Barry Graham

Jacqueline Doyle

Kevin Maus

Rebeka Singer

Ryan Stevens

Dresden de Vera

Steve Karas

James V. Coffey

UNHINGED - barry graham

It's almost morning and the moon is still up and momma's talking but not with words - with teeth and tongue and mucus from the strong part of her throat. I pet the top of her head.

Sometimes she comes right out when I unlatch the hinges and sometimes she waits for me to wrap the chain around her neck and pull.

After daddy died it felt better to keep momma locked up. I keep her watered and fed and when she needs to piss I let her piss and when she needs to shit I watch and wait with a handful of paper towels and wipe her clean. She only got sore once.

But mostly I keep her locked up.

It's an old cage daddy stole from a tuna fisherman off the Alabama coast two years after Katrina blew us into pieces that no one knew how to put back together. It was the same night he lost three fingers and a thumb breaking up a dog fight just south of Mobile. Daddy figured that fisherman owed him for the fingers and for one of his pit bull bitches that never made it back home. She was pretty that bitch was. And mean. Momma loved her. She named her Moolah and took her everywhere she went. But now Moolah's dead and daddy's dead and something about keeping momma in that cage just feels true for both of us.

Barry Graham
Love is a Dog From Hell
Charles Bukowski


Start with a person. Man or woman. Doesn’t matter. Gay or straight, anywhere in-between, that’s fine. Race? Pick a card.
Make them idealistic.
Give them an impression of what it’s like to feel loved. Make sure it’s incomplete - this is important. Make them gifted at something fun but worthless. Give them no idea what to do.
Set them loose in a world stuffed to the gills with too many problems to fix, too many dark holes to fall into, and too many people who want exactly what they want and are much better at achieving it. Make adapting troublesome. It helps if they think they’re alone. Or if you’d prefer, make them blame only themselves. Dealer’s choice.
Make them suffer, make them bleed at the cuticles and corners of their mouth and make them lose their voice screaming ancient nothings at a statue’s face on a cloudy day. Make them fantasize about gutting God on a hot street sidewalk and forcing him to watch his own dreams sizzle and die in front of that same hopeless blank sky.
Really, the important thing here is to have fun. Because if this isn’t fun, then what out there is?

Ryan Stevens
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72
Hunter S. Thompson


She puts her hand over his mouth; he looks to her, inquisitively, tiredly. They have not left the bed for days. They are protesting life. They are sore from their lying so much. Their backbones feel like animals trying to break a tether. Whose idea was it? Neither's...they simply didn't leave bed one waiting for the other to leave first. They are starving; their sheets are damp with sexual excess. Weakly, now, they make love, losing the last of their spiritual salt in feverishly dilute ejaculation and orgasm. Otherwise, they talk about how nice it would be to be intoxicated, drunk on wine while starving. Their eyes move slowly in their heads. They are trying to melt into the sheets.

Kevin Maus
John Dos Passos

WHAT ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT? - james v. coffey

She asked him what he was thinking about and he said he wasn’t thinking about anything. In fact he was thinking that he should ease up and enjoy life more and that you only get one shot at it and it’s not as if there’s anything after. We all know that don’t we? I mean, we don’t have to worry any more about censorious voices telling us what we can and can’t have. We’ve got freedom to choose. It’s all there for us and I can do whatever I want, even, let’s be honest, if I really wanted to I could, well, you know. But it’s not enough. There’s still that aching heart thing and the emptiness. The emptiness. I sometimes think that life is a cosmic joke or some kind of test. Why do I always end up thinking like this? I bet it’s got something to do with sin. Or my childhood. I’m looking for something that’s for sure, but what? Some kind of enlightenment? For sure yes, big time, I would like some enlightenment. She said he must be thinking about something. He said he wasn’t thinking about anything at all. Really.
James V. Coffey
Collected Stories of Raymond Carver

GRAND PIANO - steve karas

The man watches his muscle fibers depress and lift like haunted piano keys. Each twitch ticking off a fear, from birth until present, going down the list: E.T., the school cafeteria, plane crashes, STDs, skin cancer. He thought he’d buried them under neck ties and family dinners and maybe that’s the problem. The twitches started in his calf, then climbed up his thigh, colonized his waist, back, arms, lips, tongue. The twitches bring on more twitches. Lou Gehrig’s, MS, Muscular Dystrophy. His body is a grand piano. Am I dying? the man asks his doctor. Yes, we all are. The twitches though, the doctor tells him, are the Boogeyman, Bigfoot, they’re the monster under the bed. He tells the man to take up running but that’s all he’s been doing his whole life anyway. Running over burning coals, across shards of glass. What he needs isn’t exercise but an exorcism. I don’t like how you’re acting lately, the man’s wife says. You’re scaring me. He tells her it’s the only way, promises she’ll love him more for it. Under his skin, beneath his ribs, he puts holes in walls, he shatters mirrors, his body rising to an orchestral crescendo.

Steve Karas
Ben Tanzer

ERASURES - jacqueline doyle

"No longer in the phone book," my mother complains, and I have trouble deciphering what she means. Her name was in "dark, dark print," she adds, in a tone of exaggerated significance. People are talking in her room, and "something is going on," she says, but she doesn't know what it is. My father's x-rays have been stolen. My father has been stolen. Her identity is dark, dark, and has been erased with his death. "Erased." Their telephone is off the hook, their names no longer in the book.
Jacqueline Doyle
Best American Essays 2013
Cheryl Strayed, editor

IMPLICATIONS - dresden de vera

I imagine her sitting across the fast food booth, pausing from picking at her fries while I nonchalantly mention the unexpected stresses of seeing multiple women. "Really should start keeping note cards," I’d say, "Before I get their hobbies mixed up."
I’ve drawn out the look on her face as she sees the latest picture I’d posted - with a woman whose shoulder melds into mine in front of a fake Christmas tree.

I see us sitting on the curb of her house, her asking about my work, what I’ve been up to, who I’ve been hanging out with. And I trace the trail of her questions past her lips, down her throat, back into her lungs, then collapse the walls by muttering a foreign name.

When she approaches with a text of "Happy New Year!", I unwrap the gift as such: Yes, I still matter; Yes, she’s the weaker of us; Yes, I’m in control.

And only now am I prepared to reply with nothing.

Dresden de Vera
The Best American Short Stories 1994
Tobias Wolff & Katrina Kenison

THE COWBOY - rebeka singer

At only five or six years old, my mother would send me to talk to my father whenever there was a tearful, desperate argument between them. He never lost his temper with me.

It was always night. My mother would be crying in the bedroom. "You can’t blame others for your life. That’s what your father does." She swept my hair across my forehead. "You see things clearly, Lucy. You have a gift."

She would drape her body over the second-floor banister as I tiptoed downstairs. The scent of tobacco warmed my lungs even before I entered the TV room. The smoke dried my eyes.

I would stand in the doorway facing the ripped leather couch lined with stale cushions. He was always watching Westerns, holding his wooden pipe. I loved cowboy movies then because of those times I spent with him. Sometimes he would hand me his pipe to puff for play. Then I would say, "Mom’s hurt. It’s not your fault. Can you help though? Make it better." He would pull me close to him so that my cheek touched his bristly cheek, so that my skin tingled and stung, and he hugged me, so that I loved him. 


Rebeka Singer
This Is How You Lose Her
Junot Díaz