What It Is

The world watched the man grow increasingly detached from society, as if while the world progressed, he remained fossilized in a time of his own. Everyone recognized that he was ensnared in antiquated ways — everything from reading tangible newspapers to retaining nearly long-expired principles about society. Hence, everyone abandoned him at some point, leaving him alone in his rambling Victorian mansion somewhere out west, or maybe down south, or perhaps somewhere in between. He, too, soon forgot where exactly he was or what time it was, as he spent his days on his armchair, besotted with the paper and a glass of scotch or whiskey containing ice that rattled each time he picked the drink up or placed it down. That rattle was the only thing that signaled to his maid, a pretty indigenous woman with a forced sense of humor and an inauthentic approving countenance, that the man was still alive. Because otherwise he was a recluse in his armchair, reading the paper, only sometimes muttering phrases to himself like “devilish dissidents” or “my beloved Union.” The maid stayed separate, minding her own business except when she popped in every two hours to make sure the man hadn’t misplaced his hearing aid, for he had a tendency to take it out, claiming the cruel device inflamed his butterfly-like earlobes to the point of bleeding. But he knew the actual reason, and so did the maid: he had no one to hear, or rather, no one to whom he wanted to listen, so his hearing was rendered useless. This went on for days, months, years, until at some point (the man knew not the date), protests pushed towards the mansion after a young black boy was killed at the playground, between the swing set and the monkey bars, and then another one on the sidewalk by the Chinese grocery store, and then a third one in an apartment and a fourth one on the stairwell, unless the third was on the stairwell and the fourth was in the apartment. And it was only then that the white man and the maid had their first real dialogue since forever, and it was simply the maid resigning, still bothering to reassure him that the problem surely did not lie in his character but in the nature of the outside circumstances. Yet the girl herself gladly joined the chanting crowd outside, while the man was anchored on the inside, laughing to himself at their efforts without a flinch of consternation. He spent his days in the rocking chair, the ice cubes no longer making a sound because no one could hear them, until one evening a masked gentleman flung a Molotov cocktail through an upstairs window, setting the room afire. The man did not hear it, of course, but eventually as he went upstairs to turn down the heater, it was then that he saw the flames besieging him, but still, his reaction was nothing, not much: “It is what it is.”


Alex Lee

Alex Lee is a writer from New York who has won several awards and received much recognition for his fiction and critical essays, including from The New York Times. When he is not writing, Alex can be found reading plays or watching whatever is on PBS.

Haiku Dream

Noriko sits on her knees in a gold and black kimono, wide sleeves holding fragile arms, palms on her lap, thumbs hidden. With white hair pulled back, cheekbones rise under eyes deep in memory of Manzanar. In Block 25, she lived with her mother and father next to an ancient apple orchard he pruned and tended, picking yellow fruit and storing baskets in a cellar the other men built for the skin to turn red and sweet. Being the oldest Issei man, younger than his daughter is today, he was given no work, left to himself while his wife made rounds as a dietician, using rations to plan menus for those suffering illness, and Noriko learned how to diagram English sentences, sticking words on limbs. The Sierras ten thousand feet above, her father hiked the creeks, no one believing an old man could escape the wire. He brought home branches of myrtle. Noriko would watch him sit for hours, carving boughs into lamps and table legs. Once a night heron emerged from his hands, short neck and short legs. Her father placed him at the edge of the steps. Alone to wait for the rising moon.

Chella Courington

Chella Courington (she/they) is a writer and teacher whose poetry and fiction appear in numerous anthologies and journals including SmokeLong Quarterly, X-R-A-Y Magazine, and New World Writing. With three chapbooks of flash fiction and six of poetry, she recently published a novella-in-flash, Adele and Tom: The Portrait of a Marriage (Breaking Rules Publishing), featured at Vancouver Flash Fiction. A Pushcart, Best Small Fictions, and Best of the Net Nominee, Courington now lives in California.


That girl’s come again, the one called Jewel. She likes to correct me, says her name is Julie. I know. She’s my youngest granddaughter. That’s what she says. Like the others, she visits, like the others she says goodbye. Jewel comes often enough, I’m starting to expect her, and maybe it’s not just to say goodbye. She asks after my sleep, the food. It’s mud, I tell her. Jewel, who wants to be Julie, looks toward the window. For a change, it’s broken clouds, some blue sky, the snow gone elsewhere today. Nobody has to shovel. You must be glad you have a window. I like to look out. That chair makes it easy to watch the birds. Jewel walks over to the chair, presses a hand against the cushion, waits for it to push back. Very supportive. Go ahead, try it. No, Grandpa, it’s yours. Always like this. Yours. Mine. Theirs. Hard to know what to make of it. I’ll join you in a moment. Go ahead and open the window. Probably not supposed to. Only way to hear the birds. Jewel, who has black curls of hair pulled into a messy bunch, says, I can see them. Magpies? Perhaps. Well, you can’t hear what they are saying. What are they doing? Pecking between the cracks. Always looking for sunflower seeds, crumbs, stupid bugs. There’s one who has no tail. That’s Squirt. He steals whatever anybody leaves out there. Sometimes people don’t even realize they lost something. He took my watch and a ring I used to have on this here finger. Awful snug that ring. Not sure how he got it off. I rub and twist both sides of my finger. You can still see the mark it left. I swing my legs off the bed. Not as easy as it used to be. No faking that. Let me show you.


Connie Wieneke

Connie Wieneke’s prose and poetry most recently has appeared or is forthcoming in Weber, Talking River Review, Split Rock Review, Camas, Stand, and other journals. Her work also has appeared or is forthcoming in anthologies, including The Artists Field Guide to Yellowstone and Orison Anthology. Since 1983 she has lived in Wyoming.

How Many Mad Scientists Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?

The question twisted my guts, triggering an uncontrollable urge to pee.

10,000 applicants for one scholarship to the world’s most prestigious university.  If not me, a life mining coal like dad, both granddads, four great granddads.  Grades made the first cut.  Board scores the second.  Extra-curriculars the third.  Interview, the fourth.  Now the essay.  100 finalists.  One winner.  No runners up, no honorable mentions.  99 losers.  Other scholarships?  Too much coal dust under my fingernails, in my lungs, in my DNA.

My bladder felt like a pressure cooker without a safety valve.

Found an answer online: One to map the bulb to Euclidian space, one to compute the covariant.  99 other laptops glowed with the same answer.  Fiendish, allowing us to use our laptops.  I wracked my brain.

None because we don’t have electricity.  Too third worldish.

My bladder felt volcanic, lava ready to spew forth.

An infinite number to debate whether light bulbs existed.  Too philosophical.

I hailed the proctor.  I begged.

No bathroom breaks.

I cursed.

Four, one to propose to change the bulb, one to obstruct the change, two to debate whether it needed changing.  Too Congressional.

I Googled Edison.  Light bulb jokes hadn’t been invented yet.

Two, one to change the bulb, one to replace it with the original bulb for reasons of editorial clarity.  Too New Yorkerish.

I squeezed my legs together, squirming in agony.

A dude closed his laptop, handed in his blue book, departed with middle finger raised in triumph.

Two, one to change the bulb, one to write a song of nostalgia about the original bulb.  Too folklorish.

A second person, a third, a dozen, the room emptied.  My bladder wished it could as well.  I loosened my belt to lessen the pressure.  A minute or two of relief.

Buridan’s Ass, the philosophy anecdote from college days.  Unable to decide whether to change the bulb or not, the mule stood paralyzed in the dark.  Too paradoxical.

I was alone with the proctor who tapped his wristwatch with impatience.  My underpants dampened.  In pain, I scrawled words in my blue book, hurled it at the proctor, raced to the men’s room, my pee arcing into the distant urinal, a perfect one color rainbow.

None, I had scribbled.  Light bulbs don’t wear diapers.

I won the scholarship.


Frederic Liss

Liss whose first novel was published in July, 2020 is a multiple Pushcart Prize nominee, a nominee for the storySouth Million Writers Award, and a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Prize sponsored by University of Georgia Press, the St. Lawrence Book Award sponsored by Black Lawrence Press, and the Bakeless Prize sponsored by Breadloaf Writers’ Conference and Middlebury College. He has published more than 50 short stories. He has received numerous awards and other forms of recognition for individual short stories including The Florida Review Editor’s Award for Fiction; James Still Prize for Short Fiction sponsored by Wind; Midnight Sun Award for Fiction sponsored by Permafrost; Third prize in the Arthur Edelstein Prize for Short Fiction; Finalist for the Raymond Carver Award for Short Fiction sponsored by Carve Magazine; and Honorable Mention in the New Letters Literary Award for Fiction and the Glimmer Train June, 2014 Fiction Open. Liss has also been published in The Saturday Evening Post, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, The South Dakota Review, The South Carolina Review, Dogwood, The Worcester Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal. He earned a BA from Amherst College, Amherst, MA; a JD from Columbia University School of Law, New York, NY; and an MFA from Emerson College, Boston, MA. He was the recipient of a Grant-in-Aid in Literature from the St. Botolph Club Foundation, Boston, MA where he leads a workshop in writing fiction.


I slow the car when I spot the wind turbines, their majestic arms swooping in circles, chopping the unrelenting summer heat. Miles of blades work at smooth paces, but a few sit unmoving, broken or tired. You enjoyed this stretch of the drive best.

It’s 7 o’clock in the morning when I leave Chicago after this dream I have about you, or maybe it’s a memory. We were on our second date, drinking mugs of beer at the Rathskeller. You told me your middle name was Lee, your grandfather’s name— my middle name too, spelled the same. We joked it would be our firstborn’s too. How old were we? Almost 30, because I felt my life was just a pile of the same shit, and I loathed being older. I didn’t tell you that I had been darkening my hair since I was 20 to cover the gray.

“Thirty’s not old,” you said. “A hundred is old, and most of them are happier than us.”

“Doesn’t mean they aren’t disappointed about something.”

“Sure,” you said, raising your glass, a smirk reaching your mouth. “Here’s to disappointments.” The look in your eye was clear— you would be the optimistic one.

I must have made the three-hour drive down I-65 ten times before you graduated and moved into my studio apartment on Hermitage. You approved of the exposed brick wall and free laundry in the basement and complained about the faulty windows that allowed that chill into our space. I hated the glow from the television when you stayed up late, and you made fun of me for leaving empty beer cans upside down in the sink when the recycling bin was in the cabinet underneath.

“I never do anything right.”

“You picked me,” you said.

That was our life for eight months.

I go to Noblesville, where your parents still live, my nerves uneven because it’s been a while. The sun hides behind the one big cloud in the sky when I park the car, my hands cool when I remove them from the steering wheel.

It had happened fast, faster, when I allow myself to remember correctly. Within three months, one whole season, your face changed from oval to triangle, skin covering bones. The leaves of the oak trees were already orange and yellow that day at the lake when we saw all those well-dressed people, a handsome group, celebrating. We guessed a wedding or a memorial.

“Or maybe they’re just happy,” you said, recognizing it. Pops of light, vessels that held meaning, moved upward, closer to something we hadn’t discussed yet.

The newly-cut grass stuffs my nose when I sit next to the headstone. The fake flower wreath, one I’m sure your mom left, is limp.

I say out loud: “You asked, ‘You think people get married in heaven?’”

Yes, I thought, knowing that’s what I should have told you.


Lesley Stanley

Lesley Stanley is a writer living and working in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She received her M.A. in Creative Writing from Wayne State University in Detroit in 2016.


From the top of the Bull Street library’s rooftop, compressors groan, and pneumatic tools bang and whine and almost drown out the workmen’s crisscrossing commands.

Those guys are, undoubtedly, among the crews Cara has seen throw lunch scraps out their truck windows. On sultry mornings

like today,

her Black Russian Terrier, Piper, will rush for nothing except the chicken bits. Gray bones camouflaged on stained concrete. Some Piper will swallow before Cara can get on her knees to wrestle the splinter-dangers from between his slimy cheeks and deflecting tongue. He’ll dance and gulp; Cara will get slobbered;

Savannahians in starched outfits may saunter by and stare.

Piper curls over to shit on the library plaza’s coarse tiles. Cara waits.

The sun glares. Perspiration dribbles beneath her sleeveless shirt and shorts. The half-year she’s lived in Savannah, Cara has come to accept she drips;

she doesn’t dew like the local ladies’ claim.

Though Piper, with his knotty fur, must suffer worse. Cara reaches to rub his head, halts:

she shouldn’t distract.

The silence makes her squint toward the top of the library. Men backlit in haloed hardhats stand along the makeshift pine rail.

“Lemme lick ya lollipop legs,” someone shouts and incites crass laughter.

“I’ll never dump you,” shouts another.

Piper bobs his rear:


“I’ll sue your company,” Cara yells at the workers,

louder than they.

The driver of a Porsche cabriolet that passes just then shoots her a side-glance. His red tie flutters.

“For fucking harassment,” she yells, harder yet, cheeks burning.

The lip of men

drops back out of sight.

She collects Piper’s shit with a biodegradable bag.

Why couldn’t they just have tossed a bone?


Pernille AEgidius Dake

Pernille AEgidius Dake was a finalist for Glimmer Train Press 2014 New Writer Award as well as December’s 2015 Curt Johnson Prose Award and has been published in Skirt!, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Dime Show Review, Glassworks Magazine, and is forthcoming in Adelaide and Typehouse Literary Magazine. She is an MFA Candidate in Writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Listed at Duotrope
Listed with Poets & Writers
CLMP Member
List with Art Deadline
Follow us on MagCloud