In the Desert by James Pate

The three of us went out on to the back porch. There was a small, bright moon out, and the light from a nearby streetlamp threw the shadow of the chainlink fence down across the grass around it. And there was no wind at all. The leaves on our backyard dogwood did not rustle. I said, "There's going be one round and that's it. I won't be able to stand another."

The Good Man by Nathan Leslie

For a moment I fantasized that Charlotte and the girls died in a plane crash, that Charlie was racked with need. I thought if the worst were ever to happen, I would be the first person he would call upon. Or I could be. I imagined Charlie nursing his pain with beer and shots of vodka. I imagined laying him back on the sofa and pressing my body into his, holding his face in my hands, hearing him whimper my name. It was wrong.

Mockingbirds by Claire Carpenter

Lying like this, the silence is overwhelming. In the garden, mockingbirds had either been fussing at her or imitating a dozen birds, making it seem like she was surrounded by wildlife, knee-deep in sudden nature.

The Plastic Flower Option by Robert B. Travis

There’s enough light in the desert to kill small rabbits and lizards. Their hearts pop. Their brains boil. The desert is fed up with light. It gets the purest, hottest light there is. It gets it and gets it...

Don't You Want Something New? by Jessica Myers-Schecter

For a few seconds Stella allowed herself to imagine it: herself in a new red dress, twirling before a seated Susan and a trio of mirrors. Stella putting a black skirt back on a hangar while Susan slipped into a blue version of the same item. The two of them snacking on a chicken salad at the Food Court afterwards, shopping bags by their sides. She glanced at the front of the restaurant at Susan, who was carefully folding a sage green tablecloth.

Velvet by Joey Brown

At 3:20am Auction Guy comes on John’s living room tv. John would never admit to Dorie why, but he likes Auction Guy, thinks he’s like a cartoon. He’s somebody’s grandpa, or at least wears somebody’s grandpa’s old checked suit. He...

A Personal Ad for Tide Pools by Wendi Berry

The guy with the orange jacket was still walking about the same time every day. Judith never knew when they might crash. It became a test. She had to stay close to the shoreline to avoid eye contact. She thought she might have to introduce herself he walked by so many times, but then the weather changed. The water darkened. The sand formed trenches. Judith climbed hills and trudged through ditches. If she weren’t careful she stepped into cold pools that suctioned around her feet. It got harder and harder to plod to the Sandy Dunes Hotel and back. She bought a windbreaker, a blue one because her gray sweatshirt no longer kept out the damp air. She wore suede Reebok walkers with fleece socks. She stopped seeing the guy with the orange jacket. It got too cold even for him, she supposed.

Maybe You've Been Lucky by John H. Tibbetts

It was exceedingly black out, black as deepest night, a menacing rain lashing the car. There were immeasurable depths in the woods, Alex thought. Staring into them was like standing in a small boat and looking down into the ocean. How far would you sink if you fell in?

To the Races by Emily J. Stinson

Willie could hear the crowd’s gasps, and as he looked around he saw people in shock—mothers bent down, pushing their children’s faces into their breasts, shielding their eyes and consoling them as they rocked back and forth on the balls of their feet, grown men standing with their hands over their mouths, teenage girls crying. It reminded Willie of the tent revivals that his mother had taken him to when he was a child, but here no one was being saved, no one was feeling the goodness of God. Here, everyone was in panic. Willie felt like he should pray, but he didn’t know what he was supposed to pray for.

A Little Honey and a Little Sunlight by Gretchen McCullough

One day shortly before my finale, I dreamed I was at the circus in St. Petersburg. The ceiling is gilded with gold leaf, flecked with silver stars. No lions. No elephants. But acrobats soar through the air on trapezes. Their courage is breathtaking. Clowns are higher still, riding bicycles back and forth, as if they are tiny bees on a thin gold thread. At the same time, they are dropping sheets of blank paper into the vast net below. Are those my poems they are dropping into the air? Who will catch them?

Penmanship by Matthew Cashion

That summer, Harold and his father slept together on the waterbed that took up the entire bedroom of the trailer Buddy had been renting since he split from his third wife, a woman Harold had never met. Above the waterbed he'd hung a vinyl painting of a naked woman lying on a bearskin rug.

The Queen of Swords by Jen Michalski

Although my 11-year-old neighbor, Joey Baron, had been skeptical of paying to break things he could break for free, I’d sold him on the breaking of them in the front room of our basement, which I’d cleared out mostly except for a ratty shag carpet and some old sofa pillows I’d pressed into the windowsill and other troublesome areas.

Mercury Falling by Phillip Gardner

The night before Mardi Gras ended, Ken, who had been drinking mescal and snorting cocaine for three days, woke Richard at four in the morning. Richard heard the metal motel door open. The room was black dark. He could smell Ken, but he couldn’t see him. Ken was just a smell and a spooky mescal cocaine voice that sounded like wind and fire, like a hiss.

Moles by Mark McBride

“I volunteered,” Dad admits. “Me and two other guys. We were a big circle of men in a clearing at the edge of a field. In the distance on a hill was a house with a stone fireplace. A road cut through the woods behind it. At the center of our circle were the snipers. They had smeared their faces with so much axle grease they were as black as spades. One wore glasses. They were on their knees and the sergeant told us which one to take. One of the snipers kept calling out, ‘Ich habe eine familie!’ I didn’t know what it meant at the time, but I had an idea. ‘Ich habe eine familie, ’ he kept saying.” “What does it mean?” Mitch asks. “‘I have a family,’” Dad says. “He was the first to go down.

A Matter of Perspective by Lee Dresselhaus

Tom approached Jackson Square carrying a milk carton and a box. He was dressed in one of Jason’s old mime costumes, which consisted of a set of one-piece body covering black tights, and he felt absolutely ridiculous. He felt nearly naked in the body stocking type outfit, and the absurd black derby perched on his head greatly increased his sense of humiliated unreality.