Two weeks after the man moved in with the woman, the woman began to grow gills. They hurt coming in, like the pain of an emerging tooth. She hid her neck with scarves at first, partly because she didn’t want the man to see and partly because she didn’t want to.
Of course she asks if she can keep it. She usually hoards whatever she finds floating near the stern—empty beer cans, folded tourist maps, shredded bike tires—without asking permission. But this is something else, and she must know it.
Knausgård smells like cigarettes and not just like he just smoked but more like he is actually made of ashtrays and then loosely covered with hair and skin. “I’m quitting, I know,” he says and it’s clear he is accustomed to being called charming, but I’m not falling for it.
Once upon a time, no one believed her. Even when Bear stands toe-to-toe with the sheriff, they do not believe her. Even when Bear huffs, or rudely shimmies against the living room wall, marking it with her scent, or crams blueberries into her snout—still, they do not believe her.
The statue of Mary extends a hand from her alcove by the altar, as if she’ll swap her cloister, her blue robes, and her thin stone lip for your chartreuse, corset-back gown and an hour pass to Cassidy’s reception in the church basement. It’s a tempting offer.
My little sister DeeDee drowned but they brought her back and now she is my dead grandmother. On the first day back to school, she accidentally bumped into Stanley, that fifth grader who looks like a seventh grader, and said, oh, cheese and rice.
I'm in the back of the band room, sipping vodka from a dented Sprite bottle, trying to avoid Christopher Mackley and his overly earnest attempts to get me to buy something for the FFA fundraiser.
The bottle she carries is real, each sip she takes is real, her heart beating invisibly in her chest is real—but she knows that nothing is really real until you have mimed it.
I imagined that necklace in a museum someday, the history of a world that had burned away etched on each bead with a safety pin. I wondered if the people in the new world would know the word museum.
The two of you have matching tattoos and yet she does not know the plunging depths of your self-doubt. You cannot let her know. You cannot let her know because she envies you—your witty captions, your nonchalance.
These kids make you want to vomit. Not the hair: that could be got rid of with a good fine pair of shears and the good fine hands of buddies to hold them down while you do what’s needed. It’s the way they aren’t afraid, and you were promised fear.
When I talk on the landline these days, I can hear that telltale clicking my Russian friends warned me about. Someone’s listening in. Someone thinks I’m worth listening to.
Outside, there are daisies that the astronaut’s wife has grown. She has always grown daisies at this house since they moved in, looked at the yard, said daisies, and it was decided. Outside, there are daisies, and the astronaut’s wife goes to pluck some for one of the vases.
Bigfoot has been feeling lonely lately, wondering – self-indulgently, masochistically – what the plural of Bigfoot would even be. Bigfoots? Bigfeet? It’s purely hypothetical. There are no others out there.
Scoutmaster Justin’s on the pier, leg on a post, balls hanging out of his cut-off shorts like that guy on the Fleetwood Mac album. He has to feel that, has to know he’s flashing the ten of us treading water below. “Dive!” he shouts, all Full Metal Jacket, blows and blows his pink plastic whistle. “It’s cold as hell down there! Watch the cottonmouth nests!”
The parent says it’s brinksmanship. Says the courts won’t block a school funding bill if it means closing schools. The teacher says it doesn’t matter. She’s starting a job at an insurance firm next week anyway.
There is the needle. Before that, there is an equine veterinarian preparing a lethal dose of sodium pentobarbital.
A poised woman in a pink sarong and a straw hat points at the glass countertop, where the more expensive jewelry is displayed. The man at the register takes out a long chain with a black pearl pendant. Jill pictures an infinity pool and enormous, fluffy towels.
God knows what burrowing near his neck, near the occipital bone, along the base of his skull, where I’d held him. Soft spots no one thinks on. I like paying attention to places on a body most people take for granted. A smear of my lipstick (color, Medieval) true to its claim, everlasting on his Adam’s apple—that sweet hunk of thyroid cartilage named for sin.
Mae’s been cutting off pieces of herself since she was small. The mosquito bite on her Achilles, gone. The thick patch of eczema on her left shoulder, peeled clean. That one tattoo she got at Myrtle Beach when she was drunk on shitty cocktails, expertly whittled from her rib. And her eye. The purple black bruise he left her with.
We didn't like her so we hung her on the wall. Hung her on a coat hook by the back of the stupid dress she always wore, because she wasn’t allowed to wear pants. There were other kids like her. Out where town met not-town, where cars without wheels bloomed in tall-grass yards and roads turned to dirt and pebbles, never plowed in winter, rutted and muddy in spring.
After my husband left me, I decided to date a man with no arms because I liked the idea of myself as someone who would not rule out the limbless. Or maybe I thought he would be less inclined to tally up my faults.
When dolphins die they call out their own name. They do this to make sure their family is close––they do this to remind their near ones: this is who I am. I am here now. I have known joy.
We didn’t recognise his terror. We loved him cold. When his battered heart stopped, we cried and tried to bring him back, fingering lightly his pale feathers.
We’ve dug our way to the top of the casket. Our pockets are filled with plastic and wood, roots we’ve twisted off and not eaten. We’re tunneling up, making a barrier against the earth above our heads.
Beyond the bathroom window, the celestial jaw of night loosens its grip on the sky. Whale sharks with their astral skin are tracked by the same software that follows the galaxies.
She's snoring, her face turned to the wall. I want to wake her, see if we can take tweezers to it, extract it like a splinter or a rotted tooth and forget it ever was there, but I know it wouldn't take. Her legs are on loan.
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The night of my parents’ funeral, she told me that the most important thing you can tell people, dead or alive, is that you are here. On this earth.
Stevie and I fed the alligator in the lake behind the bowling alley on our lunch break. Not directly. We weren’t idiots. We left expired hamburger and piles of fat scrapped off the Snack Shop grill on a special rock at the edge of the water, farthest from the dock.
You marry the dead girl. She is a scarecrow in a white dress, only the smallest bone of her pinky finger woven into the straw and wood holding her together in effigy. The rest of her has gone into the air as smoke and ashes.
Later, when I gasped his name it sounded strange in the air, like a phone ringing in a home you know to be long emptied of anyone.
If he spent years studying some aspect of what you think of as “your” culture, he won’t waste time arguing with you about whether it’s really your culture, or whether you know enough about it. Instead he’ll make clothing suggestions––sarongs, saris, dashikis, dreads, natural hair instead of extensions––and he’ll study you.
It’s for your own good, she says. Otherwise you’ll bake like a pork tenderloin. Or does she call me a pork tenderloin? Or maybe what she says is, Are you hungry yet? Dinner’s getting cold. If you don’t eat your pork tenderloin, he will.