A chronological archive of flash fiction and nonfiction pieces published in Cleaver’s quarterly literary issues from 2013 to present …

People inside a subway train
I wait for a train that circles the city like bats. At night in Berlin you can imagine anything you want. Can a train circle a city like bats? Carriages here are full of inviting people I never talk to and bicycles that require a ticket to get on board. Everyone wears black so hard you don’t notice after a while that there are differing shades. Sometimes, I see a chair being carried on board by a passenger and I wonder where the chairs go, whether they rest at tables. I think about the people invited to sit, what kind ...
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Baby crib in a darkened room
I’ve decided to kill my son. This is not a new thought. It did not come to me overnight. I’ve nursed it for a long time like an actual thing, a child that was a seedling first and then a sprout, but the idea has taken hold ...
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BW photo of two toddler-age children at water's edge
TWELVE by Tory Lord O’Neill There he was, as always, on the eve of her birthday. She never expected him. Never dreamt of him, but there he was. As always, he was standing on the corner waiting for something—her perhaps—but she didn’t see him until she tripped, snagged her heel, rolled her ankle and fell slightly into him. “Whoa! You okay!” What’s the rush, buttercup? Cuidado, señorita. Each time, his hands felt slightly different. Firm like a contractor. Gentle like a surgeon. Scarred from a fire. But with that first touch, all of their lives came flooding back to her ...
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A vulture bird in front of an urban backdrop
The patient is nervous.  He should be.  His renal allograft is new, he has an infection and his immune system is compromised.  It’s a bad combination.  But I’m going to be positive.  I’ll emphasize that he is getting better, his white blood cell count is in decline, he seems to be eating and he isn’t coughing.  I intend to be reassuring, cautiously optimistic.  He’ll be looking for optimism ...
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A man's hand holding a sniper rifle
Because of the D.C. sniper, I get my first cell phone. A Nokia with impossibly small buttons. When I look up, my parents’ smiles are even faker than the ones in family photos. I’m twelve. Old enough to know they want me to be able to call for help. Last year was 9/11. We live sixteen miles from the Pentagon, and the CIA is around the corner. Since 9/11 we hold our breaths when we drive past Langley. Everyone’s afraid that’s next. But we’re wrong. This year some guy is shooting kids for sport ...
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Dog's tombstone with a statue of a dog
DEAR ZUCK, I THINK WE ARE GOING TO MAKE IT THROUGH THIS by Graham Oliver death of a pet coping with death of pet where to take pet body where to take pet corpse pet burial can i bury my pet in a public park pet cremation affordable pet cremation what to do with pet ashes amazon urns what to do with pet ashes planting a tree at a public park rivers near me big lebowski ashes scene what to do with pet ashes bread recipes are cremation ashes edible are pet ashes edible whole wheat bread recipes Graham Oliver ...
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Four sheep staring into the camera
A barn owl croons across these drunken hills and every song inebriates. The world stumbles, sinks in sleep at a magic spell, strewn, until the sun-god again snaps its burnished tendrils and wakes the earth with shine. Just as literature is language charged with meaning (Ezra Pound), rural is expanse charged with life ...
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Young man with an arrogant expression on a fire escape
Daisy has this boy that none of us like. She says they aren’t boyfriend girlfriend but he sure acts like it’s more than a hookup when he texts her things like, where are you? and i miss you much right now baby. Daisy tells me she likes the way he takes control. Like on their first date, he put his hand on her chest and she pushed it away cause she’s “not that kind of girl,” but then after a few more minutes he tried again and she let him. “I wouldn’t like that,” I tell Daisy ...
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TWO FLASH FICTIONS by Mercedes Lawry
In the pink glimmer streaking the bottom of the sky, crows stuttered east in pursuit of their resting place. The woman looked up and thought how they seemed right where they should be and sure of the journey. She was not. If this was a journey, it was a fractured, unsure turmoil of one. And the end of it might be soon and brutal and would erase everything that had gone before ...
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BECAUSE I LOVE HER by Erica Plouffe Lazure
Because I love her we will cross four states and a time zone to find a Waffle House, because it reminds her of home, but “only the good parts.” Because I love her we will order the hash browns scattered, covered, chunked, and smothered, with a side of waffles as big as the browns themselves. Because I love her we will sit on the same side of the booth, hold hands under the table, and down the hours-old coffee that holds a dull black pall even after six creamers ...
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Four red Chinese lanterns against a black background
I’m always sad when the gig ends. Three grueling weeks with a showroom crew I only see each spring and fall, preparing for the home textile market. I’ll especially miss the Flower Marys—a jubilant self-named group of gay men who fashion stunning floral arrangements. Peggy, Mary, Louise. Men whose real names I never learned or have long-since forgotten. Over time, a musician among them will marry the showroom designer. Others vanish into illness, addiction. The displays shrink, the crew downsize with budget cuts. But this warm spring evening, in the early aughts, it’s all still in place, and I’ve got ...
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The Matterhorn Mountain, Switzerland
Yasmina Din Madden lives in Iowa and her short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in PANK, The Idaho Review, Word Riot, The Masters Review: New Voices, Hobart, Fiction Southeast, Carve, and other journals. Her story "At the Dog Park" was shortlisted for The Masters Review Anthology: 10 Best Stories by Emerging Authors, and her flash fiction was shortlisted for the Wigleaf Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions of 2017 and Pulp Literature's Hummingbird Prize for Flash Fiction. She teaches creative writing, literature, and women's and gender studies at Drake University ...
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SHIFTLESS by Jason Irwin   
“He doesn’t want to work. He just wants to get drunk and grow his hair long.” I could hear my grandfather’s mocking voice as I stood beneath the rusted ass of a machine that roared and spit cranberry residue. It was the end of summer. I’d just returned from California, a cross-country one-sided love affair with a hippie woman and her dog that ended in disgrace when we settled in with her stunt pilot boyfriend in a San Fernando bungalow and I realized I was the third wheel.  I was twenty-six and going nowhere, back home and living with my ...
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Woman standing at a sink
You can live with something right under your nose, say a dot of mustard, without ever seeing it. Well, at least for a day. It’s like when you forget what shirt you’re wearing or if you’re even wearing one, terror absorbing you until you look down to find, just the same as this morning, you’re dressed in that blue half-sleeved puffy thing you never wear, and that’s why you felt an eerily unfamiliar cotton-graze on your elbow right before that moment of clarity ...
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Children sleeping
“Mom,” I call, “Steven’s sick!” It’s nighttime and I’m standing in the dark hall outside my bedroom, a long corridor that connects my room to my little brother’s. I am nine years old, and Steven is seven. The light is on in the bathroom at his end of the hall, it’s bright, the bathroom very white in the darkness. He’s thrown up in the hall just in front of the bathroom door. I woke up to the sounds of him heaving and the acrid smell of vomit. I hug myself, trembling in the cold ...
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Portrait of a deer
On a February afternoon, overcast and promising but lying about snow, we pull into the long driveway, slow past the patch going natural with volunteer cedar and white pine, slow along the wide frosty lawn dotted with Norway and spruce, down the driveway, so happy to be here, snowless winter or not, since crackly woods, big sky and a morning walk alone on the beach await ...
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TWO FLASH PIECES by Francine Witte
Mary counts the ships. Rodney has just broken her heart. “You’re like the ocean,” he points to the blue water carpet. “You will ebb and flow, you’ll see.” There are five ships. A mother duck ship and four little ducklets. Last night, the radio talked of an oil spill. “I hope those are rescue ships.” she says, “for the poor oily birds.” ...
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PENCIL ME IN by Hannah Harlow
On a rainy morning in October my son erased me during craft time at the library. We made a wind chime out of old spoons and gray yarn and colored beads in green and purple and orange and a jar lid with pre-drilled holes. The pencils were there to sign up for mommy/baby yoga the following day. A new three-year-old, Milo no longer qualified for mommy/baby yoga, but he still helped himself to a pencil. Ignoring the pointy end, Milo scrubbed the eraser over the ring finger of my left hand until the finger disappeared. Using my other hand to ...
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HUMAN HYDROPONICS by Isabel Theodore
A girl at a house show expresses surprise and delight that I was from the Philippines. Her academic concentration is in environmental studies. She talks to me about conservation pursuits for American students, on the rivers and shorelines. I say, ha ha, yeah, we could use the help. Too glib: she thinks I mean it, or she just thinks I'm mean. Two years from that moment I write tongue-in-cheek poems about my mother, who waded in those rivers simply to scratch the red welts leeches left on her skin. How when she visits home now the tap water makes her ...
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TWO FLASH PIECES by Valerie Fox
Instead of getting on the highway, Jake starts to drive deep into the woods, past the Savage Funeral Home and out 147, past Iona’s Country Bar. I can tell by now that this so-called spontaneous road-trip has been meticulously planned. I think, Iona’s in there, so is Lucky, so is Fran. I give a quick squeeze to my red rubber stress-ball. Jake’s got his box-cutter handy, for just in case we get into an accident and need it to free ourselves from our seatbelts ...
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ICEBERGS by Leslie Pietrzyk
Like you’re supposed to hate winter, with its cold and mountains of snow and how slip-walking on ice is a bitch and all that shit. Honestly, I love it. Honestly, I’d move to Alaska or the Arctic Circle or the South Pole if anyone would let me. In another life, I’d beg to be a penguin. Or a polar bear, except they’re going extinct ...
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BARCELONA ON A SATURDAY by Nicole Baute     
Over dinner the Brazilian painter says she doesn’t believe in time, or maybe she says she’s skeptical about the measuring of time—I can’t be certain as we meet haltingly between languages. We are painters and photographers and musicians and one writer, me, in a crumbling Catalonian farmhouse at the foot of a mountain that looks like a pile of noses ...
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TALENT AND LUCK by Yaki Margulies
Every night, after a long day spent creating the universe, God removes his talents from inside His chest, like a handful of featherless baby birds, glossy with blood, and lays them on the bedside nightstand before turning out the light. “He’s a genius,” everyone says. “What He’s done with the universe, it’s just great. Can’t wait to see what His next project will be.” ...
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DAVID BOWIE AND THE SPACE MOTORBIKE by Eleanor Levine
Last night David Bowie sent a motorbike rocket, the first of its kind, into space, with a man having anal sex with a woman. It has long been every female’s dream for a gay man to have sex with them ...
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TAKING THE BAIT by Ben Morris
When we couldn’t dance around it any longer, we set mousetraps and started imagining our two toddlers, Henry and Suzanna, losing their fingers one by one: limp pinkies crinkled like sun-wilt, severed rings, scattered middles, dirty orphaned pointers curling into themselves as if for protection ...
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ONTOLOGY OF FATHERHOOD by Luke Wortley
ONTOLOGY OF FATHERHOOD by Luke Wortley Apparently Jack just learned the basics of genealogy. The lowest, sturdiest limbs branching out from roots of blood not my own. When I picked him up from school today, amid raindrops the size of a newborn’s hands, he told me about Memaw and Poppy and how they were Mommy’s mommy and daddy. “You’re my daddy,” he says. “Yeah, buddy, that’s right.” Though this isn’t legally true, yet. The Sperm Donor, as Poppy calls him, is in Chicago contesting my petition. “And Mommy is my mommy,” he says. “Yup. What’s Mommy’s name?” I ask. “Katie!” ...
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TWO FLASH PIECES by Abbigail Yost
One is waking up in a bedroom that you do not recognize. The scent of coffee makes your head ache, but you cannot recall what it tastes like. And you don’t understand because you thought you liked coffee, but now you are not so sure. You feel panic as it fills your fingertips and clogs your throat. The patchwork quilt stifles you, makes threats against you. The newspaper tells victims to put up a fight, but whose house is this, and what if they do not react well to strangers who thrash around in twin beds that creak? ...
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TELL ME I’M DIFFERENT by Madeline Anthes
When we meet you will tell me you’re tired of the same old thing. You will look me up and down and see what you like. I will nod and tell you I know, baby. I will show you all the ways that I’m different. I like football and beer and steak ...
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KEYS by Kim Magowan
After I call Barney, I take a bath. I have my hair in a topknot, so it won’t get wet. But it’s been cold all day, and the hot water feels so good that screw it, I pull out the ponytail holder and submerge. It’s not like he hasn’t seen my hair wet 500 times before. It’s not like a date where you need to look your best ...
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THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE OF A GRIEVING WOMAN by Jennifer Todhunter
I lie on the couch wide awake, cramps gouging my uterus. In my stupor, I picture the trappings of a baby girl, her translucent skin, her nail-less fingers, her snake-coiled legs. She has Jake’s smile, I think, the way the edges of her lips twist up, the way her left cheek dimples. I wonder how her laugh sounds, if it comes from her belly like his ...
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WHILE THE IPHONE WAS IN RICE by Jennifer L. Hollis
Waiting for a table at the diner, I won round after round of I Spy with my son. I spy with my little eye something green (the 7-11 sign across the street), something ephemeral (the time between now and when this boy will be too heavy to carry to bed), and also something getting truer (there is no silence left in this world) ...
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CREATIVITY SCHOOL by Jeff H.
How am I supposed to know that? Maxwell thought. He didn’t go to Escher Middle School or the Dalí Institute like the rest of them. He hadn’t learned underivatives or nonce poetry or taken any anti-rhetoric! Frustrated, Maxwell scrawled “Why don’t marshmallows have bones?!” for the first question, and for all the rest he drew faces with tongues sticking out ...
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THUNDER IN THE RAINDROP by Samuel Lieb
A police siren echoes through the valley as a yellow bird I’ve never seen before glides into view from behind the mountaintops. The bird makes a sharp outline against the blue sky as it floats downward in loose, lazy zig-zags, almost too close to the treeline ...
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BOYFRIENDS FOR MASOCHISTS, OR  DON’T DATE A POET UNLESS YOU’RE SEEKING KARMIC LESSONS by Beth Bilderback
Named after a 19th century British novelist by his professor father he was a boy I’d never noticed until we were grown and his mother told me he was far from home in his first real job and lonely I should write she said and so our seduction began with letters by two people who knew how to write them then emails then phone calls where he’d hold the phone up to Louis Armstrong playing on the Victrola he’d bought instead of paying rent ...
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COOP by David Nolan
Martha screams and runs to the bank of the cow pond when she sees her four-year-old boy walk into the murky water. His head is submerged by the time she arrives and her husband, running from the horses, peels off his shirt and dives in. She screams her son’s name for what feels like hours to the sky doming endless Oklahoma plains ...
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THE BONE PLATE by Jacqueline Gabbitas
She took the partial denture from her mouth and passed it to the boy. He’d lost two teeth in the scrum to leave the boat and even though the gum had healed it was hard for him to eat. He stared at it like it was a thing alien. She nudged his hand and, smiling, gestured with her own what to do. She was not an old woman, and so he wondered how she’d lost the teeth herself. He saw in her eyes tenderness and the knowledge of being hungry ...
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DESTIN by Ron Riekki
It was a cold afternoon in Florida.  December is often occupied by a pain-in-the-ass wind, but today the air was relatively humbled.  This was after I’d just finished EMT school and was nearly fifty-years-old, the alcoholism under control again.  My partner was a child, a teen who wouldn’t let me listen to the radio, insisting that he play some sort of robot music on his telephone.  He was hyperactive with sleep deprivation.  We were on a twelve-hour shift.  The cows off to our left weren’t eating grass, weren’t walking, weren’t sleeping, were just standing there with a sort of monstrous ...
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NUMBERS by Joshua Wetjen
“What is the lowest number?” my daughter asked. “There is no lowest number,” I said. “I know,” she said. “It’s zero.” ...
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THE AUGUST TEMPLES by Jennifer Solheim
In the photo half my face is showing but the focal point is a streak of silver white. I dye my hair dark but last year when I began growing out my pixie haircut, I let my temples keep their natural color. I had cut my hair short when my daughter was a toddler and I couldn’t stand a thick knot at my nape. But time was passing. My hair was growing. I was about to go for a run and when I tied my hair back I liked the look of it, the distinguished white and gray streaks ...
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BEING THE MURDERED ACTRESS by Cathy Ulrich
The thing about being the murdered actress is you set the plot in motion. Your picture will be in the tabloids, your parted mouth, your half-closed eyes. She was so beautiful, people will say. So young. You’ll be loved, desperately. Photos of you cut out of magazines, pasted on bedroom walls; your name tattooed onto forearms, upper thighs. I’ll never forget her ...
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BARREN by Lynn Oseguera
I walked in my grandfather’s garden while my sisters took their turns saying goodbye. The peony bushes, now barren, were my grandmother’s favorite and, for her, he had always tended them. She had long forgotten who we were, but just that morning had told my sisters and I how much she missed peonies in the springtime. I walked past her still staring at the empty bushes through the window when I came inside to take my turn ...
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A HISTORY OF WASHINGTON, D.C. IN NINE SCENES by Nick Kolakowski
A HISTORY OF WASHINGTON, D.C. IN NINE SCENES by Nick Kolakowski June 1792 My Dear Elizabeth, This is beautiful country. The hills are a verdant green & the river Potomack bountiful with fish & amenable to navigation & it seems agreeable that the Capitol of our new nation should find itself erected on this spot. Yet the ferryman conveying me across the muddy waters displayed a surly nature worthy of Charon. When I informed him of my intent to survey the boundaries of the federal district, he snorted & spat & declared the area a fetid swamp unfit for Civilized ...
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THE BODY THAT ENSURES SURVIVAL by Erin Blue Burke
This is what you do when you are out of diapers: you go to the store.  You go to the store because your husband is out of town and can’t stop by on his way home from work.  You go to the store despite the news warnings, despite the way the air has sunken into a disquieting yellow.  You go to the store because last night the baby cried for two hours, kept you up from one to three, before you finally pulled him into your bed and placed him on your husband’s side, nestled him in a pillow that ...
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DISCONNECTED by Hedia Anvar 
When the seabird completed its third circle, the only cloud in the sky parted in two just as you said it would, and once the topmost layer of sand, thin like a vapor, blew across the beach and into the sea as an enormous wave collapsed on the shore, there you stood, like you’d been swimming under the wave all along, your trunks glistening black as you stepped forward, above me, your hair dripping cold sea on my sun-warmed skin, the two of us alone on the beach, pretending we’d been there together since morning, you swimming while I bathed ...
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THE CAT APOCALYPSE by Mariah Gese
THE CAT APOCALYPSE by Mariah Gese When it happens we are prepared. The way we know it’s a real apocalypse: the portents of headless voles on our pillows. We divine it in the depths of carpet vomit, in the bones of small birds they bring us. The glorious future in the spilled water bowl. If it wasn’t meant to happen, then why the adorable begging eyes, containing within them the tantalizing fullness of our futures, round and perfect, like globes of sweet fruit that grow huge and pop on the vine? Why the delicate rasp of tongue, the ephemeral curl ...
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I AM NOT JEREMY LIN by Christina Sun
I was driving smooth along I-205 in the brand new GS F Lexus because I needed a car, not a bike, according to my parents, and Brad’s asking me, “Jeremy Lin? Like the basketball player?” because maybe Brad was wondering if I was the point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, but he didn’t want to be racist in case I wasn’t and he was also trying to sell me this car and silent rides weren’t good for a sale. I explained that while my name was Jeremy Lin, I was in fact, not the point guard for the Brooklyn Nets ...
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LADIES’ NIGHT by Erin Pienaar
It’s inevitable—they order wine for the table and the topic turns to death. Three drinks in and they’re all tipsy and tender. Ladies’ night out isn’t supposed to be about death. It’s about looking and acting alive—youth and vibrancy signaled by rouge on the cheeks, pink on the mouth ...
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Reading glasses, dentures, and old china plates laying on a wooden surface
He started with her teeth because he was sick of the expensive foods she’d eat: crusty breads, chewy steaks, stubborn fruits bitten off their pits and stems. When he first told her, she was outraged and not at all compliant. But he knew her better even than she knew herself. She would come around, and she did. She was in pain for weeks but never complained. They ate soup three times a day and saved about fifty dollars a month ...
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Person's face half-submerged in a pool of water
The floor of my Honda is maps stretched wide, the radio all static as I pass rusted mailboxes, farmland, orchards. Leaves are flushing orange—soon much of this scenery will break and fall. The plummet of fruits from boughs, the thick perfume of ripeness ...
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The Blue Boy, Painting by Thomas Gainsborough, 1770
Gloria Mastroantonio’s hair, like long coils of blood sausage, clung netted to the back of her head. Tucci, she said, was a bastard for opening that dive next door. Go-go girls in cages dangling from rafters. Streetwalkers with skirts up to their asses. The projects puking tizzones into the avenue. Drinking, doping, carousing all night. In the morning, sidewalks treacherous with smashed quarts of Colt 45. She’d give them Black Power. Time to stick the For Sale sign in the yard and poor-mouth out to the suburbs like the rest of the greenhorns ...
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Person standing against a blue sky, holding a circular mirror in front of their head
It was one of those days, those clear May days, where the clouds are short brush strokes of white, the sky is that one shade of blue, and the water is so clear the world above and below becomes one on the surface. We were walking by the river and we saw ourselves in the water, laughing and living. We saw ourselves, and we stopped and waved and yearned. We wished to be them–what made them better than us? ...
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SENESCENCE by Jonathan Cardew
It was midnight or a little after when the octopuses emerged from the ocean. They were doing it all along the beachfront. Suction-cupping their way away from water. Their bodies like a curtain’s hem—fluttering in the foreign air ...
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SHAFT by A.E. Weisgerber
The Torn Hat operates as a lunch counter from 10 am to 2 pm. The wood is petrified and glossy, like the Legion Hall’s. Walter arrives. The special is a ham sandwich, a pickle, a glass of beer with a refill for two dollars and fifty cents. The butter is in an open dish. Walter is a man’s man. He will talk about the Yankees, the traffic, Gordon Parks’s film. He delivers bread. Walter’s got a route. He saved five men in Korea. They are not close but they are best friends. His wife—he loves her—tried to throw away his ...
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Half of a grapefruit against a yellow background
I go grocery shopping for Mom. Her face bandaged, she remains in the car and hands over the list. She has done it to herself and yet, being seen in public is not an option. She tells me to only buy grapefruits if they're less than a dollar a pound. I buy them anyway. I take the scold ...
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SPLINTER by Susan G. Bouchard
It’s what your arms did when you fell on them, your bones osteoporotic from the decades you haven’t spent taking care of yourself.  You like to say that you get more than enough calcium from all the cheese you eat, but it’s childish logic for a mother to offer.  We both know why this happened.  We knew the inevitability of this catastrophe, we just didn’t know how it would manifest itself ...
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FILTER FEEDING by Ploi Pirapokin
Hours before the British surrendered, Japanese soldiers entered the school being used as a hospital at the front lines. They bayoneted wounded soldiers incapable of hiding, gang-raped the nurses, and mutilated every single person inside. Carcasses were left out like empty s ...
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TWO FLASH PIECES by Taylor Lorenzo
When you reach the top, do not ring the bell. Keep climbing. Don’t stop until you have broken through the roof. The air will be cool when you take your first gasp of breath on the other side. You will notice you have not broken through the shingles of the roof. Instead, you’ll find yourself in clean-shaven grass. In front of you, there will be a golf ball tee. Place your chin on the tee and let go of the rope ...
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MISVENERATION OF THE SAINT OF LOST THINGS by Nikki Stavile
Toni is a German shepherd. She shares my father’s name. She’s choking on Italian leather shoes and I take her out on the front porch. The utilities man brandishes the shutoff notice. He mistakes the red Fiat X-19 for my father’s girlfriend. The prospective tenant mistakes me for my father’s secretary. In the house, there is a flaming oven, which I mistake for a family argument. My baby sister totters from the half-baked rum cheesecake. I mistake her for my father’s ex. My father mistakes my middle sister for a lesbian. He mistakes me for a Christian. He presents me ...
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TWO FLASH PIECES by Fabio Morábito  translated from the Italian by Curtis Bauer
My friend BR gives me the manuscript of his novel because he wants to know what I think. I read it and we make plans to meet in a café to talk. The novel is mediocre, like almost everything BR writes. I give him my critique, which essentially rests on one problem: he tries to maintain too much control. As if he were afraid that the story he’s telling wasn't enough for a novel, he stretches out his descriptions and rambles on ...
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FROM NORTH DAKOTA TO MANITOBA by Sylvie Bertrand
Oh, it will never happen here, the nurse says. If she is concerned, she is too nice to show it. Everyone is so nice here. The nurses, the lawyer who helps us with the paperwork, the people from the refugee center who bring us clothes; even the doctor, the surgeon who amputated all of our fingers, except for one of my thumbs, is a really nice man ...
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LABELING by Yuki Yoshiura
On the Mason jar she pasted a product label so as not to create any bubbles beneath it. The jar was made of extra-thick brown glass that distorted vision like coke-bottom spectacles. The label thus enabled the public to quickly pick the one they wanted. She was proud of her job. She put back the jar on the conveyor belt ...
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FIVE STARS by Marie Baleo
“Women shouldn’t drive,” my chauffeur tells me ...
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FINNISH BLACK BREAD by Eric Wilson
Back in 1962, German was still a popular graduate major at Stanford. The world was different then. That entire summer, Mary Lois and I turned out to be the only two grad students who’d stayed in town. We saw more of each other than I might have wished ...
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WAITING FOR THE GLUE TO HOLD by Lorri McDole
“Ow! Shit! MOTHER of the dear LORD!” My teenage daughter flies into the kitchen at this Sunday morning blasphemy and then freezes, as if the knife is meant for her. I freeze too, shocked by a surge of envy. I miss being her. Miss flirting with waves instead of the undertow ...
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STORM WATCH by Greg Jenkins
He was a little boy, and the sudden, spectacular storm had frightened him. Kenny had seen storms before but none like this. Lightning forked wickedly outside the trembling window, and thunder boomed inside his head, his chest. Torrents of rain lashed at the house ...
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EXIT STRATEGIES by Lise Funderburg's Id as told to Lise Funderburg
Holiday party season is once again upon us—a time of dough-forward cookie trays and ornamental cabbages, of feigned interest and conversational quicksand. This year, why not ride the crest of incivility that has taken our nation by storm? Say what you mean. Say whatever you feel like, then get the hell out of Dodge. Examples follow ...
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EVERY DAY WITH HER (NEW YORK CITY, 1982) by Michael Backus
Speed-free for two days now and stuck waiting on the 116th Street A train southbound platform with a hard two-train hour down to my job at the Gansevoort Meatpacking District, I have this packet I got at the bodega at 113th and Broadway, this over the counter Ephedrine bullshit in its bright blue waterproof packaging, and this is what I'm reduced to, trying to pound two little pills to dust without splitting the plastic, using my fist against the greasy wooden subway bench, and though there are five or six other people waiting, no one is going to say anything ...
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TWO FLASH PIECES by Mercedes Lawry
The wind hesitates, the sky like to sing, so blue. Tiny Boy writes his name in dirt, slow and careful. The Lockett’s hound jitters in dream and the same old flies circle and circle. The day is Thursday and Tiny Boy will eat his dinner with Gran, pork chops he hopes, and applesauce. She don’t make pies anymore which is a loss to all concerned, meaning Tiny Boy and her church-friend, Marla. Down the street, shirts hang on a line in the backyard of a house gone empty months ago. Bleached now, in sun streaks. Tiny Boy tries to whistle ...
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EXCERPTS FROM SISTER ZERO  by Nance Van Winckel
The slow snow first and then the hard snow with left and right men shoveling, cars swerving, stalling, spinning out, and drip by drip the icicle daggers sharpening, waiting to descend as we women lug logs up the porch steps and the dogs slink off, shivering, tails between their legs ...
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WE ARE ALL HUMAN, EVEN ON THE SOUTH LAWN IN 1972  by Heather Bourbeau
Am I sweating? Goddamn Jack Kennedy, may he rest. I never cared about the faults in my face before that SOB. Thank God for Pat. Smile, shake hands, remember key points: differences, future, enemies. Smile. “Hello, hello.” Smile. Breathe. Do not bob your head. Clasp hands behind. Clear throat. “Ready?” Yes. OK. Breathe. “Mr. Vice President...” Shit, my nose itches. “As we look to the future.” Forget the fucking nose, Dick. “We must realize that the Government of the People’s Republic of China...” You are announcing history. “We will have differences in the future...” This, this will be my legacy ...
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TWO FLASH PIECES by Leonard Kress
There must be more of them than you suspect, here in the Midwest—maybe every tenth, every fifteenth woman you pass. Those who used to ride clinging to some guy’s leathery back, bruised and battered and passed from one biker to the next, and then re-applying makeup in the fender’s reflection. Like the one who dropped by my office last week, her second skin peeled back to reveal her trinity: Harley, Triumph, BMW. Her name was Lorca, after Garcia Lorca, I hoped, imagining one of his dark Gypsy ballads recited at her conception ...
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THE BUGGY by Reggie Mills
The kid rides the dad’s buggy fast and quick. It’s him and her in the buggy with the handlebar and the seat he sits in with the kid standing at his back. He’s got a rare type of osteoporosis that only affects men, see, and though it hasn’t been diagnosed he knows this is what it is. He’s seen the weird hunched-over ladies with their reusable totes lugging veggies and fruit back and forth. Each time he sees them he thinks, You and me both, sister. The symptoms haven’t yet showed but he knows it’s coming. He can walk just ...
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64 SALMON by Becca Borawski Jenkins
As he trudged through the water-logged grasses, the weight of the canoe’s bow suddenly doubled in his hand. When he turned to look aft, his daughter knelt in the mud. "Are you okay, Monkey?" he asked. His neoprene waders hobbled him and kept him from rushing to her. "Why does it have to be so dark?" She shook mud from her hands as she stood ...
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I GREW A MAPLE TREE by Christopher Rodrigues
I grew a maple tree behind my shutter board house. It blossomed despite the stuffed weave of city streets. The first time I saw it, a single leaf had sprouted and turned its face to the sun. Those rays of light that the leaf caught fed the single branch, which pushed against the cobbled patio, displacing old bricks. It is a waking giant, I thought ...
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WHEN TWO BROTHERS ARE THE SAME AGE by Alex Eaker
We let our socks sear on hot concrete. Twelve laps around the pool then we jump in. We splash dead frogs onto each other and croak with towels around our bony shoulders, shaking like biology class skeletons. We put our pruned palms together, trying to align the ridges against one another. Connected by skin, we smile ...
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PayDay candy bar with the title of the piece on the top and bottom of the image
Inside the Piggly-Wiggly, picking out beans, P-Nut suppressed the headache brought on by the bruise on the back of his neck. He’d gotten the bruise from the can of beans that his wife chucked at him, before it bounced off him and clattered into the sewer. So he walked away to fetch them the dinner of the can of beans. Was it the same can of beans that she would then chuck at him? He was losing track. But he knew this: Van Camp’s was the right kind. Hormel was not the right kind. The red stamp and the dent ...
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Silhouette of several tall palm trees against an orange sunset with the title of the piece in the top left
The orange sticky-note is hard to miss—the corner peels off, pricks me as I pluck it from the headboard of my bed. Your handwriting is large and round. ‘I hope your interview goes well tomorrow. Remember to be yourself!’ I toss it into the garbage and get ready for bed. The next morning, I pause in front of the mirror and I dig the note out of the bin before shoving it into the pocket of my dress pants ...
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ONE MINIATURE GAMEBOOK by Drew Knapp
Sylvia works stain into peeled orangewood counters while the sunset peeks in muted veil through kitchen window milk glass. The month of flowering is nearly finished and this barren women has a wedding to attend. Too stressed by her own state of affairs, she daren't dream herself into any others—she for(goes/gets) the gift ...
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THE CATALOG PEOPLE OF 1978  by Joshua Jones
It is August when her boyfriend, the pornographer, takes her to the beach with her two boys, one pale like her, the other dark. They bring beer and bologna sandwiches in a crinkled grocery bag, lay stolen motel towels out across the sand. The boys dart off into the surf, shrieking, laughing, ignoring the Pacific chill ...
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FOR EVERY TOWN A WITCH by Kristin Bonilla
A burning witch on midsummer eve smells like campfire, like tobacco, like men standing in a circle as they smile and sing. She is only an effigy, a cartoon with her green skin painted onto her plywood face, her body a sack of coarse black fabric scraps stitched together and overstuffed with hay. She rides a broom and has a long warty nose that was carved by hand. The time it took to give her two warts instead of one ...
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IN THE ARMS OF AN ELECTRIC EEL by Anna Keeler
Most people think electric eels are eels when they’re, in fact, knife fish. They’re solitary, shallow, made with enough electrolytes to kill a man. "They can kill a man, but not themselves. Sometimes, they wish that they could." Cadence was always saying I never listened to her, when the truth was, I heard everything. I listened while she rambled about the oceanology books she’d brought home from the library, her actual courses festering in her backpack. She’d cook me ramen or sprawl out on the floor with her sketchbooks, drawing herself into more contained circles. Indie music would flow through ...
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WILD HARES by Hillary Leftwich
The girls never kissed the boys. The boys that walked down the hallway in packs, smelling of Cheetos and drugstore cologne. The girls never went to school dances, out to movies or late night pizza. They never wore jewelry. Never a spot of makeup, their skin fresh like new snow. If their mama caught them trying on her church heels they were beaten. They never showered with the other girls in gym class but they snuck glimpses of their breasts. How their nipples were large and not pink like their own. They wore plain dresses in forgettable colors: beige, olive, ...
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THE DIRT BENEATH HER PLANTS by Tara Isabel Zambrano
Have you tried Amma’s ghosht tarkari and ghee paranthas? Oh you must. Succulent lamb chops served in earthen ware while Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle croon through an old radio. She runs a dhaba, a roadside food stall not far from Yamuna Expressway. Next time you are on your way to see the Taj Mahal, you should try her food. The cauliflower and carrot sabzi is sold out in an hour after she makes it. Potatoes, carrots, onions and cauliflowers grow in her backyard. She doesn’t bother with tomatoes because they require a moist soil throughout the year and water ...
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THE FIRST TIME by Sara K. Bennett
I left a bouquet of fake flowers tapped to Water Wheel Stand's door in memory of Sharon and those long fall afternoons when I lugged pumpkins from the refrigerator truck to the trailer for customers, the afternoon when I was hyper and jabbering about the current rewrite of my book and how she turned to me and said, "Sara, you need a boyfriend", the summer Saturdays of handing boxes of plums, pears, tomatoes, and green beans out of the truck to open for the morning, the fall evenings my brother would pick me up from work and help us close ...
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WHILE TRYING TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO MOVE TO A REMOTE AREA OF MICHIGAN, I ATTEMPT TO CONVINCE YOU TO BUY A TINY KNOCKDOWN HOUSE UNDERNEATH THE EL  by Krys Malcolm Belc
We’ve had these fights before, the ones in which the decision we make means a lot more than the thing we buy, or don’t buy. Take our car, for example. We almost divorced deciding whether to buy a car to fit five or six; in the dealership while our older boys climbed into and out of fresh trunks you drummed your hands on your pregnant belly and stared into backseats that couldn’t handle any more of us. When we took our shiny new five-seater home it spent its days on our corner, where we could watch it from our living ...
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TWO FLASH PIECES by Marc Harshman
He walks under an onyx set of moons whose one good eye blinks like the cherry top called to that last moment in his old life. Yesterday, the warden warned the leaky faucet would not be tolerated, and so it became the last domino to topple, and how true they all fell.  Now he draws on his jeans under the mirror of clouds.  It was time to reset his watch, as well, the cheap Timex from Aunt Alice, set it to a more auspicious hour—perhaps Twelfth Night off Dame Street in a drawing room where they were dancing in quadrilles ...
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SNAKE by Nadia Laher
She found it under her bedside table curled like a sleeping black snake. She stared at it for a second, then grabbed it and ran back down the stairs, thinking maybe this would save them. But when she flung open the door he was already gone, and then it was just her squinting into the bright sunlight, holding an old belt in her hands like a sad wish ...
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ESCAMBIA by Donald Ryan
We pulled off at the fruit stand halfway between the hospital and the funeral home. “The peaches are in season,” Father said to Mother in the passenger seat. “It was just like he was sleeping,” my aunt said to herself in the back, her eyes never leaving the rear window. With the exception of my aunt, we got out of the car. Mother leaned on the passenger door. Father examined the stacks of wicker baskets piled on the makeshift plywood table. “How much for a bundle?” ...
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CARTOGRAPHY by Emily Paige Wilson
Morning makes itself bluer by the minute. Colder, too, as the temperature falls. In my friend’s apartment, we sit in her breakfast nook while the bay window lets in light. Steam rises from white plates, broccoli omelets and the scent of garlic and salt. My friend lists places in the tourist district we’ll visit today, leads me to an expansive map stretched across a wall. The Czech Republic’s outline etched in black. All the country’s borders linked and locked by land; the Vltava a thin, persistent reminder of thirst twisting through. She points to Malá Strana, the John Lennon Wall ...
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TRUE SALT by Elizabeth Schmidt
Today I walk past boys and their mothers. I’m parallel to them as they disobey traffic laws and take risks. I remember my mother telling me to ‘look both ways’ while I watch their heads remain constant and straight. This boy has a clear path, it’s safe even if he takes some risks. I’m eating a croissant and it’s burnt. If you burn a croissant even just a little bit it tastes salty. My boy left the taste of salt on my tongue and I guess he is a man. I’ve known the taste of true salt longer than I’d ...
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SELF CHECK by Danielle Dreger
March in Seattle roared like a lion, that is if a lion sneezed pink cherry blossoms and pelted your face with ice pellets the size of golf balls. It wasn’t global warming, it was spring. At least it felt like spring. Merrin had watched the Groundhog discover his shadow on television last month, so she was pretty certain that spring had sprung as she dashed from her car into the safe haven of Safeway in the middle of an unexpected hail storm. The damn cat had shredded her last roll of toilet paper and she was in dire need of ...
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ANATOMY LESSON by Christine Hennessey
Jessica unzipped the frog’s belly with a pair of sharp scissors. As its skin slipped away, revealing the jewels buried inside—heart, lungs, kidney, stomach—she tried to ignore the uneasy feeling in her own stomach, her heart’s reluctant sprint. When her biology teacher announced they would be dissecting frogs at the end of the year, Jessica protested the practice along with a few other girls. Her teacher, however, was not moved ...
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THE MAN WHO SWALLOWED THE MOON by Nina Sabolik
He’s in his bed, crying. Except for the blond tresses of the moonlight billowing through the open window, darkness reigns—in the corners, on the bookshelves, and in his heart. His pillow is soaked, heavy with tears spilling down the sides of his bed, covering the floor, slipping beneath the door out into the hall, into the street, a veritable deluge ...
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SALVAGE by Ajay Patri
The old man woke up when the five fifteen train thundered past his one-room house. The walls trembled and dust dislodged from the wooden roof and rained down on him. His bones rattled for a while after the train had given a final desolate hoot and moved on in its journey ...
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MORE by Youssef Helmi
I live in the middle of a really small pool in the middle of a really big room below a really circular hole in the really high ceiling. When the sun shines through the hole, the animals come and watch. When the moon shines, they go away. I don’t know where they come from, but, every morning when I wake up, they’re there. I’m not sure if they’re the same ones every day. They’re animals; they all look the same to me ...
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SEVEN PIECES by Karen Donovan
Candelabrum Lighting for your soul in purgatory, for deep nights at the end of the dock, for gravetenders on vacation, for the silencing of aspersions. Discounts for camping without a lantern, for al fresco dinners at the café of nevermind, for attending the flatbed truck parade, for packing a canyon with parabolas. Call for a second lighting tomorrow, for delivery of your complimentary rope ladder, for the flame annuity option, for your name on this grain of pollen. Twelve tapers included ...
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WHAT HE SAW and WHEN THE MOON WAS NEW by Karl Plank
What Phi Dees saw that morning may have disturbed him. At least he has not forgotten and has noted the way the memory prowls unfettered in his mind. What happened would seem to be a simple matter; indeed, natural. A neighborhood cat down low in the grass, inching toward the feeder, leaping through the air to bite a finch off its perch. No skirmish or even sound of a ruffle. There and then not. And the cat turning to look back in his direction. But what he saw was this: a view of himself, looking up from his reading, observing ...
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A TOAST and BEGGING FOR OUR LIVES by Marc Harshman
A red-stemmed vase of lightning lifts the sky toward heaven’s permanent farrago of space and time: heavy, religious, worth thinking about, we agree. God might rest easier tonight blessed by our toast, a toast raised above the fold, the mad superciliousness of the headlines, the narcosis of the many. Lincoln, you would’ve reminded me, lives on in the few. We do well, I might have replied, to thank the weather for this breeze, and that bottleneck guitar climbing those angelic blues might be the ultimate apotheosis, yet another reason to go on living as if this day might last forever ...
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THE HALF GLASS by Olivia Parkes
You could say that the fundamental difference between them was that she was a glass half-fuller and he was a glass half-emptier. Or that she drank water, and he drank ...
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FRACTIOUS by Geraldine Woods
Fractious was the Word of the Day, peeled off the doorstop-sized calendar block and stuck to the refrigerator door with a magnetized map of the London Underground, a relic of LBB. LBB -- Life Before Benny -- was Anna and Keith’s term for a time when their living room wasn’t littered with plastic toys and bits of food. Only eighteen months ago Anna had posted a photo of their freezer, filled with tubes of breast milk, on Instagram. “Our life now,” she’d written. “LBB is in a galaxy far far away.” They’d laughed, but Anna had thumped the next bottle ...
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