Something Old, Something New by Lori Sambol Brody

It was all over so quickly. The mumbled vows, the best man’s drunken toast, the broken glass, her princess dress tight around her ribs, her maid-of-honor caught in a bathroom stall with the Rabbi’s son. Her husband smooshed a slice of wedding cake into her mouth, the cake tasting of cloying buttercream. Husband, both a noun and a verb, to use sparingly. He shed his shiny rented tux jacket and danced, arms flung over the shoulders of his groomsmen, sweat stains under his arms and in a semi-circle on his back. Her mother told her friends, He’s a great catch, while the women danced circles around each other. When the groomsmen lifted her up on a straightback chair, she was scared she’d fall, gripped one corner of a yellow-stained handkerchief (the something old) while he held the other. At the Seaside Motel, the clerk leered, This way to paradise. The pushing and pulling, the absurdity of her legs in the air, her something blue painted toenails caught in the strafing headlights of passing cars, his moaning. A rectangle of sunlight from the gap between the heavy curtains creeping over him, clad in only a white shirt and socks, the skin on the back of his thighs goose-pimpling. The mauve polyester bedspread spilled onto the carpet. In middle school, she’d written in sparkling purple pen a new signature on the paper bag cover of her American history book: Mrs. Harry Styles. The hot shameful joy when Mr. Mori saw it and crooned “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful.” Now, her eyes sticky from sleeping in the mascara she’d applied so carefully the day before.

LSB+photoLori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California. Her short fiction has been published in Smokelong Quarterly, Tin House Flash Fridays, New Orleans Review, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Her stories have been chosen for the Wigleaf Top 50, the Best Small Fictions 2018 and 2019 anthologies, and Best Microfiction 2021.

Stingrays in Captivity by Diane D. Gillette

4:34 A.M. Feinberg Hospital. Room 2524. The room is too hot to sleep. The ice has melted in the cup the nurse brought in a few hours before. I unwrap one of the sponge lollipops they gave me and dip it in the lukewarm cup. I pick up the TV remote with my free hand and flip through channels while I swab the inside of my mouth. I search for something to distract me, so I don’t just down the cup of water, disregarding the doctor’s orders and losing even the small relief the sponge lollipop brings me.

I land on Animal Planet. There’s a show about an aquarium. I’ve been there once. Years ago. I remember standing in a glass cave and watching whale sharks swim above me. I felt so small. My best friend stood next to me. Pregnant with her first. Glowing. Two more babies and some years later, I haven’t been back.

I watch the aquarium staff herd two female stingrays into an elevator tank so they can be taken up for their monthly exam. Wild stingrays mate constantly, holding their eggs inside their mermaid’s purse until the young hatch and burst out into the world to try out the tricky business of survival. As soon as they are gone, mother stingray begins again. Captive stingrays develop ovarian cysts without their constant stream of progeny.

I press my hand to my abdomen, oh so gently. Feel the staples beneath my fingers. Underneath the staples and the skin and the fat rolls is a distinct absence, pulsing, reminding me that my last ovary is gone. There will be no more eggs for me. Nothing to hatch in my mermaid’s purse. I’ll never stand under a whale shark and glow with a new life blooming within me. My cyst was the size of a mango. If it had been a baby, it would have been about 16 weeks along. But it wasn’t.

My mango cyst didn’t want to go. My body, so desperate to keep my reproductive tools, allowed it to reach out with long seaweed fronds, reaching and wrapping, grabbing whatever it could reach. My uterus. My intestines. My abdominal wall. It spent a year tying and knotting itself firmly inside of me. They cut it out of me and then cut me open again to take more. “Whoo, boy, that was a tricky one,” the surgeon told me when the anesthesia faded and the pain crescendoed.

A bloodsucker comes in to stick me for my morning draw. Her name tag says Tisa. I ask her if she knew about the stingrays, about how the lack of babies causes them a life of pain. Tisa says she didn’t. I close my eyes, wait for the pinch. I imagine myself gliding free and cool through the ocean.



Diane D. Gillette’s work has appeared in many literary venues including the Saturday Evening Post, Blackbird, and Middle House Review. Her work is a Best Small Fictions nominee. She lives in Chicago and is a founding member of the Chicago Literary Writers. You can find more of her work at

Body of Water by S. S. Mandani

The psychic across from the dollar pizza joint on East 6th Street told Rohan he’d die at the age
of eighty-five.

His cousin Navya smiled terrifically in the corner of the room, having just been told she would be unfazed by the negative energy from the men in her life and have a hallmark year. Rohan had known Navya her whole life, since they were babies, and had met her boyfriend. Layla the psychic was, so far, one for one.

An oversized ruffled curtain hid the back of the room, which was clearly Layla’s residence. The smell of cheese puffs and jasmine incense hung in the air.

Layla said Rohan’s chakra was the color yellow outlined in purple. According to the universe, it meant he had lied more than usual that week and felt good about it. She opened the session up for questions. Rohan asked, “How will I die?”

“You will not have a single worry your whole life. Then, at the end, you will be in serious pain, and die as quickly as you existed.”

“But eighty-five years is a pretty long time to exist.”

“For whom?”

“For anyone.”

“Not for a tardigrade or a Greenland shark. Have you ever heard of an Aldabra giant tortoise? The honey mushroom is 8,650 years old. Gran Abuelo. Methuselah. Baobab and sequoia trees. I could go on, but you’re entering twenty-five dollar territory. Eighty-five years is a micro existence. A peanut, kid.”

“I’m not a peanut, and I’m not a tree.”

She sucked on her cigarette. The tar end glowed orange like an ancient Sun, “Tree, you are not. More like tree food.”

Rohan paid Layla twenty dollars before she milked more cosmic currency (the only accepted form of payment the purple pyramid sign listed) out of him, and left the shop. His cousin went to get a late-night seven-dollar burrito.

It was a thirty-two degree winter night. Rohan got a slice of pizza from across the street. He didn’t believe in clairvoyants. He hardly trusted the news to get today right. He called his dad to tell him the age of his predicted death.

“Rohan, why did you do that?”


“Psychic. There is no such thing.”

“It’s just for fun, dad.”

“Now you will die at eighty-five. Maybe sooner.” Rohan’s mother yelled in Hinglish in the background.

He took a bite of crust.

“You will be consumed with thoughts of death. Beta, you will not be able to live.”


“No, I am telling you. They say your great-great-grandfather, dada’s dada, went to a psychic in Mumbai. She said the same thing. He would die at age eighty-five.”

“That was a long life back then. So what?” Chewing, “It’s a long life now.”

“No, no. But then he could not stop thinking about it. He became aimless. The very same day he tripped on a rock and tumbled down the side of a hill into the Mithi River flooded by the monsoons. He couldn’t swim and drowned. It is not the psychic. It is your mind, raja.”

“I think I’ll be fine. You can’t really trip into the Hudson.”

“Do not go swimming anywhere.”

“Where am I going to swim?”

“I am just saying. Do not go to a pool.”

“Okay dad,” hanging up.

Navya appeared with a burrito in hand, wrapped in aluminum foil. They walked home. It snowed.


It rained. The sun shone and the seasons changed. A year passed and Rohan walked back to the psychic on the corner of East 6th Street, but Layla was gone. The storefront had been turned into another pizza shop. He called his dad, recounting the story of the psychic. Again, his dad told him about his great-great-grandfather and how he had drowned, warning him to stay away from pools, rivers, lakes, streams, the ocean. His dad even cautioned him about New York City puddles. But Rohan knew he could not avoid the ocean forever. Someday, he would have to go for a swim. Someday, he would feed the trees, but today a dollar slice of pizza on his walk home would have to do.


S.S. Mandani is a writer, runner, and coffee person from New York City. His work is featured or forthcoming in New World Writing, X-R-A-Y, No Contact, and others. Equal parts Murakami and Calvino, his novel in progress explores Sufi mysticism to tell the story of how a climate world war brings together a dysfunctional family of jinns spanning a hundred years. It envisions a murky, yet hopeful future. He radios @SuhailMandani.

If Tonight We Sit For Dinner by Abbie Barker

If tonight I stop working early enough to cook dinner, and I pull out the placemats and fill my glass with sparkling water instead of opening another bottle of chardonnay, and we sit together and pray, thanking God for all we have and don’t have, even if it’s hard to thank God for anything since your daddy died, and if tonight we spin noodles around our forks and talk, really talk, maybe I’ll ask about your day and maybe you’ll tell me about that boy Liam you’ve been hanging around with and how he goes through his mother’s drawers and shows you how to flick a lighter and strike a match, how he gave you one of his cousin’s pocket knives and made you swear never to tell your mom about the BB gun he sometimes sneaks from the basement and aims at squirrels, how once he even aimed it at you and said it wouldn’t hurt and you’d be a wuss if it did, how he led you into the garage toward a tall, locked safe and bragged that one day he’d know the combination.

And if tonight you told me about the safe, maybe I wouldn’t scream that I never want to see a knife in your hand—a lighter, a match­—because those things lead to worse things and boys your age shouldn’t touch anything that can slice/scorch/combust. Maybe I’d look at you, really look at you, and see your daddy in those eyes, in that smirk, in every alarming impulse I’ve failed to suppress, and maybe I wouldn’t turn away in fear/shame/grief, and instead I could tell you everything I know about friendship and loss, even if most of what I know is loss—even if it would be easier on you, better, if your daddy were here to guide you through boyhood instead of me.

And if tonight I tuck you in, whisper a bedtime story, even after you shrug me away, even after you say you’re too old, and if I linger until you fall asleep, and say more prayers, even if I don’t know what to pray for anymore, even if all my pleading can’t bring your daddy back or make it so he never turned down that icy road after a too-long day, after a too-long stop at the bar, and if tonight I don’t pour a third glass of wine or fall asleep on the couch, if tonight I don’t leave you to brush your teeth and find your way into bed alone because even your clammy hand on my cheek won’t wake me, and if tonight, I tell you that I love you and I love you and I love you no matter what…

Then tomorrow will you walk straight home after school instead of following Liam up his driveway and into his garage toward the tall safe, the one that this time will unlock, even if his father swears, really swears, he’s the only one that can open it? Or tomorrow will I listen to Liam’s father say that someone else must have opened it, that the lock must be defective, that there must be somebody he can sue? Will I listen and listen and listen until it’s no one’s fault, and I’m the only one left to blame?


Abbie Barker lives with her husband and two kids in New Hampshire. Her flash fiction has appeared in Hobart, Monkeybicycle, Atticus Review, Gone Lawn, Cease, Cows, and others. She teaches creative writing and is a reader for Fractured Lit. You can find her on Twitter @AbbieMBarker.