Plain China

A Sunny Place for Shady People

Lindsey Skillen · University of Florida

The house where Bradford grew up has been turned into a sex colony and he doesn’t feel too good about it, so now we have to go check things out. The only reason I’m going is because I’ve been in love with him for the past three years but we’re about to break up. And I’m a little bit curious about the whole thing, honestly.

Like Prayer

Reegan Breedan · Susquehanna University

We’re sitting with our backs pressed against the hard wood of the church’s white-picket fence, sucking Slurpees through thick straws and comparing tongue colors in between sips. Mr. Tenant paid for our ices with change he dug out of his coat pockets. He made us each get a different color. The ice machine’s new, a next-generation machine, Mr. Tenant says, with a metallic shine that glows against the cracked wooden shelves of the penny candy wall in the back corner of the Shop ‘N’ Go.

Amtrak Viewliner Roomette

David Kunkel · Boston College

Type into Google, “Can you have sex in an Amtrak Viewliner Roomette,” and Yahoo Answers will either tell you yes, just don’t forget to close the curtains, or yes, just don’t forget to leave the curtains open when you pass my apartment by the tracks. Add that it’s for your honeymoon and responders will even give friendly encouragement, applause.

One White Shoe

Erin Butler · Brown University

Coins in the slot. Coins, pooled in a little pile at the bottom of the fare box because, somehow, the bus still only takes quarters. If you want to get somewhere, you had better have a roll of quarters. Coins in the slot will get you wherever you need to go. Natalie never put coins in the slot. She always got where she needed to go.

When I Die

Darcy Anderson · Tufts University

When I die, don’t have a funeral. That’s what my mama used to say. Don’t have a funeral. Wait until the height of summer, when you think the weather’s going to be fine, and get up early. Get up early before the sunrise, and bake yourself a pie. But don’t just bake yourself a pie, really do it right. Get your fingers smeared in butter. Cover your wrists in pastry flour. Go out back and scramble through the thorns for berries. And when it finally comes out of the oven, still warm, wrap it up in newspaper and carry it to the top of the hill.

Get Lucky

Sophia Valesca Görgens · Boston College · Honorable Mention in Fiction

When he runs his finger down my spine, I don’t feel like bamboo. He doesn’t whisper ankylosing spondylitis in my ear, and I don’t find the name between the bed sheets, tangled up between our legs. But it’s started slipping out more now. Just the way he holds me at night, the way he’s so careful that his bones won’t grate against mine.

The Dentist

Drew Ohringer · Grinnell College

He was: five feet nine inches tall, of northern European ancestry, a dental student. He had hazel eyes, like my mother. I mean: he is five feet nine inches tall and of northern European ancestry. He has hazel eyes, just like my mother. He was a dental student sometime before March 1991.

The Practical Applications of Calculus

Catherine Mosier-Mills · Pomona College

In the mornings, Té Melicha sits on the porch and holds the honey jar nearly horizontal, angling. When the honey reaches its ribbed cusp, her amber voice seeps into the morning air, counting the drops that land on the porch: one, two, three. Oyasin and I joke that her brown arms are sinusoidal curves draped over a tangent line held deftly in space, a line repeated in the ancient rocking chair she occupies in her nightdress as she rocks the honey awake. Bug-feeder of the Black Hills, you’d think she was crazy if you didn’t hear her speak in Sioux.


John Saavedra · Susquehanna University

My sister likes men who have their hair a certain way—greased back and parted at the sides. If she’s out on a date and he doesn’t have it done up the way she likes, my sister reaches over and fixes it for him. No one in his right mind loves my sister.

Flash Flood

Rucy Cui · Rice University · Fiction Prize Winner

It starts with rain misting the silhouettes of the trees outside. Within half an hour, the downpour has begun, tearing the sky open like it’s something negligible, gusting to and fro until entire branches are swaying in the wind and lengthening to caress the street. The houses in our neighborhood are so dignified that I prepare myself for the utter loss of dignity, for uprooted flower gardens, splintered rafters, and rusty debris embedded in front lawns like wet newspaper into sidewalk cracks.

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