WINTER - zachary c. bush


zachary c. bush

Ester's parents are in Paris over Christmas break. Twelve naked bodies pack the downstairs living room, playing Santa Claus, fucking to Christmas carols and vanilla scented candles. Ester and I are upstairs in her parent's sleigh bed. I don't remember what all I took tonight, but I feel just right. Ester's got a glittery leather belt wrapped around my bicep. She pops the skin of a blue vein running up my forearm with the small spike tip. I feel the warmed wave. I look up, blink my eyes, and everything in the room is moving towards me. Ester whispers something into my ear and the rest is a blur.

MY GIFT TO HER - lauren becker


lauren becker

It was fucking freezing inside. I threw a Duraflame on. The genius who designed the house put the fireplace between the entryway and a wall of built-in bookshelves. The kids fought to sit in the narrow area of carpet in front of the fire. There was no heat otherwise. Doug turned off the pilot light. I wore a turtleneck, two sweaters, sweatpants, a couple pairs of tube socks, and my fake Wal-Mart Uggs. Green sweater on top for Christmas.

It felt warmer outside. Todd and Cheryl threw iceballs at each other. Todd got Cheryl in the face. "Mommyyyyyy." I went inside to check the ham. She needs to learn. Girls always lose.

Fruit salad for dessert. Todd's favorite. Canned peaches, canned pears, maraschino cherries. I'd add Cool Whip later. Green beans in mushroom soup with canned fried onions for Doug. The last trailer trash dinner I'd make him.

I wished he were original enough to fuck someone other than his secretary. She sent me pictures of her shoving a dildo up his ass. I put copies in his stocking. Along with divorce papers and a candy cane. Merry Christmas, dickhead.

Lauren Becker
One Christmas Wish:

To be less scatterbrained, more patient, effortlessly thin, to have a housekeeper, new carpet, a better computer, to see my nieces and nephew more often, to go to Barcelona.

I'm Jewish. I get eight. Happy holidays.

CHRISTMAS MORNING - erin fitzgerald


erin fitzgerald

Dad woke us up and said it was time to go. Our stuff was already in the car because he and Mom hadn't slept all night so they could get everything ready. Mom sat with Dad's rifle pointed down toward the wheel well, and when we were all settled she turned around and gave us each a peanut butter granola bar that had to last for three hundred miles. Dad told us to lay down and go back to sleep. When Tyler said he couldn't lay down with the seatbelt on, Dad said go ahead and take it off. Tyler opened his granola bar and said that riding in a car with no seat belt was against the law and wasn't safe and Dad said that riding in a car these days wasn't safe either. Mom said that's enough, both of you, even though Tyler hadn't said anything wrong. I tucked my granola bar into the waistband of my jeans so that Tyler wouldn't steal it from me. Then I listened to the bumps in the road through the car seat. They made Mom's box of shells rattle.

Erin Fitzgerald

One Christmas Wish:

My Christmas wish is for a job from any one of many employers. A long arm stapler is a very close second.

NEW BALLS - randall brown


randall brown

His parents slept soundlessly in separate bedrooms and he hurled the new ball through the Christmas mist as if he could break the backstop's netting, throw so hard no air could hold it and nothing in the world could ever catch it. Even now, his hand holds the memory of baseballs.

Randall Brown
One Christmas Wish:

I'd wish for myself the writerly skills of F. Scott Fitzgerald because he wrote passages such as this one, "His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete." And I wonder if I ever will.



A THOUSAND MILES AWAY - kyle hemmings

kyle hemmings

She was strolling in the park, thinking about her son, a thousand miles away. He died when she was young enough to still dream snow babies. If she could stop time, wrench seasons from the cycle, what would he look like? A perfect ice sculpted child who wouldn't melt with a drop in temperature? Around her were trees reduced to their skeletons: dogwoods, windbreaks, spruce, perennials in the shape of spires.
In the house by a kidney-shaped lake, her grandfather was speaking to a stranger about a foreign war that had never ended, had spread close to home. His wife’s hands, he said, were so lifeless after he had returned. The insides of her palms, he said, no longer resembled tributaries, supply routes.

Sipping a cup of tea made from rose hips and ginger root, she walked in on their conversation. “What about the war orphans?” she said. “There must be a whole country of them."
The stranger turned and studied her. His face was white as her tea cup.
She stood peering over their heads, out the window. The snow fell in clumps from the trees. The snow fell in clumps. The snow fell.

Kyle Hemmings
Entropy and Atrophy
Robert Lopez

WHAT HE NEEDS - john oliver hodges


john oliver hodges
“I’ve read about this,” Mom said. “They hide under your car when you go to the mall. Listen. I’m telling you. Whenever you get in your car, look under it to see if a man is there waiting to cut your ankles.”

“No!” I told her. “Just return them, okay? Throw them away if you want. I don’t care!”

I see her. She goes to the mailbox. It’s filled with his letters, all personal and friendly looking, some with pictures or stickers on the envelopes. Mom takes the letters inside, smells them, puts them on the kitchen table, telling herself she won’t, no, she won’t open them, they do not belong to her and, “Why didn’t anybody send me letters like this when I was in college.” I know Mom has opened my letters. She has opened my letters and read shit like: Please, just one word from you. I cannot get you out of my mind. If only I could touch you now. You said you loved me, remember? You said you wanted to be the best fuck I ever had.

Oh, the crap never stops. Is he trying to lay a guilt trip on me? Does it sound like he loves me? What he needs is another piece is what. It’s not my fault. What he needs is a blow-up doll is what. If I send him one, will he leave me be? I’ll get a whole case of blow-up dolls. That way I might avoid this junk in my future dealings with men. I’ll get two, two cases of blow-up dolls so that I’ll never run out. I’ll drop a blow-up doll on the ground and kick it under my car whenever I go to the mall. That way I won’t have to get down and look to see if a man is under there, waiting to cut my ankles, every time I get in my car.

John Oliver Hodges
Robinson Crusoe
Daniel Defoe



tai dong huai

When you are fifteen, a girl in your Spanish class named Sophie Rogers says she wants to show you something. She found it out from her brother, and to see it you'll have to sneak into the first floor boys' room when nobody else is around.

You finally get up your nerve and one afternoon, as the busses are being called, you see it. It's in the middle stall, written in black permanent marker, and it refers to you:

At home, you're silent and sleepless. Finally, you can't bear it any longer. You make up your mind to go back in there and, if you can't erase it, at least change the letters: EBAH YAQ JAWBTTL GIVES GOOD READ. Anything.

So you sneak back early one morning with Formula 409, paper towels, and a black Magic Marker. But someone has beaten you there. Under the original words, carved in the very metal of the stall itself, someone has written bullshit.

From them until the time you graduate, you entertain an unlikely fantasy. One in which a guy, someone who wears a different face every night in your dreams, steps from the crowded school hallway and says, "You are Leah Yao Janetti and you are not anyone to be taken lightly."

Tai Dong Huai
Hollywood and Hardwood
Tricia Bauer

FUCKING RETARD - david erlewine


david erlewine

The man who may have called me a fucking retard watches football while lounging in his faux-leather chair. His wife appears to have gone to bed upstairs.

My hand hesitates before killing my Camry’s engine.

Even now, my third time stopping by, I don’t know whether I actually have an ax to grind.

I took his nod as an invite to board the train. Seconds later, he hissed “fucking retard." I figured wacko carrying a gun, don't turn around. Then I thought he might be referring to another passenger who tripped him from behind. Later that day at work, I decided he said “retards,” meaning the train operators running three, maybe four, minutes late that morning.

In 6th grade I pretended not to see Ronny Timmons beat the hell out of my brother Tim. Ronny works at the nearby Subway. He’d need 450 guesses to figure out our connection. This is what I am thinking about when I realize the man who may have called me a fucking retard is tapping on my window, ordering me to roll it down.

David Erlewine
Four Hard Facts About Women
Damien Dressick

CRAWL SPACE - sarah hilary


sarah hilary

I thought he’d kill me; those black eyes boiling over in his face.

A low oblong of light is all I have left. I see the toes of his boots rusted with my blood. My throat’s a fist, fighting dry dirt. I’m trapped, my shirt snagged on tacks, my skin hostage to a hundred splinters. He’s got a hammer, and boards, is shutting out the light.

Sarah Hilary
Stranger on the Porch
Gay Degani

BUFFALO - jason lee norman


jason lee norman

When she found me, I was in the woods. She was starving, I was a wild animal. My mind was a tornado. Life was a Van Morrison song.

I was by the water, exhausted and slow. She came up behind me and put her knife in my ear. When she whispered I could feel it in my coccyx. She told me how she would kill me, how she would eat my heart.

You can't kill me on the Sabbath, I said, there are rules.

There are rules, and exceptions to rules, and there is my knife in your brain, she said.

Give me three days, I said. Her breath makes my neck wet. Three days and then I'll come back to this spot, right here.

She throws me to the ground and straddles my back. Her knife tears my ear from my head and the blood runs down my cheeks and into my mouth. It tastes like metal, like strawberry jam. The blood stains my teeth. It smells of paint.

Three days, she said.

Jason Lee Norman
Slaughterhouse Five
Kurt Vonnegut



ravi mangla

I'm tired of sleep and seek other forms of restoration. It's three a.m. and I'm at a Friendly's in a town I've never heard of. I order the lumberjack breakfast. The wheelchair-stricken waitress asks if, perhaps, I wouldn't be better off with something more my speed. I change the order to a sundae off the kid's menu, you know, the one with the cone-hat and candy face. My sundae arrives with no nuts, but I'm not bothered (only nuts eat nuts – right? – ha ha). I flag down the waitress and ask her where the ketchup is. She tells me I won't be needing it. Not tonight. I get to work on the lobotomy. My incisions are severe and precise. Knife, I say. Fork. Cream. Sugar. Sutures. Sutures? Nurse? The waitress apologizes, says she gave her set to another customer. Is she kidding? I can't tell; I don't have much experience with the sarcasm of the handicapped. She asks me how it is…the sundae. I look down at it, face swollen, pooled in hot fudge, cone-hat dangerously askew. I tell her, I don't think he's going to make it. I was afraid of that, she says. I ask for the check. Don't worry, she says, it's on the house. You tried your best.

Ravi Mangla
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
Wells Tower