Plain China


Bryce Bortree · Susquehanna University

Ceelie is seven when they find out Jim’s been touching her. The first thing I ask is when it started and Dad says hush, which is his way of making up for my not having a grandma if you ask me. I want to know, though. My seventh-grade health class just edged into sexual education and I curl tight around my desk while everyone chortles at our penises. I don’t find the thing very amusing at all. That’s not something a little cousin says out loud, that other people are being cruel.


Brian Smith · Guilford College

A spider-web pattern, they call it, when tempered glass cracks this way, not breaking all the way through but broken just the same, useless now. A spider spends—how long? an hour, a lifetime?—literally hanging its life on a thread. A broom handle in the hand of a bored schoolboy brings it down in no time; broken, lifeless now. Residual matter. Sticky.

Her Remembrance

Clayton Wortmann · Oberlin College

After Emma transcended, I spent a lot of time alone. I ate straight from cans, sat naked on stones, spat when I didn’t want to swallow my saliva. I felt my skin grow gray and then flake away like dead bark. The calluses on my hands cracked and healed over, again and again. I forgot about the stock market. I forgot about global warming and endangered species. I slept when I was tired, ate when I was hungry, and cried when I could no longer keep silent.

The Fork

Darlene P. Campos · University of Houston

We went to Rapid City for a concert and a weekend trip for my 22nd birthday. John David Gutierrez wanted to get sodas so we stopped at a gas station near the venue. He said he’d wait outside for me since he needed a smoke. I went in and looked around the aisles. As I stood in the register line, I saw three guys holding John David down on the pavement, punching his face and kicking his body. I dropped the drinks on the floor and ran out, but by then the guys had taken off in their car. John David was on the ground with his pants pulled down and a carving fork lodged in his butt. He was bleeding all over, especially from a gash on his lower back. I didn’t see the guys too well, but I knew they were from the rez. You can’t tell John David is gay just by looking at him.

Too Small Yet

Elizabeth Martin · Princeton University · Honorable Mention in Fiction

The new volunteer, Anna, came while we were at school. We could see from the bus that the window of the fourth-floor guest room was open, and as we ran through the gate, we saw her face there, pale as a ghost’s. She had the kind of yellow hair that all the volunteers did, especially the German ones.

Where We Built Our House

Max Seifert · University of Iowa

The contractor came and told us the house was sinking. See, where we live used to be an ocean and where we built our house was on top of a bed of limestone, which is, essentially, the crushed up and calcified bones of the all the things that ever lived in that ocean. Limestone has a tendency to crumble and collapse and just generally move around a lot, as if all the fish skeletons were still alive and swimming through the clay beneath our floorboards.

Shark Season in Kanawha Country

Nina Sabak · University of Pittsburgh · Honorable Mention in Fiction

Lilliana starving is what we’re used to. She says her bones don’t fit right. What kind of bones does a sister need? She wants low hips, paper ribs, big square hands for dancing with the state fair girls. She spends all morning on her belly in her whitewashed bedroom; she watches herself move. The room smells like the pennies we’ve been saving for a candle. (There are prayers, there are ways.)

Two Years' Difference at a Roadside Stand

Dantell Wynn · Florida State University

The girls are lounging on the side of the road at a wooden stand piled high with Valencias. No one has stopped all morning and it is getting close to two. Laura is lying in the grass watching the slow-moving clouds and Grace-Ann is watching Laura. “I’m tired of oranges,” Laura sighs. Grace-Ann remains silent and rearranges the oranges into rows, then columns, upon the stand. Every summer the two cousins visit their grandparents’ orange grove in Indian River County, and everything is always orange. They drink orange tea with the delicate, white blooms still floating on top and eat warm slices of sourdough bread spread thick with orange marmalade

A Place Without Floors

Dana Diehl · Susquehanna University

Nalin wakes to rain drumming on the roof, against the chimney, through the cracks in the walls. She sits up, feeling her bones crack, and breathes. She wonders, briefly, if she’s floated out to sea. There’s a dark, yellowing patch on the ceiling above the bed that makes it look like the house has wet itself, and the river out back is swollen.


Daniel Grammer · Louisiana State University

Pa says the ducks are still here because I’ve been feeding them all our bread. But the truth is they took refuge under our dock during the storm that dripped rain down our walls. He’s tried throwing sticks and rocks, and at one point he even sent me after them with his patch-job net. Seems that no matter how bad he wants them gone, he’ll never be able to scare them off for good.

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