New Strangers by Rylan Shafer

“Hi, is this Mark? Mark Chance from Deakins High School?”

Shane was sitting in front of his laptop. On the screen, an image of two young boys standing in the shade of a half-pipe, their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders. A date, digitally imprinted in yellow, told Shane the photo was taken the spring of 2006. The boy on the right had a bloody chin and was smiling, pushing his cheeks up and squinting his brown eyes. His hair was black with brown roots and hung past his jaw. Red speckled his white Thrasher shirt. The other threw his head back in laughter, his half-black-half-bleached hair unkempt. This one wore black pants and a black The Clash tee.

“It’s Shane Lynch.”

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Instead of Yelling at the Television by Charlie Rogers

Sometimes you just want to try something new.

Last week I embarked on a project – growing a beard – and tonight, instead of trimming the Christmas tree I never bought, I trimmed my new beard. The electric clipper vibrated too close to my ear, drew blood, and snagged a chunk of my hair. So tonight I also shaved my whole head. It’s fine. Waiting to go bald is exhausting. Now bristly black stubble covers my head and I resemble a mugshot on the news.

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A Secret Study of Jack Wilkens, Drunk by Tom Sheehan

Early evening light, what was left of it, spilled near Jack Wilkens in his one lone room in the big house, a house once flaunting and imposing in its stance, now cluttered like an old shed forgotten in a back lot, debris its main décor. Despite his reputation as the town drunk, a ne’er-do-well from the first day, an inveterate crank, there had been an instant and subtle attraction between me and the old codger, an attraction without early explanation.

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