By Marcia Aldrich

As my husband and I were walking on a beach in Port Ludlow, a place we were visiting for the first time and just following our instincts about where to go, we reached what appeared to be the end of the sandy stretch of beach at which point he asked should we turn around, a familiar question, predictable even, what he says when he and I have reached an end whether it be a trail, a beach, a road in the woods or the end of a bad fight and just as familiarly I asked, what’s around the bend because I never want to turn around and go back, returning doesn’t call me, I want to go ahead to see what’s there even if it’s something difficult like jagged rocks or crashing waves that would make walking further arduous, after all the bright sand could fall away into black rock that could slice open my foot in a flash or we could be walking down a quiet country road lined with blackberries and queen anne’s lace and then turn with the bend and find a house on fire or someone shooting a dog or slapping their girlfriend or a neglected orchard, gnarled, charred and nothing green with nary an apple in sight, but I never think tragedy is up ahead, no, I think maybe there will be surprise, a prettier beach than the one I’m on with a view of the mountains suddenly exposed, sea otters lolling about near the water’s edge, a woman in a kayak paddling to shore in a white dress and waving to me as if she knows me, a single solitary blue heron hunched over in the shallows, with feathers like wet velvet, a dusty blue tinged with grey who cranks his head towards me and then lifts off into the air in one long exclamation point of a body.

Marcia Aldrich is the author of the free memoir Girl Rearing, published by W.W. Norton, and of Companion to an Untold Story, which won the AWP Award in Creative Nonfiction; she is the editor of Waveform: Twenty-First-Century Essays by Women, published by the University of Georgia Press (with teachers’ guide here), and has been the editor of the journal Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction.

Photo by Rose Portillo.

By Maggie Morris

I always say I’m not a smoker, smoking just one doesn’t make me a smoker because smokers can’t have one and I can have one, just one, so it doesn’t count in the same way it doesn’t count being in one of those casual relationships where you never commit but you keep going back for one more fuck saying you’re not hooked—easy to say when they’re not very smart or some little thing about them is off, like bad sneakers or a weird smell or a laugh that comes out with just a subtle snort, things so minor you’d get over them if you thought you might love them but you don’t so those minor things erupt into major turnoffs and you know it’s time to quit them and start on someone worth your time, someone to love even but then again it’s hard to start over when you can stay with the same old and pretend you feel nothing in the emotional way so the physical part is a momentary reprieve, like ending your day with just one, one suck on a slow death at the end of the day, the only time you can actually have the space to be still and exhale—though that glorious exhale is followed rapidly by a wave of remorse, a panic that you’re far away from yourself and yet seconds from suffocating from years of this just one, and now that you think about it all those ones add up to many, many more than you want to account for, a lot of time sucking on nothing, a nothing that always feels comforting like an old friend who always listens and doesn’t scold you to your face but now that you’re pregnant, just barely pregnant your body whispers there is a fullness you never felt before and that is a miracle because you’re over forty and now that decades old comfort of one moment of still solitude feels evil and you hate yourself as you contemplate having just one more.

Maggie Morris is a writer and artist in the small form.

Image by Maggie Morris.

By Michael Todd Cohen

After the fall, when the water and the government have evaporated, I try to drink the last of the honey from the bottle in the tea cabinet but its promise of sweetness has soured — so I slather it on my body instead to soothe the char from the incendiaries that finally stopped, scraping slow rivers of it down to meet my blood-spackled toes; honeyed I walk through the wasted world in search of something that holds sweetness in spite of decay.

Michael Todd Cohen is a writer and producer living in New York. He is EIC of and his work appears or is forthcoming in Barren Magazine, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine and HAD (a Hobart Pulp companion journal).

Photo by Michael Todd Cohen.

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