SUBMISSIONS ARE OPEN — 9/18 - 10/31

Hi friends!

We are delighted that submissions will be opening at 12:01 AM on Monday, September 18 through Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Be sure to read over our submission guidelines before you hit SENDhttp://bit.ly/1cXg2PY. Remember:

  1. 500 words (or less),
  2. No poetry,
  3. Make it pop.

So excited to be back. So excited to read your work. 

—Rob, Elizabeth, Hannah, Letisia

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RHYMES WITH ORANGE — ANNA O'BRIEN

The two of us sit across from each other at a scratched card table with pocks along the edges where wheelchairs have kissed it. The lights in the ceiling hum.           
             Mom, are you hungry? One face turns to me, slack and vacant. This is the most common one now. There are two more, hidden from view. Your old face—original is more fitting, they're all old—clear and present, only occasionally surfaces now. And the third face, hard and mean. That one has always taken up too much space, requires too much. The room's not big enough for that one.
            How often do you break from the ether? Switch faces for me now; I want to read your eyes. I can still coax them out of you. Words, I mean. Here, let's do the crossword.
            You used to invent words for things with no name. Silly stuff. The time water from the tap hit the silver spoon in the sink and leapt right back out on your white apron? Pseudoaquanastics. I still remember. Do you? God, how you laughed, which made me laugh, too.
            Words were like rain to you, falling and collecting in small pools around the house, the kitchen humid with crosswords, bedrooms damp with filled notebooks, notecards dripping in the den.
            Tides changed with me. You changed. Pain, serotonin levels. Pills and therapy. You said I took your words away.
            Still, I grew. I showed you my own words. You wore your third face. How much, you asked. I told you what I'd earned. Your dark eyes narrowed. For that?
            Look here. Back to the present. Twenty across. Rhymes with orange.
            I remember at the start of your waning, you'd fill in boxes with invented answers. Pizza topping, nine letters. Pepperont, in ink. A type of hat, you said. You were convinced. You almost convinced me.


Anna O'Brien is a writer and veterinarian currently living in central Maryland. She has had fiction published in Cease, Cows; Scrutiny Journal; Luna Station Quarterly; Panorama Journal; The Reject Pile; and Brilliant Flash Fiction. She is also a contributing editor to the magazine Horse Illustrated and writes a monthly blog on the creative side of the veterinary industry, called VetWrite. She loves hiking, Labrador Retrievers, and lives by the motto: "no coffee, no workee."

BANG THE DREAM — BECCA YENSER

You never do what you say you will anymore. You tell him you will be the woman of his dreams- red flats, spreadsheets, salads. You will be the kind of woman who pats the heads of children, begins a knitting project bigger than a headband, owns nice bras (forever white, breast-shaped even when empty).

You see shadows beyond your Sears curtains in the shapes of sparrows, snowflakes magnified by streetlight, butterflies. You ask your boyfriend what they are and he says Crows. You pull the curtains and the world spills out, yellow. Yes, out on the frozen yard is a murder of crows. Who is going to die, you wonder. You can’t help it. You watch Hitchcock, Dateline, Lynch; you look up the deaths of friends of friends on Google because you want the details. As if the details could explain why. Details only explain how. You think you read that somewhere, like maybe in a Joan Didion novel. Yes, definitely Didion.

You have ideas of what to do with the day, like swim laps in a pool, wipe down the kitchen cabinets, do your nails in Bang the Dream black.  But you end up drunk, on the bank of the Arkansas at night, watching yourself swim the length of the river, from Bitting Street Bridge to 13th, or up in the sky between the slow moving satellites.

A cat comes up to meet you and you feed it a McDonald’s hamburger. The river smells like river. When you were young you lost sleep over trout. The question was, did they prefer woolies or woolie buggers?

You never do what you say you will anymore. You never put on the suit with the flowers that fly neatly over the crotch. You never wipe the cabinets clean.


Becca Yenser just drove from Portland, Oregon to Kansas with a U-haul and a dog. Her work appears in 1001 Editors, The Nervous Breakdown, Hobart, decomP, >killauthor, Paper Darts, Metazen, Filter Literary Journal, and HOOT. She likes paying attention.

SPECTRUM — JEREMY JOHN PARKER

I find that the rain dripping from my grandfather’s roof tastes of tar. The old miser shouts for Casper and me to go outside to play and we go because the rainwater is warmer than his ocean of mottled grey carpet and its solitary lighthouse television, a blinking beacon reversed: instead of stay away—danger!—this one beckons him closer. Casper and I wanted the bright flash whizzbang kaleidoscope of cartoons but the miser had been lured in by that lighthouse siren singing the slow soft songs of his youth, those ancient mildewed television shows of yesteryear. I don’t begrudge him his soporific but my brother is so early in his own spring that he cannot yet imagine the bleakness of another’s winter. 

I tell Casper that old shows are in black and white because the world was black and white back then, the same fairy tale our father told me when I was Casper’s age, before him and mom were lost in the flood. I don’t cringe at the lie because it’s the truth, at least for the miser. He watched life slip by through that high-contrast duality—this is right, this is wrong, this is left, this is right, this is black, this is white. So when the phantasmagoria of modern life surfaced beneath him like a leviathan, he failed to recognize that even his precious black and white had always been a variegated spectrum of greys. 

So I don’t argue when the miser siphons the technicolor from the room and sends us out into the storm. We huddle beneath the eaves as water drips from the roof through our hair, over our freckles, onto our tongues. The Kentucky blue grass squeals with joy under our slippery sneakers as we dash as fast as we can then plant our feet and slide hard down the hill toward the culvert. Casper and I lie on our backs in the grass, soaked and streaked with green. We open our mouths and drink in the dull grey storm. 

Overhead, lightning cracks color back into the world.


Jeremy John Parker is a writer, book designer, and the fiction editor for Outlook Springs. A recipient of the 2015 Tom Williams Prize in Fiction, judged by Kevin Brockmeier, and a semifinalist for The Hudson Prize, his Pushcart Prize-nominated stories have appeared in The Normal School and decomP magazinE

THE DISASTER SPECIALIST — JENN STROUD ROSSMANN

Frank MacLorin had nineteen parkas. He’d worn each while clinging to a guardrail, wincing at the wind reddening his face and billowing his Gore-Tex. He was a natural disaster specialist.
             At the moment, he was hip-deep in thick brown water. His sleek black Patagonia embroidered DCB for Dennis Charles Broadcasting. He braced himself against a row of sandbags , his feet wedged between cobblestones now underwater. MacLorin looked into the camera. “I’m here in Omaha’s Old Market district. This neighborhood of restaurants and galleries is under four feet of water, courtesy of the ‘Muddy Mo.’” He let this hang. “We have firm reports of three deaths, and I’ve just learned the tragic story of a man trapped in his car on Dodge Street when his power locks and windows failed.”
             “Any sign of the water receding, Mac?” a voice asked in his earpiece.
             He shook his head grimly. “As you can see,” MacLorin said, peering out from under his dripping black hood, “it’s raining now.” He gave the audience a beat to reflect on the driver who sat helpless in the rising water, to consider their own terrible mortality. “Things are going to get worse for Omaha before they get better.”

*

Dennis Charles kept a laser pointer in his breast pocket, as another man might keep a fountain pen. “The new currency is bandwidth,” he said. His glowing red laser sight circled the word “efficiency” onscreen.
             Hurricane Bret was honing in on the coastal Carolinas, beckoning MacLorin east. Instead, Dennis wanted him in the placeless void of cyberspace.
             “I can’t send you across the country every time some shitburg gets flooded. The guy rowing his canoe down main street—we’ve seen it. Might as well show stock footage, Mac.”
             The offshore storm was gathering strength. So far just high winds and rain – clattering street signs, poignant empty beach chairs – but still.

*

MacLorin told Teresa about bandwidth, that he might have to retire his parka.
             “What are you, some kind of action hero?” Her voice and face were shrill and angry. And – he hated himself for this – it was not a little arousing.
             Teresa wanted to be the only disaster in his sights. He suspected that she’d slept with Dennis Charles, though he had not obtained conclusive proof. But he could never shake the thought of Dennis tracing her curves with his red laser pointer, once the image had occurred to him.
             “There is,” he said, “a certain amount of – well, if not bravery, some daring.”
             “There is, Mac, a certain amount of stupidity in being the one clinging to a tree during a lightning storm. ‘Folks, I felt a little sizzle there!’”
             They made love hungrily, with the TV on. Hurricane Bret was taunting him. Most of Savannah evacuated, seeking shelter in churches and high school gymnasiums. MacLorin leaned on one elbow to watch. Hundreds of refugees, shivering, bleary-eyed under donated blankets, wanted only to go home.


Jenn Stroud Rossmann teaches mechanical engineering at Lafayette College and writes the series "An Engineer Reads a Novel" for Public Books. Her stories have appeared recently in Literary Orphans, Jellyfish Review, Tahoma Literary Review, and failbetter, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her novel THE PLACE YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO LAUGH is forthcoming in 2018 from 7.13 Books.

GUERNICA — RUSSELL BRAKEFIELD

In May, steam hangs on the river like a hand brushing hair from a child’s forehead. Bare but a t-shirt, toes blue with the cold, she presses her body against the wood paneled wall. She traces steeples in the fog on the window. Twins her legs with mine. Her father’s father helped build the atomic bomb, his kidneys failing, saying over and over again “what matters only is matter.” On the floors of a factory somewhere, he wrung his hands raw with motion. “I dream about him,” she says. “About his mustache, about the way he and his lovers must have moved together in the dark.”  She talks about his sex, the exchange of energy after the daily production of such was done. She thinks I look like him. “Your light is a lantern,” she says. “Like his pale face in all the old photos.” High cheekbones, ghost orbs interrupting the sepia. Her hands are electric on my back. “Your light is a warming mantle, a 1940’s Coleman Sunshine of the Night.”


Russell Brakefield teaches writing at the University of Michigan. His writing has appeared in the Indiana Review, New Orleans Review, Poet Lore, Crab Orchard Review, Hobart, Drunken Boat and elsewhere.

CLOSER TO THE MELT IN YOUR GRIP — AMY ROSSI

I’ve spoken before of my personal religion, which is actually a straight tequila night. I’ve spoken before of the stone under which I was born. This is not the same as living under a rock; it is in fact much colder. I have mortar in my hands. You want mortar in your chest. That’s what’s called an unintended side effect of the existence of walls.

These are the things that are true: the sting means it’s working; sweatpants are more comfortable than trying to be honest all the time; when someone asks if I know how fast I’m going, the answer will always be a lie.

Stone people want what anyone else wants, just without feeling it: to look up at the sky and know something tender; to sit at a familiar table and be more than just watching; to wake up warm and dry-faced. I am not good at the stars, at the drag show, when listening to Kris Kristofferson. I am not wall enough for when it’s you.

These are the things the cab driver laughs at: the pretense that money makes the backseat a separate entity; what people find out about each other when they are on their way to bed; how clear it is when it’s the first time.

I say my problem is and I mean one of my problems is, but my aim is true. I call it trepidation but what I am actually expressing is sense memory. Keep this omission and let it grow into a lie so that if I need it, it will also have grown cold with time.

There are the conversations we could have and the conversations we have. What to do and the weather, and Alex Rodriguez, and Liberace, and breakfast. They all end the same way. It’s a funny thing, the lines we draw with mouths. I drum syllables into the table with my fingertips, jiggle them with my foot. I will wait to the rhythm until it cracks through stone and says what I cannot:

I love you, I am not running. I love you, I have the heat on.


Amy Rossi's work has appeared in WhiskeyPaper, Blue Fifth Review, and Split Lip Magazine. You can find more of her work at amyrossi.com and you can find her in a room by quoting Road House.

TIN TOWN — NATALIE LUND

We live in Tin Town so we can afford the coveted zip code and send our children to its schools. Tin Town’s converted shipping container houses are made of corrugated steel and painted blue. They’ll withstand termites and hurricanes, the real estate agent promised. You could box yourselves up and ship yourselves back home. Back home as though there is a shared origin for the people of Tin Town, when in truth, we are Salvadorian, Pakistani, Vietnamese, Korean, Nigerian, Venezuelan, and American.
             During the long election season, Tin Town glows red—lit by CNN’s alarmist scroll and touchscreen maps. That’s when the dreams start: that our houses are at sea, crowded with strangers. We smell their feces. Breathe their body odor. They collapse heat-dazed and thirsty against our shoulders. In the mornings, our neighbors shuffle, bleary-eyed, to the bus stop. You too? Yes, us too.
             Our houses, we fear, are remembering.
             One night, we wake to Mr. Soon weedwacking the ditch between Tin Town and the elegant townhomes to the east. Mrs. Soon follows him with a rake. The next night, Mr. Adeyemi and Mr. Khan join the Soons, tilling the soil beside the ditch. Mrs. Acevedo brings the seeds—winter crops like cauliflower, snap peas, collards, turnips, and brussels sprouts. Ms. Nguyen digs a trough to divert rainwater from the ditch. We drag bags of fertilizer from our garages and cut up yoga mats to pad our knees. We task our nightmare-woken children with crushing oyster shells to keep rabbits out and inventing traps for squirrels, since they better understand the mischief of small rodents.
             The garden flourishes. We praise the rain for pinging against our houses, the dome of smog for tempering the sunlight, and the Gulf Coast heat for its endurance.
             On election night, we encircle the garden with our lawn chairs—joking that he’ll come for the cauliflower first. Our children beg for stories: Ms. Nguyen trapping crabs in Nha Trang and collecting their iridescent carapaces to make necklaces. Mr. Acevedo tossing his mother’s underthings from the window of their Maracaibo apartment just to watch them flutter to the street like cotton butterflies. Can we visit? they ask. Someday, we say.
             It’s easier to leave, we’ve learned, if you believe you can always go back.
             We select Inauguration, a warm January day, for our harvest. After school, the children snack on snap peas, and we make cauliflower curries, turnip soups, collards and slaws. We sit in our empty garden long after sunset, afraid to face a night without its green scent. We vow to throw open our windows and doors. To sleep unboxed.
             As we ready our children for bed, they ask, What now? meaning the garden or the nation. We do it again, we say and think of the places we left as children. Of the coppery taste of mountain air. Of the sticky masa between our fingers. Of the sun-drenched mornings. Always new.


Natalie Lund is a graduate of Purdue University’s MFA program and former fiction editor of Sycamore Review. She has published flash fiction in CutBank, SmokeLong Quarterly, Literary Orphans, and Microchrondria. She currently lives in Houston’s Tin Town with her fiancé, dog, cat, and several uninvited arthropods.