HOLY WEEK - david reale

RODENT CONTROL - josh olsen

Besides taking out the garbage, “rodent control” was my primary chore and I did it with pride, often bragging about the number of casualties and how they died, vividly describing shattered spines and crushed skulls.

“One time, I found a mouse, still alive, dragging a trap behind him as he crawled across the garage floor … I dropped him into a pink plastic bag, the one the Free Press comes in, and smacked him against the oil-stained concrete.”

A circle of camouflaged men stood outside a gas station, smoking cigarettes, drinking cups of black coffee, trading stories of majestic white-tail bucks, lung shots, and foamy blood.

“Last week, I caught two mice in one trap!” I boasted, enthusiastically, to a ring of unamused faces.

Josh Olsen
How to Talk Dirty and Influence People
Lenny Bruce

BLACK UMBRELLA - sarah galvin

I don’t know anything about my life, except that I’m terrified of my massive financial debt, and the only thing that calms me down is a naked girl with two beers. The beers have to be either both for her, or both for me. I rarely have the opportunity to explain this. Most of the girls walk out of my apartment before they’re even completely undressed, saying things like, “Summer makes me feel like a black umbrella is opening in my chest.” It’s okay, but I don’t understand why they do that. Maybe they’re in more debt than I am.

Sarah Galvin

A Cake Appeared

Shane Jones

DRIVING MISS LENA TART - nancy stebbins

Our baby blue convertible is number forty-nine in the holiday parade. I'm chauffeuring the famous country and western singer, Miss Lena Tart, who keeps saying, “Well, ain’t that something,” as if she hadn’t grown up here herself. Maybe things look different through famous eyes. On the sidelines, children toss sparkly red and green confetti. There are things I need to say to Miss Tart; I want to congratulate her for escaping this redneck town. I want to ask her how she did it. In front of us, Civil War reenactors ride swayback horses. Behind us, on the Santa float, Christmas elves are dirty dancing to "Blue Christmas." I do believe they’re drunk. Miss Tart swivels her head to watch them. My ex-husband is the third elf from the left. He’s always ruining things, though I must admit he has good rhythm. He waves at Miss Tart and blows her a kiss. “Well, ain’t that something,” she says. A gust of window blows confetti back into the children's faces and makes them cry, and I think maybe my ex is waving at me, too. I hope Miss Tart has some good advice.

Nancy Stebbins

Sixty Stories

Donald Barthelme

WE, THE WOMEN - michelle reale

We were six in that small place, and too many. Close enough together to smell derision. We were all tourists, though we pretended not to be.

The woman with the green butterfly clipped in her hair hung on to her German husband. He squeezed her small breast for show then raised small glass of dark beer our way. Winked. The men at our table laughed. Encouraged, he spoke: In Tunisia, a man offered four goats for my wife.

The artichokes came to the table. The men watched we, the women, take sections into our mouths. I tongued my lips, looked sideways at the German. Ah, she wants to play, he said, forgetting himself. More than power shifted.

The artichokes sat in their juices, glistening. My man placed a firm hand on my arm, and gripped. The blood rushed to my head. The German stood, lifted his small wife by her tiny arm. His embroidered serviette, pristine, fell to the sticky floor.

The woman patted the butterfly in her hair. I looked for the powder on her fingers. There was none. The butterfly wasn’t real, of course. But, God, I wanted it to be.

Michelle Reale

Suspended Heart

Heather Fowler

NAKED HEARTS - alexandra isacson

“Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord”- St. Augustine

She hated the spiraling & fading Italian cypresses that edged the cemetery’s memory. Sometimes, when she drove past, she longed to visit his grave, but hadn't for years. Her boyfriend wanted to meet her there.

Beyond the wrought iron gates & flashing granite, she was light shimmering into heat, & rolled beyond a ritual. Headstones spiked with names blurred & returned to the earth by the wind & the rain. He parked in the shade beneath bursting pomegranates & melting olive trees. Inside his silvered Bentley, they talked about love & death, & she asked to see his gun. He liquored her mouth with opiates & got rough. Frequently, she was afraid of getting arrested with him, & later prayed the rosary. After he drove away, her heels dug into the dirt, while searching for his name lost among the stones.

Meeting again in the early morning mist, they wandered through a labyrinth of crosses & angel wings hidden in the chambers of her naked heart. Her silks fluttered & frayed with sparking crystals, & he carried his Glock in his suit pocket. Finding his name, her poetries & poppies unfurled in a slow, icy burn. Then, he squeezed her breathless, promising he would take care of her first.

Alexandra Isacson

Selected Poems of Anne Sexton

CHIPMUNKS - sarah gerard

Grandpa hates the chipmunks. They come through the floor like flowers in the garden and chew all the wires in the electrical closet. It blacks out the lights and he can’t even throw the breaker, they’ve chewed that, too. Then they drink all the Pale Ale and wouldn’t you know it, that’s Grandpa’s favorite, but now he can’t even reason with them, he’s got a whole house full of dumb-drunk chipmunks putting the moves on Grandma. And Grandma always was a woman of loose morals, so she’s not turning them away, though she’s doing well not to invite them into her room, as it’s full of her hosiery. Chipmunk poison’s stuffed in the vents, Grandpa bought it at the hardware store not two days ago when this whole mess started, but he doesn’t want to reveal his plans for counterattack to a bunch of, now, ferocious chipmunks eating steak sausages. And when a chipmunk gets well-fed on sausage, God knows Grandpa best act quickly, they’ll become insistent. So he shoves the tiny sacks of poison into the pool pump, and what do you know? Next they’re all in the pool, cannonballing bare-assed, clogging up the drain, drinking pool water and soon they’re all rigor-mortis, bellies-up, fat in the furry, murky green water, chlorine-smelling and there’s Grandpa laughing, standing in the flowers, pointing at dead chipmunks, slapping his knees.

Sarah Gerard
Moonwalking With Einstein
Joshua Foer

YOU KNOW I WOULD - vallie lynn watson

That night in the New Orleans hotel, she had said, “I’m not going to let you sleep, you know,” and later, at the end of them, he thanked her for that, said it represented what he’d loved about their entire fast-forward of a relationship, that she knew their time was finite and precious. She then said that her favorite part of that whole night was sitting, talking, leaned back against him, looking at the Mississippi, watching time move the stars across the sky from one side of the river to the other, and he said he didn’t remember that part.

Vallie Lynn Watson
Stranger Than Fiction
Chuck Palahniuk



CYCLES - kindra j. ferriabough

I can’t find my mother again. And it’s not because she’s dirt old; it’s because she’s hiding. She always hides when it’s time for her medication. But I always find her because she always falls asleep wherever she hides. She snores loud.

This time I look at the dog. “Do you know where my mommy is?” I coo. But the dog is in heat. She doesn’t give a shit. She climbs on the couch and drops her squeaky toy gently on the cushion. She takes the throw in her mouth and covers the toy.

I’ve lived with my mother for a long time so I’m old too. I check the cabinets, the refrigerator, in the stove. I cross the living room and the dog humps my leg all the way up the stairs. I wonder what the fuck is wrong with everybody.

Upstairs I follow the snores into the bathroom. I pull back the curtains to see her sleeping in the tub. Her mouth is open and she doesn’t have her dentures in so she is drooling, gurgling even. I change her diaper right there. My breasts swell with milk but I cannot help it.

Kindra J. Ferriabough
David Copperfield
Charles Dickens

THE GORILLA'S EQUIPMENT - christine hamm

A catcher's mitt. A Country Cruiser with stick-on wood grain. Black wing tip shoes, polished once a week. A pile of banana leaves. An ancient leather belt, cracked along the buckle holes. Five brown glass bottles, full of Amstel. A stick, for poking at anthills, then licking the ants off of. A poor falsetto singing voice. A portable plastic record player from the 70's. A handful of fleas. WD-40, for cleaning rubber. 5 boxes of tissues. A collection of dried shit, hidden under a bed.

Christine Hamm
Love in Infant Monkeys
Lydia Millet

ICE HOUSE - keith meatto

Outside the Ice House, there’s a guy in handcuffs in the parking lot. He’s about 30, boy-thin, stringy hair, dirty face. He’s white; the cops are black.

Ronald shakes his head. He sold his bar downtown and moved here after a shooting tripled his insurance. Now he misses Baltimore, his town that collapsed like a dead star. Damn, he says. I thought today was No Bum Monday.

He refills the chips. Above on the screens, the Longhorns are walloping the Christians. Outside a woman yells at the cops to leave her man alone. Her shirt is backless; her shorts smaller than gloves. The men at the bar brag what they would do to her all night long, then go quiet when the tattoo sisters enter. Ronald pours pints while they complain how the man in handcuffs leered at them. They sound turned on.

Ronald watches the scene outside until the cops uncuff the guy. He totters like a deer on ice, then crosses Guadalupe and almost gets mauled by two cars. The backless shirt woman stays in the lot. Maybe she wasn’t his girlfriend after all, just a Samaritan.

It’s five to seven. Happy hour is almost over.

Keith Meatto
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
David Mitchell


Swallowed in her rhythm, swinging her ballast in a circle, heavy with dip then rise, dip then rise, her breath hard, eyes crunched in slits, she forgot whatever was breathing inside. Forgot it might be scared, sick, confused. It was the weight she liked to feel, the way it balanced her frenzy. How it kept her suspended, diagonal, safe from fall.

She sweated.

When she let go the blanket flew, blurring itself over the grass. It hit a tree. The yelp that broke upon impact a validation that important parts of an organism had just been shattered.

That’s what must’ve broken its back, she thought later, as she sat cutting off its dewclaws with a razor.

She wasn’t a fan of useless things.

The Chronology of Water
Lidia Yuknavitch

BREVOORT - john greiner

Cockleshells and croissants at the Brevoort breakfast table. Fading day of red factories crushed in the corner and all of the dog licenses lost. Your girl will never get her pension. That’s not the way things play in this port. Jim Fisk has caught the bullet of the beauty’s toy. They’re all a bunch of circus shooters, all the way from Coney Island down to The Battery. You get me a fresh loaf at the fish market and I’ll dress you in a blue-serge suit like a genuine Zulu warrior. The kitchen is filled with chefs all waiting for the coup. It ain’t nothing but a happy bludgeon with a shiny ice pick on the ride down here anyhow.

John Greiner
All Gall is Divided
E.M. Cioran

GEOMETRY - sabrina stoessinger

There are triangles in that mirror. And in that one there. In all the mirrors and lenses and eyeballs ever known the God of Isosceles reigns, shoving forth his subjects and flooding the world. The vertices originate in my joints and span outward at giant angles, always equal, always symmetric, always in congruent pairs. I wish instead for parallel lines so tiny and thin they appear as one. A slightly visible stripe emanating from the corner, barely hovering above the floor.

Sabrina Stoessinger
Uche Ogbuji

PANGASINAN - josef lemoine

The barefoot toddler thumps beneath the jeepney and cartwheels out the back. Brakes squeal. Dust clouds billow. The dusk has rewarded its passengers with a show.

Park your rainbow-painted trikes. Race from the rice paddies till those silly straw cymbals fly from your crowns. Children are rising from the ditches without their underwear. Let’s dance around this cloth-diapered boy and feel our faces melt to the road. God, his transformation - now boneless, made of dough. How does he clutch that roasted pigtail? How does he hold that smirk? One does not get that grip from this soil. Two red tears still snake across his face. Take him in your arms and whisper, Do not cry, my angel. Your button nose, your umber hair, your skin does more than tan; it burns.

His parents sprint from the nearest farm in Nikes they clearly bought in the States. Mom spreads her mahogany arms to slow, mumbling in English, wailing in tongues. The yellow-haired father vomits the crab legs his mother-in-law boiled; they seem to climb out whole.

Josef Lemoine
Ten Little Indians
Sherman Alexie