Balancing Act | Erica Peplin

The women brought a blanket to the park. Jordan strung a rope between two trees and Laura sat on the ground with a book in her lap. After crossing from one end of the rope to the other, Jordan got off the rope and leaned her head against Laura’s shoulder.

Two men approached. One had a pink face and the other had a beard.

“Is this a circus thing?” the man with the pink face asked.  

“It’s a slack line,” Jordan said.

The men inspected the rope. The one with the beard licked his lips.

“Are you guys together?”  Continue reading “Balancing Act | Erica Peplin”


The Late Bloomer Goes Wing Shopping | Janet Slike


The steel-framed front door to my bliss was sleek and modern but unassuming. Every seventeen-year-old knew where to go. I passed Penumbra’s Wing Emporium every day on my way to my government job; I was the fastest person in my division when it came to completing Form JX7073, which the public doesn’t know about but which pretty much holds the country together.

Everyone in my workplace was a woman over fifty. The government, as well as civilized, polite society, assumed we were invisible. There was no threat that we will get the notion to reveal the classified information we have. Our power touched every citizen, yet each person dismissed it as a benign talcum, so smooth you do not feel the rough granules. The women of my division accepted that.

My perspective changed Monday when Frances had the nerve to walk in sporting a flashy pair of line-green satin wings. I had brought in two dozen pudgy cream-filled Bismarcks that scarcely received a nibble amidst all the chaos. They would turn crusty by tomorrow; the Amish shop I patronized doesn’t use preservatives. I resolved to enjoy the leftovers as I watched “Dancing with the Stars.” Continue reading “The Late Bloomer Goes Wing Shopping | Janet Slike”

Early Learning | Ambrose Hall

“Don’t play with that. It’s for girls.”

My head whipped round. Across the toy shop, a boy sat behind a pink plastic dressing table, exploring the array of small drawers with delight. The dressing table was lurid, bubblegum baroque, the mirror oval, a real fairy tale dream. His mother hovered behind, her face stiff with tension. For a moment, the boy was oblivious to her disapproval. Continue reading “Early Learning | Ambrose Hall”

The Marriage | London Pinkney

City lights reflect on their faces as they drive down the street. They’re coming back from a day trip; that was supposed to be a romantic getaway. André grips the wheel tighter, the skin on his knuckles spread thin. Akiko rolls down the window and leans her head out—not enough to get hurt, but just enough to feel the cold air run along her scalp. André’s still waiting on her answer.

“So do you,” he asks again.

“Do you?”

“I do.”

“Then it’s settled.”

She pulls her head back in the car and rolls up the window. It’s 9 PM. They stop at an intersection. A car turns in front of them. Their high beams make her squint. André starts driving again.

“No, it’s not,” he says.

“Isn’t it?”

“Quit playin’ with me. I need you to—”

“Need me to what? Need me to tell you the truth? I’m ecstatic—there’s the truth. Now tell me, sweet hubby of mine, is she pretty?”

Continue reading “The Marriage | London Pinkney”

The Anatomy of Fire | Jane Bradley

In science class we learn the anatomy of fire, the three elements it needs. Fuel, oxygen, heat. Kel and me, we’re not allowed to sit together. I’ve gotta sit up front, where they can watch how I behave, where I can’t do any damage without them seeing straight away. She’s on the back bank of desks, with the window and the blossoming tree; vision seared by sun and hot pink petals each time I sneak a peek. They haven’t clocked that Kelli, in the corner, keeps stealing the scalpels, the ones designated for dissecting frogs. Every week she slides another up her sleeve, faster than I can confiscate. Just in case.

Continue reading “The Anatomy of Fire | Jane Bradley”

Gloss | Michelle Dobrovolny

She balances a leg on the edge of the bath tub. Down and up, her hand glides, pulling soft hairs against the grain of the skin. She squirts foam into her cupped palm, spreads it thickly. Then, taking a razor, pink, in tumid curves, she clears lines of flesh in long, premeditated strokes, letting the lather fall like shed skin to the water pooling at her feet.

Looking down the length of her body, she runs her hands over the reddened skin, pokes a breast with a finger, pinches a roll of flesh around the waist. Got some meat on her bones, doesn’t she? her grandmother had said, fish-eyed over the rim of wireframe glasses.

Turning her face to the stream of hot water, her eyes closed, and droplets fall into her half-open mouth, trickle down the back of her throat. She swallows.

She runs her hands over her face, chances upon a small bump, round and tense, centered precisely on the chin. She scratches lightly at the surface with a nail bitten to jagged edges until the pimple grows sore under her prodding finger. Continue reading “Gloss | Michelle Dobrovolny”

Examination | Jacquelyn Bengfort

“Is it ok to have this resident assist?” the doctor asks, strapping a light to his forehead as smiling, not waiting, she begins to sort you into your constituent parts, all the suspect ones put in a pile.

You say yes to make it seem ok retroactively. Even in the waiting room you’d slunk behind a magazine to hide your anxious tears, so the receptionist would not be uncomfortable. Continue reading “Examination | Jacquelyn Bengfort”

Hand Me Up, Hand Me Down | Jody Lisberger

From the moment Peggy tries it on, she loves the T-shirt. The three gray dancers, stick-figures, leaping across the white front. The high cut sleeves accentuating her muscular arms. The swooped neck curving right under the ridge of her collarbone. She can’t help but admire herself as she stands in front of her bedroom mirror. “I’ll take it,” she says as if someone were watching her try on clothes from the pile her teen daughters don’t want anymore. Hand-me-ups, she calls them.

A week later she has on this shirt when her ex David pulls up to deliver his alimony check. Must be his upcoming wedding to Maggie, Peggy figures, that makes him forget the check isn’t supposed to be delivered by hand but put into Automatic Deposit. She smiles anyway as he hands it over, and pretends not to see him staring at her shirt. Continue reading “Hand Me Up, Hand Me Down | Jody Lisberger”

Starfish | Kate Garrett

Every day I sit on the rocks and wait for the tide to come in and chase me inland. Clara says it’s because of the stars and where they were when I was born. Today she starts again, before I’ve even gone.

I think you’re actually a crab, Sunny. You skulk around at the edge of the water looking interesting, then you pinch people when they try to touch you.

She’s got a point, but I argue anyway. Why do you play with mud and fire, Clara, if you’re supposed to be a fish, little mermaid? Why not come down to the beach with me and let the tide carry you off?
Continue reading “Starfish | Kate Garrett”

Holy Like That | Barbara Harroun

Joanne takes one look at me and saunters to the juice fridge. She hands me a cold V-8. She doesn’t say anything, just gives me her look; part-disappointed, part-pissed, part-what-are-you-doing-with-your life.

“What?” I mumble. It’s a hospital kitchen, so it smells like bacon, sausage, oatmeal, hard-boiled eggs, fried hash browns, corn-fritters and bleach water. Normally comforting and known smells, homey even, but sweet Jesus, not today. I drink the V-8 in one violent toss, and struggle to keep it down.

“Come on,” Joanne says, “I’ve got Tylenol. Try not to breathe on the customers. You smell like vodka walking.” Continue reading “Holy Like That | Barbara Harroun”