By Anna Chotlos

My students arrive at 7:15 with snow-damp shoes and mittens on strings threaded through coat sleeves, swinging backpacks by the straps, twirling free school breakfasts in plastic bags, whispering (yesterday afternoon, just down the block from our school) as they settle into their seats; I perch on a child-size chair, knees crammed to my chest, eating a bruised banana while the first graders pick apart cinnamon muffins and slurp foil-lidded applesauce cups, and as I start to say, “Let’s talk about something else—” J volunteers, “Don’t worry Ms. Anna, I’m gonna show you what to do when you hear them shooting,” and hurls himself onto the scuffed gray linoleum, knocks over his milk carton and lands splay-shoed, head buried in his arms, milk pooling around his body—

(I stare, room so quiet I can hear milk dripping off the edge of the table)

J looks up, grinning, milk droplets in his brown curls, and explains: “When they shoot at you, just pretend you’re already dead.”

Anna Chotlos likes to write essays and will be starting work toward a PhD in nonfiction at the University of North Texas this fall.

Art by Jeff Kallet.

By Ana June

The clothes bar in our closet collapsed last night, the weight of three seasons of clothes for two people drawing it to the earth in a crash we did not hear, for we were away from the house—across the property at my mom’s—living fully this new dream of a family compound, all of us together, supporting each other, my mother, three of my four children, my husband and I: three acres, two houses, a workshop, a trailer that has become our quarantine space now, with a western view of a bright pasture and rolling cottonwood horizon...the river beyond that bringing birds—hawks and egrets and ravens and blackbirds that turn above our postage stamp space, more space than we’ve ever had, which lets us wander and walk, get our steps even without masks, find new views both inside and out...which is why we didn’t hear the crash, our clothing falling in a lump of color to the floor and settling among the shoes we don’t wear, for how many do you need in quarantineand when we see the disaster in the closet, it’s late and the sky is obsidian outside and I scoop up the clothes, stagger beneath their weight—the dress I wore when I interviewed for my dream job, the job that now assures we can eat and pay the bills; the tank tops I pair with cardigans now that I’m older and my arms have lost their tone because this pairing makes me more comfortable when I stand up in front of my students and…there will be no more standing in front of my students, not for a long while, and so each morning I put on one of three tee shirts, one of four pairs of yoga pants, one of two sweatshirts, depending on the temperatures, and because I don’t really need those patterned tank tops and earthtone cardigans, so I lay them in a pile, smooth them with my hands, tuck them away in a bag for storage and wonder how dusty they’ll get in the dark.

Ana June is an Assistant Professor of English, at the University of New Mexico, and a sometimes-by-the-skin-of-her-teeth writer who has published in The Rumpus, Santa Fe Literary Review, and Santa Fe Noir, among others.

Photo by Ana June.

By Adam Gianforcaro

Your mother cursed the town you moved to and the man you moved in with, and that’s how I found out about your death, four years after the fact, when I searched your name online and came across your mother’s posts, hundreds of them, one after the other, as if Facebook was the only way to your spirit, as if this was the only logical way to mourn, post after post, which has somehow shifted my memories of you, because your mother is there now, in the woods where we used to smoke, in your bedroom, wanting more than anything to yell at you about the laundry or the movies from the library you put god-knows-where, but instead, communicating in a language of clairvoyant key stokes, posting to tell you that your cousin had her baby or that the dog learned to give paw, that she did it twice today, and it made her think of you, those brown eyes, that solemn stare after being praised.

Adam Gianforcaro is a writer from Wilmington, Delaware, with stories and poems in The Cincinnati Review (miCRo series), Poet Lore, Maudlin House, Lunch Ticket, and elsewhere.

Photo by Adam Gianforcaro.

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