by Willem Myra
Gray. On the ground, in the air, sticking to their bloodied faces. In their eyes. Volunteers trying their best to save those under the rubble–they dig with bare hands, nails broken, skin peeling, pain elsewhere. They breath the dusty air, these saviors, and sweat and cry and yell, “Don’t give up, don’t give up.” I admire their tenacity. Sat on the memory of her house, a girl holds her pet bunny to her chest and weeps. I wander aimlessly. An observant. An intruder. And for a millisecond I hate myself for thinking, At least they had something to lose.
Pamela Road, Lake Zurich, Illinois 1957
by Shoshauna Shy
Home from the carnival at my brother’s school, I am pulling an inflatable car sporting Mickey Mouse in the driver’s seat through the dark kitchen when one wheel catches on a chair leg. Too young to use words, I open my mouth and scream, tug at the stupid car on its string. Father, after a long week commuting by train, turns on one heel and yells. I don’t burst into tears. I grab the faux diamond necklace he won for me at the beanbag game, yank it from my neck, grind it under both feet.
This is just the beginning.
by Michael Kulp
The last human on Mars tossed another water-smoothed rock down a red gully. He had four minutes to live. He had sent back a detailed report, but he would be dead when they received it. He grabbed another polished rock. Once, outside his family’s river cabin, he had skipped stones like this. Thunder rumbled; his grandfather beckoned him inside. But he had kept skipping stones like “a willful child.” Willful. He smiled hypoxically. Why stop now? “I love you all,” he said. “I wonder what Mars smells like.” He pulled off his helmet and skipped it a long, long way.
by Megan Parmerter
My mother pushed the payphone into my hand. I accepted it like I would a poisonous snake. Into my other hand she pressed a piece of paper. The booth was stifling with us crushed together. “Now when John answers the phone, read this in Italian. I’ve told him how much you’ve learned.” The call went to voicemail. I recited the lines woodenly and hung up. “You could’ve tried not sounding like a robot.” I didn’t want to speak Italian to John. I wanted to go home to where Dad and dinner were waiting for us.
He Drove All Through the Night, but All He Found Was Me
by David Hackett
He pulled me from the rubble, gave me water and a chewy bar, and went back to digging through the remains of my apartment. “My leg, I think it’s broken.” He kept digging. He was maybe sixty, but strong. I looked around. No one else in sight, just miles of debris. I looked back at his truck, the license plate was from two states over; he’d gotten here quick. The girl upstairs, where was she from? “There were others in the building,” I said, as if to be helpful, as if to reassure him, as if he didn’t already know.
This week’s artwork is “Fading Identities” by Fabio Sassi
A Single Man Visiting Seattle
by Gregory Ramirez
Not bad, you utter as the man onstage sings Elvis. Your sister’s friend stands up, her hand out to you. Go ahead. Take it. It’s just a dance. What starts as a waltz changes once she draws closer to you, her hands wrapped behind your neck, her head pressed to your chest. Your sister’s graduation happened earlier today, and the dinner finished a few hours ago. You fly back tomorrow to California, returning to its drought, leaving the drizzle outside. Deprived of affection, committed to avoiding a one-night stand, you think to yourself, Please keep singing, please keep singing.
by Erika Price
I would curl up with grief whenever I thought he was leaving. I would hold my hands against my chest or strike my head against the wall, my face contorted as the cries came out, knowing it was wrong and manipulative, unable to stop. I am sure that I tormented him. It was only after I left that he began to torment me. He would sit in the parking lot outside my window, curled up like a hurt child, mewling and begging for cars to strike him. His pain made me feel strong, but not at all safe.
by Jason VanFossen
I stabbed my finger with his gold embroidery needle. Instead of testing the iron in my blood, I tested the gold in his needle. Now every time my right thumb touches anything, I feel the prick where my blood fell out. Michael took everything except his embroidery kit and that pillow he made for our one-year anniversary that read “Forever.” In the sunlight of morning, the steam from my coffee dances into nothing. I feel a slight pain when, after another sip, I swipe right. Forever is a short time.
by Lisa Rehfuss
It’s 5:55pm, and he’s where he has stood every night since I started taking the subway. His job is to check subway passes. The purpose is to move people through the turnstiles quickly. I smile and say hello, as I have every night for a year. He never responds. He can’t seem to find it in himself to talk to anyone who is not beautiful. I constantly remind myself there is nothing being gained or lost with a simple ‘hello’. He can treat me like the invisible woman, but I will not, and do not, step quietly through his world.
by Mercedes Lawry
She gave that flinty smile before she drove away. The boy felt his stomach drop and a chilled hand curved around his heart and squeezed. She was gone again, mother or not.
He was staying here, without her and anything that smelled of comfort. I am less than that pile of dirt by the steps, he thought, I’m just an outline, nothing she needs to keep close. The dark was coming now, pushing into the blue-gold sky and he stood watching with the flimsy hope that he too would be swallowed up.
by Michael Kulp
The laborer blinked away sweat and pulled another handful of the Rich Man’s crop. His unfettered mind dulled the grinding sameness with vivid fantasies of a soft future. Calloused hands did the work, and he counted his dreams and regrets. Weeks metastasized into years. He saw his children, then grandchildren, grow and leave. They had no callouses on their hands, and he was worried. Would they amount to anything? At last, as he sighed away his dying breaths, his fading mind felt the gentle caresses from those many soft hands. He had made them soft. And he finished without regrets.