After the Gazebo by Jen Knox

After the Gazebo by Jen Knox

She felt it in her toes that morning, dread that she would shove into ivory heels and dance on beneath heavy clouds. He felt a surge of adrenaline that he thought must accompany every man on his wedding day. Everything had been set in motion four months ago, when they adopted a pug that had been abandoned in a nearby apartment complex. They were unsure they’d have the time to devote to the puppy, but the pug’s bunched face and little square body seemed perfect. It would be a responsibility test, a sort of trial run before they had children. The pug had dermatitis between his folds, which cost money to correct, as did his shots and medications. It was enough to tear a small hole in their new car fund; they had to reevaluate the year and model. The lesser car they picked had good reviews, and the salesman—when he realized they weren’t the best negotiators and had told ...Read More
The Prize at the End of This by Jen Knox

The Prize at the End of This by Jen Knox

Coworkers laugh it off from the safety of their cubicles, call out easy answers: cockroaches, death, heights, death, public speaking, death, and not death but dying. I shrug and say nothing in particular scares me most, so probably death, yeah, probably that. I am brushing my teeth, and the answer taps me on the shoulder. I am jogging, and the answer rests on my feet like weights I must lift again and again. I know it will remain until addressed, haunt me until spoken, but I run faster and concentrate on my burning quads. I set out to make a list—a sort of bucket list. As I begin writing, however, I think of Diana. Then I think The Voice is on, and I should go watch that. I set out to write another day and realize I should call someone about something that suddenly seems important. The answer, meanwhile, is now inside of everything: my husband’s snoring, my worry over ...Read More
In China by Nathan Alling Long

In China by Nathan Alling Long

IN China they recently completed a dam that will flood a hundred villages.  I read about it this morning in the paper while Mom was sleeping.  Everyone was forced to relocate, but their houses remained behind. Every day I read the paper, looking for such disasters—new piles of bodies found in Rwanda, an earthquake in Chiapas, a derailed train outside Copenhagen.  The worst news always makes me feel a little better, always lessens this feeling that I’m the only one with loss. Once, while I was reading about an apartment that had collapsed in New Delhi, I heard Mom start coughing, a dry and sore morning cough.  I waited to see if it would stop on its own, without having to feed her a teaspoon of cola, or lift her up to massage the tiny cords of muscle that still straddle her spine. Because of a structural flaw in the steel, one of the I-beams that spanned the basement of ...Read More
Flies by Nathan Alling Long

Flies by Nathan Alling Long

Flies. Lots of them. All over the table, in my coffee floating, landing on my arms and legs, buzzing around like a hundred toy planes. I’m trying to enjoy my breakfast, but I feel like King Kong. So I roll up the newspaper and start swatting them, until one lands on my plate. Then I cover my plate and coffee, put away the butter, jam, and bread, and go back to swatting. Thwack, thwack, thwack. I have to say, I get pretty damn good at knocking these things off the wall. The real pleasure is hearing them land on the floor like tiny bits of paper, a faint sound, like a fallen angel. Killing is not so bad in tiny amounts, it strikes me now, and I wonder if I might be able to kill a person this way, one gram at a time. What if these flies are really one body, just broken up into tiny soldiers? A horrible ...Read More
Monstrously Unfair by Rich Larson

Monstrously Unfair by Rich Larson

“You have to move out,” she tells him, pink nails kneading Hello Kitty bedspread. “I don’t want you touching all my clothes. Or seeing me change.” Her eyes are hard now, an eleven-year-old’s glitter-dusted eyes, they told him this would happen. “What if I want to have a sleepover? Or if, I don’t know, a boy came over?” If a boy came over he’d lose his trachea, he wants to say. “Sorry.” She wouldn’t believe his snarls, so he lumbers out of the 28 by 48, slithers out the window. Static of her stuffed animals still crackling in his fur.
Like Chlorine and Night by Rich Larson

Like Chlorine and Night by Rich Larson

With our legs flotsam in the deserted pool she tells me things aren’t going to work. Her legs kick and wobble pale in the cyan, only hint at discomfort. My leg hairs swirl like feelers. “Can I kiss you at least?” I ask, passing her the cigarette. After a pause she says yes. Her head smells like chlorine and night. My hand finds the shrapnel of her hipbone under skin. It traces clammy thigh, our cold lips mash together. My head: flick her cigarette into the water, like drowning a firefly. Baptize her, find flushed warm parts under ripples. Spark her. Realtime: we bisect, there are freckles under her eyes. She looks quizzical. Her tongue tiptoes her teeth. “Whatever you need,” she says. “Whatever helps.” The cigarette goes back in like punctuation. Shiny scar tissue on her thigh, a tetanus shot age five—her parents knew she’d be the type to climb rusted pool fences. It fits under my thumbprint. We ...Read More