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Comfort Hill

In Issue 63 by Jeniah Johnson

Despite its cozy name, despite its gentle rise and dive through corn fields and cow pastures, Comfort Hill Road has its hazards. In the warmer months, when driving to and from town, I watch for entitled tractors, escapee cows, flocks of cyclists racing for the cure. But today, a January afternoon in Vermont, it’s just “Collie Lady” on the road.

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Chronic Good Weather

In Issue 63 by Madeleine Belden

The feel of the rope wakes me. Coiled above my breasts, underneath, and pinning my hips against the kitchen chair. Arms pulled behind my back; wrists tied together. The rope smells like motor oil. I have no right to be surprised by my husband. I’ve watched enough Law and Order episodes to know that behavior escalates. I feel as though I’ve been drugged.

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The Comforting Words Package

In Issue 63 by Diane McTigue

Evelyn skims the morning’s featured obituaries. Pure white-bread fare. Only one phrase grabs her attention: “in his kind and gentle way.” It’s simple but disarming, and it stirs a pang of empathy in her gut. She jots it down. Evelyn shakes her head at the grainy photos. When she reaches an advanced age, she’ll have a professional headshot taken just for this purpose.

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Views

In Issue 63 by Aleksandra Appleton

Twilight on the coast always suggests the presence of a colossal beast in the slow inhale-exhale sound of the waves and the lingering humidity of the air.

Marcella felt its breath each time the automatic doors opened and closed. She had stopped looking up from the reception desk expecting to meet the source. Her focus was on her screen, where she cycled through real estate listings in the neighborhood next door…

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Spiritual Barter

In Issue 63 by Kabir Mansata

Raja Rampaul was born on Lord Krishna’s birthday. When his mother Eela was pregnant with him, she had this recurring dream of a blue-skinned baby appearing on her bed, holding the Earth in his right palm, while rolling his head back and having a good laugh. It was as if the baby was the only creature in the world who knew the secrets of the universe.

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Salvador

In Issue 63 by G.L. Lomax

A message was waiting for me at the front desk in Salvador da Bahia. Flávio would meet me later in the Largo do Pelourinho, a short taxi ride away. I unpacked. It was still afternoon, with time for a nap. I wanted to look fresh after so many hours in the air from Los Angeles. I caught myself wanting to look fresh for Flávio.

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Betul

In Issue 63 by Quin Yen

“Mom,” Betul says in a tired, yet apologizing tone.
“Betul? Where are you?”
“Mom, don’t worry. I’m fine.”
“But, where are you?” Her voice trembles.
“Mom, I’m sorry. I should have told you earlier. I’m in America.”
“In America?”

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The Price of Sunshine: “Mahmi and Me”

In Issue 63 by Susan Wan Dolling

Mahmi has always felt to me part tame and part wild, part mother, part child. There is something vague about her I have yet to pin down. When people outside the family were about, she appeared like a grown woman, observing social etiquette, behaving as she was expected to behave, but she was somehow more fluid, more vulnerable, more changeable when we were by ourselves, just the two of us.

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Gone To Ground

In Issue 63 by Morgan Hatch

The sun had just appeared over the rim of the mountains. The air was crisp and smelled of mesquite. Carlos got out of his truck and rode the boom lift thirty feet up to the viaduct. Six lengths of rail had been craned in yesterday, now neatly stacked on a set of four-by-fours. A final course of rebar had been laid lattice fashion on top of the first pour, and Carlos worked his way through the iron grid to check the ties that secured each rod.

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All That is Under the Sun

In Issue 63 by Joaquin Bernal

“Mr Seixas, as you are well aware, you are charged on an indictment containing nine counts. These charges allege you are everything from a brutal slaver to a terrorist. What do you say in your defence?”
The accused did not stir and in his sunken eyes caressed by the deep unflinching creases in his darkened skin, one could see the dying flames wrought within him…

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Samson & Julia

In Issue 63 by TeresaAnn Fico

Samson’s obsession with Julia Child began three weeks after his father’s funeral. He was watching TV late one Saturday night, numbly flipping through channels with the volume high enough that the couple living upstairs would surely complain yet again. The couch he was lying on was lived in, soft in the way that only comes from consistent use. Between the couch and the television set was a wooden coffee table, covered in a collage of water rings across the surface. An almost empty glass of water and an untouched plate of crackers sat on the edge of the table nearest Sam.

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Ridin’ Dirty

In Issue 63 by John Schafer

He tightened the half-inch screw into the wooden floor of the truck. It held the false front in place. The last two screws would wait on the Chinamen. He reached up and grabbed one of the wooden slates that ran the length of the Penske’s interior wall and pulled himself up; it bowed, but with a boost from his legs he was vertical before it gave. He walked back to the end of the truck and stepped onto the lift gate. He peered back in. No way you could tell. They would have to get in and they never did.

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Before the Call

In Issue 63 by Sandra Schnakenburg

I stared at the phone, wondering what to say to a man I thought all my life— was dead.
In 2008, two years before the call, everything I once knew had vanished. My angel Mom, who had given me hope, had passed away.
I pondered what I would do next. After some inner work, my purpose crept up inside me like a wildfire needing to be tamed. I heard the call.

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Shiva’s Tears

In Issue 63 by Clare Simons

A mongoose scurried along the mossy rock wall, darted under a pile of wood and dashed in front of my feet in search of tasty vermin. Its beady eyes glared up at me as if to say, “Entrance not for everybody.”
The lumberyard stocked cremation woods heisted by timber smugglers from endangered forests, carried by porters, hauled by lorry drivers, and sold on the black market with bribes paid at every junction.

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To Grandmother’s House We Go

In Issue 63 by Robert Eugene Rubino

When you were thirteen, your paternal grandparents Nonnina and Nonno already seemed ancient, having been married fifty years. Now you’re older than they were then.
But you remember …
Three things hang on their walls: a gruesome crucifix, a framed wedding photograph, and a billy club.

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