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By Thomas Cook

Awake, rising, and sensing the cold absence, he would later covet that final moment of foggy confusion at the familiar sound of his father’s hunting rifle echoing from the garage below.

Thomas Cook lives in Indianapolis, which in 2014 was voted the top convention city in the country by USA Today.

Art by Zach Schwartz; more visuals @regalmurk on Instagram.

By Dinty W. Moore

Day 56 and I hate my hair, my face, my hands, my hands touching my face, my hands touching my hair, wearing a mask, my neighbors who don’t wear masks, my neighbors who wear masks incorrectly, my neighbors who wear masks smugly, like some fucking statement of purity, or wokeness, myself for thinking that very thought, myself for knowing the word wokeness, smug people generally, the lady who sews 25 masks a day and posts pictures to Facebook, every fucking day, my neighbor who has a hot tub, my neighbor who has a greenhouse, my neighbor who probably hates me because I have a garden, yeast, the lack of yeast, people talking about yeast, the word yeast, sourdough starter, toilet paper, Netflix, people who hoard toilet paper, myself for buying too much toilet paper, my neighbor who walks his dog every 30 fucking minutes, and he’s thinner than me, by a factor of roughly 2,000, if that is even mathematically possible, math, math professors, math problems, problems, droplets, airborne droplets, how hard it is to get beer, the Kroger employee who thinks social distancing is pushing up within two inches of my face to put my birth date into the cash register so I can buy my beer, cash registers, self-checkout lines, grocery shopping, being afraid of grocery shopping, being afraid to read newspaper articles describing the symptoms, being afraid to read newspaper articles about what the world might look like two months from now, two years from now, next Tuesday, listening to idiot-face you-know-who blather on as if he had a freaking clue, as if he were a fucking scientist, very stable geniuses, Clue, Scrabble, Animal Crossing, my friends who manage to play online games using three or four devices simultaneously so they can move their pieces, still see one another, chat on the side, and simultaneously schedule online grocery delivery orders, online grocery delivery, social distancing, social distancing protesters, Nazis, those who are ignorant, those who are ignorant by choice, my elected representatives, Kellyanne Conway, insipid commercials from automobile manufacturer’s claiming they are “there for me,” insipid commercials generally, insincerity, television generally, my sofa, my bed, my life, washing my mail, washing my hands, washing my food, too much food, not enough food, pictures of other people’s food, people who lecture other people, people who go on and on about how much they hate the pandemic, myself for going on and on about how much I hate the pandemic, myself two months from now, myself two years from now, myself next Tuesday, myself, being afraid, being afraid to breathe.

Dinty W. Moore’s entire life is on hold.

Art by Jeff Kallet, whose work can be found on Flickr and Instagram.

By Brenna Gomez

My wife disappeared right before my eyes on the last night of our honeymoon—we hadn’t even made love yet, I’d forgotten to make the hotel reservations and so we had to stay in hostels making our way across Europe, but then at the end, I blew a full half of our budget on a fancy hotel—she just wanted to take a bath first, she said, and I understood this, we were grimy from the train and greasy sausage the Irish eat for their heavy breakfasts, the kind of breakfasts that sit in your stomach until early evening and even then you have to walk miles around the city for them to work their way out, my wife, Eileen, with her short brown hair and impressive dimples, we sipped cheap whiskey from the market down the road in hotel glasses that were awkward in our small hands and I took photos of her lounging in the fancy bathtub, each curve of her body awash in soft light from the desperately late sunsets this far north, she smiled and laughed and posed and sipped, and I maybe felt the most alive I’ve ever felt, but then her face changed—a flash of annoyance or pain like when I jab my elbow under her rib at night when she snores—and the water in the tub began to drain and swirl, and it was then that Eileen’s face blurred for just a moment, the strangest moment of my life: my wife looking me in the eye with concern and confusion and just for a second something like a wicked bit of fun and she dissolved, her body a mess of dots churning at the bottom of the tub before disappearing down the drain with a harsh gurgle; I sat on the toilet for a very long time before I drank my whiskey and then hers—she’d set the glass on the edge of the tub closest to the wall, I hadn’t yet appreciated the deep blue of the bathroom tile, my wife’s loveliness often did that, rarely did I see anything but her, even if I was standing in front of the most breathtaking waterfall, it was just her for me, always, but now that she had gone I crawled into the tub and fished my fingers into the drain, not sure what I expected to find—there was nothing but a dark clump of hair, probably from the last people who’d used the room and I peered down into the hole and sometimes if I looked hard enough I thought I could see a faint purple light, but when I called for her Eileen wasn’t there, I called her name again and again, my mouth right on the drain so it would carry my voice down into the pipes if that’s even where she was and I woke there in the tub the next morning, slightly damp, spent days trying to recreate exactly what happened so I could follow her, but I would never be as beautiful as Eileen, my hair was too long and tangled, I could never arch my back just right or lift my hips just so, I mostly drank whiskey alone and woke up when my nose slipped under the water; I finally started telling people that Eileen walked out on me on the last night of our honeymoon because there was no way to explain this disaster that had become my life, and now when I travel for work, I take a bath in every hotel around the world, first peering down the drain and looking for that purple light, hoping that if I drink the perfect amount of whiskey at the right moment of sunset then I too will become a blur amid a sea of dots and follow Eileen down to the end of this Earth or the next one.

Brenna Gomez's fiction has appeared in Prairie Schooner, StoryQuarterly, Year's Best Weird Fiction Volume 5, and  The Dark Magazine; she received a Hedgebrook residency in nonfiction in 2017. 

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

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