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Acqua Alta

Issue 39 by Sara Baker

Dear Suzanne,

How delighted I am, after all these years, to have reconnected. Thanks to you, that is. I—Luddite that I am—have only been vaguely aware of social media, consigning it, until now, to that circle of hell designated for all the mindless chatter that masquerades as communication these days.

The world has changed much since our happy days in Cambridge.

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“Nativity,” “The Audition” and “First Light”

Issue 39 by Holly Kelso

When she delivered him, occipito posterior, the back
of his skull cradled against her sacrum,
when he crowned, face up, chin up,
it was her father’s chin, her father’s
nose, his broad strong Scotish countenance.
My father was there, wearing a hospital mask, ear to ear,
stretched across his face like a sheet spread at birth,
she would say later it was the first time
she’d seen him cry, her husband.

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Ghost Writer

Issue 39 by Patrick Peotto

The first time I heard crying from the guest room in my new century home was moving day, three months ago. Woke me in the middle of the night. With the windows wide open to catch a breeze, it was hard to tell if it originated from inside or outside the house. Add to that an eight-hour drive, three hours directing movers, and too many pints at the local pub over dinner, and I thought I was hearing things.

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The Morning Bonfires

Issue 39 by Everett Roberts

He awoke. The sounds of the ocean in his ears, birds outside; dust motes swirled in shafts of sunlight. The scent of salt and resin, pine and decaying things. Another clear morning. He was going to die soon.

The soothsayer was right; she had told him exactly what was going to happen. He had observed the rituals, he’d kept the fires lit. He was wracked with the sheer injustice of it all. Why him?

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Portia at the Lake

Issue 39 by Catharine Leggett

Portia’s hiking stick tapped the ground. Gravel roiled underfoot; thoughts tumbled. Clouds opened and closed like curtains, blinkered the moon. Wind whipped, settled, blew up again. The woods bashed and ached a lively dance.

Too late to be out walking. What choice did she have? She had to escape Bill and Alda Edgerton, their unbearable conversation, and their daughter.

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Not Staying for Dessert

Issue 39 by Amina Adele

“This is a bad idea,” I say. “There are at least half a million better ways to spend a Saturday night.” A set of eyes thrown at my husband, inviting him to Netflix and Chill, goes unnoticed as he stands in my reflection. His perfection on full display, the long, lean muscles of his dark, ebony arms and legs meeting at the intersection where the white T-shirt and boxers cover his body. He tucks his T-shirt into his boxers which makes me smile, makes me want to wrap my arms around the elastic waistband and feel the tautness of his stomach against my face. And not let go.

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Passing on the Insights

Issue 39 by Craig Etchison

I went to Vietnam in 1968 as a young, naïve kid, serving with the First Cavalry Division. By the end of my tour, I was no longer quite so naïve. Typical, I think, of so many kids who went to Vietnam thinking they were serving freedom and democracy when, in fact, we were serving the political ambitions of dictators in Vietnam and the political ambitions of those running our country at the time.

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Criminal Water

Issue 39 by Elizabeth Forsyth

Matt and his dad stand in front of their garage door facing the mud and almond dust caked truck.

“Let’s bring it to a carwash.”

“We’re fine, Matt; everyone’s asleep. No one will hear us. We’ll just wash the truck and then we’re done ’til we have to move the almonds. Just like we planned.”

His dad walks over to the side of the garage to turn on the hose. Matt loses count of the squeaks from the rusty faucet and the curses from his dad. The adrenaline is leaving Matt now, an hour after their theft, and a weariness set in.

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Summon Up an Old Friend

Issue 39 by Meg Lewis

Look out of the window. Focus in on the droplets streaming across the glass. Focus back out on the road, the lampposts zipping past in blurred grey stripes. Summon up your old friend, the giant orang-utan, who swings from the T-bar of one lamppost to another, keeping up with the cars as they speed down the M25. Get bored with the orang-utan – you are too old for this now. Shuffle, look straight ahead. Change the radio station to Kiss FM, even though the music makes you feel uncomfortable.

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Just Listening

Issue 39 by Pat Hulsebosch

“I can’t. I can’t open this car door,” wails seven-year old Samantha, hand tugging awkwardly – ineffectively – on the inside handle of her parents’ bulky old Suburban station wagon. I was in Florida for a weekend visit from Chicago. We’d spent the morning at Lowry Park Zoo. Although it wasn’t quite naptime, both of us were a little worn from an overabundance of orangutans and ostriches on a hot tropical day.

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Lookout Mountain

Issue 39 by M. F. Robinson

It was the third Sunday in September in the year of our lord eighteen hundred and sixty-three when Private Ephraim Prometheus Boone lost his left foot. His body had been found in the dim evening lying on the battlefield beside an injured dirt-coated bullmastiff that his company had named Abe and a wounded Confederate who was called Asher, and they each grunted and whimpered in the back of an ambulance wagon rolling twelve miles over dirt and gravel in the dark. The wagon parked outside the First Presbyterian Church made of brick where the wounded were carried inside to the pews serving as hospital cots for a haunted congregation exceeding one hundred men chanting and moaning demented hymns written by the Underworld.

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A Holy Man of God

Issue 39 by Rebecca Jeeves

I have a clear image of myself: I’m looking for my bicycle in the garage. I needed it to bike to my friend Abigail’s house but couldn’t find it anywhere.
Turrets of dust particles floated upwards. Exposed by horizontal, flat rays of light breaking through the dust-heavy aluminum window blinds. I watched as they rose, spiraling around and around, higher and higher up into the garage rafters until out of sight.

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Charlatan

Issue 39 by Yennie Jun

When the girl wanders into the living room in the morning, her mother is seated cross-legged on the piano bench, phone pressed to her ear.
The girl toes the rattling skeletons of the open boxes. How can it be, she wonders, that as the boxes are emptied, the house only feels emptier? Does the emptiness come from the boxes? Is that the secret of moving? That you move the emptiness from one place to another? That you stuff boxes full of books and clothes and photographs and toolboxes, but the true heaviness comes from the emptiness, an emptiness that leaks from the boxes and sinks into the pit of her stomach?

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Shibboleth

Issue 39 by Mekiya Walters

I’d been hard at work eliminating redundancies in the latest antidepressant survey when my phone started buzzing, Zoë’s name on the screen. Laptop and binders all across the kitchen table, dirty dishes piling up, half-drunk bottle of cab on the counter, even though I don’t drink, not while I’m working, not usually. But this week wasn’t usually. The disappearances had me on edge, for one thing—at first just background noise, but then I heard a name on the radio, someone I used to know in grad school, and it had started seeming very real and very wrong.

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