by James Claffey
On the balcony above church door the choir practices with Ms. Fox. As I bend over the altar rail to say my penance, rather than close my eyes the way I’m meant to, I sneak a look at Emer, who’s on the end of the row, her hair pulled back with the ladybird barrette I always tease her about. She doesn’t like it when I make fun of her, and I know she got the barrette from her dead sister’s jewelry box. She sees me looking at her and tries to keep a straight face, but when I stick out my tongue she creases into a laugh and Ms. Fox, the choir teacher rattles her baton against the wooden lectern. The Old Man says Ms. Fox is well-named because she resembles the animal, with her red hair and the way her nose twitches when she looks at you.
by Parisa Vaziri
She sits on a plinth, eyeing the flood of empty Pepsi bottles creeping over the cracked earth, sticky brown residue clumping the dirt. The tractor’s metal claw cups mounds of plastic Yoplait containers, flavors strawberry banana, rum and pear. Janine places an elbow on a knee, wide brown gaze coaxed down by gravity, its melancholy, its charm. She waits. Another Caterpillar howls as it swoops for a styrofoam sea. Since six they’ve been working, the pious machines, wearing out their oilthirsty joints carrying the gallons, the gallons. At night in the yard their lined up yellow crowns lower in prayer toward a vacant moon.
by Graham Tugwell
She woke me.
Her eyes are gold and amber oak, her shoulder rolls along her smile.
Her back to me.
Her hips and spine viola lines— the backless silver of her dress is wet in early dawning light, her shoulder blades are knives aslant, biting back upon her skin like unlipped mouths.
"It's happened to me."
by Rikki Payne
Perhaps it was the blankness that woke her. In the second before she opened her eyes, she felt the warm confidence of her bed and the anticipation of waking up to the face she loved most. Heavy eyelids rose with a sleepy smile and drank in shock to the rest of her body. A billboard greeted her through glass. Where, when, why, were all she could think, desperately, with less words than waves of feeling. Disjointed facts came to her one by one. She was in her car, alone. She left the concert before it started, and didn’t want to miss it. I’d better get back inside. Looking around, she felt dread creep up. No cars in the parking lot. She grabbed her phone for the time, squeezed the button on the side. 4:24 AM. Her heart morphed into lead and sank through her stomach. How? I missed the whole thing... Shawn, where are you? She opened her phone to call him, and realized he didn’t bring his tonight.
by Chris Bird
They washed up on the shore in the early spring morning unseen and uninvited. At first there were only four or five moving on the brisk waves. Riding the white water they landed on the level brown sand like massive shells from the ocean floor. Then each day the numbers increased, left in clusters on the sand by the ebb and flow of the sea. Soon people came from the nearby village to see.
by Rajat Chaudhuri
It was certainly a chance encounter and an odd one at that. How old would I have been then? Not much, having just scrambled through Part I of my grad school exams–if I could somehow repeat the feat with Part II, I would be a free bird. The wisdom of economists (Economics was my Honours subject) went miles above my muddled brains, and bunking classes I watched Hollywood flicks. At dusk, I trawled the market street of Hatibagan, hoping to catch a naughty hint in the glancing looks of progressive ladies who came shopping without their men and at first light, driven by a fancy, I would be attending French classes in the musty-smelling halls of the Alliance française de Calcutta.
by Alley Smith
My friends make a circle of chatter and escalating excitement as I lean back, absently listening to key words so as not to appear rude if later questioned. They jump from topic to topic, but it’s always a circle of recycled ideas. Music, book, video game, video.
by Frank Roger
It was only nine o' clock in the morning and I had already survived a bomb attack and a suicide squad action. This was one of those days. Here at the office at least you somehow felt in relative safety. As usual Hilda was already present, busy pushing stacks of paperwork about, a frown of intense concentration on her forehead. No doubt she had been here for an hour or so, totally absorbed in her tasks of really tremendous importance.
by Matthew Antonio
As he spoke a length of red hair grew from the ceiling. Though he noticed it, he felt unable to halt his voice in order to address this new and unsettling circumstance. Even when the strands reached his throat and coiled around it, he still kept his arms at his sides and, if anything, spoke more forcefully as if to demonstrate his implacable resolve to continue.
by Rebecca Jones-Howe
Richard squinted when he looked up from the leaf-clogged water wheel of hole sixteen. The sun was setting beyond the highway overpass, tracing turret shadows of the castle and its antiqued chipping paint. The faded afternoon light made all the torn segments of the greens look artistically intended, as though the trail around the medieval golf course was some sort of patchwork wonderland instead of just falling apart.
by Kristen McNair
I knew I messed up when I said to my husband, Turner, “I could’ve did better. But you was the only one who treated me good,” on the night we drove to the gas station for some King Cobra beer to celebrate his promotion at the post office to head mailman. He got real quiet and I laughed it off—though I was being honest—and I looked over and saw his jaw grit, then harden, and he didn’t say nothing.