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