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Stories Tragedy

Ace of Pentacles

It’s easier with the drunk girls—especially the loud-mouthed ones who travel in packs. Dressed in sparkly tops, short skirts, and wobbly heels, they wear “Bride To Be” paper tiaras or “Nifty-to-Be-Fifty” ballcaps. On weekends, I expect them after the bars close. They burst through my door, tittering, eyeing the darkened reading room with glassy cows…

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Stories Tragedy

For the Rest of My Life

Their high school friends had gone on ahead, laughing and teasing one another, yet the thought of entering the Fall Festival’s “Howl-O-Scream” terrified her. It was the not knowing what lurked in the darkened corners that bothered her the most. She hated being surprised. “Are you ready?” her boyfriend asked. Boyfriend. What an insubstantial word…

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Stories Tragedy

Fin

Maybe the lights won’t come back on. Maybe you can sit in silence in the back of the community center next to your ex-wife for a little while. She’s been remarried for years. You try to remember where what’s-his-name works. You hold her hand. She squeezes your hand back. 🜋 🜋 🜋 You know the…

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Stories Tragedy

Incapable of Her Own Distress

There is something liberating about losing the love of your life. Compounded with all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, it makes the choice to lose one’s mind easier—not to mention the choice of losing one’s life. I guess that answers the question whether to be or not to be. If I were still…

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Stories Tragedy

Homewrecker

🏅“No, she isn’t my daughter,” he corrects a colleague. “She’s my wife.” On cue, I beam at my husband, innocent and doe-eyed—like I did in my 20’s when he was in his 40’s. His friend invariably elbows him, making comments about cradle robbing and spring chickens. We laugh. I say something clever in reply. His…

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Stories Tragedy

Spider Silk

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?” My sister Lizz holds up the book she is reading to her 3rd grade science class. The eight-year-old students go wide-eyed at seeing a picture of little Fern attempting to wrestle away an ax from her father. He has planned to kill a newborn pig, the runt of the…

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Stories Tragedy

War Crimes

Andriy watched his father move an anti-tank mine out of the roadway using his bare hands, all the while smoking a Chinese cigarette, the tobacco loose and pungent. “Your name, Andriy, means manly and strong,” his father explained through clenched teeth, delicately carrying the explosive. “I named you for days like these. You will be a…

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Stories Tragedy

Get Thee to a Nunnery

“Sister Theresa, what time does the new applicant arrive?” Sister Pauline asked politely, to avoid Sister Theresa’s wrath. For a Franciscan, Sister Theresa could be entirely uncharitable, even to the abbess herself. “Oh you old cow, I’ve told you twice already!” Sister Theresa replied, throwing the bread dough she’d been kneading into a large wooden…

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Stories Tragedy

Featherless Biped

The morning traffic jam at the high school peaked at 7:47 a.m., short tempered fathers slowing down to jettison their surly sons, mothers asking their daughters if they wanted to take an umbrella just in case, seniors cutting off all other cars to drive diagonally through the parking lot. Mister Carlton angrily tapped the steering…

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Stories Tragedy

Styx & Stones

❤️ A cold thick fog enveloped the muddy banks of the River Styx, chilling Persephone’s ankles. Demeter pulled Persephone’s coarsely woven robes tightly around her—robes of finely combed linen made from flax soaked in olive oil. When dried in the balmy Grecian sun, Persephone’s clothing smelled of newborn lambs and gentle sunbeams and fresh mown…

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Stories Tragedy

What I Want To Say

“Okay, little ladies . . . You know this is a difficult conversation for all parties concerned, but I am going to ask you for 110 percent. I am going to ask you to bring your ideas to the table as we think outside the box. This should be a constructive meeting for all of…

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Stories Tragedy

I Nothing You

“Wait . . . can you still hear me?” she asks, expectantly. She paces around the parking lot at dusk, seeing if the connection is better from a different angle. She holds the phone up and squints at it. She hikes a bit up an embankment, stupidly looking at her phone, wondering if two bars…

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Stories Tragedy

Another Form of Water

The weather forecast called for snow flurries, unusual for this time of year. Yes, she had bundled up the kids for Halloween in all types of inclement weather when they were young—but never for snow. It never snowed this early in the season. No matter, she thought. The ground was parched and dry. Any precipitation…

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Stories Tragedy

For the Last Time

“Ow! You little bugger—you’ve nipped me for the last time.” Five months in, breastfeeding had lost its luster, especially as the baby began to teethe, searching more for pain relief than for nourishment. Perhaps they were both just thoroughly exhausted, as both mother’s and child’s sleep schedules—blissful for a month or so after a chaotic…

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Stories Tragedy

The Joys of Late Stage Capitalism

He threw a larger piece of brick, shattering another pane of glass. Who would complain? The warehouse had already been emptied out. A company car drove by, slowly, its headlights washing over him. Gordy momentarily felt sheepish, squinting his eyes, hiding the alcohol he’d been drinking behind his back. He reminded himself he was a…

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Stories Tragedy

Land Of Milk & Honey

“It’s time,” the smugglers mutter, steely-eyed, unblinking. “It’s time.” “Martina,” her mother whispers a final directive. “You be Martin until these men take you over the border.” She zips up her daughter’s padded jacket and inspects her newly shorn hair. Just 11 years old. She can pass for a boy. “Yes,” Martina replies, meeting her…

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Stories Tragedy

Yellow Leaf

“Because you cannot take care of her properly,” I finally say after arguing for almost an hour. “Now, I’ve brought some brochures—” “I take care of her just fine,” my father replies evenly, those coal black eyes of his boring a hole through me. “I always have. And you know what you can do with…

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Stories Tragedy

Angels Among Grief

❤️ Before—everything mattered. Now? Nothing does. 🜋 🜋 🜋 “It seems excessive—” the new angel says, eyes brimming with tears. “Grief descends on them so quickly.” He looks down again, keenly feeling each pang of despair, pooling in black waves around them like a treacherous sea. “It does,” the old archangel agrees. “But in their…

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Stories Tragedy

A Fellow of Infinite Jest

Dusk comes early to the blue-black Virginian woods in November. I know these paths well, but I still stumble on scraggly branches and twigs which poke angrily through a pristine icy blanket of snow. It crunches under our heavy boots as we make our way to the old oak. It seems the perfect time of…

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Stories Tragedy

The End of Days – New Orleans

“That’s the thing about this city,” said Detective McMurtagh. “It’s impossible to discern what is real—or just a Mardi Gras illusion.” Maretha shook her head. “I just don’t like the South in general. Voodoo. Fried foods. And that peculiar institution left its stink on everything. The New Orleans slave pens trafficked more people than anywhere…

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Stories Tragedy

The End of Days

“Is the boy here yet?” “CPS is transporting,” the desk sergeant replied. As usual, Child Protective Services was predictably late. The small police station in Show Low, Arizona was on edge. Before this incident, the station just processed the usual petty theft and property crimes—with the occasional drunk and disorderly or drug bust for good…

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Stories Tragedy

As Ice Glazes Rocks

🏅 Alana’s mother had warned her about the rocks covered in ice near the edge of the lake. The Johnson boy had slipped and tumbled headlong into murk. In 40 degree water, he quickly sank in his heavy winter coat, started to hyperventilate, and drowned before anyone knew he was gone. “He’d only have lasted…

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Stories Tragedy

The Coldness of Sand

3.1688739 x 10^-10 Millenia In ten seconds you will break my heart. In a thousand years, I will never recover from the words that will come out of your mouth, from this serious conversation you want so desperately to have, from your dead shark eyes that fail to hold my gaze. I will get up…

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Stories Tragedy

Uneven Hearts

“You don’t hate me,” my older brother smiled slyly. “You admire me.” With that, he slapped down the queen of spades on top of the pile of cards, adding another 13 points to my score. It was the third hand in a row he’d gleefully beaten me. Roy was only half right. I admired him;…

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Popular Stories Tragedy

Your Poor Rick

🏆 ❤️ “We saw your poor Rick,” they say in the grocery store aisle. I smile, unconvincingly, and compare jars of spaghetti sauce that I don’t even want. “We heard about your poor Rick,” they say, half turned on the pew in front of me at church. I sit alone and nod at their thoughtful…

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Stories Tragedy

The End, Less Possibilities

“Where do you think you’re gonna go?” her husband sputters, blindsided by his wife’s packed bags at the bottom of the stairs. “It doesn’t matter,” she replies, dead-eyed and somber. She puts on her coat, the black one, the one for special occasions. “The kids—” “The kids are thirty,” she says, turning away from him…

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Stories Tragedy

Marshmallow Wrapped in Barbed Wire

🏅 ❤️ Twenty five years in, she found herself a ghost. She stood unseen in the living room, stupidly holding a large bowl of homemade caramel corn. The noise from the widescreen television washed over her, the whistles and calls, the screaming of the fans, the roar of the crowd. The men in the room,…

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Stories Tragedy

U.S. Army Issue Brown T-Shirt

“You can’t keep me here.” “Please, Mr. Van de Kamp. Take your seat,” ordered the imperturbable headmaster, black eyes narrowing over his hawkish nose. The boy stood in his office. Out of uniform. Insolent. “You can’t keep me here—” the boy repeated. “I assure you, we can,” the headmaster flatly stated. “Your father—” “My father…

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Stories Tragedy

Behind the Wainscoting

When I’m gone, finally gone, our children will find this. Behind the wainscoting. I remember you’d insisted on this—this tacky beaded white wall paneling, always insisting on what you thought you knew was best. Did it matter if I wanted the interior of our home decorated in rough sawn oak or weathered pine to create…

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Stories Tragedy

Ollie & Evie – Walmart’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

❤️ It was Evie who wanted the kids, Orville remembers. Orville would have been content drinking coffee with his Evie in the mornings, looking out the window, watching the birds at the bird feeder, quietly listening to her go on about this and that. “When does the school bus come, Ollie?” Evie asks. “About 3:30,”…

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Stories Tragedy

Dance With The One Who Brought You

❤️ Read by Russell Norman “Your wife’s confusion is partly due to salicylate poisoning,” the young doctor explains. Orville waits patiently for him to continue, holding his wife’s sweater while she dresses in the examination room. The doctor’s office is too cold, as Texans like their air conditioning glacial. It hurts his knees. “Essentially she…

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Stories Tragedy

The Bloodline Gamble

❤️ There in the cold hospital waiting room, we gathered together to watch my oldest sister die. As usual, I sat alone and apart. The only person I even liked in this motley group was currently in another room, heavily sedated on a ventilator. If my oldest sister had been sitting next to me, we…

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Stories Tragedy

A Breakup In Five Acts

🏅 Act I is the easiest part to write as you don’t even like him at first, unusual considering how hard and how fast you fall. On your first date, he asks what type of restaurant you prefer. Idiot, you think. We aren’t going to get into any place decent this late on a Saturday…

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Stories Tragedy

Parent Conference

“Thank you for coming in today, Mrs. Sampson,” the principal said, smiling thinly and motioning for the anxious mother to sit in the chair directly across from the principal’s desk. The bookcases behind Mrs. Sampson’s seat were filled to capacity, mostly with well-thumbed history textbooks and supplemental Advanced Placement materials that the principal had kept…

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Stories Tragedy

The Come Down

As usual, my father stalked into the room, quickly scanning assorted relatives for the most suitable person with whom to trouble himself. Taking inventory of the stock and trade in the claustrophobic meeting room at Winston’s Funeral Home & Crematory, I felt his slate eyes gloss over me, registering nothing on his end but vague…

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Stories Tragedy

Affaires de Coeur

When Mom died ten years ago, dad practically did too, even though the death certificate would list his official passing with today’s date. There are couples and then there are soulmates; mom and dad were the latter. They didn’t need to finish each other’s sentences because they could converse without speaking. Theirs was a love…