“Shooting the Moon” by Charles Antin
Almost a hundred years after the demise of the Jönköping, I sit on the paint-peeling porch of the Montclair Assisted Living Estate, in the decrepit plastic hammock of my wheelchair, and look out, through the topiaried hedges, past the dogwood trees, across the upper-middleclass wasteland of Upper Montclair, to the northeast, toward Sweden, and slowly and methodically eviscerate Jean in two-person hearts . . .
“The Muskeg” by Jay Irwin
Tired and near dead, George Mueller’s head was caught in dreams as if he were still dreaming them. Other things he would not have considered real stood just before him too, but they all existed somehow clearer than his hunger or his exhaustion and not for any reason he could have made plain.
“The Fourth Wall” by David Tucholski
There is a stick in the ground with a cardboard sign taped to it. A man, who is not an American but wears one of their uniforms, reads the sign aloud for those who are illiterate: “If you cross this line, you will be shot!”
“One Act” by Micah Nathan
Ben first met Charlie Cahill on the train to New York. Charlie was reading a collection of Hemingway stories; he wore a wrinkled suit that showed too much sock, and he gorged himself on a hot dog, oblivious to the ketchup that dripped down his tie. Behind Charlie sat a young mother with her crying child. After ten minutes of wails and screeches, Charlie turned around, dangled his keys, and grinned.
“Civil Twilight” by Timothy Hedges
If Augie hadn’t been standing next to the man, he’d have sworn the noises came from a creature covered in fur, a bear, perhaps, or a moose. It was far from the imperial voice he remembered booming throughout his father’s bus, announcing the cross streets at each stop: Van Dyke, John R. In that vision, Augie was the kid sitting by the door, trying to catch his father’s eye, proud that the man in uniform with his hands firmly turning the wheel was his dad.
“Ice House” by Kate Blakinger
I catch my husband using one of my eyeliners to color in the spot where part of his eyebrow is missing, a scar from the accident three months ago. Mark snatches his hand away from his face. “Don’t you knock!” he says, his words clipped and his voice dipping low. I would have knocked, if the door hadn’t been open a crack.
“Brief Lives” by Paul Zimmer
I’ve given the slip to those creeps in the geezer asylum across the road and tip-toed out the emergency exit when they thought I was taking a nap. It’s Friday evening in Squires Grove, and Burkhum’s Tap is crowding. I’ve staked myself out early at the bar and had a few Leinenkugels.
“Imago” by Andrew Peery
Raphael wonders what butterflies eat, but he is only seven, and there is no one obvious to ask. His older brother, Ortiz, says everyone knows in the fifth grade. A swollen-faced teacher with moles on her neck carries a wooden case from room to room, showing the few monarchs that the supply-closet roaches have not eaten. The teacher is heavy, and she carries her chest on the flat glass of the lid, white-coated arms out in front and the scarred wood frame of the box beneath her, balanced on the roll of her stomach. She stands unconsidered and comfortable. “Today, children, we are going to talk about the things I really love.” Laughter peals through the room as twenty-five fifth graders think about female anatomy.
“Chicago” by John Fried
Two college seniors sit in a café in a Midwestern college town. Crowds of people pour in to escape the snow. The boy and girl know each other well, and they don’t. They have been together for seven weeks. Their understanding of each other centers on past love lives, confusion about the future, and a vast exploration of each other’s bodies. They need something to move the relationship forward, or it will die.
“Philadelphia” by Kurt Rheinheimer
But here, in the white chair where he sits every evening, he could be on the bench between innings, waiting to hit or to jog back out to center. Anything in the world could happen just now, is what he feels when he is in the chair, when the lawn is wet and the golden color of early evening surrounds him as if it could be youth itself. You don’t hear the car horns, the yellow air is easier to breathe, his tall wood fence at the back blocks the view of the alley, the loud skinny young people with all colors of skin and their pants falling down and their hats on sideways don’t look as dangerous. His yard somehow holds it off, the onslaught he knows will kill him before anything else does.