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Faith in Life

Issue 41 by Michael Hetherton

We stayed close to a lone biker, tailgaiting him on the drive into Sturgis. His Harley floated around the long curves of shining blacktop, and up and down the slopes. The rocky pine-covered Black Hills were clear of clouds, the sky breaking open blue after an earlier rain. We were the only SUV in the long, long, procession of rumbling motorcycles, and we did not talk, transfixed by the constant, fast moving parade.

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Saving Up to Die

Issue 41 by Steve Bunk

Jia arrives on the arm of Horst and I look away but they’ve noticed me, so I look back and lift my chin. It’s the usual assortment at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, including a few Chinese like Jia and an overrepresentation of Australians like Bruce Colley next to me at the bar. Colley is in Hong Kong on business for his family, which owns a media empire based in Sydney. He’s higher up now than when I first met him a few years ago.

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A Musical Interlude

Issue 41 by Michelle Toon

I met her at the beginning of the end. My time in the country was winding down, and I wanted to explore all options before leaving; I had danced, and so I wanted to sing. My dream was to play the piano and sing simultaneously in an effortless concert—my favorite songs brought to life—but it seemed to make sense to do one first, especially since I believed myself not to be naturally gifted in these areas.

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Beggars in Space-Time

Issue 41 by Lauretta Salvini

A refrain from a dance rock song soothes my ears as I regain consciousness. Headache pulses between my temples and all my joints are sore. My left knee hurts. I slide my hand down my leg and touch, through a rip in my jeans, the mushy softness of a wound. My breathing gets faster, as random flashes of myself cycling along an urban roadway blast in my mind like a display of fireworks. No room enough to stretch my limbs. The surface under my body has the roughness of wood.

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Electric Cars

Issue 41 by Christine Marra

September 1933
“Ollie, have you seen what their car spits out into the air?” Gertie asked, hands on her hips. “The smoke, Ollie! Every time that damn Model T cranks up it sends columns of smoke up just like Fourth of July fireworks. Every day, Ollie, every day. How can that possibly not be dangerous?”
Ollie sighed and took Gertie’s hands. “It’s not good for us, Gertie, I know it’s not. And you know it’s not. But nobody else sees it.”

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Triptych

Issue 41 by Alpheus Williams

Earth’s songs have dimmed over the world, ousted by noises of our own making but she sings here.
Now has finished the ‘Knock ‘em down time’ that comes after the monsoon season when the strong winds flatten tall spear grass of the savannah woodlands. Heavy rains have abated, floodwaters drain towards rivers, creeks and billabongs. The woodland savannah begins to dry.

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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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