by Treena Thibodeau
Zenobia thinks we should get a dog.
I don’t want a dog, I say. Who’s going to take care of a dog?
We both will, she says. My whole life I wanted a dog and no one ever let me get one. Come on, Tuck, it’ll make me happy.
Magic words: a way to make Zenobia happy. Something that will turn her toward me like the tumblers of a lock. We’re on the couch, and even after I let her pick the show and make her the popcorn she likes (coconut oil, freshly grated parmesan cheese, Zenobia frowning at the mess of the pot as if someone threw it sticky and smoking through our window. She loves messy things, like cheese popcorn and dogs, and hates mess), she still is not looking at the television but rather at an empty stretch of wall. I keep checking to see if there’s something crawling there. It’s unsettling.
by Winona León
On the last day of eighth grade, I itch to slide out of my skin. The air hits my throat like a match, and I scrape my nails underneath my desk, carving my name into the splintered wood so that I will be remembered. The last bell finally rings and we’re let loose like animals. I look for Cara. When I find her, we lock arms and break away from the other students.
by Lucie Britsch
My phone buzzed and I ignored it. It buzzed again. My boss was calling me. I answered it.
I bought a zoo, he shouted. He was outside somewhere, on his way to the office, or in a mental ward.
What? I said. I was just getting to work, my eyes barely open.
I bought a zoo, he shouted again. Well, it was a zoo, it’s empty now.
A Box of Incense
by John Yohe
Gift from a woman he tried to become intimate with, which he felt could have been good—ie perverted—since supposedly she was into that but she was also into talking non-stop about her ex-boyfriend and despite that failure they continued to say hello at the café, talk about teaching, and she asked him to make comments on a grant proposal, which she used.
by Josh Denslow
Haley and I had been broken up for two weeks when she asked if I’d drive up north to have dinner with her parents.
“They are looking forward to meeting you,” she said over the phone, and I could picture the wince that happened when she felt uncomfortable. The twitch of her cheek.
An Incident of Defenestration
by Francis Levy
The sound of her husband’s body hitting the mound of refuse wasn’t that much more dramatic than any of other occasional thumping that came from the dumpster, which contractors routinely used when there was a renovation going on.
by Marilyn Abildskov
I am the one who unlocks the door, who opens the register, who dusts the counter of this small shop, who writes on the chalkboard sign outside. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Welcome! I am the one who draws tulips and daisies in yellow and red. I am the one who welcomes women in.
What propels? Not depression. Anxiety. Not buying. Browsing. Not the drab cubicles of H&M. The Chalk Garden welcomes customers to browse the racks of extravagant clothes, clothes that fill a need.
The Game of Stupid Poly
by Alex Behr
The Mad One keeps locking the bathroom door from the outside, especially when I’m in a hurry. “Tenth paper clip this week,” I say to her, my daughter, “And it’s only Wednesday.” I say it, like, no big deal. Paper clips are free. I take them from work.
The Mad One folds her arms and leans against the hallway wall. She whistles.
I don’t want to antagonize her. “Don’t you need to use the bathroom?”