by Tess Crain
America prizes smiling. Companies in client-facing industries have been known to circulate “service with a smile” policies, which require workers to feign happiness, if necessary, to please customers. “Hey Philly, got a smile only a brother can love?” “Give Us Your Crooked, Crowded, and Snaggled Teeth.” “Come in for a lifetime supply of confidence.” So asks, begs, and pledges SmileDirectClub, one of several fix-your-face startups with pandemic advertising. I understand. I got braces freshman year of high school and did not smile with my mouth open for two years.
by Harris Lahti
The first house I ever worked on with my father was a farmhouse with syringes and beer cans ground down deep in the yard. It was my job to rake them out so as not to ruin the mower. But I ruined the mower anyway when a live shotgun round went off and bent the blade. In response, my father handed me a scythe.
by Robb Todd
People complain about the city. There is never not something to complain about. The sidewalks fill with leaves — red and gold — and these critics still complain. Some people complain and never say goodbye but, sometimes, a complainer vacates. The complainer who vacates complains about the city long after she has left. She complains that when she first moved to the city, the city was great. The city was amazing — she never felt so alive. Best thing ever. Never had so much fun. But the city is not great nor amazing nor the best anymore, and it never will be again, she claims. It changed. Forever, she alleges. The city changed. Not the critical complainer, though, just the city doing all the changing.
by Katie Yee
The day I find out I am pregnant is also the day my husband decides to get serious about becoming an actor. I hold up the pink plus sign, and he starts Googling open auditions in our area. The first call my husband makes isn’t to his parents, it’s to his college buddy, Vito, a so-called talent agent. I hear him on the phone in the next room, saying, “I’m ready to be a serious man.”
by Zack Graham
Christian loves culture. It’s how he spends all of his time. He champions good books (with the exception of graphic novels), reading the books he likes twice, even three times in a row. He listens to podcasts. He spends entire days “at the movies,” going to double and even triple features at a single theater. Culture is Christian’s life, and writing about culture is his life’s work.
by Ernie Wang
Josh was eleven when he surpassed his dad Gary in muscle mass. He had surpassed him in strength years earlier, at seven or eight, but he feigned weakness and perfected his acting craft, and his exhales drew out longer and his face contorted with pained effort before he let Gary beat him in their nightly after-dinner arm-wrestling bouts. Josh would look at him with awe, to which Gary would look pointedly at Josh’s mom Sally. Sally, stone-faced, would studiously dip her spoon in her soup in even intervals, ignoring them both. Josh wanted to hug her and tell her everything was okay, or strike her with a single blow to send her flying across the room and scream nothing was okay.
by Siena Oristaglio
I’m sitting on a park bench surrounded by pigeons.
They teeter and flap about.
It’s raining but they don’t seem to mind.
They peck at the ground, scouring for crumbs.
Their heads scan the surroundings mechanically.
I shift on my bench.
A few turn towards me with an ominous agility.
One sinks its head into its thick neck plumage and gives me a suspicious look.
I stare back at it.
by Greg November
The dog rushed from between two large junipers flanking the road on the straightaway at the McCallisters’ place, so Denmore stomped the pedal and let the ABS take it from there. The squeal of polybutadiene rubber fusing to pavement—although it could have been the dog making the sound, he couldn’t be sure—flushed Denmore’s blood from thorax to extremities, where it pulsed like many small heartbeats.
by Tess Crain
Friday night, in Toronto, Slovenian philosopher and analyst Slavoj Žižek will debate Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson on the topic of “Happiness: Capitalism vs. Marxism,” with Stephen Blackwood moderating.
The internet (including Twitter, Toronto Life, the Chronicle, and the Stranger) has a lot to say, and the more you read, the more the debate seems like a title fight or crossover smackdown: it’s the “debate of the century,” a “philoso-fight”; Peterson “wants to throw. The eff. Down”; Žižek will “verbally curbstomp” Peterson—basically, something between Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier III, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Conor McGregor, and Alien vs. Predator. Just with words.
by Michelle Ross
You people read about our town in the news—first the rape allegations, then Dolly Molly, then the car accident—and you think you know what happened. You think you know something about who we are. Reporters come here in their shiny cars and their jewel-toned dress suits, they ask a few questions, they spin a few stories, and now everyone from feminist bloggers to my annoying Aunt Monona, in Branson, Missouri, to random douchebags on social media thinks they know everything there is to know about us.
Get a copy of our double-sized 15th Anniversary Issue
Our Fall/Winter 2019 issue features new fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, with photographs by Sophie Barbasch.
Contributors: E. Kristien Anderson, Derek Annis, Shayne Barr, Jennifer Blackman, Kate Brittain, Mary Byrne, Bill Cheng, Bryna Cofrin-Shaw, Ani Sison Cooney, Sergei Dovlatov, Michael Ray Ferlazzo, Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry, Irving A. Greenfield, Iris Hanika, Kent Haruf, Gabe Hudson, Lisa Ludden, Lincoln Michel, Henry Mills, Celeste Mohammed, Jason Porter, Molly Quinn, Tomasz Różycki, Kaleigh Spollen, Seema Srivastava, Grace Talusan, John Wray
with translations by Yasha Klots & Ross Ufberg, Mira Rosenthal, and Abigail Wender
Buy the Fall/Winter 2019 issue!
Our Fall/Winter 2018 issue features new fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, with illustrations by Vincent Le.
Contributors: David Albahari, Karen Bender, Eugene Brogyányi, Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Lisa Chen, Ellen Elias-Bursać, Nick Fuller Googins, Paulette Guerin, János Háy, Suzanne Highland, Christopher Kang, Michelle Har Kim, Pingmei Lan, Eric Laster, Vincent Le, Yukiko Motoya, Dennis Pahl, Sam Pink, Brynne Rebele-Henry, Evan Gill Smith, José Watanabe, Asa Yoneda