This is Mona’s favorite public market in Europe. She buys mint here, just to hold it, smell it, remind herself that yes, she’s landed, she’s actually here, in Rome.
Here, too, is the stall with the man she flirts with and the other man who flirts with her, and his wife, white-haired, seated, shelling beans, who never fails to reach for her hand and hold it tight and tell Mona what wonderful skin she has. And then she gives Mona a bean and bends back to her work….
Madison St. Cyr
I’m on the floor again. Tomorrow when I wake, some deep pocket inside my body will ache and pulse like a dying lightbulb. I’m in the kitchen. The kitchen floor is brown with off-white lines crisscrossing to form a pattern of neat brown squares—a flat plastic imitation of something better. The floor is sticky. It doesn’t matter how often I mop or scrub, a tackiness remains, clings to the rubber soles of our house slippers, the house digging in its claws, reaching, pulling, always, to stay, stay. And I do…
37th Floor Spaceship
Josh lies on the parquet floor, his head on a couch cushion. He spelled “eggs” and “years” and “home” right today during spelling and Mrs. Alvarez gave him a gold star. He licked the sticky part and stuck it to the back of his hand. He moves his head an inch to the left and looks out the window of the thirty-seventh floor apartment. There’s only sky. Just sky and whipped cream clouds, white on the top and orange on the bottom. Josh starfishes his legs and arms, pretend-swims through his spaceship apartment, keeping his eyes on the window…
Things I Did & Did Not Say
You remember running out of the mouth of something, then into some kind of fire, then into some kind of water. You remember being swallowed by a ray of light then landing in a field full of flowers. You explain this dream to your therapist who is nodding her head. What do you think that it means? she asks. You inhale deeply & notice the smell of lavender in the air & that the walls in her office are cream. I am not sure you say…
Nobody Loves Tom Petty
The music changed to light rock, and Kendra said, “Oh, I love this song!”
“No, you don’t,” Bert told her. He’d had a few Jack and Diet Cokes, and no luck making passes at her, and so he’d left behind the polite portion of the party.
“You don’t know what I love,” Kendra said. She was toying with belligerence, but Bert had been with the firm a lot longer than she had and it was possible this would come back on her. For now, she kept her tone amused and her eyebrows raised. “I love Tom Petty.”
“No, you don’t,” Bert said again, and his voice was maybe a bit loud. “Nobody loves Tom Petty!”…
They walked through the slush single file, she fitted her feet into his large prints, so it looked like he was walking alongside the gushing river on his own. She had always felt safest in his shadow as if nothing bad could find her again. When they first met so very long ago now, he told her his name Cul, was an old family name. It seemed solid and reliable to someone who had known neither thing. Although she was named after her father she told him she was named after Billie Holiday because her mother had loved her song ‘God Bless The Child’. Then she he added the half-truth, “It was the only thing she left me….
our couch is made of memory foam
We are all alone in the room until his past life enters. Like a colt fresh out of the womb, it is slick, unsteady, and demands to be heard. Once it arrives, the heartbeat of the air shifts: you are old you are old you are old, it taps across our skin. I comb my fingers through my grandfather’s hair till he growls at my presence.He is no longer a man of patience, but he has not yet become a man of violence. We do not say this to each other, the women in this house…
The shadows surrounded me. Scared and shaken, I gave in. They were right. I was doing too many drugs…
Meghan E. O’Toole
When I look at the sky over the house, the clouds spell out my name. Gentle hook, the end of an S. The rising slope of A. Two sharp peaks, jagged M.
I first heard it weeks ago, the ringing of a bell in the back of my mind, first when the firework went off just above my head at the lake house on the Fourth of July. How the colors bounded across the water, how the sky drank them back up. The sound in my ears like a high-whine humming.
My brother shot the rocket from the mouth of a Coke bottle. I thought he aimed on purpose, but his hand slipped. The firework, all its light and color vaulted towards me, burst above my head, bang!…
Scrawled on the back of a placemat at Denny’s outside Pittston, PA
Tell them this is the last time anyone saw me.
They’re looking for me in Indianapolis, with strawberry blonde hair, but one of the first things he made me do was dye it black. He even did my eyebrows with q-tips, to “make it more authentic,” and when he said that I knew he’d been thinking about doing this for a long time…
My wrist is adorned with multi-colored shackles. They jingle as I write the same three sentences on yet another postcard: I hope this postcard finds you well. The weather is sunny there, I imagine. Don’t forget to enjoy the bright blue sky that glistens on the playful ocean.
The front of the postcard reads Greetings from Milwaukee. Ashen waves rush towards the shore upon which the letters that spell out Milwaukee stand. Each letter illustrates a famous attraction you’d enjoy if you were passing through, with a large gray cloud brewing in the background…
Nicholas Cormier III
Commander’s Call. 1900 hours. Base Theatre. Whose idea it was to march us in uniform to watch Saving Private Ryan? I’ll never know. First 25 minutes. Mind blown. Shit changed that day. Sign of the cross. Crack! Bullet to the brain. Images that sting your mind with sacrifice like a yellow jacket on an already swollen eyelid. Raised my right hand. Took the oath. Meant every word. Didn’t picture instant death. Would’ve chosen the Marines if I wanted it to end that way. Save Private Ryan? Not my job. Not the Army. I’m Air Force. ATC—Air Traffic Control. Staring at a Stealth bomber all day. Massive. Black. Invisible on radar. Area 51-designed wingspan. War machine. Nuclear. Ever smell fission? Not so much a smell. More of a feeling…
Franks and beans, canned tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Tuna noodle casserole, served in a series of chipped plates and bowls. If she was the eldest child in a foster home, she cooked. If someone else was older than her, she didn’t have to, but would clear the table or sweep the floor. She noticed how lazy girls got the boot, unless they got by in other ways.
How many houses had she lived in before aging out? The thick file under her bed could tell her, but she let the onionskin paper, index cards, triplicate layers, scalloped letters, clippings, and charts seethe in silence….
Mike Murphy is Fiona Murphy’s brother. Fiona is in your class, but Mike is one grade ahead and about a foot taller. Your mom calls them Irish Twins, but you’ve seen that half-open-mouth-look Mike wears on his face most of the time, so there’s speculation around the lockers that he was held back. Last week someone called him a word you would never use, a word that made its way through the hallway like a bullet: “SPED”. It’s a name fired not necessarily toward those who are actually in Special Ed, but who other students decide should be. No one has ever aimed that particular word at you, but we’re middle schoolers. We’ve got an arsenal….
The Car Folds Like A Poker Hand
When Aunt Janine died, Sadie told me grief sleeps like a cat curled on your chest; the weight breathing with you until morning. Your body noticing every twitch in its tail. This feels impossibly bigger. My grief is the boulder rolling back down the canyon, my tired feet turning to follow it once again. My grief is a dry well, an unassuming cover of leaves; a pair of glistening teeth. My grief hasn’t slept…
Another Day at the Office
Leo massaged the back of his neck, thankful the meeting was finally over.
“It’s been a good run,” Mason smiled.
Leo didn’t respond. He took the file box he’d been given and began carefully placing the framed pictures from his desk glass-side down. Janie missing her front teeth. Julie peeking out from behind lilacs in the front yard. Should he call and tell her? He didn’t know if he could take her positivity….
B. S. Roberts
I jab my fingers into my temples and rub, hoping to banish the irritation from my skull. With no luck, I look back at the yellowing book which smells of cobweb, musk, and coffee.
What the fuck is this?
“Femur of Thrice-Great Grandfather.” Nope. Nuh-uh. A book isn’t going to talk at me, no matter how peculiar the required reagents are—nor how sultry its voice. I haven’t done anything to warrant it, yet. Drop the quotation marks, you damned author.
Femur of Thrice-Great Grandfather.
Better. But still, thrice? …
Kelle Schillaci Clarke
How Loud the Cicadas
The thing about cicadas is that their arrival makes you think about where you were the last time they showed up—on the roof of your cousin’s house with your cousin’s best friend— versus where you are now—in a lukewarm bathtub beside a flickering vanilla-lavender scented candle and a half eaten bowl of 3-D Doritos, yacht rock smooth-streaming on Bluetooth, your tightly rounded stomach cresting the bubbles like a blunt iceberg. Maybe you’ll name her Cicada, you think, because stupid hormones…