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A Friend Until the End

Issue 27 by Sandra Schmidtke

Arthur Millman wears the shadow of his mortality like a shroud, and I know that our time together will be brief but profitable. I give this commitment two months, tops.
Grey wisps of hair do nothing to conceal the marigold tinge of jaundice on Arthur’s scalp. Glee bubbles up in my heart. Pancreatic cancer is a hard-hearted mistress, and she has had her way with this thin, nervous man. While my latest client reviews the contract, I count backward.

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He Crossed the Line

Issue 27 by William Hubbartt

I packed up the Tacoma, figuring on a five-day round trip down to Georgia. I researched planned stops, and figured that rural Georgia was more likely to have gravel back roads with higher hills and deeper valleys than the flat country blacktop roads that were fairly common in the northern Midwest, my stomping grounds.

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The Goode Sisters

Issue 26 by Charlene Finn

Summer was Kate’s favorite season. The sun drew moisture from the air and sharpened her senses, so when a thunderstorm approached, she could smell rain before it fell. When the sun dropped below Rattlesnake Ridge across the lower Yakima Valley, their land on the opposite east slope held onto the heat and almost guaranteed that she and Hayden were able to grow bumper crops of fruit. They raised Bing cherries, Red Haven and Alberta peaches, and Tilden apricots and two kinds of apples all sold under Kate’s family name, Goode.

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The Boy with the Lysol-Sprayed Cowlick

Issue 25 by Thomas Weedman

The Examen – a preparation for Confession. To the boy with the pellucid blue eyes and the Lysol-sprayed cowlick, it almost sounds like an exam for men. He does not think he’ll pass. After final reflections, as though time is up and he must put down his yellow #2 pencil, he solemnly exits the pew.

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A Bright Spot

Issue 25 by Chelsea Cambeis

Somewhere along the way, I lost all sense of direction. Life’s become this mundane, necessary task, and I’m growing tired. My brain is fuzzy; I lack enthusiasm. Most would say I’m depressed, but it feels more like I’m running out of steam.

So here I stand, sneakers melting to the cracked sidewalk.

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In Flagrante Delicto

Issue 25 by Olivier FitzGerald

Police finally pin Silas a year after the fact, catching him daydreaming about a hazy childhood morning when Papa flew them to Buenos Aires without permission. And yet before the men in blue descend, while spelunking the depths of a storage unit in the outskirts of Indianapolis, Silas stumbles upon two old journals. One is red embossed, the other green and unmarked, protective cover stripped of its dog-nosed plastic by force of detrition.

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A Map of the World (W.A.F.)

Issue 24 by Edward Weingold

Eindhoven, Netherlands, 3 March 1944
Herman Dijkstra’s pencil point hovers above the entry on the onionskin sheet. Housekeeper—I don’t trust her. I’m afraid for Hetty.

Unwelcome warmth flushes his face. Emma Berghuis—hired after Marthe’s remains were shipped home. Marthe—gone to Rotterdam to help with a cousin’s birth, May 1940. Herman’s throat tightens; he imagines his wife, crushed, burnt in the blitzkrieg.

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Fortunes Told

Issue 24 by Diana McQuady

You turned up West 41st because Gwyneth wanted you to and because you were so horny you’d have done anything she suggested. Behind you Times Square felt relatively safe despite its seedy hotels and tawdry strip joints that held no romantic charm, regardless what musician had once stayed there. On that night it was all sleaze and filth without a hint of the Disneyfied street it would become a couple of decades later.

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Quimby House

Issue 23 by Ryan Scott Oliver

Willa heard screaming.
You did what!? I thought we was just gonna take care o’ her!
She woke. Her eyes unopened, a pair of voices played angry music into Willa’s ears, somewhere off. A second voice replied, And we will take care of her — forever! Despite the first voice’s bellowing, the second one pressed, unbothered. In good humor, even. She opened her eyes.

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Aging With Grace

Issue 23 by Susan Berg

My name is Grace. I’m fifty-one years old, standing here in the mobile home I’ve been living in for the past seven years. It’s a wreck. My stuff is strewn all over the place and most of the mess I created myself. The rest was done by an unknown bastard who broke into my place looking for—what? Cash? Jewelry? Priceless art? Who would expect to find anything of value to fence in a crummy old single-wide trailer with a rusty metal roof, a rotting front door, and a dingy yellow fiberglass tub with a huge crack that is evolving into a hole.

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Generation I

Issue 23 by John Etcheverry

Tashkent, Uzbekistan

I pressed the back of my hand to the smudged glass of the meat case. Warm. “If you don’t refrigerate this lamb it goes bad.” I’ve been arguing this with butchers at this market every week for the past year and a half.

“What can I offer you, brother?” The meat cutter stepped forward wiping his palms across his apron, the new blood and grease mingling with the old. His Russian is broken but more certain than my shaky grasp of the Uzbek language, which I abuse daily in my work on the visa line at the American embassy.

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Pay the Premium

Issue 22 by Joanna Beresford

Lillian heard the woman before she spied her – a primitive groan carried on the breeze and caused her to lower the paintbrush in her hand. She carefully scanned the scrubby slope one hundred yards to the left. There a figure crouched, partially hidden behind a thicket of stringy-bark, banksia and bottlebrush, with skirt and petticoat pulled up to reveal pale, slender thighs.
Her immediate reaction was to avert her gaze and try to slink out of sight but an unwieldy corset prevented such a measure. There was nothing else to do but remain as upright as a rabbit sniffing out danger.

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Complicit

Issue 22 by Jessica McEntee

“Marinka. You—oh blonde one. Get down ‘ere,” Papa said as he called to me from the head of our dining room table. It was a sultry night in July of 1989, and we’d just finished an hours-long business dinner at our Greenwich estate. I replayed Papa’s voice in my head to make sure I’d heard it correctly. He sounded gruff, but I detected an undercurrent of curiosity in his tone, however momentary. Papa wanted me, for one of the first times in my nine years as his daughter. I blinked three, four times, before it occurred to me to stand from my chair.

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First Cut: Chapter Excerpt

Issue 22 by Carolyn Flynn

A red bulb of blood rose from my skin. I watched with exquisite satisfaction as it ballooned from the tip of my razor. If I pressed even a little deeper and swiped it across, it would cut a line and throw my skin open. Then the truth would bleed out, staining everything.
I drew in a ragged breath. I rubbed the ancient marks along the inside of my left arm. As my fingers pressed through the lattice of scars, a burn soared up from within, surprising me. Like one last breathing ember. Like it had been wanting to be the one noticed, sparked again.

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Dumb Religious Story #137

Issue 22 by Marcus Lessard

With a month’s worth of anticipation throwing its collective weight into these waning few moments, Jackie transferred some of the tension pent up in her arms and legs to the situation at hand. She tightened her grip on the steering wheel, leadened her foot on the accelerator. Her ’85 Ford Pickup coursed the turn-off onto Pink Rock Road, and thrummed, rattling muffler and all, up onto Bear Path Way.

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Adrift and at Risk: Guide

Issue 21 by Yusuf DeLorenzo

What did I, Ettore, know of Algiers when I was swept to sea in the year 1788? What could I know? I was barely more than a boy living in a hammock strung nightly from hooks in a kitchen at a seaside bordello.

My mother died giving birth to me at that bordello, the House of Beautiful Swallows, so she never told me the stories of the ruthless Barbary pirates, the brothers Barbarossa, Dragut, Mezzo Morto, and all the others. But Josephina did, the kindly old lady at the House whose promise to my mother on her deathbed was to raise me as her own. I loved her, I loved the stories she told me, and I loved the pirates.

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Brigida: Chapter One

Issue 21 by Kate Spitzmiller

Marcus did not come home. None of them did.

Five thousand men. The entire Ninth Legion. Gone.

There were rumors. Rumors that the tribes of Caledonia had annihilated them; devoured their lines like the ancient giant Cacus, who consumed live human flesh and displayed human heads on nails outside his cave on the Palatine Hill.

I did not believe in monsters, only in gods and men. And I knew that the Romans had displeased the gods of Britannia, had spilt the blood of the tribes upon her dark, rich soil for generations. The Selgovae, the Parisi, the Carvetii. And the Brigante.

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Unfollowers: Chapter One

Issue 21 by Leigh Ann Ruggiero

Barb Eklund didn’t choose where she was born. She knew no one could. But her birthplace, instead of being something she was passingly grateful for, became a regret lodged between her ribs like the pain of a torn intercostal. Her parents brought her from Maryland to rural Ethiopia when she was four. Barb didn’t understand what she was leaving behind when she boarded the plane: her stuffed cat Oscar, the season of winter, or the red bike with training wheels she rode when winter was in abeyance.

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