Issue Twenty-Eight

Bones

I can still hear your knee cracking on the boulder jutting out from the dry Arizona dirt after the branch broke and you freefell 10-plus feet from the tree we were climbing in my backyard. From a few limbs above, I was bone-chilled by your howls and relieved you were...

Mistress #19

You aren’t positive you’re a couple until you find it hard to breathe. She sweeps in, magnificent in her mutability. You might have met her on the plane, attending that long-delayed concert or during your first trip back to the movies. You weren’t looking, but it’s...

Refraction

Every other night, you hide the knives. You repeat “baby” and “honey” and “darling”, but he isn’t appeased. He kicks your shin. He curses. Spits. Yanks your hair and pushes you up against freezing, concrete walls. Accuses you of screwing some man in the apartment...

Circe at the Strip Club

She’s punching buttons on the strip joint jukebox when a voice pipes up behind her.“Excuse me, ma’am. Are you a witch?” The voice cracks just a little, then coughs tocover it up.She finishes making her selection: “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath. Her friend Onyx is upnext,...

Through Thin Air

The first time Cade noticed his wife’s waning presence was the day after their sixth anniversary, which he had forgotten, again, despite multiple reminders on his calendar and his phone. He had been really busy at the hospital — there was a multicar crash around noon...

The Grease Ant

An army of ants swarms a left-out jar of peanut butter. In the fresh sun, they gleam like honey. I toss the jar over the fence into the vacant yard next door and smoosh the rest of them with a paper towel. Their transparent bodies curl into miniature yoga poses as...

Self-Checkout

Lee Carson is allergic to peanuts [1], and so he does not go down the aisle with the peanut butter at the local A&P. [1] Thirty years ago, Lee’s lips swelled after eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a picnic in the park. His mother, wrapped in her...

Musings on Health

I wanted to write a skit about the abundance of protein shake stores in Wilmington, North Carolina, but I’m not funny enough to pull off the jokes. I’ll try to explain it to you, though: the jacked, cartoonish men that work the counter, their shoulder muscles bulging...

Choices

No one tells you about rolling your balls of yarn. Like, there you are, in the craft store, admiring these beautiful skeins, only to be told you can’t use them until you fully unwind them and roll them into round balls that unspool cleanly, no knots or snarls or...

Sister Story

Fifteen years ago, at a diner in Hammington, Wisconsin where I grew up, Angie bit the pickle her mother said I could have—Angie hated pickles—and placed it on the Formica-topped table in front of my plate. Angie is my younger half-sister. And even though she was...

The Passions of Saint Markella

Today Markella is in a flowered dress, the kind girls wear in the summer, with straps instead of sleeves and the sun burns her shoulders. The pattern on the dress is the same as the one on the house robes of most aunts: daisies so close together they leave tiny...

There’s a Fix for That

Do you prefer adding or subtracting? Yeah, me too. Fortunately, I was raised by a circus family, so I got a head start. Some people think there is a science to it, but it’s really just the elephant of surprise. Of course, it takes two to tango, but it’s always great...

Hoarder’s Lament

Old woman, you swore / once / on a soiled couch beneath forgotten coats beneath black trash bags stuffed with someone/ that you could /else’s cast-offs, debris from other lives clogging the storm drains of her own,/ survive the world / a rising tide of newspapers,...

It Helped and It Didn’t

I try to move my father but the weight of him stays immobile in the twin bed while my motherfusses over the pee stain on the carpet moaning about what will Father Flynn say should we callhim for the last rites when a man from downstairs who in the old days would be...

Abnormal, Illinois

Ted looked down. A few shreds of his brownish-gray hair had fallen to the linoleum tiles, in a kind of aura around the barber chair. He closed his eyes. The scissors made a regular snick as they worked around his right ear. He couldn't see what the young kid in the...

Egg Days

I crack an egg into a pan and think about this: Once an iron bar went through a man’s brain. I learned about this in school. The injury affected his frontal lobe only, the area responsible for personality. I drop the cracked shell onto a paper towel and think about...

Saw a Shooting Star

Sparked unusual-green. Spat twice, turned widdershins three times,as Manual decrees; letter ETA two days.Fingers crossed. ++If your eyes are crusty, pick at the edges of them. The sleep is done and dusted with, another day to face, another day to try to remember what...

Kindling

I lived alone on an island in a Queen Ann Victorian that was always on fire. On the day I first moved in, the turret was already ablaze, puff, puff, puffing threads of dark smoke into the sky, like coded messages to a distant land. Some people might have balked at...

Statue Thinks of Nothing but Murder All Day

after James Pradier’s “Sapho” A foreign businessman pinches the ass of the Sapho sculpture in Musee d'Orsay to impress his guest, and the statue has had enough. Her prominent placement at the front of the museum ensures this happens more than should be possible,...

On Vomiting

It’s 2005 and I’m in New York City at Circle in the Square Theatre about to see my first Broadway show. Past the spacious lounge with modern recessed lights and expensive coats slipping off shoulders like water, mom’s hand draws me to her hip to find our assigned...

Henrietta

Henrietta wonders what haunts me It wasn’t his whoop into the deep end, or how his mother had punched out her cigarette, one eye slit in the smoke, before plunging in to save him. And it wasn’t their legs churning like chum, or how I inhaled the sky and dove under....

Boys in jeans

on greased up hogs say Hey,shuffle in. Black stains and dustat the cuffs. Open road’s been goodto them. So good, the open road’srough throat. The songs it singsthrough the ache in their legs,the dull throb in the groin. Muscles pullon bones as they stretch betweenthis...

Cherry Paint

“DYKE” just like that, in big, bold, red letters on the side of my brand new, shiny white car. Dial tone in my ear as I wait to tell my grandma that I won’t be able to drive her to her cardiologist appointment today. Her voicemail is what I hear next. I can’t tell her...

Spaceman

 The rumor afterward was that he overdosed on Klonopin and Tylenol PM. The only observer to his ascent was a YouTube video of cloudbursts showering dry plains heavy. After midnight he slipped the bond. The volume lifted, flooded his studio apartment’s atmosphere,...

How to Make Money in the Summertime

Be sixteen. Go down to the Shell gas station at the corner of Welch Road and Route 309 and talk to Con Salt while he’s working the pumps. Don’t ask Con any personal questions because he’ll keep you hanging down there all day. Ask Con if there’s any work going around...

She said He said

"Clean aisle nine before you leave," Michelle said."It is clean," Derek said."Tidy up, I mean," she said."I need to leave on time today," he said."I bet you do," she remarked."Why do you say that?" he wondered."Just go and tidy up," she exclaimed."I have a part in a...

Untitled, Because It Needs to Be Kept Secret

a night drive / in the Alfa Romeo / the top is up / rain is dying / we are returning from a steak dinner for two / a tomahawk chop on guitar / with roasted, creamed corn and asparagus playing backup / I’m driving / you’re riding shotgun / light from the bridge slices...

Hard Shells Too Break With Heavy Blows

A hammer strikes against the shaven brown shell. Hard. Once again, precisely at the center. The thud, strong as the hammer itself, shakes her resolve. Not today, not now, maybe later. One fiery look from her husband, his clenched teeth tightening the sides of his face...

Becoming a Man

Point Pleasant, WV, 1965The boy’s classmates teased him because he still slept with his favorite stuffed animal, a spotted dog with droopy ears, even though he was now twelve. It began at Toby’s sleepover birthday party. It was only 8:30 when the boy called his father...

Stone Fruit

Technically everything produced from a flower is a fruit. Does that make her a mango? It would make sense if she were a drupe. He had given her flowers on their first date. Her face had felt accosted by the perfumy pungency. “I’m a statistician”, he’d said “but not...

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