Read with Care | Disturbing Content
We said Grace. Asked for Grace. Named all of our children Grace, even the boys. We convinced the governor grace making was an essential business. We opened a factory and manufactured cubes of golden grace we packed in cardboard boxes and shipped around the world. We thought this would be our saving grace. When our plan failed, we dressed in our Sunday best, sang Amazing Grace at the top of our lungs and pretended to be better than we were. We hammered grace into halos we wore like tiaras and hoped it wasn’t too late to be saved.
Rae Theodore writes about the view from the margins. Rae is the author of My Mother Says Drums Are for Boys: True Stories for Gender Rebels, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender, and hundreds of weird/sad stories and poems. Twitter: @FlannelFiles.
you seek my body, your hand on my face, turning it away to enter me. i am immediately responsive, you feel my warmth in your bones. the lack of eye contact taboo – almost more intimate than seeking my eyes. sometimes it’s rough, the way i like it. tonight, soft, like you need. when it’s rough, i scream as the pain bites into me. tonight, faced with tenderness, i sob...racked with shudders until you’re done. i wonder if you understand why i cry when you’re gentle. i wonder if you notice how something can become exactly what it isn't.
Mela Blust is an award nominated poet and artist. She is the author of two collections of poetry and can probably drink you under the table. You can find Mela on Twitter at
HOLLY RAE GARCIA
Any events should advance the plot and be worth watching, in which case, change the scene with Richard’s son, Andrew, into a meaningful exchange. Screw it, how about have them go at each other with cleavers?
Characters shouldn’t be too flat, but maybe “Not gonna happen” is all Richard’s wife ever going to say, as she drums her fingers on the tabletop. No, have her listening to Pearl Jam on heavy-duty BOSE headphones so you don’t have to invest in dialogue.
The setting should include at least a few salient details—maybe do something with the oddly scarred linoleum in the kitchen. Why’s that one gouge the shape of a fatal car wreck?
Anti-climaxes don’t count for much, but will putting in Richard’s lemon pudding surprise really help? Splatter the pudding over the ceiling so it looks coital.
Endings are always tough. That’s what revision is for. Go back to the start. Try to find where you fucked up.
David Galef is a shameless eclectic who writes far too much for his own good, let alone that of others. He’s published extremely short fiction in the collections Laugh Track and My Date with Neanderthal Woman (Dzanc Short Story Collection Prize), extremely long fiction in the novels Flesh, Turning Japanese, and How to Cope with Suburban Stress (Kirkus Best Books of 2006), and a lot in between. His latest is Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook, from Columbia University Press. Day job: professor of English and creative writing program director at Montclair State University. He’s also the new editor in chief at Vestal Review. Website . Twitter handle @dgalef.
The unknown editor’s email greeting. Learned excuses echo: you’re making too much of it; boys will be boys. Putting on tea, she looks it up: sexually attractive woman; patronizing address of woman; lovers’ term of endearment; sexist insult; eye candy; term men call women in dominance display; term straight men call gay men as insult; whore of muffin world; someone lacking courage; perfect size female; sweet girl; woman seeking favor of powerful men. The kettle boils.
Grabbing cupcake tin and ingredients, she bakes. After they cool, she ices her middle finger, rolls it in sprinkles, snaps photo, and sends response.
E. L. Blizzard lives in the US South and is published in a few handfuls of journals. After giving up on looking for the helpers, she tried to be one. She’s spent years in advocacy, allying with immigrants/refugees, cis/straight/LGBTQ+ survivors of intimate partner violence, and those experiencing homelessness.
HOLLY RAE GARCIA
I LET A STRANGER FUCK ME IN AN ACE BUDGET MOTEL
1. make a list of strangers. name the first one ——. find blood-soaked underwear in their gun drawer. be six. tongue secrets. swallow the beatings you are not seeing.
2. make a list of strangers. name the twelfth one ——. marry them. vow silence. you inherited violence. be twenty-six. find them hanging from a rafter. cry at the funeral. abort the baby after.
3. shred this list. rent a motel room. let them all in. slice up your sin. swallow those scabs. find a paper sliver. scribble a new list. write your own name. the very last stranger.
Julia is from the composer’s cleft-house: birthrooms of R♭s buds, gallows of sheetless children, darkrooms where razors score film for language. She explores the complexities of intergenerational trauma, mental illness, and everything wordless. She is a current MFA student at UC San Diego. Twitter @JuliaMoncur
1977: FIRST HUNT
Creeping through the dark coppice forest, we search for scuttling claws at the edges of zigzagging torch light. Land crabs are inching toward the Atlantic Ocean, crossing fields and open roads, hell-bent on fulfilling their migration destiny. Our high school instructors teach us to stamp down hard on the midsections with our tennis shoes and grasp the creatures by the back of the carapace. The crabs are tossed into a writhing mesh bag. At the Andros Island Forfar Field Station, we dump the crustaceans into a kettle and devour the steaming meat, our laughter ringing in the savage night.
Jennifer Shneiderman is a writer and a landlady living in Los Angeles. The Ohio woods were lovely, dark and deep, but she broke all of her promises, eschewed the snowy trails and made haste for the California sun. No pets, no plants. Only words. You can find Jennifer on Twitter at
GOD AND COUNTRY
Every Sunday, I ride the crosstown bus. This old man waits with me. He has a strange walker—it’s got an American flag attached with masking tape. He's got a little ledge for a boom box, and one Sunday he told me to get up from the bench so he could put his batteries into the stereo. When it is working, he plays the radio, loudly for everyone to hear. Sometimes he gets on the bus, sometimes he doesn't. I watch his flag blow in the wind, and I think: what has this country done for him?