Fiction

Toothbrush

1. Early summer morning. Last look at Bass Lake before Bette and Dena hit the Willow Creek trail. Cerulean, azure, turquoise. Each had her favorite word. How is it possible Nicki is not here? The trail gentles up hill, the creek a quiet liquid shimmer. The trail...

Vorarephobia

Fear of being eaten is an evolutionary relic, but sometimes I do feel the twinge when I see a cement mixer, or a jet engine, or a customer service representative from Verizon. “I want to talk about something which is interesting only to me,” I said. The chimpanzees on...

Close to You

1. The sun bleeds through his white hair—bleached. Each strand of hair the wire frame of an umbrella. Shirtless, he’s stretched out on the floor. The air—the fuzz of a peach—warm and quiet. His hands cover his face and he doesn’t see you leave the shower, but you see...

Crow Joe

Gentle and silent, living in his caravan, out in the trees, in the edge land, nestling in the selvedge of the town. Beyond the high tide mark of broken bikes, empty bottles, cans, old mattresses washed up against the tree line. In wordless, instinctive agreement, we...

Fruit Salad

Z ate the orange before the orange could eat him. That’s just the way the earth spins. Give a bushel a leaf’s length and those fruit will ripen into you. Swell and soften their skin against your cheek. Zest your eyelids, clutch your teeth with pulp, make your mouth...

My Exploding Uterus

Now that the politicians have taken away abortion, birth control is probably next, Mom says. So, she sets up an appointment with the gynecologist for me to get an IUD, an intrauterine device.  “I don’t see how I can get pregnant when I don’t even know any boys,”...

Men Who Write Women

Even though Suburbia, experiencing her brand-new S-CarGo, had called Valery to say she was stuck in slow traffic, she arrived at Burger Place right on her heels. The place to have lunch in Chicago, Michigan, they used the Downsize Me option to buy a cheeseburger to...

Of Course

My father taught me how to surf fish on a conventional. “Fuck a spinner. That’s for bait and for pansy ass amateurs,” father said. Spot heads. Bait for red drum. Every October, Father would camp out at the Virginia state line on the beach in his ’95 Dodge Dakota. I...

A Difference in Temperature

It’s a hot day. The heat fires down and sweats the sunblock right out. Tourists fight for seats in the cabin, but politely, so they can claim they’re not fighting. I’m stuck on deck in a polo and a prison-logo cap. Last summer, my ex-wife visited one weekend. A...

The Woman in the Chest

*Some of the imagery deals with violent subject matter* The head came disembodied, wrapped in a few of my grandmother’s wool scarves and buried in the crook of a cedar chest good for keeping moths out but more of a relic than anything—an attestation to the abundance...

Ernst’s House

Ernst sees, shaking the blind hands of sleep, the son who will never be Jesus Christ again. And this has been going on every night for six months now. Sometimes, in addition to a boyish smile, he dreams of shovels without holes and flowers without...

I Don’t Even Know Who You Are

When I booted up my computer and opened the web browser, the last thing I expected to see was a Facebook friend request from my estranged father. It’s been 13 years since I rubbed my eyes and witnessed him dash out of my life, his silhouette sneaking across the...

Game Over

Volunteering at the nursing home was the boy’s mother’s idea. She said over dinner one night that spending his afternoons in the arcade did not an impressive, productive young man make. Also, that all he ever did was take, take, take. Then she added that he’d look...

Fountains of a Birthday

He discovered // what Ponce pondered // it scared him the scars // without use-of blade // he had whittled to core // found some time // this modern-day's discoverer looked within // now sat unafraid // pain slowing hard his hands no younger, smaller, but those hands...

He’s Not Bothering Anyone

Father was the first to spot the crumpled black mass in the corner of the living room. “Up there,” he told Mother, pointing to the ceiling. The blue light from the television illuminated their pinched faces as they searched through the shadows, the whites of their...

Wet Grass

I rake leaves into a black garbage bag under moonlight. I hear Jean tell me about the benefits of leaving a few leaves in the yard. “It’s good for the soil. Don’t you care about the soil?” I don’t know what’s come over me, but I need the leaves gone. I need the grass...

The Magic of Witch Hazel

I’m Hazel, and I have known you forever. Maybe you think you can harness my power? For years, your hands have held my forks, waiting for magic, for me to twitch. Dowsing, divining, or water witching. I’ll dance, ‘wyche’, or bend in a ‘wicke’  if I feel the life...

Invasive Species

I tucked diet plans away in the back of my mind in case my hair started to thin out. I didn't think I could handle being fat and bald, not with my accent. I was hell-bent on being one or the other but didn't have the dedication to be neither. When I talked, it always...

Quicksand

Lorri dares walk out on the estuary to where the red-shanks strut on long legs. She dares climb the tall twisted oak where she says she can see her apartment block three hundred miles away in the city. She crosses the fast-flowing stream on a slick and mossy log. She...

Play Pretend

Fiona has a pretend family no one can snatch out of her hands. She has an older brother, Kojo who once drove them all the way to Aburi for a picnic in the botanical gardens; and this other time Fiona made believe he gave her a piggy back ride up Mount Afadjato. Her...

Mourning Dove

As she drifts into sleep a sound escapes her. A gentle sigh, like the cooing of a dove. Like she was releasing all that was the day before. Like letting go of something.   •   Early morning light falls soft through the window. It casts a cool hue over...

Executive Assistants

The markets are bullish, Bloomberg reports at the crack of dawn. We’re the only ones awake at this time, and we know. We made the markets bullish. Our apartments are tiny. We tiptoe around, getting ready for work, so we don’t wake our fast asleep partners and fast...

Postcard to X

Just Alice and Willy and Ben now. Dragging our bones across the city, hitting every red light but nothing slows us down. We streel over to Old Calton Burial Ground and dance, weave joy in and out of the gravestones, crackle and spark and sing our throats to ash. Our...

Countdown

10… My yearning could have deforested Maine; it continued for days, ever since I saw her, open-faced like the books on display in the museum gift shop. 9… I spent my days at the gift shop mulling over the dictionary. I glared at words I would never use. They sprawled...

Boston

Track 1In high school, we were masters of the one line song. Our greatest hit went like this: Another Saturday night 70’s loser,I myself and me, playing 45s on 33,wishing Ann would go crazy on me. Track 2As lyricists, we were uniquely qualified to recognize Boston's...

On Sunday

Presbyterian vegetarians saddle sea urchins and go for a roe. Wahoo yahoo holy water woo. Sushi sirens singsong seduction, spinach puffs are Jesus’ best wrapped gift. Crab rangoons goon naked crudités enticed by a slice of chanterelle mushroom toast. Devils ride...

The Annual Library Book Sale

The library was flooded with book donations. Mountains of cardboard boxes filled the basement, ferried from hatchback and truck-bed, down the elevator, to gather dust with their kin. Before they could be set on narrow tables at the annual book sale, the books needed...

How to Stop a Cough

See a doctor if your cough persists for more than seven days. Tell him you wake up three, four times a night coughing, though you’re not sure if it’s your cough or the urge to pee that awakens you. Joke about childbirth and urinary stress incontinence. Chuckle with...

Sorry Kid—

“Sorry Kid.” That’s what Carrie on Season 5 Episode 23 of Kids Baking Championship says to Kyle before she steals his cinnamon during a speed challenge. This ten year old has her own cream cheese frosting recipe and I can’t stop praying long enough to get off the...

Ash Darlings

During a commercial break I notice the six boxes in the corner of my room. They contain all the drafts of my third collection of unpublished stories, rose petal words, withered. I look out of the window at the cloudless night sky. So, it's time. I pile the boxes in...

Tagged

By two in the afternoon, we’d stolen four t-shirts, three baseball caps, and twelve packs of Spearmint gum, all while making friends with the cashiers—flirting if they were girls, talking sports if they were guys—and leaving each place with our pockets stuffed and the...

Six Minutes At 4 AM

I have six minutes left before the boy I used to know as a child comes out to skate the performance of his life. I go downstairs to make instant oatmeal and the water takes ages to boil. I compose a list of things you can do in six minutes – it might well not include...

Undeveloped

Before I leave you, I clean out my desk drawers. I no longer want to hold onto these things: Mr. & Mrs. rubber address stamp, sushi erasers you bought me even though I dislike seafood, unopened ovulation tracker. A film cartridge, black and white Kodak, 35 mm....

Ballad of Him

He rented a room on F Street, three days a week washing dishes at a local restaurant. The building he was in was broken. Small rooms split into smaller rooms by cheap drywall.Her room was down the hall. Someone he realized he knew. After work he stood outside her...

Screaming Ourselves Horse

At first, the men didn’t understand. Sometimes the change would happen at midnight, and other times it’d sweep through at midday. They’d wake to a bed frozen over, or they’d frown upon entering the kitchen, finding lunch absent from the table. Within the house, at...

Like My Grandmother’s China

You would be so surprised, I know, to learn the real reason I stayed with you far too long. One brisk October day a decade ago, walking up the steep slope of Eugenia Street, we passed a house with well-tended planter boxes. You glanced at the fuchsia nestled there and...

The Hole in the Wall

“When your world abruptly falls apart, inaction is a powerful counteract,” said the voice, once leaving the man to his empty room.The man walked the empty room, pacing its area as though studying it. The man did so until he became fatigued, ultimately falling asleep....

An Evening With

I found Momma’s wig and green formal in her old trunk. She’d worn them to her last birthday party at DiFranco’s. After looking in the bathroom mirror, I imagined myself on a New York stage singing her favorite numbers. I performed “My Man” and voiced every word with...

The Narrow Path of Totality

When mom would get tipsy, she’d tell this story. She had only one; beautifully embellished, wild with gestures, impeccable timing, and heart dropping punchiness.“It was a brutal labour.” She’d look around the living room and declare “You guys couldn’t begin to...

What Binds

I become things. Today I become a staple stuck in a telephone pole, chewing its corner of paper. Tastes like missing puppy flier, honeyed with a crust of sadness. Not like the bitter root of ads for the neighborhood watch. Or the starchy invitation to a show by The...

Portraits of Fowl Women

~ Swans and geese hail from the same branch off the duck family. Over time, they, too, drifted apart. Lynne’s father said they could trace ancestors all the way back to the Mayflower. Fishermen and servants leaving an old land for a new land where they became...

Kokoschka’s doll

Sometimes Kokoschka tells me I don’t exist. He whispers, you’re a transitionary object, dear doll, an illusionary surface, an overpriced representation of absence, and he groans into the feathery folds in my thighs and throws me to the floor. I was wrapped in tissue...

Window Dolls

I see other girls like me, breathing their breath, their heads against the back seat windows, greasy imprints on the glass, their gaze on blurring buildings, boys on bikes, other cars. Chevy. Chrysler. Cutlass Supreme. We are behind our parents’ heads. For the moment,...

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler

We are heat cranky, though we try not to be.  We sit in this hot room, hot because it’s South Louisiana, hot because it’s summer, hot because the air conditioner broke down. My mother carries a tray of sweet, iced tea into the enclosed side porch, usually...

Standing around the Hearts

In first period health class, all twenty of us stood around the cow’s heart Miss Hutchings unwrapped on her desk. “Inside and out,” she said, “we need to know ourselves,” halving that heart with a scalpel to show us auricles, ventricles, valves, and the wall...

Idea

The writer had an idea for a story and took out his spiral pad and pencil nub from inside his ear and began to write about the phone call he received from a late-night TV host who said he was referred to him, read his collections of flash fiction and would like to...

His Confession

He uncorks a 2017 bottle of Caymus Cabernet and pours out a story twice as old. Six words filter through. Six I want to unhear. Knife, nightArgument. Slashed, severedFled So many questions to ask once my thoughts unscramble, and stomach untwists. Only one makes it...

Calling

The crackle of her rabbiting breath over the phone. “Hello,” I say, like always. “Hello? Is anybody there?”“I’m not sure.” Her speech fraying at the hem. Her words leaking from a badly-sealed balloon. I try to guess which woes she needs me to uproot, if any:...

How To Build A Rocket

Rocket science is still rocket science, so make sure you know the specifics of the rocket you want to build. This has gotten easier because there is so much information out there. Not so much online, but libraries are free and open anytime, anywhere. You can take out...

Bones of Steel

Tomorrow, you will come for me, you will pry me open, rip out pipes, radiator, battery, pull off my steering wheel, pluck mirrors, yank windows, haul the best of my organs for sale, scatter the rest of my body parts in four corners of the country....

The Screamer

My girlfriend’s been soliciting money for sexual encounters with older men. Her friend showed me the messages: Hi, Robert – how can we please you? This friend was to possibly join the venture; that’s what she wanted anyway, but friend thought I was an alright guy,...

Aloha

Shawn and Shauntelle showed up in comical drag at the Kauai Pride Picnic at Queen Surf Beach,one in a hula skirt and coconut bra, the other tucked into short shorts and squeezed into a paddedbustier. Diane and I met them the day before as Yin and Yang, what they...

Second Hand Roses

Early nineties, dumpster diving. The blackberry back alleys of Vancouver’s gay west village have the best loot. At first we climb up and lean in, poking around with a stick. After a few killer hauls, we wade in hip deep. We find anything and everything: cupcakes,...

After the reading

As a final gesture, he ate the poem, starting with the rhyming couplet at the beginning andworking his way through several slant rhymes and aporia, caesura, and some nice assonance. Hepaused at the final line, peering into a sea of faces, then dropped it to the floor....

Dolor

I am at my sister’s house the day after my grandma’s funeral and we sit side by side on her carpeted floor unspeaking. She did not cry at the church yesterday or on the day our father told us the bad news, and for some reason this bothers me. This is what I’m thinking...

YTD ROI

A live public art installation where college football stadium bleachers are set up for people who think no one uses public libraries anymore to attend and observe the hundreds and thousands of people walking in and out of libraries all day. Witnessing the library for...

How to Make a Ford Mondeo Fly

Motorway air pummels through the window. Far behind, sirens cry. If there’s a roadblock, I’ll blast right through, pick up Keeley and we’ll drive drive drive—daddy and daughter on the run. We’ll spend the evidence and pay in cash for service-station sundaes and trips...

Dice

Down by the Elbow, Billy’s place was, up high on the rock, so high it was a hardship to get from the dock to the cottage. All rock, gray granite with a stripe of pink quartz marbled by white. Wind-born waves shuffled against the shore, blue-tailed skinks sunned in...

The Birthers

He was the first one to bathe in your blood. The only one.It had stunned you, his reappearance, like a portrait unwrapping itself from a swirling mist. He'd promised to leave the premises if your back touched the floor of the suspended hut. He'd wrestled the alabe...

Educated

It is the last night of class. The students bring me gifts. Several bottles of gin, with the distinctive colored glass. These students came up with the answer that it’s my favorite kind. I keep watch on the window in the classroom door. I’m a nervous scholar, past and...

The Jesus Slots

Through the wall, and the whole night, I hear her shouting: ‘Jesus!’ and ‘Jesus Christ!’ and ‘Jesus!’ and more of the same shit until the morning comes creeping in.At breakfast, while the sun makes its way over the tiles in the kitchen, I tease her about it over our...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

Toothbrush

1. Early summer morning. Last look at Bass Lake before Bette and Dena hit the Willow Creek trail. Cerulean, azure, turquoise. Each had her favorite word. How is it possible Nicki is not here? The trail gentles up hill, the creek a quiet liquid shimmer. The trail...

Vorarephobia

Fear of being eaten is an evolutionary relic, but sometimes I do feel the twinge when I see a cement mixer, or a jet engine, or a customer service representative from Verizon. “I want to talk about something which is interesting only to me,” I said. The chimpanzees on...

Close to You

1. The sun bleeds through his white hair—bleached. Each strand of hair the wire frame of an umbrella. Shirtless, he’s stretched out on the floor. The air—the fuzz of a peach—warm and quiet. His hands cover his face and he doesn’t see you leave the shower, but you see...

Crow Joe

Gentle and silent, living in his caravan, out in the trees, in the edge land, nestling in the selvedge of the town. Beyond the high tide mark of broken bikes, empty bottles, cans, old mattresses washed up against the tree line. In wordless, instinctive agreement, we...

Fruit Salad

Z ate the orange before the orange could eat him. That’s just the way the earth spins. Give a bushel a leaf’s length and those fruit will ripen into you. Swell and soften their skin against your cheek. Zest your eyelids, clutch your teeth with pulp, make your mouth...

My Exploding Uterus

Now that the politicians have taken away abortion, birth control is probably next, Mom says. So, she sets up an appointment with the gynecologist for me to get an IUD, an intrauterine device.  “I don’t see how I can get pregnant when I don’t even know any boys,”...

Men Who Write Women

Even though Suburbia, experiencing her brand-new S-CarGo, had called Valery to say she was stuck in slow traffic, she arrived at Burger Place right on her heels. The place to have lunch in Chicago, Michigan, they used the Downsize Me option to buy a cheeseburger to...

Of Course

My father taught me how to surf fish on a conventional. “Fuck a spinner. That’s for bait and for pansy ass amateurs,” father said. Spot heads. Bait for red drum. Every October, Father would camp out at the Virginia state line on the beach in his ’95 Dodge Dakota. I...

A Difference in Temperature

It’s a hot day. The heat fires down and sweats the sunblock right out. Tourists fight for seats in the cabin, but politely, so they can claim they’re not fighting. I’m stuck on deck in a polo and a prison-logo cap. Last summer, my ex-wife visited one weekend. A...

The Woman in the Chest

*Some of the imagery deals with violent subject matter* The head came disembodied, wrapped in a few of my grandmother’s wool scarves and buried in the crook of a cedar chest good for keeping moths out but more of a relic than anything—an attestation to the abundance...

Ernst’s House

Ernst sees, shaking the blind hands of sleep, the son who will never be Jesus Christ again. And this has been going on every night for six months now. Sometimes, in addition to a boyish smile, he dreams of shovels without holes and flowers without...

I Don’t Even Know Who You Are

When I booted up my computer and opened the web browser, the last thing I expected to see was a Facebook friend request from my estranged father. It’s been 13 years since I rubbed my eyes and witnessed him dash out of my life, his silhouette sneaking across the...

Game Over

Volunteering at the nursing home was the boy’s mother’s idea. She said over dinner one night that spending his afternoons in the arcade did not an impressive, productive young man make. Also, that all he ever did was take, take, take. Then she added that he’d look...

Fountains of a Birthday

He discovered // what Ponce pondered // it scared him the scars // without use-of blade // he had whittled to core // found some time // this modern-day's discoverer looked within // now sat unafraid // pain slowing hard his hands no younger, smaller, but those hands...

He’s Not Bothering Anyone

Father was the first to spot the crumpled black mass in the corner of the living room. “Up there,” he told Mother, pointing to the ceiling. The blue light from the television illuminated their pinched faces as they searched through the shadows, the whites of their...

Wet Grass

I rake leaves into a black garbage bag under moonlight. I hear Jean tell me about the benefits of leaving a few leaves in the yard. “It’s good for the soil. Don’t you care about the soil?” I don’t know what’s come over me, but I need the leaves gone. I need the grass...

The Magic of Witch Hazel

I’m Hazel, and I have known you forever. Maybe you think you can harness my power? For years, your hands have held my forks, waiting for magic, for me to twitch. Dowsing, divining, or water witching. I’ll dance, ‘wyche’, or bend in a ‘wicke’  if I feel the life...

Invasive Species

I tucked diet plans away in the back of my mind in case my hair started to thin out. I didn't think I could handle being fat and bald, not with my accent. I was hell-bent on being one or the other but didn't have the dedication to be neither. When I talked, it always...

Quicksand

Lorri dares walk out on the estuary to where the red-shanks strut on long legs. She dares climb the tall twisted oak where she says she can see her apartment block three hundred miles away in the city. She crosses the fast-flowing stream on a slick and mossy log. She...

Play Pretend

Fiona has a pretend family no one can snatch out of her hands. She has an older brother, Kojo who once drove them all the way to Aburi for a picnic in the botanical gardens; and this other time Fiona made believe he gave her a piggy back ride up Mount Afadjato. Her...

Mourning Dove

As she drifts into sleep a sound escapes her. A gentle sigh, like the cooing of a dove. Like she was releasing all that was the day before. Like letting go of something.   •   Early morning light falls soft through the window. It casts a cool hue over...

Executive Assistants

The markets are bullish, Bloomberg reports at the crack of dawn. We’re the only ones awake at this time, and we know. We made the markets bullish. Our apartments are tiny. We tiptoe around, getting ready for work, so we don’t wake our fast asleep partners and fast...

Postcard to X

Just Alice and Willy and Ben now. Dragging our bones across the city, hitting every red light but nothing slows us down. We streel over to Old Calton Burial Ground and dance, weave joy in and out of the gravestones, crackle and spark and sing our throats to ash. Our...

Countdown

10… My yearning could have deforested Maine; it continued for days, ever since I saw her, open-faced like the books on display in the museum gift shop. 9… I spent my days at the gift shop mulling over the dictionary. I glared at words I would never use. They sprawled...

Boston

Track 1In high school, we were masters of the one line song. Our greatest hit went like this: Another Saturday night 70’s loser,I myself and me, playing 45s on 33,wishing Ann would go crazy on me. Track 2As lyricists, we were uniquely qualified to recognize Boston's...

On Sunday

Presbyterian vegetarians saddle sea urchins and go for a roe. Wahoo yahoo holy water woo. Sushi sirens singsong seduction, spinach puffs are Jesus’ best wrapped gift. Crab rangoons goon naked crudités enticed by a slice of chanterelle mushroom toast. Devils ride...

The Annual Library Book Sale

The library was flooded with book donations. Mountains of cardboard boxes filled the basement, ferried from hatchback and truck-bed, down the elevator, to gather dust with their kin. Before they could be set on narrow tables at the annual book sale, the books needed...

How to Stop a Cough

See a doctor if your cough persists for more than seven days. Tell him you wake up three, four times a night coughing, though you’re not sure if it’s your cough or the urge to pee that awakens you. Joke about childbirth and urinary stress incontinence. Chuckle with...

Sorry Kid—

“Sorry Kid.” That’s what Carrie on Season 5 Episode 23 of Kids Baking Championship says to Kyle before she steals his cinnamon during a speed challenge. This ten year old has her own cream cheese frosting recipe and I can’t stop praying long enough to get off the...

Ash Darlings

During a commercial break I notice the six boxes in the corner of my room. They contain all the drafts of my third collection of unpublished stories, rose petal words, withered. I look out of the window at the cloudless night sky. So, it's time. I pile the boxes in...

Tagged

By two in the afternoon, we’d stolen four t-shirts, three baseball caps, and twelve packs of Spearmint gum, all while making friends with the cashiers—flirting if they were girls, talking sports if they were guys—and leaving each place with our pockets stuffed and the...

Six Minutes At 4 AM

I have six minutes left before the boy I used to know as a child comes out to skate the performance of his life. I go downstairs to make instant oatmeal and the water takes ages to boil. I compose a list of things you can do in six minutes – it might well not include...

Undeveloped

Before I leave you, I clean out my desk drawers. I no longer want to hold onto these things: Mr. & Mrs. rubber address stamp, sushi erasers you bought me even though I dislike seafood, unopened ovulation tracker. A film cartridge, black and white Kodak, 35 mm....

Ballad of Him

He rented a room on F Street, three days a week washing dishes at a local restaurant. The building he was in was broken. Small rooms split into smaller rooms by cheap drywall.Her room was down the hall. Someone he realized he knew. After work he stood outside her...

Screaming Ourselves Horse

At first, the men didn’t understand. Sometimes the change would happen at midnight, and other times it’d sweep through at midday. They’d wake to a bed frozen over, or they’d frown upon entering the kitchen, finding lunch absent from the table. Within the house, at...

Like My Grandmother’s China

You would be so surprised, I know, to learn the real reason I stayed with you far too long. One brisk October day a decade ago, walking up the steep slope of Eugenia Street, we passed a house with well-tended planter boxes. You glanced at the fuchsia nestled there and...

The Hole in the Wall

“When your world abruptly falls apart, inaction is a powerful counteract,” said the voice, once leaving the man to his empty room.The man walked the empty room, pacing its area as though studying it. The man did so until he became fatigued, ultimately falling asleep....

An Evening With

I found Momma’s wig and green formal in her old trunk. She’d worn them to her last birthday party at DiFranco’s. After looking in the bathroom mirror, I imagined myself on a New York stage singing her favorite numbers. I performed “My Man” and voiced every word with...

The Narrow Path of Totality

When mom would get tipsy, she’d tell this story. She had only one; beautifully embellished, wild with gestures, impeccable timing, and heart dropping punchiness.“It was a brutal labour.” She’d look around the living room and declare “You guys couldn’t begin to...

What Binds

I become things. Today I become a staple stuck in a telephone pole, chewing its corner of paper. Tastes like missing puppy flier, honeyed with a crust of sadness. Not like the bitter root of ads for the neighborhood watch. Or the starchy invitation to a show by The...

Portraits of Fowl Women

~ Swans and geese hail from the same branch off the duck family. Over time, they, too, drifted apart. Lynne’s father said they could trace ancestors all the way back to the Mayflower. Fishermen and servants leaving an old land for a new land where they became...

Kokoschka’s doll

Sometimes Kokoschka tells me I don’t exist. He whispers, you’re a transitionary object, dear doll, an illusionary surface, an overpriced representation of absence, and he groans into the feathery folds in my thighs and throws me to the floor. I was wrapped in tissue...

Window Dolls

I see other girls like me, breathing their breath, their heads against the back seat windows, greasy imprints on the glass, their gaze on blurring buildings, boys on bikes, other cars. Chevy. Chrysler. Cutlass Supreme. We are behind our parents’ heads. For the moment,...

Archie and I. Alone. Together

Archie's coat smells of old man and cat pee. You like to dip your nose down the sagging collar and inhale the earthy scent in the playground line. Others pinch their sensitive noses and make noises that tighten his fish-hooked jaw and turn his ears pink, but you find...

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler

We are heat cranky, though we try not to be.  We sit in this hot room, hot because it’s South Louisiana, hot because it’s summer, hot because the air conditioner broke down. My mother carries a tray of sweet, iced tea into the enclosed side porch, usually...

Standing around the Hearts

In first period health class, all twenty of us stood around the cow’s heart Miss Hutchings unwrapped on her desk. “Inside and out,” she said, “we need to know ourselves,” halving that heart with a scalpel to show us auricles, ventricles, valves, and the wall...

Idea

The writer had an idea for a story and took out his spiral pad and pencil nub from inside his ear and began to write about the phone call he received from a late-night TV host who said he was referred to him, read his collections of flash fiction and would like to...

His Confession

He uncorks a 2017 bottle of Caymus Cabernet and pours out a story twice as old. Six words filter through. Six I want to unhear. Knife, nightArgument. Slashed, severedFled So many questions to ask once my thoughts unscramble, and stomach untwists. Only one makes it...

Calling

The crackle of her rabbiting breath over the phone. “Hello,” I say, like always. “Hello? Is anybody there?”“I’m not sure.” Her speech fraying at the hem. Her words leaking from a badly-sealed balloon. I try to guess which woes she needs me to uproot, if any:...

How To Build A Rocket

Rocket science is still rocket science, so make sure you know the specifics of the rocket you want to build. This has gotten easier because there is so much information out there. Not so much online, but libraries are free and open anytime, anywhere. You can take out...

Bones of Steel

Tomorrow, you will come for me, you will pry me open, rip out pipes, radiator, battery, pull off my steering wheel, pluck mirrors, yank windows, haul the best of my organs for sale, scatter the rest of my body parts in four corners of the country....

The Screamer

My girlfriend’s been soliciting money for sexual encounters with older men. Her friend showed me the messages: Hi, Robert – how can we please you? This friend was to possibly join the venture; that’s what she wanted anyway, but friend thought I was an alright guy,...

Aloha

Shawn and Shauntelle showed up in comical drag at the Kauai Pride Picnic at Queen Surf Beach,one in a hula skirt and coconut bra, the other tucked into short shorts and squeezed into a paddedbustier. Diane and I met them the day before as Yin and Yang, what they...

Second Hand Roses

Early nineties, dumpster diving. The blackberry back alleys of Vancouver’s gay west village have the best loot. At first we climb up and lean in, poking around with a stick. After a few killer hauls, we wade in hip deep. We find anything and everything: cupcakes,...

After the reading

As a final gesture, he ate the poem, starting with the rhyming couplet at the beginning andworking his way through several slant rhymes and aporia, caesura, and some nice assonance. Hepaused at the final line, peering into a sea of faces, then dropped it to the floor....

Dolor

I am at my sister’s house the day after my grandma’s funeral and we sit side by side on her carpeted floor unspeaking. She did not cry at the church yesterday or on the day our father told us the bad news, and for some reason this bothers me. This is what I’m thinking...

YTD ROI

A live public art installation where college football stadium bleachers are set up for people who think no one uses public libraries anymore to attend and observe the hundreds and thousands of people walking in and out of libraries all day. Witnessing the library for...

How to Make a Ford Mondeo Fly

Motorway air pummels through the window. Far behind, sirens cry. If there’s a roadblock, I’ll blast right through, pick up Keeley and we’ll drive drive drive—daddy and daughter on the run. We’ll spend the evidence and pay in cash for service-station sundaes and trips...

Dice

Down by the Elbow, Billy’s place was, up high on the rock, so high it was a hardship to get from the dock to the cottage. All rock, gray granite with a stripe of pink quartz marbled by white. Wind-born waves shuffled against the shore, blue-tailed skinks sunned in...

The Birthers

He was the first one to bathe in your blood. The only one.It had stunned you, his reappearance, like a portrait unwrapping itself from a swirling mist. He'd promised to leave the premises if your back touched the floor of the suspended hut. He'd wrestled the alabe...

Educated

It is the last night of class. The students bring me gifts. Several bottles of gin, with the distinctive colored glass. These students came up with the answer that it’s my favorite kind. I keep watch on the window in the classroom door. I’m a nervous scholar, past and...

The Jesus Slots

Through the wall, and the whole night, I hear her shouting: ‘Jesus!’ and ‘Jesus Christ!’ and ‘Jesus!’ and more of the same shit until the morning comes creeping in.At breakfast, while the sun makes its way over the tiles in the kitchen, I tease her about it over our...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

Shining a light: multiple choice

1. When the lamp fails to turn on, will Gary:a) Investigate the switchb) Blame his wifec) Curse and sit in the dark 2. Will Gary’s wife, Eileen, upon being shouted at for the third time that evening for something that wasn’t her fault:a) Break down and cryb) Throw the...

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