by Duncan Birmingham
I stop at a gas station market off the highway for Travis’s favorite chewing gum, jumbo coffeechinos and energy breakfast bars then gun my car across Delray Beach before the whip cream flattens.
The gate guard at Tranquility Bluffs has zero muscle tone and a man-bun. Past the gate it’s a pretty plush set-up; all manicured hillsides, wooden walkways and charming bungalows. I spot some decent talent milling about, gnawing their nails like they just quit smoking and meditating in little matching pajama pants in a semi-circle by a dinky waterfall. I wonder how many are secretly high.
by Janelle Bassett
I shout “Take it out, Layla!” at a child I’m paid to mind. “Put the bottle cap in your pouch, not in your mouth. Go rinse your mouth at the water fountain. Swish and spit before you take a swallow.”
Layla hops to the fountain with her feet together because she is dressed like a kangaroo. She is dressed like a kangaroo because no other animals have built-in trash cans. Maybe turtles, if they suck in to make room. Maybe some unknown species of deep sea creature. There may very well be dumpster-shaped beings chugging along the ocean floor like bumper cars, but we haven’t yet seen them, so we haven’t yet made costumes in their likeness and sold them in bulk on Amazon. I look at my four-year-old students hopping around the park, collecting litter. To think that I only purchased these costumes on Tuesday. On Tuesday these costumes sat flat, folded and individually wrapped in Flagstaff, Arizona. Now they are nestled up against tiny digestive systems, carrying all manner of discards.
The Parallel of Water & Air
by Jesi Bender
No man’s life is his own. He exists for others, in others. “No man is an island.”
Perhaps he is more the ocean. He touches every edge as an unwalkable bridge. He evaporates, an ether absorbed and expelled. And, of course, he rocks, restless, against, against, against.
A Wedding in Uluwatu
by Gauraa Shekhar
Look, I’m not going to lie. I was twenty-four—actually just two weeks shy of my twenty-fifth birthday—and I was living in the waxy basement of a Russian painter’s house. Her being Russian has nothing to do with the story but, you know, these types of details seem to matter to the people back home. And while I’m at it, I might as well clarify that this was Bed-Stuy, and Bed-Stuy in 2010, before the fucking art school kids moved in, before Yasmine’s Hair Braiding had given way to Gnostic Yoga and Tattoo. Before there were ‘coffee bars’ where the impoverished elite left their tabs open for five-dollar lattes. Around this time, I used to get mugged at knife-point, which was funny in a pathetic little way, because all I had on me was a bag from the dollar-store which sold off-brand Pop Tarts—Toast ‘Em Pop Ups, I believe they were called—and a bunch of bananas. It was all I could afford back then, so I thought twice before handing over the black plastic bag. Can you believe that? I was willing to risk death for Toast ‘Em Pop Ups!
Josh and Sarah Are Still Missing
by Will Mountain Cox
Our authorities told us we had to be alone. Our authorities told us not to go toward the screaming. Or the crying. Our authorities told us to be worried. About one another. About what we were capable of doing. But beyond the masks, all we could notice was smiling. But we couldn’t help noticing so many people helping. But we couldn’t stop ourselves from admitting to seeing people giving up food to those who had none. But, people carrying bags of food for those who couldn’t lift the bags. People who usually bumped one another in hurry, making room for each other’s bodies and bags. It was uplifting, the intelligent flouting of our authorities’ recommended worry. We went bold. Our hands went raw from repetitive washing, all for the sake of intelligent flouting. All for the sake of remaining a clean part of community. We all noticed our hands rotting a little from the helping, and then we all commented on noticing. But after a month, things changed. Our authorities got to saying nothing would be the same. That we should accept that. No matter how much we’d noticed, we couldn’t stop ourselves from frightening. They told us we really had to stop helping. That it was unsafe. That it was, or else. One of our friends got the most afraid and listened harder. She went out only alone, to places with fewer and fewer people. She didn’t help, because she was good. People screamed and she didn’t help. She was a blessing. On one of her walks, out in the danger, she was stopped by the police. For her, it should have felt like a blessing in return. The cop said she was being unsafe, demanded her address and her number. We’d been promised those were normal questions. The cop said for her to message when she got home safely. It was for her safety. It seemed to make sense in the context. She said for herself to feel safe about it. She did what she was told. An hour later the cop messaged asking if he could come over later. At night. To check on her safety. And for a drink, obviously. He knew where she lived. He knew it for her safety. He reminded her of that. She messaged us, begging we come to protect her. But she was far away. Far enough that it was illegal now to go. Our authorities told us it was too dangerous to be legal. They said it was unsafe to help. We didn’t know what to do. We kept telling ourselves that we didn’t know what to do. We kept telling ourselves that everyone was acting so friendly. The authorities kept telling us that nothing would be the same. Only, we kept learning that nothing was ever different.
by Ryan Sartor
I got a job as a custodian because I thought it would be a good occupation for an aspiring writer. I had gone to film school, but soon realized I didn’t understand cameras or where to put them, so I decided I would write fiction: novels and short stories.
I knew that I needed to acquire two things: life experience and a job that provided me with a room, outside of my apartment, in which I could write. I thought to sign up for a co-working space, but I got anxious imagining the other members. Would they also be writers? Would they stop me while I was working and ask questions about my personal life? Would I tell them that I didn’t want to talk, be labeled “difficult,” try to get back my deposit, and find out it was too late because I’d locked myself into a six-month agreement?
by Samantha O’Hara
I’ve decided that I’m not leaving Quentin’s stoop until he takes me back. I’ve been an impractical girlfriend, wouldn’t you know it, but the point is he has to take me back because we’ve got so much living left to do together. I am capable of that living. I walked all the way here, the long way, even. I put my high-top sneakers on and bought a carton of orange juice with the change at the bottom of my bag. The sky is a heavy, humid yellow, and my shoulders are itchy with burn by the time I’m ringing the bell to Quentin’s apartment.
by Kim Magowan
CALL ME, Aria had texted, all caps. Greg saw the text when he turned on and then immediately pocketed his phone. He and his partner Franny were in a taxi, winding snakily from the airport.
Franny had forgotten to pack her sunglasses, an omission she realized only when they landed in blinding Phuket. Greg waited for her to go to the hotel lobby to buy a new pair before sitting on the bed with its gold linen cover and pulling out his cell phone.