'BUNKER' - cynthia reeser



angi becker stevens

She’s not really old enough for this sort of nostalgia, but one thing she misses about the twentieth century is the containers, before everything had plastic lids. She misses prying paint cans open, working a flat-head screwdriver all the way around the circumference until the lid sprang off with that satisfying pop. She misses the old coffee cans, the slicing into metal with the old-school manual can-opener, and the way the smell of the coffee grounds would hit her all at once when the top of the can snapped free. She came of age along with the internet and cell phones, it’s not technology she minds. She minds that the world is becoming less tactile. She bought a vibrator—sleek, curved plastic and rubber that looks a little like a bent computer mouse. It gets her off in 30 seconds, and afterward she almost feels like she wasn’t even in the room with herself when it happened. She thinks, efficiency is not always best. All of this plastic is no substitute for the slow, satisfying things we used to do with our hands.

Angi Becker Stevens
Big World
Mary Miller

HEARING - sasha graybosch


sasha graybosch

She fears the sculptures downtown will be moved. He is positive they are a permanent installation. He thought it was poisonous if cooked incorrectly, toxic if not given proper cooling and care. She thought it was harmless but the first bite squished. Uptight and shrill. No, slack and soothing. She wants to see this film because she read a good review. He wants a source. They are outside the theatre, a line winding. “This is not the time for citations,” she believes. “Is there any time to waste twelve-fifty?” he would like to know.

She thinks the betrayal sounded low and pulsing, like a bruising, a seeping out, an end of a part of a whole. The sound he heard was nothing, nothing at all, maybe a small burp, a tiny echo to the back of a cave where only deaf, sleeping bats hung.

He thought if only they could return to where they once were. She thought could and would were miles and years apart, distant futilities under the same sun, with the same chance of being burned, the same chance of cancer.

Cancer as in the sign or cancer as in the killer?

The disease. Definitely the disease.

Sasha Graybosch
Getting Jesus in the Mood
Anne Brashler

BURN - elizabeth ellen


elizabeth ellen

They were going in reverse. They had met in person, talked on the phone. Now there were only tiny words typed into a tiny keyboard. Call me, she typed. It took her longer than it should have. She had a hard time manipulating the keys in her current state.

You are being disrespectful, he typed back. I am trying to work.

She stared at the word disrespectful on the tiny screen. She thought perhaps she was misreading. The word disrespectful reminded her of her mother’s backhand. That had been so long ago. It was hard to know now if she’d invented that scenario or if it’d actually happened. No, she could still remember the burn of her face. She touched her cheek in remembrance. She longed for the man’s hand to burn her similarly. Her cheek was sterile and cold to the touch. What she sought was heat.

The first time he had held her the man had been fevered. He’d walked an hour to see her, which had felt like devotion. She’d given him an aspirin from her purse, pressed a cold washcloth to his forehead. She’d lain down beside him, warmed herself with his sickness. She’d wanted him to feel better, but more than that she’d wanted to feel her skin scorched against his. She’d removed their clothing, spread out atop him. She wanted to press herself to him as long as long as she could stand it, an open palm on a lit burner. She wanted there to be evidence of him on her body after he left, like her mother’s handprint on her cheek that day at school.

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING - brooks sterritt


brooks sterritt

It turned Marsha on when Gary killed roaches. It made her feel womanly. She had killed many herself, but derived an intense pleasure from watching Gary. She made a loud sound for his benefit when she saw one in her kitchen. It was fat and slow moving, probably dying from poison.

Gary looked around before moving to a basket of magazines in the living room. He rolled up a copy of Good Housekeeping and gripped it in his fist. Marsha liked that he would kill for her. She thought he was graceful. She found herself thinking about cavemen bringing down a mastodon.

Gary stalked the roach as it skittered across the tiles. He brought the magazine down, two hard thwaps, and the roach didn't splatter much. He scooped up the carcass, carried it to the bathroom, and flushed it. He put the magazine back in the basket, brown goo and a leg or two clinging to its cover. Marsha made him wash his hands, first.

Brooks Sterritt
What We Were Doing and Where We Were Going
Damion Searls

SMOKES - dan richardson


dan richardson

Mary sat in the gutter because the bus stop had no seat. Sitting is easier then standing, or leaning against a telephone pole.

I should start smoking, thought Mary.

I could stand at popular social events and be alone. People would just think “Oh, a girl smoking. How normal”. I would not have to talk to anyone, because I would look occupied. I would smoke so intently. I would ask a cute boy for a lighter even if I had one in my back pocket. Our small talk would progress to meaningful conversation about things with the prefix post-. He would become my boyfriend. He would seem awkward and self absorbed at first. I would change him. I would teach him to love. We would lie smoking and talking after sex. He wouldn't just roll over and leave me with nothing but messy sheets and low self esteem. We would sit outside at cafes drinking black coffee and eating bagels. He would know every second person walking past, and introduce me to them.

Yeah, thought Mary. Life would be easier if I smoked.

Dan Richardson
cats cradle
kurt vonnegut



sarah hassan

I say nothing when you wake up your son who is sleeping in his boxers on a blow-up mattress in the guest room. “Guess that's not yours tonight” you slur and I follow you up the stairs to the roof. On wet lawn chairs we cradle our tumblers of vodka between our knees and I attempt to light a limp cigarette. You watch me like an actor out of work, black matinee eyes blacker with night, fingers full of pantomime as your mouth tries to sell me the punch line. “You're fearless,” you say, “I'm touched, really,” and I think I know this story, the set-up is so clear; your wife asleep downstairs, the frying pan still hot with butter, my brain numb from expensive cocktails, your foot wagging in a bruised shoe. The hotel balcony over looked the U.N and under umbrellas you showed me where Truman Capote lived. Smelling the river I imagined a great ship sailing in between the high risers, anchors smashing co-op windows, the mermaid mast-head piercing the trees like hot air balloons. “It's like we are in it and not above it,” you said and I know, as I bite the filter and regret the rain, that these matches like our knees in the kitchen refuse to strike and let out one tiny desperate spark for fear of burning down the house.

Sarah Hassan
What Can I Do When Everything is On Fire?
Antonio Lobo Antunes



jeremy kelly

“I love you, Mama.”
So sweet and young. He’ll never even see it coming.

Jeremy Kelly
The Yiddish Policemen's Union
Michael Chabon

WRAPPED - bill mcstowe


bill mcstowe

He remembers when she first used Saran Wrap. She got it tight around the baking dish. Across the top, the corners, the handles, everything. That impressed him more than the brownies.

She stayed the first night they met and made breakfast in the morning. She toasted and buttered the plain doughnuts from the Entenmann’s box. Smart, he thought. She came back that night and made the brownies. Delicious brownies.

A week later she brought groceries. He noticed her toothbrush on Monday morning. On Tuesday, he found her slippers under the bed.

Weekends were theirs. They went to bars and played pool. Sometimes trivia. And more recently, stayed in to watch movies.

She surprises him tonight, a weeknight. “Idol in fifteen,” she says. “I’m baking brownies.”

He pays little attention to the show. Thinks mostly about Saran Wrap.

The brownies cool and after Idol, she cuts them into neat little three-inch squares. Puts four on a plate and wraps the baking dish. He offers her a beer. “I can’t,” she says. “I’m pregnant.”

The Saran Wrap is stretched tight across the top of the baking dish. He pokes it. Feels it. Tight on the corners. The handles. Everything.

Bill McStowe
Cat's Cradle
Kurt Vonnegut



MONDAY - audri sousa


audri sousa

the day i invented an auxiliary language i felt that my own could not support what everyone was saying if letters are symbols then letters are cymbals crashing i wanted my connotations to hiss like water poured on a bonfire to crackle like appalachian thunderclaps to ring like alchemy to flow seamless like tributaries the amazon carries that i carry seven layers under my epidermal tent i wanted for us the language we have earned i wanted a language i could drive

Audri Sousa
measuring tape for the midwest
noah falck



michael j. martin

I killed the gnat-bug and felt sorry for an instant. A full instant. And if you know what an instant is it feels like forever dropping into a hole, or the wings of a butterfly peeled off then reattached with dried elmers glue and super-globular plus (superglue). Patty walks in nude except for her flesh and offers me the dry skin she peeled off her lips. Dinner’s on the stove.

She called me horrible. I knew I was. I knew she was, also, but her saying it and me not, it didn’t seem like she was all that horrible. I had a hammer in my hand.

Somewhere along the road we ditched each other. Dactyl’d one another’s corneas. I drove a couple miles around the mountain, headlights on, squinting because, like I said, dactyl’d. I almost killed myself on a bend, headlights looking at an abominable snowman hunched over, doing what looked like masturbating and having sex with a bobcat. I rubbed my eyes and saw Patty giving me the middle finger and flashing one breast.

Michael J. Martin
White Noise
Don DeLillo

ALL GONE - amanda ellinger


amanda ellinger

as i ready your bed, you ask me why you are still alive. i sit on your bed, facing you in your wheelchair. i can see in your eyes that you want me to answer this question. everything i can think of in response seems so far from adequate. so, i just look into your sleepy eyes. you say that they are all gone, everyone you have ever known and loved, all your family, your only brother, your only son and his only child. you ask if i think there is a god, a heaven, if you really get to meet up again with your lost loved ones. you say you are ready to die, in a" i'm just done here way." you say it's been years since you had a proper hug. this hurts me a bit because i hug you the three or four nights a week that i help you to bed. and, i think you see it in my face and you say that you get hugs, but that in a wheelchair, you can't get a real arms wrapped around you hug. you say you miss good hugs the most. so, i get someone to help me sit you on the side of your bed and kneel in front of you and wrap my arms around your small fragile frame and i feel your arms go around me and you squeeze with all of you. i feel the rapid rhythm of your respirations slow to catch the cadence of mine. your hair still smells of the perm you got on wednesday. i can hear the soft whispers at the door to your room. someone knocks. several of the staff are outside. the cute little dark haired girl comes in, the one everyone calls bitsy. she says we heard there was some hugging going on in here and we were wondering if we could get in on it. you sniffle and i draw back to see tears running down your pale cheeks and a smile on your face. one by one, they come in and hug you. real hugs, proper hugs, another's arms wrapped around you hugs.

when i look in on you before i go, you are lying there, still awake, still with tears running down your cheeks. you say you are alright before i ask. you say i think i will just cry myself to sleep. but, you say not to worry. these are the good kind of tears.

i am off for the weekend and when i come back monday, your room is empty. and, i am hoping there is a god, a heaven, reunions with lost loved ones. and hugs, lots of hugs.

WHAT YOU SHOULD HAVE DONE - gwendolyn joyce mintz


gwendolyn joyce mintz

You rolled your pregnant self out of bed, the yelling waking you, the pounding pulling you to the kitchen, where your husband loomed over his son from another marriage, the two of them by the table where a plastic bag was spilling the loaf of bread and liter-bottle soda that the boy had gone to buy for his father who was angry that his son had put the two together because he hadn't wanted to carry two bags home and the bread slices were no longer the squares that his father was demanding they be returned to and though the boy was not dumb as your husband was saying – he simply looked afraid and small—you knew he couldn't do it ; placing your hands on your belly, you wondered what to do, if anything, though it only came to you later—watching your own son being led away, his angry hands, shackled-- the thing that you should have done.

Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz
The Well and the Mine
Gin Phillips




He is ugly, like a garage sale table, but he knows how to fuck me. His mouth never stops, even after he is full. His huge piston dick hides under his haphazard belly, discolored and disjointed from a disfiguring childhood scar…something about ninja weaponry.

It looks like an heirloom tomato.

In the morning, the sheets hold in his death metal farts. He is disgusting. But when we wake from the loud crows’ bludgeoning caws, we fuck and I forget about what he is.

Breaking Dawn
Stephenie Meyer

RECALLING CARTER - garrett socol


garrett socol

The officer in charge asked me about Carter Kincaid, the bearded, broad-shouldered man who shot the tires of fifty parked cars that were blocking his exit before shooting himself in the head. Long before he was able to grow a beard and several months before his shoulders broadened, Carter Kincaid had been my brother. “He was a cadre of contradictions,” I said. “Cranky but cool, cantankerous but calm. And he was conniving enough to coax a kid out of a candy bar.”

“Do you know that his past was peppered with pandering, perjury, bribery, battery, burglary, embezzlement, and ice cream theft?” the officer inquired.

“No,” I stated, “but it doesn’t surprise me. Carter could eat a dozen chocolate cones with his eyes alone, and a half dozen with his hands tied behind his broad back. And that doesn’t even include strawberry.”

Garrett Socol
Mary Gaitskill

MADMAN - amy minton


amy minton

In the newspapers there are photos of a raging madman. Have you seen him? Gray beard, dark eyes, brown skin sagging off his skull. He is pointing, mouth open. He speaks a language I don’t understand. There are scores of men seated in ranks behind him, looking alternatively bored, outraged and amused. Not since Nuremburg have we tried a criminal in public view. Not since Nuremburg have we known the fate of this man before the trial began. He is unafraid to be executed. When this man was arrested and evidence produced, his family cried. “He bounced grandchildren on his knee. He gave them candy and money. He kissed them goodnight,” they said.

He looks familiar to me. This man. He has kissed me goodnight and told me stories about a rabbit in tar. He sang songs about the jailhouse. He tossed me into the air while his wife, my grandmother, screamed at him to be more careful. He won medals. He pinned them on his uniform. He typed letters for presidents. He drank. He suffocated a man with a plastic bag. He maimed a child with toxic gas. He sat alone on a rusty porch swing in his carport in West Virginia. He smoked after my grandmother went to bed. Elbows on his knees, face to his boots. He shook involuntarily. He drank more. He assaulted police officers who came for him when my grandmother called. He served time. He posed for a photo. The public tsked-tsked, then turned the page. There is a raging madman in the papers. Have you seen him? They have already killed him.

Amy Minton
The Plague
Albert Camus

IN THE WHITE HOUR - christopher kennedy

for S.

christopher kennedy

White dust annihilates the windows: detritus of oaks, epidermis of kings. I’m riding the frayed gold couch toward a new world oblivion: king of whispers and bad luck. When the smoke clears, I’ll buy you a reason to live if you promise to share. I’ll rewind the tape so we can see every wrong turn in slow motion; freeze-frame your face and un-forget; gather the dust and recreate you; save you from yourself; alter your perception of depth; step out with you over the Grand Canyon.

Christopher Kennedy
Like You'd Understand, Anyway
Jim Shepard