Kyle Hemmings

It will take him only a few hours to do what he must. About the time it takes to knock down a wall without a partner, with one hand that cannot completely wrap around anything, to install a fireplace with a leaky bladder. Less time than becoming a refugee in someone else's house, to become still as a candle and burn out. To mistake the sun as eye level from a hospital window on the 14th floor and believe you are a just god. Less time to cross borders and become no one. To accept the fact that you now love a man who does not knock down walls, a man who lives unprotected under the stars, that you're never coming home.

Short Piece
Charlie Keys Bohem

His childhood precociousness was not but that malformed barrier of lengthy, misused words, erected ahead of the comprehension of its components,

His friends the ADHD cases too abrasive for the word "disorder" to produce any excess pity,

Surrounded in his teens by a sea of the stably platonic without a single pursuit requited to stave off frustration,

And taking a pleasure in the construction of elaborate, proper sentences, and their implementation in conversations, which he drove, nose first, into the open hardness of the ground,

His only respite from the ensuing silence in the images of stick molecules flashing always through his head,

Bound to find his own place, in his own far off time,

The place from which he can no longer see the lights of the world he never knew.

I Threw it Away
Paula Ray James

The small and homeless, the nameless proof that love had nothing to do with it--the it of coITis, commITment, quIT, vomIT, and idoIT. 

The storefront window of the thrift shop is coated with algae. I scrape a heart onto the glass with my thumbnail and ignore the odor of raw sewage seeping from a grate in the sidewalk two feet away. I squint at this heart amidst slime, as artistic as an electric chair upholstered in chintz and as ludicrous as a chocolate covered cyanide pill. Coming to my senses, I wipe the heart away with a soggy newspaper. The wedding announcements disintegrate as easily as the obituaries. A patch of clear replaces the heart, and I gaze beyond the surface of the pane. The shop holds abandoned memories all too relatable. In a terrarium, a baby’s skeleton rests on a bed of potpourri made from discarded petals. The remains of a wedding bouquet, perhaps? Something as blue as loss in a jar, no preservatives added. 

Borrowed DNA that had to be returned, never to belong to me, never to play nicely with mine or braid with my strands to form an unbreakable bond.

 A noose disguised as a wedding ring, fake, used, for sale, cheap—its glass eye peers out of its tiny black velvet coffin. It triggers a memory: tiny coffin, too little to hold death, no larger than a box of long stemmed roses. 
I scoured the catalog of tombstones, but they were all too heavy, too big. In the end, I chose to carve her name into my own stone heart, and I buried it without telling anyone.

By my feet, I find a broken brick that has come loose from the foundation. I pick it up and write her name on it with a mixture of my blood and the sidewalk sludge. I throw the brick through the shop window and wait for the alarm to sound, for someone to come, for the cops to arrest me, or for the ransom to be paid.

Richard Baldasty

Davita with shark tattoo on her forehead. Pretty Davita. For it takes an uncommonly attractive person to offset the initial surprise, to some discomfiting, of a great white front and center. Good for Davita, more power to her, alluring enough to make it work.

Reggie with the words Bad Boy nicely traced in cursive across his shaved head. Letters looping like exhalations of stunt airplanes. Edgy Reggie. For it takes a contrarian personality to handle the double-take and back-away such a tattoo tends to elicit, especially in a public park early morning or as dusk arrives with lonely mysteries.

Percival with a cross, a Star of David, a crescent moon, a yin/yang symbol, a Tibetan mandala, and thirty other religious ID indicators on arms, neck, back, and chest. Free-form minister, from and to all faiths and pieties, Ample Percival. Because it takes a lot of skin—hence always shirtless, rain or shine, Rev. Ample Percival—to display even a sampling of humanity’s multitudinous icons of credence.

“We are here today,” says Percival in his deep baritone (pleasing, thinks Davita’s mother, grateful for distraction), “to join Pretty Davita and Edgy Reggie in wedlock. Bride and groom ask that you rise and lift hands skyward in joyful affirmation of their love.”

Mostly they do, but not Reggie’s son by a previous relationship. Still at crawling stage, just in diapers. Little Berto ring bearer—those gold circlets that have been tucked into the front flap of his pair of Huggies® with Pooh bear image. As Berto scoots along—encouraged forward by his burly uncle (hooded cobra, left bicep) and anorexic aunt (to thine own self be true, bracelet style, around right wrist)—the wedding guests marvel at his bright pink-white baby skin. Blank slate, empty canvas.

O, lambent possibility!

The DJ, much experienced (long sleeves keeping once youthful inks in protective custody), sees it’s time to reel everyone back: the silky warmth of a Kasper Bjørke remix of the Stones’ “Heaven.”

Senses be praised, senses be praised. Nothing will stop you, nothing will harm you, nothing will stand in your way

Origin, 1981, from an album only Davita’s mom can name, though minutes must wait before she’s ready to say. During the reception, her third drink. Then, “Tattoo You, classic collection, great songs, played the vinyl to get Davita to sleep, sang along myself, the ‘nothing will harm you’ line, ideal lullaby.”

Kissing her, Rev. Percival marvels, “Your memory, antediluvian lady, indelible!”

Your Name on a Dinosaur Bone
Kasra Omid-Zohoor

The curly haired girl peeks at me from across the bar like a parakeet looking out an open cage door. Her friend twirls her finger around the cherry in her glass while Tower leans on my arm and smiles. “Game on?”

“Game over,” declares some guy who points to Tower, or at least to his jersey, and then to the TV with the final score. I’m worried because last month Tower pushed a guy and we got kicked out then he ripped the Christmas lights from the sidewalk tree and yelled "Goddam San Francisco!” to the passing cabs.

Now Tower just puffs up and the guy reunites with his buddies by the door. “Oh you’re cool!”

“Forget it man,” I say. The girl with the cherry drink is staring so I tell her don’t worry.

“Who's worried?"


A pause and then, “Football fans?”

“Oh yeah,” Tower says. “Well me more than this guy.”

“Hey me neither,” says the curly haired one.

“Never played sports?” says Tower.

“Oh I ran cross country in high school but I hate running now.”

“That’s not true, you do races,” says her friend.

“The only fun part is passing people.”

We all laugh and they tell us they’re at a digital marketing startup nearby. Like do you know who really buys soy protein bars? Guys who play video games in blue states. Dina’s the one with curls and she's from the Midwest but didn't wear Victoria's Secret sweatpants in high school. She’s been hoping to feel an earthquake and I tell her I haven’t felt one yet either. Tower proposes we all do shots.

“In college there was this girl who always wanted to leave when we did shots,” says Dina.

“Leave where?”

“Like a frat party where some girl gets raped in the end like on Lifetime.”

I break out laughing.

“Seriously, she wouldn’t quit crying until we got pizza.”

“Oh pizza sounds awesome right now,” says Tower.

“Hey we have some in our office!” says Dina’s friend.

When the elevator door opens there’s just a dinosaur skeleton greeting us in the hall.

“It’s real,” says Dina’s friend. “Our donation saved this museum in Sacramento so they let us pick. Velociraptor.”

Dina gets the pizza while her friend points to a claw bone. “That’s mine. We all sign one when we join the company. Writing your name on a dinosaur bone makes you feel like you’re part of something really valuable, you know.”

We hear a scream and see Dina hovering by the window, a red light flashing on her face.

“Don’t do it, don’t do it…”

Down below we make out cop cars and then the outline of a man on a roof ledge. Every few steps he stops to swing his arms as if bargaining with the fog.

“Oh isn’t it just awful?”

I place my hand on her shoulder and feel her shaking body and wonder if this is what an earthquake must feel like.

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