Penelope

I descend the attic steps stopping twice to curl into the bannister at the height of the pain. Once in our bedroom, I press my nose against the chilled, bare window, scouting for signs of life. The street is nearly erased like a sepia postcard, a two-dimensional image, noiseless, but for the crunch of an occasional snow-topped car or the wail of a muted siren crying in the distance. Carefully, I change from my bathrobe into a long-sleeved top, and maternity

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The Eavesdropper

After my brother died my parents pretty much stopped talking to each other and to me. I thought we were the saddest, most depressed family in the world. I never saw my parents laugh. We never went anywhere together and never even looked much at one another. And they definitely didn’t want me to ask them questions. Day after day of sadness and pretending to be a family.

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Beneath Loud Skies

Henry lay on his back with his eyes shut tight against the sun. His little brother, Lee, had socked him in the belly, and he was catching his wind as the grass walked up his arms and legs like insects. A neighbor was mowing her lawn a few houses down the way, and the noise separated into a whine and a rumble that chased each other over the fences and flowerbeds of the neighborhood. Henry tried sitting up and winced. Lee would have to pay for this.

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Hannah’s Chrysanthemums

The scent of fresh-cut grass assaulted me, like the raucous play of the children in the park across the street. I squinted from the bright light. Several cars crept by, music streaming from their open windows. Rex, on his leash, whined. I had the plastic bag at the ready, sweat dripping from my clenched fist. He pulled on my arm to run toward the park, but I hushed him. He’d just have to go here, in the small strip of city lawn. Rex whimpered

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Allen

By the time Eddie and Shonda have gotten out of the car and gone around the back for the picnic basket, the blanket and some extra jackets, their son Billy has made friends with some other kids in the park who are throwing pine cones at each other. One yells, “Die you mother” in a squeaky preteen scream and falls on Billy who is laughing and chases after him.

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Get Well Soon!

My coke dealer refuses to sell me heroin (dealers seem to think there’s some moral line in the sand, that if they cross they’ll vaporize), and Dilaudid might as well be plutonium the way doctors clam up when you fake sciatica these days, so sometimes, I am forced to resort to drinking buckets of what they, the desperate, call “poppy seed tea.” This diabolical mixture consists of about a pound and a half of unwashed poppy seeds, which can be

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Activities of Daily Living

On the first day of his family leave, Roy locked the knives in the gun safe. He stared at the butter knives for a while, and deciding they were fine, put them on the magnetic strip Jenny hung when they moved in. He took a step back, crossed his arms, and appraised the new setup. It reminded him of a model kitchen he might see in Sears or something from a child’splayhouse. It would have to be enough, he decided; there wasn’t time to dismount the strip before he had to leave. He took the safe key out of his pocket and hung it at the end of the strip. He got in his car and drove to the hospital.

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Threshold

I was distracted reading a work email on my phone when I first pulled the letter out of my mailbox and didn’t notice the address until I reached my apartment. It was meant for my unit, 3A, but in the next building over–the twin of my own. Bold green font promising a special offer inside meant it had to be junk mail, and for a moment my mood fell as I considered tossing it in the recycling. Instead, I left it on the counter and went to change out of my shirt and tie.

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The Night Neil Armstrong Walked on the Moon

Ginny’s sister, Janet, took the photo, after the first pitcher of martinis, a black and white still in its Kodak envelope that I unearthed yesterday in my old Navy sea chest. In the photo Ginny sits in an Adirondack chair, the chair with the missing slat in the back. We’re in Annapolis, the backyard of Ginny’s parent’s house. You can’t tell the chair’s color or the house’s color but I remember the chair was green and the house, once a vacation home, was a faded brown. The house sprawled along the bank of the Severn. Water moccasins inhabited the riverbank – their presence never seemed to bother anyone except me.

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