Elizabeth Wagner

Self-Checkout

The man behind her said, “Let me ask you a ques­tion,” but she didn’t turn to see what the ques­tion would be.  Something about what he said both­ered her—it was the way he put it.  She was out of sorts today, but, nev­er­the­less, what he said was not the same as ask­ing, “Can I ask you some­thing?” Or say­ing, “Excuse me, I’ve been won­der­ing…” 

Julie Odell

Whoa, Hey

The mail­man deliv­ers the pack­age on Tuesday. I rip open the small white Fed-ex enve­lope and a clear zip-lock sand­wich bag falls out from between two pieces of card­board. Inside is the necklace—a large met­al cutout of two fists side by side with pinkies extend­ed. “Too much rock for one hand.” It hangs from a cheap met­al chain. 

Pamela Painter

Indoor Gardening

He had been watch­ing her for four years—watering her plants, groom­ing her plants.   First in grad school, then when they moved in togeth­er in Cambridge, and lat­er in their first house as a new­ly mar­ried cou­ple with house plants.  It had tak­en years for him to cred­it:  to observe, to sus­pect, to hypoth­e­size about, and final­ly to believe.

Andrew Roe

Precision 

Hello there, I say, and you’re stunned, so stunned you don’t say any­thing back, you just stare, stare open-mouthed and silent like I’m a ghost. And okay, all right: that’s what I am. People even­tu­al­ly stop call­ing when calls are not returned. The reflec­tion in the mir­ror starts to look like some­one else—or no one at all.