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Off Track
by David Gianatasio

In the Trunk
by Jay Wexler

Every Beautiful Thing
by Bonnie Ruberg

Vacation Planner
by Miriam M. Kotzin and
Bill Turner

Floating Inside
by Laurie Seidler

photo by Tanner Woodford

Garvey turns on his side to relieve the pain in his back. The tire iron is blunt and best avoided as much as possible. He pats the worn carpet with his right hand, grabs hold of the small bottle of who knows what with his left. The smell of fried clams is overwhelming. Perhaps the coast is near. But there are many coasts, and these days clams can be shipped anywhere. Who knows, maybe they are in a Red Lobster parking lot on the outskirts of Kansas City. It is probably hopeless. Should he drink from the mystery bottle? What kind of roulette would that be? Irish? He decides: No, he’ll wait this out, see what happens.

I can’t catch my breath because the mountain is too steep. The air in Azerbaijan this morning is crisp and pleasant as usual, but my lungs are weak, the shame has withered them beyond their years. Why I would climb in this condition is a topic of much gossip in the village. The old women tease me and poke me with sharp sticks before they serve me the mutton dish I love so much. Across the precipice I spot the endangered leopard and choose to climb in the opposite direction. I am confident that this choice, at least, I won’t regret come nightfall.

At a lower elevation now, I regain my breath. I sit on a sandy rock fishing for dinner sturgeon and am reminded of a scene from years past. Me and Garvey, in the old neighborhood, spear fishing for mackerel in one of Minnesota’s thousand blue pools, working out the details for a commercial venture now gone terribly wrong. Garvey is the ideas man, I run the numbers. Looking back now, as the wind off the steppe blows mountain grasses into my unruly mane, it seems obvious that nobody was ever going to buy what we had to offer. Who, after all, really needs a set of “anti-asteroid” armor anyway?

In the trunk, Garvey listens intently to the sounds outside, tries to discern where they might be located. He hears some busy chattering, what sounds like argumentation, but the details are drowned out by a pulsating beat and the chirping of some annoying boy band. He had figured that by now, after all these days, his eyes would have somehow adjusted to the darkness of his tiny cavern, but that isn’t the case. He knows exactly where his quickly depleting store of Saltines brand snack crackers is hidden, but other than that he is lost, lost in the smallest possible place one could ever be lost.

Frisco issued his proposal, we were split on its merits. He was from the wrong part of town, it is true, but we were at the end of our ropes, our warehouses filled with dusty unused metal suits, bank accounts sinking alongside our hopes. My eyes were filled with rubies, I was discombobulated with greed. Garvey raised objections, issued protests, urged persistence in our existing enterprise. In the end I prevailed, citing endless ludicrous pie-in-the-skies: high definition plasmatic flat screens, his and hers hybrid fueled Jaguars, significant (albeit minority) interests in a Minneapolis Arena Football expansion franchise. I realize now that I should have been careful with my gifts. Garvey spent high school twiddling beakers in the science club; I gave myself to debate. Words, rhetoric, argumentation: these are my weapons, but I should have been more careful with them. I certainly should not have used them in the name of gems.

The day of the heist not a thing went right. My shower lasted too long, Frisco forgot the keys, nobody wore a watch. Alarms were tripped, fingerprints left. The papers spoke of something called “felony murder,” but I can’t say I ever really understood the concept. We escaped but just barely. A precinct was devoted to our capture, overtime hours were logged, acquaintances interrogated. We knew they wanted Frisco, would go through us to get him, and Frisco knew it too. Orders were communicated in back alleys, through untrustworthy couriers. Leave, leave the country. Go far, do not return. For me little persuasion was necessary, as I’ve long felt the urge to walk the central Asian plains. For Garvey, though, it was not so easy. At the greasy spoon in our final stolen minutes together, backs firmly planted against the wall, he spoke of family, though he was childless, and dreams of graduate work, though his undergraduate record was spotty. For once my gift failed me; I quickly grabbed the next charter to Baku, and as my DC-10 descended over the Caspian Sea, I realized that Garvey and I had met for the last time.

The village leader approaches me and we resume our ongoing negotiations. He will cut me in on his illicit caviar trade if I will use my contacts to get him statin drugs. Ever since the Red Cross volunteer tested his LDL cholesterol three months ago, the leader has feared not only a painful early death but also his village’s fate if his delinquent idiot of a first born son is left in charge. I have debated the pros and cons of this arrangement endlessly. Of course I should learn from my past mistakes, but biology is hard to shake, and I think I already know how this story will end.

The car lurches forward and picks up speed. Garvey wakes with a start and inhales deeply. The salt is heavy in the air here, he realizes, they are definitely near the sea. What Garvey does not know is that he is presently the car’s only occupant, and that the sea he smells is the ocean on the other side of the quickly approaching cliff.

Sorry, Garv.

Jay Wexler teaches law in Boston and has a website at where you can see his painting of a smoking kiwi fruit. The site also has links to stories that have appeared online in places like Eyeshot, Monkeybicycle, Pindeldyboz, and Word Riot.