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By JV Genova

Frothy spit swirled in the bottom of the small plastic bottle, my tiny little spit bubbles popping slowly as sunlight filtered in through the slats of the window blinds, producing little rainbows on the translucent bubbles while I bent over the bottle and watched my saliva swirl, shine, and pop as behind me in the small room the rustling sounds of other people—a doctor, my husband, my baby, and my mother—all uncomfortable and unsure what to say, could be heard as I lingered over the bottle studying my future, wondering what the spit would reveal, considering the technician in the lab who would process the spit full of my DNA much like a prophet reveals the future in tea leaves at the bottom of a cup, and the technician would relay the information to the computer before leaving for their lunch break, my future a simple task needing to be completed before another person’s future could be read, and this alone would tell me and my family members gathered in the small room making the small noises what the odds were of my death and what drastic measures might need to be taken to try to avoid it—answering the mystery of whether my ancestors gave me the genes that could cause various parts of my body to replicate and replicate and replicate until my death—maybe soon; maybe not, but now we wait for a lab test prophecy, everyone contemplating their own future.

JV Genova dabbles in photography and growing potatoes; she can be found on Twitter @jv_genova when she should be writing.

Photo by JV Genova.

By Rebecca Fishow

Are you kidding, of course I hid it from him, I mean, they say that you’re supposed to share everything with spouses—your mensural cramps, body count, passwords—but put yourself in my shoes: what would you do, waking with a fleshy, rippled, lump on your lower back that looks like an ear, but must be a tumor, so you do, you show your man, of course you do, but his gentle touch makes you wince, more in panic than pain, as in his “calm voice” he says it’s probably benign, a harmless fluke, but his face is all terror as he tells you a doctor visit never hurts, so next week, there are more ears now, on your arm, your belly, another near your foot, you bend forward for this old-man doctor who says, “Looks like ears,” and you think, no shit, Sherlock, and the old guy scowls, so maybe you said it out loud, either way he sends you to the ear specialist down the hall, who’s honestly the most lovely doctor, human, you’ve ever met, and he touches your ears gingerly, applies salves, feathers his fingers over every little fold, finds you incredible, suggests weekly check-ins, you unicorn, you gem, and even this you tell your husband, who by now is trying every overwhelming trick to make you feel safe, cooking meals, running baths, so careful not to touch your ears, apologizing, apologizing, when, meanwhile, you can’t wait for your visit to Dr. Ear, who massages, feathers, whispers sweet nothings into each one, who studies and learns, who knows you like no one else ever has, and what do you say to your husband when weekly visits become daily, then secret dinner dates, because you’re covered now, filthy with ears that Dr. Ear nibbles in a way that melts your soul, so tell me, how you say, “Husband, I am finally home.”

Rebecca Fishow is the author of The Trouble With Language (TRSNFR Books), which won the 2019 Holland prize for fiction, as well as the chapbook, The Opposite of Entropy (Proper Tales Press).

Art by Rebecca Fishow.

By Aaron Burch

I turned 40 and got a promotion and went to a lot of movies and watched a lot of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette and the state where I live legalized recreational marijuana then I turned 41 and went to the Kentucky Derby with my wife and to Fort Lauderdale with my wife and then I bought a new car and drove across the country by myself, east to west, and spent the summer with my childhood best friends, then, at the end of the summer, drove across the country by myself again, back the other way, west to east, and then I got divorced and moved into an apartment, taking with me mostly only the essentials and what was most obviously mine instead of ours but also the big comfy couch that we had gotten from our neighbors when they moved away and didn’t want to take it with them, and I didn’t get internet because I wanted to spend all my time just reading and writing, and I read a lot and drank a lot and listened to a lot of records and went on a bunch of dates and had a bunch of sex and the city where I live opened its first dispensaries and then I turned 42 and then COVID shut down almost the whole entire world and so I finally got internet in my apartment and started watching more TV shows and movies at home and I read less and listened to fewer records and drank even more—probably too much, but also very possibly the just right amount; who can say, the world seemed to be ending—and then the government sent everyone stimulus checks and so I used mine and bought the biggest TV I could find that cost the amount of money the government had given me and I started watching even more TV shows and movies at home, but never another episode of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, and I went to my local dispensary’s website and ordered some edibles and then I drove down the road and parked in their parking lot and sent them a text that I was there and a guy brought me my edibles via curbside service because people were no longer allowed in most non-essential stores and some nights I’d eat one and relax into my big comfy couch and watch a movie, and as someone who smoked pot a handful of times over the years, here and there, but never really that much, but who has enjoyed a large amount of art about drugs, I found myself wanting to feel some version of my mind expanding to new realities and to see new truths heretofore invisible to my sober eyes and to feel and see and understand the beauties and possibilities of life—both my life but also just life, in general—and also the interconnectedness of everything and everyone, but mostly I would just end up falling asleep on that big comfy couch and then waking up in the middle of the night and turning off the TV and sometimes moving to my bed and other times just sleeping the rest of the night right there on that couch which, to be honest, sometimes actually feels like, if not exactly, at least a version of that sought-after mind-expanding new reality and previously invisible truth and beauty of the world around me, the very infinite possibilities of life that I’d been looking for.

In addition to all of the above, in the last few years, Aaron Burch sold his first novel, Year of the Buffalo, which is forthcoming in November 2022 and is available for preorder now, and also a collection of short-short CNF, A Kind of In-Between, which will include this piece and is forthcoming from Autofocus Books in 2023, and also he started painting, which he often does from a table set up behind his big comfy couch, such that he can watch TV while doing so, and Cheers has become his go-to favorite joyful watch.

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