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


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.


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.


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.


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 www.clairepolders.com.