Stuff It by Marci Pliskin

Each time I quit Prineville Insurance I tell them to stuff it. Each time they choke on the office philodendron, the dry erase markers, and the reams of useless memos waiting for the shredder as I walk out the door.  The cost of my mother’s Ensure, dentures, bath railings, diapers — well, I can’t quit anytime soon. Get along to get a paycheck I keep telling myself, however much I resent this lousy mantra. On Tuesday Delores’s doctor downgraded her to bedridden, so now I have to find the money for a decent wheelchair, not the crappy kind Medicare pays…

Three Poems by Emily R. Frankenberg

  Finally Learn English At a Spanish kiosk with second-hand books or in the Thursday morning market, I think I’ll finally learn English, and (though it’s my native language and I teach it) it springs anew in that terrain of fresh ideas, cities and marshes I knew in dreams where waking reason becomes enmired in the lotus, yes, in that place where things come trembling and pristine with no worldly reservations and its many phrasal verbs sound Viking and exotic, its monosyllables fall blunt upon the ears and all its toponyms invite me. Yes, I’ll finally learn English as European…

The Rat Trap by Rebecca Lee

  I work for a content mill. In 30 minutes I can write 500 words for $7. When I look at a single roll of toilet paper, I can tell how many words it’s worth. 7 minutes for a Snickers. 400 words for a bottle of laundry detergent. I log on to a website where clients from all different businesses in all different countries post what type of article, blog post, or web copy they need written. The content mill website works as a third party where only they interact with both client and writer. When a client pays the…

This One’s Me by Zac Thriffiley

To be fair, I made the mistake of standing too close to the kitchen island and hovering over the charcuterie spread. With my shoulders slouched and arms wide, I looked like a vulture protecting fresh roadkill that it had paid too much for at Whole Foods. Everyone knows that the safest place at a party—especially one where you only know half the guests but everyone is willing to have sex with you anyway—is next to the food. This way, you meet new people, but have something on hand to shove into your mouth if the conversation dies or takes an…

Alpha by James Sie

burning The wind brings in the morning even sooner than the birds. It’s covered in smoke. One sniff— clean-moist-grass    dirt-tumbled-down-from-the-night-before peeling-eucalyptus    the-promise-of-heat —All the smells are smudged with ash. Fire. Not here, but close enough. There’s no direction it’s not. Enough reason for me to get back home, but I stand on the stone steps, motionless, as the darkness yields to shreds of new sky.  I wait, telling myself I’m not waiting.  The nests above on either side of the steps are quiet, and no signs of movement in those clustered below. That’s another reason I know it’s…

Cut Your Own by Scott Pedersen

Otto Graf, a stooped, straight-faced man of seventy-five, stood behind his house in the remote Ocooch Mountains. Wrapped in a gray wool coat, hand-knit scarlet scarf, and tattered tweed cap, he struggled to position the opening of an unwieldy bag of bird seed over a tube feeder held by his neighbor, Gene Kaplan. “Gene, hold it steady!” “Come on, Otto, just pour it already,” said Gene. Otto was about to unleash a torrent of tiny thistle seeds into the cylinder, when the air was ripped by a metallic shriek. Both men flinched. “Scheisse!” He spit out the word and paused…

You Talk Like a Girl by Byron Flitsch

Your popularity and recognition depend, frequently, on your voice and the impression it makes. —Eugene Feuchtinger, founder of the Perfect Voice Institute    “CUT!” The instructor’s voice blasts through the hotel conference room filled with fellow fake eaters looking for their big break in fast food commercials. When I was signed by a Chicago acting agency in my mid-twenties, my then-agent suggested to fork over one-hundred-fifty bucks to take a commercial acting workshop to learn the ropes of eating on camera. She insisted “the only way to get the good gigs” was to be classically trained in artificial eating. A…

Muddy Sake by Kathleen Hellen

Tired of cherry, tired of this world, I sit facing muddy sake and black rice. Matsuo Bashō   they’ll never love you my mother said sipping from the warrior’s o-choko the wine served best when heated, sipped  the rice hauled up in nets, like fish, from fields for generations wine the poets tend like ritual, rice in handfuls, rolled and fanned, sniffed vatted—perhaps over-nurtured my mother said as sure as snow will fall again in Sudo Honke no milk stops at our doorstep no pyramid of pap no wholesomeness three sizes bigger, fatter  who were these half-calf kids who schooled…

A Conversation with Kimi Cunningham Grant

by Jeanne Van Blankenstein Kimi Cunningham Grant is a poet and author whose fiction is planted firmly in the woods of Pennsylvania. Her first book, Silver Like Dust, shares the story of her grandmother’s life in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. Her move to fiction began with the novel Fallen Mountains, a taut mystery centered on the disappearance of a man in a small mountain town wrestling with the effects of fracking.  In her latest novel, These Silent Woods, an Indie Next List pick for the month of November, Grant returns to the Pennsylvania woods, this time…

Café Drago by Kate Maruyama

(photo credit: Jack Maruyama)   Whenever he couldn’t get out of bed with his six a.m. alarm, Milo reminded himself the bakers were already at work, and it’d be his ass if he didn’t get there and start setting up. He also told himself to stop being a pussy. By the time he arrived at Café Drago for a seven a.m. shift, the sun just coming up, the bakers were already in, having arrived at four. They were the kind of guys who worked their asses off and never complained. The kind of guys he’d like to live up to.…