The man from Australia or New Zealand talked to me for forever while my feet grew sore inside my pretty shoes. I couldn’t care less about his divorce or where his kids were living, but I tried to nod and smile. He played a soldier in blah blah blah and a pirate in blah blah blah did and did a premier with Johnny Depp blah blah blah while preparing for his role in blah blah blah; football player, stuntman, now actor. He did his best to show me his muscles through his shirt; flexing it tight and then loose again like it was breathing.

He touched my arm continuously like he didn’t want me to get away.

I sipped my wine and kept myself engaged as best I could, trying to focus on his voice and not the words. His accent melted warm heat into the lining of my panties. I just couldn’t take his talking, talking, talking… I bided my time until he got to the part I had been waiting for, and when he finally did, I took off my fucking shoes and quieted his ramblings with my mouth.

Chuck Palahniuk

GUN PLAY - howie good


howie good


My mother was twelve when she went to work. She cut lace in a dress factory after school. Her boss was an Italian named Mike, and at the end of every week, my grandfather would pocket her pay. How I often heard it growing up, a puzzling warning in which children playing with guns figured vaguely and the moon was missing its lower jaw.


You can phone the police, but they won’t come, even as evening trembles on the edge of the roof, and after a while, you yourself may begin to doubt what you saw. Don’t. Near where the hunters park their pickups, and shadows bloom in the normal course of things, the leaves are like birthdays and thank you’s, only they’re bleeding.

Howie Good
Hannah Tinti



nate east

I thought I left you in the witch’s tunnel when the black throat closed over our heads but you must have felt your way up to the surface somehow. I told another woodcutter about our home in the desert today. He couldn’t understand many of the words because he only speaks the language of the sea. When I held your little hand it was brittle and cold, and the knuckles clicked like marbles between my fingers. I should have washed you off my face and hair with cyclone dust but I didn’t, so now when I smoke my morning cigarette on the walk to fire hole in the forest valley I feel your serpent lips in the chill draft and freezing dew on my ankles. I think the artifact you slept is a bottle of blue glass it was the keepsake of a shaman’s child who one night wandered into the desert and caught you like a lightning bug then stopped the bottle with granite so you rattled around inside for a thousand years like ball bearings made of saturn.

Nate East
Dead Boys
Richard Lange

EYE SOCKET - matt debenedictis


matt debenedictis

I have a cousin.

He dropped out of school to follow the dead. The band. The hippies. The parking lots.

I heard he popped pills and did things that made his mother deny he slid out of her.
His pictures gathered dust in her house. The one of the whole family, hung on the staircase, disappeared.

When Jerry Garcia died he came home and got a job.

He pounded nails and held large pieces of wood every day. He tried to make cocaine a working man’s drug. Some things the Midwest will never understand.

One day a close friend said some words to my cousin, not sure what they were as I wasn’t there, but the words must have been greasy and flung with might because he got punched in the face.

In the eye.

The bone that aids in the captures of tears collapsed.

He still hasn't answered my question, "Could you see out of it as it hung over your cheek?"

Matt DeBenedictis
Everything Matters!
Ron Currie, Jr.

THE EXAMINED LIFE - tim horvath


tim horvath

The way we sized up truncheons was through use. We hastened into the breach—a town undermoon. Doors we splintered and, finding drapery within, shredded it to streamers, setting afire the limes and mojave sunrises and primaries that yearned to catch. We generated new ash while liberating old from urnature, smashing the urns to shards. Fanning outward, we slagged trinities in the wheat undertow. We feted out misbegotten dyadic dwellers; choosy husbands we punted, and in the presence of the newly-widowed then found ourselves stammering—impotent, rundown shutterbugs. In the aftermotes we stood, virginally contemplative, now stamened introverts. One of the survivors traced viaducts through her hair, irrigating her scalp with found fluids. Her coconut bangs had snagged on the underside of a scalloped roof that had teetered before capitulating. She was beautiful, as was her name, as was our dream, long harangued and now made hash, of coming into architecture, making habitation happen. “This,” we thought, “is where we have risen to wilt.”

Tim Horvath
Stories in an Almost Classical Mode
Harold Brodkey

OCEAN - ben spivey


ben spivey

The friction of my tongue slipping was damp. There was a beckoning noise behind the only door into the room. My wife sat in a swing that hung from two tight bolts in the ceiling, swinging her feet in motion, laughing. The noise was a small static like a radio, or television left on a dead channel. From the thinnest covering of my skin I read the directions of how to colour the walls with shapes and stones. Stacking the stones, encasing bones in walls. Applying the correct colours from my wife's hands, her jaw, her thinning muscles. Bugs carpeted the single flickering light on the ceiling, curling the silence between thinking a word and speaking it. We looked at the door we've never opened. When the stones were stacked, and the colours were correct she pushed my left hand through the spectrum of colours, and the standing stones. My fingers, palm, and wrist made it between the friction of the stones. I felt the stinging salt air filling the new cuts. I felt the sun's warmth. The static noise behind the door grew louder. My wife thrust my shoulder, and shoved my waist into the stone's cracks as water slithered under the door, and rose quickly. My blood tickled her toes, mixing with the colours running down the walls. You're almost there, she said. My bones cracked and crushed in the flux. Lastly she pulled my tongue from my mouth, she kept it balled in a fist. With all of my body reaching, reaching, reaching, becoming compressed in our creation. She swam to the ceiling of that room holding what was left of me as I was filtered through the wall. Under the water she breathed small fast breathes with wide eyes. My body, like pieces of ribbon, twisted in the new breeze; falling onto the piles of people resting on the beach. Bodies trenched in the infinite sand. My wife expanded, and flattened against the room's only light. The water shorted the static sound. She too filtered through the stones, falling over, and into the ocean followed by the colour, the bugs, and my tongue.

Children playing in the sand built castles, and buried mothers.

As a fragment I watched the colours spread until they diluted into the rest of the ocean's blue.

Ben Spivey
Log of the S.S the Mrs. Unguentine
Stanley Crawford

THAT YOU GOT NOT A LOT - ani smith


ani smith

Sometimes I say things just to make you happy. But it never really works. Or maybe it does but not really. Can’t proffer what you don’t have. Like lunch time at school when you promised little Billy or Sally or Janey or little Terry that you’d trade your Lunchables cheese for his Lunchables meat only to open your lunchbox and discover you couldn’t because mom made you peanut butter and jelly and not Lunchables that day because Lunchables didn’t exist until much later when your sister was born. Shit was existential like that from the plum beginning. Like little Terry was the black kid, remember? But unlike that stupid bitch Sally you weren’t afraid to touch him because you already knew we were all dying even if we hadn’t seen Diff’rent Strokes. Mr. President with all due respect sir, I’d say toss Gary Coleman’s salad or make him prime minister or whatever he wanted. Kowtow. You owe that motherfucker, generationally speaking. How can you all just pretend shit never happened, generationally speaking. Generationally speaking, I am appalled at your behavior. Honestly. Now give me that Now and Later ‘fore I tell.

Ani Smith
Maximum Gaga
Lara Glenum

PEEK HERE, PROGENY - gabe durham


gabe durham

You got slacks to tell me I can’t strafe into my own square yardage with a rage-gage sport-slick auto-rotation twelve-forty and pluck me up something for the spit? I respect you’re unalert to the factuants. Fair as fare, sure—you’re up in your tusk spire, not knowing how my days roll out, thinking up muck to hock. It get cold up there, Senator? There’s an honor in my twelve you don’t cohere. A subset of somesuch would be lucky to go out with permanence by means of my craft. If I’m a monkey—and there’s exhibits to the situals—then at some point the critters of this greenscape globe ought to learn themselves some avoidance procession. What we cannot abide is weakness by and by. Critters. Heh. “Ooh, look at me. So mystic in my fur. Think I’ll prostate myself in this smoothie-black road and see what shakes.” Well what you won’t do is pass on no dumbslick spunk, Thumper. And so the cyclone ongoes.

Gabe Durham
My Happy Life
Lydia Millet


'DIFFERENT VIEWS' - tray durhann

CHARLOTTE, THE APPARITION - savannah schroll guz


savannah schroll guz

Over succeeding weeks, Charlotte felt her power and her perceptions grow steadily. She realized that she could move more quickly through time and space, that at night, she could disperse her atoms and displace those that made up his wife’s body when she and the doctor lay together. Charlotte did nothing to Irene (as Charlotte had heard the doctor call her), could do nothing except inhabit her form, feel, at the cellular level, the intricate workings of her body. Irene’s own soul never protested, never fought Charlotte ’s incursions: it merely contracted and diminished in size, curling on itself inside the woman’s unconscious mind, where Charlotte could sense its flaccid banality. Afterwards, when Charlotte reconstituted herself as pure ionized energy outside the woman’s body, Irene was always ill. It gave the doctor the impression that his wife was pregnant again, and for a week, the couple rejoiced.

Savannah Schroll Guz
Put Your Head in my Lap
Claudia Smith



anelise chen

Remember when you told me that stealing is just stickin’ it to the man and academia is for the effete and drinking just a way of life and poetry no undertaking for girls. I shouldn't believe anything you say anymore. Restructuring is for people who give up, like inveterate dieters, like people who throw television sets into rivers, like gallon milk gulpers. I think when you said this year was going to be tough you meant I was losing my mind. Ow-ow-ow cat. She had a paw with five fingers and a functional thumb. Wonder if she misses me, four months, five months without a surrogate. Five thousand miles away now but I am still here and I never visit.

Anelise Chen
Break it Down
Lydia Davis

AUGUST - kelly schirmann


kelly schirmann

paul lined the concrete floor with trashbags of it and we set about trimming while he ate pills and drove his truck into town for a couple more cases of gatorade.

the two new romanian girls sat at their own table drinking water and when we offered them a hit they made faces in foreign languages that still meant no.

at ten we realized he’d probably found someone to stay the night with so we said fuck it and took the tanqueray down to the river and got shitfaced and skipped rocks across the sandbar.

we weren't allowed to make cobbler in the kitchen anymore so we filled our beaters with blackberries and put them in each others' mouths and rubbed them on each others' bodies and our brown skin got torn by vines and we mixed the blood with blackberry juice and couldn't tell.

when we got back paul's truck was in the driveway and the garage radio was up the loudest it could go. we found him there, wildly high, figure-eighting around the trashbags with the new girls in the fluorescent lights, yelling through the distortion about elk on the freeway, the fucking wounds in our chests.

Kelly Schirmann
Kenyon College Commencement Speech for the Class of 2005
David Foster Wallace



e. soderback

I want to talk about how the point 12 size of the font in Microsoft Word scares me, and about how you had me read out loud essays by Chuck Klosterman on the floor of your bedroom in a pile of clean laundry. I want to talk about how you didn’t let me stop, and how we were drunk and sloppy and how I was playing with the material of one of your t-shirt sleeves while I read. Let’s talk about when I would pause, when you would tell me to keep going, that I was doing great, how I would stumble over words, and use the creepy voice you showed me when asking the questions. I want to talk about how excited we were, tripping over the bicycles that lined the hallway, to go and sit cross-legged between boxes of VHS tapes, ashing our rolled cigarettes everywhere just for me to read these essays outloud, just because I said I haven’t read to someone in years. I want to talk about how I can’t hold your hands, how I don’t know what your wrists feel like.

E. Soderback
Henry and June
Anais Nin

SOMEBODY IS EXCITED - adam marston


adam marston

Somebody is excited to meet you. You can hear their breathing because you talked with them on the phone once. It reminds you of everything, so you slip and hit your head. No one is excited to meet you. When you open your mouth to tell them it becomes a worldwide cave. Everyone is spelunking on your teeth and down your gullet. They investigate what you talk about because they are near your voice box. They can hear what you really mean. Someone excited tells you to shut up. When you close your mouth, it is a bomb shelter.

Adam Marston
A Three Dog Life
Abigail Thomas



thomas mundt

Tim opened the Ziploc bag and dumped his dead goldfish, Tigris and Euphrates, into the toilet. He watched as they sank to the bottom of the bowl and bobbed back up to the surface. Then he panicked. Did he just make a grave mistake? Did he just see gills billowing, dorsal fins flopping? He rolled up the right sleeve of his Bears hoodie and grabbed the copper corpses from off the water. His hand trembled, now blue-green from the Tidy Bowl. He held Tigris and Euphrates under the bright lights of the vanity. Nothing. Dead. Definitely dead. He felt semi-relieved as he dropped his friends back into the bowl and flushed. He watched as the vortex sucked them under. Then he pictured them traveling through miles and miles of plumbing before being shat out into the Pacific, just off the coast of Oahu. Then he saw God’s huge hands poke through the clouds, holding those paddles he saw on ER. Then he watched God shrink the paddles down to the size of thimbles and hold them against their tiny chests. Then he heard God yell Clear! Nothing. Dead. Definitely dead.

Thomas Mundt
Everything Matters!
Ron Currie, Jr.

THIN ME - dave erlewine


dave erlewine

At the airport, Jen glances at my face. During her Europe trip, I’ve gained weight from worry. Over dinner, she stares.

“You look like Uncle Mark.” She stabs a scallop and swallows. “He’d be Jabba and I’d be Leia. Messed up my buns with his dick. Cracked himself up.”

Something is happening between us, it’s weird. “Thin me,” I say.


I’m placed on a cottage cheese diet. Caught eating cookies, a ball gag is inserted. “You Vichy fuck,” she says, grinding my face.

In bed, I inquire about the Vichy reference. She talks about the man whose Vichy grandfather collaborated with Nazis. She fucked his ass and yelled Arbeit macht frei.

She shrugs at my expression. “Guys like that paid for college.”


Within a month, I’m down to 175. We agree things are good, no need to change up

She says yes. Before I get off my knee, she pushes me to the floor, fucks me around the room.

I slink away from her snores, dig around the pantry. I move balled Nutty Bars around my mouth, spitting most into the trash.

Dave Erlewine
tunneling to the center of the earth
kevin wilson

THE MEANING OF YES - eric bennett


eric bennett

He held her hand too tightly.

And everything felt serious like church or right before a spanking. The sky was pool blue and the trees were whispering windy secrets, or were they warnings?

They crossed the street to the lot with the goliath tree that had a hundred hairy arms, but all she could remember was lying in the grass and how it tickled her earlobes. She also remembered his curious hands rubbing shame between her legs. Confused, she didn’t know how to think so she smiled which, looking back, he took as approval.

She did not approve.

Hers was a quiet insurgence. She made up horrible names to call him, names like snake man, dog butt, and poop licker. These names pleased her which, looking back, he took for encouragement.
Now, she understands how much miscommunication played a role in those ironically sunny days when his shady face smothered her. Did her eyes give him permission? Did her hips lie by moving in rhythm with his hands? Did she make tiny yes noises? These are things she can’t remember yet determine whether she goes to heaven or hell.

“I have to remember,” she whispers to herself.

Eric Bennett
Fugitive Pieces
Anne Michaels



FORT - catherine lasota


catherine lasota

We made a fort. We stretched green and pink blankets between our beds and dressers. We created a secret doorway near the leg on the back corner of the table. We divided the fort into rooms using string and Star Wars sheets. We kept our jars of pennies in the smallest room, inside a wooden box, covered with a pillow. We invited the friends we liked to come play inside with us, but only if they knew the code word. We changed the code word twice a day. We kept leftover Halloween candy inside the last room, near the secret exit door. We kept another pillow on top of the candy. We refused to come out for dinner. We talked to each other in flashlight code so the grown ups could not hear our conversations. We discovered that some candy was missing and held a trial of the main suspects, with teddy bear and rabbit serving as key witnesses. We never found the perpetrator. As a precaution, we prohibited friends from entering the fort for two days. We changed the code word five times in one day. On the third day, we were attacked and the fort was destroyed.

Catherine LaSota
The Things They Carried
Tim O'Brien

ROLE MODELS - sheldon lee compton


sheldon lee compton

Halloween, 1982. An aunt applied the makeup, various tubes and fliptop mirrors taken from the bottom of her purse, the dredges, the pearls. Cloaked his face in hero smear, war paint, the face of his first father. Rock and roll all night with cheekbones flaming black.

While no one paid attention, Ben bit the tip of his finger and coppered the spill across his tongue.

You look just like him, Aunt said. Dad was gone so Mom was away.

Later, say 1989, it was Jerry Lee Lewis.

Bubble gum and milk, the same way Jerry Lee did it. Pop, gulp. Ben destroyed four dozens eggs Easter morning by throwing them at his grandmother, his aunt, a pack of smiling cousins.

While they ruptured against the porch railings, the side of the house, Ben thought of how wild his hair must have looked during the whole thing. Completely out of control.

Sheldon Lee Compton
I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down
William Gay

THE ESCAPE - dawn corrigan


dawn corrigan

She wears a sparkly dress and you wear jeans and you go out to eat, prime rib and martinis, and afterward you return home and nurse each other, for now you're both ill, having eaten nothing for days before the big date. And this is how faith is retained, in one endless absorbing errand after another, no escape from lessons that must be stammered out except an occasional weekend in the country where, in a field packed down by decades of boredom, you do donuts in a blue pickup truck. You think something of her because she has thought something of you. On the drive home she says a kiss is still a kiss, it is what it is. She says nothing.

Dawn Corrigan
Love Is a Four-Letter Word
Michael Taeckens (editor)

BLUE - jan windle


jan windle

Blue was his colour, he always said, went with his Michael Caine eyes.

Midnight blue velvet suit, in the seventies, their twenties. (She stroking nightly its nap as they sat on her hard Ercol sofa, until he revealed the smooth contrast of the skin beneath.)

His wedding suit a sky-blue linen creation (Her mother, late to the ceremony, breathing,”Isn’t he beautiful”, as he led her, tearstained, up to the flower-decked registry office table).

Pure cotton, cerulean and cobalt shirts in the eighties (hell to iron, but hell, they were still in love.)

Prussian blue golf shoes and an ultramarine Armani fleece in the nineties, as far as she could recall.

He bought her a cloud-blue Honda just before their blue skies ended. In it, she took off alone, struck out on a polychrome adventure, towards the blue horizon, the lurid sunset calling her away to look for the gold at the end of her rainbow.

When they met again, she saw that at some point his eyes had faded to grey, along with their hair. Blue was still his colour.

Jan Windle
Everything is Illuminated
Jonathan Safran Foer

LOVE LETTERS - lily hoang


lily hoang

Eat me so I can falter in your mouth. My creases fray along the sharpness of your tongue, conspiring between your bleached teeth. There, I will storm an infection until your mouth inks out my words.


Here is my sentence hitting on your sentence--using a bad pick up line, winking at the wrong time, stuttering--but all my sentences are ultimately for you.

Lily Hoang
Scorch Atlas
Blake Butler
Blue Octavio Notebooks



rebecca king

I light a candle to the lady in 3A, whose husband disappeared two months ago. She waits patiently, peering from behind her door each time the buzzer rings; hoping.

But the circles beneath her eyes betray her. The quiver of her chin. You can count the worries in her nail polish, smell the desperation of the peroxide in her curls. Listen as she whispers of the shapes he left in the sheets.

I’ve watched her wobble to the mailbox for weeks now, her pink slippers already worn thin, and her heels scraping the concrete. Each day, opening the door to disappointment.

Rebecca King
Arlington Park
Rachel Cusk

BACKGROUND NOISE - peter demarco


peter demarco

The diet Coke she orders seems like the kiss of death for our relationship since I’m drinking bourbon. She always had red wine, or something with vodka in it. And she says she has plans for later on with friends. I didn’t have plans forever.

The way we fumble for conversation and have trouble with eye contact makes me feel like I don’t know her anymore, probably never did. I thought I knew her when she cried one night in my arms because she said the moment, a post-thunderstorm silence on a warm summer night, was perfect. And I perversely liked her anxiety attack and subsequent throwing up in my bathroom after an incredible orgasm, because that meant I was having an effect on her.

But now this whole thing reminds me of the time I was an extra in a movie, standing around Times Square for hours on a cold winter night waiting for the scene to be lit, and then the star showed up and they were ready and the assistant director said cue background noise through his bullhorn, which was the signal to begin our fake talking.

Peter DeMarco
Steve Erickson



THE CANCER MUSEUM - brian le lay


brian le lay

Tin foil over the summer birth canals and windows. Dead anaconda on the vestibule choking up Marcia Brady's ponytail. How many times is it appropriate to brush the dead woman's hair before alternating sides? Your heart pounding its way up the garbage compactor looking for its dead shell while I'm in the attic lactating all over mother's photo albums. I was the man in a tuxedo-suit with a face full of birthday candles. You were the woman who existed in grayscale and looked miserable in every stillshot. And now you're soiled. You always said it was your dream to drown in the Hudson River at dusk while staring at New York City. The ferry is here. This is your last chance to make something of that diploma, and pimp contracts take at least four business days to notarize.

Brian Le Lay
The Soft Machine
William S. Burroughs

NOTHING NEW - amanda montei


amanda montei

Mostly I was languishing. He was pickle-eyed. Pickle juice breath came with the only kiss I got that morning. He often ate pickles for breakfast but he seemed to be taking on the characteristics of one now. He seemed green, not with envy, with another kind of sadness.

Like a stick in the mud he was. Always a stick in the mud.

And I was laying on his bed, splayed out like I was supposed to be, like I’d been told to be. By glossy page-turners, by articles on “Blow Jobs for the New Century” or “Sex Tricks for the New Relationship” or “25 Ways to Keep Him, For the New Woman.” Always it was new new new! You know why women flip through those things so fast? Because there just isn’t room for that much newness in someone’s brain.

So I was splayed out like that with my hand on my ass just so. Just so I looked like I had the right curve going, the roman-carved-marble-statue-perfect-voluptuous look, but I was thinking about how I cried the night before after too much booze, not enough commitment, and I was trying not to let the embarrassment show in my face.

I was languishing there, knowing he’d make me leave soon. I had places to be, but I didn’t want to go to them.

And he was really green, like he felt sick from it all. I did. He took a drag off last night’s beer in such a way-- oh, god in such a way that he must have thought he looked really cool. And when he didn’t seem impressed with my layout, I said, “I feel stupid.” Waiting for him to come to me. And he said, “You look stupid.”

Amanda Montei
David Foster Wallace

DOWNTOWN - nate east


nate east

But to be honest, the only thing that ever influenced me was hundreds of hours spent in the Springfield Public Library where everything was brown. Brown carpeting, light brown walls, and a strange brown fountain in the foyer with metal reeds that were hollow and rainbow-reflecting like oil in a parking lot. My mom told me not to touch the trickling water because it was hooked up to something electric and I didn’t want to get shocked. The computers for looking up books in the catalog had green letters on black screens, and if you pressed the right numbers you could access the internet where I would study websites about Pokemon video games.

One day I was at one of these terminals and an older boy sat down next to me and started typing a mile a minute. I couldn’t yet type fast and I secretly watched his screen in awe and envy. He typed “little red riding hood” into the search bar and pressed the key for title search. His keys clicked so fast that the sound was like the drum roll of rain drops or the rolling click of skateboard wheels on squared-off cobblestones.

Nate East
Junot Diaz



bob jacobs

Gloria's building a time-machine. She started a month ago.

She began by collecting empty egg boxes and the tubes from inside toilet rolls, and got some old cardboard boxes and silver foil. She's assembling it in the spare bedroom, held together with Sellotape, Blu-tack and paper clips. She spends most of her day sitting on a fold-away plastic chair in the middle of this contraption, with her eyes shut and her hands resting on her lap.

She told me that she only needs one more part, a chrono-something, but it hasn't been invented yet. So she waits.

Every now and then she'll wander into the lounge and pick up our wedding photo. She'll stare at it for a few minutes, then she'll climb back inside the time machine and wait. And maybe cry a little.

Bob Jacobs
Rape: A Love Story
Joyce Carol Oates

INARI SHRINE - brett fogarty


brett fogarty

The monks let me sleep outside on the grounds after I swept their floors of dust. The stone statues of foxes guarding the entrance looked dead; serious. I coughed into the night and looked up at the statues looking out. They wore bright red bibs. I wondered if they were supposed to be gods or guardians (or both). I woke up sweating to the sound of tourists taking pictures in the morning sun.

All Around

The statues followed me throughout the country. Small packs of them carved from granite with little bowls of water set in front. I thought of you, then home and finally what makes a person good, honest and brave.


Good luck runs out with money. I sat in my first real bed in months, wishing for a real pack of limber foxes, loud brass keys. In my dreams, they all stand sentinel in a line and say don’t worry, don’t worry and all I ever say back is, but how?

Brett Fogarty
The Book of Chameleons
Jose Eduardo Agualusa



mel bosworth

Dickies double-knee pants, crashing blue and soil, siesta; dream hat, made of felt and children, I plunged hallways and laughed dream hat dream hat dream hat; summer; the autumnal equinox, for its overlap, lapping dog goodbye August and sweaty July ruckus; a used kazoo and a new hammer (the kazoo I used to mesmerize secretaries, the hammer to build a skiff); the Atlantic Ocean, brine and saline, witnessed ship wrecks on international waters (we all won); the color pink; wild boar and damaged hands; house wrap for use as a water slide, bikinis and soap, garden hose, nose and chewed grass, fun, sun, slippery wetness; semi-automatic weaponry; my neighbors’ fantasies; four new tires, rotors and brake pads (for obvious stopping purposes).

Mel Bosworth
Scorch Atlas
Blake Butler

COMBOVER - brendan o' brien


brendan o’ brien

Dad will be back any minute, sweating like a fourth quarter quarterback and complaining about knees knocking on arthritis’s door. He will come in through the kitchen, drink from the Brita and balance against the counter to stretch hairy hamstrings.

“How’s this?” Ally asks. Ally is my girlfriend. She’s thinks we’ve invented 13 new sex positions.

I hold my chin between thumb and forefinger. Her blond hair is pigtailed, her soccer-thick thighs brown and shiny.

“Push your tits out more,” mom says without looking up from her Sudoku. “Let those puppies see some light.”

Ally gives me a look. “The way your sister would,” I say, shrugging.

“Not funny,” Ally says.

From the corner of my eye I see dad walk past the window. His few remaining hairs dance resiliently in the summer breeze, flickering like birthday cake candles that won’t go out.

“He’s coming!” I say.

“Is this absolutely necessary?”

“Hide!” my mother screams.

“Oh goddammit,” Ally says, wiggling her ass, hiking her skirt. She checks her reflection in the toaster, runs a finger across her teeth.

The back door opens with a familiar moan as my girlfriend gets into position.

Brendan O’ Brien
Adam Johnson

DO I REALLY LOVE YOU - ethel rohan


ethel rohan

You are determined to decapitate the gopher tearing-up our garden. You stand over the latest dirt-pile with your shovel aimed and the back of your shirt out.

You purchase a shotgun, camouflage gear, and dozen doughnuts. You stake-out our garden at night, your face smeared in dirt and insanity. You fire shots, making babies and trees scream. Lights flood our block. Neighbors’ windows, doors, and judgment thud open. Police sirens sound.

You collapse into bed, your teeth and eyes too slick inside your blackened face. You smell of grass and rage. The shotgun lies between us like a gorge, your finger glued to its trigger. You insist you’ll get him yet, and rush from the bed and reason.

Under the yellow moonlight, you aim a white can over each garden hole, pouring-in some concoction I imagine is a mix of acid, bleach, weed killer, and whatever other revenge you could overpower. You have no idea, but you’re also pouring poison down my dream.

Ethel Rohan
Signs of Life
Norman Waksler


'RED MAN' - sam pink

ANGRY - andrea kneeland


andrea kneeland

“I want to cum in your eyes,” he says. I think he’s kidding but then I look at his face.

“That would hurt,” I say. He stares at me but doesn’t respond. “That would really sting.”

I’m not sure if the conversation is finished. He keeps staring. I wonder if he’s still mad at me because I won’t watch porn with him.

First of all, his computer screen is too small and the sound coming out of the speakers is ridiculously disproportionate to the tiny writhing bodies.

Second, all the porn he watches is exactly the same: angry men having sex with sad little girls. Everyone is choking, crawling around on their hands and knees, water falling out of their eyes. Girls get covered in all different kinds of bodily fluids. Men grimace and stand next to each other wearing nothing but white tube socks. Once in a while, a penis gets slapped against a forehead like it’s serious business.

Nobody looks like they’re having fun.

I know that I’m sad most of the time, but I don’t know if I’m that sad, to let somebody cum in my eyes.

I stop to consider.

Andrea Kneeland
Nine Stories
J.D. Salinger

THE UNCLE - curtis smith


curtis smith

The tires of his uncle’s convertible hummed over the cantilever bridge. With the top down, the boy could almost forget about the heat. Girders whistled past. The river flowed black beneath them, the stars smeared by haze and soot. The boy smelled the marshes, the refineries. On the radio, news of the riots in the black part of town. Fires burned, gunshots in broad daylight. The boy’s father was a cop.

“Do you think it will end soon?” the boy asked.

“Sure.” The uncle flicked his cigarette. He shook another smoke loose from the pack and pinched the filter between his lips. His wind-ruffled collar rose like a single wing. “It will end, and then it will begin again somewhere else.”

“Hmm.” The boy didn’t know what to say.

“Best we can do is hope it doesn’t happen here again anytime soon.” Another news story on the radio—Cassius Clay had changed his name. The uncle pushed in the dash’s lighter. “Is it any wonder the world’s so screwed up?”

Curtis Smith
Gallatin Canyon
Thomas McGuane



niall boyce

Nobody remembers.

There are no newspapers documenting the day’s events. There are no television recordings, no photographs, no blogs, no emails, no phone calls dialled or received.

In the records leading up to that day, there are pieces missing: a few minutes of a news report blacked out here, a couple of column inches of a paper replaced by blank spaces there. Photographs of crowds with a barely perceptible blur at the center, as if something has been burned away. I open my diary and find dates scrubbed out. I search my memories and find gaps.

Someone has disappeared. It was perfectly engineered, perfectly orchestrated. They vanished overnight and removed every trace they ever existed.

There is another explanation, but I do not care for it.

Perhaps the entire world has collaborated with the disappearance, and I am the only one who does not remember.

Niall Boyce
The Separation
Christopher Priest

LATERAL SURFACES - richard radford


richard radford

The worst part about it, Tanya thought, is they would never be able to fuck again.

As Tom adjusted himself in the passenger seat, she watched an old lady with an oxygen tank totter to an empty Cadillac. Tom was unaccustomed to riding shotgun, and made a big production of clicking the seatbelt securely into place.

No, the worst part wasn’t that they would never be able to fuck again, she decided. The worst part was that it would always be her fault.

Tom’s wheelchair rattled loudly in the trunk the entire twenty-miles to their apartment.

Richard Radford
Samuel Beckett



len joy

Thirty-one years is a long time. You must be a good husband.

Not really. Do you want another daiquiri?

Absolutely. So what’s kept you together?

My wife saves college class notes, twenty-year old cancelled checks, empty margarine tubs…


She doesn’t throw anything away.

Len Joy
The Road
Cormac McCarthy

THE BROOKLYN BOTANICALS - alexandra isacson


alexandra isacson

silk crepes of sun singed poppy petals lie summer spent on the soft ground. stems and pods waver in the wind. we snap seedpods, tuck them in our pockets. such wickedness, inside the glass hothouse- coy, petite venus fly traps relax sticky tongued in sun sauna. locked away in conservatory basement, forbidden belladonna poise wide-eyed with saucy mouths, intoxicated with themselves inside glassy pedestals. we leave the deadman’s bells and witch’s gloves alone in shakespeare’s garden and walk to the brooklyn museum. four floors up, we join judy chicago’s dinner party. in sanctuary of dark mirrored womb room, triangulated table glazes with women, succulent and dished up. centering the meditation, the fertile goddess regales in amulet relics- orange starfish and bone needle weaving place setting textures. chalices spin, communing with silver and gold light. we linger liquid, naming women still blooming, spelled out in threaded canonical mantras.

Alexandra Isacson
We Needed a Night Out
Timothy Gager

DESPITE OUR BEST EFFORTS - sarah anne lloyd


sarah anne lloyd

My mother came with me to get my diaphragm, and my grandmother, who told me not to use it while menstruating. She warned me that she did the first time and it was horrible. “Horrible” was italicized and I remembered that she was on her period on her wedding night.

Her first son was born during the Seafair hydro races. It was painless except for everyone watching the hospital TV the whole time. I don’t know any details from my mother’s birth, like if 1959 was a good year for television.

My mother texted me the night before my birthday, at 9 pm. “The evening of October 11th,” she said, “just went into heavy labor. No epidural.” Later, “You had no soft spot, like a bowling ball.” I said, “sorry, mom.”

When I was eleven I learned that my mother left her diaphragm in her dresser drawer. I never used mine much, only hers, its story, when she would tell me how fertile I am. She would say, “you were a diaphragm baby,” and I would say “a diaphragm in the dresser drawer baby?” and she would say, “oh, you got me.”

Sarah Anne Lloyd
Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs
Chuck Klosterman


'SUPERHERO: A PRIVATE ANTHEM' - peter schwartz



len kuntz

She pulled apart while I watched from a safe, short distance.

In the kitchen I did home work as a clock radio played Elton John and “Bennie and the Jets” got her swaying, her cigarette smoke an anorexic genie escaping through the spackled ceiling. She was just drunk then, but later the swaying would return, more a wobble, her unsteady sea-bound legs plodding unfamiliarly on this flat and dusty earth.

I was warned: the disease had a pattern, a cadence, an inevitable predictability. Nevertheless it unnerved and strangled me.

In time she shed every trace of loveliness, resorted to growling and staccato bursts of paranoia. Her eyes were stripped and raw, like a starved wolf’s.

In that same kitchen where she once fed me she bit down on my arm and would not release even as I screamed and punched and slammed her head against the refrigerator. Had Dad not been there she might have eaten me.

Yesterday when I visited she looked past me, warbling an undecipherable chant, summoning old friends and ghosts, addressing the coven, casting spells and cursing me to hell.

“But Mother,” I said, “isn’t it too late for that?”

Len Kuntz
The Delivery Man
Joe McGinniss Jr.



howie good

There was a time I might’ve enjoyed the tang of truck exhaust following me home, or the boarded-up windows of a discount liquor store. Then tick-borne diseases in fitted choir robes climbed down from the scaffold and disappeared into the crowd. I sat on the curb heartbroken. In theory every sequence of moves ought to be reversible. But somewhere it’s always the summer after mom died, and raining, and the rain is passing notes to us through a slit in the ground.

Howie Good
Shop Class as Soulcraft
Matthew B. Crawford

THEY DID NOT WANT TO KNOW - timothy gager


timothy gager

From your old life, those friends at your funeral were clueless, failed to note it was drugs that killed you. They laughed; their hair and clothes fresh, their zamboni lip gloss chucked wet ice and their smiles blinded us like splashy soda commercials. They bloomed, sprung out of the ground like flowers; the world was such a wonderful place.

Timothy Gager
Leaving Las Vegas
John O'Brien

JOHNNY CAME BY - barry basden


barry basden

He rode in on a little red Honda yesterday evening. Came all the way from Sacramento. Took him four days. Said he stopped in Phoenix and my dad gave him twenty bucks for gas. Last of the big spenders that guy. He still owes me the twelve hundred he stole when I was in the army.

Johnny said he was pissing blood from the road vibrations. He sat on the bike in the driveway while we talked. Mary Lou wouldn't let him in the house after last time. That was long ago, but she's like that. Well, he's still my son no matter what.

Then a grackle flew over and splattered him and it ran down behind his ear and into his collar. I hosed it off as best I could and gave him everything I had in my wallet before he rode off.

I stood there awhile listening to those fucking birds settle into the top of the tall cedar by the garage. I thought about taking the shotgun to them but decided against it. Sure as I did out there in the dark, one of those paranoid dopeheads across the street would start shooting back.

Barry Basden
Jayne Pupek

A MILLION WORLDS - maddie gorman


maddie gorman

She thinks of needles and honeycomb, big balloon sized rain drops, heavy footed nouns falling clumsy on her head and that’s why it throbs at night while she tries to fall asleep, chasing birds of thought in every direction, grasping at their blurry feathers, squeezing her eyes so tight that little droplets of color appear, birthed out of a blank screen, mutating as if to music. She tugs at her pubic hair softly, individually and methodically, compulsively out of a habit so strong she wakes in the morning with her hand inside her underwear, cupping her mound gently as if to protect it from the damage of post-apocalyptic earth, alien invasions, and mass kidnappings, often including a chase scene. Even in her sleep she knows her heart circles in little catapults, propelling her weightless mind-body through vast, maze-like escapes with danger at every turn.

Maddie Gorman
Jeanette Winterson

SUMMER OF '74 - richard osgood


richard osgood

It lay between them like a toppled geranium, dirt and stem and shattered terracotta, the crash of guilt and remorse on mirage pavement from Manchester to White River Junction, where campers and canoe-topped station wagons exit at places like Sutton and Sunapee and Georges Mills, miles behind her the humorless doctor with cold hands and rubber words—dilation and curettage—instruments of finality scrape remnants of first love and fluttered loins into a stainless steel pan, the shape of which reminds her of a banana split, and there beside her the boy who doesn't hold her hand or wipe away her tears but rambles on and on about senior year and ski team and how they should just be friends.

Richard Osgood
Don DeLillo



ben loory

The rats in the town dump collect the bullets after people shoot at them. They take them home, melt them down, then make torpedoes.

They load the torpedoes into their submarines and cruise the sewers after rainstorms and hunt down and destroy all the frogs they can find. Frogs and toads and other little things.

Sometimes we hear the war down there and poke our heads into the sewers and scream.

Stop! Why are you doing that?

But by then only broken frogs remain.

Ben Loory
little pictures: fiction for the new age
andrew ramer


'SOMEONE' - ricky garni

CROW - matthew purdy


matthew purdy

A worm ate your eyes and a crow ate that worm, and that crow came to my front yard and started croaking. He’s old and fat and arrogant, just like you were in my worst dreams of our old age. But he was dark, as dark as your hair when you died. All morning he kept at it, this rusty whinge. Even the other crows seemed annoyed with him. When I went out to my car he wouldn’t leave his stakeout near the garden gnome. He even flapped his wings at me, as though I was in fact his problem. When I came back, hours later, he was still there, though at the other end of the yard. He didn’t make any noise, but still I tried to chase him away with a broom. I eventually got him onto the sidewalk and hoped he’d take the hint. He didn’t. About an hour later he started crowing again and kept it up the rest of the night. In the morning my lover told me she’d barely slept.

Matthew Purdy
The Last Friend
Tahar Ben Jelloun

NEVER EVER - mary hamilton


mary hamilton

It’s one of those things like how a riddle works its way into the notches in your sinus cavity and lingers and infects and wakes you at night and you try every possible path to resolution, and still you can’t figure the answer. And still you are awake at four a.m. And now it is mid-afternoon and you are on your fifth pot of tea. And still you are debating the right moment to ask if you can move your hand from the place where she has situated it so your finger could hold tight the wrapped ribbon while she fixed a bow of multiplying loops over your purple now blue finger and she doesn’t notice the colors changing because she is worrying over the color of the ribbon. The pink sage color of the ribbon and it seems to be clashing with the paper and while she is fretting over ribbon versus paper you are sniffling back any mucus attempting to escape your nose and you are considering the impact of asking her if it is time to let go because that is a question that you never ever want to ask. Never ever never ever never.

Mary Hamilton
Major Tom
Peter Schilling

ONE MORE ROLL - christopher kennedy


christopher kennedy

The empty garbage cans rattle down the alley like some monster’s dice, and it’s impossible to tell who’s winning the roll, though one suspects it’s the house, again, no matter how big the monster thinks he is.

Christopher Kennedy
Eugene Martens

SLEEP AID - ashley kaufman


ashley kaufman

He eavesdropped on a grey woman in widow's weeds in the produce section.

"Nights are the worst," she'd said, blindly fingering the webbing of a small, unripe-looking cantaloupe. "I don't sleep." Her companion, a tall, grim woman, nodded.

It was easy to find them. He read obituaries and sent survivors a discreet card. "Sleepmate Available, Inquire re: Rates, References Upon Request." He put his phone number and web address along the bottom. Then he waited.

He was a natural cuddler, but if the client asked him to turn away or hover on the edge of the bed, he accommodated. He even snored or ground his teeth, whatever they wanted. He made an effort to know them in order to satisfy their requirements. He took an explorer's view of each bedmate, noting the texture of her skin, the scent of her hair, the measure of her breath, how shyly she came to him, or how needily. He never intended to provide more than passive comfort, but if more than passive comfort was necessary, he found that he was able to oblige. It wasn't carnality so much as a covenant. His customers wanted sleep, and sleep was what he supplied.

Ashley Kaufman
Notes on a Scandal
Zoe Heller

THE THREE DEATHS OF MATTHEW - fortunato salazar


fortunato salazar

The first time he killed Matthew he attached Matthew to a balloon. Inflated the balloon with a vacuum cleaner. He thought of attaching a camera to Matthew to record his demise. Document his termination. Didn't want no cowhand jawboning about the survival of Matthew.

The second time was all about subterfuge. And pruning. Pruning was his point of access. He asked an innocent question about a pruning notice. On the face of it the question was innocent, but the truth was that he'd been dancing around Matthew when Matthew hung in effigy from a metal frame. Anyone who bothered to look out a window could see the frame. Matthew would probably be mistaken for vinyl patched with duct tape, however.

The third time he killed Matthew he fed Matthew to the sea lions. While the sea lions snoozed he pre-celebrated with an ice cream cone. He wiped his hands clean. He clapped his hands. The sea lions awoke and looked up, all but a few who, spooked, dove. Matthew fluttered down. He had basted Matthew in Alaskan water drained from cans of salmon. Sea lions wait by the mouth of the Lake Washington drainage and consume large quantities of salmon.

Fortunato Salazar
The Timeless Way of Building
Christopher Alexander




If things continue to go bad for her she will become second wife in six years.

This is the deal you’ve made.

All of you.

It’s hard to share a hotel room with such a hot woman. The confined quarters, the heat she gives off…eventually reminding you – in an unavoidable way – how you are so very bad at being a girl. How maybe, if you tried harder, you could be as sexy as her.

She curls her eyelashes and lotions parts of her body that don’t even see the sunlight. She has more than 3 kinds of perfume. She shaves everywhere.


But you are only first wife. You are done trying. Your cosmetics come from a ghetto drugstore. You shave when you remember. Your perfume is a sampler bottle.

The potential second wife wears a thin white tight tank top while she gets ready in front of the mirror. He pretends to watch TV but I see him stealing glances…assessing his inheritance. I look too – her breasts so fucking perfect...her nipples monuments…under the lucky cotton.

I borrow her perfume. She zips up my dress. I share her shoes. We straighten his tie.

I wonder, as first wife, what rights, what privileges this will afford me and I pray the years go bad and fast for her.

For us.

Cat's Cradle
Kurt Vonnegut



len kuntz

We picked her up together.

My father’s cologne carried base notes of licorice and sandalwood, and his shirt sleeves had creases in them.

She was not any older than me, but prettier, much prettier, with creamy dark Spanish skin like a latte. She was thin with big tits. We both noticed that right away. She read poetry and said prayers before meals.

I looked it up. Her name meant: harbor, or a place designed to cater to the needs of pleasure boats and their owners.

It wasn’t right what happened, nothing was, not even what happened before Marina arrived.

Since I could not stop eating I started cutting, thinking I might be able to slice away my flab. In ancient times they used leeches to suck out the diseased blood. I used a paper clip.

He yanked my wrist so we were out of ear shot. “What the hell’s wrong with you? Huh? I did this for you,” he said.

And that might have been the truth. But his pleasure was his own, not mine or mother’s, not even hers.

We took Marina to the airport. I watched them embrace. In the spring it’ll be our turn to visit.

Len Kuntz
The Delivery Man
Joe McGinniss Jr.


'BOXED IN' - Jordan C. Brun



mk laughlin

You didn’t ask about the scar, and I liked that. I’ve had guys incorporate it into their pickup lines before. Girls with facial scars attract a certain kind of weird and it’s not that I judge, I’m just not into cage fighter role-play.

Your icebreaker wasn’t great but it wasn’t cliché, and your eyes fell to my cleavage only twice—once to show you noticed, and once more to show you cared. I’ve never met someone who moonlighted as a carny to put themselves through law school before. That story about the Ferris wheel with the faulty breaks and mentally challenged driver was the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. And don’t worry, I know you weren’t making fun of the driver. You just had issues with her being allowed to operate heavy machinery.

Later, you leaned in and touched the rim of my shot glass. You murmured, “sometimes I tell strangers my name is John, that I’m the only professional bluegrass fiddle player in all of North Dakota.”

That’s when I knew this was a moment I’d tell people about, years into the future, when they asked me how I met you.

MK Laughlin
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

WICKED GO THE DOORS - christopher kennedy


christopher kennedy

Moon-killers, a salt fuse lit by lightning, sulfur smell in the devil’s lair; we’d go to the roadhouse, watch the rattlesnakes swallow their segmented tails; we’d speak in tongues and slither across the dance floor until the whole sick mess was as one in the eyes of no god; we’d speed until we were Jesus, hang by crosses made of dry thread; knew it was blindness wicked made.

Christopher Kennedy
Like You'd Understand, Anyway
Jim Shepard

ON THE ROOFTOP, WAITING - christian woodruff


christian woodruff

The city panics. People run through the streets. They hide. The sun never rises in this city of ash. So much unsaid. Raindrops pound against the windshield; the stoplight another lonely Christmas through the prism glass. The cancer devours all, leaves nothing but hearts choked blue and black. The mobs climb stairs and gather on rooftops, waving torches and lighting beacons. Chaos in the snarl of avenues below. The cars roil and swell through the streets like a boiling river. Their eyes to the sky, searching for helicopters that never come.

But in that sprawling mass, would a single slipped gear be noticed? A moment of hesitation where synapses fuse and chances are missed, where doors are shut, never to be opened again. Would it be fatal, this malfunction? Would it birth a spark, an electrical rat set free to chew through cables and shit corrosion on the couplings?

Would it breed, this rat, this failure?

Christian Woodruff
The Book of Embraces
Eduardo Galeano

JOEL'S THING - darby larson


darby larson

The thing Joel could do was when his mother took him for her to the grocery store with pineapples, people gathered.

"Amazing!" asked an old woman.

"A thing I can do," Joel seemed so.

He's a tiny half child the size of other children's legs, little legs and fingers from a distance, people squinted to focus.

One night, his mother one night, sat on the couch and watched him do the thing on the living room for sale, the sofa with love. When he finished, she smiled bananas and picked her book up and read the newspaper.

At school and teachers, his classmates sat in a circle. Around him while his teacher sat around him while he let him do the thing around. He could do it. They all had a resounding Gosh! for their pancake breakfast. He sat down between two ghosts.

"A thing I can do," he death sentenced.

Darby Larson
Jibade-Khalil Huffman

SLICE OF LIFE - bill barr


bill barr

Deep REM sleep, I spring bolt upright in bed. Epiphany! Race to the computer in the dark, bang my shin, knock over a plant, step on the cat. Do I have a cat? Put my hand down in what I hope is a piece of pie oops fall into my flippin’ ergonomic chair.

Singing computer, “Doo-doo-duh-dum.” Why so loud? Some kid must’ve been listening to his awful music while I was sleeping and ate half a piece of pie. Can’t turn volume down unless the computer is on? What shit design. Like on DVD movies, I have to watch the production company owner’s little boy dance while daddy’s titles play. Pressing the menu button won’t remove the red circle slash flashing in the corner of my screen. They can get away with making me watch their ads on MY DVD? I paid for it! Like commercials during previews at the theater. Always said that’ll never happen. Oh no, looked directly at the computer screen, the operating system logo is seared onto my eyeballs.

Word. Open file. Clickin' blank document. What was the idea? Just had it; woke me up from deep sleep. Something about a… hey, look, I’ve got pie.

Bill Barr

A BOY AND HIS DOG - steven j. mcdermott


steven j. mcdermott

Mid-register yelps choked off. The Doberman across the street thrashing at the end of his chain. Yelp, yelp, then a raspy cough. Fenced in by pickets. The two-story brick Tudor rising behind. Dark down, upstairs lit, all the windows wide open in the night-heat. Up there, a slap. His gleeful voice, “Oh, a right cracker, that!” Her, whimpering. Him again, “Whoring bitch! All perfumed. Going where? Nowhere, that’s where!” Laughing, pleased with himself. The dog all berserk. On the porch, three feet from the open front door, lunging and strangling against the chain. Barking. Choking. Spinning around for air. Upstairs, a pfffuttt sound. Him, staggering past the window, an arrow in his throat. Her, screaming. Boots thump-sliding down the stairs. Out the door pops their boy carrying a compound bow. The dog barks, circles. The boy kneels, sets the bow down, unhooks the chain from the collar, scratches behind the dog’s ears. He leans close, receives face licks.

Steven J. McDermott
Black Tickets
Jayne Anne Phillips

PINK PEARLS - alexandra isacson


alexandra isacson

We left Carmel by the sea in Cali and drove north all day through the vineyards and the redwoods into Humboldt County. We rolled past the creamery and cattle in their pastures to our Victorian B&B. In our mansion suite, we laughed at the bidet, spurting like a fountain. The ceiling mirror reflected us in our pink clawfoot bathtub framed by flaming fireplace and fainting couch. I suds you up, dropped the lavender soap, and groped for it in the bubbles. We split the light and floated. I wanted to go back with you to the ocean.

Our spiraling poster bed was four feet off the floor, spread with cool satin, steps leading to a Princess and the Pea fantasy. Another mirror sparked the ceiling, swirling around us. To balance ourselves, we drove down to the beer joint in town and drank with the locals.

We were lucky to make it up the steps to bed.

We woke in the naked morning canopied by fuchsia in the gardens.

We breakfasted on French toast laced with edible flowers and baked apples served on Depression glass. After, we bicycled on a winding country road on the forest fringe. The wind swept through the weathered barns and farmhouses and the horses and sheep grazing on the hillsides. We stopped to watch deer eating berries and wildflowers. After pedaling five miles, we happened upon the sea. We ditched our bicycles and walked barefoot on the shore.

Slowly, with your hands, you opened me.

Pink pearls. You said. Your tongue an ocean rush.

Alexandra Isacson
Bitter Angel
Amy Gerstler

GRANDMA - duncan parker


duncan parker

Lets ring ahead and warn Grandmother that we are bringing guests. Then she can sprinkle powdered feces of dead relatives into their cups of tea. Grandma has won against the following people; most of our neighbors, Dame Judy Dench's sister Dorothy Dench, 8 visiting Jehovah’s Witnesses, some neighborhood cats, Peter Albany, Lisa Meek. She has lots of powdered feces left. She is shitting in the freezer now because she has cancer in her stomach and doesn't have long left.

Duncan Parker
The Home Cyclopedia of Popular Medical, Social and Sexual Science
Dr. E B Foote


'BUNKER' - cynthia reeser



angi becker stevens

She’s not really old enough for this sort of nostalgia, but one thing she misses about the twentieth century is the containers, before everything had plastic lids. She misses prying paint cans open, working a flat-head screwdriver all the way around the circumference until the lid sprang off with that satisfying pop. She misses the old coffee cans, the slicing into metal with the old-school manual can-opener, and the way the smell of the coffee grounds would hit her all at once when the top of the can snapped free. She came of age along with the internet and cell phones, it’s not technology she minds. She minds that the world is becoming less tactile. She bought a vibrator—sleek, curved plastic and rubber that looks a little like a bent computer mouse. It gets her off in 30 seconds, and afterward she almost feels like she wasn’t even in the room with herself when it happened. She thinks, efficiency is not always best. All of this plastic is no substitute for the slow, satisfying things we used to do with our hands.

Angi Becker Stevens
Big World
Mary Miller

HEARING - sasha graybosch


sasha graybosch

She fears the sculptures downtown will be moved. He is positive they are a permanent installation. He thought it was poisonous if cooked incorrectly, toxic if not given proper cooling and care. She thought it was harmless but the first bite squished. Uptight and shrill. No, slack and soothing. She wants to see this film because she read a good review. He wants a source. They are outside the theatre, a line winding. “This is not the time for citations,” she believes. “Is there any time to waste twelve-fifty?” he would like to know.

She thinks the betrayal sounded low and pulsing, like a bruising, a seeping out, an end of a part of a whole. The sound he heard was nothing, nothing at all, maybe a small burp, a tiny echo to the back of a cave where only deaf, sleeping bats hung.

He thought if only they could return to where they once were. She thought could and would were miles and years apart, distant futilities under the same sun, with the same chance of being burned, the same chance of cancer.

Cancer as in the sign or cancer as in the killer?

The disease. Definitely the disease.

Sasha Graybosch
Getting Jesus in the Mood
Anne Brashler

BURN - elizabeth ellen


elizabeth ellen

They were going in reverse. They had met in person, talked on the phone. Now there were only tiny words typed into a tiny keyboard. Call me, she typed. It took her longer than it should have. She had a hard time manipulating the keys in her current state.

You are being disrespectful, he typed back. I am trying to work.

She stared at the word disrespectful on the tiny screen. She thought perhaps she was misreading. The word disrespectful reminded her of her mother’s backhand. That had been so long ago. It was hard to know now if she’d invented that scenario or if it’d actually happened. No, she could still remember the burn of her face. She touched her cheek in remembrance. She longed for the man’s hand to burn her similarly. Her cheek was sterile and cold to the touch. What she sought was heat.

The first time he had held her the man had been fevered. He’d walked an hour to see her, which had felt like devotion. She’d given him an aspirin from her purse, pressed a cold washcloth to his forehead. She’d lain down beside him, warmed herself with his sickness. She’d wanted him to feel better, but more than that she’d wanted to feel her skin scorched against his. She’d removed their clothing, spread out atop him. She wanted to press herself to him as long as long as she could stand it, an open palm on a lit burner. She wanted there to be evidence of him on her body after he left, like her mother’s handprint on her cheek that day at school.

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING - brooks sterritt


brooks sterritt

It turned Marsha on when Gary killed roaches. It made her feel womanly. She had killed many herself, but derived an intense pleasure from watching Gary. She made a loud sound for his benefit when she saw one in her kitchen. It was fat and slow moving, probably dying from poison.

Gary looked around before moving to a basket of magazines in the living room. He rolled up a copy of Good Housekeeping and gripped it in his fist. Marsha liked that he would kill for her. She thought he was graceful. She found herself thinking about cavemen bringing down a mastodon.

Gary stalked the roach as it skittered across the tiles. He brought the magazine down, two hard thwaps, and the roach didn't splatter much. He scooped up the carcass, carried it to the bathroom, and flushed it. He put the magazine back in the basket, brown goo and a leg or two clinging to its cover. Marsha made him wash his hands, first.

Brooks Sterritt
What We Were Doing and Where We Were Going
Damion Searls

SMOKES - dan richardson


dan richardson

Mary sat in the gutter because the bus stop had no seat. Sitting is easier then standing, or leaning against a telephone pole.

I should start smoking, thought Mary.

I could stand at popular social events and be alone. People would just think “Oh, a girl smoking. How normal”. I would not have to talk to anyone, because I would look occupied. I would smoke so intently. I would ask a cute boy for a lighter even if I had one in my back pocket. Our small talk would progress to meaningful conversation about things with the prefix post-. He would become my boyfriend. He would seem awkward and self absorbed at first. I would change him. I would teach him to love. We would lie smoking and talking after sex. He wouldn't just roll over and leave me with nothing but messy sheets and low self esteem. We would sit outside at cafes drinking black coffee and eating bagels. He would know every second person walking past, and introduce me to them.

Yeah, thought Mary. Life would be easier if I smoked.

Dan Richardson
cats cradle
kurt vonnegut



sarah hassan

I say nothing when you wake up your son who is sleeping in his boxers on a blow-up mattress in the guest room. “Guess that's not yours tonight” you slur and I follow you up the stairs to the roof. On wet lawn chairs we cradle our tumblers of vodka between our knees and I attempt to light a limp cigarette. You watch me like an actor out of work, black matinee eyes blacker with night, fingers full of pantomime as your mouth tries to sell me the punch line. “You're fearless,” you say, “I'm touched, really,” and I think I know this story, the set-up is so clear; your wife asleep downstairs, the frying pan still hot with butter, my brain numb from expensive cocktails, your foot wagging in a bruised shoe. The hotel balcony over looked the U.N and under umbrellas you showed me where Truman Capote lived. Smelling the river I imagined a great ship sailing in between the high risers, anchors smashing co-op windows, the mermaid mast-head piercing the trees like hot air balloons. “It's like we are in it and not above it,” you said and I know, as I bite the filter and regret the rain, that these matches like our knees in the kitchen refuse to strike and let out one tiny desperate spark for fear of burning down the house.

Sarah Hassan
What Can I Do When Everything is On Fire?
Antonio Lobo Antunes



jeremy kelly

“I love you, Mama.”
So sweet and young. He’ll never even see it coming.

Jeremy Kelly
The Yiddish Policemen's Union
Michael Chabon

WRAPPED - bill mcstowe


bill mcstowe

He remembers when she first used Saran Wrap. She got it tight around the baking dish. Across the top, the corners, the handles, everything. That impressed him more than the brownies.

She stayed the first night they met and made breakfast in the morning. She toasted and buttered the plain doughnuts from the Entenmann’s box. Smart, he thought. She came back that night and made the brownies. Delicious brownies.

A week later she brought groceries. He noticed her toothbrush on Monday morning. On Tuesday, he found her slippers under the bed.

Weekends were theirs. They went to bars and played pool. Sometimes trivia. And more recently, stayed in to watch movies.

She surprises him tonight, a weeknight. “Idol in fifteen,” she says. “I’m baking brownies.”

He pays little attention to the show. Thinks mostly about Saran Wrap.

The brownies cool and after Idol, she cuts them into neat little three-inch squares. Puts four on a plate and wraps the baking dish. He offers her a beer. “I can’t,” she says. “I’m pregnant.”

The Saran Wrap is stretched tight across the top of the baking dish. He pokes it. Feels it. Tight on the corners. The handles. Everything.

Bill McStowe
Cat's Cradle
Kurt Vonnegut



MONDAY - audri sousa


audri sousa

the day i invented an auxiliary language i felt that my own could not support what everyone was saying if letters are symbols then letters are cymbals crashing i wanted my connotations to hiss like water poured on a bonfire to crackle like appalachian thunderclaps to ring like alchemy to flow seamless like tributaries the amazon carries that i carry seven layers under my epidermal tent i wanted for us the language we have earned i wanted a language i could drive

Audri Sousa
measuring tape for the midwest
noah falck



michael j. martin

I killed the gnat-bug and felt sorry for an instant. A full instant. And if you know what an instant is it feels like forever dropping into a hole, or the wings of a butterfly peeled off then reattached with dried elmers glue and super-globular plus (superglue). Patty walks in nude except for her flesh and offers me the dry skin she peeled off her lips. Dinner’s on the stove.

She called me horrible. I knew I was. I knew she was, also, but her saying it and me not, it didn’t seem like she was all that horrible. I had a hammer in my hand.

Somewhere along the road we ditched each other. Dactyl’d one another’s corneas. I drove a couple miles around the mountain, headlights on, squinting because, like I said, dactyl’d. I almost killed myself on a bend, headlights looking at an abominable snowman hunched over, doing what looked like masturbating and having sex with a bobcat. I rubbed my eyes and saw Patty giving me the middle finger and flashing one breast.

Michael J. Martin
White Noise
Don DeLillo

ALL GONE - amanda ellinger


amanda ellinger

as i ready your bed, you ask me why you are still alive. i sit on your bed, facing you in your wheelchair. i can see in your eyes that you want me to answer this question. everything i can think of in response seems so far from adequate. so, i just look into your sleepy eyes. you say that they are all gone, everyone you have ever known and loved, all your family, your only brother, your only son and his only child. you ask if i think there is a god, a heaven, if you really get to meet up again with your lost loved ones. you say you are ready to die, in a" i'm just done here way." you say it's been years since you had a proper hug. this hurts me a bit because i hug you the three or four nights a week that i help you to bed. and, i think you see it in my face and you say that you get hugs, but that in a wheelchair, you can't get a real arms wrapped around you hug. you say you miss good hugs the most. so, i get someone to help me sit you on the side of your bed and kneel in front of you and wrap my arms around your small fragile frame and i feel your arms go around me and you squeeze with all of you. i feel the rapid rhythm of your respirations slow to catch the cadence of mine. your hair still smells of the perm you got on wednesday. i can hear the soft whispers at the door to your room. someone knocks. several of the staff are outside. the cute little dark haired girl comes in, the one everyone calls bitsy. she says we heard there was some hugging going on in here and we were wondering if we could get in on it. you sniffle and i draw back to see tears running down your pale cheeks and a smile on your face. one by one, they come in and hug you. real hugs, proper hugs, another's arms wrapped around you hugs.

when i look in on you before i go, you are lying there, still awake, still with tears running down your cheeks. you say you are alright before i ask. you say i think i will just cry myself to sleep. but, you say not to worry. these are the good kind of tears.

i am off for the weekend and when i come back monday, your room is empty. and, i am hoping there is a god, a heaven, reunions with lost loved ones. and hugs, lots of hugs.

WHAT YOU SHOULD HAVE DONE - gwendolyn joyce mintz


gwendolyn joyce mintz

You rolled your pregnant self out of bed, the yelling waking you, the pounding pulling you to the kitchen, where your husband loomed over his son from another marriage, the two of them by the table where a plastic bag was spilling the loaf of bread and liter-bottle soda that the boy had gone to buy for his father who was angry that his son had put the two together because he hadn't wanted to carry two bags home and the bread slices were no longer the squares that his father was demanding they be returned to and though the boy was not dumb as your husband was saying – he simply looked afraid and small—you knew he couldn't do it ; placing your hands on your belly, you wondered what to do, if anything, though it only came to you later—watching your own son being led away, his angry hands, shackled-- the thing that you should have done.

Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz
The Well and the Mine
Gin Phillips




He is ugly, like a garage sale table, but he knows how to fuck me. His mouth never stops, even after he is full. His huge piston dick hides under his haphazard belly, discolored and disjointed from a disfiguring childhood scar…something about ninja weaponry.

It looks like an heirloom tomato.

In the morning, the sheets hold in his death metal farts. He is disgusting. But when we wake from the loud crows’ bludgeoning caws, we fuck and I forget about what he is.

Breaking Dawn
Stephenie Meyer