Missing Link by Mike Keller-Wilson

It was the memories that did it: My nap-heavy head on an impossibly wide chest. Dark curls—thick as fur—my toddler hand tangled in their sleepy heat. A wild, lumbering voice—a real voice, not a growl or a grunt—almost human. Fresh shampoo—lilac and lavender—and, below that, creek mud and wet leaves. Denim overalls—soft with wear—a poor, if durable, disguise. A steadying palm and a tickle of hair blanketing my back.

I’m not interested in finding Bigfoot; I want him to come back on his own. I want him to come back because he misses me, misses Mom. Isn’t that what any kid would want from their dad? That’s what brought me out here in the middle of the night.

Even if Mom won’t say it right out, I know he’s my dad. She doesn’t want me blabbing, attracting attention. I know better now. I learned my lesson last year—when I was only ten. I told Seth, my (former) best friend. Six months of answering to “Wookie Boy” was more than enough to teach me silence.

I’ve grown up since then: Mom’s doctor visits, selling the house, moving to an apartment across town. We’ve had a hard year. Lately, I can’t stop wondering what would happen if I let something slip and some scientist got to Dad first? What if I was the reason he got caught and caged? Stuck with needles and turned into some experiment? I’d never say anything now. I wouldn’t be able to stand it.

In the first place, I don’t think Mom meant for me to find out about Dad at all. When I asked her, it was supposed to be a joke. I’d gone to the basement for a Freeze Pop and caught her crying on the couch. It was those little choke-sobs, the ones that force their way out no matter how hard you hold them. She was watching “Bigfoot: The Missing Link” (a History Channel miniseries that I’ve now seen nine and a half times, mostly by sneaking the iPad after bedtime). I’d forced a grin, pointed at the screen. “Is that Dad?” Cheering her from her funks was my little-kid job, as I saw it then. I thought she’d laugh—snort through her tears and tell me to quit being a goober.

Instead, she kept wringing the edge of the knit blanket across her lap. She looked away and shut her eyes as if she was afraid of what might spill out. She didn’t make room or pat the open cushion at her side. She turned back to the TV—opened her eyes and fixed them to the screen without saying a word—I realized I’d found what hurt and I knew I’d never have the heart to ask again.

Still, I had to be sure. This wasn’t Santa or the Easter Bunny. I had to do my research. Ms. Knowles let me use the library computer, though I think she knew it wasn’t really for a school project. I found half a dozen sasquatch sightings reported to The Chronicle right around when I was born. One of them was just up the street from our house—in the woods behind Dollar General.

In the end, the research wasn’t what convinced me, what finally brought me out here, clutching my stack of handmade posters in the backwoods moonlight an hour’s walk from the nearest county road.

You can argue facts, but there’s no use arguing with memory. They’re clearest on the restless nights. The ones when Mom goes to bed early, sleeps late. Those nights, it’s like I can grip each memory by the edge, hold it to catch the starry light framed by my bedroom window.

It was the memories on those long nights that got me thinking: What if he’s still out there? What if he had to leave so I didn’t blow his cover? What if I let him know his secret’s safe with me? What if he came back?

“Dad, come home.” That’s what the posters say. It took a whole library afternoon to make them all. By the end, I was dizzy from the fumes off Ms. Knowles’s fat-tipped sharpie. At home, I spent half an hour looking for a staple gun, finally tucked the junk-drawer hammer and half a pack of nails under my pillow.

The night is colder than I thought, too cold for just jeans and my Mothman hoodie. Somewhere along the way, I walked through a burr patch. One pant leg has a string of them scratching through the denim. Still, it’s the quiet that’s most uncomfortable. That country quiet: silence filled with cicada screams and a barn owl in the distance. Son of Bigfoot, I whisper like it’ll help me feel at home. While hammering the first poster, I nearly drop the rest before tucking the stack under one arm. I do drop them when a wide swing misses the nail entirely and bashes my thumb against the pine bark.  From then on, the pages all have one muddy corner.

By the time I finish, the sun is nearly up. I tuck the hammer’s head in a pocket and wrap cold fingers around my still-throbbing thumb. Between the trees, I can glimpse my handiwork: white paper, corners curling over in the damp. I should’ve brought more nails, should’ve used two per poster. Still, it’s something. I think of Mom, tired in her bones. She’ll still be proud of what I’ve done. For a moment, I think it almost doesn’t matter if he sees them, almost doesn’t matter if he comes back.


Mike Keller-Wilson lives, writes, and teaches in Iowa City, Iowa. He is a founder & co-editor-in-chief of the newly-launched Vast Chasm Magazine. In his day job, he teaches writing and dad jokes to a captive audience of 7th graders. Find him on Twitter @Mike3Stars or at mikekellerwilson.com.

Untrue Things by Cezarija Abartis

Agnes thought Sherisse was the smartest person in her eighth-grade class. The prettiest too, with her shiny yellow hair. Agnes’s own hair was mouse-brown. When she grew older, she figured she would dye it, maybe red, but her mother wouldn’t allow it now, “You’re not a slut.”

“Girls who dye their hair aren’t automatically sluts.”

“The next thing they want is tattoos of hearts and motorcycles and skulls. They want their tongues tattooed.”

Agnes swallowed hard. “I’ve never heard of that.”

“Oh, yes. It’s a fact. Now go wash the dinner dishes.”

Agnes slumped to the sink. Outside the window, as the sun was setting, she could see all the signs on the lawns for Nixon and on one lawn a sign for Hubert Humphrey. She wasn’t much for politics.

“Your father and I raised you to be a good girl, a lady, and someday a scientist, or an artist.”

“I don’t even like art.” But she sort of did. She rinsed the plate under the faucet, which hissed when she first turned it on. The remnants of the pigs-in-the-blanket had some of the colors of an Andy Warhol painting. Her mother used Campbell’s tomato soup for the sauce. The cabbage strips slipped off into the strainer. She’d have to clean that later when it became yucky sludge.

“Or a musician.”

“I hate practicing piano.” The lady across the street bent down to pet her dog. “Woof,” Agnes imagined him saying. The trees had lost most of their leaves.

“Look what happened to Mrs. McDonald’s Roxane.”


“She broke her arm.”


“She won’t be able to play until it heals. But you’re lucky. You can practice right now.”

Agnes glanced toward the living room, where the upright spinet with its battered and peeling veneer sat. “I hate the piano. Hate it. Hate it.”

“People that play the piano live longer. Look at Liberace — he died at the age of one hundred and five.”

“He’s still alive.”

“And Picasso, too, the artist.”

“I would hate to do something I hated for one hundred and five years.”

Her mother put a chipped plate into the dishpan. “Your father works in a factory. Would you like to do that? Breathe hot fumes all day long? He loves you and works hard for you, so you don’t have to work in a factory. You’re lucky you’re a girl. You won’t be sent to Vietnam.”

“And here I thought they needed piano players.”

“Don’t be such a smart-off.”

Agnes smoothed her hair, but her hand was wet. “Someday, I would like to have red hair, or blond hair. Like Sherisse.”

“That girl is not who you want to be.”

“She is, she is.”

“Her mother had an abortion. I heard the baby wasn’t the husband’s.”

“You don’t know that. How do you know that?”

“Mrs. Nilson told me.”

Agnes waved her wet hand. “Mrs. Nilson also believes the world is flat.”

“Even so, she could still be right about some things. A person isn’t one hundred percent one thing. One hundred percent stupid about everything.”

“I wish people wore signs that said what percent they are. Fifty percent honest, twenty-five percent kind, twenty-five percent hardworking.” Agnes rinsed a plate.

“Honey, you’re all those things.”

“But nobody asked me to the Halloween Dance. Some of us girls had to dance with each other. No boy danced with me.”

“They’re shy. They will. You wait and see.”

“Jimmy asked Sherisse to dance.”

“When I was your age…”

“I don’t want to hear about how you didn’t have a car, you cleaned out the stalls, you twisted the heads off the chickens.”

“That’s not what I was going to say. I was going to say I dreamed about having a family, falling in love, and having a baby girl, just like you. Someone kind, pretty, smart.”

“I’m none of those things. I hate myself. Sherisse is beautiful and smart.”

“You are too, honey. You’ll be a famous journalist, or lawyer and deal with facts. You’ll see I was right. You’re our Cinderella.”

A dish slipped from her fingers in the lukewarm water. “I should have never been born.”

“Don’t you dare say that.” Her mother leaned into Agnes and put her cheek on her cheek. “What would your father and I do without you? How could we live?”

“You could get a dog.” Across the street, the neighbor lady walked ahead of her schnauzer.

“Untrue things can be true sometimes.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“The world is flat. But, of course, it’s not. And yet it is. We don’t fly off the planet. But we do fly above it. Although I’ve never been in a plane.” Her mother said this wistfully, took off her apron. “I know you will. Children go farther than their parents. And that’s good.”

“I’ll live here forever in this kitchen. I’ll be an ugly old maid.”

“I’m telling you truths to live by. Someday you’ll be thankful.”

“Someday. Someday.” Agnes dried her hands on the towel, patted her damp skirt. Across the street, the schnauzer trotted joyfully. “Someday.”


Cezarija Abartis has published a collection, Nice Girls and Other Stories (New Rivers Press) and stories in Bennington Review, FRiGG, matchbook, and New York Tyrant, among others. Her flash, “The Writer,” was selected by Dan Chaon for Wigleaf’s Top 50 online Fictions of 2012 and “To Kiss a Bear” was selected for Wigleaf’s Longlist 2016. Her flash “Sisters” was selected by Amber Sparks for Best Microfiction 2021. Recently she completed a crime novel.

The Scab of the Family by Mialise Carney

The scab of the family doesn’t say much, so everyone thinks she’s trouble. In high school, she gets grounded twice a week but only for things she should’ve done rather than things she shouldn’t have. When the scab of the family stays out too late and comes home quiet and jumpy, the mother calls her awful things—traitor, trouble, rat. At holidays, the scab of the family is second in line to hug the grandmother and tell her she loves her, but the only one to really mean it. When the scab leaves for college, she doesn’t pack anything sentimental, but cries on her first night in the dorms when her roommate requests a room change.

The scab of the family only goes to some classes and doesn’t get invited to parties or accepted to any sororities, though she goes through all the hazing. She tries to talk to the warm slouching boys that sit beside her in class, but they turn up their headphones before she can finish saying hello. The scab only flies home for funerals, so the mother marks her “deceased/missing” in the family registry in the back of her black crumbling bible. When the scab graduates, she walks the stage but doesn’t invite anyone to watch. That night she burns her sociology degree over the little tin trashcan she keeps beside her bed—she doesn’t understand people any better now than she did before.

The scab of the family remains in her college town and finds a job in data entry. She buys a whole new wardrobe, pencil skirts and warm sweaters and thin heels that accentuate the sharp bones of her feet. She sits in a cold, blank office besides much older, much colder people who listen to audio books on two-times speed and eat tepid lunches at their desks under the bright glow of their monitors. The scab asks her cubical mate out for drinks who refuses: she already has plans that night to cry in the shower. The scab adds it to the end of her hourly planner, right underneath “bus home” and before “brush teeth,” and likes it so much that she does it every night.

The scab of the family lives and works and never goes home, not even for funerals. She calls the arthritic ornery mother only on days when it hails and tries not to cry as the mother says she is selfish and traitorous and unlovable. On her thirtieth birthday, the scab decides she wants to know what trouble really tastes like so she gets rebel tattooed on the wet inside of her bottom lip. It tastes sweeter than she expected, and she chews it off while she sleeps.

The scab of the family adopts a pet rat, not a fancy rat all fluffy and sweet but a gnarly one, gray and twitchy. She names it Pebbles and after work holds its struggling warm body against her chest while sniffling along to K-Dramas. When she grows bored of subtitles, the scab goes to bars to find someone to take her home. So used to the cubical, she sits in the darkest corner, hides in her hair, and potential suitors miss her when they glance around looking for lonely, frightened women. She drinks Bloody Mary after Bloody Mary until her mouth tingles and her throat scratches and she can’t sleep for the bubbling acidic pain. By thirty-two she has invasive emergency surgery to remove all the horseradish-induced ulcers.

The scab of the family is the only child to return home to take care of the mother when she gets too crotchety to be left alone with waiters and too fragile to walk up stairs. She bathes her and dresses her and sings her lullabies all while the mother spits and calls her awful things, traitor, ungrateful, defector, scab. When the mother dies alone in her bed, the scab notes it in the family registry but tells no one. She carefully leaves the bible where it belongs on the mother’s clean mantelpiece between graying family photos and baby pictures and fake sprigs of fir. She flies back home to her college town and her itchy rat greets her sleepily by the door. While she sits on the cool kitchen tile, she lets her rat lap warm gravy from her finger and feels almost loved. She is not so much like a scab anymore, but the shiny newly woven skin underneath.


Mialise Carney (@mialisec) is a writer and MFA student at California State University, Fresno. She is an editor at The Normal School, and her writing has appeared in Hobart, Maudlin House, and The Boiler, among others. Read more of her work at mialisecarney.com.

Yes, You Can Eat Your Goldfish by Susan Rukeyser

Yes, you can eat your darling goldfish. He is most likely a form of ornamental carp, and he will taste as you expect: muddy and full of bones.

You can eat all your darlings, once you kill them. Although why you killed Prince Harry the goldfish I cannot understand. Was it all the staring, his bulging eyes? Was it his flashy orange scales, so out of place in your dark, dusty cabin full of your ancestors’ ghosts? Or was it that his beauty faded by the day, in your care, and you could not bear to watch it—how his scales grew dull and his swimming listless, until he mostly stayed put in the middle of the small, round, glass bowl that was his world since you brought him home from that Memorial Day carnival? His translucent fins fanned like the scarves of an old burlesque dancer still going through the motions.

You sure looked like you wanted him when you paid $3.00, six times in a row, tossing rings onto a pole. Prince Harry watched you from the table full of glass goldfish bowls and saw how you labored for him, how you fought against your own shortcomings to win him as a prize. But now it’s August, and you should have set him up with a proper tank by now, some plastic plants and aquarium gravel, at least.

Prince Harry was an $18.00 goldfish, which makes him as expensive as any other freshwater fish on the menu at your local upscale seafood place. But you should know that the diet you fed him of dehydrated fish flakes won’t please your palate, nor your conscience. (Maybe you could have treated him better?)

What’s done is done, I get it. I just hope you killed him with kindness.

Because, you know, Prince Harry the goldfish was miserable in that little glass bowl. He was never going to become the best fish he could be, trapped in there. In the wild—if you had released him, an invasive species—he could have grown far beyond your expectations. (Seriously, he could’ve grown to be a foot long!) But at what cost to the other fish in the lake that butts up to your cabin? Prince Harry would crowd out the others that belong there.

Your darlings can be eaten, and they should be, if they fail to thrive. If you fail them.

But Prince Harry the goldfish will leave a bad taste in your mouth. He watched you toss all those rings at the carnival. For him. He thought you loved him. He thought he was home.


Susan Rukeyser writes and reads in Joshua Tree, California. Her debut novel, Not On Fire, Only Dying, was released by Twisted Road Publications and she recently completed her new novel, The Worst Kind of Girl. In 2018, Susan founded World Split Open Press to publish feminist books, including The Feckless Cunt Anthology. She also hosts the Desert Split Open Mic, Joshua Tree’s feminist, queer, and otherwise radical open mic and occasionally interviews local and visiting authors. Susan’s short fiction, creative nonfiction, and multimedia work appear in numerous places, both online and in print. linktree.com/susanrukeyser

Transfiguration by Nancy Hightower

You aren’t scared the night he creeps into your room. You know you should be scared, as he stands in front of your bed—hands on hips as if sizing you up—but there are too many things competing for your terror right now. You have to choose wisely.

I heard you crying, he says.

How’d you hear that? you ask because you’re sure he’s lying. You know how to sob quietly into your pillow so your Daddy can’t hear, how to quit early, so Mum won’t ask the next day why your eyes are puffy. Good girls don’t get puffy eyes or nighttime visitors.

You know how to lie, too, now that you’re turning thirteen. This was the week Mum said you could no longer run outside with your brothers. This was the week your hair was pulled tight and tied back in blue ribbons, while a chemise and corset imprisoned your chest and cinched your waist. This is the week you were to learn how to be a lady.

I heard you, Peter says again while his shadow nods in agreement. You don’t think much of that trick. What good is a delinquent boy and his shadow when doomed to a life you don’t want? Tomorrow you are to be fitted with new shoes that includes a little heel. It will angle your back and shoulders for a more ladylike posture, Mum explained.

Come with me, instead, Peter interjects, as if he had overheard the conversation.

Where? you ask, as if there are safe options for a thirteen-year-old girl whose room has been invaded by a boy and his shadow.

The Island, another voice answers. Or possibly many voices, as it does not sound like just one. You look at the shadow, which scratches its head. And then you see someone though a dust red haze standing by the window. If anyone says fairies like pink, know they’re lying because Tink hates pastels. Even leaning against the wall, hands in pockets and head tilted to one side, they are taller than Peter who scarcely seems taller than you. You take in their mass of black ringlets that frame a wide jaw and high cheekbones. You envy their maroon pinstripe suit. You can be anyone you want to be there, Tink adds. Not a girl’s voice, yet not a boy’s either. You can’t tell if they’re sixteen or sixty, and don’t care. Your palms are wet and your heart beats so loud you are worried Peter can hear it, but he just smiles as if he understands everything and says, we leave tonight.

 You want to pack your dresses and shoes and ribbons, but Peter keeps asking what for until you leave it all on your bed. Tink keeps close to the window, as if your room were a prison and to venture too far in might jeopardize their own freedom. When they hold out their hand, you lace your fingers through theirs, watch as they fold the moon into a smooth bright road calling you to another place.

Everyone is still up by the time you arrive. Young and old alike wear whatever they want: off the shoulder dress, slitted skirt, breeches with waistcoat and rainbow tie; their hair in braids or cropped short, while others sport wigs in cotton candy colors as if they were crowns. We’ve been waiting for you, Tia says, pointing to a large table filled with food. You and Tink sit side by side, your nightdress hiked up so that your thigh rests against theirs. Mum would never have approved, but you can’t quite remember her face or voice now. Even your old room disappears in the mist. Where can I get a suit like that? you whisper, but Peter overhears you. Hook will take care of it, he says. He can tailor anything.

Peter started the tradition, I help with the transition, Tink explains, as they take off their jacket to reveal a pair of razor-sharp diamond wings. Hook can sew, but no one cuts a pattern as well as I do. A shiver of fear and joy runs through you as Tink leans in, puts their hand on your lower back. Don’t worry. I can wait

You change your name from Wendy to Wen to Wendell, as Tink shears off your hair little by little, and the wind at the back of your neck feels like freedom. Peter gives all his future grown-up selves to keep the island invisible. Some days he can’t fly, because magic like that demands balance, courses through his muscles and joints like lightning. Tink makes a special tea to help him sleep through the night. Sometimes he takes too much and pretends he’s Queen Victoria. These are your favorite nights, even though the next morning is rough. Peter remains young and weary and welcomes all those cast out of their houses. Year after year they come to find a banquet awaiting them. Some weep at the sight. Others are surprised into laughter at such tenderness. Hook gives a fashion show every Spring to show his new line and you take up woodworking, surprising Tink with a rocking chair made for two.

One day Peter doesn’t wake up.

You feel the shift in the wind, watch the tides grow stronger and wonder what ships might accidentally find this harbor now. Some take a boat with Hook in hopes of finding a similar haven. Others travel deeper into the forest where Peter said there were caves to build a fortress, if ever the need came for it. Everyone knew Neverland was made on borrowed time. You and Tink remain in the house you built together, a stone’s throw from the green mound where Peter sleeps. Tink’s wings, beating back the tide each night, shrink with each new moon. Their glorious ringlets have started turning gray and shed with each new rain. Every evening you ease Tink out of their clothes, massage each sore muscle with hands, lips, and tongue. They moan with exhausted pleasure and lay curled up between you and Peter’s shadow, sleeping. You take turns holding them as a new storm moves in and the nightmares descend. One day we won’t need an imaginary island, Tink whispers. They kiss you for a second, an hour, an entire year, extending your life with each breath until you are an old man sitting with his shadow on a white sandy beach, dreaming it all true.


Nancy Hightower has had work published in Joyland, Gargoyle, Entropy, Washington Post, HuffPo, NBC News Think, and elsewhere. She is the author of Elementari Rising (2013) and The Acolyte (2015).

Not a Lump by Greta Hayer

I would have known what to do if it had been a lump; instead, in the mound of my left breast was a hole. At first, it was hardly more than a dark pore, like a pinprick, but after a few days, it was big enough to hide a button in.

I called my brother’s husband. “Honestly,” he said. “I don’t know that much about breasts.”

“You’re a surgeon.”

“I’m a foot surgeon.” He sighed, breathing into the mouthpiece. “Besides, I’m usually the one making the holes.”

Not what I wanted to hear. “How’s Mike?”

“Tell me you’ll get that looked at by an oncologist or something.”

“It’s not a lump. Cancer is a lump.”

When we hung up, I looked at my chest in the yellow light of the bathroom. The hole looked up at me, as wide as a dime. Inside, I only saw blackness, maybe a pinkish tone to it. I leaned closer to the light, shoving my chest over the sink and pressing hard against the cold porcelain. Inside, I saw a shiver of movement. Had something burrowed deep within me, or was I merely seeing my own heart?

I called my doctor, who asked if it hurt. It didn’t. Since it didn’t hurt, and it wasn’t a lump, he figured what was there to worry about? I nodded, though we were on the phone, and he couldn’t see my assent.

I went out. I started the night with a trio of friends. Not good ones, not friends who discussed something a precious as our own mortality. Besides, they were perfect, flawless versions of the female form, and certainly, none of them bore a hole in their chest.

I lifted a glass of wine to my lips, and for a moment, the world was only a pungent red sea and a clear sky. When I lowered the glass, my friends were gone, easing their way into the crowded bar, fitting into circles of conversation and pockets of secrets.

The bartender waved at my empty glass.“Another one?” 

“I guess. It’s not a lump.”

His face broke into a grin. “Then, you’re celebrating.” He poured a pair of shots. “My mom’s a survivor.”

His mom? How old was he? Not so much younger than me. Or maybe a lot younger. I couldn’t tell the ages of people younger than me anymore; maybe that was a symptom.

I grinned shallowly, but threw back the whiskey. The heat of it traveled down my neck, pooling like liquid fire in my chest.

My shirt dampened. A dark pool gathered above the hole, leaking whiskey onto my top.

The bartender noticed, pointing with an elbow as he poured another patron a drink. “Looks like you spilled.”

I shook my head and tried to cover the seeping wetness with a hand. I felt the eyes of everyone in the bar, gawking. My friends were nowhere, or maybe they were among the strangers staring. The liquor trickled down my chest, under my bra, past the waistline of my pants. I was dying. I had to be.

In the ER, the doctor checked my breathing and shook his head. He pressed the stethoscope to my whole breast and shook his head. “Your vitals are fine. Bloodwork is negative.”

I covered myself as best I could with the papery hospital gown. “What’s wrong with me?”

“I suggest you go home, sleep it off.” The doctor was already moving toward the door. “At least it’s not a lump.”

I touched the edge of skin around the hole, sticky with the remnants of the alcohol. It was big enough that I could probably insert my pointer finger. “Yes,” I said, nodding and smiling vacantly. “So lucky it’s not a lump.” 


Greta Hayer received her MFA at the University of New Orleans and her bachelor’s degree in history at the College of Wooster, where she studied fairy tales and medieval medicine. Her fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Luna Station Quarterly, and Maudlin House and her nonfiction has appeared in Booth and Flint Hills Review. Her column, “In Search of the Dream World,” can also be found in Luna Station Quarterly.

Five Things I Admire About Tudi by Olivia Post

1.  Tudi cannot be humiliated. This is not unusual for a dog, but it’s notable because my love language is cruelty. I tell her that she’s funny looking. I tell her that her face looks like a boiled potato that got dropped on the ground. She’s got that stupid Shih Tzu profile, where her protruding eyes fit snuggly between a leathery monkey nose. Sometimes her face, full of adoration and need, makes me so mad. I mock her in private and in front of others, but I always cast a smile on her after. I love her oddity—her goblin face, the way her fat ass waddles from room to room, how she’s unhurried like she has already decided where she’s going. I love her so much it spills out as contempt. I admire that she knows the difference between derision and love, and that it doesn’t affect her self-esteem.

2.  Tudi makes eye contact with everyone she meets and that makes people smile. And when someone tries to bend down to pet her, she’ll trot away knowing that she doesn’t owe them anything. This is admirable, because I’m so eager to please and rarely do. Sometimes she’ll make sustained eye contact with a man, and he’ll smile at her and then say “hi” to me. I’ll say “hi” back and notice that my voice doesn’t quite work, because I haven’t talked to a human in a long time. Tudi doesn’t talk much either. When she barks, which is usually at cats, she seems surprised by her own voice.

3.  Tudi has no friends except me. This on its own is not admirable, but she’s so satisfied with only one friend. In reality she’s my only friend too, and that thought fills me with a frantic loneliness. I wish I were more like Tudi.

4.  Tudi doesn’t have any ambitions and that doesn’t bother her. She sleeps twenty hours a day and only moves long enough to eat, or find a different place to sleep. I don’t have any ambitions either. I just get out of bed and go to work because I have to. Tudi doesn’t need to work and I wish I had her life. I do wish she would contribute though. I ask her to tip her server after meals (me). I ask her who will pay the bills. At sixteen, my mother started demanding rent money. She’d call me a lazy, fat slug in front of her friends. She’d call me useless and then give me a private little smile. When I ask Tudi for rent money, she looks interested at first, but then sticks her whole back foot in her mouth. I tell her she’s choosing to do nothing with her life, parroting my mother. But she doesn’t care.

5.  Tudi exudes a quiet joy and shares it with me. I named her Latuda after the anti-depressant my insurance wouldn’t cover and she’s exactly that. I call her over, telling her it’s time for my medicine. I call her CEO of Snuggle Corp. and demand a shareholder’s meeting. I admire her emboldened cheerfulness, how she’s immune to my criticism. My inner voice has mutated into a crueler version of my mother’s. “You stupid fat ass,” I think to myself when I do something not quite right. “You’re pathetic.” I don’t think Tudi has an inner voice, but if she does it probably doesn’t say that.

And One Thing I Don’t

1.  Tudi terrorizes the neighborhood cat who often lurks outside our door. The cat is only a little smaller than her and hides under parked cars when Tudi approaches. At first I thought she loved this cat, but her behavior doesn’t look like love. She barks and lunges, pulling at her leash with an unfamiliar fury. I can imagine her saying, “Get a job, you lazy fat ass. Do something with your life,” as if she’s learned from me all too well that cruelty is more admirable than softness in small things.


Olivia Post currently lives in New Orleans, where she is working on her MFA in Fiction at the University of New Orleans.

Where There’s Smoke by Leslie Walker Trahan

I never saw my mother with a cigarette when she was alive, but now that she’s dead, she goes through a pack a day at least. I smell her smoke in every room of my house. I find her butts smashed into my floors. She’s with me while I make dinner. I grease the pan with butter. I prepare the chicken to roast. Then I hear the quick tick of a lighter, and when I turn around, there are ashes lining my pan. Mother, I say, stop it. But she never listens. She’s already burned three holes in her recipe book, one in her wedding dress, too. At night, she waits for my husband to fall asleep before she starts in. There is the smell of smoke and the glimmer of a cigarette in the dark, and when I run my hands over my husband’s chest, ashes grind against my palm. When I go out, I smell smoke on the streets. At the dry cleaner, the bank, the grocery store. Everyone breathes out smoke, long wispy curls that dissolve when I look straight at them. So many people, I think. So many secrets. I remember those final days. My mother in her thick floral nightgown, tucked tight beneath her sheets, and me leaning down to hear her better. I sure would like to get in trouble someday. Her lips were pinched back, her pale pink gums exposed. I stop at a bar and ask a man out front for a book of matches. He winks and drops one into my palm. Come see us sometime, sweetheart. I hear Mother’s laugh behind me. When I turn, her embers graze my hand.


Leslie Walker Trahan’s stories have been featured in The Forge, New Delta Review, Gone Lawn, and SmokeLong Quarterly, among other publications. She lives in Austin, Texas. You can find her online at lesliewtrahan.com.

A Universe Waiting to Be Born by Cathy Ulrich

In this universe, time is on a rewind, time is in reverse, and the girl detective gets unkidnapped, gets set back down on the sidewalk beside the gaping Thomas from chemistry class. He is thinking apples like smells hair her, and his smile goes and comes, white-toothed. The girl detective becomes unaware of the long black car turning round the corner, her head dips down and up as she listens to Thomas’s backward talk, as they go backward into the school, as they grow younger imperceptibly, as Thomas’s hand nearly brushes the girl detective’s, as it pulls away.

The sun falls back into its rise, birds migrate north for the summer, the spools unwind and unwind, and the girl detective sits at her bedroom window and thinks alone not am I. Universes and universes and universes are there.

The girl detective walks backward home, her mother plays Billie Holiday backwards, her father returns from a trip he hasn’t yet left for. They uneat their dinner at the long dining table, empty forks becoming full, tipping back down to their plates. There is a silence of unspoken words that surrounds them.

The girl detective heads backward to her birth, she will be unborn, she will be part of the fabric of everything, small and new in this reversing place, she looks out across a sea of universes and a sea of girl detectives going forward and away from her, and she wants to tell them, I know how it ends, I know how it all ends, but she is swallowed up in her beginning and carried with everything into a universe waiting to be born.


Cathy Ulrich always sets her clocks at least 10 minutes ahead, which is kind of the opposite of going backwards in time. Or something. Her work has been published in various journals, including Quarter After Eight, Ecotone, and Flash Frog.

Other Husbands by M.L. Krishnan

 We aspired to be like you, with your spouse and lover and child, with the way that you gathered and displayed men as though they were hand-hammered coins that you strung from your wedding girdle—your veshti-clad husband with a voice like the wind at sea and a throat filled with song, and your lover from Bareilly or Ludhiana or some other city from the North with an incomprehensible name, with his mongrel loyalty and film-star looks, and your beautiful child whose joy fell upon you like a meteor outburst, her laughter slopping cosmic debris around your toes sheathed in silver. It didn’t matter who the father of that child was. It didn’t matter that you deserved none of this, the love, the men and their fevered attention, the way that you held yourself so self-effacingly, as if to dare us, as if to say, look what I can do with this cratered skin, with my unplucked eyebrows and unshaved armpits, with my teeth, with this phlegm-colored nighty that hung on me like a military tent, vast and irregular and frowned with creases. As though your good fortune was a life-insurance agent with a steady name like Kannan or Manikandan who pressed his bearded face into your upper thighs, and you took him in with your homemaker dullness, just as you did everything else. You were never like us. We shone too much, we jumped too far, we stood tall and proud in our splendor, in our angles of nose and jaw and leg, in the way that we excelled at everything that we put our minds to: field hockey, polynomials, makeup, the devotional compositions of Saivite saints. Maybe that was our downfall. Your compliance, wielded like a razorblade that slid easily under men, under us, under the viscera of our anxieties, our love, slick and hot and foreboding to the touch.


M.L. Krishnan originally hails from the coastal shores of Tamil Nadu, India. She is a 2019 graduate of the Clarion West Writers’ Workshop, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Trampset, Paper Darts, Quarterly West, Sonora Review, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter @emelkrishnan.