• Practice Makes Perfect? by Chelsea Vitone

    I peeked around the corner and saw him staring into the microwave, tapping his index finger on the counter as the seconds counted down. I heard that was bad for you, but with that pretty face, he should be fine with a few micro-radiated brain cells. I ran through my lines in my head, Hi I’m Sarah from advertising, I couldn’t help but notice you around the office. Chad, is it? I love your tie. I smoothed my skirt, ran my fingers through my hair and stepped into the break room. He looked up at the sound of my heels clacking against the tile and gave me a nod of…

  • Kindling Kindness by Jennifer Chushcoff

    Owen glared out the cottage window. “There’s nothin’ to do,” he said. “Never is.” A beetle walked across the sill and he squashed it to feel its tiny exoskeleton crinkle flat. He held up his thumb to examine the iridescent shell in the sunlight. Beyond his thumb he caught sight of a woodchuck peeking out of its burrow in the orchard. He hurried outdoors and cut across his mother’s garden, leaving a trail of bruised petals and broken stems. He filled a pitcher with water and rushed to the mound. The woodchuck saw him coming and ducked back into its hole. Owen poured water into the burrow and kicked dirt…

  • Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner? By Christian Carvajal

    The Ninjas were just sitting down when President Mendoza arrived, her Secretary of State in anxious tow. I was there by virtue of being one of the handful of American linguists capable of reproducing the apical velar stops, retroflex implosives, and tonal distinctions of our visitors’ formal dialect. Yes, the Ninjas can sit, though it stretches their pelvic joints backward in a curve that strikes unprepared observers as obscene. We call them Ninjas or Keplings partly because their actual name for themselves contains two lateral trills, and good luck with that. It’s also worth noting that Keplan Tradespeak uses nominative diacritics, so if you don’t know how to incorporate those,…

  • Dedicated to Steak Knife by Nicholas Stillman

    Thomas tried to avoid eye contact with the homeless milling around his apartment. He possessed a long-standing fear of being mugged on his walks to and from the university. He knew he presented a target. His clothes might as well be a bullseye buttoned smartly to his body. Today was no exception as it was Oxford day, both in shoes and choice in button-up. Oxford, he thought about the college with longing–one day he would make it there. One day his novel would get him in. It was early and the mist limited his sight line to a matter of feet. He tried to walk confidently down 11th, but this…

  • Love On the Beach – An Excerpt from The Backside of Nowhere by Alec Clayton

    Sue Ellen was his first love. He can recall every moment they spent together, especially the first times they made love. The first time was after a football game when they were juniors in high school. In the front seat of his daddy’s car. He’s pretty sure it ranked as the most disastrous firsts ever. He pulled his daddy’s Pontiac onto the beach and yanked up the parking break. He cranked the driver side window down an inch or two to let in some of the cool fall air, and they faced each other and said, “Okay, here we are. Let’s do it.” He scooted out from under the steering…

  • Then by Chelsea Vitone

    Running breathless, the wind whipping her hair behind her, she was exhilarated. Branches whizzed past her face, grabbing at her clothes and stray hairs. The crisp morning air filled her lungs, burning as she flung herself down the path. She could hear his footsteps close behind her, stumbling over roots and snapping branches. She burst into the clearing and whooped victoriously, spinning on her toes to face him. As he came lumbering into her arms, grabbing her playfully around the waist and pulling her to the ground, she jolted awake and stared up at the sky, pocked with clouds. She lurched upward, the cheap paperback sliding off her chest onto…

  • Something Old Something New by Nicole McCarthy

    Margaret’s mother gave her a Barbie doll for her 6th birthday and told her she’ll be just like her someday. Margaret brushed Barbie’s long blonde hair with a plastic pink comb before combing her own hair, tangled and black. Her mother had given her a variety of dresses for Barbie to wear, all frilly and fabulous, including a wedding dress with puffy shoulders and yards of lace. Margaret’s mother helped her put the wedding dress on Barbie and remarked how beautiful she was. When her mother left, Margaret removed the wedding dress from Barbie’s frail figure and tossed it on the ground, leaving her naked. A week later, the dress…

  • The Time of Our Lives by Christopher A. Clark

    Harold glanced around the library, satisfied at seeing no one, giggled before sliding his precious book into the perfect eye level spot. He slithered from the fiction section to the cushioned chair ten paces away, peeking from behind a large potted plant for his stakeout. Sitting in his grungy trench coat while clutching a magazine, some glossy thing about motorcycles, Harold waited with breathless anticipation. His novel’s dark binding contrasted the bright handwritten red letters reading ‘The Time of Our Lives.’ Goose pimples popped on Harold’s neck each time he read the title. “The Time of Our Lives,” Harold whispered, licking his slimy lips with a pudgy tongue. He read…

  • The Nite Shift Tavern by R. Francis Diamond

    There was a drinking establishment in Bremerton, Washington called the White Pig Tavern. Some wag hung the name on it of “Albino Swine-o,” one of the great nicknames I have ever come across (see: Emil “Hillbilly” Billdilli; Arlie “The Freshest Man on Earth” Latham; and Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson). This is not about the Swine-o – I didn’t live in Bremerton long enough to darken its door or vomit in its alley. My post-21 years of age era overlapped with my residency in Kitsap County long enough to make only one place a regular haunt – the Nite Shift, located at 242 Burwell Street. I had no friends,…

  • Lost Blossoms by Patti Crouch

    In the family portrait, my grandmother sits prim and pretty in a white party dress, hair fastened by bows, eyes solemn. Behind her is a wall of black suits, slick-haired brothers with faces like bulldogs. Her father stares at the camera, thin-eyed and well fed; her mother curves her shoulders forward, perhaps hunching around the baby whose long christening gown glows white against her black dress. The baby was an afterthought, raised once the sons had graduated and departed, the only daughter allowed an education. My grandmother went to work at twelve in a hat shop, crying for months as her dreams fell away like petals. I imagine her behind…