Archive for the ‘New Voices’ Category

Eight New Voices Stories To Read on Valentine’s Day

It’s almost Valentine’s Day again. Yeah, the holiday can be kind of schmaltzy, but it’s nice to have an entire day dedicated to showing affection for the people we care about. To help celebrate we have compiled a list of some of our favorite stories from our New Voices section, which features fiction and narrative nonfiction by emerging writers published online. Whether you want to celebrate your love for your partner, your family, or your pet—or if you simply want to read a tale in which all men are zombies—we have a story for you.


If your furry companion occupies a special place in your heart, you will adore Jessica Lee Richardson’s story “House Hunt.” In it, a woman searches for a new home with her best friend, who just so happens to be a lion. One of our favorite lines: “The love I had for this lion was like a stake made of piano keys driven through the throat. Thick, painful, echoing.” Just read it.


While intergalactic travel may be the principal factor uniting the Star Wars series and Samuel Jensen’s brilliant, quiet “Sarajevo,” I think that we can all agree that love stories are infinitely more romantic when they’re set in space. “Sarajevo” takes place in the future on a moon that is light years away from earth. In a cave on this distant moon, a deaf geologist miraculously hears—for the first time—the voice of her lost love. Trust us: you will be moved. Read the story here.


If you’re looking for a story about relationships that is realistic, but not romantic, you will love “That Was Me Once” by Megan Cummins. In this story, a man facing possible jail time spends an afternoon tagging along with his ex-wife. While he entertains romantic notions about this past relationship, his current girlfriend waits for him at home. He says about the two women: “I turn away from Dani, but the idea that I would go to her, if beckoned, keeps a steady pace with my love for Mara.” Continue reading here.


 In “Clean Hunters” by Lena Valencia, Emily and her husband Gabe share a passion for ghosts. They are clean hunters, searching for spirits not with fancy detection equipment, but with their natural Sense. However, when they travel to a famously haunted New England inn to celebrate their anniversary, tension in their relationship mounts. “Clean Hunters” is an illuminating examination of the notions of dependency and deception in relationships. Dive in here.


William Pei Shih’s “The Golden Arowana” is a beautiful examination of the love of family across different generations. In this story, a man and his grandmother take a road trip to claim a valuable fish. “The Golden Arowana” was the second runner up in our Short Story Award for New Writers and each one of its sentences shimmers. Read the whole story.


If you are simply done with all of the Valentine’s Day sappiness, let us suggest “Life After Men” by Dale Bridges, in which all men are zombies. The author had this to say about his piece: “Turning the male population into mindless, bloodthirsty zombies allowed me to reduce “men” to a convenient metaphor without being too literary about it. Emily has been hurt by all the men she has ever known, but she’s still drawn to them. She loves them, but she also wants them to die. I think that’s how I would feel about men if I was a young woman.” Read on.


In “Katie Flew Again Tonight” by Trent England, a man struggles with the fact that his wife can fly. He knows that, eventually, she will fly out their apartment window, never to return. This story examines our desire (and inability) to protect those we love. It is a moving meditation on marriage. Read it here.


“Iron Boy Kills the Devil” by Sheldon Costa is set in a speculative world in which drones from a large company are the only source of supplies for a small, rural town. However, it evokes the feeling of coming of age and coming into your own. This exacting story is told from the point of view of fourteen-year-old Iron Boy. It touches on the discovery of sexuality and reminds us of the power of youthful optimism in a beautiful, rough, and unforgiving world. Discover the story here.

Browse our full New Voices archive here.

by Sadye Teiser

New Voices: “Mistakes of Thought” by Youmi Park

Today, we are pleased to present “Mistakes of Thought” by shimmering new voice Youmi Park. This unique and cutting story delves into what it feels like to experience injustices and acts of discrimination that go unacknowledged by those who witness them. Please join us in welcoming this exacting story to our library.

“There are these insensitive things people do and say without even knowing, without even thinking about it, and in some cases, with good intentions. I’ve heard people say, ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ In Japanese, it’s called ‘mistakes of thought.'”

I found my Mama in the front yard garden, caught up by the next-door neighbor again. That mouth-running, frizz-hair broad in jean shorts was holding a finger in front of Mama’s face, bouncing it five times in front of her eyes. She was enunciating and talking at her real slow, like Mama was an animal that wanted a treat, and I didn’t like the way Mama was looking back: like an animal that wanted to run. I know hurt when I see it. You don’t have to tell me.

So I walked out of the garage with my arms crossed and said, “What’s going on?”

Mama’s body stiffened. She had her hands cupped in front of her, holding poppy flowers, the dirt from the roots freckling her yellow dishwashing gloves, which she prefers to regular gardening gloves. That’s what she’s always used. Latex is just easier to clean and a woman’s got to be practical if she wants her work to get done. And that’s what she was doing, getting work done, planting new poppy flowers, until this neighbor got in her face with her finger and slow talk.

“What’s going on, Lilah?”

“Oh, Maki, oh, good,” Lilah said. “Come here and listen to this.”

She swung her rawhide arm around Mama’s shoulder and turned her toward me as I walked over. Mama gave me a quizzical look, wide-eyed and eager, like she was trying to convince me to feel something other than what I was feeling. Mama, she’s so small, her eyes looked like they were taking over her entire face. They were—and I can say this for certain because I got up close—wet with unease.

I kicked the empty flower carton out of my way, spreading dirt between us.

“Your mother here was telling me about her new caretaking job?” the willowy broad said. “And you know what she said? She said, ‘My schedule is set illegulaly.’” She bounced her fingers in my face. She repeated, “Ille-gul-lay.”

Mama looked up at me and shrugged.

“I told her to never say that again!” Lilah said, rattling Mama’s shoulders. “My god, what if people think she’s saying illegally? What if they think she’s an illegal worker?”

“I’ve been a citizen since 1998,” Mama said.

“Well, all the more reason that we don’t want people thinking she’s an illegal.” Lilah flashed her teeth, her stupidity damping the air and wetting her lips. “And that’s why we were having ourselves a vocabulary lesson. Say it with me, Kimmi.” She lifted that finger again. “I-rre-gu-lar-ly.”

“I-lle-gu-lal-ly,” Mama repeated.



“That’s pretty good.” Lilah turned to me, leaned forward, and whispered, “The R’s are the hardest, aren’t they?”

She smiled widely at Mama, who tightly pulled the back of my shirt. I felt like I was being suspended from a skyscraper, way up high past the atmosphere of real life, with just that point—Mama’s grip on my dirty t-shirt—holding me back from falling, arms swinging.

“That’s good, though, Kimmi! That’s really, really good,” Lilah said in baby talk. She waved her arm once and walked back to her patch of the street.

“See you both on Garage Sale Day,” she said. “Looking forward to what you have for me this year.”

To read the rest of “Mistakes of Thought” click here.

New Voices: “Night Vision” by Glori Simmons

Today, we are proud to welcome “Night Vision” by Glori Simmons to our New Voices library. In this story, an American soldier stationed in Iraq faces—and crosses—moral lines. This story is deftly written, moving, and precise. It is part of Glori’s collection, Carry You, which is forthcoming from Autumn House Press in March.

“Patrolling that night, Clark had the feeling that they shouldn’t be there. . . . He hated the false security provided by the night vision goggles. They made it too easy to confuse oneself—to forget that while the goggles revealed what was out there, they did not conceal the man wearing them.”

The guy was just standing there, killing time. These were the words Clark used to describe the first guy he shot in the war—to Tibbs and Lyons and the other soldiers, to the lieutenants and the cheek-biting captain with his chest full of brass pins, but never to Ned. To get back on track, he’d take a deep breath, sniff hard, and spit the thick phlegm near his boot. Killing time, that’s how it all had started.

*     *     *

Clark and Lyons stood guard in the wide basement hallway they called the Dungeon, a place where weapons had been stored even in Hussein’s day. In the pitch black, Clark couldn’t see much of anything except for the blue glow of the light Tibbs kept on his key ring, which was dimming as he and Ned disappeared further down the hallway. They’d had a few beers, courtesy of a source that Ned refused to divulge, just as he’d refused to explain what it was he was looking for in the armory. It was a Tuesday, past curfew. This was one of the many stupid things the guys did to unwind and forget the gore of the day, one of the many things they did to kill time.

As Clark’s eyes adjusted he was able to make out the neckless outline of Lyons who was rocking back and forth like a boxer in the ring just before the bell went off. Clark didn’t like Lyons; the feeling was mutual. “You hear that?” Clark asked.


“I think one just ran across my boot.”

“I’ve been trying to stomp on their tails,” Lyons said.

“I can take about two more seconds of this.”

“Copy that.”

They stood in the dark a few more minutes until the armory door slammed shut and they could hear Ned punching in the alarm code. He and Tibbs hurried toward Clark and Lyons with four bulky contraptions in their uplifted hands: night vision goggles.

“Follow me, men,” Ned said, and once again Clark found himself following Ned without asking questions.

To read the rest of “Night Vision” click here.

New Voices: “Private Affair” by D.S. Englander

Today, we are thrilled to publish “Private Affair” by New Voices author D.S. Englander. In this quiet and powerful story, a man feels fiercely protective of his wife, who is receiving threatening letters from one of her students. This is complicated by the man’s reflections on his own history with women.

“He had met Ali in his early thirties after a long lonely stretch of years. She had changed his life. He felt only horror at the thought that she could somehow be hurt or taken from him.”

A light breeze played through the windows of the Subaru, and it felt refreshing to Desalt, who was visibly perspiring behind the steering wheel. It was hot, hotter than was normal for May. He tried to inch a little closer to the gearshift, to escape the sun’s glare, but that didn’t do much. The whole parking lot was baking.

He watched the doors to the school, where his wife would appear. Presently, it was mobbed with activity. Teenaged boys were filing out, dressed in khaki pants and oxford shirts. It was a uniform that he thought marked them for future corporate lives. Some wore blazers, and Desalt noticed two boys with white ball caps pulled low on their brows, as if they were a pair of executives about to hit the links. He pulled the lever on his seat back in disgust, and reclined just enough to give the tightness that had been bothering him lately in his lower back some relief. He tried closing his eyes against the sun’s glare, but that didn’t work.

The school was a brick building with little flourishes and buttresses from another century, three, four stories high. From where he sat, Desalt could see the curtains billowing in the high, second-floor windows, perhaps in one of the classrooms where his wife taught. It was a pretty building, capped off with an old-fashioned clock tower, complete with roman numerals and handsome greenish metal. Yet, even in the full bloom of May, there was something a little foreboding about the school. Perhaps it was the generations of students who had passed through its doors, the sum total of old exertions and humiliations.

He watched the students form a loose column to the flat roofed athletic building, at the end of the parking lot. They were hapless as they walked through the parked cars, oblivious to his presence in the driver seat of the Subaru. He imagined they would drift through their lives in a similar fashion, hardly aware: to college, their first jobs, straight up through middle management. Even as he thought this, he knew it wasn’t true either.

Some were probably his wife’s students. While he had listened to Ali describe her students, and even remembered names, he would never be able to match those names up to faces. In any case, he couldn’t think one generous thought about these kids. One of them may be the one threatening his wife, leaving lewd notes and promises of violence.

To read the rest of “Private Affair” click here.

New Voices: “The Devil is a Liar” by Nana Nkweti

Today, we are pleased to share with you the second place winner of our Short Story Award for New Writers: “The Devil is a Liar” by Nana Nkweti. This story is told from the alternating perspectives of a mother and her adult daughter. It examines the differences, and similarities, between how each woman experiences her faith as the daughter is faced with a difficult decision after learning about a possible complication with her pregnancy. 

“After the call ends, Glory begins a catchall, cover-all prayer, infused with every blessing she has ever wanted for her only living child. But above all, she hopes her prayers will fortify her too-strong daughter whose voice—muttering “goodbye”—had been so breathy and fragile, one of wind chimes forlorn and tinkling in an airless room.”

There are hymns, there are hosannas, there are hallelujahs. There are some who are struck dumb in His presence and those who are newborn linguists—speaking in tongues. Eyes roll heavenward, limbs grow palsied, tears—of joy, of penitence, of defiance—are shed. Through this sound, this fury; Sister Glory Ngassa, Minister of Music for the New Africa International Church of the Holy Redeemer, Brooklyn Battalion, is praying fervently. Her voice, once whispery, rises, then rises again as she sways to the unsung chorus moving the faithful, twenty-person flock present for service that Sunday morning. And faithful they are to the fledgling church—its sanctuary, the front room of a dusty, Brooklyn apartment, a donated space still under a slow-going renovation which has spanned from Easter Sunday the year prior into an unknown future—unto the end of days, perhaps.

The congregation is sanguine in their shared burdens. Tried and tested; they will not be found lacking. So one had to watch one’s step on the unfinished floorboards; a mere reminder that Jesus himself was a carpenter, a man who knew the grain of cedar, of poplar, of acacia, and even of the bitterest wormwood. So the single-paned windows were unsealed and unshielding; their translucent tarp coverings fluttered in the draft like a host of angels’ wings. Yes, the congregants of the New Africa International Church of the Holy Redeemer know they are blessed. Their leader, Man of God, Pastor Godlove Akondeng, had journeyed all the way from church headquarters in Cameroon to share his special anointing. That very moment, the good pastor is laying hands on the forehead of Brother William—timbering all six feet of the man into the waiting arms of Sister Anna, chanting, “By the Spirit of Christ. By the Body of Christ. By the Blood of Christ.” Raining down rapid-fire holy fire to break the ancestral curses that had kept the good brother from receiving his promotion, his increase.

Now, Sister Matilda walks up haltingly with her husband. Unequally yoked these two, yet twined and twinned to each other in a Siamese lockstep. She, crutching herself against him in deference to a newly acquired limp. He, clutching her piety to him like a security blanket, eyes darting then downcast, seemingly evincing a sudden bashfulness at the knowledge that Glory, and all those present, know that he was the one who had hobbled his wife, disordered her steps. Pastor Godlove takes hold of the man. He prays, shouts, commands the evil spirit possessing the husband to release him. Release him in the name of God the Father, release him in the name of the Holy Spirit, release him, Jehovah-jireh; thy will be done.

And now music. Now songs of praise and thanksgiving.

Glory steps forward. She pushes up her +1.5 drugstore reading glasses—perhaps it is time for +2?—and peers down at her hand-assembled hymnal, the photocopied fruit of her labors to harvest gospel songs from back home, from across the continent: Nigeria’s Joe Praize, Cameroon’s Tribute Sisters, the Soweto Gospel Choir.

“Jesus we love you, Lord. You don make my life betta. I go de thank you for evamore, thank you Baba,” sings the congregation, keeping time by the baton of Glory’s pointer finger, tap-tapping notes in the air. She is gratified. There is no instrumental accompaniment to this chorus of warbling voices—Sister Anna is always flat!—yet she knows to her marrow that their voices are pleasing to He who matters utmost.

To read the rest of “The Devil is a Liar” click here.

New Voices: “A Pack a Day” by Betty Jo Buro

Today, we are proud to present Betty Jo Buro’s essay “A Pack a Day.” In this piece, Buro looks at smoking through many different lenses: from growing up in a household of smokers in the sixties, to becoming a mother herself, to watching the toll that a lifetime of smoking has on her parents. This essay is honest, vivid, and moving. Please join us in welcoming it to our New Voices library.

“One night, while my parents sit at either end of the dining room table, drinking their after-dinner coffee and smoking their after-dinner cigarettes, my sister Nancy reproduces an experiment suggested by her third-grade teacher. She has my father exhale his cigarette through a clean white tissue, and when he does, it leaves behind a brown smudge. She holds the Kleenex up by its corners for all to see.”


When I tell my sisters I want to write about smoking, their memories arrive clothed in nostalgia, as if our childhood spent breathing secondhand smoke in a stuffy station wagon was somehow enchanted. Patty fondly recalls her own first cigarette, an illicit Viceroy she puffed while crouched behind a sand dune at Good Harbor Beach with her best friend Allison. Susie reminds us how much fun smoking was, and suggests we all take up the habit again. Nancy remembers the brands my grandparents smoked—soft packs of Salems and Kents—and I am drawn in, transported to my grandparents’ Ohio living room. My grandfather’s silver lighter lies flat in the palm of my hand, cool and heavy. I run my fingertips over the names of his eleven grandchildren, engraved in small cursive script on its face. How many times had I watched him tilt his wrist to flip open the top? And then, with an expert flick of his thumb, produce the heady scent of lighter fluid, and as if by magic, a tall yellow flame.


All of my first impressions appear in soft focus; our home a foggy haze, the faces of my parents separated from me by a veil of exhaled smoke. The scent of it permeates the wallpaper, the nubby plaid upholstery of the family room couch, the window curtains, my hair, and all of my little-girl clothes. But if you ask me what my childhood smelled like, I will tell you it smelled of percolated Maxwell House, my mother’s Jean Nate After Bath Splash, the rubbery scent of Barbie doll skin, of Breck shampoo and Ivory soap. The smoke was background, constant. I grew up on it, just like I grew up on Cheerios and Gilligan’s Island reruns, concentrated orange juice and am radio stations. I knew no different. Every place I went, I was cloaked in the invisible evidence of my parents’ vice, and all the while, I had no idea.


To read the rest of “A Pack A Day” click here.

New Voices: “Katie Flew Again Tonight” by Trent England

Each October, we showcase otherworldly stories that send chills up our spines. Trent England’s “Katie Flew Again Tonight” is one such tale. It is written from the perspective of a man whose wife, Katie, can fly. As Katie’s flights grow longer, they both know that one day, she will fly out of their apartment window and never return. Neither of them knows precisely where she will go, but it is certain that she will no longer share her husband’s rooted, domestic life. “Katie Flew Again Tonight” is a beautiful and chilling examination of how we all deal with finality.

“I understand very little about how my wife flies; she does not have any physical qualities associated with creatures of flight, and for all other intents and purposes, she is entirely human.”

Katie flew again tonight. She woke me up when she crawled into bed, and soon after she fell asleep, I quietly slipped out of the room. I saw evidence in our apartment of her flight: black yoga clothes shed on the floor made a trail down the hallway toward the living room window, where under the sill lay her ballet flats, haphazardly shed in the sleepy stumble to the bedroom that she makes after a night of flying. Her discarded clothes had taken on the scent of the Manhattan grit outside our windows. Katie absorbs the city’s smells when she flies; they cling to her the way a telling perfume clings to a guilty shirt collar.

I returned to the bedroom, lit blue from the alarm clock, and I slid under the sheets, inching my way toward the bare outline of her sleeping body. I had already seen the time, and couldn’t avoid calculating how long she’d been out. As she slowly breathed, I watched the violin curve of her body rise and fall to its own musical time. I reached out and I fell asleep with one arm resting on her. It is in moments like these that I feel as if I, too, have flown.

To read the rest of “Katie Flew Again Tonight” click here.

New Voices: “Lions in the House” by Beejay Silcox

Today, we are pleased to share with you the second place winner in our Flash Fiction Contest, “Lions in the House” by Beejay Silcox. This is a lovely, taut piece of flash. Through a discussion of nighttime noises in a house, this story reveals how two people in a relationship experience their anxieties differently.

“He’s never heard the lions in the house—this man, this husband, your husband. He has always slept in a way you can’t understand.”

There are lions in the house. Two, maybe three—it’s hard to tell. Filling the dark with their breathy territorial huffing, their stretched yawns and big-cat rumble.

It’s simple physics, acoustic trickery—the zoo is directly across the park and the sound carries. But there’s nothing simple about lions in the house. When you leave the windows open there’s something about the way the noise leaps around that makes it seem as if the lions are behind you in this new, old house—stalking you from kitchen to bathroom to bedroom, a kind of ventriloquism. If you close the windows, you can still hear them pawing against the glass.

No matter what you tell yourself, there’s that ever-open caveman eye in your brain that’s been waiting and watching—just for this, just for lions in the house. A hot-blooded part of you that always knew they were coming. And on nights when they do not come, when there’s wind or traffic or drunk street noise, this house with its rheumatic floorboards and recalcitrant hinges knows they will be back. It aches and strains and cracks its bones, and you’re awake, you’re awake, you’re awake.

He’s never heard the lions in the house—this man, this husband, your husband. He has always slept in a way you can’t understand. A careless sleep: reckless, unvigilant. When you first met you envied it, but now it terrifies you. How he can sleep through fire alarms and police sirens. How he once left a gas burner hissing and slept, as room-by-room, the air filled with oven fumes. How he can even sleep through your asthma attacks, that brutal underwater heaving that is so loud in your blood you can feel it echo for days.

To read the rest of “Lions in the House” click here.

New Voices: “The Cock in Cadwalader Heights” by Ariel Delgado Dixon

In Ariel Delgado Dixon’s beautiful summer story “The Cock in Cadwalader Heights,” an eleven-year-old girl growing up in Trenton, New Jersey decides to investigate the mysterious rooster who lives in an abandoned house in her neighborhood. “The Cock in Cadwalader Heights” beautifully captures the hazy, long summer days of childhood while also giving us a sober look at adult issues. This piece charmed us from the beginning, and we are pleased to share this story with you and to welcome it to our New Voices library.

“The first time I heard the rooster, I was taking a sweaty nap in the backseat of the Saab. I woke confused, in someone else’s dream—where a bird had a duty to mark the day.”

In the abandoned rowhome behind our house, there lived a rooster that crowed every day at high noon. Though the phenomenon of the bird might have begun earlier, I only noticed it at the onset of that summer, as I was wandering away humid weekday afternoons while my mom worked.

The noises of barn animals were decidedly scarce in Cadwalader Heights, though there had once been a quarter horse corralled in a patch of yard two streets over, whose braying traveled easily over snow-flattened winter days. By the time the rooster showed up, the horse was long gone, hauled off to somewhere—a placid farm retreat for city horses, I imagined—and the cock’s noonday call rose above the customary street refrain: the double-thunk of cars wheeling over manholes, dogs conversing blindly with one another from blocks away.

Our house was an old one, even by our neighborhood’s standards. The colonial revival came with a crumbling brick garage, a derelict wooden loft barely afloat near the rafters. This, I was forbidden to climb. As consolation, my mother’s brokedown Saab became my home base. For as long as I could remember, it had been stashed in the brick garage, which had become a building-sized junk drawer full of castoffs: rotted firewood, a decommissioned lawnmower, bike inner tubes that I frequently mistook for monster garter snakes. The Saab was the centerpiece of the scrap and my own personal jungle gym. Its permanently open moonroof made the perfect hatch for climbing in and out, and I’d often retreat to the backseat with a Highlights magazine lifted from the library, or a handful of pebbles to lob through the gash in the garage’s side window.

The summer before, I had made it my mission to dig a giant hole in the backyard, a venture I pitched as a tunnel to China. I’d always hit a root system a few feet down and give up, then move over a few paces to begin again. By that summer’s end, the ground was pockmarked with three-foot-deep craters, as if massive ice-cream scoops had been taken from the earth. This summer, I was less motivated.

My sister Eneida was off spending the summer at Camp Dulcet for Girls with her best friend, living in three-walled cabins in the mosquito-specked Poconos. She mostly kept her bedroom door closed anyway, but without her the house was sedative, stale.

The first time I heard the rooster, I was taking a sweaty nap in the backseat of the Saab. I woke confused, in someone else’s dream—where a bird had a duty to mark the day. I was ready to run to Eneida’s room, to tell her of the sound. Then I remembered that she was off in ceramics or riflery class, maybe piloting a canoe.

So, I went to inspect the noise myself. Sidestepping the backyard’s cavities, I headed toward the battered fenceline, a third of its posts knocked out. The connected rowhomes on either side of the pale brick dwelling had been bulldozed a few years earlier, leaving just the one—a crooked and protruding tooth of a building shaved down and disowned. There was overgrowth to wade through, thorns that snagged my socks. I listened for something to tell me where to fix my eye. I heard the howl of an ambulance, wind nudging the heavy bows of summer-ripe oak trees. Then: a flash of white in the second-floor window, where the boards were pulled away.

It might’ve been the flutter of a curtain, or light bouncing off some scrap of metal. I looked for signs of life among the litter in the onion grass and trained my eye on the second level, just as a breeze picked up. The wind whirled its way through the rowhome’s lone open pane, livening the dust from the floorboards and corners. That’s when I saw them: two long feathers crisscrossing in mid-air—one black, one white.

To read the rest of “The Cock in Cadwalader Heights” click here.

New Voices: “Road Trip” by Rachel Attias

Rachel Attias’s powerful piece, “Road Trip,” received an honorable mention in our recent Flash Fiction Contest. This pithy little story goes deep. It chronicles the experience of a group of girls who set off on a cross-country road trip after college. Attias perfectly conveys both the freedom of youth and the ways in which young women can feel trapped by the gaze of others.

“We had stretched the length of the country; we had become humongous. We had forgotten that we are just girls.”

We drive across the country when college ends, just us girls. We keep the windows open and the music loud; our hair whips around our heads and our blood pumps to the bass beat. We are so young; this is our first real adventure, for some it’s our first time West of the Mississippi. We are so young. Just five short years from now we will be locked into jobs, relationships, homes. We will think we’re making mistakes all along the way, but we will mistake ourselves into careers, partners, very nice apartments or even houses. But now we live in a car.

We leave the industry of the East behind, and suddenly we see what everyone else has been doing all this time. We drive through the rainforest of West Virginia, the St. Louis Arch. We slide through the corn and soybean fields that make up the heart, the backbone, the vital anatomical metaphor of this country. Flat green falls away and rises into rich hills, crosshatched with the black lines of charred trees, and then flattens out again.

The old measurements lose their relevance. The meaning of a mile is nothing to us. There are no more hours, only time when it is light enough to see and time when it isn’t. We are constantly moving, so that it begins to feel like we’re on a treadmill. We aren’t going anywhere, really. We’re not moving away from anything, either, and we don’t know yet that we want to be. Our phones buzz and beep; families, friends, lovers want to know where we are, what we see now. We don’t know how to say it. If we hold our breath we might be suspended in time and space, hurtling at eighty miles an hour in a large metal box.

Sometimes we want to yank each other’s hair. We want to fight. We see each other so closely that we miss things. When this is done we will love one another in the fashion that only young women can, a thing made infinite, as two mirrors facing each other. We will stare and stare, and love will give way to hate, will give way to self-loathing, and back to love again. Some of us will drift apart after this is done.

To read the rest of “Road Trip,” click here.

New Voices: “For Danny, Twelve Years Old” by Lucas Loredo

Today, we’re pleased to publish a story that takes full advantage of the epistolary form. “For Danny, Twelve Years Old” is addressed to a boy who has just lost his mother. It is a concise and powerful tale. Don’t miss this moving addition to our New Voices library.

“You will experience a cleaving, and the pre-event you and post-event you will assume radio silence, and you will not know where the first you has gone except that it is to somewhere you cannot follow.”

Dear Danny,

The news will be the liquid pop of a flashbulb in your brain; it will cause total erasure. You will dissociate from your body and see yourself from above. When two nurses in teal scrubs pass by the window, you will think:

They are having a normal day, and I am not.

You will think:

Who will take me to school tomorrow?

This question, posed seconds after, will be the first of many that are so logistical and quotidian you will feel guilt and selfishness for them.

Who will pack my lunch?

Who will walk the dogs?

Ten minutes after, the hospital counselor will leave you and your father in the room alone. Somehow your sister will arrive, though you won’t know who could have called her, or when.

Will I have to start using an alarm in the morning?

A half hour after, your sister will drive you and your father home in her convertible. The top will be down. Her hair will whip around as her hand rests on your father’s knee. In the backseat, in the wind, will be a chance to cry unnoticed, so use it. At home, when your father unlocks the front door, your two Rottweilers, Samson and Delilah, will greet you excitedly. Your sister will put on the kettle, and your father will shower.

Can Dad do laundry?

In the next few hours, many people you know and some you don’t—but who seem to know you—will come. You will try for hours to ease the houseguests with small talk as they look at you with wonder. It will be bewildering and exhausting. Your extended family will converge upon you from all corners of Texas, and the map of their travel will look like a crosshair with you at its center.

To read the rest of “For Danny, Twelve Years Old” click here.

New Voices: “Malheur Refuge” by Rick Attig

In Rick Attig’s wondrous and moving story, “Malheur Refuge,” a foster father is forced to part with his foster daughter after his wife leaves them both. They spend their last day together on a journey to band sandhill cranes in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. This story beautifully navigates complex physical and emotional landscapes. “Malheur Refuge” is the third place winner of our Winter Short Story Award for New Writers. It is not to be missed.

“Sitting side by side, shoulder to shoulder like this, sometimes they can carry on an actual conversation. It’s when they face one another, when he can see the pain in her eyes, she the doubt in his, that he stammers and stumbles, she smiles and shuts up.”

Late at night, Lee sits on his unmade bed with a tumbler of melted ice and looks through a gap in the window blinds, searching the darkness for the flash of headlights. He’s still in his sweat-stained uniform, the patch with a leaping salmon and a fleeing duck high on the shoulder of his khaki shirt. Mia told him she was going to a dance with her new boyfriend, then maybe out to grab a burger afterward. She was supposed to be home by midnight, but now it’s almost one-thirty. Lee’s called twice and sent three texts. She’s not answering.

This one’s name is Brock. He looks at least eighteen, three years older than Mia. They’re always older, the boys who whoop and swoop around her like hungry crows. Brock was a starting tackle until he got caught sucking on a bong in the school parking lot and kicked off the team. Now he’s just another ranch kid fast going to seed. He came to pick Mia up in drooping jeans and a black t-shirt stretched over a promising beer gut and breasts bigger than hers.

Lee’s cracked the bedroom window to listen for the crunch of tires on gravel, but the only sound is the low, anxious chatter of a flock of weary Canada geese resting in the flooded pasture behind the house. Sitting there, he feels a sudden gust of fear, like a skier hesitating at the top of a steep slope in the late afternoon shadows, thinking how absurd it would be to fall and blow out a knee on the day’s final run. This is his last night as her foster father. She’s leaving tomorrow afternoon, moving, being moved, across a hundred and thirty miles of sagebrush to a new foster home in Redmond. It’s not her choice, or his. Their old farmhouse on the edge of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, where Mia lived with him and his wife, Joni, for the past two years, no longer is a “suitable placement,” according to her caseworker. Two weeks ago Joni left him, taking only clothes, a few pictures, and a box of favorite books, like she was fleeing from a wildfire. Mia wanted to stay with him, but her caseworker nixed that idea. Hovering in the hall outside the kitchen he eavesdropped on that conversation and replays it again and again, Mia pleading, insisting she would be safe there, safe with him, the caseworker’s voice firm: “Honey, you know we can’t take that risk.”

Lee should have burst into the kitchen right then and fought for her. He knows how hard another move will be, another house of strangers, another new school, all those kids staring, sizing her up, sniffing for weakness. But he also knows how it would sound, how it would look: a forty-four-year-old man whose wife has just run off arguing that this girl who has been hurt so many times before ought to be left alone with him way the hell out in the middle of nowhere.

To read the rest of “Malheur Refuge” click here.