As kids, we screamed with laughter whenever the kid in Paperboy got killed. We’d sit in front of that old TV and that little grey box, the carpet reddening our knees, one of us embedding the square sides of the controller into our palms while we stared at the pixelated images.

Amusing, how many ways there are to die on a paper route: rocks, vicious dogs, rogue tires, possessed lawn mowers, suspicious men exercising in inconvenient places. Everyday life trying its best to destroy you.

We cracked ourselves up so much we never made it beyond the second stage. We’d pass the controller around. We’d laugh in the face of constant failure.

I wish I still could.

Emily Stephan is a writer, reader, film buff, and Louisiana native. Her poetry has recently been featured in Louisiana's Best Emerging Poets by Z Publishing House.


My husband is cheating on me with me. It’s simple. It’s the younger me. The me when we first met.
             I find them christening the curtains. That’s their thing. Drapery. They’re too lazy to walk over to the couch. It makes them feel it. Wild. They pull the fabric out and spread out on the floor. I find them like that, tangled in Ikea. I say, what’s gotten into you? My younger self looks at me. I think that’s obvious, she says. He’s gotten into me.
             She’s cheeky, my younger self. Maybe that’s why he still loves her. He covers her and walks away. He shuts the door. I follow him. His head’s down. He won’t look at me. This is the problem. Even when we were younger we never looked. Not really. We always saw that more interesting spot on the chin, or just between the eyes, the turtleneck that reminded us (okay, me) of Uncle Ralph, but not in a pervy way, in a safe way. We thought, he wears red turtlenecks, so he must be able to keep me safe.
             And he thought, she wears dresses, and sometimes goes without underwear. She must like the feeling of the wind. She must like doing it on the kitchen tile and will never complain of lumbar problems. He never realized I was just too lazy to go shopping.
             And that’s the thing: One minute you are free and the next you are just lazy. The shift happens in a second. I ask her about it, my younger self. Sometimes when my husband’s gone I crawl on top. I whisper things. I tickle. I sing us that song we both like, by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I say, come on, let’s do it, and she rolls her eyes. She doesn’t want to. But she can’t resist me. Not because I’m hot but because she has to try it. Something different. I take advantage. I say, I am the sexy older woman and you are my seduction. She likes it. She plays with my sagging boobs, and I pretend I am him, my husband, that I am deep inside her and it feels amazing, the way I own myself and him, all at the same time.
             I pretend this. I tell her to run away with me. I say it, run away with me. She smells like wine, like us, her teeth are stained with it. She smears some on my lip. I lick it and taste all of us.

Leonora Desar’s writing can be found or is forthcoming in River StyxPassages NorthBlack Warrior Review (online), Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, and Quarter After Eight, among others. She recently won third place in River Styx’s microfiction contest and TSS Publishing's Flash 400, and was a runner-up/finalist in Quarter After Eight’s Robert J. DeMott Short Prose contest, judged by Stuart Dybek. She lives in Brooklyn and writes a column for New Flash Fiction Review—Dear Leo.


On a recent flight to Los Angeles, a young girl, maybe three or four, sat beside me, her father in the aisle seat. After looking at me with open curiosity for about half an hour, she said, “I like your tattoos. They’re pretty.” It had been a long time, perhaps too long, since I had thought of my body in relation to the word pretty. She showed me a temporary tattoo of a heart on the inside of her left wrist that was about to fade away.
             We compared books, and together decided hers was definitely prettier. I told her that mine—Dan Chaon’s Ill Will—was filled with pretty words, but I could see she didn’t believe me. She asked me what it was about. I tried to find something among the deceit, violence, and sexuality that would convince her. I told her it was about two brothers who don't get along, and she looked at me triumphantly.
             She asked if my parents were taking me to Disneyland, too.
             She asked if I liked movies.
             She asked if I was going to California, too.
             When I told her that we all were going to California, everyone on the plane, she got quiet. I wondered what she was thinking and if I, by my simple statement, had irrevocably changed her world, shrunken it somehow.
             As we began to descend, light poured through the airplane window, so I closed the plastic shutter and was quickly admonished. You can’t see when we’re in the sky when you do that. Don’t you want to see when we are flying? I pushed up the shutter back up. Did I want to see when we were flying? The plane had been swallowed by clouds, the brightness muted but I knew the landscape was getting closer and closer, and I waited to break through.

Evan James Sheldon's work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in SpelkRoanoke ReviewFlash Fiction Magazine, and Poetry Super Highway, among others. He is a junior editor forF(r)iction. 


I know a girl with a scorpion tail, and you’d think she’d use this against her lovers, but she doesn’t. It curls out of her back where a tramp stamp would be, and it isn’t some implant, though she has magnets in her fingertips to sense electricity. She said she could feel mine. She could tell I was alive. I asked her what she was talking about, of course, I am alive; I am breathing, eating, arguing. She hooked my chin. I can feel you touching the world. Your cells and the divinity of them falling apart. We did not break up right after that, though everyone said I should; after all, she had a scorpion tail. I liked that tail. I used to stroke its brittle segments and know that love could hunt me down.

KMcMahon Author Photo 2018.jpg

Kathryn McMahon is a queer American writer living abroad with her British wife and dog. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in places such as Booth, Passages North, The Cincinnati Review, Jellyfish Review, Split Lip, and right here in CHEAP POP. Her work has received nominations for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart, and has been selected for Wigleaf’s Top 50. She was also a finalist for the first-ever SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction. On Twitter, she is @katoscope. Find more of her writing at


You move closer towards me and you are not a zombie or anything like that, although your face is wrapped in grayish cloth. I don’t know how you aren’t bumping into the furniture. I haven’t moved anything in our house, but still. You don’t walk unsteadily or hold out your hands to protect yourself. It is seven P.M. You could have just arrived home from work and now walk towards me where I wait. I wait. How was your day? No, let’s not do that. I won’t ask you, and you won’t ever fucking ask me. Let’s do this instead—I sing my favorite song and you keep getting closer. I tell myself the mantra from my therapist—I have a feeling. I am not a feeling. You are so close now. Only two feet away. One foot. Your breath is warm coming through the cloth and there is the clean heat of your cologne. It is you. I grip your upper arm—solid, hot, alive—if I could move my hand, would I feel a pulse at your wrist? I have sadness. I am not sad. “You love that fucking song,” you say, and your voice is low, so low, scraping down the inside of my veins. If I could speak, I would say, “Talk, keep talking, scrape away at me.” Or, “Of course I still love that song. You know nothing has changed, right?” Nothing and Everything. Stop. You lean down and I raise my face. Your height, my height—it is right. My stomach is somersaulting and I am breathing hard and all the rest of it. Like the first time (and yes, like the last, too, my beautiful). I feel the cloth already, although we have not yet kissed—the coarse weave, stiff, cotton, tight. And I can taste it—hospital, institutional, before it gets to you. The cloth does not bother me. I know the precise place where your mouth is, where it always was.

Melissa Goode’s work has appeared in WigleafSmokeLong QuarterlyWhiskeyPaperSplit Lip MagazineForge Literary MagazineFRiGG and matchbook, among others. Her story "It falls" (Jellyfish Review) was recently chosen by Aimee Bender for Best Small Fictions 2018 (Braddock Avenue Books). She lives in Australia. You can find her and at


They brought her down the mountain the afternoon before the earth shook and the sea retreated and then returned four times stronger and taller. It was dry winter, and the camp was bored; the captain sent a troop of soldiers to push a slave up into the hills in search of gold. The further they climbed, the more desperate they all became, and when they found her half-frozen in the icy damp of a high cave, a shock of iridescent scales and bare breasts and buttocks, they forgot about the gold completely and stole her instead. As they wound their way through the camp, people stopped and stared at the woman tightly bound in horsehair rope. She was locked into a livestock crate brought off one of the ships after she attacked a cook who had reached out to touch the opaline spines along her back, and there she sat unblinking, slow pulse, as slaves, soldiers, and mistresses alike delighted in the way she changed colors when they poked her with sticks through the bars. After the disaster, the dead were disentangled from the mangroves and piled with trash into mounds along the beaches. The camp cried and prayed, and she sat in her cage, focused on the smell of sea brine and the cook’s meaty neck.

Sarah Arantza Amador is a graduate of the Creative Writing BA program at UC Santa Cruz and is a former Ph.D. Candidate in Spanish and Latin American Literatures at NYU. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains with her dog Roscoe. She's most recently had fiction and poetry published in FIVE:2:ONE's #sideshow, sPARKLE + bLINK, Vending Machine Press, The Airgonaut, and Word Riot. You can find more examples of her fiction, scribbles, and oddities at She tweets @ArantzaSarah.


(Content Warning: Sexual and Physical Abuse)

First time you kneel for a man—non-related, non-religious—is freshman pre-algebra. You’re fourteen.

50-something, teacher, JV defensive line coach, places mint green progress reports on the left-hand corners of desks during a pop quiz. Guessing half your answers, you peek. Yours says D. Throat constricts. Skin burns like leather licks, anticipated pain, explaining failure to your father. Grade less than C means beating. Beating means touching. This D guarantees all of this tonight. 

Pencil falls to paper with tears – numbers, wet blurs. You’re terrible at math. Why when the bell rings, you make the pitiful path to his desk to... request? Confess? Horror but less than what you’d face at home. 

Students fling quizzes on Coach’s desk, filter through doorways to greenery or halls—except three who play football. Approach Coach, inconsequential unfinished quiz below quivering green calamity gripped in fingertips.

“Is there a problem?” Oldest of four jocks at his desk waits for what is small and shivering to speak, seek something. 

“I can’t bring home a D, Coach Dyer. My Dad he’ll”—green paper makes good cover for disgrace, your face blubbering; though, you know, from experience, it’s what he’ll want to see. Drop pride with papers. “You don’t understand. He beats me.”

He’s squinting, not warm/cold/sympathetic/sold just studying. He says, “Are you asking me to change your grade?”

It’s there. What you need. Best hope? Earn extra credit. Salvation never comes free. Its price today – four pairs of panting, wet, unblinking eyes. Blonde with puppiest-blue pair, belying full-grown frame nearly the same as pit bull Coach, nods. Coaches you to emulate.

You cooperate. Nod shyly but wily, unfortunately acquainted with wanton wishes of middle-aged men.

“Yes. I’d like you to change my grade.”

Leaning back, rolling chair, he leers at your profile. Three pairs, adolescent eyeballs stare. You’re their Nintendo game, some seminal serendipitous pornography.

He says, “Beg me.”

His words reduce you to holes, your voice something between whisper, wheeze. You make lips move. Hear yourself saying, “Please.”

He says “Knees.”

You appease. Industrial khaki carpet scratches quaking knobs where socks end, and you are bare porcelain. Your three classmates, gold-rimmed letters on adolescent chests, snicker.  Puppiest bites his lip approving how quickly your little body behaves -– would do anything to save itself a beating.

Low, sweaty, single thought now: will they touch you? Here? During school? It seems they may – the way they all look like your father, older and younger variations, while you wait, kneeling to obey. 

A door bounces off a wall stopper. Another female enters dismayed. Waif locker wall commentator on your weird religion, compulsory long skirts, watches, nothing to say. Doesn’t look or walk away. Makes it safe to stand, flee, after his desk—green paper D you divest. You watch his red pen amend it to a B.

B, tonight, makes you untouchable. No one will feel. Tomorrow, three teenage boys know you’re a girl they can make kneel. 

Kristin Garth is a poet from Pensacola who occasionally, in a fever dream or ear infection, writes a little prose. Her prose has stalked magazines like X-R-A-Y Lit, SCAB, Sidereal Magazine, Trembling With Fear, Mojave Heart Review, Rhythm & Bones and Luna Luna Magazine. Her poetry chapbook Pink Plastic House is available from Maverick Duck Press and she has two forthcoming: Pensacola Girls, (Bone & Ink Press, September 2018) Shakespeare for Sociopaths, (The Hedgehog Poetry Press, January 2019) as well as a full length poetic collection Candy Cigarette womanchild noir (The Hedgehog Poetry Press, April 2019) Follow her on Twitter: (@lolaandjolie) and her poetry column The Sonnetarium ( 


Sadie cries when I’m not around, when she thinks I don’t see. But I can always tell all the same, despite her best efforts to compose herself: dabbing her damp eyes with a crumpled tissue, blaming it on allergies (the pollen and the ragweed), inhaling a deep breath through her nose and exhaling through her pursed lips, allowing her unruly chestnut locks to dangle in her face. Sadie doesn’t want me to blame myself,  promises that it’s not my fault, and I trust it’s not. Yet I still feel bad about it, and I still feel responsible, because I can’t seem to do anything to help her. No matter what I try.
             Sadie cries in the car, running errands, driving to the gym, when she hears a song on the radio, when she notices children waiting on the corner for the school bus. She cries when she passes that billboard on the expressway with the elegant fashion model at some exotic beach, azure sky, wind tousling her hair, with the message You Should Be Here with no indication where Here is or what that billboard advertises. Sadie cries during the evening news, so many people who have it worse than her. She cries when it rains, and she cries when it’s sunny. She cries when she reads the paper, unable to avoid the obituaries—the irony of the smiling, happy pictures of the deceased obviously oblivious when those pictures were taken that they would be used someday to announce their deaths. Sometimes Sadie cries when I call her from work, the most mundane, adding milk to the grocery list or that I saw so-and-so at lunch and they asked about her, just to check how her afternoon is going. I catch it in her voice, a subtle pause, a slight quiver, before she murmurs she has to go and drops off.
             Sadie’s been crying for a while, too long, and I fear longer than I realize. But whenever I bring it up, ask her why she’s been crying, why she’s sad, she snaps at me, uncharacteristically, and questions why she needs a reason to be sad, why she needs to explain. Why it isn’t it enough that she’s sad and can’t I leave it at that? And I can, and I do. I leave it at that as I try to understand, because I hate to see Sadie sad, because Sadie deserves to be happy. We all do. So I sidestep the issue, and do whatever I can to take her mind off whatever it is. I pull her closer, and I gaze into her eyes, those beautiful broken blue eyes, and I tell her that I love her, to convince her that I do, and I do. And I hope that helps, and maybe it does, although I can’t seem to do anything to help her, no matter what I try, when Sadie cries.

Peter J. Stavros is a writer in Louisville, Kentucky. His work has appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, The Boston Globe Magazine, The East Bay Review, Hypertext Magazine, Fiction Southeast, Juked, and Literary Orphans, among others. Peter has also had plays produced, including as part of the Festival of Ten at The College at Brockport – SUNY, for which he was named Audience Choice Winner. More can be found at