Todd Mercer


Jesse Bradley


Peter Jordan


Tyler Beckett


Sheleen McElhinney


Robert Scotellaro


R. Riekke

ESCAPE VELOCITY - todd mercer

But worse is when the EMT can’t hear the patient trying to respond. I’m in here. Yes, I know what happened. The speech function is broken and the facial muscles are rigid. The medic tells the driver: Looks like this one coded. Between the reach for the zipper bag and the patient’s carefree evening, an extended moment of flight. The car’s stunt sequence, a wondrous suspension of regular gravity. A panoramic view of the whole valley, after the Shelby blasted through treetops, over the guardrail atop Lookout Hill. Except for the impact, the current dire paralysis, otherwise a peak experience.

Todd Mercer
Tenth of December
George Saunders

SHERPA - jesse bradley

You stand at the foot of Space Mountain, or as close to the foot of Space Mountain as this minute’s line will allow. When you were younger, your mother always stayed with you when your stepfather and half-brother made their ascent. She hated roller coasters but never explained why. You survived your childhood by selectively adopting her fears as you own.

Your ears perked up whenever the local news talked about a roller coaster accident, usually out of town. You wrote down where, when, and how in a spiral bound notebook. You wondered if your mother loved someone who was maimed or murdered by a roller coaster, maybe your father. You wanted to show her all of your notes and ask: was it one of these that did it to you?

You started giving up each fear you adopted once you were old enough for your mother to not care as much about you. After your first knifeful of peanut butter, you waited for your tongue to swell, your trachea to close. You couldn’t chew the aftertaste out of your tongue. You flinched less when the neighbor’s dog charged at you, the chain link fence saving you each time. You were surprised to still have all of your fingers after you finished petting him through the fence. Your mother hated when you were behind the wheel of your stepfather’s car. She screamed about how you were going too fast or too slow, how you could have killed everyone in the car by rolling through that STOP sign. You knew the slap to the back of your head was coming when you asked her to stop being a backseat driver.

You couldn’t shake the terror of roller coasters: the roller coaster crash that killed three in West Edmonton, the roller coaster malfunction at Six Flags Kentucky where a snapped cable severed a girl’s feet, the roller coaster in Sandusky, Ohio that killed a man while he was looking for his wallet and keys.

You stare at a future that someone else imagined: hopeful, bloodless.

Jesse Bradley
Rion Amilcar Scott

ECLIPSE - peter jordan

I’m not sure what time of the day it is. I have no watch, no phone. From the length of the shadows cast by the people in the crowd I guess it’s early. All of the crowd, every single one, look up to the sky, cell phones raised, taking pictures.

There are seagulls flying about haphazardly. A security van has its hazards on. Things aren’t right.

Curious, I walk across the street, navigating slow traffic.

A girl in uniform smiles.

What is it?

An eclipse.

A what?

Where have you been, she says. Mars?

As the moon moves slowly down over the sun, I look right at it.

You can’t look at it directly, she says. You have to put your hand over your eyes.

I look at her.

I’m only saying what it said on the radio!

I ignore her and continue looking directly at what is left of the sun.

When I look away I see a trail of greens and reds and yellows.

Right now, she says. It looks like an engagement ring.

She reminds me of someone.

Suddenly, everything gets dark, cold.

Is this supposed to happen? I ask.

Peter Jordan
Twitter @pm_jordan
The Pugilist at Rest
Thom Jones

MY BROTHER'S DRUM CIRCLE - tyler beckett

You drag me to the drum circle saying things like “this will change your life” with no mind of how stupid you sound. You take me to a park-turned-mosh pit, so far from quiet Peach City that the dancers who appear at dusk to fill the plaza could be from foreign planets. Pothead percussionists bang their pots, pans, park signs and sundry possessions while their shouted songs rattle my ears. People are topless, packed tight, bouncing and singing in a raucous ripple that we get lost in. You, the small-town refugee, the hick-turned-granola mountaineer, the hike guide who carries a tent for two just-in-case, you’re having fun. Each time a woman rocks to-and-fro or two bros reach overhead to pass a blunt, you get sucked further in, and these gaps between torso and arm, quick as eighth rests, are enough to let you enter. And I, despite shouldering hippies aside, despite saying, “sorry y’all, that’s my brother up ahead,” find myself repulsed, pushed to the edges, where tourists watch this ridiculous blowout and snap photos. And all I’m saying is, what the hell, you said we’d hang out.

Tyler Beckett
Fox Tooth Heart
John McManus

MY SON - sheleen mcelhinney

His scalp smells gamey, like a cut of meat. I guess that's what my genes smell like mixed with his father’s—a sweating rack of lamb. I watch him at the table, gobbling down rabbit stew, his breathing heavy and labored as if he hasn’t been fed in days. He has an arm guarding his food against invisible predators. He looks like a stranger to me. The thick mop of dusty brown hair, the wide nose, the growling and grunting. I bring the rug outside, hang it over a tree and beat it with a branch, watch the dust particles swirl and float in the sun. My hands are dry and cracked; the hands of an old woman. When my boy was born, these hands were soft against his cheek, soft inside his curling locks of hair, but still he suckled on my breast like a ravenous wolf, always taking more than I could give. His father doesn't know what he is, but I do. I lie in the dirt and wait. I sing softly to myself as the moon rises high in the night sky. A coyote howls in the distance and I know I'll be out here all night, waiting for my son to come home and curl up in my skirt, weeping for all he's destroyed. 

Sheleen McElhinney
All The Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr

SONIC BOOM - robert scotellaro

"An airplane is like a blister on the heavens," he said, looking up. "Get a grip," she said. "This garden isn't going to plant itself." There were two saplings angled against the fence, a wheelbarrow filled with perennials. He picked the trowel up, plunged it into the soil. Some personalities were so large they dispersed another's language altogether, he thought. Left it to languor in the lungs. She handed him some bulbs. "How deep do you want these holes?" he asked. She demonstrated without speaking. And when she turned, he noticed her shadow fill an empty bucket to the brim.

Robert Scotellaro
Ways to Spend the Night
Pamela Painter


when we were in eighth grade. It’s the worst grade. It was the worst grade for me. This was the year of A View to a Kill. We were James Bond addicts. We wanted gadgets and girls. We wanted travel and boats. He didn’t go with me to see the film. The Octopussy days were over. The magic of stupidity gone. His dad hung himself in the basement, the laundry machine running, as if he was trying to fit in one last chore. It was the opposite of James Bond. I got older, got a job in the mines, the opposite of James Bond. He married a woman he hated, got divorced, and killed himself with a shotgun. He had a snake that got out of its cage. My mother wouldn’t tell me what happened with the snake and his corpse. It sounded very James Bond villain though. I wouldn’t write this, but I think he’d like that comparison, even if he was dead reading this.

R. Riekki
God is Red: A Native View of Religion
Vine Deloria Jr.