Jul/Aug 2021

e c l e c t i c a
f i c t i o n


(These are excerpts—click on the title to view the whole piece!)

Where He Still Lives
(Spotlight Runner-Up!)

Like Bourdain, he dabbled in heroin, which became a habit, which became a problem. And like Bourdain, he stopped. It took an overdose in his San Francisco studio apartment, his girlfriend finding him unconscious in the bathroom; it took his mother having Mandy, whom he worried about being fatherless. But he stopped. Still, it can feel impossible to loosen the dread that grips him, to tear through the other side of it into any sort of light. Without the release of getting high, he feels the weight of darkness like a cloak draped between him and the world—the sense of something crackling inside of him, a rage that has been buried and festering for years, on the verge of exploding.

Gina Troisi

States, Never Imagined

The doctor had given me an informational sheet about moles. I'd always thought of them as a cosmetic concern, generally innocuous, though often unfortunately located on the body. But it turned out they were vicious as often as they were harmless. I don't know how many times I read that sheet, but so many it got tiny crease lines—the ones that aren't quite folds but more like dents. And no matter how much I worked, the same thought inevitably reappeared: What if this was it? Not in a get-the-test-results-and-drop-dead sort of way. But what if it meant living at death's door from here on out?

Joshua James Amberson

In the Water

Early mornings, the town belonged to the junkies. They'd shamble out of their cars and squat houses and converge at the line in front of the methadone clinic, teetering unsteadily on their feet, hiding their train tracks under crappy old coats. The neighborhood dope boy was there, too, dispensing foil-wrapped dime bags to his loyal customers. He'd move down the line, hand to hand, until he'd served everyone, and they'd go inside for their oral dose and come back out with stupid smiles on their faces. They were the reason you needed a key to get into the McDonalds bathroom. They were the damaged remnants of White America.

Max Keisler

Camino Escondido

Despite her pressing need for caution and seclusion to consider and regroup, Grace and Peter became friends without further ado. Fellow night creatures. He didn't ask questions. He didn't mind talking about himself instead, and the intricacies of burnt-sugar syrup, or about uneasy things, hauntings. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. The squadrons of downed planes in the desert outside Tucson. Constantine's vast underground pools of stored water.

Christie Cochrell

A Thanksgiving

That's the kind of guy who knows how to buy a car. As soon as I hear his words, the weather feels warmer even though I know not to expect much. Not in the way of commission anyway. The rich never pay more than they should. But if I can work the up and move the unit, I'll be a single spot away from my $500 demo bonus, and I'll snag $100 for the mini deal. There's always a chance we can take him on the interest rate and make back-end money, too. But that's putting the cart in front of the car.

Alex Kudera

Pretty Boy

"No, mam. Miss Millie was always kind to me. I was possessed. That's all I can answer. I walked to the gasoline filling station an filled my ice cooler with gasoline with plans to do some mischief. I knocked on her back door, and she answered it like she always does, didn't matter if it was a stranger, her best friend, or somebody holdin' a ice cooler full of gasoline. She always carried herself a pistol. I didn't figure she was gonna shoot me. It was just her habit. Besides, she would have been in her perfect right to do so, considering. Like I said, I wasn't thinkin' straight, so I took the lid off and tossed all that gasoline on her, never realizing half of it was gonna spill on me.

Steve Vermillion

Yukon Sal's Made Some Terrible Mistakes

On the bus on her way to work, Yukon Sal stewed over the license plate. Jaime's nickname for her had come from that plate. Two months ago she'd stopped her car in the middle of the street and was checking her phone for the address to the apartment she wanted to rent, and Jaime had been in a car behind her and had honked. When he zipped around her car and drove off, she followed him to a red light, and she got out of her car and screamed at him through the open window of his car for being a jerk. Instead of getting mad at her, he said he would help her find the address she was looking for, but she had to get in her goddamn car and follow him to the gas station on the corner.

V. Zenari

Hunter, Scholar, Spy

He had not given Joanna much of an explanation of his need to go to Europe, and to go without her. He had said only that he had to deliver some messages from William Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State, and he did not know how long he would be gone. She had in no way been reconciled to his going off to Europe without her. Their parting had been bitter. She had said to him, "We have always been partners; always. I simply cannot understand why you don't want me to go. We can afford it, God knows. It's not some woman, is it? No, I know it's not that. I just don't understand." But he could not, would not, tell her any more.

Peter Bridges