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By Sarah Kilch Gaffney

We are a little over three months out from my husband’s deployment (his first since I’ve known him), and I don’t know if the dog is sick or if her age is just catching up with her, and it is high summer in the thick of the pandemic that shut everything down a few weeks after our youngest daughter’s birth, and we are picking blackberries and cherry tomatoes by the fistful, but I felt my heart collapse halfway through the day and I haven’t yet recovered, so tonight I put frozen chicken nuggets in the microwave while my husband finished up a shift in the ICU and I juggled the children and threw food from the fridge into the trash because I couldn’t remember how old it was, and I tried to remember that a year is not forever (and that I know actual forever intimately), and that I know in my head he’s more likely to die in a car accident any day on 295, or maybe even be struck by lightning, but the rogue cells in my first husband’s brain and our daughter giving him one last kiss in a hospital bed have left me little belief in odds or likelihoods or just the default thought that things will work out and everything will be okay, and now the baby is pink and sweaty in the evening heat, and she coos while the three-year-old screams, and the dragonflies in the yard swoop voraciously through the watercolor sky while I pour dishwater into the sink.

Sarah Kilch Gaffney is a writer, brain injury advocate, and homemade caramel aficionado living in Maine.

Photo by Jeff Kallet.

By Genia Blum

When my boyfriend came home that morning, there was no yelling, no hitting back, no sound or motion on my part, only a barely perceptible rise and fall of the chest and a slight fluttering of my nostrils; probably why—in an unexpected act of kindness from someone who’d once prevented me from seeing a doctor after he’d broken my nose—he delivered me to the E.R.; but only after procrastinating all day, so it was too late to pump out my stomach, and every molecule of every pill I’d swallowed was coursing through my bloodstream and flooding my brain, allowing me to see things that normally remain hidden; like the host of celestial beings who coaxed and coerced me into consciousness, luring me toward light and back into darkness, caressing and coddling, until I awakened in dull twilight, lying on a gurney as walls and ceilings rushed by; and when I grasped at the wings of passing angels, their white feathers dissolved in my hands, as I was now one of the resurrected, no longer deserving of mercy, attended only by Satan, who tore away the sheets and shoved a bedpan beneath me.

Genia Blum is a Swiss Ukrainian Canadian writer, translator and dancer whose work has received a Best of the Net and several Pushcart Prize nominations as well as a “Notable” mention in The Best American Essays 2019, and who haunts Twitter as @geniablum when not tweaking fonts on her website

Photo by Julian Blum.

By Marci Vogel

The summons arrives through a slot in the door, boldface warning in the upper right-hand corner: Failure to respond may subject you to a fine, incarceration or both, as well as performance of jury service, a sequence of consequences I interpret as equating civic duty with criminality, only I can’t be entirely clear because there’s no answer at the number listed (213-972-0907); the assembly room may be open but no one seems to be assembled, and so I enter the virtual portal, two letters beyond another word for refuge, harbor, shelter, all hope abandoned as I work my way through My Info, My Summons, and the post-orientation video quiz: True or False: I am not allowed to discuss, text, e-mail, or post on social media sites any information about my experiences while I am serving jury duty, but there’s no way to ask Does this sentence count? or Is it really true that if selected we are triers of fact? because—to tell the truth and nothing but the whole truth so help me G—I’d rather try the lead in the water, the secret payout, the backroom deal; because the fact is Here for You | Safe for You couldn’t keep even death row safe for lethal injection; because I don’t ever want to forget that justice is what love looks like in public; because money may be the root of all evil, but the root of pandemic means all people: innocent until guilty, as charged.

Marci Vogel is the author of Death and Other Holidays (Melville House, 2018) and a potential juror for the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles

Art by Linda Arreola.

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