William Cass: The Best We Can

I taught second grade, which meant that virtually all of the parents wandering around my classroom for Back to School Night were, like me, not much older than thirty.  The exception was the elderly couple who’d just entered the room and hovered uneasily inside the open door; I guessed they were both at least seventy.  The woman held her hands in front of her and stared up at some pictures on the big bulletin board beside her; the man gazed about him with a tiny grimace.  Most of the parents were at their children’s desks where work samples from the first couple weeks of school were displayed.  I greeted several of them as I made my way back to the classroom door.

When I got there, the old man’s eyes met mine.  I smiled and said, “Good evening.” Continue reading “William Cass: The Best We Can”

Christie Cochrell: In Suspension

From the train window Elena watched a bird rising out of an English field.  A perfect, ordinary thing—something she half-remembered underlining in a novel once, in some middle school class, profoundly stirred by a presentiment she hadn’t been able to name.  Her first encounter with a bird and field imbued with metaphorical significance, and now after a lifetime of sightings dulled by familiarity and growing weariness, likely the last she’d ever note.  Rising in late sunlight, then gone. Continue reading “Christie Cochrell: In Suspension”

Trevor Zaple: All the Clocks Have Stopped in Memphis

“The Boss Hides The Remote”

The sun sets behind a cloud and as its last magenta rays filter out over the gothic tops of downtown Buffalo Stephen orders a Rolling Rock and slides a five across the wet surface of the bar.  He eyes the pool table but there is already a couple playing there, a skinny blonde man and his tattooed brunette companion.  They stay close to each other and whisper intimacies into each other’s ears; Stephen turns back to his bottle of beer and plays with the corner of the green label, fraying the paper and getting the adhesive gummed into his finger pads.  He looks up at the aging television mounted behind the bar and sees John David Henderson looking like a deer that has been shot from behind a blind.  His eyes are wide and staring into the middle distance past the CNN camera.  His hair is grayer than Stephen had previously imagined, and is styled in early contemporary bird’s nest.  A solemn police officer is cuffing Henderson’s hands decisively behind his back. Continue reading “Trevor Zaple: All the Clocks Have Stopped in Memphis”

Chris Guthrie: Kings of New Orleans

Are you gonna be okay? I asked Carly.

She sat cowering in the corner of her bed, recoiled into the wall. I could tell she had been crying. She wore a man’s T-shirt with the neckline pulled too much. Her knees were tucked tight into her chest. She nodded at a 9-millimeter on the nightstand. It was dark and heavy looking. The gun wasn’t hers; somebody had been here. Her eyes grew distant and rheumy. I stared at her and not the gun. She hadn’t looked at me once and I could tell she knew whose it was. Continue reading “Chris Guthrie: Kings of New Orleans”

Adam Scharf: Practically Dancing with Corpses

This train goes south along the Hudson. You should sit on the right-hand side of the train, that way you see the river. Grab a window seat. It’s alright if someone sits next to you. Just act like you’re really doing them a favor if that happens. I’m in a long-distance relationship; I know how to ride the train. I wear the same sundress every ride. It’s blue, and I’m elegant like a little elf. I love the ride home to Brooklyn. I love goodbye: Matthew waves like a boob from the platform, and I have the luxury of getting smaller and smaller, until I vanish. Every goodbye should be that fun. Your aunts and uncles shrinking until they’re long gone, having a ball. When you want to say hello, you grow like an azalea, out of nowhere. Growing and shrinking out of lives like it’s a habit.

Continue reading “Adam Scharf: Practically Dancing with Corpses”

Finnegan Shepard: Burglary, Robbery, Theft

Carlisle is certain of the robbery. Burglary. Theft. He will look up the distinctions later. He thinks that burglary might have to do with breaking and entering, robbery with holding someone up, and theft with—what? Maybe it was taking something against no resistance, like a chocolate-covered peanut from the bin in the grocery, or the dirty pair of earbuds he found the week before, draped over a low-hanging tree branch.

Continue reading “Finnegan Shepard: Burglary, Robbery, Theft”

Abby Walthausen: Seasonal Rush

The year I had Novi felt like it must have been the first year when all the women in Los Angeles adopted Christian Science attitudes toward birthing. Not Scientology, mind you—I had spent years getting the two cults or sects or whatever confused. But the one that now was creeping into the thought of dabbling Buddhists, well-educated ethical humanists, and atheists with children who attend Unitarian churches. The one that found divine beauty in kids with scarlet fever and otherwise eradicated diseases. Every other pregnant woman I encountered whispered and spit about interventions, and all of them had a birth-plan. My grandma would have said they were looking the gift horse of western medicine in the mouth, yanking on those perfectly good teeth without even a squirt of novocaine.

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Rodney Stephens: Hogueras

“Sergio,” Dean Kippler said, “I’d like you and Dr. Sanchez to head up the trip to Spain this summer.”  No small talk.  No ‘how you doing?’ Just an announcement phrased as a request. I knew what he was thinking.  My selection made perfect sense.  After all, I was the university’s only European History professor.  However, if he had looked at me, he would have seen that this was not the same as telling me to teach a course outside of my specialization; this was not drafting me to chair a committee that was a colossal waste of my time.  He might as well have asked me to walk a bed of hot coals.

Continue reading “Rodney Stephens: Hogueras”

Tom Baragwanath: Gorgeous Blue

Keller was late to the party, later even than the Phillips had come to expect. He’d neglected to wrap Rachel’s gift before leaving and had to stalk the house for paper and ribbon, settling on a vaguely festive red bag mashed inside a kitchen drawer.

The hallway mirror told him the chowder stain across his breast was more apparent than he’d realized. It was his only jacket; he’d have to find a dark corner of the ballroom and hope no one came too close. Then, as a grace note on the evening’s already stammering shuffle, he found his station wagon still loaded with cement mix. By the time he unloaded everything and pulled into the road his collar was soaked, his skull squeezed tight. He wished he’d remembered a flask.

Continue reading “Tom Baragwanath: Gorgeous Blue”

AN Block: Once the Fireworks Start

My Bubbe came over from the other side packed in steerage like a sardine when she was eleven, then headed straight to a shirt factory. She had no choice. One of twelve children, she never learned to read or write, she spoke broken English and had to go through a lot of hardship in her lifetime. By the time I came along Bubbe needed a cane, she walked side to side and stopped to rest after every few steps, but she’d seen things other people hadn’t, and knew things they didn’t know.

Continue reading “AN Block: Once the Fireworks Start”