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