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By Lesley Jenike

We’re at Panera for the mac and cheese and as usual my daughter has to pee twice so twice we notice a flyer pinned to a corkboard near the bathrooms that reads, “Bible study on Mondays!” and the sign on the back of the stall door that warns, “Please don’t flush feminine products!” and my daughter says she has “two questions” for me and I can guess what they are and you probably can too, though what you may not have guessed is that this is just another essay about the “Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living,” and I both do and don’t mean the artist Damien Hirst’s dead shark installation since I’m of two minds when it comes to the big questions and the first is to answer them whole-heartedly there and then at the moment they’re posed, and the other is to ignore them and hope they go away, but my second mind always wins

and sure, I could be quick and literal—the Bible’s a book and feminine products are napkins that’ll clog a toilet—but quick and literal isn’t my forte since I’m a lugubrious sort, a long-form dirge of a person, and while it’s funny that most people who know me think I’m upbeat, my daughter’s got my number, always has, and the way she looks at me sometimes fills me with shame because I wear my love like a costume and at night I crawl out of it and into bed, exhausted by the play I’m in called motherhood and no, they shouldn’t have cast me, but here I am, and my daughter’s the critic in the audience with a notepad and a light-pen.

Lesley Jenike's essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review, West Branch, The Bennington Review, The Rumpus, Image, and many other journals as well as on Ploughshares' blog.

Art by Jay Baker, an artist from Colorado living in Oregon, by way of New Mexico; he records music as Tom Foe.

By Amber Nuyens

In harvesting her eggs, a sturgeon is sliced from jaw to tail, her pink and full organs are splayed out on the wrong side of her grey skin onto the reflective silver table; the eggs, bundled together, are scooped out of her body cavity by full arms, careful and gentle, to be processed and packaged into tiny luxury tins, just as she has been born for, prehistoric fish, spikes still running down her spine where evolution got lost, farmed for tiny black beads bathed in salt, her body— a husk— discarded, no more tangible value once her eggs have been evacuated and the whole time I can’t look them in their eyes, it hurts deep in my stomach, all the way until I’m finished scooping their insides out, maybe it’s sympathy pains, like I’m feeling for her as I gut her for one specific piece, discarding the rest, up until I carry her smell home, like the guilt follows me on purpose, but still, I can’t leave the giant fishes because if I stop slicing and gutting and scooping and processing and packaging, someone will replace me and they won’t care about her as much as I do– they’ll push her hollow cave-no-longer-body down the production line like she never mattered, they’ll wash her scent off and they’ll brag about the fish they emptied, nothing following them like she follows me– I care about you, fossil fish, so much that only I can be the one to smash the mallet down on the base of your skull and flip you over and slice you open and hollow you out and turn you into rich people finger food.

Amber Nuyens (she/her) is an MFA student living on unceded lək̓ʷəŋən and W̱SÁNEĆ territory with her elderly lizard and her work has previously appeared in Perhappened, Complete Sentence, Glitchwords, and elsewhere.

Art by Jay Baker, an artist from Colorado living in Oregon, by way of New Mexico; he records music as Tom Foe.

By Brittney Uecker

You seem so much kinder than before when you say that you missed me, that you’ll message me, or you’ll try at least — you haven’t paid your phone bill in months — and before I walk away, you ask if I want a hug and I say I do, so you wrap me up in all six feet of you, and later, when you do message me, I go to the creek where we first made out and proceed to get drunk — bottle-of-wine, go-to-McDonalds, tweet-about-God-drunk — and I decide I need to see you, I will see you, so I call three times and you don’t answer, so I drive to your place anyway and don’t knock, just take a sharp boozy breath and open the door and thank God you are alone, sprawled out and sleepy on the couch just like I want you to be, and that’s where it starts to get hazy and I remember just flashes, like when we go outside to smoke and talk about TV and you tell me my hair looks weird when I try to flip it, so I remind you that you missed me and your laugh is nervous and not reassuring, but you ask me if I want to lay down and I follow you to your room where miraculously, you have an air mattress, next to the massive pile of all your possessions, and miraculously, you have condoms, and all I can think about is that you’ve fucked other girls since the last time, so I fuck you ravenously, like it’s slipping away, and your hair feels thicker in my hands when you tell me I’m too loud and I tell you to get behind me and afterward, we dress unceremoniously and go back out for another smoke, where the sun has set and the mosquitos are rabid, where I scratch angry, bleeding welts into my legs as you tell me your roommates will be home soon so I have to leave and I ask you for five more minutes so I can revel in the heat of your thigh against mine, revel in how impossible and destructive I can be, how when given an inch, I will violently take a mile, how I still think you’re kind and how I am so so sad.

Brittney Uecker is a librarian and writer living in rural Montana and collecting tattoos and not reducing her caffeine intake at all, nope, not one bit.

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