Joseph Pfister ~ Happy Hour

My neigh­bor, Tom, came to the door. Tom was in his for­ties, his only dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture a patch of blond in his oth­er­wise dark hair. He and his wife had bought the three-bed­room house next to ours four or five years ago, bring­ing with them a pair of grey­hounds nobody want­ed after their days at the race­track were over. That’s the kind of cou­ple they were. Tom had come over to ask me some­thing

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Kathy Fish ~ The Once Mighty Fergusons

One rocked him­self to sleep every night, bang­ing his head against the wall. One who’d been beat­en for clog­ging the toi­let, took to shit­ting behind the garage. The youngest one had night ter­rors. Once he dreamed he was being chased and tore through the snow in his bare feet to the neigh­bors’ and broke a win­dow with his fist. They all wet the bed. They suf­fered all the com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases, these

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Greg Bottoms ~ Skittles

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At a Wawa gas sta­tion and min­i­mart in Newport News, Virginia, a land­scap­er named Scott stood in line to buy a bot­tle of Gatorade. He had been work­ing for the city, weed­ing and replant­i­ng a wide medi­an strip and a flowerbed at the mouth of an off ramp, which sur­round­ed a sign cel­e­brat­ing the incor­po­ra­tion of the munic­i­pal­i­ty from one of the orig­i­nal Virginia colony shires in 1896. The job—half

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Michelle Ross ~ Fish Story

Mrs. Lark is dying. I think it’s the chil­dren. They’re like an algal bloom pol­lut­ing her water. What I know is that when I lived with her all those years in her yel­low-walled apart­ment, Mrs. Lark seemed healthy. Then in August, she scooped me into a plas­tic bag and brought me here. She said to me, “I’ll bet you didn’t know I used to teach. That was long before your time. It’s been fif­teen

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Mary Lynn Reed ~ How to Let It All Go

You imag­ine a life in a small Midwestern town where you teach Calculus at the com­mu­ni­ty col­lege and buy sweet corn at the Farmer’s Market on Thursdays in the town square. Your big yel­low dog named Jethro chas­es squir­rels up trees in your fenced back­yard and it’s all fine because you don’t trav­el any­more and the days are long but not so gru­el­ing that you wake in the mid­dle of the night with a cin­der

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Christopher James ~ Merapi Volcano

Americans, Meg thought, under­stood earth­quakes. The earth moved. Los Angeles. Bridges col­lapsed. San Andreas. Your best China falling, stand­ing between door jambs, dam­age to the Sam Kee Laundry. The Nimitz free­way.

Volcanoes, she’d assumed, would be sim­i­lar, except with added lava. But this was so dif­fer­ent.

She and Greg were in Jogjakarta, Indonesia, near Merapi vol­cano when it blew. News reports

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Lisa Levchuk ~ No Man’s Land

The first group of women who invit­ed me into their reg­u­lar game were from the B team. The club had two com­pet­i­tive teams, but they stayed very sep­a­rate. The B team play­ers were nev­er includ­ed in the games of the bet­ter play­ers. Sure, some of them were quite weak, but, in my opin­ion, the line between A and B was murki­er than any­one liked to think. I played with them because I knew that, soon­er or

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Lydia Copeland Gwyn ~ Four New Stories

Tiny Doors

I stand with mos­qui­toes in my veil in the evening sun and speak words from some oth­er time: of cathe­drals and dances at the spring house, green cam­pus quads. The air is heavy with the smell of over­turned fields. I drop your ring on the lawn, but it still finds your fin­ger.

You have me sharp­en­ing knives. Petal thin against a wet stone kept black in a cook­ie tin in our pantry. The damp suck of

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