by Alison McBain
Mama feeds her baby bitter milk from a mangled heart. Years drip by and the hungry boy cries, but Mama’s hands are empty. She slaps his face until it’s ragged as hers. When he’s fifteen, he gets a job at the corner store. He stacks food in towers so high, they’re unreachable. Mama swallows down his paycheck—he gnaws bone and gristle. When he becomes a man, he can do as she does—ignore, abuse, betray. Instead, he takes her hand in his. Mama shakes under the burden she’s carried so long alone, but he promises, “We’ll walk together now.”
What Roman Says
by Lori Cramer
Roman says that I shouldn’t refer to him as my boyfriend. Labels like that, he says, create unrealistic expectations. When I assure him that I don’t have any expectations, unrealistic or otherwise, he smirks and says that women always say that. I ask for a ballpark estimate of the number of women he’s surveyed. He smirks again. I’m not sure which annoys me more, his patronizing facial expressions or his authoritarian need to control the terminology with which I’m permitted to describe our relationship. “No problem,” I say. “From now on I’ll just call you my ex-boyfriend.”
by B.E. Seidl
It came of nowhere: A giant crow, its plumage like a black silken coat. It is hard to tell where it wanted to go, for certainly it cannot have planned to be stuck in the spokes of my brand-new bicycle. In horror I watch the bird flapping its wings until finally it breaks its neck. I would have only further distressed it by trying to help. It would have only pecked my hand and scratched me with its claws. Carefully, I disentangle the animal from my precious bike. It would have died anyway.
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
Dick wants love. He is a penis. He doesn’t want physical bullshit, but recognition. He’s traveled constantly, gone into coffee shops, a McDonald’s, small-town motels. But he’s always ejected. He’s an abomination. He feels the weight of rejection. He wants to sit down behind lit windows, like the normal folks. He wants to pretend he belongs. He wants people to pretend, too. “What do you want from life?” he’d ask. He’d listen if he had a chance. Maybe he needs to measure his own life by their stories. Maybe he needs assurance. He trudges on, tired, struggling against ebbing hopes.
Why We Got Rid of the Shotgun
by Aaron Saliman
April second was a frowning day. Bill Wurthers on the other side of town finally died from that infected dog bite, so we took his bitch out behind his house and put a shell in the back of her head. She was a little thing, not more’n a pup, but it’s county law for a murderer to be put to death, and we follow the court of law in this town. But those eyes looking up at us, all glassy and soul-sucked-out; it made us turn around and start retching into the dirt.
This week’s artwork is “Coca Cola Tango” by AF Knott.
by Zack Stein
When tantruming on account of something small, but motivated by reasons big, Mom would go through the kitchen drawers and throw spoons at my father and me. Always spoons. Never the forks or knives, and I thought that was a nice gesture. Still, she never tried to discipline me. She just let me twist her static hair as she slept under white duvets for most of my adolescence. My father always said she was ill or tired, but I saw it in him, too. Sometimes I’d watch him dip his face into a bowl of cereal until his fingertips relaxed.
by B.E. Seidl
I looked at the bug, and he looked at me. There was only his head, the rest was still under my skin. For days I had anticipated this moment, when I would finally stare into those colorless eyes. I had felt him moving inside my arm, had watched him growing under an itching bump. All I wanted to do was rip his head off, but I had to wait until he came out on his own. It seemed like hours that we were eying each other. Finally he squeezed himself out and fell to the floor.
Young Lovers Go Camping
by Vincent Aldrich
On the bus to Baltimore she bites her nails and listens to slow music in her headphones, slumping in the red hoodie he paid for, watching traffic out the window as the sky goes dark. Her boots are still muddy. Both her eyes and cheek are deep, inky purple, veined bilirubin yellow, starting to heal. Her mouth is slightly open because she still can’t breathe through her broken nose. Her cellphone and wallet are somewhere in the Susquehanna River. The gun in the backpack on the seat next to her is missing four bullets.
by Ellen Perleberg
Café Arusat was like every other café in Tripoli. Men loitered for hours over strong coffee and debates. Hakim had run the café for five years. According to custom, he should’ve bonded with the same twenty men occupying his ironwork chairs every afternoon, but generations passed through too quickly. They died fighting for Gaddafi or the rebellion. The survivors fled to Europe. Or jihadi camps. Those who stayed were blown up or murdered. Whenever a patron disappeared, Hakim scrubbed his old chair with bleach, as though the disinfectant could scare away the djinns and the ghosts of his broken country.
by Doyen Sump
Though I distinctly remember going to bed last night, I am somehow fully clothed and on the bathroom floor when I wake. I get up slowly and look in the mirror. I am pale and haggard. After splashing water on my face, I exit and find my wife sitting at the kitchen table, looking frustrated.
“The police brought you home again,” she says. “You were wandering the street eating a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.”
I want to believe she’s joking, but I taste cinnamon when I swallow.
“Wasn’t me,” I say.
“Never is,” she says.