By Jenae Janzen
I work on a hunch. I’m always working on hunches. I have a hunch that if I follow a man in a green jacket into a corner store I’ll find a solution. I used the colors only in order. I colored only on the right-hand pages.
Today I realize I don’t love you. Today I realize love is only an illusion, and that I only wished to love you. Today I realize that you are only an illusion and I only wished to love you. I wanted to tell you this in person, but I had forgotten. I was too in love with the idea of love to admit this.
We’re taking the interstate. You’re driving. I’m sitting in the passenger seat, reclining, I’m holding a magazine and the directions that we printed off have slid onto the floor and gotten lost amongst the fast food wrappers and discarded clothes. I flip a page and read you advice on pleasing girls. You ask me to read you the exit you need to take instead. I put my sunglasses on.
You miss the exit. I just shrug because I don’t really care where we’re going. You yell at me to find the GPS and I hand you your backpack. You don’t like this. I don’t care.
I read you another article, and this one’s on “sex cravings,” whatever that means.
You turn on the radio, so I start talking louder. You turn up the radio. I start talking even louder. This goes on for several minutes before you nearly run off the road and that shuts us up. After too long of a silence, you see a sign for a hotel and we pull off into the parking lot.
By Martin Olson
Somehow, Jacob Wilde kissed Chastity Goldbern in his college dorm room, standing between the dresser, which hid bottles of liquor beneath its clothes, and the desk, whose drawers collected friends’ lighters and empty packs of cigarettes. Somehow he sat at her side and held her hand, even as she cried for his addictions and weaknesses and condemned his soul. Somehow he won the approval of both her midwestern parents and the majority of the ghosts of her ancestry, and somehow he settled down with her in Bantam, Nebraska, where she worked telling dysfunctional children Mommy and Daddy may be going to Hell, but there is still plenty of Jesus left for you. Somehow, they conceived and raised a child, Dennis Mitchell, to adolescence, and remained stable enough to serve as a loving foster family. But that is where their miracles stopped.
On the television, the afternoon news botched a convenience store robbery in Lincoln, shooting the clerk in the face before he even opened the register, then fleeing the scene empty handed, just to be killed in a confrontation with police less than a mile away.
By Rebecca Epp
“What are you going to do today, sweetheart?” my grandfather inquires as I take a seat at the table next to him and start spinning the Lazy Susan. Filled with spices, sugar, sauces and spoons—why is it called a Lazy Susan? “I don’t have any concrete plans,” I say as the balanced disc moves with the slight touch of my fingers.
“Did you want something to eat?” my grandmother asks. She thinks I’m too skinny. Probably because she is fat. She bustles about the kitchen in her flower patterned apron between her two ovens. Why she needs two I do not know. There are three people living and eating here. No need for two.
“Did you hear what I said, dear?” I look up to see her staring at me like I was infected with a social disease. Like I was not quite all there. Concern mixed with pity. Like the way she looked at my mother. “No thanks, Grandma.”
She starts muttering something in German. Grandpa looks up and says something in reply. Something like ‘Leave her the hell alone’ I imagine. Or ‘What are we having for supper tonight’.
By Megan Siebert
“Syd, roll your window down a couple inches.” Sydney obeyed her mother and shut the passenger door of the car, squinting up into the bright gleam of the unnatural cross perched on the spire. Jesus didn’t die on a titanium cross. He died on some criminal-fit wooden posts. For our sins. Thank God.
Stop touching your stomach, she reminded herself as she followed her mom and brother up the cement steps to the tall oak doors of the church. An old man pressed his thin lips together and crinkled the corners of his eyes in greeting as he slowly hauled open the door for Sydney, but his welcoming expression went unanswered as she sailed by him into the foyer with her eyes down and her knuckles tangled together in front of her ribs. She wondered if the other church members bustling around the green carpeted lobby noticed her gliding around on tiptoes. She wondered what each whisperer guessed to the next about why Sydney Benton seemed slightly strange this morning. She wondered if they could detect, with each step, the weight of something that didn’t even breathe yet roosting impatiently just behind her navel.
She slid into a pew next to Ellie.
“Hey,” Ellie yawned.
When would Sydney have to tell her friends about her drive downtown last night? How she almost went to the Walgreens in Obispo Plaza but had panic attack about seeing Jen’s mom there again? When would she confess that the old man at the CVS had looked at her with such disappointment that she started crying? Like it was her own grandfather or something. The pew was particularly hard this morning.