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The End of a Dynasty or The Natural History of Ferrets

by Angélica Gorodischer

The storyteller said: He was a sorrowful prince, young Livna’lams, seven years old and full of sorrow. It wasn’t just that he had sad moments, the way any kid does, prince or commoner, or that in the middle of a phrase or something going on his mind would wander, or that he’d waake up with a heaviness in his chest or burst into tears for no apparent reason. All that happens to everybody, whatever their age or condition of life. No, now listen to what I’m telling you, and don’t get distracted and then say I didn’t explain it well enough. If anybody here isn’t interested in what I’m saying, they can leave. Go. Just try not to bother the others. This tent’s open to the south and north, and the roads are broad and lead to green lands and black lands and there’s plenty to do in the world—sift flour, hammer iron, beat rugs, plow furrows, gossip about the neighbors, cast fishing nets—but what there is to do here is listen. You can shut your eyes and cross your hands on your belly if you like, but shut your mouth and open your ears to what I’m telling you: This young prince was sad all the time, sad the way people are when they’re old and alone and death won’t come to them. His days were all dreary, grey, and empty, however full they were.
And they were full, for these were the years of the Hehvrontes dynasty, those proud, rigid rulers, tall and handsome, with white skin and very black eyes and hair, who walked without swinging their shoulders or hips, head high, gaze fixed somewhere beyond the horizon, not looking aside even to see their own mother in her death-agony, not looking down even if the path was rough and rocky, falling into a well if it was in the way and standing erect down inside the well, maintaining the dignity of the lords of the world. That’s what they were like, I’m telling you, I who’ve read the old histories till my poor eyes are nearly blind. That’s what they were like. Read more

The Last Worders

by Karen Joy Fowler

(Originally published in LCRW 20.)

Charlotta was asleep in the dining car when the train arrived in San Margais. It was tempting to just leave her behind, and I tried to tell myself this wasn’t a mean thought, but came to me because I, myself, might want to be left like that, just for the adventure of it. I might want to wake up hours later and miles away, bewildered and alone. I am always on the lookout for those parts of my life that could be the first scene in a movie. Of course, you could start a movie anywhere, but you wouldn’t; that’s my point. And so this impulse had nothing to do with the way Charlotta had begun to get on my last nerve. That’s my other point. If I thought being ditched would be sort of exciting, then so did Charlotta. We felt the same about everything. Read more

Elephants of the Platte

by Thomas Israel Hopkins

North from New York City up the Hudson; west out the Erie Canal through Utica and Syracuse; transfer at Rochester from a long, thin packet boat to one of the grand old Great Lakes passenger ships across Lake Erie via Cleveland to Toledo; up through Detroit, Lake Saint Clair, and Port Huron; farther north across Lake Huron to Mackinaw City; down the shores of Lake Michigan to Milwaukee and Racine; transfer again at Chicago; down the Tippecanoe to the Wabash to Terre Haute; out through Saint Louis and Kansas City on the Transcontinental Canal along the ruins of Interstate 70; turning up toward Casper and points west on the Nebraska Canal along the ghost map of the old Oregon Trail. The night this happened, that was as far as we’d come. Read more

Girl in a Whirl

by Joan Aiken

Her name was Daisy and she was a smasher, the crispest colleen in Killyclancy. Only, as misfortune would have it, old Mr Mulloon said she was unlucky, he having met her once in the street and gone home to find his finest fowl drowning in a puddle; brandy had revived it, true, but anyway those looks weren’t natural, Mr Mulloon said. Whoever heard of hair like spun milk atop of a pair of eyes black as sloes? Depend on it, the girl was an albinoess, cunningly covering up a pair of cherry-pink pupils with smoked contact lenses. And everyone knew albinos had the Evil Eye. Read more

The Faery Handbag

by Kelly Link

Magic for BeginnersI used to go to thrift stores with my friends. We’d take the train into Boston, and go to The Garment District, which is this huge vintage clothing warehouse. Everything is arranged by color, and somehow that makes all of the clothes beautiful. It’s kind of like if you went through the wardrobe in the Narnia books, only instead of finding Aslan and the White Witch and horrible Eustace, you found this magic clothing world–instead of talking animals, there were feather boas and wedding dresses and bowling shoes, and paisley shirts and Doc Martens and everything hung up on racks so that first you have black dresses, all together, like the world’s largest indoor funeral, and then blue dresses–all the blues you can imagine–and then red dresses and so on. Pink-reds and orangey reds and purple-reds and exit-light reds and candy reds. Sometimes I would close my eyes and Natasha and Natalie and Jake would drag me over to a rack, and rub a dress against my hand. “Guess what color this is.”

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The Force Acting on the Displaced Body

by Christopher Rowe

The little creek behind my trailer in Kentucky is called Frankum Branch. I had to go to the courthouse to find that out. Nobody around here thought it had a name. But all the little creeks and branches in the world have names, even if nobody remembers them, or remembers which Frankum they’re named after.

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Eight Legged Story

by Maureen F. McHugh

Maureen F. McHugh

I. Naturalistic Narrative

Cheap pens. My marriage is not going to survive this. Not the pens — I bought the pens because no pen is safe when Mark is around; his backpack is a black hole for pens — so I bought this package of cheap pens, one of which doesn’t work (although rather than throw it away, I stuck it back in the pen jar, which is stupid), and two of them don’t click right when you try to make the point come out and then go back. It’s good to have them, though, because I’m manning the phone. Tim, my husband, is out combing the Buckeye Trail in the National Park with volunteers, looking for my nine-year-old stepson, Mark. Mark has been missing for twenty-two hours. One minute he was with them, the next minute he wasn’t. I am worried about Mark. I am sure that if he is dead, I will feel terrible. I wish I liked him better. I wish I’d let him take some of these pens. Not that Tim will ever find out that I told Mark he couldn’t have any of these pens.

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Trampoline: Stories

Trampoline: an anthology, edited by Kelly Link.
Trampoline: Stories

20 stories: 140,000 words. But are they any good?

Decide for yourself:


Richard Butner

Greer Gilman

Maureen McHugh

Christopher Rowe

Rosalind Palermo Stevenson



Sally Harpe

by Christopher Rowe

They tell this one in those tobacco towns along the Green River.

Bittersweet CreekOne day Roy Barlowe and his dad walked up the hill to Townie Harpe’s old place. Townie’s widow, Miss Erskine, was sitting on a cane bottom chair on the porch, fooling with some clothes.

Roy didn’t know whether she was sewing or quilting or doing some kind of mending. He never paid much attention to that kind of work. Still, if the mother knew those ways then it followed that the daughter would.

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Ash City Stomp

by Richard Butner


Richard Butner

Listen to Richard Butner reading “Ash City Stomp.”

She had dated Secrest for six weeks before she asked for the Big Favor. The Big Favor sounded like, “I need to get to Asheville to check out the art therapy program in their psychology grad school,” but in reality she had hard drugs that needed to be transported to an old boyfriend of hers in the mountains, and the engine in her 1982 Ford Escort had caught fire on the expressway earlier that spring.

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by Mark Rich

ForeignersRelease came not as I expected — burdened with fines, restrictions, armed guard, and list of warnings longer than my conscience. Instead I walked away entirely free. The doctors, inquisitors, and officials did not visit my cell in the morning as they usually did. Only the middle-aged woman named Ardis entered the cell, without a guard. She arrived with the breakfast tray consisting of nothing out of the ordinary with its simple roll, butter, dab of marmalade, and small red pot of black tea. I stared at the tray trying to assess what was different. Had the commissary taken a second longer in arranging the items across the yellow plastic? Had the usual disarray of items proved unsatisfactory this day? The normally skewed angles of napkin, butter knife, and spoon — had they demanded straightening today? In my brief look at the tray I could see the kitchen help had thought to cut into a fresh lemon for the tea saucer, instead of reaching for a slice remaining from the day before. Or perhaps Ardis personally had overseen the assembly of this breakfast, even stopping to straighten its contents as she stood in the hall outside my cell. As she placed it on the immovable round table near the bed, she did so with greater care than usual. Read more

Mrs. Jones

by Carol Emshwiller

Carol Emshwiller | from Report to the Men’s Club and Other Stories

ReportCora is a morning person. Her sister, Janice, hardly feels conscious till late afternoon. Janice nibbles fruit and berries and complains of her stomach. Cora eats potatoes with butter and sour cream. She likes being fat. It makes her feel powerful and hides her wrinkles. Janice thinks being thin and willowy makes her look young, though she would admit that — and even though Cora spends more time outside doing the yard and farm work — Cora’s skin does look smoother. Janice has a slight stutter. Normally she speaks rapidly and in a kind of shorthand so as not to take up anyone’s precious time, but with her stutter, she can hold peoples’ attention for a moment longer than she would otherwise dare. Cora, on the other hand, speaks slowly, and if she had ever stuttered, would have seen to it she learned not to.

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by Ray Vukcevich

Meet Me in the Moon RoomAnd then she fired her parting shot. “And not only that,” she said, as if “that” hadn’t been quite enough, “you snore horribly!”

“I do not,” I said. “I definitely do not snore.” I was talking to her back. “You’re making it up!” I was talking to the door. “Someone else would have mentioned it!” I was talking to myself.

Mistakes were made, relationships fell apart, and hurtful things were said. Life was like that. Read more

Mom’s Little Friends

by Ray Vukcevich

Because he wouldn’t understand, we left Mom’s German shepherd Toby leashed to the big black roll bar in the back of Ada’s pickup truck, and because Mom’s hands were tied behind her back and because her ankles were lashed together, we had some trouble wrestling her out of the cab and onto the bridge.

My sister Ada rolled her over, a little roughly, I thought, and checked the knots. I had faith in those knots. Ada was a rancher from Arizona and knew how to tie things up. I made sure Mom’s sweater was buttoned. I jerked her green and white housedress back down over her pasty knees. I made sure her boots were tightly tied.

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No Comet

by Ray Vukcevich

Convinced that my slant on Bohr’s version of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics was our last hope, I bullied Jane, who didn’t want to be married to me anymore, and Sacha into cooperating with a final desperate attempt to save the world.

“This is stupid, Tim,” Jane said, her voice softened a little by the brown paper bag over her head.

“La la, la la, la la,” Sacha sang. She banged the heels of her shoes against the legs of her chair in time to her tune. Wearing a bag over her head was still fun, I thought, but our daughter was seven and had fidgeting down to a fine art. How long would she stick with me?

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Perpetual Motion

by Dora Knez

from the chapbook Five Forbidden Things

Malfi arrived in the middle toilet stall of the men’s room. The Saurians had chosen it as the best way of concealing him initially, though it was not ideal. But he was lucky: the only other man there was locked into a cubicle of his own. Malfi had plenty of time to check his appearance in the mirror and make sure he had the beeper and the ticket mock-up before entering the airport proper.

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Other Agents

by Richard Butner

LCRW 5“1985 sure is dark,” Nick said, and another 100 watt bulb popped gently in his hands. “It’s a good thing we have these protective gauntlets.” Nick waggled his hands and scattered shards of glass on the bedspread.

“These aren’t protective gauntlets,” the Assassin replied, “they’re rubber gloves we stole from the bathroom at the Burger King.” Except for the brownish-blue gloves, the Assassin was dressed in black from head to foot.

“I like to think that they were left there for us. We are on a mission, after all.”

The motel room was strung with cheap extension cords that fed a dozen utility lamps clamped to any available surface. The dingy bedspread, scattered with supplies, glowed in the center of the ring of lights. Between the two of them they’d already smashed five bulbs.

The Assassin carefully peeled off his gloves, pushed up his mirrored sunglasses, and rubbed his eyes. His hands shook. Nick started doing one-handed pushups on the carpet.

“I’m feeling much better now that we’ve got these lights up,” Nick said, gasping. “But I’m thirsty. Let’s get some beers. What’s the best beer in 1985?”

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