Joey Schuman


I was chopping the peppers when Elvis pulled me back to San Antonio. In my ears swam his warm honey voice, then the music of children playing, splashing. Sunlight made love to the pool water, blurring everything in glittering yellow tones. In this golden light, rules didn’t matter. Little boys ran, jumped, flew, carried by the breeze, and I watched with elation and jealousy from under my umbrella. Their wet feet slapped harmoniously against the same concrete that scratched my butt through my swim trunks.

Elvis sang, you should’ve heard those knocked-out jailbirds sing, and Mom hummed along at my back. She lounged, magazine in hand. Her sunglasses were bigger than the world, and shinier, too. Her hat was bigger still, with a brim on which stray birds might make a home for the summer. This image of her was like something out of a movie. She pulled her eyes from the gossip pages to attend to me, and she smiled with her mouth closed tight. “Why don’t you go play with the other boys?” she asked (begged), and suddenly my feet became very interesting and I had to look at them. Elvis implored us to rock, everybody let’s rock, and Mom sighed. I was watching the other boys move, dance, and rock, when I saw him.

He had a body like the statues you’d find in an art museum, godly and beautiful. He glowed. I can see him now, blond and tan and dimpled, with long legs descending out of his lifeguard trunks. I couldn’t watch the other boys anymore, because light cascaded from this man and into my chest and I was enamored. When he smiled, the sky exploded, taking me with it. I was reverent. Elvis sang, you’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see, and the boys rocked, but I didn’t notice. The lifeguard was ephemeral and flickering as a flame. A king in his tall white throne, unaware of my unwavering gaze. I was still, devout.

Then a sound from the shade behind me, a tut of resounding disapproval, yanked me. I turned, and Mom sighed, and there was a moment of the worst kind of understanding. I could see her eyes through her sunglasses and oh, she knows, she knows. The birds in her big hat chirped, oh, they know, they know.  The other boys had stopped rocking and they stared with wide eyes, they know. The beautiful man, up on his heavenly precipice, bore down on me with disgust. He knows. I pulled myself deep into the shade of the umbrella, away from the golden light that stripped away my shell, and laid bare the twisted little fluttering thing underneath. They know. They know. They know. Elvis sang, sad sack was sitting on a block of stone, way over in the corner weeping all alone. A slip of the fingers, and then a slice, sharp inhale. I was bleeding. I’d long finished chopping the peppers.

Teigan Caldwell

Five Micro Essays


this is blunt.

This is not.

because This is a sharpened knife.

there was no way for you to know that.

what an idiot.



Zero plus zero is supposed to be zero.

And zero is nothing.

But, when I come home from school each day,

My dad always asks me what I learned,

And I say “nothing”,

But I still end up learning things by the end of the year.

Something doesn’t add up.



We were best friends, but we’re no longer best friends

All of a sudden, she stopped replying to my texts.

I don’t know why.

She won’t tell me why, because we’re no longer best friends.

Will it happen again?

Will I make the same mistake?

I don’t know, because she won’t tell me what I did.



I told myself not to get my hopes up.

I’m such a hypocrite.



I’m going to be as weird as I want.

If you can’t handle me, well, that’s okay.

As long as someone can.

Because I want friends, but I don’t want to change myself for you.

Not my weirdness, at least.

I need that part.

You can try to influence the rest, I guess.

But not too much, please

Aili Miller

Little Did I Know

How was I supposed to know the eagle had a mouse in its beak? How was I supposed to know that I couldn’t shoot it with my slingshot? How was I supposed to know that the eagle would swoop down on me, try to pick me up like I was a weak, useless, little rat? How was I supposed to know that its claws were sharp? But what I did know was that it couldn’t hold me and the mouse at the same time. So I saved a mouse today.

woman, wearing, black, coat, girl, eagle, female, wild, CC0 ...

Isabella Briggs


The last owner said, “Keep her.” 

“Her.” Not “it.” I didn’t give the word much thought at the time. But now, standing in the house with nothing but my boxes and furnishings, it hits me. They didn’t leave anything. If a piece of furniture wasn’t nailed down, it was gone. From where I stand near the door I can see a few appliances in the kitchen, but the cavernous entryway is eerily quiet and completely empty. So why didn’t they want the painting? And why did they call it a ‘her?’

Yes, the painting is of a girl, sort of. An almost girl. A doll, really, but it has so much detail it could be real. I find myself staring at her—I shake my head. At it. I find myself staring at it: Blonde curls, blue-grey eyes, a light daffodil yellow dress decorated with bows and lace, a string of pearls around her neck. The ornate golden frame and murky dark background accentuate the warm colors and her features. She’s exquisite. Truly a sight to behold. I can’t stop myself from reaching a finger to brush against her porcelain—no, her painted skin. But the paint feels like porcelain beneath my fingertips. It is—smooth. So smooth. Like she is real, or as real as a doll can be. 

My fingers drift to the satin dress, the feathery lace, it’s all real. Why did I ever think it wasn’t? Gemma is real and always has been. Gemma. The name rolls off my tongue as if I am referring to a friend. A family member. Someone I have known all my life. 

There’s a twinkle in her silvery blue eyes. 


One week later I drop the old set of keys into a younger woman’s hand. I have successfully removed all my things from the house. She catches me on my way out the mansion’s looming front door for the final time. 

“Um, excuse me, miss? Don’t you want the painting?” She asks kindly, her eyes drifting in Gemma’s direction before looking back at me. I simply shake my head. 

“Keep her.” 


Paul O’Connor

Mother and Son

The items race forth, and work eagerly begins. Before they even reach the grasp of the bagger, one must mentally categorize the items, thinking about weight, size, fragility, perishability. Then, one must lift and scan the items until the bell of affirmation rings through. Next, one must peer through the bag’s opening, examining for rips or tears. And finally, the bagging. The bagging is distinct, complex, and purely personal, but the goal is uniform: efficiency, organization, and accessibility. Bradley and I differ by method, however, we’ve maximized our speed and efficiency, not suffering the tragedy of a ripped bag since our first year on the job. On top of that, we color code. It’s a large and difficult task, however, the challenge expands the artistic quality of the work. For twenty years, we’ve loved our jobs at the supermarket. In fact, our married life began here. Bradley proposed during our lunchtime break, the ring buried in a crinkly blue grocery bag. We’re a fantastic team.


We have a twenty-year-old son named Derek. He’s in college. We’ve both agreed he’s a bit of a disappointment. A practical thinker, cunning, ambitious. I truly can’t understand him. From an early age I would sit him in the living room, leave to gather plastic bags and soup cans, spices, fruits, and perhaps a bottle of wine, and show him the process. But he eternally despised it, protesting, complaining, insulting. He wanted to read, play sports, make friends, and through the years, an endless stream of teachers raved about his accomplishments: honor roll, football captain, class president. I only pretended to care. He’s not an artist, and I wish he were different.


Business school! How awful! That’s where our money must go?


Mr. Cripson, the long-time store manager, died yesterday. He was eighty-six years old, and died an immensely decent, pleasant man. The funeral was soft, dark, and musical. And the store’s absolute disorientation was completed by a teenage bagger quitting, citing a need for college. I thought of Derek and sent him a letter, telling him of the job opening. Our correspondence has been fleeting over the years, and I haven’t received an answer.


Today I entered the store and saw Derek, waving and smiling near the counter. I beamed, imagining he accepted the bagging position. I moved closer and read the shirt label. Manager. My heart began to droop. “Good,” I said. I took my station and began work, but everything was terribly wrong. My focus lagged, the bell was harsh, the items pointless, the color missing spice and life. Ms. Timmons, a usual customer, stretched her arm and lifted a teeming bag: the plastic tore, erupting in a tragic, endless crash. She cursed, and the eyes of my son gleamed from the office. I reddened, gasped, and collapsed among the splattered wine and bruised tomatoes.



Mac Jensen


Blue (excerpt)


I woke up to the sound of waves crashing against the side of the building. Nothing new in particular, I’ve just always been a light sleeper. Still groggy from waking up, I glanced around my room. Living in the ruins of an old hotel, everything looked relatively pristine by today’s standards. I looked to the left to see the bedframe I had repurposed. The old mattress now leaned on the wall, while in its place lay a large piece of plywood, forming a makeshift table of sorts. On the makeshift table lay a dismantled boat motor. Little scratches in the plywood, small splatters of paint and oil, indentations everywhere on the table all clearly indicated it had been worked on recently. On the wall directly in front of the beds, an old television sat atop a large wooden console. The television had been broken down for parts and the screen hung precariously off the console, only attached by a few wires and a screw.

I rolled over to face the balcony. Two seagulls sat perched atop the railing. Their presence reminded me of the times before life was like, well… this. I finally got myself out of bed, walked over to the balcony and looked out onto the deep blue that lay ahead of me. What used to be the bustling streets of the city was now completely submerged. What remained above the deep, grueling expanse of the new ocean waters were the taller buildings of the now-abandoned city. Most had forgotten the city’s old name, and most people that pass through here refer to it as Atlantis. A cruel joke, I suppose.


Lily High

Five Micro Essays

My Best Friend

I’m afraid I’ll lose her. Each time we meet, each Sunday and  Wednesday, I’m afraid of what she’ll say. I shouldn’t be. She’s an anchor. She stays grounded, though her head is in the clouds. She wouldn’t leave, wouldn’t abandon our bond. Right? Five years, going on six. I’m afraid they’ll mean nothing. I’m afraid she’ll throw me out, leave me at the mercy of the wolves and the wind. Leave me to float helplessly in the sky. Each time, she doesn’t. Each time, she smiles. Each time, she laughs. But I’m still afraid. 


On Bad Days

An immeasurable ocean, ready to swallow me up the second I misstep. Each wave crashing down harder than the next. Each spray of foam is a stab in the chest. Each, “what’s wrong?” Another tide, dragging me deeper. Each “can I help?” A lifeboat, bobbing up and down. Weak smiles, shrugged off questions, distracted nods. Salty water fills me, flooding my insides. 


My Ex-best Friend

I should have known it wouldn’t last. We were young. Those friendships never hold for long. Sure, there are exceptions. The childhood best friend that you end up dating, the one who, years later,  moves in next door. But most are wisps of memory, lost to the years. I have snippets of her: a playground, a princess costume, a picture drawn in the basement, a couch, a living room, a gate, two sisters. I wonder if she has snippets of me. Bits and pieces that keep us connected, though it’s been years. I wonder if she remembers.


New Year’s Day

Sparkling cider, decorations, glasses clinking, a countdown. The Christmas tree still standing, ornaments shining. Smiles all around. “It’s a new year!” Resolutions already scratched down on mental notepads, later to be crossed out and forgotten. Nothing feels different, though no one thinks to mention it. It’s a new year, but nothing changes.

Annie Cullinane

Slowly Shaking 

The hornets came first

A creeping and invasive omen, 

Waiting on our porches, foreign, oversized, venomous


The buzzing in our minds matched that of their wings as more descended

Hornets of different stripes, wasps with guns and wasps unseen, wasps which burrowed into society’s tongue 

Handcuffs becoming a knee crushing a neck becoming started fires becoming resistance and 

The bullets and bruises in the bodies of our city, clutching white flags with white knuckles

We pleaded for the scales of Justice to fall even, for souls to be weighed unblind 

Flames licked away at dwindling herds, cradling the burned remains -fur and featherless- spooning ash down their throats

Corruption came from inside of us until the world became the size of our walls

Mouths were masked, the sickness and thoughts of rebellion could no longer worm their way from our lips

The leaders rolling our boulder ceased caring, and our beings splintered under the weight of an unhinged nation

Our striped harbingers with glass wings and tails that sting and burn and kill in whichever skin they don

This is the entrance of ends, the sacrifices were not made and the 

Gods are done waiting.