“The Graceless Age” by Kent Nelson
Anson Hempkin believed in Jesus Christ, and every night, while Faye put the kids to bed, he got down on his knees and prayed to the plastic statue on top of his television set. He prayed his roofing company would prosper, the weather would be good, and Enrique and Pablo would show up for work. He prayed the city council would grant a variance for the megahouse on the bluff, the roof for which he had a contingent contract.
“God of Ducks” by Tina Louise Blevins
When he gets off work, he always smells of butter and chicken stock. The smell lives deep inside his skin where soap doesn’t reach, and sometimes he stands on the bathmat still glistening from his shower and looks in the mirror, grips the pale, soft mounds of fat around his stomach and thinks, I look like a dinner roll. I’m a biscuit with a dick.
“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
He was standing in the aisle practicing Willie Horton’s batting stance, working on his glare out to the imaginary mound . . . . He was picturing the ball floating toward the plate, the invisible pitcher—Catfish Hunter, maybe—holding his breath. Then the bus jerked to a stop, the floor rolled beneath his feet, and Augie spilled forward onto his face.
“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.