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Aquabot

Since Kurt didn’t relate well to living things, his sister Val got him an Aquabot for his birthday. It arrived from Amazon in an oversized box that held an ordinary glass fishbowl, a green plastic shark and an extra card of button batteries. “Activates when submerged in water,” the directions said, so Kurt filled the […]

Posted in Fiction, Flash Fridays

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Saint Burma

Plottoists brought it all back home last week for our final round of THE MASTER CONTEST OF ALL PLOTS, and the judges phoned in from their respective Thanksgiving locations to fight it out for the winning story. Congratulations to winner Nikki HoSang, whose clever “Saint Burma” delivers a homecoming we never expected. Jo was fluffing […]

Posted in Fiction, Flash Fridays

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Laws

PLOTTO took a turn for the harrowing last week. Protagonists committed crimes ranging from casual murder to poor artistic taste, political apathy to the unleashing of spiders. Or did they? Congratulations to winner Zana Previti, whose mysterious “Laws” brought us characters so convincing we thought we knew them, and so haunting that, by the end, […]

Posted in Fiction, Flash Fridays

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Thanksgiving

  Fictional writers got more than they bargained for last week. They sparred with disgruntled protagonists, relived their memoirs, and reckoned with that minor character they killed off in Chapter One. Congratulations to the winner of Week Three, Carolyn Oliver, whose poignant “Thanksgiving” reminded us the story is never over.  Check out this week’s prompt […]

Posted in Fiction, Flash Fridays, General

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Rust

Ghosts. Talking plants. A sense of self. Just a few of the (sometimes hazardous) surprises in store for last week’s protagonists as they took took up quarters in a vacant house. Congratulations to the winner of Week Two, Annesha Sengupta for her story “Rust.” The more times we read it, the eerier it gets. Check out […]

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Hey Neighbor

Week One of PLOTTO: THE MASTER CONTEST OF ALL PLOTS brought in an overwhelming array of great stories. We found ourselves in busy train stations, fish markets, and test labs. Strangers passed each other cryptic letters, time-travel talismans, howling babies. And then they vanished, leaving us eager for more. Congratulations to last week’s winner, John Lawton, […]

Posted in Fiction, Flash Fridays, Tin House Books

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La Grande Guerre

A parasol and a stone seawall and a polished lady clad all in white: ostrich feather hat, fringed purse, silk gloves. Her posture lovely, her coiffure tight. But Mag has planted a flower in front: a blue hydrangea pom-pomming preposterously. Star-shaped blossoms facade what Georgette would most like to see: is the lady’s face as […]

Posted in Fiction, Flash Fridays

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Everyone

This isn’t one of those stories where someone has cancer. In this story, everyone has cancer. Everyone is sitting in a room with an old friend, while the sunlight fades behind a stretch of Victorians and old oaks, and the room goes dark and only the candle light illuminates their faces, and they talk about cities in […]

Posted in Fiction, Flash Fridays

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Liking

My friend asks me why I like her, but I don’t know what this question means, let alone how to answer it. Liking is a fundamentally unstable state with its own laws. There are some people who I agree with in every way and yet I don’t like them at all, while there are others […]

Posted in Fiction, Flash Fridays

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Brown Dog and Gee

She wasn’t going to the hospital again, no way. It smelled like pee there and her mother always yelled at her to stop kicking her foot against the leg of the chair while they waited for the doctor. She didn’t like the hospital, despite what her dad said: “Well, for not liking it, you sure […]

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Half Warrior and Weeping Woman

  There’s a girl, Cherise, pronounced sure-EEZ, in my yoga class that meets in the church every Tuesday night at eight. She used to come to class with her boyfriend, a tall guy with a beaky nose and they would stand with their arms around each other, smiling. Or he would lie on his mat, […]

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Fraternalia

There was a time in my mid-twenties when I came to believe that everyone in our family, including my brother Eliot, would be better off if Eliot were dead. I loved him dearly. That was not the point. Dark-haired and dark-eyed in a family of fair-haired people predisposed to good cheer, Eliot was a perfect […]

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Learning Paris

TODAY’S PICTURE was from the Musée d’Orsay: the bright, vaulted windows, gilded finishings, and me, smiling underneath. I thought I’d have time to see most of the museum before the kids’ school let out, but I moved too slowly among the impressionists, then had to hurry with the rest. I did stop for several minutes […]

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Story Ideas That Are Not About The Girl

An optometrist who tortures his clients by giving prescriptions that are slightly off; A prose poem that compares the old Greek men on the local soccer field to Homer’s Greeks, their ancient, tan bodies darting across the green battlefield; A faceless narrator watching a pair on the beach, trying to determine if they are mother […]

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Young Ahab

When Ahab was an infant his mother would bathe him in seawater. They lived on Nantucket Island, where everybody lives by the sea. This comes from the sea, she said, rinsing him, this is the sea, and he giggled and sucked his fingers. And then his father’s ship came home, overflowing with oil from a […]

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October in Montana

We’d been playing pretend for almost a year and he still wouldn’t go back to his life. Meade wouldn’t acknowledge he had another life at all, though he’d bring me into it in ways, mentioning how Cole seemed to like me, driving me by the ranch where he and Cole and his wife had lived […]

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What Was Your Favorite Color Growing Up

If you walked into that house you’d think you’ve just walked out of it. It always smells like toast. Toast and fertilizer. There are a lot of green plants around but none of them are alive, unless you believe plastic breathes, and the man in there does. He does tai chi after breakfast every morning […]

Posted in Fiction, Flash Fridays, General

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Jeebie Jeebie

The boyfriend’s girlfriend used to speak to him like he was a baby. She would come up to him stringing nonsense sounds together like “jeebie jeebie” or “newmoo newmoo” and hug him or pinch his cheeks. After she bought the dog, however, the girlfriend stopped talking to the boyfriend like he was a baby. Instead, […]

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Ohio

It’s dark and this is Ohio and we are alone, you and me and oil-movers and tubs of melt-rock rotating. We’re not going to the same place or we are. You pass tankers and I slip behind you. You leave me enough space always. You’re from Illinois, I’m in limbo. You drive fast when you’re […]

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Vacation

On vacation, I meet a man with awful bleachy hair. I am the kind of drunk that means I suck his dick while he brushes his teeth in the hotel room. He is the kind of drunk that means he grabs my tit for just a second before he passes out, mouth open, throat wet […]

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3 Stories of God

38 The child wanted to name the rabbit Actually, and could not be dissuaded from this. It was the first time one of our pets was named after an adverb. It made us uncomfortable. We thought it to be bad luck. But no ill befell any of us nor did any ill befall the people […]

Posted in Fiction, Flash Fridays, Tin House Books

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Ancient Ham

Once a year the Ancient Ham crawls out of the sewer to sit on a curb and answer questions. People line up down the block. Before the Ancient Ham will answer, they have to poke it: they bring offerings—small sewing needles decorated with beads or feathers or floss.  When the Ancient Ham reaches needle capacity, […]

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Drought

Lindy’s yard was studded with containers of rainwater: buckets, trashcans, a red wagon, rubbery industrial barrels that once held Greek olive oil. Already, blossoms were budding on the nectarine tree. Winter in California is a brief affair. One day as Lindy was putting her kids in the car, she glanced at the wheelbarrow half-filled with […]

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The Histories

1 She thought that the moment was probably supposed to be poignant—when she discovered the origins of her name—but since she was sitting on the toilet when she read the letter it lacked elevation. Henceforth, when she imagined her name, she saw it written out in her father’s slanty cursive beneath a harsh yellow light […]

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St. Monica’s

She was late to the Mass dedicated to her boyfriend’s late mother, who died just two months before her father. Stepping into St. Monica’s, making sure her heels didn’t click too loudly, she saw him—Matt the Agnostic—In the very back pew. She slid in next to him. “You told me it was on East 81st,” she hissed. “It’s actually […]

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