'Postcard III' - peter schwartz



stefanie freele

I ask my Chinese friend why we’ve been ushered to the center of the empty restaurant. She tells me to read menu. Don’t ask so many question. I reply I have posited one question and I might have many more and she should get used to it. I remind her I’m paying. She replies, never order egg roll.

I try to ask in a way that isn’t a question. I say, interesting music, eh? She smoothes the tablecloth and replies in Chinese. I don’t speak Chinese. Our conversation falls flat.

The tea arrives and I attempt to pour, but she stops me, saying it needs to steep three minute.

My prawns arrive in sauce. Her prawns sit up, red, crispy, with black eyes at the end of pink tentacles. The eyes look from me to her. She bites one off and eats at an astounding speed. She calls the waiter over. They speak their choppy language. Plate after plate arrives. I maneuver her prawn-head dish so all the eyes face her.

She nods. Scoops more onto my plate, even though I protest I’m full. She points to my stomach. They take off head, she says, you not Chinese.

Stefanie Freele
A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness
Kathy Fish, Amy Clark, Elizabeth Ellen, Claudia Smith



sam pink

I am waiting in the parking garage for you and I have a bouquet of arm bones. Would you like to go to a restaurant with me? You'll have to pay though; I'm broke. Or we can go to my place instead. And I will comb your hair with the stem of a rose. And make faces behind your back. And turn you around and hug you. And slowly slip a knife through your back so it comes out the front and pierces me and we die connected.

sam pink or
Tape for the Turn of the Year
AR Ammons

NAKED - savannah - louise



we took off all our clothes on top of nick’s roof last night, kind of drunk but mostly just in love. the sultry city air hung in sopping swells between the bricks & treelimbs & traffic lights, connecting everything by unconquerable phantom-dusk. we dragged up some beers and a couple blankets that didn't smell like cat-piss and we fell asleep under the electric wasabi green of the midtown sign.

"midtow" it said, because the giant "n" had burned out.

in the morning the world looked very thin and blue until the sun rose and stung the world. we were roused by the terrible shrieking of brakes & a dull thump. we scrambled to the ledge to see the smash, nick shouting, "fuck you asshole" in a silly voice.

the lady in the crumpled car opened her door in a huff. she had tight curly hair and high-waisted pants. she looked kind of bruised but i don’t know. the man who hit her walked slowly. he was younger. he wore khakis. a policeman walked towards the scene, broad shouldered and important. we burst out laughing. from above we were shiny gods, peering down with disdain on the lilliputian populace on the corner of lake & chicago.

You Shall Know Our Velocity
Dave Eggers

SCAB PICKING - meg pokrass


meg pokrass

He hops around the living room scratching his ankles, complaining of an itch. Lately, he's decided to howl about how bad it is to wait for the lawyer to call, flogs himself for marrying her. I tell him to leave it alone, enough scab picking. She lies up for months in bed with a baby that turned out to be nothing but a stomach ulcer. She came home from the doctor one day wearing her size 4 boot cut jeans again, saying the OB GYN had never seen anything like it, describing how the OB/GYN fainted when he did the ultrasound. He wished he'd been at the appointment, to see the doctor falling over. Going through her car weeks later he found a rubber fat suit curled in the trunk. Still, he has dreams of someone peeping. I dig my head under his shirt on the worst days and he rubs it. Ba-Gawk! he says, over and over. I don't really want this, I say. I want to sit and watch Myth Busters, adopt a cat, have a dream.

Meg Pokrass
The Lay of the Land
Richard Ford

EXCUSES - athena strickland


athena strickland

She loved him but hated giving blow jobs. On prom night, in the back seat of his daddy’s Buick, she convinced him not to ‘go’ in her mouth. She reminded him she was diabetic and it’s a known scientific fact that semen contains lots of sugar and should she accidentally swallow his load, she could end up in a diabetic coma. They’d miss the prom, the bowl-a-thon, the seniors only breakfast. He’d have to rush her to the emergency room for a stomach pumping.

The doctor who did the pumping would find the semen. They would analyze the DNA and know it was his, just like on TV. Her daddy and her brothers, the two that weren’t in jail, would come after him with shotguns blazing, while her poor mama kept a bedside vigil as she slipped deeper into her coma.

He went limp as a dishrag when he heard the word, ‘shotgun.’ After that, he wouldn’t even kiss her.

Athena Strickland
A Man Without a Country
Kurt Vonnegut



laura lehew

After the phone call luring me home, after I buried Janice’s husband, after I visited Marie, lately resurrected from three weeks in a drug induced coma, after the cold, after dealing with little sister’s dementia, dad’s Alzheimer’s, after the flu, after I was my nephew’s daily respite care giver, after special Olympics, being pulled over and narrowly escaping a speeding ticket (which I’m sure I deserved), after Vicki’s double mastectomy, Mark’s father-in-law’s cancer exploding out of the liver and into nodes and bones; after I got a late check-out, had lunch, navigated the rental’s return, and somehow got to the airport early, after all that, I came to be a pebble lodged within the aquifer—I did not standby in hope of an earlier flight, didn’t sail through the airport dodging kiosks, loose children, baggage.

Laura LeHew
The Door
Margaret Atwood


'manhood' - peter schwartz

PRAYER #3 - sean lovelace


sean lovelace

My spouse lives his life like he has another. Tucked away somewhere. In a leather wallet. Or very clean sink. I can’t believe: his mantra, as the afternoon bleeds into night. That someone would swim in such cold water. An odd odor on the air, burning leaves—who burns leaves in a bathroom? That X is sleeping with Y. While I sleep with Z. Z being the gravel that lines the birdfeeder so the weeds don’t grow. Z being cheekbones and vocabulary. Z being last Sunday morning, out by the creek, as I watched a submerged snake fishing for minnows, darting out in silverish wire—strum, strum, strum. So much beauty I shuddered. So much I went inside. Smoked a joint. Pushed a few words around. Put on my running shoes, and off to church. Finally, the streets washed-out and empty. This town in their boxes. And I’m rolling out 7 minute miles. The sting of sweat. The sweet quivering muscle. Everything so back-lit, so vivid, the perfect grip of running: alone, alive, and flowing. Amen.

Sean Lovelace
The Lover
Marguerite Duras

SHOW AND TELL - amelia johansson


amelia johansson

You were doing ninety in a sixty. I was looking in the visor mirror. Your knuckles were turning white like meat fat. I was applying ‘very berry’ lipstick. You hit the deer. My hand jolted up. The blood spattered across the windshield. Sickness in my stomach rose up and up. You passed me a tissue covered in oil.

“Lipstick on your face” you said.
“Aren’t you going to move the deer?” I said.

You turned away but still held the tissue out. I opened the car door. You grabbed my hand, said, “What are you going to do?” Before I opened my mouth, you revved the car. You moved forward too fast and I felt the deer. I stared at the red spots on the windshield. “You still have lipstick on your face” you said.

Amelia Johansson
The Book Of Illusions
Paul Auster

MATING - jason jordan


jason jordan

The morning fog’s drifting into the city while Michael’s deciding between a magenta sweater and a black one. He chooses black because it matches his tie and glasses, and wants to impress Julie—the secretary and his future wife. When he’s dressed, he carries his bike down the stairs and out onto the street for his ride to work at a graphic design company, where, for several hours a day, he sits in front of a computer designing album covers for bands.

It’s Thursday, so Michael waits until Friday to ask her about her plans for Saturday night, though they’ve went out before. They’ll visit a local bar where he’ll order a Captain and Coke, and she’ll order a Tom Collins. They’ll sit in a booth side by side, so they can talk while watching the only other two patrons, a couple, shoot a game of pool. On the mounted, big screen TV, the San Francisco Giants will be playing the Los Angeles Dodgers for the pennant. No one in the room will care.

“You’re such a cute couple!” the woman will later tell Michael and Julie. “I didn’t want you to think I was weird or anything by watching you, but I think you two are so cute together!”

“Thanks,” Michael will say. When it comes time to leave, Michael will forget his jacket in the booth.

“You forgot your jacket,” Julie will say once they’re outside. He’ll retrieve it while Julie hugs herself in the cool, autumn air.

Jason Jordan
Basketball Is Not a Drug
Richard Jespers

THE PETTING ZOO - sara f. murphy


sara f. murphy

In the evenings Ruby sits with the lights off and the windows open. A raw breeze shoves through the curtains. She's nine stories up, but she can still hear the animals crashing through the undergrowth. When she moved to this apartment, the proximity to the petting zoo was a selling point. A year later Ruby's nostrils are eternally enlarged from the animal shit. She suspects that the ponies and geese and potbelly pigs escape their cages at night and root through the dumpsters like alley cats. Ruby can hear them below her window. Soldierly hooves. Soft, worn-out pelts rubbing against the pavement. Purposeful whinnies and bleats. By the wee hours, all the noises have stopped. The animals must willingly return to their cages, a concept that upsets Ruby. It doesn't make a lick of sense. By now she thinks maybe the petting zoo animals are plotting a raid on the city, stockpiling their weapons and supplies, and at night she dreams of vengeful marsupials running their tiny furred fingers up her thighs. She dreams of pitiless flop-eared rabbits butting at her breasts.

In the mornings Ruby wakes up panting, safe, and very much alone.

Sara F. Murphy
Bad Behavior
Mary Gaitskill

LIVE MONEY, SAVE BETTER - robert swartwood


robert swartwood

On weekends we head down to Wal-Mart to shoplift. Friday night I'm in the automotive section picking out spark plugs when an old woman walks by. A frail little thing with the face of a bird. She waddles right past, murmuring something about the goddamned Jews. She has a large blue bag. She reaches out and grabs some pine-scented air fresheners and slips them inside. Forgetting the spark plugs, I follow her. Electronics. She snags a DVD, new release. Cosmetics. A jar of cold cream. She starts toward the exit but doesn't walk out. She waits for a few kids my age to leave the store. They are laughing at something as she slips past them. The alarm goes off. An employee rushes forward, telling them to stop. He starts searching their bags. The old woman pauses. Shakes her head. Goddamned faggots, she says, you should all be ashamed of yourselves.

Robert Swartwood
A Prayer for the Dying
Stewart O'Nan



c. edward anable

That thing with the ceramic dancing elves on the front lawn. Man, that drives me crazy. Once, when I came home drunk from Sid's I ran one over. I never did hear the end of that fucking story. She loves those little fuckers way more than me. So now when I come home I piss on them. When I told my grandparents about it I thought they'd take my side. Instead, "there you go making up lies again." That's what they told me.

So I left. I went over to my girlfriend’s house. She wasn't home but her sister was. Her younger sister. Her dad came home and didn't say nothing to me, just glared with his big ass handle-bar mustache and started doing that thing he does with the newspaper, which scares me a little, so I went home.

My mom was out front watering the lawn, rinsing my piss off her little elves. "Hey sweetheart. There's some roast beef in the ice box if you're hungry."

I mumble, "fuck-you," as I pass and head upstairs to my room. I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the hallway mirror. I stop. Eyeball myself, not quite ready to turn forty next week.

C. Edward Anable
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman