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A Matter of Touch

by M. Betsy Smith

I stare at my cell phone in a sick state of disbelief. I had missed Justin’s one call. He left a message that I play again, hoping it’s not real.
“Mom, how did I get here?”
I hit stop unable to listen to it in its entirety.
“I don’t know,” I whispered.
I’m not sure I can do this anymore, being privy to his suffering and the hell he lives in. It’s too hard. But I am the one he needs; the one he reaches out to, his mother. I know that if I abandon him he won’t survive.

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Shadow Boxing

by Laura Iodice

The room is dark; a large queen-sized bed sits in its center. The Old Man who occupies it is propped up on a pile of pillows, the skin on his cheeks sagging like so many yards of curtain valance; his eyelids lowered to half-mast; his mouth yapping up and down like a marionette puppet whose strings have been pulled by too many hands.

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Passing Silent Messages

by Susan Dashiell

Miss Dinuzzio and I sat catty-corner in snug armchairs with three stacked nesting tables between us. She removed the glass bowl from the tabletop tattooed with faded cup rings.
“Do you have any questions?”
“Nope. I think I’m okay.” The job was straightforward. I would step in as Mother’s companion, so Miss Dinuzzio could teach her Saturday morning piano lessons in peace.

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Quantum Solidarity: Making Hajj at Bear Lodge

by Kevin James

The mind-numbing atrocities at home and abroad dare me to respond. It’s as if world events conspired to belittle me, taunting me to try to make sense of bloodbaths by religious extremists with death machines improvised or designed. Perhaps it’s this very feeling of alienation and impotence that fuels the rage behind the headlines.

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The March Against Death

by Jeff Richards

I was standing on the steps of the Lee Mansion looking down on the crowds crossing Memorial Bridge and beyond that Lincoln Memorial. The crowd split and went to either side of the Memorial. It looked like a million people though I’m sure it was much less.

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The Bonsai Tree

by Sara Wetmore

A few months ago, I gave up on my office dracaena. I’ll admit, it had been having a rough time. Its leaves had all nearly fallen off, its stems soggy, its color faded. Truthfully, I had been thinking of letting it die for a while. Not just gradually either. I wanted it to suffer,

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Me and the Milkman

by Pam Munter

Each morning at dawn, he would stealthily enter the house through the unlocked back door. In the early 1950s, no one in our neighborhood locked their doors. I was sometimes awakened by the tinkling noises of glass and the opening click of the refrigerator, but seldom by any human voice.

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5 Rules for the Problem Dog Owner

by Jennifer Jarman

Small, dark, almond eyes blinking eagerly at me through the thin grid of fencing, a narrow head just reaching my knees, ears perked forward like twin radar dishes, his entire sleek, black body wobbling from side to side in an unthreatening display of welcome and happiness.

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Driftwood

by Keith Wilson

As a student at Northern Michigan University, I ran for hours on the wooded trails and the paved bike paths along the shores of Lake Superior in Marquette, Michigan, where driftwood accumulated on the sand. I wasn’t a collegiate athlete or even a competitive one. Running had nothing to do with school except for keeping me from studying.

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Lonely in the City

by Sabrina Qiao

The first week I moved to Manhattan, I was so excited I couldn’t eat. I lost two pounds and gained a Metrocard, an apartment sublet, and a new internship.

I was supposed to be living at home, working the same internship I’ve had since I was a college freshman—not out of loyalty, but out of love for my father.

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Quilted Northern

by Taylor Riley

Lying on a pile of blankets in my grandmother’s upstairs bedroom on a breezy, October night, I was feeling both chilly—the window was open to my left— and mentally exhausted after an eight-hour drive from our home in central Kentucky to western Pennsylvania. I rested beneath my grandmother’s patchwork quilt where my boyfriend Heath and I were bedded down. I clung to the warmth of the quilt, its scent a mix of musk and mothballs.

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The Sandy Diary of Susu Aisin Gioro

by Susanne Lee

In a flash, I went from living in a neighborhood of $15 grilled cheese sandwiches, $19 meatloafs and $400 skin creams to a developing country with cold water, no electricity and waiting in line at a public park for dry ice from the electric company and to charge my phone from a CNN truck. And I am one of the lucky ones. I have a roof and windows.

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Summer Haze of Weston Days and Her Eyes

by Julia Edinger

When I look back on that summer, I remember everything in a blue-tinted haze. Everything was blue. The sky was perpetually sapphire; I don’t think it rained at all for three months. Even the murky water from the neighbor’s pond was cerulean, or at least that’s how it appears in my memories. But the bluest of all was in her eyes.

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The Immortal Goldfish

by Sophie Austin

When I was nearly eleven years old, I stood up in front of my classmates and proudly announced that I had an immortal goldfish. My teacher, a stout, angry woman called Mrs. Gilbert wasn’t as impressed by this statement as I had hoped.

‘Immortal?’ She said, her tone scathing.

‘It means she’ll never die,’ I said. ‘Mum said so.’

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The Matterings of Molehills

by Anna Davis Abel

“I want to matter.”

You will say this, ten months removed from it all, clutching a pink frilled pillow under your elbows, picking at the fraying seam you pull a little looser each time you come to her office. Your therapist with the little feet will listen and then say what everyone always says. “You already matter. Everyone matters.”

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Sweet Dreams

by Carey Cecelia Shook

“I can control my dreams,” Andrew, my oldest brother, told me as I drove him to work at 5:40 a.m. in 2014 because he didn’t have his own car. “That’s why I woke up a little later. I was dreaming, and I wanted to keep dreaming.”

“What do you mean you can control them?” I asked.

Andrew went on to tell me how he always knew he was dreaming, so he made his dream-self do anything he wanted to—fly, teleport, rescue people. That was the first time I heard about lucid dreaming.

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Charlie Hustle

by Alan Swyer

At a get acquainted lunch, which took place before I agreed to direct a baseball instructional video, I did a surreptitious check on what I termed attention span.

After countless hours with public figures—doing on-camera interviews with politicians, scientists, law enforcement officials, and athletes— I had learned the hard way that every person has a fixed period of time—a maximum—after which concentration shuts down.

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The Flight

by Ellen Gunnarsdottir

My father knew that March would be a long month this year so he died on the last day of February. Nobody expected it. My mother had said that he would outlive her and become a hundred. He was eighty, recently retired from his medical practice, and still indestructible, or so we thought.

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