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    “How to Rock Out with Strangers” by Tori Kaufman

    I have only ever camped with total strangers once, so I boast only cursory observations in this instructional piece on exactly how to go about camping with strangers.   First, you will need some strangers. For this, I recommend leaving the apartment, house, or even looking up from this screen. I had to do all three (and many other things), on several separate occasions (my entire life up to this point), until such an event as will be depicted here could be achieved (I had no idea what I was doing regarding any element of this adventure).   Next, you will need to interact with the stranger(s). Walking up to someone…

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    “Port Angeles” by Jordan Hartt

    Was a couple used to live here in PA name’a Bud n’ Lorraine Gillis, maybe you know ‘em or heard tell of ‘em. He was a machinist n’ coached football n’ she worked at th’Oyster Café n’ run the bowlin’ league. They had two sons: th’oldest one was killed in a car crash, n’ th’youngest, Tod, shot himself three weeks later. Tod was a short-order cook in th’same place Lorraine work at. No one saw him react after th’phone call about his brother, but his breaks started getting’ longer n’ longer, which no one blamed him for. We’d see him go outside th’restaurant even during th’busiest times at th’dinner rush,…

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    “Chill” by Tyler Appleby

    The fog is heavy tonight. The early chilling of Winter’s breath has coaxed the clouds out of their hiding places, giving them a short, albeit delightful freedom.  Their sheets of white drape over my shoulders, and they shroud me in a blanket of mystery.  I can feel the water soaking into the sleeves of my thick, cotton overcoat.  A shudder worms its way through my body, and I shove my hands into my pockets. I dance lightly on my toes, peering down the empty road.  The pale, yellow streetlight flickers uneasily.  It casts a heavenly halo into the fog like a fool.  It wants me to believe in happiness, to…

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    “All I Learned” by Sydnee Smith

    We only met once in the California Desert. We were sweaty and naive with newfound freedoms, as we cursed each others names, running around the house, panting like dogs in the heat. Stealing each others phones to look at secrets. You taught me California held evil, in the forms of us. As you dragged me to my knees, forced me to repent for the sins of my upbringing, how it was so much different than yours.

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    The Coyote Ate My Baby by Heather Ayers

    What a fat, behemoth of a baby. What kind of plump mutant did they bring home? It looks like a flesh-tone sack of tuna purée, cream-heavy milk rolling around with a little black toupee clinging on to the top of its tiny block head. I am less than unimpressed. A new low even for these two metalheads somehow charged with my well-being. I’m trapped in some bizarro version of Little House on the Prairie, where the farmhouse has been transported to the human’s poop plant, their only neighbor a mountain lion inhabiting the crawl space underneath. They’re all too happy to let us drift off into oblivion on our very…

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    Duke by Erik Carlsen

    Whenever he talks I hope he knows I’m listening, But I only respond when he is gone.   I dream that I can ask him questions. Why is there thunder? How long were you alive before me?   When he takes me for a walk I know he is thinking of his regrets. That is what silence has always done to him, I bet.   He looks at me every day and says the fur on my tail Is growing back. I take his word for it. I don’t think   He would lie to me, especially about something like that. But when I dream, I dream I walk upright…

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    Frederik Sandwich and the Earthquake that Couldn’t Possibly Be by Kevin John Scott

    The old man’s coat was worn and matted with what looked and smelled like animal dung. He was clearly some kind of tramp. There were holes in his gloves and stains on his pants and his shoes were quite unspeakable. Frederik quietly took a very tight grip on his backpack. “I’m sorry,” he said, as he had been taught to do in such circumstances. “Not today, thank you.” He averted his eyes and stepped aside and waited for the old man to shuffle off and worry someone else. “Sorry?” the man growled, leaning close with his terrible breath. It was all Frederik could do not to gag. “You’ll be sorry…

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    We Would Have Been Old Friends by Samuel Snoek-Brown

    For Josh E.   You taught me to play SuperMario Bros.   You showed me that I will never be as good as you at playing SuperMario Bros.  You always, always beat me.   You corrected the way I clip my toenails. Straight across, not curved in at the corners, and you saved me from years of ingrown pain.   You told me I’m no good at building model planes. When I sat on my F-4 Phantom and crushed it, you told me not to take things so seriously.   You told me that porn is best when stolen, and we talked about how stark—how unmysterious and frankly funny porn…

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    THIRD PLACE “Do They Deserve It?” by Gemma Duggins

    It was a brisk fall morning in September of 1942, when they knocked on the Takahashi’s door. The family was eating a breakfast of rice porridge and bread at the table. They were chatting about the news when their pleasant meal was interrupted by three men at their door. They were tall and threatening, looming over them, holding large guns. The family was only allowed to take a few items. The rest were just left, abandoned, an image of a humble home frozen in time, left to rot. The children were crying. They didn’t understand why they had to leave. The family would all be put on a train and…

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    SECOND PLACE “Never Lose Hope” by Amber Lee

    I stepped out of our car for the last time, breathing in the exhaust as if it were a precious perfume. I could almost feel the tension of the crowded train station and immediately resented the severe-looking white soldier watching me, his gun at the ready. I turned desperately to Father. “Make them let you come,” I pleaded through the open window. He climbed out of the car and pulled me into his arms. “Akira, you know I can’t,” he said gently, even though his voice was thick with emotion. I broke down. “It’s not fair,” I sobbed into his chest, “Isn’t making me leave our home enough, without taking…