Posts Categorized: Fiction

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Fiction Feature: “Down” by Carmen Maria Machado

Down

When a late-summer tornado leveled a nearby street four days after Sam’s eighth birthday, his father took him to see what was left. It was while standing in a crowd of gawking neighbors that Sam saw, with unprecedented wonder, that the surface structures for half the block were completely and utterly gone; their basements—the bones of their foundations—were exposed to the air.

It had never occurred to Sam that so much was underneath.

After that, he began to imagine, with some regularity, descending feet-first into the ground. As if in a kind of elevator, except he was the elevator, and able to see the things below, even when Mother Nature’s finger didn’t peel away the earth like a scab. He adored what could not be seen, what was definitely there in a way that could not easily be proven.

When he looked at gas stations, he saw volatile reservoirs of petrochemicals, motionless but dangerous. Trees were tangles of roots; stop signs were cement cylinders. During an early-season soccer game, Sam stopped just short of kicking the ball down the field because he could see nothing but aluminum cans, packed deep in the earth like razor blades in apples, flattened and buried after years of picnics and storms. When a group of protesters occupied a local park, Sam saw the sewage tank beneath their Porta-Potty, festering and blue.

When he and his father went camping in the mountains, Sam saw his stream of urine soaking into the pine needles as a constantly elongating shape, filtering unevenly through the layers of loam and dirt and stones in a funny, stretched-out line. This sent him into a fit of giggles. Only when it went on for four minutes, and then trickled off into a staggering moan, did his father realize that something was wrong. Sam said the word “her” seven times quickly, softer with each invocation, and then fell to the ground, twitching.

Full of guilt, the parents who had previously banned all video games on the grounds of brain-mush bought Sam Dig Dug.

Sam considered it the best present that he had ever received in his life. He slid the nub of the joystick one way, and then the other. He moved his man through bright layers of dirt like they were nothing. He made new paths and destroyed the monsters. His mother watched this from the doorframe, her lip curling in a way that she would remember twenty years later. She watched Sam sitting there, triangles of hair damp with sweat and plastered against his skin like a cartoon character’s, eyes focused on the screen, a drop of saliva in the crease of his mouth. She found herself reciting the title over and over in her head. Dig Dug. Dig Dug. Clipped present tense, protracted past. A thing that only ever got bigger.

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40.1 SNEAK PEEK: ARABIC LESSON by LATIFA AYAD

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Latifa Ayad is a Libyan-American writer whose fiction and nonfiction confronts issues of identity. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, The Normal School, Whiskey Island Magazine, and The Stockholm Review. Her piece “Out and Out” won The Master’s Review/PEN America 2017 Flash Fiction contest. Ayad holds her MFA from Florida State University.

 

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40.1 SNEAK PEEK: excerpt of DAY OF REST by KAITLYN ANDREWS-RICE

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Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice received her MFA from American University, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of Folio. She is the editor of Split Lip Magazine, and her short fiction appears or is forthcoming in Booth and Copper Nickel. She lives and writes in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. Find her online @thelegitkar or thelegitkar.com.

 

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40.1 SNEAK PEEK: excerpt of THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF TONY RINALDI, THE MAN WHO CHANGED PRO WRESTLING FOREVER by SALVATORE PANE

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Salvatore Pane is the author of the novel Last Call in the City of Bridges in addition to Mega Man 3 from Boss Fight Books. His work has appeared in American Short Fiction, Hobart, Paste, and many other venues. He teaches at the University of St. Thomas and can be reached at www.salvatore-pane.com or @salpane on Twitter.

 

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40.1 SNEAK PEEK: excerpt of PESTILENCE by MIKE ALBERTI

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Mike Alberti was born and raised in New Mexico. He received his MFA in fiction from the University of Minnesota. His short stories are found or forthcoming in Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, The Florida Review, Gulf Coast, One Story, and elsewhere. He lives in Minneapolis, where he is at work on a novel.