Petur HKThe sun is setting, and I’m hungry and horny, and Girl knows it. She can always tell when I’m salivating.

We met at a bus stop in Chile back when I had first stopped shaving and she had just begun and the ground beneath our feet was just some place at the edge of the world. Later, it turned out we’d taken the same flight there and told the customs agent the same tale of how we were traveling to find out if the stories we’d told about the Chilean wine we’d served to a thousand German and Norwegian guests who came to bathe in the wet Icelandic summers were true.

sullivanChief Noc-A-Homa and Princess Win-A-Lotta share a secluded bungalow on the wooded shores of Lake Allatoona, about an hour north of Atlanta. Neither of the two former human mascots, a royal Indian couple, has worked an Atlanta Braves home game since 1986—nearly thirty years ago. They were run off from their giant teepee that’d been situated in the outfield bleachers in the now-demolished Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium after what began as a disagreement with team officials over the chief’s pay of sixty dollars per game. It wasn’t much to live on for a large city’s icon, even in 1980’s money. And the princess earned even less.

biosaraAfter school, Rachel comes over and we climb through the craggy hole in the fence and into the park. Everything is wet because it always is but we don’t care. We climb across the hillside to a patch of trees where Rachel likes to smoke cigarettes. We lie back on the grass and I listen to the leaves tap against one another.

“We should have a party at your house,” Rachel says for the hundredth time. Rachel loves parties and lugs me along on weekends. Parties are too chaotic for me but I am a teenager and that’s what we are supposed to do. Says who, I don’t know. Says Rachel. Rachel has streaks of blue in her hair because of course she does. She glitters everywhere she goes.

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When they first put Beth in the water, she sprouted metallic gold fins from her shoulders. Then her ankles and wrists erupted with the same, slippery matter, the fins’ edges serrating sharp but wave-like. They were very much what most wanted to compare them to, but few came out and said: Mercurial wings, lifted from the deity himself, built for speed, fluidity, transcendence, immortality and —this time around—displaced into the deep blue water. Beth, the two-year-old girl whose first dip into the cool, gentle pool had at that moment become a scientific phenomenon and impending national treasure, gazed at the new appendages in surprise and wonder. Her parents froze in shock, staring agape at their fish-daughter, until Beth’s large eyes crinkled into a smile, her tiny mouth giggled out a seal-like yelp, and she dove under the surface.

Buchner_Craig - Author Photo1The porch looked empty, but when I opened up the screen door, a man rushed at me, arms raised.

That’s what I’d told the jury. They’d questioned me for what seemed like days. A surgeon who took the stand said the bullet had entered the man’s abdomen, burst his spleen, and lodged between his seventh and eighth vertebrae. The jury determined I couldn’t be charged with any wrongful doing as the act was declared self-defense. The man survived, but he wasn’t going to walk right ever again. Social media interpreted the event differently because the man who was trying to attack me was doing so with a very large carrot that he’d stolen from Safeway only an hour earlier. Everybody with an opinion screamed about our country’s failure to help those with mental illnesses, that people like me had no tolerance for the less fortunate. But I’d sworn he had a steak knife covered in what I thought was fresh blood, but it was only the carrot’s hue turned reddish under the dim porch light. My testimony, however farfetched, was convincing enough and nine out of twelve jury members determined it was a no fault case. Reports showed that the man was not mentally ill but high on a psychedelic called Gator Grip. Apparently the drug made you feel like you were drowning. I didn’t know what people saw in it, except it made you think that every second was your last one alive. I guess there’s something beautiful about that.

photoHere’s the good news, Dr. Susan: I’ve made a real breakthrough since our last session. I was listening to a story on NPR yesterday about adults on the autism spectrum, and it made me realize I might be one of those adults. I’m not sure I recognize social cues. How else could I have not seen Bret was emotionally unavailable even after being so serious with him? Don’t you think that explains a lot? Yes, I can see you’re still with a patient. I just thought this was important. I’ll come back…

leah-paris-portraitThey call me llorarita—“the little crier” in Spanish. The word crier looks like the infinitive form of the verb for crying, but it is not.

Books made me cry. Reading aloud, in particular. It was embarrassing until it became valuable—a trick, a trade. The people are thirsty! they said. They wanted my tears. It hadn’t rained for days or weeks in Los Angeles, maybe years. I’d lost count. The asphalt on the streets was sun bleached and salt licks formed in wavy half-circles near the drains on each corner. Like the tops of dog’s noses in the summer. Even the ink in the pens had gone dry.

Tammy Delatorre-Headshot 022015Seated in the darkest booth of a steak joint, Nora couldn’t help but stare at Bill’s broad forearms resting on the mahogany table. Bill was quiet, thick-boned, and not her boyfriend.

bigvenerablecoverfinalThe Bureau of Everything Fitting Into Its Rightful Place

My friend Penny phoned and asked whether we’d go to the rally, my family and me. I told her I wasn’t sure. And in fact, I wasn’t. I knew that Burton wanted to cook again, meaty foods like steak or ribs. “Fire up the grill,” he said about what he was going to do. He encouraged me to go get the cauliflower and so I did. I went to the grocer and I picked some up, along with a few other items. The cashier had been friendly, didn’t even ask about my purchases. I liked to be left alone and not subject to inquiry when it wasn’t necessary. Among a few other unnoteworthy items, I was buying cauliflower as a delicious side for the meal we’d be eating that evening. Nothing more needed to be discussed. She probed instead about my day, about the rally, whether I was going. I said we might, my husband and kids and I. I wasn’t sure –much like I’d earlier told Penny. She said she was going and implied it would be good if I went too, with the family. She didn’t say it like she was trying to scare me. Still, I had to be getting home.

IMG_0495Every damn day in Religion Class, Sister Anna Banana yapped about the Soviets revving up to start a nuclear war with the new president, Ronald Reagan. She said after the cities burned to Holy Hell, there’d be something called “nuclear winter” that would kill all the plants and food, and it would last a million years. I’ll tell you what, a little bad weather, nuclear or not, wasn’t going to make me go extinct.

I’m already semi-super strong and fast, and I’m the best fighter in the sixth grade. But once World War III kicks off, I’ll need to be impervious to the nuclear wind-chill factor. Even though I was a whole year older than him, my little brother, Jaggerbush, was already immune to freezing weather, drinking sour milk, and the Ten Commandments. I had to practice up. I had a cold war to fight.

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My sister is sixteen and she’s already at that stage in life where she’s bringing over guys that look like Fonzie or Vanilla Ice. Some have tattoos, some have scars, some smoke cigarettes and listen to music that sounds like it’s been ground up and shit out through a ripped subwoofer. You take a little walk one day, maybe down to the neighborhood park, and when you come back home, you find these dudes there with their t-shirts rolled up to show off their stupid tats, smoking cigarettes and kissing your sister on the front porch. Some have greasy hair, pulled back in a ponytail. Others have buzzed heads and goatees, and wear leather jackets and work boots. It is summer now, both parents at work, and my sixteen-year-old sister is too busy with her greaser on the porch to give a shit about what my brother and I are up to.

Abbi2I.

The moon is falling out of the sky and into the lake. He’s going to AA meetings in the late afternoon, and swigging whiskey in the car after, until he can forget his name, until his breath is soured. Until he can forget how you point up at him and say wherever we are we will always have the moon, because he doesn’t want the responsibility of holding us together. His soft heart hangs too heavy; the bottle light in his hands. It is all our fault.

IMG_2905Lisa is a really pretty girl and Gina and I aren’t, but still, she’s our friend. So when Lisa comes up to us in the Santa Monica High parking lot after school on Tuesday and asks us for a ride, we say yeah. And when I get in the driver’s seat and Gina sits down next to me, and Lisa opens the back door to get in right behind me, Gina turns to me with this wild, mean look in her eye and she whispers, “Let’s just go!”

10459009_10152214303511127_1046608401945286575_oIn a crumbling-stucco corner house off Frazier Street, lived a boy who believed he was nothing at all.  Nightly, his drunk father’s eyes glowed red, and he spit fiery words, but not until fists hailed down on his mother did the boy run for the space between the stove and cabinets. There he crouched crying, “Coward! Coward!”

He listened hard through screams and breaking for his mother’s breathing. Sometimes she went silent, and he wanted to be more than a boy hiding between the stove and cabinet. There he fingered the black abyss of a crack in the linoleum praying, “Fall in. Fall in. Fall in. Fall in,” and one night his father did.

Susan Lindheim photoSouthwestern Arkansas, 1934

Lily peeked out the bathroom window and saw that nothing had changed: her mother Rose — wedding band hidden in her purse — was still flirting with the filling station attendant while her grandmother Miriam paced circles around the pale yellow Dodge sedan with the Chihuahua at her heels. One day Miriam’s jitteriness would give them all away, Lily was sure of it. One day they’d all get arrested because Miriam couldn’t just flat out pretend.

Edgar was already gone.