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  “I do have a sense of displacement as constant instability—the uninterrupted existence of everything that I love and care about is not guaranteed at all.” — Aleksandar Hegmon  


Editors' Choice
J.D. Mathes • In Strange Company

In jail, I learned, someone was always measuring you for what it profited them. Convicts will rope you into a card game to pass the time and voila you owe a carton of cigarettes to some asshole. It didn’t sound like much, but people will beat the crap out of you for cigarettes. I talked with others so as not to be a dick but remained guarded. But I wasn’t guarded enough, trying to play it cool like I wasn’t worried. 


Hugh Findlay • Places

... at the downtown Woolworth’s, my mother refused to wait for a table or a stool at the counter, and so we waltzed right into the Black section and parked our immigrant butts down for service. Then the Kentucky purebred waitress whispered we’d need to move just as soon as we could, while all the other diners scowled and shook their heads, and sure enough, a White man saw our faux pas and gave us his table.


Colleen Wells • Burn-out

Our clients come from homelessness, state hospitals and incarceration. I coach them on how to clean toilets and their rooms. I smell urine, and dirty, sweaty socks, and unbathed musk. I clean up their vomit and feces when they’ve not been well....
   Billy heaps leftover mashed potatoes and gravy six inches high over two plates and calls it lunch. I focus on nutritional skills, specifically portion control. He dives in anyway.



William Cass • Neighbors

His wife had moved out with no warning the previous year during Henry’s most serious hospitalization. A two-sentence note from her was waiting on the kitchen counter for Glen when he got home from the hospital one night. She couldn’t take it anymore, it said; she was done watching Henry suffer....
     The hospital discharged Henry home a couple weeks later. Glen explained things to him in as brief, straightforward, and nonjudgmental a way as possible. He told Henry his mother loved him. Still, it took several months before he no longer heard his son crying himself to sleep.


Julian Ford • Satan on Your Best Day

Standing next to Suzie, doing my best not to look at her, a warmth like summer came over me. Her hair was black, and when she turned her head to see her friends it brushed my shoulder. The smell of flowers hitherto uncategorized. I had to say something for reasons I couldn’t surmise. I counted my breath, a trick my mother had taught me when I had to get my vaccine shots for school. Then I tapped Suzie’s arm. Where my finger touched, a white print ghosted on her sandy skin for only a moment.
    “Hey. Hey Suzie.”
    “Hey what.”
    “Did you know if you eat apple seeds you die?”


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Jaryd Porter • Drift

He braced his arms tight around his torso. His skeleton shrank and tightened, skin turning to fire. Frostbite had a burn like nothing Santo ever felt before. His legs would hardly bend to let him pick up his feet. He got the feeling that it might be easier to list to the left, then to the right, and let gravity pull him into the trench along the highway. For the Laws of Physics to let him slip through its fingers and sink into the whiteout seemed like a mercy.


Terry Sanville • Tyranny of the Here and Now

On his way from his apartment to the restaurant on Santa Barbara’s State Street where he always eats Sunday brunch, Jimmy stops rolling his walker, sets the brakes, and sits on its bench seat. Reaching down he adjusts the newly-issued braces on his lower legs. Fifty-five years from that explosive day in Vietnam and he still can’t feel anything below the knees. But once in a blue moon, he wakes at night to violent itching in his left ankle. He scratches it until the skin is raw, relishing the pain. But it never lasts.


Jay Shearer • The Location Prompt

Dr. Smallovitz stared down at Rick’s response to what they’d called “The Location Prompt”: Write a short history of your home city, or rather, your time there. Include any and all salient events. Rick had taken half a minute to think it through, then wrote, in chronological order from his move here in ‘92, the quickest, shortest history he could muster, sophomorically reliant on sports and politics. He wrote: 
    Bulls win / Sox win / Obama wins / Hawks win / Rahm wins / Cubs win / Trump wins



Kathleen Bryson • Nature Hater

You get the picture. You’re a nature lover.
You don’t know what art is, but you know it
    when you see it.
You don’t know what permafrost is, but you know it
    when it melts.

• Trouble in the Academy

There is a lie in the museum and I can prove it.
I’m not just talking about human-Opabinia
facial-haired chimeras with ESP.

• The Crow War

Last night I was asking people about
you far away on another continental bookshelf
then pretended I wasn’t.


Chris Bullard Florida, 1960

When the hurricane hit we had to consider
whether the ground might shift from under us.
Ours was the last car to cross the causeway
before it closed.


Some preferred places without light
for escape: the bed fort, perhaps,
the back of a bedroom closet,
to wait out the parental storms.


Hoyt Rogers • Invaders

Our wars subside into rites of peace.
Now our cousins maraud like nightmares.
Friends by day, red-mawed ogres by night.




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