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

Pomegranate cut in half
“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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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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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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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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Copper pot steaming over open stove with iron teakettle
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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Black and white ball of yarn with two knitting needles
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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pile of salt
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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Frog anatomy
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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Alligator
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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intern
“Steve, Mr. Parker, in bed A over there, needs jugular vein access. His peripheral veins are shot from chronic drug abuse. You can handle that, can’t you? “ It was day one of my internship, July first. I’d done a couple of jugular vein punctures as a med student, under the direct supervision of a resident. But now I was on my own. “Of course,” I said with false enthusiasm. Jesus, I thought, already? It’s only nine a.m. I officially became a doc only two hours ago. I picked up the jugular vein access kit and headed for Mr. Parker’s ...
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WHAT IT IS, an experimental piece by Susan Fedynak, featured on Life As Activism
WHAT IT IS is how I hate my face. is how my face is amnesia. is how i love my face. is how my face is still amnesia. is waking up at 4am feeling like there is someone in the room, someone saying don’t forget me. is saying, ma, you know what the really effed up thing is, is how knowing where you come from is the privilege $99 and a mailing address gets you. is that the effed up thing is it isn’t a right. is buying your mom a dna kit for christmas. is what the hell is ...
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VISCOSITY by Allison Hall
I wore my grey dress to the funeral, the one with the scratchy sleeves. My tights had a hole under the knee that got bigger when I poked my finger into it. The coffin was closed and I wondered if Nancy looked like she was sleeping in there. There was a single white rose lying on top. I didn’t even know they made roses in white. A skinny lady with a stern face and a hat played the organ while everyone stood up and sang. I didn’t know the words ...
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IN EDEN by Hannah Lee Jones
In the beginning it’s just him and the silence. In the old college library, the wind pushes fraying leaves through the crevice under a door towards the center of a labyrinth of stacks, finds him crouched watching her read over a bottom row of books, her skin the pink of magnolias, her hair a mess. When she looks up he pretends to scan the shelf in front of him and she goes back to reading, enabling him to stare again, and this repeats several times until she straightens, circles the row to where he kneels searching for her face between ...
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THE ICEBERG IN FUTURE RETROSPECT by C. B. Auder
Because we swim small in a twinkling expanse, we should cling to the icy crystals of fact: The screech and gouge might last for decades, but hardly forever. The smash won't topple individuals so much as dance through generations. The Earth itself has weathered metaphors far more titanic. And it's unlikely the lower animals will sense climate change at all! ...
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Illustration of a submarine next to a giant red squid
Someone came up with this image. It was during the me-too chinwag after Mass And it was a mother’s voice. Later, I thought alone In my hull: What sort of submersibles Are we at home then, in Ohio? ...
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HARD DRIZZLE FALLING by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois
Peering out the window of the small, high-ceilinged room where schoolchildren once hung their coats, I see nothing but corn running a mile to Grandpa’s woods, the new ranch house of the city people and, across the road from that, Uncle’s Clarence’s farm, which my wife still wishes he had left us. The barn is falling in. We saw the first little breach in the roof appear. “Uh-oh,” my wife said as we drove by ...
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HOMMAGE À MACK SENNETT by Kathleen Rooney
The nightgown in the painting crosses genres: detective and farce. It has a partial body – breasts – but not a face. You could say it’s peekaboo. You could say it’s diaphanous. Either way, it reminds Georgette of how her husband uses recurring motifs to create a story, or at least a semi-story, for a story full of holes is a story full of mystery, a mystery like lace. How came Georgette to place herself here: married to Magritte and doting on their dear Pomeranian, Loulou? This question is without a clear beginning, middle, or end, like the short Surrealist ...
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TEACHING by Jason Christian
We all had our money on the metalhead. The fight was supposed to take place in the usual spot, three miles from town in a clearing in the woods beside an abandoned shack and a seasonal creek that happened to be dry that time of year. The other kid, a redheaded pipsqueak about my size, was mouthing off beyond what anyone predicted, and the metalhead, whom everyone kind of feared because of his long hair and self-inflicted scars and tattoos and silent teeth-gritting lack of interest in all of our classes, the other students, the football program, and just about ...
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ATLANTIC DYSTOPIA by Ray Scanlon
Halfway through my seventh decade I realize I have gained in modesty, at least in the sense of exposing skin. It is partly because I have a clearer vision of my nerd body's attractiveness. My face is a thing of no great beauty. My dear Cheryl refers, affectionately I believe, to my toothpick legs, and my cardiologist told us that my sunken chest added risk to the standard rib-cracking heart valve replacement procedure. There is little danger that the sight of my body will be inciting lust in the general public. But, mostly, I keep it well-covered because I'm a ...
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TORCIDA / ASKEW by Daniel Aristi
Torcida Se me puso ella fractal esta mañana, fractal, la cara toda triángulos & rombos & retorcida que se rompía. Pero ya que los mansos vamos a heredar la tierra quemada, esquivé sus reproches, grandes e infinitos como trenes carboneros…y yo, imbécil de mí, voy y me monto en uno, a lo errabundo, por discutir, porque son tan jodidamente largos y lentos, y me muero alto y claro en dos segundos. Ya incluso la cocina se sentía diferente, más lenta, como si estuviera bajo el agua. Y entonces miro al reloj y son las seis. La tía Rosa solía decir ...
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IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE END by Evan Anderson
No one really expected the world to end like this. For one thing, it took too damn long. People want bad things to happen like a pulled-off Band-Aid rather than the slow pushing of a knife. Instead, this is how it happened: gravity just plum up and left. Everything not tied down or deeply rooted floated away. Cars, umbrellas, little squirrels, everything. Big lakes seemed to erupt like geysers and their poor fish flapped and flailed in the atmosphere growing thinner and thinner and waited, with increasingly cloudy brains, for the splash that never came. People held their beloved family ...
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CONSOLATIONS by Doug Ramspeck
It is rarely what we imagine or expect, but always something burrowing beyond sight, hidden in the crevices or dreaming itself from the flurried wings of crows, my mother in the backyard setting down the tin plates of meat scraps or peanuts, the birds a frenzy of commotion. And here, beside us, is cousin Whitney, twelve that summer while my brother and I are eight and nine, and everything about her is simply wrong. Slow and stuttering speech. A staccato way of walking. Fingers touching even simple words she can barely read ...
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CUTTING CORNERS by Marya Zilberberg
For a butter knife it was sharp. My grandmother must have had it for a long time. Its blade was truncated by a fracture, rust collecting at the end of its one-inch length, at the site of the break. I was never sure if she kept it because of some sentimental attachment or a deep-seated sense of Soviet scarcity made more acute by the still fresh memories of the deprivations of the Great War, which was only two decades behind her. I was attached to my distorted reflection looking back at me from its heavy silver handle ...
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THE END OF WAR by Robert Wexelblatt
By the ninth year we believed it might never end and gave up trying to win it because trying to win a war is the surest way to make it go on; that is, when you try to win a war it’s only the war that wins. This was the sum of the wisdom we had achieved in nearly a decade; in fact, it was the solitary thing we had achieved in all those years of fighting and suffering. Now that we were pushing thirty we couldn’t bear that the war would go on and on, not just for another ...
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MOUSE MEAT by Rebecca Lee
MOUSE MEAT by Rebecca Lee “Let’s go downtown.” It’s the chant I hear every weekend. Downtown is where the lights are. It’s where the girls go. The makeup, the short skirts, the pot smokers and the boomboxes. They’re all there. “Let’s go downtown.” The teenage guy I have a crush on, Matt, is asking his friends if they’re going. His voice is slow, low, and slick like rain. They sit at the back of the bus and blast Sublime on a battery-powered radio. I’m twelve. He’s seventeen. It could happen if I wear the right clothes. “Let’s go downtown,” I ...
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NOBODY PLAYED THE GUITAR IN THE CORNER OF THE LIVING ROOM by Christopher David Rosales
NOBODY PLAYED THE GUITAR IN THE CORNER OF THE LIVING ROOM by Christopher David Rosales Not the husband heating the milk for the baby in the crib. Not the baby in the crib. And not the wife coming in the door from work. The cat didn’t play it. The dog couldn’t play it. The parrot on its perch cawed “I won’t play the guitar”. The French diplomat didn’t play it. Instead he smoked an e-cigarette beside the fireplace listening to the Spanish ambassador remark, “Nunca tocaré la guitarra”. The stunt man in white rode his motorbike off the balcony before ...
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BLUE: SMOKE: COTTON: TEETH: CAT: JELLY: BLOW by Anne Panning
BLUE: SMOKE: COTTON: TEETH: CAT: JELLY: BLOW by Anne Panning I rarely wear blue, but today there's a striped dress the color of rain in my closet. It's a pullover. I can hardly stand how good it feels against my bare knees, walking. When I lived in The Philippines, I became a party smoker. The cigarettes were menthol, loosely packed. The brand was called Hope. I quit. My sister works at a fireworks factory. She has to wear all cotton clothing, right down to the underwear. When I ask her what she does all day, she says, "the usual." One ...
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BOUNTY HUNTING by Karen Levy
BOUNTY HUNTING by Karen Levy They pulled up behind the others who’d just arrived and were piling out of their car, laughing. That was a long drive. Together, they walked toward the house. They all laughed except for her; she was very angry at her brother-in-law. There was a fishing boat out front. A sign led them away from the front door, to a backyard office, where a sunburnt man waved them in. Joe, he said. Nice tan, Joe, someone said and the others laughed. From fishin’, he said. He was a big man but he said it light and ...
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EMU ON THE LOOSE  by Thaddeus Rutkowski
EMU ON THE LOOSE by Thaddeus Rutkowski Not much was happening at the artists’ retreat (people were hiding in their studios; maybe they were working; maybe they were drinking) until the emu arrived. We didn’t know where it came from; no one came with it. Wherever it had been, it hadn’t been missed. It was a tall bird, between five and six feet from toe to head, and it was in no hurry. It ambled past the barn complex and stood on the dirt road. Those who saw it from their studios left their writing (or their drinking) and came ...
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THE LOVE NOTE by Svetlana Beggs
THE LOVE NOTE by Svetlana Beggs In 1988, when our city was still called Leningrad and kids wore red (always wrinkled) Young Pioneer’s scarves, my friend Natasha developed a crush on Yura, the tallest boy in 6th grade. She blushed whenever he walked near her, causing us to start feeding Natasha’s backpack tiny love notes bearing Yura’s forged cursive. I was the designated forger, Lida was the writer, and Polina the spy, but we jokingly called her “the assassin.” In two months we published seven short notes and made five crank calls to Natasha’s flat releasing Lida’s “deeply meaningful silence.” ...
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EVERYONE MEANS SO WELL by Lisa Piazza
EVERYONE MEANS SO WELL by Lisa Piazza By fourth period we can barely breathe. Each stir of the stifled air whispers glitter into sound. The struggle at the board is all mine: a virtue of verbs, the urgency of action. Who can tell the compound from the complex? Every phrase dependent on the next. Sophia whines from the second seat: keep it simple. One subject, one verb. It’s a plea. I pull a name from the book on their desks: Scout discovers. Jem grows. Keep going: Boo scares, Dill hides until Robert’s screech from the seat in the back corner ...
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YESTERDAY and TODAY by Addison Oliver
"Today" Today I put a bottle’s worth of anti-depressants in my mouth, thinking I might swallow them. I let them sit there for several seconds, cold on my tongue, and then I spit them into my palm. I did it again—put them in, let them sit, spit them out—and then a third time. They stuck together from saliva. I was afraid; I was gearing myself up; even this, I couldn’t accomplish. I imagined swallowing them, quite suddenly—do it!—the little slide over my tongue and the momentary bulge in my throat. But each time I imagined swallowing them, I became more ...
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LESSONS by Michelle Ross
LESSONS by Michelle Ross In the shed, the girl’s mother presents a hammer for the girl to examine. “A hammer is a lever, a simple machine. All simple machines reduce the push or pull force needed to move a load by increasing the distance over which that force must be applied,” she says. The girl slides a finger around the cold metal knob and along the thick claws. She recalls the purple hammer birds in Alice in Wonderland, how their heads seemed backwards. The claw end of a hammer more closely resembles a beak, after all; but in the movie, ...
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DOG MEMORIES by Doug Ramspeck
DOG MEMORIES by Doug Ramspeck It must be the stillness of a morning sky, the repose of grass in a field beyond a fence, or maybe the kitchen floor where my father is forever dying of a heart attack when I am five, fat doves singing outside the windows of our rental house in rural Ohio. It seems possible to remember the half-life of light on a leaf outside my childhood bedroom window in dead summer, to construct an impression from the mud of the river or the black clothes of the mourners, to dream an open maw of earth ...
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FUCKED & THE INNOCENT by Marc Harshman
TWO FLASH STORIES BY MARC HARSHMAN I. Fucked He is deaf from the whining scream of the chainsaw, and is sweating under a thinning, November sun. There must have been some way to avoid this hellhole in the Middle East. When he had seen the pictures on the screen last night, something had knotted in his belly. But here, at least, this morning, the work felt good, the bright, interior heart of the tree exposed like this. Fuck politics. There were wormholes. Some people liked them in their furniture. Antique. He was fifty-nine years old. And lately it felt old ...
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ACTION AT A DISTANCE by Chua Yini
ACTION AT A DISTANCE by Chua Yini He spots her from afar because of the turquoise dress that contrasts with her tanned skin. She is walking along the colonial streets of Phuket town, her sandaled feet treading on tiles embossed with traditional Chinese designs. As a matter of fact, so is he, but at that moment he forgets where he is. He is overcome by a peculiar floating sensation and forgets that his feet are grounded safely on earth. Newton postulated the theory of forces to explain gravity, and Leibniz criticized it as action at a distance—a mere miracle, utter ...
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AUTHENTIC TWAIN by Adam Shafer
AUTHENTIC TWAIN by Adam Shafer She handed me a gift. It had heft and permanence and was wrapped tight in a way I could never recreate and so I opened it with proper reverence. It was a second edition of Huck Finn, but I already owned a first edition. And she knew that. I had only brought it out at every party we threw for the first three years of our marriage. She’d promised me the gift of a lifetime and I’d gotten my hopes up. Again. She told me to open it, still beaming, still excited, still blind to ...
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STORM by Paul Crenshaw
STORM by Paul Crenshaw My daughters had wandered too far ahead when the storm came up suddenly in the mountains so I ran through the rain to find them. Thunder rattled off the sides of the saddles and rolled down through the draws like the announcement of some end. The girls were tiny things then, no more than 5 and 8, and each sharp crack sounded loud as the last hour of the earth. I ran past clefts not deep enough to be called caves where crowds huddled out of the rain, and I must have looked wild as the ...
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ECOTONE STRETCH by Diego Reymondez
ECOTONE STRETCH by Diego Reymondez A border between ecosystems is called an ecotone. It is a space where separate ecologies enmesh in a fade in and a fade out, and microclimates mingle. Wind and fur and legs can alter or transfer energy there and like a yin and a yang traces of each thrive in the other. My stroll home intuits scads of these. An apple falls from the canopy, brushing leaves down its way. When it arrives with a final thud against the ground I’m roused from a sleep where I dreamt of a proper bed. A sluice carved ...
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CANNED HAPPINESS by Sharon Kurtzman
CANNED HAPPINESS by Sharon Kurtzman Pancakes smiled at me. A mouth fashioned from whipped cream, edges melting into a golden face like a worn starlet’s lipstick. JT’s handiwork, the line cook known for his deep-U grins. I delivered the plate to a girl in pigtails. Pancake International was a favored breakfast spot for families whose kids played weekend hockey at the Garner Iceplex. A rapid-fire order from table five and my pencil skidded across the pad, but that whipped cream smile stuck. I blamed Mama. “Make your own happy, Lorelai.” Mama’s phone edict last week was meant to drown out ...
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OVER AND UNDER by Caroline Swicegood
OVER AND UNDER by Caroline Swicegood “Where are you from?” The question, which comes from a smiling white-shirted waiter with a red towel over his arm, is friendly and typical, nothing but small talk with a tourist, the way it generally starts. Sabine begins flipping through her mental rolodex of possible answers: with slightly olive skin, warm brown hair, and green eyes, with three languages perfected (and two of them Western, no less), with a French name, she can pass for almost anything. She used to tell the truth more than she does now. In Istanbul, she either got slant-eyed ...
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VOLTAGE by Kylie Lee Baker
VOLTAGE by Kylie Lee Baker Ivy turned the living room lamp off and back on again for the eleventh time when Hal finally looked up from his book. "Should I read somewhere else, darling?" he said. The worst part was that he meant it. Ivy knew Hal would gladly get up and read in the bathtub again so that she could toy with the lights until the bulbs burned out. What was left of Ivy's fingernails gnawed into the doorframe, her other hand limp across the lamp chain. She turned it off again because she couldn't look at Hal's face ...
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FLU, 1917 by Elizabeth Frankie Rollins
FLU, 1917 by Elizabeth Rollins The germ slips into the spaces, the interstices, trembles in the fingerprints, in the suspended spittle of a cough. It gathers and collects itself. It becomes something, again. There in the lungs and hollows of the human body, it grows and blooms. Greedy and bountiful, it burgeons and spreads and insinuates. Hungry, vigorous, it climbs into the lungs, it fills the life with itself, makes life forget what came before. Agnes walks down the street, the germ humming in those around her. A woman passes, turns her head toward Agnes, opens her mouth and coughs, ...
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THE ANGELS OF PONT-SAINT-ESPRIT by Patricia Flaherty Pagan
ANGELS OF PONT-SAINT-ESPRIT by Patricia Flaherty Pagan In her mercy, mother ties me to a chair in the attic with rough, wheat-colored rope. Fishermen tell mother that Monsieur Armunier writhes in his straightjacket yelling about serpents upon him. Nurses and nuns rush to his aid. But mother does not trust me, “ma belle jeune fille,” to the doctors at the asylum, so we guard my secret at home. The attic roof leaks. Raindrops kiss my cheeks. Silvery lights flash and my stomach convulses. Delicate bells of lily of the valley wrap me in their sweet aroma. I am grateful. As ...
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MY PROMOTION by Gerri Brightwell
MY PROMOTION by Gerri Brightwell The night we celebrated my shell wouldn’t open. I worked the blade between its lips but it rattled across my plate while the others were already swallowing in ecstasy. Soon they were offering suggestions. I gripped the shell in my napkin, pinning it against the table and viciously twisting the blade. Finally it gave with a wet suck and a cheer broke out as I lifted it to my lips. Inside lay a naked creature smaller than my thumb, limbs folded tight, eyes shut in fear. One heartbeat, then I tipped it into my mouth ...
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WANING by Caitlin McGill
WANING by Caitlin McGill Saria rocked in her chair on the porch, wondering how the trees kept still on such fierce nights. The house had grown so quiet since her mother’s boyfriend left—since she told her mother what he’d done—that it seemed like all she ever heard was her mother’s wine glass clinking against the sink. Her mother had kicked him out right away, but Saria sensed her mother hadn’t believed her. “I don’t understand,” her mother had said. And later, once he was gone, when she was drunk: “Who started it anyway?” Saria stared out at the trees and ...
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MY BOYFRIEND’S ESTRANGED GRANDFATHER by Rachael Tague
MY BOYFRIEND’S ESTRANGED GRANDFATHER by Rachael Tague He was an alcoholic, a wealthy engineer, and a butterfly collector. He traveled all over the world, especially in South America, specializing in Southern California and Neotropical specimens, amassing a collection allegedly worth hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time of his death in late 2007. His house in California must have been nothing but walls and racks of display cases – wings ranging from the size of a buttercup blossom to an oak leaf. Splotched, banded, eyed, lined, swiped, swirled. Splayed and mounted, framed, flocking Emperors, Brushfoots, Daggerwings, longwings, snouts, and ...
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CREAM FLAVORED & CHERRY SCENTED  by Chelsea M. Harris
CREAM FLAVORED & CHERRY SCENTED by Chelsea M. Harris She told you she was driving to the bridal store to shop for dresses with the girls she used to babysit before you were born since she knew she’d never see you all wrapped up in a marshmallow mess surrounded by floor-length mirrors, asking questions like How does my ass look? and Do you think he’ll love it? your cheeks glowing in rose-colored blooms, eyes done up in sugar-coated sparkle, pupils wide, sipping down those strawberry cosmos, fifteen dollars a whack because you’re at fancy place with silk curtains and shimmer ...
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PICK by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois
PICK by Mitchell Grabois 1. You want me to hit you with a stick, but all I’ve got is a guitar pick. (Lou Reed) 2. The gorilla, conscience of the world, sits and broods and ignores the humans pressed against the glass. 3. The old is dying, the new cannot be born. In this interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms.(Gramsci) 4. A splintered pick. Is it wood or some unfathomable synthetic? That’s the same question I ask about life. Are we God’s joke? Can I play guitar after my gall bladder surgery? 5. The gorilla stuffs hay in his ...
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KITCHEN 1999 by Lisa Rowan
KITCHEN 1999 by Lisa Rowan About once a month—not often enough, but still—her mother had taken a damp towel to the phone receiver. She pressed the threadbare cotton into the grooves of the earpiece, erasing the nights of sticky sweet teenage grease, still just a last bit innocent. Long after she was gone, there were still signs of her all over the room. Scuffs on the rungs of the stool next to the phone, flakes of chipped nail polish, sloshed juice from plastic cups faded from the dishwasher on the linoleum, from nights of sitting in the dark because it ...
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PALMS by Sara Siegel
PALMS by Sara Siegel Coe says that she reads palms, and we’re sitting over dumplings at a restaurant in Chinatown. Immediately I turn to her like a child, my fingers stretched out wide. She says that she can tell from the way that someone holds her hands if they really want their stories told. Most people, she says, shy away in fear. And those that don’t, those who open their hands to her, she says, would spend the night with her, and all she’d have to do is ask. But me, it’s not that I want to love her, or ...
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AFTER DONNIE DARKO by Megan Magers
AFTER DONNIE DARKO by Megan Magers As the water spilled through the spout overhead, she replayed the idea again and again. A constant rush of thought, unbroken and hot. Don’t worry. You got away with it. She imagined scattering herself across the bottom of the tub, letting the soap residue wet the jet-lagged parts she’d become, turn them soft. Let them slip down the drain, flood the pipes. But she could only breathe steam and listen to the whirr of the vent. Everything was being recycled right then. Time and life and fear and air. She was there, staring at ...
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A FUNERAL ON THE COMPUTER by Michael Chaney
A FUNERAL ON THE COMPUTER by Michael Chaney She didn’t know how to tell her aging mother how they were doing it, James and his friends from the team. They were in the living room, snickering in their jerseys, going to that boy’s funeral—digitally. She was in the kitchen at a table with her mother and she knew she wouldn’t be able to convey to her the quadratic equation of the crash trajectory of a car in chrome and plastic, nor would she ace the quiz on tree ecology, about the way the chemical composition of bark repels beer swilling ...
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THREE FLASH PIECES by Mercedes Lawry
THREE FLASH PIECES by Mercedes Lawry 1. Was there transposition? Toby wondered why flies always died on their backs, or so it seemed. He had not conducted a scientific analysis or even done research on the suspect Internet. He was fully prepared to admit he’d made up the entire premise, simply because he’d observed a dead fly upon coming out of his bedroom, though he was pretty sure he’d come across other dead flies in this position. He had no idea, really, if the fly had died on that spot or elsewhere, say, the windowsill, where so many did, no ...
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SYNESTHESIA AND YOU by Charnell Peters
SYNESTHESIA AND YOU by Charnell Peters I hang from the last brick of August, and cold is tolling. I don’t hear you, but I remember your summer breath, and you still feel like the softest blue behind my eyes. The months we spent together sit catty-corner: June and July. July, bent in half, turns to face the other side of black space. Black hums, like the night under the chalk moon when we sweated and swatted at ants. I felt you for the first time, your blue warmth and dimpled back. June woke with us, orange and fiery on our ...
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HALLELUJAH COVER BY JEFF BUCKLEY by Liz Breen
“HALLELUJAH.” COVER BY JEFF BUCKLEY by Liz Breen It was 1994, and she told you that you wouldn’t be ready until at least 1998, The Millennium if you were lucky. “The lyrics are way over your head. It’s not baby stuff,” said your sister, fourteen, cap turned backwards, still three months away from smoking her first joint, wearing a new sports bra under her faded denim overalls. She snatched the cassette tape from your hand, but you found it later in her drawer, tucked underneath the flannel shirt that Tommy Milner had given her, and you put it into the ...
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IN THE HEADLIGHTS by Agatha Hinman
IN THE HEADLIGHTS by Agatha Hinman When he first hears the baby is coming, that she is pregnant and already showing, he leaves second shift at the hospital early, and drives up the road thirty miles to Greeley’s bar where no one knows him, and if they do it’s probably too dark in there to see him. He downs two whiskey sours, takes the beer to a table for sipping. He sees through the plate glass a blue light blinking anonymously -- he can’t see the neon sign itself. Up and down Highway 101 headlights blur in the drizzle. He’s ...
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EARLY SPRING RAINSTORM by Jacqueline Doyle
EARLY SPRING RAINSTORM by Jacqueline Doyle I crouch in the desiccated garden at the side of our house, my knees stiff. The withered tomato plants still have a few small orange orbs clinging to them, but the rest of last year’s plants are stubbly and brown. I’ve finally gotten around to pulling out the tomato cages to return to the shed, and now I wonder whether I’ll plant tomatoes again this spring. Newspaper headlines herald more drought in California. Salmon may not spawn this year. Riverbeds are parched and cracked. We talk about water use and precipitation levels and runoff ...
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YOUR MOTHER SINGS WHEN SHE’S ALONE by Cathy Ulrich
YOUR MOTHER SINGS WHEN SHE’S ALONE by Cathy Ulrich Your mother loves to sing. She only does it when no one else is around. She says I’ve got a terrible voice, and you believe it. Your mother never says anything she doesn’t think is true. When you asked your mother why is the sky blue, she didn’t know the answer. She thought she might have asked her own parents when she was a child. She thought maybe every child did it. She said she didn’t know, science maybe, and said a more pressing question was what if my blue isn’t ...
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HUSH, PUPPIES by Catherine Nichols
HUSH, PUPPIES by Catherine Nichols The vet returned my call as I was rolling the last wineglass in bubble wrap. In counterpoint to my curt hello, he sounded upbeat, even jovial. He explained that when Mags had been spayed last month, the operation had sent her hormones haywire. “That’s why she’s behaving like she’s pregnant,” he summed up. “It’s a textbook case.” The “textbook case” was curled beside the stove in a cardboard box she had commandeered during my week of packing. She’d stuffed it with laundry from the overflowing hamper. Each time I approach, she whined. “It’s all in ...
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TELL-TALE by Nancy Hightower
TELL-TALE by Nancy Hightower I remember hearing the beating of God’s heart. Th-thump, th-thump th-thump. I swore it to be a holy thing. My father held me tight and said let that rhythm guide you, son. Cha-cha-cha. Th-thump, th-thump th-thump. The living room spun into hallejulahs as he swiveled and swayed his hips, hand on stomach, eyes closed. Lips easing into a smile. Lawrence Welk crooned from the television to keep those toes tapping. My father listened, sashayed though life hips, pressed against my mother, my friends, my daughter. It’s a holy holy thing, son. Cha-cha-cha. I shut my eyes, ...
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WILLIE: PREMONITION by Heather Jones
WILLIE: PREMONITION by Heather Jones When Lucy and me go down by the river the moonlight in her long blonde curls. You can’t trust no one near no shining hair like that I tell her no one should touch them long blonde curls. She laughs at me I’d be mad but for the sound of her laugh at night like when the sun and the moon sit in the sky at the same time. She laughs she holds her hair between her lily white fingers she says I can touch it. I want to. Go ahead go ahead go ahead ...
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AT THE BEACH by Debra S. Levy
AT THE BEACH by Debra S. Levy When they pull in, the lot is crowded. In the distance, the sun begins descending behind a curtain of wispy clouds. Water roils onto the sand and seagulls and plovers retreat to dry land. But the water recedes they jay-walk back onto the glistening surface, picking off lake flies and dead minnows. The sun is a pink iris closing on a dappled blue-black sky. Rest assured the world will come to an apocryphal end. You should never count your chickens before they fly the coop. “I want a good tan,” the girl with ...
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KISS by Paul Kavanagh
KISS by Paul Kavanagh She called me into the front room and told me to sit down in the comfy chair and then she leaned over and kissed me and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me ...
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zumba
ZUMBA FEVER by Nadia Laher Saturday at Zumba there was a new song, one with a thumping electronic beat. Marie hated when there were new songs. She still had difficulty learning the routines they did every week, mastering such simple moves as simultaneously throwing her right arm in the air and kicking her left foot up. The instructor, Sierra, bopped around at the front of the room, clapping her hands together. “It’s a new song, ladies! Time to jive!” Marie could feel sweat sticking to her back underneath the big white t-shirt and loose black capris she wore. She’d found ...
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BANGLE by Gabriel Thibodeau
BANGLE by Gabriel Thibodeau When she wears the bangle she feels so fucking good. Just look how it hoops her wrist like one of Saturn’s rings, how it knocks back and forth as she waves her hand, points at things. She’s hot shit when she wears the bangle. She was wearing the bangle when she met the boy and hooked the boy and used him and used him and dropped him. He looked so small when she dropped him, like she’d shrunk him in half, like she was Saturn and he was some little moon. She’d been the moon a ...
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FIVE FLASH PIECES by Emily Grelle
FIVE FLASH PIECES by Emily Grelle 1. Shell of an Aphrodisiac Lathered in shampoo, her hair became like sea foam embracing knotted driftwood, limbs exfoliating on the shore. Her flesh was turning pink from such long exposure to the shower head’s hot prick, and the moon’s white hot eye lit up with the glee of a voyeur, peeping through darkness at a celestial body in motion. Razor in hand, she mutilated every hair that dared leave its follicle inside her. She had no room in her life for hairy situations, and she inwardly thanked the shower for demanding that she ...
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TONY by Elizabeth Alexander
TONY by Elizabeth Alexander We were running through the Shepherd’s Woods down by Yalloway Creek and across from the schoolyard. We were running because Tony had said he wanted to and I had said that that sounded fine, and so we ran. When we reached the Gap, that’s the wide space between one side of the Woods and the other where the ground falls away and you can see the Creek squeeze through rocks at the bottom, I jumped over. Tony stopped and wouldn’t do it, so I said “C’mon Ton—! Don’t be a chicken!” And he hated when I ...
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LITTLE ORESTES by Nick Kolakowski
LITTLE ORESTES by Nick Kolakowski When I was a boy, my father told me the story of Agamemnon, King of Argos, peerless butcher of the Trojan War. Agamemnon was arrogant, which Dad considered a sterling quality for a man to have, so long as he backed that shit up with mighty deeds. Dad might have earned a degree from a good college and spent his life building a library of thick books, but sometimes when he drank his speech tumbled back into that crude pit from which nobody in our family will ever escape, dug by generations of pissed-off roughnecks ...
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YOUR ROYAL HIGHNESS by Charlie Keys Bohem
YOUR ROYAL HIGHNESS by Charlie Keys Bohem His Royal Highness was a tweaker who hung around outside the convenience store where we used to go to buy booze. He always had his hands shoved wrist deep in his pockets, and there was always a twenty four-ounce Miller Hi-Life in a brown paper bag sitting on the newsstand next to him. His face was covered in black, some mixture of sweat and ash that stuck in his stubble, and he wiped it often—long, greasy drags across his cheeks that left them dirtier than they had been before. The management let him ...
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MELIAI by Heather Bourbeau
MELIAI* by Heather Bourbeau He knew where to find her, amid the Spanish moss hanging from trees, along the creek the locals called a river. He knew she sought the sensation of being at once small and large. As a girl, she would paddle under the trees and pretend the moss was her hair—long, soft, tangled, and tender. She felt protected, wonderfully alone, even when he would find and bring her home. He knew that after the arrangements were made, the barely-used name shared and honored, the achingly small coffin lowered, she would run to hold moss, feel safe, mourn ...
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SKIN by GennaRose Nethercott
SKIN by GennaRose Nethercott You fall down a cement staircase & your skin drops away. It comes off like a suit. You fold your skin up & carry it home & hang it in the closet. Then you wrap yourself in unfinished quilt tops made up of band tees old lovers once wore. It’s as good a skin as any. For the first few months, you lie on the sofa waiting to heal. Every morning you undress the bandages & smother yourself in antibacterial petroleum jelly. Then you put the quilts back on ...
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