The stories we tell reflect the people we are, and shape the people we are to become. In the midst of our current national identity crisis, in which we grapple with who we have been and who we want to be, I am drawn to tales that explore our most fundamental relationships—parents and children, partners and lovers, friends and adversaries. Perhaps studying the ways in which we relate as individuals will reveal the reasons we socialize so poorly. In these Pages you'll find stories of joy and grief, laughter and fury, desire and forgiveness, desperation and fulfillment. Find yourself, find the other. 

Jonathan Freeman-Coppadge
Fiction Editor

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The Stories

Pocket Jacks

Leslie Doyle

Vince had been playing the expert on this trip, like he had Ted’s whole life. If it wasn’t the details of wills and deeds and inheritance, it was about stuff they passed on the way to the south tip of New Jersey to lay a claim to his sister’s tiny cottage in the marshes. Almost at the end of the drive down, they’d seen a smokestack, resembling some kind of industrial strength lighthouse, looming above the trees that lined the Garden State Parkway...


Stringtown

Ian Delaney

The sun was rising as Jake drove up Highway 3. There wasn’t much light at first, just a deep amber glow that warmed the pine trees along the far hills. But slowly the light appeared, giving shape to the trunks and the branches and then the needles, to the semis that earlier had been pairs of floating lights. It blinded Jake as he drove east. He’d left behind his sunglasses, and when the light hit his speckled windshield the glass became a murky filter. He ran the fluid and the wipers but that just smeared the grime across the glass, thickening it. Of course there was no shoulder, so he kept going. He leaned forward, reached out the window, and used his sleeve to scrub a sliver in the dirt at eye level. Not great, but it would get him to Meg’s. He could wash the car there...


Mama

Loretta Martin

“This the last time Ima tell y'all,” Mama yelled from the kitchen. "Outta that bed. NOW!"

Soon, we’d hear her six-foot bulk lumbering down the hallway like a tornado across Midwestern plains. Her open housecoat its floral pattern faded, would flap like a wind-whipped parachute, revealing fleshy knees and a threadbare slip that barely contained two 44 double Ds. An odor of sweat mixed with cooking grease and tobacco would reach us before she slammed into our bedroom, her ratty size-10 slippers...


elderly man kills wife, self

Steve Young

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey stains his white shirt, the paisley print tie, a present from his granddaughter Michelle last birthday. Or was it Father's Day? No matter. He is drunk, his plans have gone awry and the hour has grown very late.

It had taken him a humiliatingly long part of the morning to get dressed for the occasion. Tying his tie was a black comedy, drawing his thick black belt through the small pant-loops was a burlesque. Tucking his shirt into his pants was pure vaudeville. How he ever got his socks on his feet was another miracle of mirth...


Act of Love

Michael Backus

“These are pit toilets,” she says, standing outside his car window, tapping her foot, drumming her fingers on the roof, and waiting like she expected a solution. Right now, this second, chop chopwas how she said it and maybe how she meant it.

He takes a deep breath. That’s how things have been between them for six weeks now, she says something and he finds any way he can to avoid saying what only two months before he would’ve said without a second thought...


Lisbon Road

Barbara Shomaker

My Uncle Arthur went to the Second World War with two different colored eyes, which everyone said was caused by the scarlet fever. He was also a little hard of hearing. The regular military wouldn’t have him, but the Seabees took him. They cleared land and built camps for the Navy and I guess it didn’t matter if someone couldn’t hear well or saw things differently. Uncle Arthur was a cook and won the prize for the best hooch in the camp, three years running. My grandmother was inordinately proud of her son’s award. She hung it next to Arthur’s picture above the mantel. But then, she spoke hardly any English, so having the best hooch might have seemed a great honor...


an Unfaded Black

Caleb Michael Sarvis

Grandpa Sly’s tooth fell out. The left incisor, Miles thought, whichever was the vampire one. It fell out of his mouth and into his coffee as he explained clichés to Miles. While Miles didn’t need the help, he’d been assigned guardian duty by his mother. They sat at the low wooden table, a corner between them. Grandpa Sly held the essay flat on the table, and drooped his head forward so he could make out the words, following the lines as if they were Braille. “Dark as night,” he was saying, and coffee splashed onto the line about the vast emptiness of outer space....


The End of the Beginning of the End

Paul Negri

Dying brought out the worst in Tex. He was becoming unbearable to live with.

“That’s him,” said Elizabeth, glancing at her cellphone, which she had laid flat on the sticky kitchen table. She pushed back the tired brown hair from her reddened eyes.

“It doesn’t sound like him. Didn’t you make him ‘God Save the Queen?’” Her brother Winston, nearly bald, sipped his tea. He peered at her over his dark glasses....


Photo by BuckleyPics/iStock / Getty Images

Why We're Not Married

Cree Pettaway

It was no surprise to me that summer when my mother lost the charm on her bracelet my father gave her for her birthday. A silver heart no bigger than the tip of her thumb, lost in some garden incident, never to be seen or cared for again. It was that time in July when the figs ripen to the deepest shades of purple, just shy of bursting through their skin. Not even the aluminum pans, each swaying from a piece of fishing wire, could keep the chickadees from swarming the trees in the backyard. The sun set the entire city alight that summer...


Born Famous

Joseph Ponepinto

His chubby cheeks belie his importance in cultural circles. To the uninitiated, he could be any child of two; cute beyond belief and powered by bursts of erratic, frantic energy. But sitting with him over lunch at the Bowery’s de rigueur hangout, Huertas, Jakob Hollander revealed the side that cast him into the popular spotlight at birth, and has kept him there throughout his first twenty-four months. His fame, like the wealth of America’s super-rich, was seemingly preordained, trumpeted in the tabloids as soon as his mother announced her pregnancy...


Photo by 3DSculptor/iStock / Getty Images

The House of the Man You Do Not Know

Alexandria Barkmeier

When you go to live in the house of the man you do not know, he will give you an extra set of keys and tell you to help yourself to anything in the kitchen. You will notice the smooth countertops and the silver-colored appliances. You will notice that there is no dinner table, only a breakfast bar with three high-backed stools. In what should be the dining room there is a large poker table, and when you look at it a moment too long, the man will say, “I’m going to move that and get a proper dining room table.” ...


Landlocked

Vincent Chabany-Douarre

I look around my childhood room as I wake up, opening random cardboard boxes as if on a game show. Behind door number one, we have old Fear Street novels, where teenagers gasp at CGI fires engulfing Gothic mansions. In box number two, piles of dusty book reports. In box number three, sweaters I no longer wear, including a stained cardigan and one of Scott's hoodies which simply refused to fit in my suitcase no matter how hard I tried. And so on.

I stare out the oriel window at the neighbors’ yard. They have moved, and the new ones have children...


Under the Weight

Derek Lazarski

Monica’s daises in the wood chips that lead to the front door of the house had previously been, even to the casual passerby, a visual snare. Stunningly beautiful, near literally. The petals burst open in shades of gold that appeared proud to be alive, while the dignity of the purples would command a solemn restriction at the back of your throat. She was so happy with them, she was considering, on Cheryl’s recommendation, to display them at the county fair.

Of course, they are all dead now...


Trunk of Crows

Chelsea Bartlett

Rachel rested her head against the coarse bark of the tree limb. This day was her favorite kind of day: hot sun, hot air, cool tree under her hands. And sky so blue she wanted to swim up into it. A cloud shaped like a pirate ship sailed above her.

She had been climbing trees, she thought, for almost as long as she’d been able to walk. It was something she knew and had always known she was good at, because the boys at school teased her about it. The tree limb she had settled on was too big for her. If she sat with her legs on either side of it, after a while they began to hurt. If she lay down across it, the bark bit into her skin. She had to keep moving to stay comfortable.


Freeze

Grace Lanoue

The forty-two-foot humpback whale washed up on shore last Wednesday. Robbie Bauer says it’s a sign. Molly Newbury claims that it will be perfect for our ritual. Growing up in rural Georgia, I’ve never seen a whale up close before, dead or alive.

At dark, the three of us walk down the beach toward the whale. I walk fast to keep warm, but the cold seems to freeze my muscles and joints.

“Keep up, Southern Belle,” Robbie says...

 
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