A Private Musical Interlude Inside a Simulacrum of Paris by David Lawrie

“Oh my god,” said Sarah, staring at the mural. “That’s exactly what I’ve been talking about.”

It was a garish Lautrec-style painting on the side of a house. The woman’s face was devoid of features – a peachy splodge under a black, lacy hat. Her dress, draping the rest of the brickwork as though dressing the house, was the brightest red. It was pulled up around her hips, white bloomers and underskirts everyplace, frills in captured motion. Dodging around the dancer’s feet were spray-paint words in broken English – Live Hard. Sex Long. Dance the Night’s Away.

Lemonade for Sale by Wendy Garrett

My stomach hurt for a week after my cat Boots died. She arrived as a gift on my first birthday, and ten years later, she was gone. A year after that, we had more death to cope with. But unlike with Boots’s death, we rarely talked about what happened next door at the Moores’. Whenever we spoke of that summer of 1979, what we discussed was the lemonade stand, not the murder-suicide that triggered the estate sale where my sister and I made a fortune.

Julie (my sister) and I sat at the kitchen table eating cereal while my mother whistled Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay” as she unpacked her brown leather tote bag from the weekend retreat, from where she and my father had returned the night before. She has always been one of the best whistlers I know. She can draw her fingers to her lips and let out a whistle that can be heard blocks away. On this day, she was casually whistling with just her lips, not typical, but it sounded nice. She pulled a candle from her bag and placed it on the dining table next to a silver bowl I’d never seen her use. The candle was in a tall glass votive decorated with two overlapping yellow circles above which, inside a red heart, were the words “Marriage Encounter.” She lit the candle and walked back to her bag to finish emptying it. Julie and I slowly ate our cereal, weary from the long weekend with our “fun” babysitter. I couldn’t remember going anywhere, which meant we had been home the entire weekend.

Not a Good Fit by Josh Cook

The coffee was as dismal as the doughnuts smelled, but Hope kept it, clutching the cup to her chest like a Styrofoam talisman. She’d never been inside St. Matthew’s before, much less its basement. With its frowzy walls and sepulchral lighting, though, it suited her mood. Western Romance had just rejected her again—this time for “Cowboy, Unfettered”—with the same stock response she could now quote by heart:

Thanks again for the opportunity to read your story. Unfortunately, after careful consideration, we’ve decided that it’s not a good fit for us at this time. 

The Winds of Change by Dvora Wolff Rabino

When the caseworker dropped Derek and his two black Hefty bags at the new address in Morningside Heights that breezy second Saturday of May, the ten-year-old was not expecting much. He’d been blowing in the wind like dandelion fluff most of his life; this was his third placement just since January. But the green doormat read “A hundred thousand welcomes,” and he supposed it was possible this family actually meant it. Lacrosse sticks and boxing gear, probably for the couple’s real kids—sports equipment like that might as well be made of gold, that’s how out of reach they were for foster kids like him—was piled up just inside the front door. A one-armed teddy bear hung off the living room couch. The coffee table had a plastic chess set laid out; someone was in the middle of a game. And John Green and John Grisham library books lay open on the dining table. Derek wouldn’t be the only reader here.