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

withered grey dandelion
FIVE WAYS THE WORLD ENDS by K.S. Lokensgard By Drought The year the rains never came, the ground dried up and cracked wide open. Dust settled on laundry hung in the yards and you appeared on my porch, hands clasped. In the fields, only the grasses survived, growing tall around our knees. There was a sense that it was all ending, but no one talked about it. When even the grass started to turn yellow, we knew. You stood there, folding a blade of grass in half and half again, squeezing each crease. From the stoop, we watched garbage drift ...
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A dark room with a bright window
INTERVAL by Sue Mell Nine seconds to warm the applesauce for my mother’s morning medication. To wrestle my fury, replace it with a light-hearted care. Even as a kid I shied away from her clinging hand; now her need for me is bottomless. Nine seconds to watch the red-bellied woodpecker hunch his body around the feeder, the sparrows scattering with bitter complaint. To mentally revise my steps for the most efficient diaper change—wipes here, Desitin there, the wastebasket cradled in the bars of the rolling table just so. Nine seconds to remember a time I had not taken this on ...
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three red pears on a blurred green background
THE HOUSE STILL STANDS By the time I tell him, it’s old news and too late, but that’s why I waited to tell. I needed to know. He stalks me through the house to ask all about it. Here? he says, and I say, Yes, and wince as his fist punctuates the hallway plaster. The white dust drifts down. It settles ...
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greyscale image of a little girl twirling in a garden
THE YEARS GO BY IN SINGLE FILE by Roberta Beary Maybe behind your house was a rock garden where you ran when your mother shooed you away where you loved the rosebush but hated the thorns and always the bees buzzing a secret you didn’t know but still it made you cry in the cubbyhole under the stairs where you could hear in the kitchen your mother tell her mother she was done having sex she didn’t care if he was her husband and what was he going to do about it anyway and maybe the years go by in ...
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an old chair on a rotting porch
WELCOME CENTER (Some Notes for Our Visitors) by Susan Frith 1. Greetings. Preachers, poachers, stargazers, we don’t much care who you are. You’re here now, so go on, take a key. See if it fits any of the locks. If so, the place is yours. (We’ll come to terms later.) It might be a three-story house with a turret. It might be the cleaning closet behind this desk. As someone famous once said, every key fits a lock somewhere. On why half the homes in this town are abandoned: We’re not sure. It was either a radon leak or pirates ...
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ENGAGED by Susan Tacent
You scratch because it itches. You’re over the moon with excitement. Good news always drives your histamine reaction and now you’re breaking out in hives. You drink a glass of water. You breathe, slow breaths, in, out, the way the yoga teacher and the meditation guru and the homeopathist and the ENT guy instruct. The itch gets funky, like a dance, up and down your arms, the backs of your thighs, a place between your shoulder blades you can’t reach. You ask Ben to reach for you and he says he won’t because scratching only makes it worse. If you’re ...
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NORTHWEST STALKER by Jan Stinchcomb
The truth is, she misses everything from those days, the skirts they wore and the bangs they had, side swept, always on the verge of disappearing, like youth. Like life. It all slipped away, as her parents had warned her, even the people. Girlfriends you thought you’d have forever, poof, lost to marriage or motherhood or minds suddenly changed. They didn’t want to be girls anymore. They moved to other states. They changed their names and lost themselves ...
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DON'T WORRY by Charles Holdefer
Squinting against whiteness the child left her mother beside the woodpile. With the sudden drop in temperature an icy crust had formed on last night’s new snow. “We’ll find it!” her mother called, watching the child walk on the surface while she stood shin-deep, clutching her stump to her breast. It was tightly wrapped in rags. Bleeding was stanched. The throbbing had slowed, perhaps due to the cold. But she was burning up, dizzy ...
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GRAB, SNATCH by Michelle Ephraim
The hospice nurse is gloves-and-salve practical. She says: your mother must want something from you. My mother can’t walk or talk. Her body is bones wrapped in reams of moth skin. Her brain works in insect twitches ...
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IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT by Brenna Womer
While shopping what’s left of the canned goods at the grocery store, an announcement at the top of the hour, robust and autotuned: “All employees must now perform a personal temperature check,” and I, in a pair of disposable vinyl gloves but not a facemask because Dr. Gupta says they’re unnecessary for the still- and now- and currently-healthy, holding the last can of Kroger no-salt garbanzos, recall they’ve always made this announcement, but two weeks ago they were checking the temperature of the meats ...
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TO LIFT US UP WHEN WE ARE FALLEN by Leonard Kress
There are three women installed in the living room when I arrive. Smartly dressed, young moms most likely, with highlighted loosely curled hair, gleaming toenails, and tailored pantsuits. All have open laptops and cell phones—new information and guidelines saturate the air. I arrive with a friend because this is where our weekly writing group meets, at Hope’s house—because she’s wheelchair-bound, and can’t easily secure a ride to our usual meeting places. The women are from the hospice—nurse, social worker, and gerontologist. It occurs to me that the more they deal with the dying, the farther away they get from death ...
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HARD TACK by Jamie Alliotts
It’s a damp, drizzly November night—Thanksgiving—and I can’t help but think of Melville’s famous orphan, who sets out from this insular city of the Manhattoes, goes to sea with branded Ahab, and eats hardtack with his shipmates aboard the doomed Pequod. ■ Blinky grew up on a cattle ranch in Miami. As a boy, he spent time in foster homes, on the street. He tells me about his father—then asks me to leave him out of it. Saw his mother for the first time when he was 12 or 13, around the time he started smoking crack. Saw her again—and ...
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restaurant scene with empty table for two
After we order the chicken for two, I run a theory by my friend Lois: certain professions are more conducive to being a good spouse than others. I’m not referring to practical considerations here, like the wear and tear a surgeon’s hours (both long and unpredictable) will inflict on her marriage. Rather, the same qualities that make people good at certain jobs make them decent spouses. “Architects, for instance,” I say, “like me. We need to be meticulous, we need imagination and long-range vision. Looking at a building pared to drywall and studs, we picture the pristine home it will ...
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long hair with flower petals
the first step is to love someone who will let you touch their hair. this is very important and cannot be avoided. next, to find them one day in their kitchen, shoulders so tense you think of cliffsides taut with stone—so you take them by the hand, pull them to their living room and sit them on the floor in front of their couch ...
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a plastic elvis figurine hanging from a car's rear view mirror
T NIGHT THE WOMAN’S DOORBELL RINGS. IN HER DOORWAY, THE MAN HOLDS HIS DOG IN HIS ARMS.   Is that a dead dog, she says, moving so the man can puncture her otherwise quiet house.   ...
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a parking lot space with yellow lines
The first of my brother’s birthdays that he wasn’t there for was three months and two days after he passed. He would have been twenty-two on the 22nd day of June, but he wasn’t. We let twenty-two lanterns go over Shanksville school ...
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open closet with hanging clothes and the torso of a mannequin on the floor
“This closet can hold many dead bodies. At least fifty.” That was the first thing I told my roommate when I first met her. The closets in our bedrooms really are huge. They are wide. They are tall. You could stack corpses up in there like sacks of rice. One on top of the other, rows of stacks. Many tall stacks. Not moving, not breathing ...
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a ball of crumpled paper
The children make a ball the size of a cantaloupe out of looseleaf paper and book tape. They throw it across the classroom, not listening to my adult cries of “Stop it!” All I want is quiet. These children don’t know how to behave. They are boisterous and loud, and I wonder what their parents would do if they were left alone with them for five minutes. I don’t even want to be here with these children. I am substituting, a thing I do when I am only left with ramen and frozen corn in my larder. Substituting is the ...
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rear view of person in yellow slicker on snowy sidewalk
I saw it happen before I heard it. My phone dropped from my grip, pulling my earbuds out and to the ground with it. A cellist played in my head. My breath hot, fogging and unfogging my glasses. I licked my chapped lips before doubling over to retch onto my rubber boots ...
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WELCOME TO MY GALLERY OF GENUINE LOOK-ALIKES by Anne McGouran
WELCOME TO MY GALLERY OF GENUINE LOOK-ALIKES by Anne McGouran 1 That grating drone is the wind off Nottawasaga Bay whipping along Main Street. The Freshii outlet just duct-taped their front window and Happy Hooka Bait & Tackle closed one hour early. As I struggle to stay vertical, a Gandalf lookalike falls into step beside me. We walk abreast for several blocks and I stare at his perfectly shaped cigarette ash. He turns into the Molly Bloom Pub where he’ll trot out his magic-cigarette-ash bar trick for all the old vets and rooming house drifters. In the Arboretum, a man ...
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dancing flames
The fire writhes, manic in a straightjacket. I too feel an appetite for all things. I managed to open a bottle of beer with two rocks – modern man and the fire in his belly. The beer rebels and foams, a harmless volcano. It knows its criminal, this beer ...
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Barren desert landscape
THE GREATEST LANDSCAPE HE HAD EVER SEEN by César Valdebenito translated by Toshiya Kamei In the summer midday, he was seated on a blanket in his underwear, with his boots on. His horse was five or six meters away while his gaunt dog Toby was asleep. He had turned on the radio and was listening to the news, but twenty minutes later he got bored. About fifty meters away his flock of sheep wandered. Robust, peaceful, and healthy, they kept grazing. He grabbed his rifle, which he had brought back from Pueblo Seco, Mexico a few years earlier. He had ...
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green toad isolated on white background
I’m a spotter. I’m good at spotting people, what their weaknesses are. I look for what feels familiar, it’s that simple. It’s that easy. I see you, gentle men and women. I see you. You may smile smile smile. Always smile smile smile. But all the time I’m waiting. Waiting for you to slip. I’m thinking about power. Always thinking about power ...
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underwater scene
Branching tendrils like spongy green fingers cling to surf-pummeled rock, doing their endless work of collecting sunlight filtered through silvery cloud. The air chokes and refreshes, rot and salt-scent both thick and invigorating. I pluck the seaweed fronds, Codium fragile or “dead man’s fingers,” from their nest amidst skin-slicing barnacles and mussels: they falter to human hands where endless pounding water could not break their holds ...
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Two gold wedding rings on white background
REDUX by Kim Magowan Meg’s first husband was a kind man. They’d been good friends before they started dating. On long walks Meg would complain to Louis about her boyfriend of the time. At some point she realized that Louis was in love with her; however, she wasn’t attracted to him. But she liked Louis so much, and she feared that he would find a girlfriend, whereupon his devotion to her would inevitably slip away. So Meg overcame her lack of attraction. She did this partly by imagining Louis as an art object. Things about him that were repellent, like ...
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street view, new orleans
I come in the back door from outside, where the cicadas whine as I take out the trash. This is the dirtiest place I’ve ever lived, my first home with my first husband who I am still not convinced will be my last, but some invisible thread binds us. We say this love will last forever ...
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young woman sitting at a laptop in a window
It’s raining? Just as well I didn’t go down for the Fiesta. I can get crappy weather here. But…I can’t get you. I miss you. I shouldn’t, I know, but I do. I want to see you again. That week I spent with you was among the best weeks of my life. Even though we didn’t do anything exciting or have any grand adventures, like my typical vacations, I enjoyed just being beside you and holding you in my arms. Even though I cried buckets on my walks—like I did the trip before, when I saw you for the first time in ...
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LARCHMONT CHARTER MIDDLE by Matthew Greene
LARCHMONT CHARTER MIDDLE by Matthew Greene Sometimes when I set up for the afterschool program in the multipurpose room, I see Miles skateboarding down the sidewalk, cutting class. Miles is in my fifth period writing elective but mostly he's not there. Mostly he's off somewhere in his red hoodie. Sometimes I look out the second story window of Mr. Creasman’s room, where I teach my writing class, at L.A.’s looming maw, the chattering raspado carts, the gathering haze. I imagine Miles in his red hoodie, at the LACMA, stealing a Picasso or Cezanne’s Still Life With Cherries, or getting a ...
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Kennedy motorcade 1963
LINES SO SHARP by Tommy Dean You stand on the balcony of this ancient castle looking down at the American President’s wife, eyes transfixed by the pearls in three rows against her neck like teeth sucked from the ocean. White gloves from fingertip to elbow separate her, mark her celebrity and off-limits. Your status from the arranged marriage affords you this glimpse, but it’s like a bird looking down at a lioness. Here, in India, the other young women chitter. And why not, you want to ask, but you’ve promised your husband that you won’t make any more scenes. This ...
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swingset - black and white moody shot
I want an easy swing, that parabolic arc over grass, weeds, garter snakes, grubs, snapping turtles, beer cans, rotten logs. My legs out, my head and chest back. My arms taut. My thighs and ass pressed against the ball of rope: extending joy. I want that stomach lurch and gravity unease; blood shivers. I’ll land and wave to the one who pushed me, and I’ll climb back up the hill or out of the water toward that woman I’ve dreamt of so often. My REM time melts into her: strange visions of roads illuminating before us as we ride our ...
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a lonely road at dusk or dawn
/ counting one one thousand two one thousand three one thousand four ; / and, then, standing, the woman says: / what’s the line? / and the first time i made love and the first time i made love and the first time i / bus plunges from bridge and eight die / in the paper that day / ...
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restaurant scene nighttime
I think about how I’m always depressed, which makes me more depressed, and I wonder if it’s because my friends (all 3 of them) have died and now I have to attempt to talk with someone who won’t be able to replace them but maybe could hold a candle next to them like that scene in Star Wars where the dead mentors are watching over Luke and that sister he kissed before knowing it was his sister (but we won’t talk about it) and that they’re there guiding me into this conversation with a stranger at a bar that may ...
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Abstract ghostlike image
It’s ghost time again, and my mother doesn’t know. But I know, and it shivers me like stone February to see this ghost that’s not at all like my father, who is lonely and clean-shaven. This ghost doesn’t give a hoot that my mother is asleep, but I’m not so sure she’d stop it, because if sleeping in separate rooms is any indication, my father hasn’t touched her in years. And that started around the time he lost his job and moved himself a sock at a time, a shirt at a time until he was gone ...
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black and white photo of yo yo
The yo-yo slams me in the teeth and I buckle to the ground. It makes the guys gleam to see me on my knees like this, like the women in the videos we watch who are always begging. Tyler grabs his blue jean crotch and says “Nice teats.” I am fatter than them, sure. Me and Tyler are thirteen. Ace, fifteen. About my weight, my mom doesn’t say that I’m a teenager, that I’m still growing. She says I’ll be as fat as my uncle Louis who died from stomach cancer when he was thirty-two. I was too young to ...
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child facing into the sunset
My grandson is five months old, and smiles as he orients to the burble of voices above him, the sounds we adults emit when we are making baby-talk.  We coo when we are cuzzling infants and raise our voices when addressing foreigners, as if the sound and tone of our speech will cue them to what we mean.  Someone should give us a talking-to, or, perhaps, a spanking ...
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Little girl with big glasses
The way she squints worries me, my mother tells the optometrist. In the dim room, sitting before the gentle doctor, being whispered to, One or Two? Three or Four? I learn a secret. My ability to see tiny things up close is superhuman. The doctor tells me so, not like she’s telling a child a complimentary fib, but like she’s embarrassed since it was the only word to use and it sounds silly ...
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a candle
After the house fire, the neighborhood boys searched the rubble.  A chimney teetered.  Cinders smoked.  Parents said it wasn’t safe.  Stay away.  The boys didn’t listen.  Treasures might be found.  A young couple had lived there.  Maybe a bra had survived the fire?  Maybe a blackened spoon? Only metal eyelets were found, shoes erased by flames, metal tarnished by heat so the eyelets looked like tiny ancient coins. The boys hid them in a hole by a tree.  Later, they remembered where.  Later, they didn’t ...
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Little girl in sailor suit looking down into street
Before Trying Your daddy took one look and said, “She’s beautiful—she looks just like me!” Funny, but no joke. He’d experienced mirrors, and mirror neurons, even if he’d never heard of the latter. It helps to have a handsome father because evolution makes babies look like their daddies so their daddies will know they belong to them and take care of their genes ...
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a pair of boxing gloves
Joe joined my gym when he started third grade so I pick him up after work and we bike over to Gifu Yokozeki Boxing Gym, companionable, Joe chatterboxing the whole way and throughout each session, Dada, Dada, his lungs propelling his eight-year-old voice, small, high, curious, into the ambient soundscape that includes whirring jumprope thwacks, heavy bag thuds, the quick rattling smack of the speed bag, the start and stop of the three minute timer, general shufflings and cracks and grunts, somebody yelling with every punch, somebody’s ragged panting breathing, my own. And because Yokozeki-san puts it on when Joe ...
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beach at night
When your father tells you he secured a flight for you and your husband and children, you don’t ask questions. You race home and fill up a suitcase with photos and heirlooms. You tell your three-year-old to grab a spoon and thank god that the baby is still fed by your breast. Your husband tells you to slow down so he can remember where he put the passports and you regret ever loving him. You wish you had more time to hug your mother and father. You wish your children would stop crying. Fraught but calm, you try to memorize ...
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A shriveled peach
A mother leaves her daughter in a highchair by the window, baking in direct sun. Eventually the child shrivels up into an old, brown decrepit woman. She expires quietly, motionless, in similar fashion. “Rats,” sighs the mother. Her child is unrecognizable. A dried-up peach pit in her hands ...
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WHEN THE FAT LADY SINGS by Meg Pokrass
"I'm too shy," I said. Back then he said he could make anyone’s confidence bloom, especially mine, and I said that if he ever could really pull this off, this would be his best gag yet. I chalked the failure up to his lack of creativity, but then I remembered that I was part of the act ...
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Chalkboard with math problems and symbols
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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Cat figurines with one hand held up
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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Zoomed-in coiled rope
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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