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By Ben Tanzer

There was this boy with his head in your lap.

Which is not exactly what it sounds like, though depending on how that sounds to you, it isn’t exactly not that either.

Which is to say that he isn’t a little boy, you have those now and you know what they look like, he was more like a young man, as were you, it’s just that you just weren’t as young as he was, with his boyish face, pale skin, and light, near translucent scruff.

But you’re getting ahead of yourself, that is the present, or that present anyway, and this doesn’t work without knowing the past and …

In the Making

By Kari Nguyen

It is October 2013. Quintessential New England fall. Our afternoon walk is slow as we pass under trees already turned for the season. There is hardly a breeze, and the leaves above us hang suspended, not quite ready to descend save for the few scattered on the sides of the road. The sunlight, lengthening but still warm, casts us: a band at peace. My daughter’s purple sneakers keep up easily over the pavement and her warm hand fits familiarly into mine. I snake the retriever’s worn leash through my opposite hand, repositioning the grip, and he seems to understand. There is a break in my …

An Unlikely Pilgrimage

By Jennifer McGaha

Admittedly, the Midwest is an unlikely place for a pilgrimage. In the vast and wide-open landscape, one doesn’t have the sense so much of going inward, but rather of being exposed, flayed open like a trout. Had I had more money or more time to contemplate my path, I might have gone to Lumbini or hiked the El Camino. As it were, it had been less than a week since I had applied for a semester-long teaching position at a rural Illinois university. I had interviewed via Skype, received an offer, grabbed a few essential items—my mountain bike, my dog, my computer—and headed west. I …

And Am I Born To Die?

By Brian Gersten

Between I-295 and the Penobscot Bay, past the Hussey’s General Store sign that reads “Guns – Wedding Gowns – Cold Beer”, down narrow potholed dirt roads lacking signposts or street lamps, over a steel bog bridge, and among fiery oaks and pines, rests Karen Keller’s square farmhouse.  The house teeters on a rocky foundation.  It has no running water or electricity.  The grey wooden shingles are weathered from years of blizzards and nor’easters.  Gusts of wind pass through the closed rectangular windows just as easily as the sunlight, and only the bedroom is insulated.  “There is a plan for this chaos,” Karen says of her home, “it …

Family Dinner the Week of the Connecticut Shooting on the Sunday Jake Adam York Died

By Michael Copperman

We did not speak of the tragedy, but we came together as we often don’t manage in busy weeks.  My Japanese mother shows her love by overproviding, making the meals her mother made in her youth, cold salad of long rice in shoyu and rice vinegar and sesame oil stacked with slivered cucumber and piles of fresh-pulled crab meat and spirals of egg, a five-quart steamer of fresh rice, great platters of sashimi on beds of lettuce and daikon, always so much bounty, more than we need or can hold, all of it laid out at the dining room table for my father and brother and sister-in-law …

The Toot

By Dean Kostos

Trees along the highway spiraled through the eyepiece of my kaleidoscope—our car speeding home to Cinnaminson, New Jersey. Mom and Dad had gone for marriage counseling in Philadelphia. My brother Phillip and I had tagged along. Dad shared something he’d read in a law journal, “New York cops use a technique when a criminal resists arrest. The Adam’s apple is so sensitive—if they push on it, the guy can’t move.”

“You mean they jam it into his throat?” my brother asked.

“Exactly—makes the assailant mute, except for guttural gasping.”

“Ted, please stop it. This isn’t the kind of conversation to have in front of the boys. Besides, it’s making me …

Felicia

By Ilana Garon

Her name was Felicia, and she was my student during my second year teaching public high school in the Bronx, when I was 23. Her parents were having a reverse custody battle over who didn’t have to take care of her. The odds of her being totally screwed up by this were astronomical. But she smiled. She played. She said funny, witty things. She teased me for things I had never told the students (hell, things I was wary of even thinking)—“Miss, you blush whenever Chris walks into the room. He’s cute, isn’t he?”—and …

Distrust the Inner Voice: A Prayer and a Lament

By Alisa Slaughter

It’s late; I’m listening for the marauding bear. Maybe it’s because the summer is so cold this year in Oregon and things aren’t ripening, but my mother says he’s unusually active, more persistent than the average bear in his raids on gardens and bird feeders. After she was robbed by a neighborhood meth addict, my mother put a motion detector on her garage light and a lock on the inside of her wood bin, where the tweaker got in. The police caught him, but he’d already sold the pearls my late father gave her, on eBay. I’m …

Wingin’ It

By Jessica Machado

In the seventh grade, I asked my father to take me to see Winger, a glam rock band whose greatest hit, “She’s Only Seventeen,” included the lyrics, “Daddy says she’s too young, but she’s old enough for me.” My father said yes, even though the concert was on a school night and he had no idea what Winger was.

When we arrived at the show that evening, the parking lot was a black sea of T-shirts and spandex. It was August of 1989 in Honolulu, and here at the Aloha Tower concert hall, sweat was about to …

Poor Her Soul

BY MIRA PTACIN

Child's MobileNicole Carpenter used to go through my city like a walking middle finger. She fought, smoked, dipped, drank and skipped school, and by the time she finally reached her junior year of high school, she altogether dropped out. I met her some years ago in my hometown of Battle Creek, the Cereal Capitol of the world (think: Kellogg’s Cornflakes).

Nicole wore sandy blond cornrows that dropped to her waist and wrapped around her like seaweed. She’d sway her head side to side and fling those braids behind her shoulders, rake back the strays with two acrylic …

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