We also made cups of coffee, smoked cigarettes, ate crackers and left the stage to go to the bathroom. Eventually we invited a couple of friends on stage to hang out, play the guitar, tattoo fingers with a needle dipped in Indian ink, whatever they wanted to do.

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Tiffany and the Nimrod took their first night in a motel just past the truck stop, in a scarlet and white bridal suite. The motel had plastic furniture in the lobby, and “Jesus loves you,” graffitied on the condom machine in the public restroom.

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The urgent note from Larry, the vice-principal, was delivered to his classroom during a Monday lunch hour. Mr. Moss found it when he got back from a short nap in the staff lounge. “Please stop by my office after class ends today. An agent from the Education Commissioner wants to speak with you.” Mr. Moss blinked and re-read the note and muttered, “Fine, bring it on.”

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The milling assembly on the sidewalk held signs that read: “Every Life Matters”; “Children are a Gift from God”; “Choose Life, Deny Death”; “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart”; “Every Life Deserves to Live”; “Let God Plan Parenthood”.

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The girl capsizes herself with alcohol, Black Beauties, angel dust, sex with strangers, and slicing. Darkness barely discusses her. Blood covers our kneecaps one night from smacking into a lamppost. We buckle under her when she passes out.

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Mother could never have taken care of thatha, who weighed a formidable 95 kilograms, all by herself. He had to be supported on his way to the bathroom and back, and when he wanted to rise from the chair and lie down or the other way round.

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At one point in my life, I couldn’t stand the written word; I wallowed in disgust at the stale, sticky characters that seeped through the synapses like syrup. It was a strange affliction to be sickened by the alphabet in its endless forms, but I learned to live with it.

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With each new encounter, she wondered whether she’d be able to bear it and see the act through to the end.  Or would this be the one where she’d feel so sick that she couldn’t take any more and be overwhelmed and long to flee?  Would she be in danger of being beaten or killed?

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Turns out, time works like a roll of toilet paper. You can unwind the years, tear away a square, reloop back to where you started. Alter history. I began with minor changes, subtle tweaks: an insurance company here, a vitamin manufacturer there. 

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The internees were activists—outspoken writers, entertainers, union organizers, a few whistleblowers, and many others who attended demonstrations and protest rallies—but none were terrorists, despite the government’s claims.

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I kept a confident, positive look on my face as the Governor of Louisiana, Alicia deVray, prepared to sign the document that would enact the first free drug community in the world. She turned and looked at me, I nodded encouragingly, she looked at the horde of reporters holding cameras, phones, recording devices and signed.

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At work they are hammering nails through the back of his head staring, and with suspicious whispers. It makes him want to cry being so alone and his stomach hurts always. His home is a hole in the ground where he collapses like a cigarette ash and swallows wine until he can stand again.

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Sex gluts with grief and rutting. Shelly’s lips haven’t been ransacked since the wedding, but Micky plows her torso with all the gusto his tiny limbs can muster. Mornings, damp with baked muffins and billowing coffee, smile blandly; cling to the mirror of each other. The couple practice lurid hearsay, family claws, spoonfed silences.

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Mother stands frozen in my bedroom doorway… a block of stone: arms splayed, legs spread, a barrier to my exit. I cannot move her, never could; she’s as heavy as her gaze when she first looked in on me. So, I am left to chip away at her, like I did before she was transformed, but literally now.

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Here is what I know: I have a quiet little boy in my car. I’ve bungee corded him to the passenger seat, which I recognize may sound cruel, but actually it provides him with a bounciness he seems to like. I ascertain his approval despite the fact that he has not made much sound.

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The next shift has already queued around another corner across a narrow waterway, some sipping libations whilst others partake of their first meal, all their caps tilted at various rakish angles, depeche mode, as is the fashion, a fashion now in, now out, now in again.

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“I knew some top-notch reporters in my time,” the old man said. “They were decent men, drunks most of them, but decent men. But they could not print the truth if the editor would not let them. Do you know who the editor worked for?” The old man glared at Karl. “The editor worked for the bosses.”

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A young woman holding a baby blocks Florentina’s path. She holds out her hand and asks for money, her raspy voice barely above a whisper. Her baby is sick, she explains, and needs medicine. “Please,” she begs. “Can you spare anything?”

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“Yeah, we’ve seen an uptick in robberies by sea creatures lately,” Officer Brimley said. He had unkempt hair, a toothbrush mustache, and a belly that hung over his gun belt. A blob of cocktail sauce, shaped like a sea urchin, stained his khaki shirt.

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She always did insist that we use a condom, and I don’t think it was mainly to ward off diseases. Or maybe to ward off the worst of diseases. That would be us, humanity.

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“I just figured that if I were racist, I would’ve been the first person to know. And yet I didn’t. How many times have you heard me tell people there’s not a single racist bone in my body?”

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“Dad, we’re on strike. It’s crazy here. People get arrested just for looking the wrong way at a cop. And a lot of time it’s not just the regular police but this special Tactical Squad that’s full of nutcases who LIKE to hit people.”

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The paddy wagon door opened, the floor white grey the color of seagull shit. There was a small barred window and a metallic bench. As the door closed, six Tactical Squad officers lumbered in, helmets strapped, visors down.

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In my neck of the woods, we call any switcheroo like that, finding Jesus. If you finally decide you need a divorce, finding Jesus. If you are an alcoholic, and decide suddenly to go to rehab, finding Jesus. If you go to your job with no plans in mind one morning and quit your job that afternoon, finding Jesus.

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The girl’s subatomic particles suddenly interacted with each other and every other subatomic particle in the universe until, a yoctosecond later, through a cascading near infinity of quantum events, they caused her of her own free will to walk home from school, first between the rails of the railroad track and then on one of the rails.

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WRITER sits, and cannot write, because of a strangeness characteristic of a life without truth. In his empty works, he has discovered the ideas which to him have already been lost, and he can only begin to look for them.

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In this dream I am 112 stories high, a fluffy kitten placemark thrusting up from my summit adds another 13 stories. People crowd the windows of the observation area on the top floor and ooh & ah at the violet-burnished clouds, the sun squeezed tangerine at the horizon.

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A female delinquent spoke. She described how her male beast was a cock artist. “It lives inside my brain. A Twisted thing, it tells me its secrets – dirty and unclad it hides behind objects and silences. It satiates victims for amusement.”

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To be honest there was no before story. Not one that was written down.

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Robyn resembled Liza Minnelli and belted out a bit of “Cabaret” to anyone who would listen. I listened. She took a fast fancy to me in a bar one Saturday night, but when I learned she was nineteen I waved goodbye being thirty-two.

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When the hood is removed, I am standing alone on a small stage in what appears to be a long-neglected theater. Totally dark, except for a single footlight directed at my face. The two shotgun-wielding kids are positioned on the floor directly below me.

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It’s just an excuse to get nearer the whales, and especially the dolphins. We can’t keep them here, you see, because of the high amounts of sulphur in our atmosphere which would fry them straightaway.

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Twice I got as far as the selection stuff with it but both times one of the lawyers booted me off jury. Neither of them ever said why but, I don’t know, maybe they could tell somehow that I don’t have what you might call a high opinion of lawyers—or anybody else who wears a suit to work for that matter.

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“Watering roses is a lazy job no Caucasian would ever stoop to,” Harold announced. He was the least qualified man on the planet to preach on lazy. I could beat him digging a tree planting hole, teaspoon to shovel. His height and stride mirrored the Frankenstein monster. I'd never met a Mexican in person.

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So, our conversation encompassed a myriad of topics: music, art, nature, why humans are nearsighted and stupid (despite his species affiliation), Why chocolate, wine and cigarettes are the most important contributions humanity has given earth, and ultimately, poetry.

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But something about the way that cigarette hit, the way the Shiraz tasted, the rainfall outside on the Sitka spruces, and she could see it all again – the weave of her hoodie, the silhouette of a tiger disappearing into the first snows of late November.

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On Sputnik’s launch date, October 4, 1957, Uncle Theo’s body was found in the East River off the Greenpoint Piers. Had he jumped or been dumped off one of them?

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She was born with wings, but no knowledge of flying. Her parents never commented. Maybe they didn’t notice, since at first the wings were more like nubs or odd bumps, and anyway, they were often too busy with the drama of the day’s many logjams and potholes to notice much but each other’s inadequacies.

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I thought that I was running but actually I was leaning, creeping at most, without direction, following instinct, reacting to what threatened me, to the strange and sudden difference which had come without forewarning 

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He doesn’t to seduce me anymore, caress me, kiss me, say sweet things. He just spoons me a bit then pulls my panties aside and slides himself into me.  After a few months of me asking him to take his time with me, he started sleeping in his office.

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