Chronic Good WeatherMadeleine Belden
The feel of the rope wakes me. Coiled above my breasts, underneath, and pinning my hips against the kitchen chair. Arms pulled behind my back; wrists tied together. The rope smells like motor oil. I have no right to be surprised by my husband. I’ve watched enough Law and Order episodes to know that behavior escalates. I feel as though I’ve been drugged. Read more.
The Comforting Words PackageDiane McTigue
Evelyn skims the morning’s featured obituaries. Pure white-bread fare. Only one phrase grabs her attention: “in his kind and gentle way.” It’s simple but disarming, and it stirs a pang of empathy in her gut. She jots it down. Evelyn shakes her head at the grainy photos. When she reaches an advanced age, she’ll have a professional headshot taken just for this purpose. Read more.
Thayer drove. Joroff would not take the wheel. He said the sun bothered him on bright days, and his vision at night made him unsteady and fearful. Thayer would do all the driving. He didn’t mind. He liked the feeling of control. It was outside Vermillion on highway 50 when they spotted the first sign, a few feet away from a “Vote Ford/Dole 1976” poster that somehow hadn’t been removed after the election months earlier. Read more.
The Sea of OnosanoLisa Voorhees
Kira Atsusuke, heir to the royal throne of Onosano, prostrated herself before the raised platform where her mother, Empress Sakura, sat. To Kira’s left, her younger sister the Princess Yuuki, also bowed in supplication. Their faces were pressed against the bamboo covering on the throne room floor, neither of them daring to move until her Imperial Eminence, the Divine Ruler of the five kingdoms of the Sunset Empire, commanded otherwise. Read more.
Today, near Washington, D.C.
Beth’s mind was almost gone but her beauty refused to abandon her. Kindness was unmistakable in her deep brown eyes, and a generous heart illuminated her smile. Her seventy-four years, over half of them married to him, were confused shadows, judging by her rambling. But Michael could easily remember Beth’s fearless intelligence, and he often sat by her bedside and closed his eyes to bask in the velvet voice which still soothed him. Read more.
Onto the BusLouise Sidley
Every Sunday without fail, Matthew Volpatti left his apartment and rode the bus to the lake east of the city. It was a forested natural lake despite being surrounded by the metropolis. Between the parking lot and the lakeshore, stone picnic tables sat on concrete pads in an evenly spaced row along the strip of mowed lawn. Read more.
Giving up the GhostErnest Sadashige
Dani Braker stared, eyes transfixed, pupils focused on the vintage road map atop her bed. The map’s edges, once crisp as the past, were soft and smudged, reflecting the fragility of time preserved on paper; the folds ripping where arthritic cello tape had lost its grip. Dani’s fingers probed the map in the same way she picked loose threads off her school blazer. Read more.
The car swayed gently through easy curves as the car slid south down the two-lane highway. The engine whispered, even at seventy-five miles an hour. David glanced at the map on the passenger seat, but he knew by heart where he was going. He pressed Play on the CD player sitting on the seat, and the Brahms Third Violin Sonata swam through the still air. Read more.
The ReaderRicardo Gonzalez-Rothi
It was a balmy 97 degrees when he stepped out of his truck into the parking lot outside Sunny Acres Nursing and Rehab Center. He looked forward to the sliding doors welcoming him into the air-conditioned lobby. It was Monday, and just like every Monday at 3 p.m. with a book tucked under one arm and a bag of peppermints clipped between the thumb and index finger of the ipsilateral hand… Read more.
Bus StopRebecca Godwin
At 6:10 on a March afternoon in Montgomery, Alabama, Ginnie Lackland sat on the steps of Miss Lily’s acrobatics studio, watching her classmates get picked up by their mothers. Ginnie was a big girl, almost seven, who could do front splits and a perfect backbend and was learning to flip herself completely around without touching the floor—what flying must feel like, she imagined. Miss Lily told her to think of a perfect circle. Read more.
Life Is But a DreamDiana Raab
Early Christmas morning last year, which happened to be my father’s sixtieth birthday, I was studying for my medical boards in Montreal when my mother called. I found the phone hidden under my placemat on the kitchen table. “Hi, Mom,” I said when I heard her voice. “Joelene, your father died yesterday,” my mother said. Read more.
A Place to Call HomeCory Essey
She hates waiting. She sits on the third step in this old house and links her fingers together, sure there is nothing she detests more. This lack of control was torture, her stomach twisting, her palms clammy as she pressed them together. It felt as though she were vibrating with the nerves of it all, and yet, here she sat. Waiting. Read more.
The Colossal RiskSusan Taylor
She walks briskly through the vast hallways of the Colossal Risk. Windows upon windows line the exterior of the ship—an enormous ship that cradles hundreds of delicate souls—but she pays no attention to the scenery. On the interior walls, unmarked doorways to unknown rooms—the greenish lights that remind her of sickness—line the seemingly endless miles of corridors. Read more.
In high school, my friends played trumpets, French horns, trombones, and Risk—conquering make-believe continents while desiring real girls. We spoke on speech teams, competed on chess teams, sang in glee clubs and choirs. Popular boys played football and shot hoops. My friends and I studied Latin. One day I made the mistake of telling fellow trumpeter, Nolan Niemeyer, why I couldn’t practice with him on Saturday morning. Read more.
Love Among the Fever BagsMichael Fontana
Mom lay on a cloud, wings spread, eating a piece of coconut cream pie with her bare hands. She was clad in a thin white robe, head adorned not with a halo but a tall, platinum blonde wig, her spectral body puny as a twig.
“How’s the weather up there, Ma?”
“Sweet as this pie,” she said, smiling, a dollop of whipped topping on her chin.
“I miss you,” I said. Read more.
Coyotes dangled like Christmas ornaments from the tree. Coup D. Gracen closed the gate and stopped beside his pickup to admire his work. He didn’t take credit for inventing this trap—someone else somewhere must have tried it too—but he had perfected it: 150-pound test fishing line and 14 ought treble hooks triple-knotted and baited with pig liver. The limb would break before Coup’s tackle gave way. Read more.
The Cold PlaceConnor Fineran
When my parents disappeared, I didn’t understand at first. I always expected difficult things in my life to come later when I was prepared. But nothing could prepare me for what happened the day I found the hole under the couch.
It was September. I’d just started seventh grade. My parents were out running errands, so I did what anyone would do: I wandered around the house, bouncing a ball up and around everywhere that it could be bounced. Read more.
Canción de FermínMarcia Calhoun Forecki
Fermín Calderón accepted that his actions caused his brother-in-law Tavito to die. Accepting responsibility was the first step toward being forgiven. As a child in a village outside of Acapulco, Fermín heard the priest explain repentance and forgiveness. “First you must admit what you have done. Confess your sins. Only then may you ask to be forgiven.” He buried the words in his heart. Read more.
The Fairy StatueLisa Voorhees
The face of the fairy statue that sits in the middle of my overgrown garden is covered with moss. Her exquisite features appear altered. The fairy used to be joyful, her stone eyes etched full of delight, tilted up at the corners. They reflected the smile of her pretty, carved mouth. Now her eyes are downcast, that mouth pulled into a frown. She’s been laid to waste by the ravages of time, incessant dampness, and years of neglect. Read more.
The Narrow Path to HeavenAmy Monaghan
In the church-like silence of the Pennsylvania night, a clothesline of white nightdresses billowed like captured ghosts above the grass. Dark fields drenched in dew stretched out in all directions, the careful rows of tobacco plants and corn waiting for their time to come. At the edge of the farmland, on a small hill above the house, stood an imposing oak tree. It looked down at the property like a sentinel. Read more.
Leopard RoadEthan Steers
There is a road that follows three miles along the banks of the Ganges, leading through the village of Chatwapipal and on to Tibet. From 1918 to 1920, a man-eater dubbed the Man-Eater of Garhwal devoured thirty-seven people on that road, plucked from their carts and pilgrimages like coconuts from a tree. The leopard ruled with an iron fist until being killed by the Anglo-Indian hunter Rao Whittaker with the help of his friend Sayyad. Read more.
The KidMichelle Spencer
The kid’s face is good and smashed up, his nose most certainly broken. Eddy has transferred enough prisoners to know these things. On the grand scale, these injuries don’t look too bad and the easy banter between the paramedics speaks to the lack of urgency.
“Nearly there, warden,” the medic closest to Eddy says. “We should get through quick. Mondays are usually quiet. You’ll be back in no time.” Read more.
The Dead Too Shall RiseBelle Kane
When Victoria summoned the dead, it was an accident. The power flickered out just as Victoria locked the front door and flipped over the “We’re Open” sign. She heard the AC’s guttural last attempts at blowing cold air as it died out. She sighed, looking up at the ceiling regretfully. She would have to make do with what she had at the store. Read more.
God’s WorkStephen Elmer
With a whistle, and a little too much excitement, Randolph swiveled in his tall leather chair in the control room of the LifeSupply Spruce Grove store. He just turned thirty and was making good money, enough to afford a small house next year. Randolph wanted to move up, save, invest, have a kid, and retire with money—all while taking care of his mom who he had transferred to Spruce Grove to care for. Read more.