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Birthday Tree by Chris Raia

JULIA LOOKED at ME like I was crazy and then stared back at the oversized palm tree sitting in the middle of our living room decorated with Christmas lights, streamers, and little Styrofoam stars. Naturally she was confused; after all, a decorated palm tree isn’t a very conventional gift to give your wife on her first birthday since you were married.
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Pile of Dirt by Aaron Case

Growing up as a kid in the nineties, summer always seemed to represent this sweltering vacuum of imaginative release. Sure, at school during recess, we had our twenty minutes to try and relentlessly dig to China using plastic sporks from the cafeteria, or make stick villages near the monkey bars, or suspending ourselves over gravel heated by early-May, pretending that the rocks below were lava.

The Bobble Glass Scholar by Michael Berntsen

The blister on his nose burst from all the typing. He continued to press it against the keys despite the thin stream of blood, puss, and sweat rising between the crevices of each letter. His determination subdued the pain. His focus distracted his stomach from its emptiness and his kidneys from their overflow. If he weren’t wearing his lucky Emily Dickenson boxers, the ones he never took off during the month of his four comprehensive exams, he would have happily soiled himself.

Aunt Peggy by Ron Jon Jones

Aunt Peggy, a boy, stood outside the Dunkin Donuts and watched his father pull away. His face felt as pink and as warm as the red neon sign. His father had taken him out for coffee for their weekly visitation. “What the hell are you wearing?” His father had asked. Peggy was wearing a red, Indian-patterned shirt and orange corduroys. He stuffed his hands in his pants so that his father wouldn’t see that he bit his nails. The father played with Peggy’s shoulder-length hair, and went into a lecture on personal hygiene. The boy’s carnie-barker mustache had overgrown, and you could see the greenish-blackheads stuck to the corners of his nose.

Kissing Frogs by Cooper Nelson

She gracefully drew her foot from the car doorway and touched her heel to the cold concrete sidewalk beside the limousine door. The clicking of her stilettos resonated throughout the dark night. The iridescence of her sparkling black heels glistened in the moonlight like shimmering fish scales. Her leg stretched on for miles above her heels as they rose from the concrete sidewalk and disappeared into the shadows of her four-wheeled, horse-drawn carriage.

“The Physics of Water” by Michael Patrick McSweeney


I.

I'll never fully grasp the physics of water:
the slip of an ocean's arm
beneath the shoulder of another,
the surrender to liquid force,