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Subjective Content

Issue 40 by Rebecca Burke

The decision letter is polite, offering you admission in an MFA program in creative writing with a full stipend, tuition remission, and a teaching position. It briefly mentions some aspects of your fiction the admissions committee liked—your strong voice and tackling of difficult themes—and is signed by the director. It is your first acceptance. Most of the rejections so far have come over email.

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What It Took to Surrender

Issue 40 by Linda Heller

My mother is French and her happiest time, far happier than when she met and married my father or gave birth to me, took place during the filming of a Brigitte Bardot movie. She was only eighteen and an extra yet she and Bardot became intimate friends. She’d been hired to play a member of a theater audience and watch while the leads furthered the plot center stage.

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Politics of Distraction

Issue 40 by Amina Adele

Memories of America before the Great War distract my mind as Annalisa—my chief of staff—slides the after-dinner briefing book over the warm oak desktop before me. The picture of a woman at the border—draped in a red satin sheet holding a sign overhead reading “You’re no Obama”—rests just inside the cover of the materials. She catches my eye and confirms for me why the American experiment had to end. Or, at least, why the theory behind it had to deviate.

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St. John’s Night

Issue 40 by Nathan Mears

On the night of St. John, atop the flattest peak of the tallest mountain, three Witches danced in decomposed unison around a bonfire made of the flesh and bones of followers to a god unknown.
The first was light of skin with hair of fire. Over her sisters she danced in balance and harmony, writhing her arms as the winds overtook both arm and finger within their hook. Poor fool.

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From Humans Come The Gods

Issue 40 by Olivia Lee Chen

In the beginning, there is only darkness. Then light and water. From those three there are plants. From plants come fish – from fish, mammals, and eventually, humans. The first human awakes and rises and raises its head under the stars, and later, under the sun. Its bare feet wade through water, over rocks, sand, dirt, and then, grass. Its arms balance it upright as its outstretched fingers graze the trees.

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All the Noise Is on the Outside

Issue 40 by Michael Peppergrass

Peter stands in front of the entrance to the Museum of Modern Art in the middle of a terrazzo plaza that is hit full-on by the Californian summer sun. Behind him cars rumble past, taxis honk and construction workers are operating a power drill. It is sweltering hot and he is sweating in direct proportion. He admonishes himself, silently, lips barely moving.

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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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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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Give or Take

Issue 39 by Bill Gaythwaite

Nina and her daughters are waiting for the slowest elevator on the lower campus. Emma is stomping around, pressing the up button and yammering “come, come, come” in her four-year-old fashion, while Carmen, age eighteen months, is sound asleep, stretched out in the stroller, one shoe dangling perilously from her stockinged foot. Nina exhales theatrically as she watches their blurry reflections in the elevator’s chrome doors, wondering whether Oscar will be pleased to see them once they reach his office.

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Empathy Shoes

Issue 38 by John Phillips

The instructions were simple: Choose an item that piques your interest, put it on and walk down the runway. This would give you an idea of what it was like to be someone else.
David caught wind of it while eavesdropping at a bar in the Lower East Side. It was a former dive that had been renovated to cater to an affluent crowd, the place David had spent most nights since his divorce from June and the funeral that he wasn’t invited to.

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Work in Progress

Issue 38 by Kayan Khraisheh

Imagine a tree is uprooted. It can be replanted, over, and over again. But each time it is damaged just that little bit more. Each time, it finds it harder to adjust to its new environment. Each time, its memory of that original piece of land where it first saw the sun grows more faint. Imagine that feeling. It’s hard to verbalize it when you don’t know exactly what it is…

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Esmeralda’s Makeover

Issue 38 by Phyliss Merion Shanken

I don’t remember my mother’s face. Just her voice. I was about three years old when I awoke to sounds of screaming. Between her huffy sobs, I heard these words streaming from my parents’ off-limits bedroom:

“They are monsters! Ugly monsters! How could anything so ugly come from inside of me?”

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Ira Haskins Has A Problem

Issue 38 by Meghan O'Brien

I went to the hospital first thing on a Wednesday morning because I knew I was dying. I called and called and had to wait and that was the earliest I could come. I told Doctor Simon that, and he did not look up at me because he probably did not know how to tell me that, yes, I was in fact dying, and at a faster rate than most of the schleps that came into his office every day.

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What Color is Yellow?

Issue 38 by Glenn Schiffman

“I owe it all to Father Justus,” I muttered.
“Boys Town, 1938 …” answered Aeneas, my roommate. Aeneas was already fully dressed. Prep school blazer, snap-on bow tie, slacks and polished shoes were all in order. He sat at his desk, his back to me, no doubt working on some extra credit physics assignment. He looked up briefly and continued, “… but Mickey Rooney owed it all to Father Flanagan.”

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The Account

Issue 38 by Alexis MacIsaac

The day of the disaster began with the sun gently rousing the living. My bedroom window was east-facing and curtainless, so in the summer months I woke early, because the light was so strong.
That day was a Saturday, and Saturdays were usually the best day of the week.

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