Tim Millas: “Cleo’s Vision”

Bad enough that Dale went to San Francisco for a three-month picture assignment without taking Sela, or even telling her he was going—he dumped Cleo on her too. And then the dog started to go blind.

At first Cleo gave no hints of anything wrong. Maybe less barky, but Sela figured that was because Dale wasn’t there to give her a cookie every other minute. Cleo never interested her much anyway. By dog standards she was cute: long body, short legs, big eyes, nose like a black strawberry. Otherwise she was awful, totally spoiled, snapping at other dogs and Sela too (or any girl who stole Dale’s attention), barking if they went out without her and then pissing the rug out of spite. She played Dale like a violin, but growing up on a dairy farm had left Sela unsentimental about animals, and unplayable.

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Francis Duffy: “Rubbish”

The few who knew of my scheme advised against it.

“Violates common sense” was their consensus. Hitchhiking coast to coast under pressure of deadline is daft. Will take far longer than you think plus too many pervs on the road. “You’ll be AWOL,” they warned.

I don’t dispute their point about common sense. But their other items are arguable because not one had ever driven cross country, much less hitched 3,000 miles. In fact, none had hitched at all.

“Only hobos do that,” they said.

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Brady Peterson: “Summer’s Day”

Two women in a boat on a summer’s day—patches of light,
blue and white, an umbrella across the knees, the waning
century, before the death machines—sitting upright
against the backdrop of water and ducks.
Eight years before Monet—she is a painter determined.
Her mother diminishes her work as ordinary,
hoping she will heed the calling of her sex.

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Moumin Quazi: “The Tire Swing”

The day is warm, and the little neighborhood where Charlie lives is just waking up. Mrs. Garrett is brewing coffee. Her cotton nightgown is tied tight around her frail body, though no one is there to see them if one of her body parts were to be exposed. Her Folgers is percolating in an old G.E. coffee maker, blurping an aroma that always reminds her of life when the kids lived at home and her husband George was alive. But that was a long time ago. She is looking out the window and spies two redbirds chasing each other from tree to tree, their high chirps piercing the air. Across the street, Jack Rogers is watching the morning television news show, not because he cares what’s going on in the world, but because he has a crush on the morning anchorwoman, Joy Sandleman. Jack Roger’s wife, Teresa, suspects his infatuation, but plays along with it, egging him on from the bathroom with, “What’s Sandles got to say this morning?” Jack Rogers mutters, “Nothin’,” and then adjusts himself on his plush recliner and watches his show. On the sidewalk between the two houses, a dog-owner named Ken walks Skimpy, the dachshund born without a tail. Skimpy is a silver-dapple mix and darts in and out of bushes, sporadically straining the leash that Ken delights to hold. Jack Rogers calls the dog without a tail “Stubby,” and wonders how in the hell Ken can bend down every morning and pick up “Stubby shit”—even if Ken’s hand is in a plastic bag. Clearly, Jack Rogers has never had a pet.
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Terry Dalrymple: “Bastard Children”

NOTE: “Bastard Children” is linked by characters to Andrew Geyer’s “Troubadours.” This story, “Bastard Children,” should be read first.


After a quiet evening with a home-cooked meal, Augie and Lily sat on the couch and played a game of truth or dare that very intentionally led them to nudity.

“Last lover?” Augie said as his last question of the game. “What was his name?”

“Why that?” Lily said and tapped his shoulder with a fist.

“Why not?” He kissed her, just a peck on the lips.
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