Dear T-cells,

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By Sean Daly

… I’m getting blood work today so I want to have a little chat with you. First of all, I believe you hold laughter in high esteem. (That makes two of us!) You regard it as a friend, the type who’ll sit and bolster you. I imagine you’re looking for a particular quality. Something beyond witty and never the type that comes cynically from a political cartoon, say, or the blahaha that comes from witnessing an adversary stumble, but something along the lines of glee, or mirth.

Me too!

Anyways, I hear the nurse now.

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

___

Sean Daly’s work has appeared in Prick of the Spindle, Jersey Devil Press, and The Incubator. His memoir, What We Talk About When We talk About Cancer, was published in 2016.

 

A Lost Smile

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By Isabelle Andres

She sits quietly just like she always does. But today as her train reaches its next stop, he steps in, sees her, and smiles. She so wants to smile, yet her lips remain locked. He may talk to her. It would be magical for a little while, but all too soon the bitter end would spark.

His beautiful smile persisted until the following stop. His stop.

She sits quietly, but his absence now intoxicates her mind. She should have smiled. This could have been that one time it never died down.

Hideo

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By George Polley

What he remembered was the air raid siren, then running through a wall of flames. Mother, holding little sister close to her breast, ran next to him. He remembered stumbling over bodies and nearly falling down. Then they were at the river, in the park with hundreds of others. The sky was a bright orange. Looking at his mother and sister, he found her round face, always so full of smiles and laughter, was stiff and cold. Will help come? Everything and everyone he has known has vanished. He is alone, and he is only eight years old.

___

George Polley writes poetry and fiction, including three novels and one novella. He has lived in Sapporo, Japan since 2008.

Vesuvius

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By T.N. Haynes

They say
the aftershocks shook paint from chapel walls,

For days

Rendered pillars into powder,

They say
a triturate of

promises/                   /oaths

unmet/                        /betrayed,

And

hopes/                         /prayers

dashed/                      /unheard.

They say a sooty residue
forever clogged the cogs of gratitude, and

Encased

a void

to forever and ever

avoid.

Munchausen

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By Sydney Hartle

Before this, I’m lonely.

She radiates heat. She’s half asleep, but I part her cracked lips with mine. Her breath is caustic, mouth like stale crackers. I cool her neck with a needful touch, caressing swollen lymph nodes.

“Sara, what’re you doing?” She’s bleary-eyed.

It’s my sister in our parents’ bed. They take good care of her.

I wrap her in my spider limbs. “It’s the fever,” I say. “You’re hallucinating.”

I brush the hair from her sweaty forehead and her body relaxes. I savor the lingering taste of her saliva. It tastes like the promise of love.

 

____

Sydney Hartle is a Michigan girl and recent college grad who peaked at age 6 when she met her celebrity crush, General Shang from Mulan, at Disneyland.

Cake

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By Connor Greenaway

He trotted down the stairs, heavy footsteps on dirty steps. He glanced around at the filthy surroundings. The place was a mess, and truthfully, so was he. He shuffled through the litter-strewn hallway, sat at the kitchen table, and lit a cigarette. He sneered at the half-ravaged birthday cake: A sickly reminder of his own age. His cigarette had gone out, he started on a whiskey breakfast and lit another.

Party of One

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By Jennifer Terry

Sorry, I can’t make it.  I press send on the text message.  My phone buzzes in response.

??????? I can’t believe you’re missing ANOTHER one of my dinner parties.  I’m starting to take it personally, Jess answers.

I’ll be there next time.  I promise.

You better be!  We’re having a great time.

I put the phone down and curl up in bed, my dog snoozing at my feet, a new book on my nightstand.  I sip my tea and put my head against the window of my third floor apartment, watching the rain fall.

So am I, Jess.  So am I.