She hadn’t asked for a child, started in some nameless town on straw and a face never remembered. The weight of the new thing got in the way. It tried to fix her to a single roof, a roof at all. She had no songs to sing, no lulling to calm the approach of dark. But she had not meant to leave her child. She merely continued moving and did not realize the weight was gone until her footsteps back to it had blown away. I am not a mother, she had said, and her dreams drained back into night.
It was bad timing, and not only because they were in the middle of Sally the bichon-poo’s fur-lathering process. As it so happened, she was having a deeply insensible summer. There was something the matter with her nerves. She felt nothing: not within, and not without, not even when she sawed the bread knife back and forth across her thumb until the skin was filed open to a glistening red smile.
I don’t remember their fights from my youth, only their aftermaths. That day I sat between them, the pew hard against my back, the air heavy, the atmosphere Baptist. When we all stood for the closing hymn, Dad’s mouth never shaped the words. He stood tight-lipped and stoic, his hand a weight that never left my shoulder. I caught Mom looking at him once, holding her stomach, like she was protecting something.
I see the neighbor on his balcony mulling over existence almost every time I go into the backyard. But from my spot down there behind a fence he can’t see me. They told us as kids that if you can see the audience, the audience can see you. But maybe that isn’t always the case. I could call out, but he looks like he won’t hear another voice. I wave when I feel sure he can sense my presence. He doesn’t wave.
Now that I have my phone back I check my email for what must be the seven hundredth time that day. Still nothing from Severino di Negro’s guy. Few things bother me more than people who don’t respond to email. I’m sure he hasn’t even told his boss about my idea or else he’d be all over this. I decide to swallow my pride—once again—and send the assistant another email.
I’m sniffing and sniffing and my keen senses are closing in on…I’m not sure what. It’s just like when Dad took me to a bento joint in Los Feliz and said, “Zelda, here’s one that will stump you” and let me sip his tea. Anyway, I know I know that odor, but I’m distracted because the caryatid feeds me a chunk of her quiche (bacon!) and begins to tell Dad her story. Corn!
When it was hot where you lived things boiled into you like a hatred for the sun or the constant need to be surrounded by air or water. I found myself doing things to combat the weather like for example coming out of the hotel shower on that first day and standing in the middle of the room breathing in and out, letting my body dry itself.
Oh, Valencia, Michelle mourned. Michelle was a poet, a writer, the author of a small book published by a small press that revealed family secrets, exposed her love life, and glamorized her recreational drug intake. Her love life and recreational drug intake had been performed up and down Valencia Street, the main drag of San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood, once Irish, then Mexican, later invaded by a tribe bound not by ethnicity but by other things—desire, art, sex, poverty, politics.
Jim works in roofing and is missing digits on both hands. He strips down, and bends over the soft edge of the La-Z-Boy. He points to a long metal panel on the coffee table, stamped on one side with a seal that says “Val-U Homes”. I imagine the metal edge grazing his fingers, blood leaching into his work jeans. Pam positions herself in front of Jim. I grip the metal with both hands and hit his bare ass with the panel.
Alex had a nasty habit of twirling her hair, twisting it into beetle-dense knots, and tearing out the entire cluster. It always amazed her that her scalp never bled from this nervous ritual. She figured there was not much blood between her skin and her skull in the first place, and imagined what a fat scalp would feel like, if its spongey loam would burst with blood at the slightest hair tug. This was arguably the skinniest part of the body, an area that would remain skinny regardless of global tumescence.
His parents built the cottage out here on the fork so they could use it for vacations. It was small and they painted it all white, on the inside and the outside. They built shelves and filled them with things they found on the beach: seashells and dead starfish, a rusted anchor, and sea glass. When I first arrived, Sidney tried to tell me about everything they’d collected, but I didn’t care then, and I didn’t want to know.
They both went inside and busied themselves for the rest of evening. The next day, Pamir picked up Adam from school and told him they would spend the afternoon indoors again. He left Adam in his room to play with his toys while he worked on the latest zombie episode. Afterwards, he went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. He was standing at the sink when he heard Adam’s voice.
Almost the end of our first day out and no one’s looking for us, far as we know. If we ever went to school or went into town more than once a month or were allowed past The Fence, someone may have noticed. Keeping us anonymous might be the one gift Pa ever gave anyone. Nobody’s looking or wondering where we’ve gone. Instead we’re driving West until we hit ocean. From there we think of something.
Paul unwrapped the leather package and there was a small, .22 caliber pistol inside. It had a bright sheen of oil on the blued steel frame and barrel and wood grips with bee caricatures carved in them. Margot sat next to Paul and watched him dismantle the little pistol down to its tiniest parts that looked like little black bones on top of the oiled leather wrap that he laid flat on the kitchen table.
I’ve disembodied a couple of heads of hair and they live in the back of my skull just above my neck. One of the heads of hair belongs to a woman I saw working at a Japanese restaurant. The hair was fine and wavy and parted in the center. The other belongs to a girl I had a class with in college. She wore a navy blue knit cap and when she pulled it off, her hair would stand on end with static until she smoothed it down with her bony hands.
Charlie wasn't a dumper, nor a dumpee. Things were pretty equal on that front. Charlie knew not to question the past, and did it anyway. With Evvie, it was always xx. Babes. That was the worst. Charlie wasn't a babe, didn't deserve the kisses.
She fed him coffee and studied him as he sipped. Nothing seemed to have sprouted in the night, but she couldn’t be sure. The seeds could have aimed themselves inward, rooting in the drums of his ears and pushing deeper still. He was slower to respond, as if sounds were dampened, distant.
Out where we’re from, anything unpredictable is female. Countries, weather, the sea. “She’s gonna be some hot,” Henry would say when we climbed aboard in the wee hours. Or “some windy,” or some variant thereof. The ocean was supposed to teach us about these feminine fluctuations, though we were both girls already and I considered myself pretty steadfast. Shoshanna not so much, but then again, she was braver than me.
You try not to think too much, about anything. When you have an itch, you scratch it and marvel at the fact that you’re still feeling things like itches or soreness or numbness. Sometimes you wake up after your arm’s been dangling off the edge of your bed and you concentrate on each passing moment as feeling creeps back into you. The panic’s gone, or maybe it’s just hiding; you’re alive, so that means it must be alive, too, somewhere. But you feel empty, like a house evicted overnight.
Hiking boots still on, a trail of dirt imprints leading across the laminate from the gaping front door. The real Alex would never. Blood-orange sky dripping light over the treeline, spilling into the front foyer. Your arm, still cutting wide swaths across the counter with a washcloth, though there’s nothing left to wipe up, clean, absorb. The faucet hissing channel static.
Michelle and I made our way side by side, with my hand in her back pocket and her arm around my shoulders, like she was a high school quarterback and I was her wannabe prom date. She was my protector, regardless. We stepped lazily, our feet flopping and our heads bouncing. She had called me an hour earlier and asked if I wanted to go for a walk. I had said yes.
UTERUS LOTUS ANGIE SIJUN LOU When I wake up my eyes are crusted shut. When I wake up under a cotton candy sky my
An ambulance siren moans. Red beams zigzag across the walls of my room, like I’m back at one of the dances my high school used to put on. The ones my mother warned me I’d get pregnant for going to. Now that I am probably carrying Gary’s baby, it seems safe to say that nobody is getting pregnant at those dances.
When I saw him lying spread out in a private citizen’s driveway on my arrival to the scene there was a part of me that wanted to cry, if only because I remembered how 15 had nearly already eaten its feet to the bone back when I’d collared him two years earlier in a failed attempt to extricate himself from one of our research traps, in which it was possible he'd squirmed for up to two full days.
Has the city changed? She doesn’t know. It feels the same: grey. It was so long ago. She’d only been here for less than eight months, cloistered away on the university campus. And she’d been tunnel-visioned, seeing only him, and herself in relation to him, and the two of them together, or the void left when they were apart. Everything else had been wallpaper.
David lives in the park. His friends call him Dave, but I call him David. Every morning, before my sleeping cheating husband wakes up, I make a cup of coffee, stare in the mirror for far too long, searching for some sign of me. Then, I run. I run on the jogging path around the park, across from the apartment. The apartment is not my home. It’s the place that we moved after we lost the baby. Lost is the wrong word, we didn’t misplace him.
Marla had a taste for practical jokes. She dug through her crafts closet to find a tube of acrylic, its colour reminiscent of dried blood. She squeezed a blob onto the end of her finger and wrote I AM DEAD onto a plain sheet of paper. She then took a pen and scrawled underneath: Please keep the children out as the shock of seeing me may cause permanent scarring. She taped the confession to the outside of her bedroom door.
Torontonians haven’t changed all that much. They are still too busy to meet you until four months from now, and then they will also cancel when that meeting arrives. They still talk about diversity but rarely become friends with people who are not exactly like them. They still aren’t interested in anywhere that isn’t Toronto.
He might compel an artist to produce a work of art under his name, by bribery or force, but he lacked the ability to create a work of art himself. He could not paint anything that a gallery of repute would willfully exhibit. Only under threat of torture would a critic with integrity declare his writing to have merit. He could not sing. He could not cook. He could not sew.
The sharp smell of bleach fills Lise’s room at The Pines Care Center, though there are undertones of hair in need of washing, and the cafeteria down the hall. The cooking aromas here are nothing like the chicken broth and browning onion smell of Lise’s kitchen, but even those would be hard for Sophie to bear right now. She would like to open a window for some fresh air, but she doesn’t want to let go of Lise’s hand, to disturb her.
LA GRINGA NEGRA YMA JOHNSON I hurry down the sloping street towards dealers who stand like raptors, eyes glowing in the
PERFECT COUPLE ERICA PEPLIN I had an aunt and uncle whose lives were perfect. They sent the most beautiful Christmas cards
WONDER CHELSEA BIEKER After I moved to Oregon, away from California for the first time, Granny came up for a visit. This was a
SALUTE LAUREN BARBATO The girls had heard from the boys that the boys were looking for the girls. Outside English, History, Spanish class. Inside
ONE OF US IS SLEEPING JOSEFINE KLOUGART The bark of the apple tree is black; alone in the garden, black. It cuts into the
OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL REALNESS CASON SHARPE Bronson invites everyone to a drag bbq on Saturday night. Mada and Kalale are not really that
MOON MAN JUSTINE CHAMPINE Jane lives with her mother and a stranger in a white house by the sea. Red roses with blossoms the
A FEELING FOR PEOPLE BRENNA YORK A recently-divorced 70-something took 20 minutes of my 23rd year. First, he called me an idiot savant with
COCONUT DREAMS DEREK MASCARENHAS Four days in Goa nearly killed me. It started the morning my bus arrived in Mapusa and I didn't see
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TRADE JOE'S AND FREE TC KENTA MANIWA I was in line at Trader Joe’s, waiting to pay for my groceries. My
THE GIFT JULIA STERNBERG She wanted to see the sea lions fed, but when they arrived it was just past noon
ST FRANCIS REBECCA PAYNE This is the way he walks: north on Grace to College, east on College to Manning, south
NOBODY COMING SARAH BURGOYNE At the top of her journey, Johanna cracked a lager. She was thirteen and thinking of the
TURNIP AMY FELTMAN It wasn’t assault, exactly. Or maybe it was. Either way it happened quickly. It stopped. Tree-scales scraped barkily against the cotton
WASTE AMANDA BOYLE One drink in and she was laughing. It felt like she hadn’t laughed in a long time, but she was always
ANAMNESIS EMILY JUNGMIN YOON My mother was a haenyo: she dove into cold waters for seaweed, abalone, sea urchin, and other
SKATEPARK GENEVIEVE HUDSON The summer after my first year at the new school was homage to the skateboard. Girls walked right
ASBESTOS GARDENS ANDREW F. SULLIVAN “The world don’t want you to do that.”Cheese Watkins’ daddy says this through two inches of Plexiglas, holding a
ALONE TIME ALLISON GRIMALDI DONAHUE Ines was worried if she got a flat tire now or if she ran out of
THE LINE ALEXANDER CAREY “O, Lord, help me to be pure, but not yet.” –Augustine of Hippo I cut through the
NOT SO THE DONKEYS NOY HOLLAND The donkeys are eating the barn. They’re bored, poor things. They are eating out the shape of a
THE BUFFET TREVOR SHIKAZE Peter took a plate from a stack of fresh plates that a waiter had just set out.
HELP WANTED IN THE MIDWEST ON THE BUS LINE JEN KNOX Route #3S to 18E:Simple. Shove double-roll toilet paper to the back of a shelf,
BLACKASS A. IGONI BARRETT Furo Wariboko awoke this morning to find that dreams can lose their way and turn up on the wrong side
INSTITUTIONAL FLESH ALEXANDRA ITZI I stopped eating meat when I was sixteen years old. It was more or less an instant process. Many of
COURAGE COURTNEY SENDER ONCE I dated a boy named courage. I should have kissed him a hundred thousand more times. .
A GOOD FAMIL SEO HAJIN “H, do you remember me?” a man on the other end of the phone asked. His tone was cautious,
THE MIGRANT EXPERIENCE JORGE CINO There are about two hundred million migrants roaming the planet at any given time, including those
THE RUNNER KIM KYUNG UK Excerpted from God Has No GrandchildrenTranslated from Korean by Kang Sunok When Eun-jae called, I was
DIVISION STUDY EMILY FLAMM 1. Scale From his window seat on the plane he looks out over the ocean, which looks
ELEGANCE HANNAH RAHIMI A month after they married, Kevin found a job. “What a relief,” he said, and everyone agreed, though
UNGIRLFRIEND PAIGE COOPER Magda sends her ex to me and he shows up showered and clammy. Magda is six foot in work heels and
WINDHOEK TOM THOR BUCHANAN On the street a man reached out and touched my father's shoulder. “Sir! Hey Sir! Sir!” he said to my
BAD CAT ANNABEL GRAHAM I am cleaning out my father’s office. A room frozen in time since his accident. His cell phone still on
IF THERE IS ANYTHING ELSE YOU CAN DO KIM WINTER MAKO Hi. I’m Charles. So. You love the biz, I love
SOLDIERS NIKITA NELIN During the war they spit and shit and peed in a metal container with rubber clamps at its sides as the
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TO DIE FOR ONE'S COUNTRY ALEXEI PERRY COX  Like this, in darkness, and the world that lived within us is
ROT FRANKIE BARNET First the town was because of the port, people brought things and then other people left with other things. But then
PAIR BOND ARIELLE BERNSTEIN After the abortion Sam and I end up at the Weeki Wachi, an amusement park with real live mermaids. We
BLESSED BILL MELANIE MANUEL Listen- Buffalo Bill has a secret. He’s dying. All day, too many times to count, he finds a way back
ONE-PIECE KIM CHINQUEE It's a one-piece I found from one of those Halloween shops that are suckers for people like me who haven't found
QUEEN OF SHEBA MATTHEW LANSBURGH Al gives me zero. All day long he sits glued to his armchair, drinking glass after glass of V-8
GOODBYE, TINK GEOFFREY LINE Like a penny into a fountain, she fell from the top deck of a cruise ship into the black Caribbean.
THE SELLER MEG POKRASS You feel sick about it.You don't say it in the letter, but you are annoyed with your boyfriend for not
BOIL US DRY LAURA TANSLEY “I think we need it. All of us,” she says, serious for a second because that’s what divorce does,
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SNOVIRR MICHELLE SYBA Tuesdays they go to Ikea for lunch. Mac and cheese for Winston, fish for his mother. Afterwards they walk through the
OKAY PEOPLE GABE BUMP Clap taps my shoulder; rubs my hair and calls me baby; holds her breath under the covers
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OUT OF ORDER LEAH BAILLY The first time I smoked speed, I felt my lungs expand so wide that they took
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“Looker,” Peggy said as I hustled Gilligan’s order to Jailbait, our 16-year-old grill chef and the boy Peggy slept with off and on. Peggy had a thirteen-year-old son and a husband who’d turned funny after his return from Gulf War Number 1.
I still haven’t finished my screenplay, and I have to admit I don’t know how. Why is my life important enough to write a script about? Why is anyone’s?
After a time, the figure settled back down into his former place, became one of the bodies on the floor, unable on the one hand to discern a path in the jigsaw, unable on the other to force what will he did possess upon them. Then again, perhaps he had been afraid his warm gap on the floor would close.
"Water? Coffee? Tea?" the receptionist asked. I asked for water. She returned with a small bottle and a rocks glass on a wooden tray. She set the tray on the coffee table in front of the couch, poured the water from the bottle into the glass, set the glass down on a coaster then left with the tray and the empty bottle.
She slid off the counter and in front of her mirror began applying my lip gloss to her beautiful, wide mouth with its curling, upper lip that now looked like a beckoning finger. She wore a sly expression, watching me watch her. She placed the tube of lotion I had given her with her pile of things. I didn’t say anything. I was unsure what tone to take.
Plus, there was something so unexpectedly exciting about being together that we wanted to explore it without everybody watching. So we kept it quiet and, as I say, for two months, we'd been going strong.
'Have you seen a doctor?' I pointed at her hand. Girija shook her head. 'Ratni brought some herb oil from the village. She applies it for me every day.' The thick, green-brown fluid in the re-used Old Monk bottle near the stove looked foul.
The other part is that he’s such a fucking terrible imposter. In life, Ingrid Lynn was a poet, so she thinks in terms of metaphors. She can say that he dances without grace and inflects the letter r in a way that conflates meaning. She says his eyes are dead. She says he gets whole stanzas wrong. She says he’s an automaton.
By protocol, he should have called security. But Andy ran down the utility stairs instead to stop her rattling the door, her feet planted apart. A flash of white showed up her shorts, her legs spread to pull the door handle, before she straightened to wave him down.
Tiny knew lots of people like Francine. Some people could talk forever telling all they knew, trying to get out what was wrong with them. But it wasn’t her problem. The ones that looked vulnerable were everyone else. They all looked like porcelain thems. Like they were fixing to break.
“You want to meet my boys?” said the bearded guy. He turned toward the parking lot. “Peter, Paul, get over here!” he called out. Two doors opened to a maroon minivan with a bumper sticker on the front saying, “I Kick-Box for Jesus.” The heavyset boys stumbled out, soda cans in hand. They pointed and snorted at the Icelanders and their unusual clothing choices.
Chet pulled off in the parking lot of a water filtration plant, or a building that looked like a filtration plant, so that I could pee and so that we could resolve the speakers’ fade issue finally. While I was urinating into a snowbank next to the car, I heard a few enthusiastic “Yeahs” come from the car.
The wind rushing in through the windows blows our long hair into our faces. It’ll be tangled when we get home but we feel too good to care. We’ve been out dancing at a club in Hollywood. Used our fake IDs to get in. Mine says I’m from Florida. The bouncer knows they’re fake but he lets us in anyway.
What could they do but fake submission, returning to their fields, scolding their children’s sloppy arithmetic, scissoring dried squid, fanning themselves under absolute skies while waiting for their husbands to return from the gambling room, all the while trying to ignore the newcomer, her out-of-place face and the shovel like a third leg.
I had no idea what she meant by this. A dim memory of the drunken night in grad school when I asked Whitney to rub my shoulders, eliciting a nervous expression on her face after she squeezed the back of my neck a couple times, flickered at the edges of my mind. Had I creeped her out somehow? “Why was she scared of me?”
The Riviera descended the dark mill hill and in its lights were geese waddling out of the way, some hissing, wings spread, waddling quickly, and we pulled into the mill parking lot. “What the fuck?” said James, stopping the car.
I don’t know if I ever expected them to come back, but the night was long and loud and to this day, let me tell you, I can still see our mother exactly the way she was the next morning as she unfastened our seatbelts: her eyes bloated into garnets as she squeezed us both to her chest, asked if we were hungry—a new shade of lipstick on her that I have never seen since.