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Shoes
Nick Ostdick

     They're made for love. Open-toed, with black straps like strands of hair, they're tall with thin heels. They sit silently at the back of her closet, begging to be let out like a dog in the springtime. They don't go out anymore, not since He left. They used to go out three times a week to fancy restaurants and ballrooms. Then they would come home, and He would pull them off her and send them through the air into the corner, her dress following-that's what these shoes are made for. But they never fly anymore, and they're getting lonely.

Nick Ostdick is a fiction writer from the Chicago area. He is the author of the novel Sunbeams and Cigarettes (2005), and the forthcoming chapbook of short stories Periscopes (RAGAD Books). His short works have appeared in a number of online and print publications, and he is currently working on a new novel.



Body Armor
Angie Smibert

      Isabel felt people could see right through her paper-thin skin, past her watery blue veins, past her reedy bones and right through to her hollow core--but only if they got too close.
     She held them at arms length. She pushed them away with her sharp tongue. She refused to meet their gaze. Yet their eyes still penetrated her.
     So she encased herself in body armor. She wrapped her hips and thighs and chest, and even her arms, in thick, cushiony layers of it until she could no longer see herself. And all the world could see was the fat.

Angie Smibert's work has appeared or soon will appear in Flashquake, Flash Me, Heavy Glow, Crimson Highway, Flashshot, Whim's Place, Appalachian Heritage, Eternity, Cosmic Landscapes, and several other no doubt now defunct magazines



     They had broken up months before, after all, and he was only having dinner with his ex-wife. They were in the window of a restaurant where he'd never taken her, where there were no lingering memories.
     Still, Amy went home feeling hurt. She threw a pile of Lean Cuisine dinners in the trash and put on a pair of sweatpants.
     One night, after too many glasses of scotch, he'd told her that he wished his ex would die so he'd never again run into her in the toilet paper aisle at the supermarket. Then he'd cried, thinking of it.

Leah Browning is the author of two nonfiction books for children. Her fiction, poetry, essays, and articles have appeared or are forthcoming in a variety of publications including The Saint Ann's Review, Literary Mama, Boston Literary Magazine, Blood Orange Review, Salome Magazine, Autumn Sky Poetry, and four anthologies. In addition to writing, Browning serves as editor of the Apple Valley Review, an online literary journal located at AppleValleyReview. Her personal website is located at www.leahbrowning.com.




Marriage
Stephanie Johnson

     To celebrate, we adopted a shelter dog. "He's a husky mutt," they said, but we know they lied. He's a dingo.
     Our hands are full. He shrieks like a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. He eats pears, dirt, rocks. He's independent to a fault, disobeying because he can.
     I stomp my foot, call his name until I'm hoarse. I spend hours training, seeking submission from something feral in our decidedly settled household.
     "Be patient," my husband says.
      We wait. When the dog chooses to come around, the collar slides freely on his neck, a band on an offered finger.

Stephanie Johnson lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and holds an MFA from Emerson College. Her short fiction has appeared in The Village Rambler and R-KV-R-Y. Her essays can be found in The Rambler, where she is a regular non-fiction contributor.



News from Nowhere
Trisitan Moss

      A butterfly pretended to be dead, to save it from a cat; the cat pretended to wash, one eye on the butterfly; a little boy, intrigued by the charade, stopped playing ball and stood motionless; his mother, washing up, looked from the kitchen window furtively; her husband, opening the front door, saw his wife spying on their son; and God, looking down from heaven, stopped to watch.
     Silence.
     The butterfly fluttered its wings; the cat pounced; mother continued washing up; father shut the door; and the little boy played, wondering why God hadn't helped.

Trisitan Moss lives in York, where he works as an English language teacher. His work has recently appeared in Smokelong and Mytholog.



The Bridal Shower
Lisette Alonso

     The women sip Mimosas, the guest of honor yet to arrive.
     I order an iced tea from the server, smooth out the wrinkles to the only dress I own, and hide my unpainted toes beneath the table. When the bride-to-be finally shows I'm the last she greets on her rounds.
     "So," she asks, "how are the kids?"
     "Great," I say. "How've you been?"
     Looking away, she waves at someone across the room.
     "You should talk to Lila," she says pointing. "She has a lot of kids too."
     I nod and smile and wait quietly for my turn at the buffet.

Lisette Alonso is a stay-at-home mom of four children. Her work has appeared online with Word Riot, Ramble Underground, Alienskin, Susurrus, Verbsap, and the-phone-book.com.



University Writing Center
Travis A. Everett

     Thank you for visiting the University Writing Center. Please note: our services are only to be used for academic writing— it is inappropriate to request assistance with personal letters.
     We cannot say whether your words evoke the expected feelings of remorse and regret. We do not know if your retorts will cause the desired psychological distress. It is not for us to decide if the method and impetus of your suicide are now cliché. This is not in our mission statement.
     If your suicide is academic in nature, please direct your appeal to Tasha.

Thanks,
The University Writing Center Staff

Travis A. Everett is currently meandering towards Bachelor's degrees in Creative Writing and Public Relations, using the opportunity to confound and frustrate his plethora of advisors by pursuing non-required coursework. His first piece has recently appeared in the International Museum of Women's "Imagining Ourselves" exhibit. He hopes to write, teach—and if it all works out, eat.



Soft Peace He Brings
Marie-Anne Mouthaan

     He rests in my arms, purring, sometimes complaining softly. I scratch his chin and he stretches out. He is searching for the sweet spot.
     Peace settles over me, a blanket of comfort against the bitter cold of reality and I relax. He cuddles deeper in my arms, his head tucked against my shoulder, a routine agreed on many years ago.
     A quick injection, a startled cry, a final sigh, and his head rests against my shoulder for the last time, forever.
     I surrender him, reluctant to let his soft, warm body go. I am now alone on my journey.

Marie-Anne Mouthaan got her degree in English Lit and promptly went to work as a secretary, dog washer, pipeline camp attendant and many other jobs before settling on being a trailblazer as one of less than a handful female finishing carpenters in Calgary. In addition to being ruled by her nieces and nephews, she also has two dogs. She writes every day and tries to fit in knitting where she can.



A Word of Advice
Lisette Alonso

     Carla is tapping away at her keyboard when the devil pokes his head in through the bedroom door.
      "Do you really still think after all this time you'll make that stupid dream come true?"
     Carla freezes mid keystroke. "Go to hell," she mutters.
     The devil lets lose a guffaw that rattles the windows. "Why don't you just kill yourself?"
     "Go to hell," Carla roars.
     The door shuts with a sigh, outside she can hear hooves clicking against the laminate floor. It takes her a moment to recover; she's always so surprised by how much the devil looks like her ex-husband.

Lisette Alonso is a stay-at-home mom of four children. Her work has appeared online with Word Riot, Ramble Underground, Alienskin, Susurrus, Verbsap, and the-phone-book.com.



Visiting Hour
Shelly Wiseman Webb

      "Time to see your mom, Brad." My father beckons but stays outside.
     She is sitting by the Saf-T-Glas window. She smells of vanilla, as always. Her sadness is like a scent, too; something dark creeping from under her bandaged wrists as she tries to smile at me.
     Oh, I'm so angry and--I want to say--sad. But if I allow that word to rise up unchallenged in my throat, I am afraid I will succumb to her depression.
     I know I am holding all her hope until she can hold it for herself, again. So I go to her.

Shelly Wiseman Webb lives in rural southeastern Ohio and is a some-time writer, full-time mom of three preschool children. She spends as much time figuring out how to distract her children long enough for some writing time as she does actually writing.