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 and you can find her in a room by quoting Road House.


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.


Billie bought her first tube of eye cream at twenty-two. Too young? Well, maybe. But when your botoxed, microdermabraded, laser-resurfaced mother slips you that slow scrutinizing look of hers, lets it slide down the length of her poreless nose, tries to squint but can’t and finally says, Ooh honey you might wanna start using a good eye cream—how do you stop the subsequent spiral?
             If you’re Billie, you don’t. You ride that spiral right down into the dark, baby girl. You research ingredients and procedures into the night, fingertips pressed to marred face, cellphone screen aglow. That’s what Billie’s done, year after year.
             She listens to every magazine writer. Every blogger. Every high school classmate turned mom turned entrepreneur selling miracle cures on Facebook for whatever ails, as long as what ails is your face. Miracles in cream or serum form, miracle of a miniature medieval torture device—tiny roller of needles to aerate the skin. But don't worry about that last one, ladies. You’ll barely feel it!
             Billie listens as they all raise voices and palms skyward in unison to proclaim the good news: Girl, there is work to be done! But I've got what you need—the cream the serum the lotion the scrub the mask even the wheel of needles, praise be! All you have to do is scrape away the broken surface then slather on the good stuff.
             Slather. That nauseating verb, worming its way into Billie’s life, crawling up under her skin, burrowing, finding a home there. Constant reminder, constant whisper.
             Slather. Like what you do to a turkey—melted butter dripping greasy yellow off the basting brush—before easing it in the oven.
             Yes, Billie, just like that.
             Make yourself a feast, girl.
             To slather is to eradicate the cracks—the smiles the grimaces the worried furrowed brows, even the laughter that throws your head back and unhinges your jaw and splits your once-smooth skin.
             Face like a cracked ancient painting? Oh have we got the elixir for you, Billie. This little jar will rewind ten years! Freeze time! Stop the world spinning through space!
             Fabric of your life bunched and wrinkled? Try this potent miracle-worker! Plump and smooth from the inside out, like filling a flat tire.
             Hell, while you’re at it, why not throw it back and try heavy starch? Sometimes the old fashioned remedies work best. Go ahead, iron out those stubborn wrinkles. Steam them, press them smooth. Flat flat flat. Burn away the past, let the old you slough away, peel it back slow and sticky, unmask what’s underneath, lay bare what’s red and weeping, loose this stunning new face on the world.
             Now, Billie, isn’t that better?
             Isn’t that so pretty?

Annie Frazier is a NC transplant living in FL who's just earned her MFA in Fiction from Spalding University. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in The North Carolina Literary Reviewapt magazine and Crack the Spine. Annie also has fiction forthcoming from Still: The Journal. Find her book reviews at Paste Magazine and NCLR Online and follow her on Twitter @anniefrazzr.


I shot a man with slow blood. “I have slow blood,” he said, as I shot him.
             “As opposed to fast blood?” I asked.
             “Yeah,” he said. “Something like that.”
             I asked him to die faster. I had things to do.
             For a while, I paced around the GasMart. I was getting anxious. Apparently, he knew who I was. He said he thought he’d read about me online, that we had mutual friends, or something, also online. I couldn’t remember ever having seen him around.
             I lowered the gun. “How long is this going to take?” I asked.
             “I don’t know,” he said. “Could be a while.”
I took him out with some of the cash from the register. We went to a pancake place nearby, which was the only thing open that late in the night. Thankfully, he had slow blood. Blood so slow nobody even took to notice.
             “Do you do this often,” he asked, goring a fat tear of pancake with his fork. He winced, pained, with each bite. His large face made me think of photos of the moon.
             “Do what?”
             “Shoot people. Rob people.”
             “Not often,” I said, with a pinch of regret. He seemed like an OK guy. A little off, maybe, but well-meaning. He went on to explain how he didn’t have kids. He’d always wanted kids, I guess. Once he’d even looked to adopt—there was this website where you could click on the face of the kid you wanted and in a few months they would just like arrive at your door. He never did. Something about it, the timing maybe, didn’t feel right.
             After that, we drove around for a while with the windows down. He said the fresh air might help his slow blood quicken, though I don’t know if it really did a whole lot.
             We listened to the radio. There was a DJ he said he liked to listen to sometimes after his shift, something about how her voice was the only thing that could put him to sleep. I told him I also had trouble falling asleep. So many thoughts always pushing around inside my head. Or, not pushing, but just sort of always there, always floating there, like those tiny air bubbles on the inside of a level.
             By then, his color was leaving. I could smell his slow blood in the car.
             “I’m scared,” he said.
             “I’m sorry,” I said.
             I dropped him off back at the GasMart. He sat on the curb and held his slow blood in his hands. There was no one around. He thanked me for the food. I told him that it was no problem, that it was the least that I could do, and that he might want to think about calling an emergency number soon. “Sure,” he said, “I’ll think about doing that.”
             I drove off. In my rearview, I watched him get smaller, and smaller.
             At some point, I looked away.

David Byron Queen grew up in Northeast Ohio. Since graduating with a BA from The New School, he has worked in restaurants, advertising, and on a reality cooking show. He has been named as a finalist for the Ryan R. Gibbs Flash Fiction Award, and the Larry Brown Short Story Award. His work has appeared in VICE, Hobart, The Rumpus, McSweeney’s, Pithead Chapel, NANO Fiction, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Find him on Twitter @byron_queen


When in the early morning I see a spider in the house, I don’t squash it like the woman I used to be. Instead, I stagger backward on instinct, then lean forward with intent. I greet the alien creature as though it’s a prince in disguise honoring me with his presence. 

The spider has something to say to me, which shouldn’t be surprising. We’ve met before, you know, the spider and I, in different incarnations. We’ve met in cold kitchens and hallways, above beds and dusty bicycles, even on my skin at times, still damp from recent sleep. 

Most meetings began in horror and ended badly. Let’s not sugarcoat my murders: the woman I used to be has blood on her hands from the life that scared her to death. 

Now, I listen to the spider and its webbed words, weaving my shroud or wedding dress from the strong silky threads. I have trained myself to be patient. Who knows a spider’s true intentions? The creature may wear glasses like me or rub two of its forelegs together as though it’s a raccoon washing the next bite. Such a clean creature, the spider, black with innocence. 

The woman I used to be closes her eyes as I stick out my tongue and wait for the prince to climb into my mouth. Why live in denial? When I see a spider in the house, I know the future is near. No matter how many doors I slam or double lock at night, the future will arrive the next day in the early morning like a spider you can either squash or swallow whole. 

Claire Polders is a Dutch author of four novels with a debut in English on the way. In 2016, Denver Quarterly nominated one of her stories for a Pushcart Prize. Her short prose appeared in TriQuarterlyGreen Mountains ReviewOkey-PankyFolioSmokeLong QuarterlyTin House (The Open Bar), Prairie Schooner (Blog), and elsewhere. Find her at


A month after you left me, I’m sitting in Tamerlan’s favorite bar, with Tam, the tour guide, and Peter, this teacher from Manchester who I want to fuck since I can’t have you. 
             The bartender slides a bottle of Glasnost vodka and four chilled glasses as slender as two fingers onto the table, sits down next to Tam.  His gold front teeth glint.  Tam sloppily fills glasses to the brim.  
             The sleeves of Peter’s button-down shirt are rolled up tight around his biceps, expose a tattoo of a Maori mask.  My arm presses against his; he shifts his weight. Is he gay or just British? 
             The bartender passes a four-inch stack of som across the scarred table; Tam passes him three hundred dollar bills.  
             I lean toward Peter.  The headboard of my bed has this intercom-radio thing, I’m sure the KGB listens through it.  Peter says, A bug wouldn’t be that obvious.  He clicks his vodka glass against mine, and the ring of glass against glass is tinny and cheap.  The vodka is cheap also.  Peter watches a Russian girl sway vertiginous in stilettos; her metallic skirt barely covers her ass.  
             The bartender returns to the bar; a band sings Livin’ on a Prayer in Russian.  Tam pours another round.  Peter says, Women my age have this thing for Colin Firth, you know, that scene in Pride and Prejudice, and waits for me to say something.  Peter resembles Colin Firth around the eyes.
             When I tell him that he laughs.  No one’s told me that before.  He knocks back a shot of vodka.  I ask, Tell me about your tattoo.  I stroke the bold lines; I want to bite them like black licorice.  His hand curves around my thigh, his breath hot on my ear as he whispers, over the Bon Jovi cover band, A youthful indiscretion.  He tells me the story, and it’s not a story I’d ever tell you.
             Peter touches the ring I still wear.  Tell me about this. 
             I remember your hands on me.  It’s the oldest story in the world. 
             Tam watches the bartender.  I’ve got some business to handle.  Peter and I climb into the taxi Tam hails.  What would Peter do if I straddle him on the ripped pleather upholstery, kiss him between the eyes where the chicken pox scar divots his skin?  But I don’t.
             I want to tell you that I invite him into my room.  I want to tell you that I point to the intercom on the headboard, say, They’re listening to us now.  I want to tell you that Peter’s tongue traces from my breastbone to my navel, his fingers tug open the zipper of my jeans.  I want to tell you that his lips mutter into my skin, Let them listen
             But he doesn’t. 
             I want to tell you that over breakfast of instant coffee and fresh wheels of flatbread, Peter says, I should’ve stayed.
             But he doesn’t do that either.

Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California. Her short fiction has been published in Tin House Flash Fridays, New Orleans Review, The Rumpus, Little Fiction, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. Her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and chosen for the Longform fiction pick-of-the-week. She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody and her website is


The age spots on his forearms scrape, husk like, against your skin. You are not sure why you did this. It is not enjoyable, and you didn’t really need the money. Often we are both victim and perpetrator, hydroplaning across the ice frozen over all the ugly. It is hard to tell what’s ours, where other people begin. His lips lie soft and withered against his gums. He is repulsive because he is not: a divorced professor who studies bees, soft-spoken, a father and not a demon, last night he bought you carbonara, the round little peas and placental streaks of prosciutto, asked gently if you were feeling well, if you’d like to go home. You said no because you thought you’d become powerful, become new, an empress pointing thumbs up or thumbs down: hardened. But his mouth on your nipples, it destroys you, this inversion, the old seeking succor from the young. Last night he told you about bee-keeping, how he cares for what he most loves wearing a suit and a mask.

Jason Phoebe Rusch's work has appeared in Entropy, Bust magazine, Civil Coping Mechanism's A Shadow Map anthology and is forthcoming from Lambda Literary's poetry spotlight. They have an MFA in fiction from University of Michigan, where they received several Hopwood awards. They can be found at and @JasonPhoebRusch.


The girl in the apartment next to yours has married a bird. She shows you the wedding photos over tea. The tea is lukewarm, and much too sweet. You smile at the photos anyway — the neighbor girl in an ivory dress with a stain that she tries to hide under her hands, a bird perched on her shoulder. You don’t know much about birds. It could be any kind of bird at all.
             You look beautiful, you say.
             It was a secondhand dress, says the neighbor girl, shuffling through the photos. Do you think that’s unlucky?
             You shrug.
             It had to be white. I saved myself for him.
             She smiles in a nostalgic way as she stirs her tea.
             I mean, there were boys, she says. You know.
             You nod.
             I could have, but I wanted to wait for the right one. She taps the stack of photos with her fingernails. I did. I think I did.
             All the windows in her apartment are opened. She has removed the screens. Papers are held down by salt and pepper shakers, the television remote, empty mugs. The neighbor girl seems to only drink from mugs. You wonder if her husband drinks from them too. You imagine him perched on the edge of one, bird toes curling round the lip, dipping his beak into the liquid. A breeze stirs the papers, and one piece flaps up and down, like a bird’s wing. Outside, there is a cooing of pigeons.
             The neighbor girl tips her head in an avian way. She says: He’ll be home soon.
             Do you always leave the windows open? you ask, and sip your lukewarm tea.
             He has to be free to come and go as he pleases, she says. It wouldn’t work otherwise.
             You say: I had a boyfriend like that once.
             She says: If you love something, let it go.
             You nod.
             Look, she says, and pulls your hand to her belly. You see?
             Under your hand, there is a stirring within her, something that could be a fluttering of wings, a scratching of talons.
             She says: It’s a miracle, isn’t it? Don’t you think it’s a miracle?
             I do, you say. I do.

Cathy Ulrich doesn't think a secondhand wedding dress would be unlucky at all. Her work has been published in a variety of journals, including Booth, Lunch Ticket and Superstition Review.