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Circling the Inferno

In Issue 58 by Joan Drescher Cooper

Limbo
Sometimes on the train in the morning, Melanie thought about failing to get off at her stop for work. She’d lean her head back on the tweedy headrest and close her eyes. If this was a real train instead of commuter light rail, she’d muse, perhaps she would stay on the train all the way to the next town.

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Watch What You Wish For

In Issue 58 by Gerald Lynch

The snow, real staying snow, just won’t come this winter, and it’s already January. It has accumulated some at times, of course, if more like helpless Styrofoam pellets swept against tree trunks, where they grab at the base as if that’s the height of ambition, then climb even in a weak breeze, then give up and disappear to only God knows where.

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Dial Tone

In Issue 57 by Griffin Hamstead

“Hey, it’s me. Again. I was just calling to see if you had a minute to chat. I guess you’re away from the phone or busy or whatever. Which is cool, I get it. But, um, I’ve been alone for a while now. Couple weeks or months or something and it, uh, kind of gets to my head you know. I saw a bird at the bird feeder today. Very dull, small. Probably a sparrow. But still a bird, can you believe it?

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Path of Service

In Issue 57 by Claudia Putnam

For years after her divorce, Fay had trouble referring to her husband by name. My husband, she would say, and then eventually, my ex-husband. Doesn’t he have a name, newer friends or colleagues would ask, laughing, and she would relent. Desmond. Des, she would make herself think. Des, Des, Des.
The archangel hadn’t asked for his name. No name had come up between them that day in the mineral pool under the high Colorado sky

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Thinning of the Herd

In Issue 57 by G. D. McFetridge

It was after midday when the sound of an airplane interrupted the tranquility of my forested home. I was standing on my second-story deck drinking a cup of coffee, and what caught my attention was the proximity of the aircraft, which seemed closer than usual. Moments later the engine began sputtering in short bursts—blat, blat. . .blat-blat-blat. . .blat. Then it went dead silent.

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Carnival Day

In Issue 56 by Stacey C. Johnson

When Littleman opened his eyes, he discovered that he was no longer on the couch in the living room as planned. He had meant to stay there all night with Uncle Marty, eating neon sour worms and watching samurai movies. He wanted to be in the front room when Mom got home and to hear when Uncle Marty got up. There was no point in trying to sleep.

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Crystal Spirit

In Issue 56 by Karen Toralba

I can’t recall if I’ve ever been down such a long, narrow road—if you can call it a road—before or since. The word rural just doesn’t seem to accurately describe the area. Think the middle of nowhere but then go behind the shed of middle of nowhere, down by a creek, into the woods, and get lost, and that’s where I ended up.

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Peter and the Fisherman

In Issue 56 by Ed Connor

“Mom! Mom!” Danielle yelled from the bedroom all three children would share during the annual beach vacation. “Mom! Kyle and I were playing with my dolls and Peter threw them all over the floor! Make him stop. Now!”
Hearing her daughter yell for the fourth time in the last fifteen minutes, Maggie O’Brien left the unpacking and stomped into the bedroom.

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Three

In Issue 55 by Steve Biersdorf

The three little pigs enjoying an elegant repast on the waterfront, quiet water reflecting neon from high-rise resorts. Sequestered at a table with a Lazy Susan, each partaking of the abundance by turns, washed down with a discriminating Pouilly-Fuissé with white flower accents.

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The Grace That Comes By Violence

In Issue 55 by Joanna Acevedo

Lorrie called it “The Lost Weekend.” Roger called it “The Last Weekend.” Annabel was pregnant, so she wasn’t drinking. Designated driver, everyone said. Lou didn’t say anything at all.
They met on a Friday at a bar none of them had been to before. It was a dive. Roger was getting married a week from Tuesday. He had a reckless, harried look about him,

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House Hunting with Castro

In Issue 55 by S. Blair Jockers

1962. Eddie and Percy crouched on the wood floor of their private fort, a three-foot deep pit in Eddie’s backyard, destined to be a small pond after the next serious storm. The plywood roof Eddie’s father Raymond built from an old drafting table in his architect’s office was braced six inches above the edge, providing views in all directions like the rotating gunner’s station on top of a tank.

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Roman Days

In Issue 54 by Paul Perilli

Willie’s new to Rome. In town with his companion Anne, an artist with a one-year residency at the Crest Foundation, they have an apartmentino on the second floor of a giant villa that fifty others live in with them. It’s a neighborhood southwest of the Vatican with good markets and restaurants, a big park he jogs in and an old-world Italian bar down the hill in Trastevere…

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Plan B

In Issue 54 by Diana McQuady

Joanna Gentry hadn’t been inside the building in over a decade, though throughout the first year following Patrick’s murder, she went to the parking lot daily. Coleman’s employees came by her Camry during those early months and stopped to speak, awkward conversations avoiding the mention of what had happened or even her presence there at all. Soon enough, they only waved.

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Witnesses, or, Who Will Take Out The Trash?

In Issue 53 by Michele Suzann

For a while I had friends who used phrases like “holding space,” and “I had to get really quiet in order to receive guidance,” and “it just is,” and “so I allowed him his feelings.” They’d say “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual,” in a way that implied persons who might claim membership in the former camp were clearly more benighted than those of the latter, but hey, “we each have our own path [mine just happens to be more evolved].”

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Surface Tension

In Issue 53 by Nicholas LaMendola

I started with the globe, then zoomed in. I narrowed my focus over one city, over one neighborhood, onto one block, onto one man. That was a long time ago.
I’ve watched him for decades now. I watched him start small, and rise into himself. Now that you’re here, we’ll watch him together. He’s finally started to come together. He’s finally started to come apart.

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Keepers of the Light

In Issue 53 by Brittany van der Merwe

“Hurry.” She spoke softly, her demeanor quiet yet emphatic as she stared into the horizon. He slipped on his remaining boot and stood, joining her in the doorway, eyes squinting towards the focal point. A winter storm loomed portentously.
“Well, let’s get moving then.” Warm breath and a quiet fear chased his words and hung in the late October air for a fleeting moment before dissipating.

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Happy Place

In Issue 52 by Deya Bhattacharya

My first brush with the Happy Place could have happened one of two ways. It was either the email itself, sent en masse by them to a list that comprised what they presumed to be a target audience, or it was an advert that had popped up somewhere on a social feed and on which my scrolling thumb had rested long enough to count as a click. The laws of Internet probability dictate that some version of the latter led to the former…

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The Island

In Issue 52 by Ben Tufnell

Eva leans against the doorframe and watches Daniel as he works. As he passes her, carrying bags and boxes to the car, she also watches the street. With one hand she shields her eyes from the brightness and with the other she meditatively strokes her belly. It is a fine spring day but infused with a strange stillness, a peculiar quiet. The sky is clear and she notes again how odd it is to look up and not see a mesh of vapour trails above the city.

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Sozopol

In Issue 51 by Ellis Shuman

When she approached me in the hotel lobby, I was reviewing my notes for the presentation I would be giving the next day. My laptop was open on the glass-topped coffee table and twenty-three PowerPoint slides alternated on the screen as I clicked through them repeatedly. I had given this presentation before, many times, but now I was nervous for some inexplicable reason. I was prepared, but on the other hand, I was skeptical of how my talk would be received.

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Chattanooga

In Issue 51 by Loren Niemi

The Tennessee hills are tattered green curtains longing for the first frost to replace the well-worn testament of summer with a golden raiment. Even the aggressive Kudzu crowding the edge of the highway seems tired of reaching, always reaching for tomorrow. We’ve been on the road for a long time now and the tiredness we carry has settled inside.

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Balcony Scene

In Issue 51 by Bruce Meyer

Our town is laid out like a chessboard. Two powerful families who dominated the place for almost two centuries, the Cassavoys and the Farradays, have fought for control. First they fought over lumber rights. Then it was land. Then the battleground shifted to public opinion. Each had a newspaper of different political stripes. Each had a radio station playing different kinds of music.

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Means to an End

In Issue 50 by Rachel Browning

I was hiding my lima beans under a flap of chicken skin when Dad told us the news.
I sensed that something was up when he arrived home from work later than usual, his face red and blotchy, an aroma of whiskey, cigarettes, and fryer oil drifting from the blazer he flung over the edge of the couch where I sat watching MTV.

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The Garden of Eden

In Issue 50 by Walter Weinschenk

A search for the Garden of Eden had been considered from time to time but the collective will to find it had never reached a sufficient level to justify the effort. There were some, however, who wished to proceed and there was no shortage of scientists, historians and theologians who entertained the possibility that the Garden, or what remained of it, existed somewhere in the world.

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The Cabin

In Issue 50 by Barbi Calusdian

Laura bustled around the kitchen, lighting the candles, rearranging the silverware and checking on the roast in the oven. She and Tim were celebrating their third wedding anniversary and she wanted everything to be just right. He was running a little late; he should have been home a while ago. She placed his carefully wrapped present next to his plate and poured the wine.