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Thursday, July 31

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Tony's Hat Lies Disused and Vulnerable

Child residents in a trailer park engage in a series of power plays.

"We stared at each other. A standoff that reminded me of our first showdown on the slide. I wanted nothing more than to push him. I imagined my hands in front of me. A simple gesture. He was so small, such a light frame; a mild shove would do it. I’d surprise him with a thrust of both hands, shooting out as if spring-loaded. His eyes would pop out, startled. Maybe he’d grin for a split-second, thinking it a joke."

Wednesday, July 30

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The Janitor in Space

A space station custodian reflects on her terrestrial past.

"She scrubs the fingerprints from the instrument panels, watches the lights flicker and dim. She wonders how many rags she’ll go through, how many surfaces have to get clean before she can finally empty herself of the past. She doesn’t know about metaphors but she knows that even the smallest human vessel has boundless storage for sorrow. Was there a right way to take in so much sorrow it burned clean through the lungs and heart? Was there a right way to atone?"

Tuesday, July 29

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Gunn

Siblings tend to lions at a Tanzanian animal clinic.

"Eleven years her senior, Derek left America when she was fourteen to study and work in New Zealand, Greenland, and Chad, combing lakes for pale bacterial blooms. Over a decade Diana had collected his letters, filled with descriptions of the origins of rivers, dead fish in the Niantic, elephant calves strung up in abattoirs. And when she finished her sophomore year, he founded the Keren Reserve, a lion research conservatory that commanded a half-million acres at the edge of the Sahel. He had filmed four documentaries for television. Now, he researched emerging atavistic traits in the prides: infighting, cubs abandoned by their mothers."

Monday, July 28

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Haida's Story

An excerpt from Murakami's forthcoming novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

“I have a kind of weird story related to death. Something my father told me. He said it was an actual experience he had when he was in his early twenties. Just the age I am now. I’ve heard the story so many times I can remember every detail. It’s a really strange story—it’s hard even now for me to believe it actually happened—but my father isn’t the type to lie about something like that. Or the type who would concoct such a story. I’m sure you know this, but when you make up a story the details change each time you retell it. You tend to embellish things, and forget what you said before. ... But my father’s story, from start to finish, was always exactly the same, each time he told it. So I think it must be something he actually experienced. I’m his son, and I know him really well, so the only thing I can do is believe what he said. But you don’t know my father, Tsukuru, so feel free to believe it or not. Just understand that this is what he told me. You can take it as folklore, or a tale of the supernatural, I don’t mind. It’s a long story, and it’s already late, but do you mind if I tell it?”

Friday, July 25

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The Drunks

A mysterious stranger in the woods; horrific escalations.

"When we were eleven Billy Jacobs told us he had seen three people standing at the edge of the woods. One was the redheaded man–or someone who from a distance resembled the redheaded man, a sicker, thinner incarnation of him. The three held big glass bottles as they waved to Billy. One let a cigarette fall from his mouth and the others shrieked with laughter. They stumbled away and were gone."

Thursday, July 24

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Roy Spivey

A chance encounter with a movie star on an airplane.

"Roy Spivey shifted in his seat, waking. I quickly shut my own eyes, and then slowly opened them, as if I, too, had been sleeping. Oh, but he hadn’t quite opened his yet. I shut mine again and right away opened them, slowly, and he opened his, slowly, and our eyes met, and it seemed as if we had woken from a single sleep, from the dream of our entire lives. Me, a tall but otherwise undistinguished woman; he a distinguished spy, but not really, just an actor, but not really, just a man, maybe even just a boy."

Wednesday, July 23

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Gedney Goes Bohemian

In pursuit of "cool," a man immerses himself in a subculture of kite enthusiasts. From the newly-online archives of The Baffler.

"Gedney had read an article in Men’s Journal on the kite craze in Europe, and he knew he wanted to be a part of it. He had grown tired of his rollerblades and his mountain bike; he hungered for a new lifestyle, a new set of accessories. After reading the article, though, Gedney had made a terrible mistake: he dusted off the old single piece bat-wing kite he had flown on the beach as a youth and headed for Sheep’s Meadow. There he was astonished to see a vast number of kite practitioners, most of them proudly and skillfully flying double-tails, box kites, even a few difficult Chinese dragons. 'How did I get so far behind so quickly?' Gedney thought as he somewhat shamefully unfurled his childish kite."

Tuesday, July 22

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Dial Tone

An unsettling story of murder and telemarketing; originally published in 2007 and recently anthologized in The New Black, edited by Richard Thomas.

"There is a noise—the noise teeth might make biting hurriedly into melon—punctuated by a series of screams. It makes me want to tear the headset away from my ear. And then I realize I am not alone. Someone is listening. I don't know how—a certain displacement of sound as the phone rises from the floor to an ear—but I can sense it."

Monday, July 21

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Wild Hearts

Two shorts about cowboys, love, and unhappiness.

"We’d been too young, too passionate. We lived wearing blinders: we only saw each other. After pay days, we had nothin’ left but a few dollars for a six pack and a pack of smokes, but that’s all we needed. We’d sit on the back porch, drinking and smoking, watching evening fall. And once it got dark, we’d go inside, make love, have a drink and another smoke, and then make love again."

"I drove past Low’s house, saw his truck out front. I didn’t slow down. My body ached, I prayed for rain—a purple-blue tempest, lightning slicing sky."

Friday, July 18

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Every Thought, Every Motion

An Antarctic data hack.

"Still inside the joy, he moved quickly and quietly through the cold, barren corridor, past a row of humming, refrigerated steel doors labeled 'BSL-4 Biohazard,' into the sterile, white labs. Four five-thousand-liter liquid nitrogen tanks were lined up against the wall, the tubes that fed them thick with insulation against the extreme chill of the coolant. The third vat was open and breathing ice crystals into the air. He was glad he had loaded out with a virus filter in the mask. The power was still on, so the tank might freeze again. He pushed the lid shut, holding his breath just in case."

Thursday, July 17

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An Object in Motion

An outtake from Backswing, Burch's latest story collection from Queen's Ferry Press.

"It started getting too big! I hadn’t planned ahead – didn’t stop and realize its size until it was too late. It was too big to fit through the garage door and the pieces were so interlocked and crosshatched, it took me a week just to break the thing down into manageable pieces to be able to move it. For a couple days, I was worried I might lose more of the work I’d done up to that point than I did."

Wednesday, July 16

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Leona Never Happened

A man's lifelong hold on an imaginary person.

"He could never really explain it, once he got past that age where it stopped being okay to have an imaginary friend. He always knew she wasn't an imaginary friend. But he desperately tried to explain it anyway, to all the school counselors and all sorts of in-network therapists as he got older. It was simple in some senses. She was supposed to be living on his street. She was supposed to be in his kindergarten class. But all the houses were full with other families. And every little spot on that circular alphabet rug in his classroom was taken by someone else. Leona never happened."