The two of them sat at opposite ends of the table. The conversation had trailed off a bit, so Mary just sat back and watched him enjoy his cake.

“Are you going to want another piece?” She asked.

“No I’m good.” He replied as he wiped the crumbs from his mouth.

“Alright. I’m going to clean up then.” She got up and took the rest of the cake over to the counter. As she made her way across the kitchen, she stopped and kissed him on the forehead. “Happy birthday, hon.”

“Thanks, Mom.” He replied, scraping up the leftover frosting on his fork.
As she put the rest of the cake in a Tupperware, Josh put his plate in the sink and came up behind her.

“Hey Mom…” He trailed off a bit.

“Yeah?” She loved this part. She could tell that even though he assumed there was a present, he was terrified that she had somehow forgotten. She pretended not to know what he wanted, and tilted her head? “What’s up?” When she saw the color drain from his face she couldn’t keep it up. “It’s in my room. “

He was already gone. She smiled to herself as she listened to him barrel down the hall and practically rip the door open. She waited a moment and listened closely.

“Do you like it?” She waited for a response. Instead of a reply, she heard a soft click. Then the frantic footsteps again, this time coming back to the kitchen. He slid across the floor in his socks, catching himself on the counter.

“Look!” He handed her a black photo. “I think you’re supposed to wave it around or something,” he added. She sat down and watched it materialize as he peered over her shoulder. “What do you think?” When she realized what it was, she gave the photo a smooch, turned to him, and gave him the same.

“It’s perfect.”

Story by Seth Steinberg


Ten Things I Didn’t Know When I Took This Picture:

[1] Someone would invent the word “Selfie.” I guess this was one of the first–I just stretched my arms out and hoped for the best. These days, I think “Selfies” are weird and wouldn’t take one if you paid me.

[2] The next summer, my best friend, Billy, would accidentally shoot and kill himself with one of his father’s guns.

[3] The same summer Billy died, my mother would become a local hero by saving a young child from drowning in a lake.

[4 I would be practically invisible to girls for the next twenty years of my life. The fat kid who wasn’t any good in sports. Those were terribly lonely years. Then one day I met Lucy and the world turned bright.

[5] My father, who I idolized, would later be arrested four times for drunk driving. In those days people seemed to rack up the convictions and he was one of them. He eventually stumbled into AA and turned himself around but it wasn’t pretty and scared me off any form of alcohol–one more reason I was a social outcast.

[6] I had a medical condition that would prevent me from being drafted into the army during Viet Nam. It probably saved my life.

[7] I would have a successful career as a dentist–thirty-five years and three generations of patients.

[8] Lucy would discover (after I retired) that I have a real knack for impersonations–Al Pacino, Bill Clinton, Christopher Walken, Jack Nicholson, even Bugs Bunny, for god’s sake. I’m a real scream at parties.

[9] Before me, my mother had a baby who died when he was six months old. I discovered this when I found his yellowing birth certificate among my mother’s papers when we cleaned out her apartment last month.

[10] In that same batch of papers I also discovered I was adopted. I told Lucy it’s like waking up on a different planet. I’ll be adding to this list.

Story by Will Conway


“How was school, honey?” he heard his mom shout as he ran upstairs. Flashbacks of school: the smell of urine, the hard floor of the gym, the sneer on Jenny Murphy’s face (was it because he was fat?), the classroom, Scott Abrams coming towards him with his fists clenched. “Fine, mom,” he hollered and ran into his room.

Joey was alone now. He put his backpack down and started going around the room making sure all the lines were straight. He touched each book, box, lamp, pillow, cushion, and anything else in the room. He then got back to the backpack and picked it up, put it back again. It was not sitting right. He did it a few more times, until it was correct and then went back to check all the lines again. He felt so bad about the lines, did not even notice his mom was standing in the door.

“Dinner will be a half-hour later, honey,” she said. “I could not get out of work. And then there’s this. It’s from your father.”

She was holding a a package wrapped in brown paper. Flashbacks of his dad: playing catch, dad late for work and kissing mom in a hurry as Joey was having breakfast, dad’s Dodge rolling into the driveway, the smell of alcohol and cigarettes. Joey twitched and thought she probably saw it. He bit his lower lip three times.

The package contained a Polaroid camera. “I thought maybe we could send a photo of you to your father,” she had said and he wanted to do it himself. The image was now emerging from the white. It was crooked.

“It’s fine, honey,” she said, but he had to take another one. He had to make sure all the lines were straight.

Story by Pawel Kowaluk


Do you think my head’s too big? Compared to my friend’s heads, my head might be considered big but who’s to say that they don’t have small heads? But really be honest, is it? Wait don’t answer that, it’s just a rhetorical question because Mrs. Medina says that’s how you get a reader’s attention … But now that I have your attention, I’m starting to think my head is a little disproportionate to the rest of my body. I’m not insecure or anything I just genuinely wanna know if the size of my cerebral vortex is affecting my balance, agility, and or ability to have a sophisticated relationship with a female lady. Jonah Evans in English the other day complained to Mrs. Medina about how he couldn’t see the whiteboard because my big head was in the way. For all we know Jonah could be farsighted with a hint of a stigmatism disabling him from seeing the whiteboard. He could be really insecure about it and that’s why he chose to complain about my head being in the way. Right?

On the other hand, Danny Henderson once told me that having a big head is good because it meant that you’re smarter than everyone else– I think he’s onto something… There’s a lot to consider here and that’s why I took this photo. I had to know if it was really true: Was my head too big? After stealing my Aunt Martha’s Polaroid camera, locking myself in her bedroom, and snatching this photo, I still haven’t decided if it is or isn’t. But then I realized that my head wasn’t the problem: it was the fact that my jawline is so gosh darn BEAUTIFUL. People must be so distracted by my charming good looks to even notice that I have a big head! The shape and structure of my face is just exquisite compared to the average human– heck, I look like Matthew Mcconaughey. I’m a stunner!

Story by Batya Conn

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