Fiction

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...

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...

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...

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 movies. You weren’t looking, but it’s...

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,...

1999

Britney is knocking. I lean my head against the door. Hey bitch, let me in, she says, I’m your god now, and I think yeah, that sounds about right. So I throw open the door like I’m ready to lead the parade. Before she takes even two steps, Mom appears out of nowhere...

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...

Shotgun Wedding

~ after Persephone, Helen Lundeberg, 1950 The earth shivers and births a crack that fingers its way towards her toes. She realizes she hasn’t much time. Marry me, she says to the sky. Marry me, to the soil. To the rain, she gives welcome. To the stars, she offers a...

Bacon Gouda Sandwich

I lift an empty Starbucks cup from the trash and that’s how I get a fifty-cent cup of coffee. I take it to the patio and feel like god damned royalty. I’m tripping pretty hard, and the sun is a soft, ripe plum suspended in the early morning sky.I’m a girl so I never...

Virtue Signals

I don't remember at which rally I met Brad. He always went to them alone, wearing the brightest pink pussyhat and a tight "Future is Female" t-shirt. He was fit but awkward and a women's rights superfan. Sometimes, I caught him talking to himself.He eventually found...

Oh, Predator, and Me

Alice slew me. I fell like the universe from the back of a pickup truck. Big, loud thud. Picked myself up, dusted off, tried to figure out how to make myself worthy of her appetite. She stood alone at the concert, hair pulled back, a fluffy scarf hiding the skin of...

The Bed

The bed was a normal bed until you laid down on it. The first time I did I thought I was having dreams, but I wasn’t. They glowed around me, these soldered shapes in the dark. At breakfast the next morning I asked my good friend, who was the owner of the bed, why the...

Goodbye Mouths

I'm at a party in a large house with empty white walls and thick carpet the color of clotted blood. A tall stranger with hungry eyes and a slasher smile tries to pull me in for a kiss, but I push him away and he returns to his chair at an impossibly long table...

Baggage

The woman I met that night at the bar later became my wife. Then a little over a year ago my ex- wife. That night we were drinking on the patio and she asked to bum a cigarette. She stayed after I lit it. You couldn’t smoke indoors. This was July. Heat sticking around...

Filling My Mother’s Hole

I hate my inattentive mother for having an affair while I'm navigating myself through raging hormones and a dumpster fire called middle school. And I am still dripping with fury after she picked me and my only friend, Sophie, up last week from school smelling of her...

With Regrets to the Roots

When the woman was still a woman, she kept a special place in her mind where she locked away all of the things which were too unkind to say. Every medical refutation to the woman at work who kept trying to sell her essential oils for her diabetes and her septicemia...

Scream

Kelsey heard it first. She shared this huge ancient wood frame house with her grandmother, her baby brother, and her cousin Joey. Many of her friends came up with excuses when asked to come over, she understood but would still be disappointed.But she heard it, the...

Moments of Reduction

The moon longs for the tree. To be entangled in its sinuous outreaching limbs. Like sleep twining night, labor pushing out cacophonous dreams populating, virulating consciousness. Morning. Choose bra, the style mood of the day. Athletic cotton bralette or cushioned...

Grandmother Swamp

We were tobacco wives before we were grandmothers. Massaging thousand pound tropical blades to get the most nicotine out. Our childhoods were indistinguishable from one another’s as if they came from a factory. We were Scout or Effie or Mags, until our Christian...

Passion Cake

Mary and Mary’s mother and Mary’s mother’s mother Esther lived way upstate in a pale brown one-story house half a mile behind the interstate. Bright white shutters and the front porch swept clean, wildflowers dayglow-green-stemmed and radiant with health lounged in...

Breadcrumbs

iThere are a dozen books on the right shelve, unread, never opened. Ornamental books, hardcover, bare spines devoid of the author’s name or the publication’s logo. You can pick any, and you won’t know until you flip them open. I ask her why. Why such blasphemy? But...

The Matchmaker

The sunlight filtered in through the gaps between the curtains. I straddled my husband and took a deep breath. His hands rested on my waist, that sleepy smile on his lips. Poor bastard, he thought we were going to have sex. I put my hands around his throat, gently...

A Life Defined

bal·​ance (n.) 1. your displaced tooth smiles at you from across the piss-stained floor. 2. its useless black roots probe empty spaces. 3. a stranger rolls you over and drives his palms into your chest. 4. his words crackle like power lines. 5. fucking breathe. 6....

Little Turns

Franklin’s mom gets called into the office, Saturday-afternoon emergency, and we dress up in her clothes and walk around her bedroom, do our little turns in front of the full-length mirror inside her closet door, laugh at each other. I slide into a pair of pantyhose...

Unbinding

My mother was a First Edition Pelican original. At nineteen she found herself shelved in Liverpool Central Library. Her cool cover and enigmatic blurb attracted unlikely readers who took her out on short-term loan. My father was a student, a dilettante, who borrowed...

Roquefort Cheese

She placed the Roquefort cheese onto a cracker and slid it between her lips. It was a strong blue cheese, the kind your uncle might describe as smelly while filling up his plate. She liked smelly things. Even, sometimes, the smell of her own farts, amazed that the...

I Saw It Coming

Until that electrified instant, that explosive moment with us standing there with our goofy grins in front of all those people who came to tell us goodbye, I would never have condoned punching a woman in the nose. But, since it was a teenage girl who delivered the...

notions of wealth

The light from the sun is obstructed at whatever angle we sit or stand. I’ve laid flat on my stomach to catch a glimpse of some form here below. A cracked door sliver. To avoid being swallowed by the inside, we make a point to get out of the apartment and take daily...

Ardorglyphs of the West

I made up the word to see if I could get a horny dork like Megan to laugh in science class. But she didn’t. Instead she wrote back, “what the shit is an ardorglyph?” Mr. Reese was talking about aspens at the front of the room. He changed the slide from the...

Sidewalk Eulogy

Two weeks ago, a rat turned up dead on the sidewalk. Well, actually, it couldn’t have been two weeks ago because I only moved down here on the twenty-third, so I guess it was more like one week ago. One week ago? Wait, you know what, that does make sense because I saw...

wordafterwordafterwordafterword

1 I’m on my way in as her mother’s on her way out as in out of this world as in lying on a hospital bed with her leg to be removed as in a carton of cigarettes a day as in never broccoli as in no friends as in a special universe in which to be alone as in no one to...

Chiltepin

When Uncle gives you the hottest pepper from his collection of potted chilis, he doesn’t see a pepper. He sees the tiny crimson circle of the faraway Japanese flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima when he was 19. When you accept the pepper from Uncle, you don’t see a...

I do, I do, I do

A checkpoint rises out of the blackness. You stop. You wait. ‘Where are you going?’ the officer asks. ‘To see my husband,’ you lie, gripping the wheel. ‘It’s our anniversary.’  ‘Just checking you’re alive,’ the officer chuckles.  A torch flashes through the...

Melon Call Ya

Get out of bed. Ouch. Get back in bed. Tell yourself you’ll start reading again today. Allow your eyes to become tired after six paragraphs; remember who used to read them out loud to you. Feel the sting of newfound silence. Force your mind elsewhere, to the empty...

Perfect Pitch

In the waiting room, we of advanced maternal age spy over barricades of open magazines. Which body among us will accept implantation? Who of our ancient sect will allow modern medicine to age us backwards, reproductively speaking? I count six, including myself....

RADIO to KNOLL (a wordle story)

RADIO Again, I wake up to Adult Contempo. Taylor Swift eakling into my dreams. Why can’t I grow up, I say out loud to my husband, who is already in the shower, steady thrush of water. He doesn’t need an alarm. Love, he says, is what jets him out of bed. I want to...

The Migration of Marion Crane

In my other life, the one I never got to live, I’m a silver-haired woman with six grandchildren, and I love them all. Not in the precious, clinging way my daughter loves hers, or the office-manager love my son doles out in little chits, like badges for good behavior....

Tornado Warnings

           Here there are tornado warnings every other day. The winds pick up, the leaves spiral tightly around themselves. Shingles threaten to snap from the old family home. Every other day, she wonders which version of her husband she will receive, which version of...

Where Are We Going?

“Let each sentence ride its own bus.” Meg Tuite Each sentence rode its own bus, all headed for the same destination from different directions, at least that was the plan, but there was always the possibility that a bus would break down, or get lost, or mysteriously...

Face Mask

One day Brittany opened her boyfriend Shane’s dopp kit, searching for eye drops, and found a freezer bag, rolled up like a scroll. Inside the bag was what looked like a carefully snipped off face, with holes for the eyes and nose. The face was thin, yet fleshy. There...

Someday You’ll Ask About the Dog

You’ll approach me lanky-limbed and jaded, already wishing time would slow or stop, and I’ll suggest we pore over photos from when you were a baby. I’ll hand you my phone, and as you scroll through the years, you’ll pause over a series of images centered around a...

The Slaughterhouse Next Door

It was a scorching summer night, which meant we had two choices: keep the window closed and fry in our own sweat, or open it and allow the stench of death and decay to wrap itself around us as we tried once again to make a baby. When we moved into our dream home at...

Tell Billy To Do His Homework

You lose your virginity to the sweet, fast talking brunette girl from AP Calculus class, in the stacks of the high school library. You get married/break up. You lose your heart to the English Lit major who wrote her thesis on the importance of Precambrian quartzite...

1997

In the summer we were given the gift of living far north. This meant more light. As a kid, I was very aware of the daily weather. Each morning I would call the weather hotline. It rained a lot where we lived, so the weather determined the course of our days. A full 60...

If You Ask

It's just a small cloth bag with a zipper that no longer zips. Teal, gray-blue, blue-green—even cranberry—small chevrons in white. A navy rhombus holds a smaller red rhombus, clean lines, sharp angles in space. You know it’s Guatemalan because you checked the tag, a...

My Son Was Taught

In the evening, I take the bedsheet off at the corners because that’s how most sheets and stories are told. I take off the pleated and elastic corners where they are meant to be stretched in the evening like after dinner drinks and the news.  When he first came...

Better Living Through Chemistry

Anabel is a writer, a book person, a lover of history, and though this chemistry class—even the word “chemistry” intimidates— is for non-science majors, she is forced to sit in this huge auditorium and listen to lectures without a Bunsen burner or beaker in sight. She...

Detective Story

So, a priest, a minister, and a rabbi walk into a bar. They drink alcohol in moderation and share a platter of antipasto and crostini. One of the three friends (it doesn't matter who) eats two pickled eggs. One of the three friends (it doesn’t matter who; however, it...

Trees

“… and the Tree was happy.” Nadine snapped the book shut. “The Tree was also dead as shit. What a fucking crock.” Pauline clapped her hands over her mouth and giggled. Juliet tried to suppress a smile. “You’re not supposed to use those words around us.” Gudrun...

Death Threats from a Child

Animal hoarder Aunt Cleo’s house is a blast, now that she’s dead. Sandra and I lace our fingers together and stroll from room to room. Free zoo! Nobody hassles us to move along, to leave the premises for picking up the orange snake, to pay a dollar to feed the ducks....

The Mating Habits of Foxes

     The man and the woman sitting on the rocks are at odds with one another, I can sense it in their body language. Perched on the jagged embankment overlooking the lake, the small space between them is as big as the forest. Her back is hunched...

Screen Time

Sophie is 6 years old, and she’s running out of ideas. But she knows how to concentrate. She raises her eyebrows, lowers the corners of her mouth, and holds. It is uncomfortable, but necessary. “Sophie,” her mother laughs, looking up. “What’s with the face?” “It’s my...

The Last Time

This time, the father parks his truck in the shade.             “I’ll just be a few minutes,” he tells the girl. “When I’m done, we’ll go to the park.” He squeezes her shoulder and hands her a box of Junior Mints....

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...

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...

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...

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 movies. You weren’t looking, but it’s...

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,...

1999

Britney is knocking. I lean my head against the door. Hey bitch, let me in, she says, I’m your god now, and I think yeah, that sounds about right. So I throw open the door like I’m ready to lead the parade. Before she takes even two steps, Mom appears out of nowhere...

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...

Shotgun Wedding

~ after Persephone, Helen Lundeberg, 1950 The earth shivers and births a crack that fingers its way towards her toes. She realizes she hasn’t much time. Marry me, she says to the sky. Marry me, to the soil. To the rain, she gives welcome. To the stars, she offers a...

Bacon Gouda Sandwich

I lift an empty Starbucks cup from the trash and that’s how I get a fifty-cent cup of coffee. I take it to the patio and feel like god damned royalty. I’m tripping pretty hard, and the sun is a soft, ripe plum suspended in the early morning sky.I’m a girl so I never...

Virtue Signals

I don't remember at which rally I met Brad. He always went to them alone, wearing the brightest pink pussyhat and a tight "Future is Female" t-shirt. He was fit but awkward and a women's rights superfan. Sometimes, I caught him talking to himself.He eventually found...

Oh, Predator, and Me

Alice slew me. I fell like the universe from the back of a pickup truck. Big, loud thud. Picked myself up, dusted off, tried to figure out how to make myself worthy of her appetite. She stood alone at the concert, hair pulled back, a fluffy scarf hiding the skin of...

The Bed

The bed was a normal bed until you laid down on it. The first time I did I thought I was having dreams, but I wasn’t. They glowed around me, these soldered shapes in the dark. At breakfast the next morning I asked my good friend, who was the owner of the bed, why the...

Goodbye Mouths

I'm at a party in a large house with empty white walls and thick carpet the color of clotted blood. A tall stranger with hungry eyes and a slasher smile tries to pull me in for a kiss, but I push him away and he returns to his chair at an impossibly long table...

Baggage

The woman I met that night at the bar later became my wife. Then a little over a year ago my ex- wife. That night we were drinking on the patio and she asked to bum a cigarette. She stayed after I lit it. You couldn’t smoke indoors. This was July. Heat sticking around...

Filling My Mother’s Hole

I hate my inattentive mother for having an affair while I'm navigating myself through raging hormones and a dumpster fire called middle school. And I am still dripping with fury after she picked me and my only friend, Sophie, up last week from school smelling of her...

With Regrets to the Roots

When the woman was still a woman, she kept a special place in her mind where she locked away all of the things which were too unkind to say. Every medical refutation to the woman at work who kept trying to sell her essential oils for her diabetes and her septicemia...

Scream

Kelsey heard it first. She shared this huge ancient wood frame house with her grandmother, her baby brother, and her cousin Joey. Many of her friends came up with excuses when asked to come over, she understood but would still be disappointed.But she heard it, the...

Moments of Reduction

The moon longs for the tree. To be entangled in its sinuous outreaching limbs. Like sleep twining night, labor pushing out cacophonous dreams populating, virulating consciousness. Morning. Choose bra, the style mood of the day. Athletic cotton bralette or cushioned...

Grandmother Swamp

We were tobacco wives before we were grandmothers. Massaging thousand pound tropical blades to get the most nicotine out. Our childhoods were indistinguishable from one another’s as if they came from a factory. We were Scout or Effie or Mags, until our Christian...

Passion Cake

Mary and Mary’s mother and Mary’s mother’s mother Esther lived way upstate in a pale brown one-story house half a mile behind the interstate. Bright white shutters and the front porch swept clean, wildflowers dayglow-green-stemmed and radiant with health lounged in...

Breadcrumbs

iThere are a dozen books on the right shelve, unread, never opened. Ornamental books, hardcover, bare spines devoid of the author’s name or the publication’s logo. You can pick any, and you won’t know until you flip them open. I ask her why. Why such blasphemy? But...

The Matchmaker

The sunlight filtered in through the gaps between the curtains. I straddled my husband and took a deep breath. His hands rested on my waist, that sleepy smile on his lips. Poor bastard, he thought we were going to have sex. I put my hands around his throat, gently...

A Life Defined

bal·​ance (n.) 1. your displaced tooth smiles at you from across the piss-stained floor. 2. its useless black roots probe empty spaces. 3. a stranger rolls you over and drives his palms into your chest. 4. his words crackle like power lines. 5. fucking breathe. 6....

Little Turns

Franklin’s mom gets called into the office, Saturday-afternoon emergency, and we dress up in her clothes and walk around her bedroom, do our little turns in front of the full-length mirror inside her closet door, laugh at each other. I slide into a pair of pantyhose...

Unbinding

My mother was a First Edition Pelican original. At nineteen she found herself shelved in Liverpool Central Library. Her cool cover and enigmatic blurb attracted unlikely readers who took her out on short-term loan. My father was a student, a dilettante, who borrowed...

Roquefort Cheese

She placed the Roquefort cheese onto a cracker and slid it between her lips. It was a strong blue cheese, the kind your uncle might describe as smelly while filling up his plate. She liked smelly things. Even, sometimes, the smell of her own farts, amazed that the...

I Saw It Coming

Until that electrified instant, that explosive moment with us standing there with our goofy grins in front of all those people who came to tell us goodbye, I would never have condoned punching a woman in the nose. But, since it was a teenage girl who delivered the...

The Fastest Punch in the Animal Kingdom

I’m at a work conference, which is just one or two meetings a day and the rest of the time to do fuck all. For me, this means drinking my per diem. I’m two cocktails in when I see a mantis shrimp on the bar, pushing a glass of wine toward me.  He stops about six...

notions of wealth

The light from the sun is obstructed at whatever angle we sit or stand. I’ve laid flat on my stomach to catch a glimpse of some form here below. A cracked door sliver. To avoid being swallowed by the inside, we make a point to get out of the apartment and take daily...

Ardorglyphs of the West

I made up the word to see if I could get a horny dork like Megan to laugh in science class. But she didn’t. Instead she wrote back, “what the shit is an ardorglyph?” Mr. Reese was talking about aspens at the front of the room. He changed the slide from the...

Sidewalk Eulogy

Two weeks ago, a rat turned up dead on the sidewalk. Well, actually, it couldn’t have been two weeks ago because I only moved down here on the twenty-third, so I guess it was more like one week ago. One week ago? Wait, you know what, that does make sense because I saw...

wordafterwordafterwordafterword

1 I’m on my way in as her mother’s on her way out as in out of this world as in lying on a hospital bed with her leg to be removed as in a carton of cigarettes a day as in never broccoli as in no friends as in a special universe in which to be alone as in no one to...

Chiltepin

When Uncle gives you the hottest pepper from his collection of potted chilis, he doesn’t see a pepper. He sees the tiny crimson circle of the faraway Japanese flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima when he was 19. When you accept the pepper from Uncle, you don’t see a...

I do, I do, I do

A checkpoint rises out of the blackness. You stop. You wait. ‘Where are you going?’ the officer asks. ‘To see my husband,’ you lie, gripping the wheel. ‘It’s our anniversary.’  ‘Just checking you’re alive,’ the officer chuckles.  A torch flashes through the...

Melon Call Ya

Get out of bed. Ouch. Get back in bed. Tell yourself you’ll start reading again today. Allow your eyes to become tired after six paragraphs; remember who used to read them out loud to you. Feel the sting of newfound silence. Force your mind elsewhere, to the empty...

Perfect Pitch

In the waiting room, we of advanced maternal age spy over barricades of open magazines. Which body among us will accept implantation? Who of our ancient sect will allow modern medicine to age us backwards, reproductively speaking? I count six, including myself....

RADIO to KNOLL (a wordle story)

RADIO Again, I wake up to Adult Contempo. Taylor Swift eakling into my dreams. Why can’t I grow up, I say out loud to my husband, who is already in the shower, steady thrush of water. He doesn’t need an alarm. Love, he says, is what jets him out of bed. I want to...

The Migration of Marion Crane

In my other life, the one I never got to live, I’m a silver-haired woman with six grandchildren, and I love them all. Not in the precious, clinging way my daughter loves hers, or the office-manager love my son doles out in little chits, like badges for good behavior....

Tornado Warnings

           Here there are tornado warnings every other day. The winds pick up, the leaves spiral tightly around themselves. Shingles threaten to snap from the old family home. Every other day, she wonders which version of her husband she will receive, which version of...

Where Are We Going?

“Let each sentence ride its own bus.” Meg Tuite Each sentence rode its own bus, all headed for the same destination from different directions, at least that was the plan, but there was always the possibility that a bus would break down, or get lost, or mysteriously...

Face Mask

One day Brittany opened her boyfriend Shane’s dopp kit, searching for eye drops, and found a freezer bag, rolled up like a scroll. Inside the bag was what looked like a carefully snipped off face, with holes for the eyes and nose. The face was thin, yet fleshy. There...

Someday You’ll Ask About the Dog

You’ll approach me lanky-limbed and jaded, already wishing time would slow or stop, and I’ll suggest we pore over photos from when you were a baby. I’ll hand you my phone, and as you scroll through the years, you’ll pause over a series of images centered around a...

The Slaughterhouse Next Door

It was a scorching summer night, which meant we had two choices: keep the window closed and fry in our own sweat, or open it and allow the stench of death and decay to wrap itself around us as we tried once again to make a baby. When we moved into our dream home at...

Tell Billy To Do His Homework

You lose your virginity to the sweet, fast talking brunette girl from AP Calculus class, in the stacks of the high school library. You get married/break up. You lose your heart to the English Lit major who wrote her thesis on the importance of Precambrian quartzite...

1997

In the summer we were given the gift of living far north. This meant more light. As a kid, I was very aware of the daily weather. Each morning I would call the weather hotline. It rained a lot where we lived, so the weather determined the course of our days. A full 60...

If You Ask

It's just a small cloth bag with a zipper that no longer zips. Teal, gray-blue, blue-green—even cranberry—small chevrons in white. A navy rhombus holds a smaller red rhombus, clean lines, sharp angles in space. You know it’s Guatemalan because you checked the tag, a...

My Son Was Taught

In the evening, I take the bedsheet off at the corners because that’s how most sheets and stories are told. I take off the pleated and elastic corners where they are meant to be stretched in the evening like after dinner drinks and the news.  When he first came...

Better Living Through Chemistry

Anabel is a writer, a book person, a lover of history, and though this chemistry class—even the word “chemistry” intimidates— is for non-science majors, she is forced to sit in this huge auditorium and listen to lectures without a Bunsen burner or beaker in sight. She...

Detective Story

So, a priest, a minister, and a rabbi walk into a bar. They drink alcohol in moderation and share a platter of antipasto and crostini. One of the three friends (it doesn't matter who) eats two pickled eggs. One of the three friends (it doesn’t matter who; however, it...

Trees

“… and the Tree was happy.” Nadine snapped the book shut. “The Tree was also dead as shit. What a fucking crock.” Pauline clapped her hands over her mouth and giggled. Juliet tried to suppress a smile. “You’re not supposed to use those words around us.” Gudrun...

Death Threats from a Child

Animal hoarder Aunt Cleo’s house is a blast, now that she’s dead. Sandra and I lace our fingers together and stroll from room to room. Free zoo! Nobody hassles us to move along, to leave the premises for picking up the orange snake, to pay a dollar to feed the ducks....

The Mating Habits of Foxes

     The man and the woman sitting on the rocks are at odds with one another, I can sense it in their body language. Perched on the jagged embankment overlooking the lake, the small space between them is as big as the forest. Her back is hunched...

Screen Time

Sophie is 6 years old, and she’s running out of ideas. But she knows how to concentrate. She raises her eyebrows, lowers the corners of her mouth, and holds. It is uncomfortable, but necessary. “Sophie,” her mother laughs, looking up. “What’s with the face?” “It’s my...

The Last Time

This time, the father parks his truck in the shade.             “I’ll just be a few minutes,” he tells the girl. “When I’m done, we’ll go to the park.” He squeezes her shoulder and hands her a box of Junior Mints....

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