Thursday, December 4

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Retreat From Battle Now?

Details from a Lord of the Rings fantasy game interrupt details of a tragic, complicated personal life.

"Right about now, I assume you’ve gotten a bit bored. Dead babies! Let me tell you, dying babies bore the shit out of pretty much everyone, I’ve learned. So, let me take a moment to tell you a humorous LOTRO anecdote (that is, Lord of the Rings Online) about my level 25 minstrel character, Sinuviel. You see, LOTRO is free up to a point, and great fun if you have access to a computer that is badass enough to run it. Just before my fiancé, James, died, I bought a refurbished ASUS laptop for dirt cheap, and it was the best thing in the world for distracting me from how boring my dying child was to everyone I’d ever known."

Wednesday, December 3

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This Ain't No Party

An uneasy relationship between two people squatting in a crime scene house.

"But that guy was gone. In between the fourth and fifth beer at the bar, he disappeared in a haze of yellow and heat. Someone’s joke. A crack of broken glass. Tony and the guy out the door. Maybe in the back alley. And then it was all Tony Disco sidling up to me at the bar, his arm warm against mine, his breath like juniper. And now here he and I were, slumped on a dead woman’s couch."

Tuesday, December 2

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A Good Day's Work

The death of a pet leads to unique, unsettling mental strains.

"She needed to take a seat. Altogether too much for a morning already, and it was only seven. She collapsed backwards onto the couch and the thing jumped into the lap of her nightgown, settling into the space there, the way Caleb had done as a puppy. She touched it tentatively, and the thing seemed to shiver pleasantly under her hand."

Monday, December 1

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Horserace

Deep in debt, a man makes a large racetrack wager and recalls his history of gambling.

"I lean in to the betting window and tell her I want a grand on my horse. She looks shocked at first. She knows it’s a bet I shouldn’t be making, a bet I can’t afford, but she doesn’t know I’m running out of options. If I can’t come up with some serious cash soon, my number’s up. She types in some information but it seems to take her longer than usual."

Friday, November 28

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Irina

In a series of diary entries, a woman explores her terrifying relationship with a vampiric count.

"The first thing I saw this way was me. I was in bed beside him, and began to drift into sleep. When my eyes closed I saw myself, dozing. My hair was silver and gold on the moonlit pillow and my mouth was smeared with his blood. I opened my eyes and he was leaning over me, studying me. I asked him what was the matter."

Thursday, November 27

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Emil's Thanksgiving [Excerpt]

Survivors of a shipwreck have their endurance tested, and their story concludes on Thanksgiving Day; an excerpt from Jo's Boys.

"The other boats were out of danger and all lingered to watch the splendid yet awesome spectacle of the burning ship alone on the wide sea, reddening the night and casting a lurid glare upon the water, where floated the frail boats filled with pale faces, all turned for a last look at the fated Brenda, slowly settling to her watery grave. No one saw the end, however, for the gale soon swept the watchers far away and separated them, some never to meet again till the sea gives up its dead."

Wednesday, November 26

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Even Quieter Than This

Nighttime mysteries of flower petals and animals.

"The streets filled with coyotes at night. Their cries pulsated into our sleep in such a way that everyone thought they were a dream and never mentioned them to anyone else. I slept in their sounds until the last few skirted back to hiding places. Under cars and in bramble thickets."

Tuesday, November 25

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The God of the Living Room

Struggling with sobriety, a man considers faith in all its complications.

"Wishes pour out of me, spilling onto the couch like blood from a bull on an altar. Big wishes for the whole of humanity—world peace and things like that— then, medium wishes—a better job, a wife, kids even, which I’ve never, ever wanted before, and even small wishes I laugh at but still mean—the Cubs in the Series, for example. I wish to hate booze, wish that my stomach would catch fire and burn me to death from the inside out if I ever take another drink. I wish for a better life, for a new me, for a better spirit. Without knowing exactly what that means, I wish for a better spirit."

Monday, November 24

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The Ceiling

Horrifyingly astute reflections on a series of murders.

"The bank clerk gave John a pinched look as he pulled out his calculator, checking if she’d paid him the correct interest when cashing out Mother’s savings bonds. (She had, to the penny.) He sensed her subtle gloat. John didn’t care. He’d ended two people’s pain that day, single-handedly. Was SHE ever that kind?"

Friday, November 21

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Pop Fly

As a mother and son share cocktails on the porch, past problems are discussed and imagined.

"She was aware of the resonance of her son's voice. She guessed the neighbors were used to it by now, and would assume Bradley was having another mental fit. They didn't know how hard these family deaths had hit her son, and how tough it was to keep him from getting aroused, or agitated, a word his therapist used a lot. She knew too, that her son, like his father, was persistent and could fixate on things."

Wednesday, November 19

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Where We Must Be

A woman's life is complicated by a sick lover and a job playing Bigfoot.

"I wait for the woman to relax, watching for the instant when she begins to think: maybe there won’t be a monster after all. I can always tell when this thought arrives. First their posture goes soft. Then their expression changes from confused to relieved to disappointed. More than anything, the ambush is about waiting the customer out. I struggle to stay in character during these quiet moments; it’s tempting to consider my own life and worries, but when the time comes to attack, it will only be believable if I’ve been living with Bigfoot’s loneliness and desires for at least an hour."

Tuesday, November 18

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Gulf Return

Two fictions about yearning, morphing, and instincts.

"The stewardess needed time to figure out what protocol she should follow or what precedent the man and his possessions had set. The man preferred not to wait and ran as fast as he could through the door to boarding, past passengers who had already gone through and formed a line inside the tube with the little windows, waiting like blood in a syringe, now followed at an animal’s pace by the little suitcase on legs, ridden like a horse by the passport with the long fingers, a sight that both fascinated and terrified and caused personnel, propelled by some odd sense of duty, to stand in the way of the trio and block their path, to protect the plane and its pilots and cabin crew from what they couldn’t define."