Slap Happy by Fred Vogel

By the time Slap Happy was born, his parents, Jacob and Evelyn Happerson, had abandoned the circus life and were running a successful dry cleaning business in Canton, Ohio. Gone was the excitement of The Big Top, replaced by hard work and the strong desire to provide their only child with nothing but the best. Jacob held out hope that maybe one day he and Evelyn would return to the circus so his son could follow in his old man’s clown shoes, but Evelyn was quick to put the kibosh on any such idea.

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It Varies From Fool to Fool by JC Freeman

At sixteen, Thommy Lemolo broke her leg while playing high school softball. She’d been tracking a pop-up in the outfield and had stepped in a small hole, which did big damage to both her right tibia and fibula. “Never break a bone before, kid? By the look of that leg I’d say you got two for the price of one,” said the vaguely cute X-ray tech as he prepared to take images of her injury at the hospital. A good thick shot of morphine had knocked back her pain, and it also made people funnier and vaguely cuter than they were prior to the drug’s administration.

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Punxsutawney Elegy by Patrick Winters

His black containment suit stood out stark against the all-encompassing white and gray of the forest about him. Specks of white swirled through the chilly air, both whipping and wafting against the thick outer padding of the Level A gear; still, he could feel the cold seeping through the protective layers and across his skin. He shivered as he huffed his way through shin-thick drifts of white, his thick boots awkward to trek in, his breather working overtime in the closed hood about his head, and his gloved hands grasping his rifle with determination.

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Luisa by Tim Gorichanaz

Every day Luisa left a new piece of art at the foot of his bed. They were washcloths shaped like animals, a different one each day. She was very talented.

He knew it was Luisa because she signed her work. She left a card that said Your Room Was Cleaned By ____________. It’s my pleasure, and Luisa wrote her name on the line. He suspected she left those cards in all the rooms she cleaned, but maybe she was reaching out. She’d written her name there, by hand, just for him. She dotted the i with a circle.

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Pooboogle by Adam Kluger

The delivery guy from Arturo’s Italian Restaurant had a sixth finger. It waved about like a little pink antenna. Horace always gave him a big tip and tried not to stare at it. They would link eyes and smile at each other. There was a tacit agreement not to stare at the unusual little digit —and to tip big…and move on. Every time that Horace ordered from Arturo’s he forgot about the delivery guy. The chicken parmesan was so outstanding that the gross-out factor at the door was but a minor inconvenience.

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Top of the Line by Marissa McNamara

Melanie’s boyfriend Ray began drinking as soon as he moved in. At first it was just a few after work. Then it was four, maybe six. She liked to cook, but he always wanted to go out. She was tired of every restaurant within 10 miles, but whatever, he paid. He always made a big deal of paying. Pulled out his worn brown wallet, the one he said was “top of the line.” He always said that. His things were “professional grade” and “top of the line.” He “spared no expense.”

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