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FTO Star

Issue 21 by Debra Groves Harman

When I was a child, I lay in bed at night and fantasized about using a razor-sharp knife to carve fat off my body. First, it would be my stomach, and then my arms. My double chin bothered me too. I had started the habit of keeping my chin lifted up, so the beagle-like droop of my double chin wasn’t so obvious. It didn’t occur to me how horrible it was to think about slicing flesh off my own body. I just knew I hated being fat.

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Split

Issue 21 by Andrew Jason Jacono

When I was a kid, I’d see severed heads floating in the dark. Every night my mother would scratch my back, kiss my forehead, say I love you, then shut off the lights. It would usually take a long time to fall asleep, and sometimes the dreams were good, but once or twice a week, the heads would squeeze through the cracks in the walls or descend from the ceiling. They’d surround me, wan and stiff and misshapen. They liked to watch my skin change color, from calm olive to tousled red to chilly white, and the way my lungs would seize up when they drummed their stumpy necks on my chest. They liked even more that I’d weep, silent and catatonic, hapless in the fog of my unconsciousness.

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The Woodlands

Issue 21 by Mandy Fishburn

At the end of my sixth-grade year, my mother sat my brother, my sister and me down on the couch to have a “talk.” The last time we’d had a family talk like this was six years before when she’d told us that she and our father were getting a divorce.
This couldn’t be good.
“I’m an alcoholic,” she announced.
What’s an alcoholic?
“I know I’m sick, and I need to get help.”
Oh — maybe that’s why she sleeps a lot.
“I’m going away to a hospital for a few months.”
Uh-oh.

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A Matter of Touch

Issue 20 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

Issue 20 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

Issue 20 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

Issue 19 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

Issue 19 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

Issue 19 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

Issue 18 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

Issue 18 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

Issue 18 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

Issue 18 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

Issue 18 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

Issue 18 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

Issue 18 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

Issue 17 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

Issue 17 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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