The Sure Thing

Lately Millstein’s work as senior insurance underwriter at M&J International had begun to suffer. Some days he could barely drag himself to the office, his once renowned powers of concentration had withered…

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Fatherhood

I kept both hands on the wheel as I slowed to a stop. I’ve never had any problems, but sometimes my tattoo sleeves rubbed law enforcement the wrong way. They saw me as sort of a Colin Kaepernick, just shorter, less attractive, and with absolutely no talent.

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I Do, But Maybe I Don’t

It was my daughter’s idea for us to get married in her backyard. Leah had it all planned before asking us if it was something we might consider. I could tell by the way her eyes shone bright green with purpose. Already a caterer had been lined up and the menu planned. All we had to say was yes, and Leah would handle the rest.

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Where You Belong

‘A true place,’ sounded like something Rob would say after leaving a warm bed on a moonless night to laze on the cold ground and awe at the sight of three planets aligned. He could make you want to believe it was all that mattered.

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Super

One morning, Kind-Responsible-No-Baggage-Man isn’t in bed. He saunters in at 10AM with cappuccinos and he’s not wearing his mask. There’s a purple bruise ringed on his cheek like fish lips. “I need to tell you something,” he says.

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Nocturama: a film by Bertrand Bonello

Nocturama, the provocative new film by Bertrand Bonello, opens with a handful of young Parisians performing wordless and labyrinthian maneuvers through the city’s Metro. They dump phones into wastebaskets, bear mysterious packages, and give each other silent, intimate looks.

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On the Balcony

Helen was found on the sprawling covered balcony that overlooked the valley, swaying from the rafters like a pendant, graceful as she always was. Kate wondered if anyone had seen her from below, floating amongst the potted palms and grasses. Perhaps from a distance she appeared to be dancing.

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Taxi Dreams

They get off the bridge and weave through the streets, and are soon downtown. Even though Pablo’s only been to that building once, he already remembers how to get there. There’s the same street with the broken lamp, and the mural of a Ferris wheel painted across a brick wall.

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Henry Spark by Jason Rice

Henry dreamt about Mad Men, and he had become a writer for the show and sat around and watched his words come out of the actor’s mouths. The one Tylenol PM he had taken before bed made his dreams more intense, but he couldn’t tell if it was the drugs talking or something trapped in his brain.

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Two Poems

This isn’t the play I thought I was in, I say, when I go to bed, again, without you. It’s not the part I was first offered, I tell myself as I lie awake.

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Uncertain Endings

Fergus Falls News, August, 1909
J Montgomery hospitalized for insanity… young man’s situation is pitiable as he has been a cripple for a long time. A few days ago he became violent and mustering all his strength, endeavored to kill his mother and sister with an ax.

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Yellowstone

when I can sit quietly with my son,
a struggle that grows harder as he grows up,
so that the memory I choose to unfold
is not the wolf, or the river, or the geysers,
but instead the hour I spent reading to him
beside the washing machines in Bozeman

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Detroit: A Film by Kathryn Bigelow

After a short animation sequence that gets us up to speed on the history that led to the 1967 Detroit riots, we get right into the specifics of the story as police raid a “blind pig,” essentially a bar without a liquor licence.

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Wind River: A Film by Taylor Sheridan

You’d think the Western was played out. That after Peckinpah’s wild bunch had shot its way through a line of temperance marchers, Jodorowsky had treated us to his gunslinger-and-naked-kid acid trip of El Topo, and we’d watched Charles Bronson’s and Jill Ireland’s three hour love story in the comedy Western From Noon Till Three there’d be nothing left. Nope. The Western is the zombie-genre of American film. Just when you think it’s dead it heaves back to life.

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Buskers

At the time we had no money, our acoustic guitars, lots of cafes and bars to hang out at, friends to make, streets to meander and minds to expand and experiences to have, sights to behold, girls to meet, facts to unlearn, music to discover and ideas to mature. We were young and free-thinking and knowingly swimming against the current, and in all of that the world was our oyster, and we could just sit back on the beach and listen to the song of the sea.

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Injury

Owen was circling phonemes on the patio of the coffee shop when the owner stuck her swan neck out the back door and yelled, “White Dodge, you’re being towed!”

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Jiangxi Soviet

Xiao Fan looked up as the words were severed in the air. The scythe was no longer in his hand. Instead it was arcing downwards automatically, except not automatically, because it had been taken deftly from his grip by his elderly father who now slashed at their assailant in blind fury.

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Moka, a Film by Frédéric Mermoud

Films about obsession usually start in the before, the halcyon days of family and friends and home. A little background that helps explain the protagonist’s turn once it’s all shattered. Not in Moka, the new film by Frédéric Mermoud and adapted from the eponymous novel by Tatiana de Rosnay. We enter this one at full tilt with Diane Kramer (Emmanuelle Devos), a woman already consumed.

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The Wrath of Muscat from Tell Her She’s Lovely, A Novel

“Lots of girls get PhD’s,” I say, doing my best to act like I’m not impressed, but I never heard of a PhD. Minerva impresses and intimidates me. She’s the first Mexican girl I’ve met who talks about going to a four year college and who knows so much. And she’s cooler than any nerd or stoner I’ve seen. I wonder why she was sitting alone.

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Clash by Mohammed Diab

Mohammed Diab is a revelation of a filmmaker, maturing into his art in almost ballet-like synchronicity with the revolutionary upheavals that have marked the last 7 years in his native Egypt.

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Crosscheck

Thirty years earlier it never would have occurred. In my day, boys and girls had separate hockey teams. However, the rules changed. Today every team must have at least six girls on the bench for the peewee and bantam age groups.

The game hasn’t suffered. Until hormones strike, the girls are just as fast, strong and aggressive. It does m

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Tensed Muscle

An actor in the audience asks how she so fully inhabits each role.
The stiffness falls away. Be honest, she says, be strong, even
be wrong…

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Classic Becky

They were there to scatter her ashes at the same pond where she had committed canoeicide—deliberately taking the aluminum Grumman out during a thunderstorm and letting fate decide.

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Flora Loves Atlantic City

“Biracial, I think.”

Luciana glanced up into the mirror to see who had said it, but it was impossible to tell; the chatter of thirty-one, day-tripping blue hairs and silver tops muddled any trace of its origin.

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Adroit Liars

Truth wasn’t one of my strong points. I believed that the more intelligent were adroit liars, able to manipulate the truth for their own purposes, …

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Red Squirrels

She and Dante took a flat in Chatham. They weren’t married. She could never invite her sister for a visit. When Dante’s family paid a call, she hid in the bedroom. Even Dante’s friends were ignorant of their living arrangement.

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This Is Where I Say Goodbye

I’m looking for him. Even among the crowds he was taller than almost everyone else. I would look for his smile, his encouragement. But today I won’t see him. I won’t hear him scream “Run, Anna, run!” while he waves his arms above the rest of the crowd so that I can’t miss him.

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Exotic

Rita Zumpano was the topic of neighborhood gossip, a widow who’d gotten over the death of her husband a decade ago, a woman who lit no candles at church, who favored floral patterns over black, who took tango lessons at the community center.

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Rest Stop

Jacee worked at the Waffle House on I-95 in Haswick, Georgia going on five years. She’d started the day after graduating high school when her mother told her to get a job or “move on.”

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Bar Bahar – Everything but In Between

In a recent interview in the Spanish press, Maysaloun Hamoud sighs with exasperation – “Why would anybody think the characters, who are out partying and having a good time, are trying to escape -just because they drink and take drugs”. She protests. “The protagonists are young, that’s life, life in Tel Aviv.”

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Moonlight: A Film by Barry Jenkins

There really couldn’t be any simpler film than Moonlight – a young man named Chiron comes of age in a poor section of Miami. Yet, to signal just how perceptive and multilayered this film will be, director Barry Jenkins opens with a power move: an extended long take in which the camera never sits still, circling the actors like an anxious lion. It’s an amazing display of bravura directing, made even more potent when echoed later in the film at a crucial plot point. But it’s also Jenkins’s wake-up clap to the audience. For despite the film’s low-key tone, aided by such impressive, just downright beautiful camerawork, Moonlight is a revelation of nuanced characters and plot and exposition.

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Pooch

We, Pooch and I, for those few moments, lived in two different temporal worlds; I was not just astounded by his speed, I was deeply disoriented, so much so that at first I felt no pain. At first.

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The Killer Who Sang for the Kids

Imagine, if you can, a record producer coming to his boss with an idea for a new album; a collection of children’s songs by a black man who has been imprisoned several times, once for killing a relative in a fight over a woman, a second time for attempted murder of a white man.

The swiftness with which such a proposal and its author would be dispatched today would set a land speed record for rejection of cockamamie ideas.

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Tullamore

For centuries a whiskey town
Distilling Molloy’s firewater
And a Phoenix town
Risen from the flames
Of accidental destruction
Caused by a hot air balloon;
The first ever aviation disaster
Here in Ireland.

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A Short Essay on “An Anonymous Story”

I got a free app to keep track of my reading. I don’t know, but I thought it might be helpful. It has a star rating system which I find absurd. Trying to co-operate, not my best thing, I decided the Bible and Shakespeare rated a 5 and anything else had to be no more than a 4.

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The Backlands

Sonny, face deadpan, flings his ballpoint across the reflective marble of the conference table. It flies with unintended precision, hitting his older sister Maya in the center of her chest like a dart. A tentative smile twitches across her face, because he’s fifty-six and he’s never been good at anger, never had reason to be. The pen was the best he could manage.

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The Room of Wonders

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The Slope of a Line

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Mercy Rule

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A Letter from the Editor

Since we are publishing stories, poems and other writings on Litbreak, it occurred to me to wonder why you should read them, or why I should read them. I don’t think anyone is more of a mensch because they read literature. I am...

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