by Danny Goodman
In New York City, Ben smokes too much and sleeps with women as a way to deaden his insecurities. With every indiscretion, he fights off adulthood for one more day, until the return of an ex-lover leaves him unsure of everything. Ben’s best friend, Josh, struggles to find the good in his marriage to Maddie, even as he searches for a way to keep from losing her. Ben’s neighbor, Mrs. Aguilera, looks to make peace with those she has already lost. Gripping tightly to one another like the oddest of families, Ben and his friends embody the place in which they live: a city where everything combines, with a touch of perfect madness, into something more than the sum of its parts.
“I love this story because it’s just plain good. The characters are broken and unsure, but the love they have for each other and the humor that carries them along is genuine and lovely to behold. This story made me laugh even while it was hitting me in the gut, and I’d like nothing more than to sit down and drink a beer with everyone in it. Mr. Goodman, thank you for rocking my literary waffle.”
— Lish McBride, author of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
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I TOOK A SIP of Delirium and told Josh he was a wuss. The cold of the bottle made my bottom lip numb. As the wind picked up, tossing all manner of garbage and particles into the air, the softball diamond became a swirl of infield dirt, a perfect aestival tornado. I was sweating, and I could smell myself something fierce, though Josh didn’t seem to notice. He went on about Maddie and how he’d lost her and what a fucking idiot he’d been: it was there, and then it was gone, he kept saying. He said it, over and over, like a fucking mantra, as if the words made the sentiment real. It’s all in your head, I told him. He shook me off and repeated the words. He was wrong about some things. I nodded and finished my beer.
“Thanks, douchebag,” Josh said. He grabbed the bottle and tossed it into a trash can. “Why do I even bother?”
“Because, rock star,” I said, slipping an American Spirit between my lips, “nobody else gives two shits.” I cracked a smile and slapped him on the back.
“You’re a real fuck, Ben,” Josh said. He picked up a Louisville Slugger that belonged to our teammate, Canadian Jay, whose wife had recently used it to bash in somebody’s windshield at the A&P, and smacked the aluminum against the bench. The vibrations settled at the tips of my fingers.
Josh walked towards home plate and shielded his eyes.
“Oh, come on,” I yelled, “you know you love me.”
I blew him a kiss, and he gave me the finger. Cigarette smoke filled my lungs and paralyzed everything. For a moment I was distracted from the repetition of the game by thoughts of a recurring dream I’d been having for weeks—one I couldn’t shake. I considered telling Josh, about the woman and her voice and how I woke up, each time, gasping for air. But he was in no state for such things, not right now.
The ping of softball against bat echoed through McCarren Park. I imagined, somewhere in Manhattan, Josh’s wife Maddie heard the sound and missed her husband. I hoped, anyway. She’d been staying at her sister’s in Locust Valley, but that situation proved worse than her own home. I got a call from her a few weeks back, asking if I knew of any places she could stay in the city; it was curious, her calling me. She had plenty of friends. She never asked about Josh, but I could tell she wanted to. When she wondered what I’d been up to, I simply said, “Work. And fucking. You know.” There was the faint sound of a laugh on her end. I wanted to comfort her, bridge whatever canyon had formed between her and Josh. It didn’t feel like my place, though. I promised to call my cousin, a night manager at the Chelsea Lodge, and arrange for an extended-stay room. Maddie thanked me. I thought she would hang up then, but she didn’t. Instead, there was silence, breathing, then, “Don’t tell him where I am, okay? Not yet.” The line went dead before I could respond.
Josh and Maddie gave me hope. This was nothing I could tell him, though, being as emotionally stunted as he was. Sure, they fought. Unendingly, it seemed. And they never said the things that people should say when what they say means something. But when they looked at one another—when I caught them in the kitchen cooking dinner and forgetting I was there—they were incredible. Josh would touch Maddie’s fingers, right at the tips, with his own. She would turn back to him and kiss the edge of his nose. There was more there than either would ever say aloud. This was nothing I could tell Josh.
Instead, we played softball. I listened until the ball settled into leather and the field cleared and all that was left was Josh, alone at home plate, and a swirl of burgundy earth mixed with scraps left by those who had just passed through. It was a hot Brooklyn summer. There seemed to be no end in sight.
CANADIAN JAY DEMANDED THAT we all go to a pub in Manhattan after the game. We usually obliged because nobody told a drunken story like Canadian Jay. He was a stout guy, typically unkempt, though he took particular care in washing his hands repeatedly after a game. He ran a greyhound adoption center in Queens, finding homes for retired and abused racers. It was one of the most prominent in the state; the man I saw playing softball seemed at odds with this vocation, and I had trouble, admittedly, picturing him performing such a philanthropic job. His wife, Elliot, was something of a legend. No member of the team had ever actually met Elliot, but from Canadian Jay’s description, she was certainly too hot for him, and a doctor. I took much of what he said with a grain of really finely processed salt. Josh thought he was full of shit.
“I can’t deal with people,” Josh said, “not right now.” He walked with a slight limp, which was fabricated and helped him feel more like a ballplayer.
“One drink,” I said. “That’s all.”
Josh tucked his glove under his arm and took off his hat. His hairline was receding a little, a fact he’d become sensitive about in recent months, especially since Maddie left. She had never mentioned noticing it, as far as I knew, which meant something very particular. Maddie was not a woman who minced words.
I patted Josh on the back, and he almost smiled.
about the author
DANNY GOODMAN is a writer and editor living in New York City. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared or are forthcoming in various places, including Paper Darts, Brevity, and FPQ. He edits the literary journal fwriction : review, blogs for the journal at fwriction, and runs social media for Stymie Magazine. Currently at work on his first novel (which follows the characters of Somehow There Was More Here), he is badly in need of a nap. Say hello to him here: http://dannygoodman.me
by this author
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After Ray collapses on the sidewalk outside a New York coffee shop, the bittersweet vagaries of his long marriage come into focus, one heartbeat at a time. From his new vantage point, flat on his back, all their conflicts are laid out against a canvas of sky, contrasting miscommunications and infidelities against something slower, steadier, and ultimately much vaster than he ever realized.
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by Caroline Adderson
Coming out of an unhappy relationship and a stint at an artist colony, Charlotte, a writer, takes a job teaching at a private ESL college. There she befriends Renata—audacious, sexy, and as changeable as Proteus. “I have a story for you,” Renata says to her one day over lunch. She doesn’t elaborate further, but Charlotte soon discovers that she has found in Renata an unexpectedly passionate and compelling subject.
“Caroline Adderson is such a graceful and intelligent writer that the work that must surely go into creating her hilarious, prismatic stories is never betrayed in the language. There is no strain on the page, not a bead of sweat. I think of her as a writer’s writer. I envy her talent and learn from her sentences. The short story, Obscure Objects, is, I’m happy to report, Adderson at her glorious best.”
— Barbara Gowdy, author of Helpless and The White Bone
“Obscure Objects, Caroline Adderson’s fierce and affecting workplace comedy, is a deadpan gem: droll, moving, snapping-smart.”
— Meg Wolitzer, author of The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, and The Position
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Romance is candlelight on cheekbones, blurring gazes and the press of heels on strange sheets. But what happens a year later? You’re sharing bath towels and bickering over who forgot to buy a light bulb. There is beauty in a familiar hand on the nape of your neck. There is love in waking up under a shared blanket. This story is about the romance of domesticity.
“Kirsty is one of the best and brightest . . . when I read her stuff I feel like I could taste it, chew it, roll it around on my tongue, the language is so delicious and sturdy and musical. She also has a knack for getting relationships exactly right in her writing, whether between parent and child or lovers or friends.”
— Amber Sparks, Fiction Editor at Emprise Review
by Andrew Forbes
A recruiter for a Division I college basketball team travels to a town in hopes of finally convincing the year's prize high school prospect to play for his team. Over several days, he reflects on his love of the sport, his respect for the kids, and a job that forces him to sweep sentiment aside in order to get results.
“Andrew Forbes' The Gamechanger is a powerful work from a point-of-view — that of the scout, the talent evaluator — which is not often seen or done convincingly, as it is here. A story about fathers and sons, about fate, and about the implicit savageries that lurk at the heart of the sports we love and the teams we cheer for. This is wonderful, raw writing.”
— Craig Davidson, author of Rust and Bone and Cataract City
“A fascinating look at the relationships a recruiter has to manage, from the sacrifices of being away from their family, to dealing with rival recruiters, prospects and their friends and family ... a very nuanced and layered approach that goes beyond just a man with a job to do at a gym.”
— Alex Wong, stevenlebron.com
by Nancy Branch
In the rugged Nepisiguit River region of northern New Brunswick, two hunters face off. One is local sports lodge employee Danny Knockwood, a Mi’gmaw guide with a withered hand. The other is Mui’n, a one-eared black bear battling his inexorable hunger. When Danny is charged by the lodge owner to hunt down the bear that is frightening guests at the salmon pools, his personal values come into sharp conflict with his commitment to the task. The resulting confrontation tests both his physical strength and his beliefs, as Danny begins to recognize a kindred spirit within the fiercely determined bear.
This Is a Love Crime
by Lee Kvern
Marta is a human resources employee at a grocery store chain. She moves through the days passively, always taking the path of least resistance, until a case at work - that of a hijab-wearing woman, in defiance of a strict no-hats policy - awakens her to the injustices of her own life.
“This Is a Love Crime by Lee Kvern is a cunning and intensely human look at one of the central issues of our time. It negotiates the space between belief, racism, liberty, and sexuality with curiosity and compassion.”
— Todd Babiak, bestselling author of Toby: A Man and The Garneau Block
“Lee Kvern paints with a scalpel. With characteristic unflinching honesty, she peels the relationship between Marta and Corbin back to quivering nerves in This Is a Love Crime and juxtaposes it against veiled assumptions about cultural oppression. The narrative leaps crackle with energy and empathy. When I read Kvern’s stories, I’m seduced by exquisite detail and—love or loathe them—left with the scent of her characters long after the last page.”
— Betty Jane Hegerat, author of Delivery and The Boy
“In This Is a Love Crime, Lee Kvern uses the intricately drawn characters of Corbin and Marta to explore the charged topics of ethnicity and Western modes of submission and control. Written in Kvern’s distinctive, poetic, and multi-layered style, the story leaves us with warm insight into all the characters—and challenges our hearts and preconceptions.”
— Barb Howard, author of Whipstock, Notes for Monday, and The Dewpoint Show
When I'm Old, When I'm Grey
by Andrew Wilmot
After an unexpected malfunction, the technology which enables humanity to cross vast distances has separated an interstellar traveler from the love of her life — not in space, but in time. Now, while her companions remain in stasis, she must endure the loneliness of the journey until the moment her lover wakes.
Winner of the 2015 Friends of Merril Short Story Contest, When I'm Old, When I'm Grey imagines the strange — and strangely familiar — forms that fear and longing can take, as we venture forth into the unknown of the future.
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Having lived a long, eventful life, Charlie Weinheimer’s only regret is that he has no one to carry on after him. After a near-death experience, he resolves to find out whether a secret buried in his past is proof he has a legacy after all.
“Margoshes gives us the life of Charlie Weinheimer: quadruple bypass patient, widower whose children all die tragically young, but not a whiner. In his hospital bed at age seventy-seven, he’s seen it all, right? Well, maybe not. Watch as Margoshes calls upon his raconteur skills to thicken the plot.”
— David Carpenter, winner of the 2010 Saskatchewan Book Award for A Hunter’s Confession