by Hannah Whiteoak
Run until your heart races, breath wheezes, January air grazes your throat, feet are on fire, a stitch gnaws at your side, legs burn and buckle as you sprint across the finish line and stagger to a stop. Bend at the waist, hands on your thighs, nauseous, gasping as you reach for your watch to check your time. Plan to run again tomorrow, despite aching calves and quads; set the alarm, plaster blisters, gulp coffee and go, because you remember when the black dog was gnashing at your heels and you know it is never far behind.
by Vincent Aldrich
She cried good tears. The long wait finally over. She said she loved the ring, and me, and I cried a little too, grinning. We laughed together, and it was pretty much perfect. But somewhere in the conversation following, while I worked my second drink, I made some offhanded comment about credit card debt and changing diapers, and something in her eyes clouded over. Now she stares at the grey waves in silence, then her phone, then the waves again. I sip my fresh drink and flip through the appetizers, while seagulls argue over some dead thing by the water.
by Maura Yzmore
I’ve always thirsted for rain. For gloomy skies and thunder. For running soaked to the bone along wide, sparkling streets.
Those streets led to a desert, and in the desert were you. Amidst scorpions, cacti, in the sweltering heat, the thirst felt deep in my loins, and it was quenched by your sweat.
Our children grow up on ice. All water, you say, like rain. But streets are narrow and mean, far too cold to get drenched… And you, my love, are a liar.
With you, it’s ice or heat. Never, ever my rain.
You let me die of thirst.
by Alanna Weissman
“Inoperable,” the doctor told her, showing her a scan. She attempted to decipher the black-and-white image, its contents a Rorschach, the tumor blooming like a flower, growing like a weed. She thought back to when she was a child and fascinated with medicine. Scabs, lipomas—how fascinating the things the body produced! She would squeeze a clogged follicle for the hardened bead of lymph it produced, peel the outer layer off a crusted-over cut. But illness, true illness, was something that only happened in television dramas and medical textbooks. Now she could only wait.
My Life Without Me
by Jim Doss
I quit my job a year before I did. After 20 years of service, the company gave me the big promotion to a corner office. I’d shut my door hours at a time, pretend I was engaged in delicate negotiations with an acquisition target only to watch pigeons landing on my window ledge, or people in the street below hurrying place to place. I sat there in my Brooks Brothers suits, staring at the double reflection in the corner windows, first left-side, then right-side, wondering who this stranger was, and why he stared back so intent on probing my soul.
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.