to his indentation in the mattress. Last night he was eating her pussy under the sheets. He had to swallow a little vomit. Despite it, Jim was proud he had still got laid. He gargled mouthwash before he walked out the door. When Jim got home there was food on the table, and she had on her thigh-highs and thong under her nightgown. He ate a couple plates, then took her to the bedroom so that life could go on.

Dillon Mullenix
Denis Johnson

FIGI - michelle orabona

She thinks about suicide the way you think about foreign lands you know you’ll never visit. When everything builds up in screams inside you, you think; I’ll run away to Figi. I’ll live in a hut on the beach and eat coconuts for breakfast and disappear my feet into the sand. I’ll disappear my life into the ocean and at night there will be so many stars. And you’ll fall asleep out there, the ocean kissing you with its heart beat as you count the stars and create your own constellations. Everything will be okay in Figi. When you’ve finally had enough, when it’s too much and you realize that if you don’t leave now there’ll be nothing left, you’ll get on a plane without even packing a bag. Freedom is not needing a toothbrush. You’ll go, you say, one day. And your screams come out as sighs instead.

Standing in the kitchen, her hands lying limp in the dishwater, thinking about her escape. Her screams come out in sighs instead. But somewhere, buried, you both know you’ll never leave.

Michelle Orabona
Lost at Sea
Bryan Lee O'Malley

DIFFERENT - meg tuite

“You smell like oranges,” Danny said to Cara. They lived in the same building. She was taller than him and smarter. “Watch out for that witch down the hall,” Cara said. “She called me a boy when I helped with her groceries. I threw her poison nickels down the sewer. Anyway, the witch from Oz melted into a small, green puddle, but I saw butter melt and grow back into a long, solid lump, so no reason to believe any witch is dead.”

They ate blue pixie sticks until their tongues were punctured-purple. Danny’s face was paper-white and sometimes he screamed and Cara screamed with him. He liked that. His face was blotchy.

The day they started school, Danny hid behind the chalkboard that swung when you pulled it. He didn’t like crowds and school was full of them. Cara told her mom he hid at school and stared at her from behind chalkboards and under desks, but he wouldn’t talk, even to her. Cara wanted to whisper things to him. Mom said he was different, he would always be different and that’s why he hid like that.

So now, at school, when Danny stared at Cara; Cara stared back.

Meg Tuite
The Third Policeman
Flann O'Brien

NOT FEELING WELL - m. thompson

I am not feeling well.

My bathwater is black and sloshing over my bathtub and under my eyelids my sleep is black.

The doctor attributes this to arterial sclerosis. He says the blood in my head has thickened and is hollow.

Which in the village is called waiting. In the village they are hushed. In the village they are resting when everything tumbles over.

Way below the mountains, there across the plains. I am not well and the town is roaming down a road that has no direction, going somewhere or other.

* composed of the notes and scribbles I made while reading Herta Müller's Nadirs

M Thompson
Rings of Saturn
W.G. Sebald