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Marie-Helene Bertino Buys a Bookshelf

For reaching a human milestone, I am given five credit card gift certificates, imprinted with numbers, each containing a different amount of money. Sensing improved finances, my bookshelf surrenders against the weight it’s been expected to carry, sending books tizzying across the floor. I ask everyone, where should I buy a new one? Shelf Barn, […]

Posted in Fiction, Flash Fridays

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Little Girl

She slept with men who only wanted to play Settlers of Catan. She slept with law students who had framed copies of the Constitution on their bedroom walls. She slept with sound architects, sound engineers, and the second baseman from her softball league. She hardly ever slept. Sometimes she took a pill, but often she […]

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Departed

My husband Jack worked at the steel mill. The smell of diesel and sweat followed him home every afternoon like I once did, three years ago. He tucked his hands deep in his pockets the first time I saw him, so that I wouldn’t see the black half moons that wove under his fingernails. Ashamed, […]

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My Jesus Year

A week after I turned thirty-three, I was listening to cello music on internet radio, contemplating that this was my Jesus year, when my roommate called to say she’d found this dog wandering alone, tagless, no collar, by the Hudson River. She’s sweet and friendly my roommate said. What should I do? Don’t bring her […]

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Uta’s Escape

Two days before the synchronized swimming nationals, our Flyer vanished. I don’t mean she didn’t show up to training, and I don’t mean she left the pool through a door and didn’t re-enter the door. In the ninth hour of training, we threw Uta Franke into the air and Uta Franke did not land. The […]

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The Best Buy on Reserve

At the Best Buy on Reserve, I saw my future self in line to buy an Xbox. He had twenty years and fifty pounds on me, and he’d lost his hair. But he was me; I recognized myself, like you can recognize your red Outback in a parking lot full of them. I don’t play […]

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Neighborhood Notes: Rewind

The diabetic alcoholic across the street had lost all limbs by now. He only came out anymore for Medi-Van transport to dialysis. It took two strong men to hoist him and his wheelchair down the splintered wooden front stairs. He lived alone with his aging mother, who never came out to wave goodbye. That mother? […]

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Grandma’s Sex Robot

Grandma calls her sex robot Sony. We tell her that’s just the company who makes it. “Well,” she says, “he looks like a Sony. Doesn’t he?” We tell her he doesn’t. We tell her ‘he’ looks like an automaton with silver skin and copper eyelashes, which is exactly what he is, one of many mass […]

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Breakfast

There are thick pieces of toast, but his mother is absent, even though she did place the plate in front of him and now leans against the counter watching him eat. In fact, she is waiting for him to ask for something: more butter, another flavor of jam, cinnamon, a different knife—one without these small […]

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Apocope

A friend of mine died last month. We weren’t particularly close, but I liked her a lot—we’d have coffee near Union Square every so often and she’d talk about her budding music career and I’d talk about my long-gestating novel. I tend not to enjoy unifying conversations about art that include me. I admire the […]

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Legs

  They sat on the linoleum floor, the two of them. His watch was the only thing moving. Through the small window above the sink the rising sun was bleaching the room white. The sound of a garbage truck, a man calling his dog, newspapers hitting doorsteps. Her long, bare legs were out in front […]

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The Very Difficult Job

  “Walter fired Polly,” Marsha said. “Because she wouldn’t let him kiss her.” “Well, I wouldn’t let him either,” Sally said. “Good for her.” “He caught her near the supply closet. Not a very original thinker.” “I wonder if he really had hopes. Do you think he expected she would? That might mean that he […]

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Birthday

My wife still wouldn’t leave her room so I had to take the afternoon off to bring Buster into the vet. At home the dog was hungry and all the lights were off. There were two more sympathy cards in the mail. I threw them away. Buster was tearing ass around the house and wanted […]

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Patrick, My Great Uncle Adolphus’s Duck

My Great Uncle Adolphus had a pet duck named Patrick. Patrick was insecure, needy, foul-tempered, and brilliant. Not just brilliant for a duck either, my Great Uncle would say. Patrick possesses a keen mind. He has a deep curiosity about everything under the sun and a bracing skepticism! Patrick would hiss at us whenever we […]

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Hello From an Old Friend

The impulse comes over me when I’m bored and out of sorts. Paul would say that it’s Satan at work in me. Since I know what he would say, I don’t tell him. Looking up Marla from high school leads me to Jody, posing with two kids and a car. Her husband works for Union […]

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Husband

  If you should have an ex-husband, who first writes, then doesn’t write, then writes to the point of absurdity, then refuses to write, refuses to receive correspondence from you, refuses to acknowledge you in any way, denies you exist, then writes again, angrily this time, then less angrily, then angrily again, then leaves off […]

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The Mission Lands

While we wait Molly explains to me from the backseat the secret history of San Francisco. There didn’t used to be hills, she says.  That’s what they said at school.  It used to all be just water from where the bay is now.  That used to go on for more, where the ground is, and […]

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Hurry Up Please

Do I want to hear a drinking joke? Do I seem like the type who would answer that question? A guy walks into a bar, and so what? Maybe he nods at the regular who keeps to the corner or eyes the ragged blonde grabbing a smoke from a guy whose paunch prevents him from […]

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Simon and Mr. Garfunkel

  We weren’t used to our teachers being famous. Instead of an apple, Mr. Garfunkel kept a Grammy on his desk. Still, every class quickly learns to play its teacher like a Rickenbacker. You hear about the ones who drone on because they love the sound of their own voice, but you don’t usually hear […]

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What We Were Doing

  “Think of what you were doing at his age,” Andrew said. His fourteen-year-old kid skateboarded a respectful distance ahead, up the dark winding path on the Santa Cruz cliffs, that steep drop into the invisible ocean, so that we could smoke a joint without feeling guilty. We’d all gathered for a friend’s wedding. Andrew […]

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My Father Took Me To Watch

First-born, a girl, but anyway his first-born so he brought me to watch when he touched the other woman.

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How to Eat Chicken Wings

  There’s a map bred in the bones of the bird. Before you ingest the chicken wing, you must know the vertices of its hinge, that place where tendons and gristle connect and shake hands. It’s all very scientific. Step One: The Origin Find a likely tray of sacrifices at the church picnic. You’re in […]

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The Adjunct

It was the final night of the Eagleburger retreat, held at a cluster of chalets owned by an alum’s shell corporation. The mountains were too close to see. Snow hissed into the jacuzzi. The Dean, the Department Head and the Adjunct stewed in the frothing glow. The Adjunct wore boxers. He had forgotten to pack […]

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Pincushion

When they were children, she and her sisters buried their baby teeth in the garden behind their house. Her youngest sister believed the flowers that grew over them—all pink and drooping like pouting mouths—burst straight from the enamel. Roots spread out through the pulpy gums of the earth. She told her youngest sister, Probably Mother […]

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Regrets

Twice, I have given fake phone numbers to men I met in bars. The first must have been fifty. He bought me a drink; and, offended by how little I talked to him, took it back half-drunk. Ballsy. The second was a film director in Berlin. He was sweet and well-dressed; ever since, I’ve been […]

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