Somewhere along the way, I decided that dog people are happy people, well-adjusted. You try things, right? Meditation or B12 or a plant-based diet. I tried those, and then I tried being a dog person. I’ve seen a lot of dogs on the streets here in Spain. The dogs of Spain are indifferent towards me, that much I know. On the phone, you said maybe it’s just that they don’t speak English. I think you were joking, but still, it seemed worth a try. Hunching over, I whispered hola, hola puppy to Chihuahuas and Terriers and Spaniels, all of them aloof still. 

Does that make sense? I ask the Spanish taxi driver who had made the mistake of asking how I was. He nods, turns up the radio. Once I saw a woman walking three small dogs. She turned around and gave me a tight smile, then kept walking. About thirty seconds later, a grey tabby cat wearing a collar with a bell came around the corner, passing me and slinking along a few feet behind them. He insists on joining us, she said to me, and I smiled. I’d rather he didn’t, actually, she said with a deep sigh before walking off, seemingly pulled by the weight of the tiny dogs and tailed, then lapped, by the cat, who was lightly jingling all the way.

I liked the audacity of this cat, how it didn’t need to be invited somewhere it wanted to go. You know? The driver doesn’t answer but smiles broadly at me in the rearview mirror. He’s wearing several silver bracelets. The sun glints off his jewelry and hits me in the eye. You’re pretty? He asks it like a question. I don’t know, so I don’t respond. Are you single? He’s wearing a wedding ring. He wants to know what sort of woman I am, wants to place me. I want that too. I nod a little because I don’t know where we are, you or I, let alone us. He seems dismayed. He says I seem like a joyous person. I nod again because that sounds like a nice kind of person to be. So why don’t you find a sad man to share your joy with? I remember some of the sad men I wasted my joy on. I don’t tell him about them, or about how I presented my joy like a gift basket filled with fruit and flowers, then dropped it to down to drown in the murky water of their melancholy.

The sadness of all sad men is like Tolstoy’s happy families, all the same, I say. Do you like Tolstoy? I ask the driver. He just smiles. I look outside. There are so many dogs. I roll down the window. Hola, hola puppy. I hear the jingle of the cat’s collar, and I want to follow it. Stop here. I get out of the taxi. I hear all the sad men humming. They’re out of tune.


Yasi Salek is a writer. She once ghost-wrote as the Twitter voice for Top Ramen.


A nearly unintelligible song played through the radio, shrouded in static and the echo of other stations. It wasn't nearly as hard as I'd imagined it to be, driving through the dark streets with a boat attached to my truck. Quickly, we were leaving the small town for the closest river. Me and Natalie had gone there before, but never with the looming possibility of a parent's wrath in the background. I glanced at her, face partially hidden by her bleached blonde hair. My eyes moved back to the road, and Natalie turned up the radio.

The boat splashed as we shoved it into the murky waters. Of course, at night, everything is murky. Natalie held my hand as we jumped inside, just as it started drifting. She laughed, "We should steal boats more often." I chuckled, shaking my head. Even as far away from the city as we were able to get, the stars were still dimmed, fading in and out of the dark clouds. It was peaceful, if too dark to really see anything. She sighed. "I was really hoping we'd get to see the stars for once." I nodded. Natalie was humming, as she always did. Some tune that sounded so familiar, and yet was completely unknown to me. She always refused to tell me what it was. She glanced at me, and I realized I had been staring. I turned my eyes back to the sky, face burning. "Why do you do that?" Her voice was soft, and I could feel her eyes on me just as she had probably felt mine. "Do what?" 

"...You always look away." My face burned brighter, and it felt like my mouth was sealed shut. I didn't mean to stare at her as much as I did. It was just hard not to, when she sat so close. I felt the boat rock a bit as Natalie moved closer, eyes on me. I couldn't breathe, frozen in the moment, unable to look at her directly. The whole world seemed to still, only the water lapping against the boat and the sound of my own breath. Natalie was warm as she leaned into me. Her hot breath against my cheek, my eyes were locked on to the dark river, still moving by even as my whole world was frozen in anticipation and fear. Not of Natalie, never of her. But fear about what this would mean for us, how it would change not just us but the people we loved too. I felt her lips against my cheek. Even as she moved back to her original spot, the warmth of her lips stayed. Natalie sighed, and the world seemed to move again, just as it had before.

Rachelle Peiffer is a 20 year old wannabe writer from the PNW. She enjoys coffee, dogs, and thinking about writing.


This is what I tell myself: she’ll grow out of it, she’s just a kid, it’s part of being a parent. This is what I say regarding Toddy, who loves her lice like family. When she’s without them, she acts like she’s missing a teddy bear or her own birthday party. She rolls in grass the way a dog covers itself in stink, wiggling and twisting until her head becomes a floating hairy hive. You’ve got to see it. She’ll find them in her sideburns, press her middle finger against her skin to trap the creatures, and rather than pinching them out, she’ll push them further in, like she’s collecting a child strayed too far from the house. Of course, the neighbor kids don’t want to get near her, and the school’s sent a stack of letters telling us to take care of the situation before she’s expelled, and sleepovers at the house aren’t possible because our place may as well be haunted. But the kid’s happy. She talks to them, admires them being so close to her head and thoughts—likes knowing they can hear her secrets. As for me, I’m coping as best I can. Just feels like too many summer days are spent with Toddy’s hair styled up with mayonnaise, trying to scare the buggers off for good, knowing it's useless because I can’t trust her not to swan dive back into the tall grass, ostrich her head in the milkweed, tumble into nature a little too sacrificially.
             Maybe it was my fault. We were poor. The proper treatment was expensive, she got used to the itching and scratching and bugs bouncing from shoulder to scalp. Maybe she found it easier to come home to a pillow springing with small black fireworks, a towel covered in dead like a battlefield, a car seat reminding us these things travel wherever we go. Maybe she just got used to it. That’s what we do as humans, right? We find ways to turn our consequences into comforts, to say maybe this is good enough, maybe this is what I deserve.

Tucker Leighty-Phillips2018.jpg

Tucker Leighty-Phillips is an MFA candidate in Fiction at Arizona State University, where he is currently the Managing Editor for Hayden's Ferry Review. His work has appeared at Cutbank, Smokelong Quarterly, Hobart, and elsewhere. He can be found on social media at @TheNurtureBoy and online at


It is June in Portland. And Paris. The season of wheels and chains, showers and sun, cycling and speed. My grandson Stanley follows the Tour de France, interrupting his day to stare at televised images of slipstreaming pelotons, crazed crowds, and enemy weather. Sometimes, while he watches, Stanley fingers his own tires, checks his light, clutches his handlebars. He smooths a palm over red and silver paint. He brushes dust from the saddle. Then, as the pros zoom down descents and power up hills, Stanley swings a leg over his frame and with a swaying motion, propels it forward. And back. His bike is made of wood and sits on a rocking platform. Stanley is 18 months old. 
             I have two daughters who sprinted from birth to adulthood. I bragged about their advances as they shot from babies in onesies to young women in sports jerseys. From college students on campus to teacher and accountant at work. I fed and clothed and educated them—and delighted in their prodigious progress.
             When Gwen was pregnant, I could only envision another baby girl, a replica of my children. Stanley took me by surprise. I wasn’t sure what to do with a boy. But then he curled into my shoulder and smelled like milk. He smiled when I kissed his velvet cheek. He answered my questions with a gurgle. And just like Gwen, he sped fast from infant to toddler. From cooing to crawling. From wobbling to walking. Already, a balance bike sits in the corner waiting for him to outgrow his rocking one. When I visit in a few months, will he be shifting a derailleur?   
             When Gwen was three years old, she loved her old-fashioned tricycle—two enormous wheels in back, rubbery, thick and black; a silvery steel handlebar and shiny plastic streamers in front. Most of the summer, red-white-and-blue ribbons from the Fourth of July parade sailed on the wind of her ride. As she zipped down our sidewalk, her chubby legs spun the pedals into a whirr and I shouted as she raced by. “Go, Gwen, go,” I said, an encouragement to fly faster. 
             This day, I boost Stanley onto the rocking bike Grandpa made. As I settle him, I brush my lips against his neck. He smells like oatmeal and brown sugar. Before I can ask what the cycle says, Stanley answers. “Brrrmmm, brrrmmm.” Freed of parental goals and expectations for accomplishments, I wish to prolong this babyhood. To keep him small just a few days longer. 
             Stanley rides long and hard in front of the picture window, and when a road cyclist whizzes by, he lifts his pudgy fingers to wave. The rider, bent low over his drops, ignores us and shoots past. I wonder what he is racing, where he is going, and why he must get there so fast. 


Nancy Jorgensen is a musician and writer. Her choral education books are published by Hal Leonard Corporation and Lorenz Corporation. Go, Gwen, Go (Meyer & Meyer Sport), her 2019 memoir of daughter Gwen Jorgensen’s journey from CPA to Olympic Champion, will be released in October. Other works appear or are forthcoming at Prime Number Magazine, Smith Magazine, Cagibi, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Crack the Spine and elsewhere.


I never liked the clink of heavy weights or the expelling of heavy breaths, the way we boys maneuvered as men around the weight room, lifting things and setting them down again just to show we could. I didn’t like the big belts that were supposed to protect our small backs from all the heavy lifting, nor the jocks we strapped on to protect our most private parts. I didn’t like the adrenaline and anger some boys aimed at the weights, as if gravity were designed to keep them down. I didn’t like how fights broke out afterward, how we grunted like apes, how, in the bathroom, there was always a turd someone thought would be funny not to flush.
             But what I hated most was the way, after a while, our bodies began changing. The big among us got bigger, and stronger, able to lift more and more, until they thought, there in their small skins, that all it took to lift the world was strength.


Paul Crenshaw' essay collection This One Will Hurt You was published by The Ohio State University Press in spring 2019. Other work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Pushcart Prize, anthologies by Houghton Mifflin and W.W. Norton, Oxford American, Tin House, Brevity, North American Review, and Glimmer Train, among others.


Hair is relaxed. It is now relaxed hair by a relaxer because Black hair is the opposite of relaxed hair because it is something wild, something to be tamed–to be relaxed. Relaxed hair needs attention; relaxed hair screams “Pick me!” from the root and hangs down like ropes worn out from the struggle of a body desperate for breath. Relaxed hair gets cut because relaxed hair is needy and will call the police if relaxed hair is threatened by Black hair the wild hair the needs to be tamed hair. Relaxed hair falls to kitchen floor silent and Black hair the wild hair is just Black hair without the shackles. It is small and weak. It is shy. It is hard to speak its language but it is patient, it is kind, and Black hair knows that learning takes time and so it gives as much time as it can but Black hair can be slow. Black hair does yoga and twists and bends in angles that stretch from the root and into mountain pose. Black hair grows tall and is fattened with creams and love. Black hair is greedy. Black hair smells like tree nuts and heat. Black hair is natural hair; natural hair is a loaded term. People with non-Black hair will daydream of caressing Black hair, their long lost lover. Black hair is wanted hair when Black hair is not Black but white hair that white girls say is Black hair. Black hair is the hair of the wife and mother and daughter and son. Black hair is the hair of rejection don’t you bring no nappy-headed bitch in here. You only fuck Black hair; you marry non-Black hair. Black hair is tucked away for the board meeting because Black hair is still wild hair so it must be presentable hair but presentable hair is Katherine’s hair and Black hair knows it. Black hair will hate itself. Black hair will relearn and relove itself. Black hair is cyclical like seasons. Black hair is misunderstood; Black hair is cherished. Black hair is short today, long tomorrow. Black hair is waking up in the morning and saying the words Black hair and meaning it, meaning it.


Myliyah Hanna is an upcoming essayist and graduate of the University of Virginia. Myliyah grew up in the Bronx and returned to the city post-graduation. She maintains Let’s Be Real, a blog hosting her sociopolitical think pieces and smaller creative projects.


While my daughter and I dove under the curls of the Atlantic, and two little girls (close by, but not as deep as us) got continuously rolled, and a plane groaned back and forth across the sky trailing a lime green scroll advertising something called Bud Light Tea, and a too-tan woman with a butt like unrisen dough blasted Sugar Ray from a blue portable speaker as her skin turned slowly to paper, and my boyfriend (not partner—too permanent; not lover—who says that?; no relation to my daughter, though often prone to an authoritarian tone) lay on his side on a sand-covered towel in a pose radiating despair, and I felt, as I laughed at the water sluicing across my skin, that his sadness must be somehow my fault, and tourists crowded around a huge statue of a juiced-up Poseidon—frozen in a glower and about to trident the shit out of somebody—snapping selfies (#VABeach #beachweek #summer #funinthesun), and military jets roared back and forth across the sky because, according to my father, they’re preparing for war (you know, because Trump), and a drunk teenager crashed one of those rentable electric scooters off the boardwalk sending a flock of seagulls squawking into the air, and a pair of lovers walked hand-in-hand in the lapping waves, glowing, really just glowing, and my stomach plummeted, just for a second, just for the breadth of a thought, really just glowing, until I dipped below the next crest and rose again to my daughter’s grin, because who says the love of your life has to take the shape of a spouse, and I didn’t think of how the Great Whites are returning in rising numbers due to conservation efforts, because if there was one here in these waters, I knew they preferred the blubber of seals to our scant baby fat, unless, of course, the shark was a bad egg, an aberration, because (how humanly!) the shark that attacks is often just that—a bad egg, angry, overly aggressive, acting out some trauma never fully felt—and so there isn’t any reason to be afraid, not really, and my boyfriend’s pale skin turned pink, and I thought of yelling to him, or maybe doing some pantomime (oh, but he’d hate that), to reapply the sunscreen, a Virginia Beach civil engineer walked from room to room in a municipal building a few miles away, a silencer attached to his .45, and shot eleven people, before he himself was shot by police, and my boyfriend almost cried because, also that day, Roky Erickson (who’d been dying so long) died, though my boyfriend seemed unfazed by the dead at the beach, and ever since then, I’ve had to fight this sinking feeling that I can’t explain, other than to blame it on physical proximity to tragedy, because this one was too close, because I was swimming in the ocean with the sun on my face, while you were bleeding to death.


Elizabeth is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Her work has appeared in The Forge Literary Magazine, Bodega, CRAFT, Fiction Writers Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with her daughter Ruby. Read more at


I can’t un-see it, so I carry it with me. It was in the midst of walking past the shops on Rush, away from the doctor’s office, that I saw the pigeon on the sidewalk. At first it seemed like any other pigeon, with tiny marble eyes and a head on a swivel. Then I saw the bent beak, scattered feathers, its body half-flattened on the sidewalk. It must have fallen  –– plummeted, really –– and now seemed fused to the street. There was only the smallest outline of blood. I had read about this, about bird collisions in the city. I had almost signed up to be a monitor. I had liked the idea of watching the skies. Of looking up. I tried to remember what to do, if there was anything I could do. 
             Birds will try to fly toward glass they cannot sense. Birds will even fly towards their own reflection.
             The crowd on the sidewalk went around the pigeon, assuming it was already dead. But there it was, jerking its wings, neck twitching. I had seen roadkill before. Plenty of dead mice and squirrels and birds to be had in Chicago. This pigeon should’ve been no different. I should’ve known what to do. 
             It is estimated a billion birds die each year due to window collisions.
             My father used to call bad memories or images “spare change.” He taught me to stuff the change in my pocket. 
             “Leave it there,” he used to say. “Don’t take it out.”
             My pockets were full.
             Instead of following my father’s advice or remembering what I had read on bird collisions, all I could do was stare. Here was an embodiment of a half-life. I had a lightning hope, sudden and hot, that the pigeon might inflate into a balloon and fly. Up, up, and away. I imagined it floating beyond the glass windows of Chicago’s skyscrapers.
             People brushed past me on the street, knocking against me like rocks in a river current. Or, more likely, I was a dying fish flattened against that rock. 
             It’s important to contain a bird before something else harms it.
             The pigeon’s movements turned stiff, twitching and flapping with less animation. I knelt, waiting for air to pump into its purple chest. It smelled of asphalt and rot. I reached out, but at that moment its wings lowered, and its head fell to an acute angle. It imploded on itself, stretching to a pool of feathers on the concrete. It left me.
             If you cannot contain the bird, attempt to move it to a protected area, such as under a bush, or away from the street or sidewalk.
             I had stopped, knelt, and watched. Now I was beholden to continue. Now I had to stand and go with the current again. Eventually. Eventually I knew I must. I would place my hands in pockets and go forth, away from the shops and doctor’s office, letting blood congeal around the pigeon’s breast.


Lyndsie Manusos’s work has appeared in Gone Lawn, Apex Magazine, The Masters Review blog, and other publications. Her story 'Everything There Is to Love on Earth' was listed as a finalist for SmokeLong Quarterly's 2018 Flash Fiction Contest. She lives in Indianapolis.