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Out of Nowhere | Vanessa Micale

Out of Nowhere

It was near nightfall, teasing and tenuous between pitch black and gray fog. The fog came in along the curvy road on Highway 1 north of San Francisco. The wind slapped the truck, windows down. Robert turned up the music on the tape deck. Lou Reed cupped his mouth over Robert’s ears with a lullaby about the kind of love you can’t lose because it lingers regardless of what’s on the physical plane.

Robert’s backpack slid against the floor as he took a curve. The road was smooth. It was hard to see the dangerous drop of the road edge as the light sunk. This thrilled Robert even as it made his head dizzy.

Don’t think about the water. Don’t think about the cliff edge. He gripped the wheel. He imagined the waves as slurping mouths, sea foam spitting out all sides. The salty residue coated his forearm. It was wild to snake over the asphalt at 40 miles per hour while his mind conjured up landscapes and then there she was again, Rosalie, lingering.

Robert was lost in a daydream of Rosalie’s teeth as her full-bodied laughter cascaded. Everything about Rosalie was full-bodied, from the wine she drank to her hips to her tenderness and rage.

The thump of an animal body broke the smoothness of the road. He pulled over at a gravelly turnout. He calculated how he would put an animal out of its misery if it was injured beyond repair. He grabbed his flashlight and shone it down a few yards. He hoped this gesture would be enough. He hoped the animal had leapt up the hillside with panicked adrenaline to bleed and die out of sight. He hoped to get back in his truck and home to Rosalie to tell her that after two nights on the mountain, he was ready to be the man she needed.

An animal whimpered. Oh fuck, oh fuck. His flashlight caught the eyes of a dog otherwise invisible with its shaggy black fur swallowed in shadows on a bed of rocks and brush. He was still 45 minutes from the nearest town. He walked towards the dog, who was in too much shock to move or run away from him. Robert threw his jacket over the trembling body. I got you, its ok, its ok, you’re ok.

As he lifted the dog, he could feel the heat from its body against his own. He couldn’t see or feel the wetness of blood, but he knew the bleeding could be internal. He lowered the dog onto the passenger seat and took off up the long highway. He tore over the ribbons of road past the sheen of the median and reflective markers and finally the oncoming rush of headlights on the 101. Robert looked over at the motionless pile, the rough outline of a dog underneath his jacket. Had it taken its last breaths? Was the dog still there, or was the jacket a marker of absence now? He moved his right hand under the jacket, rested it on the matted fur to check for warmth. The dog’s eyes opened, a soft sheen in the night.

When Robert pulled into the vet parking lot, the dog’s eyes were closed, breaths shallow.

Robert hadn’t spoken to another human in days. His voice emerged scratchy, subterranean.

“I need help. I hit a dog on the highway.”

“What happened? Were there any other cars around?” The young receptionist blinked at Robert under the fluorescent lights.

“It came out of nowhere.”

The truth was he didn’t know if the dog lingered lost in the middle of the road or leapt suddenly in front of the truck. At the moment of impact Robert was just as lost, remembering Rosalie.

Robert’s hands trembled as he filled out his name and address on the clipboard. He waited in the truck until the vet staff came out with an update. The dog had a fractured leg, but no internal bleeding, no tags, no microchip. Robert thought about the permanence of committing to a dog, how he and Rosalie would name this dog together, the way they might one day name a child.

Robert stayed in a motel for the night while the dog recovered from surgery. In the morning, Robert was on the road with the dog, who slept, heavily drugged. He tried to imagine what it would be like to see Rosalie again.

When he pulled into the driveway, he was met with her absence before he opened the car door. She had taken her favorite wind chimes and cut all the flowers from the front yard. When he walked into their small house, he was in a stranger’s home. The walls were stripped bare of her decor. Her closet was empty.

Robert brought the dog inside. The dog’s black fur was shaved around the surgery site. Caramel canine eyes scanned the room and returned to Robert who kneeled, palms open with pain meds hidden in bacon flavored pill pockets.

Robert wanted to feel the searing despair of being left alone. The only thing Robert could feel was the warm tongue of the dog against his open palm. Maybe Rosalie was right, that he was a man with a closed heart, unable to feel the world around him.

Just a few days before, when he still had a home and he still had Rosalie, he didn’t hear the pop of the Achilles tendon of their love, how the torn tendon wouldn’t bear any more weight.

“It’s like trying to love the fucking glaciers. You just melt out of reach.” Rosalie stared into the yard, stoned and tired.

“So I’m dead inside? I’m a disappearing glacier?” Robert tossed the words at Rosalie’s back and watched them slide off her spine along with past sarcastic attempts at reflective listening and “I” statements.

He wanted to place his hand on Rosalie’s back. He wanted to kiss her perfumed neck of tobacco and amber.

Instead, Robert hefted his backpack on. “I’ll see you in a few days. I do love you Rosalie.”

When Robert opened his eyes again, his hands were empty. He listened to the dog’s breath against the soundlessness of no wind chimes. Somewhere Rosalie walked with an armful of freshly cut flowers.

Vanessa Micale

Vanessa Micale is a multidisciplinary artist who lives in Portland, Oregon. She is a mixed Uruguayan American who creates across monikers and mediums as a poet, writer, singer-songwriter, musician and performer. Their work has been Pushcart nominated and appears in The Hopper, Roxane Gay’s The Audacity and zines + things. Vanessa has received support from Latinx in Publishing (2023), Randolph College MFA Blackburn fellowship (2022), Anaphora Arts (2021) and VONA (2018).

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The Wolves of Paris | Ryan Deegan

The Wolves of Paris

To a girl searching for proof of her own uniqueness, a wolf at a window is a curious thing.

Car lies in bed, knees to her chest, mouth held under a heap of blankets, collecting the heat of her own exhalations.

Behind the bifold shutter, the wolf's shape moves across imperfect seams. She has a curtain that would block out this view, but when it's this cold it's best to keep the curtain atop her with the other blankets.

The snout lifts, floats in search of food-scent. The thin shadow of another passes behind it. The window should’ve been fixed in the fall, but no one could have predicted the winter of 1450 to be this severe. Car shuffles her legs, hides from pockets of cold. She considers the fact that blankets don't provide heat, only trap your own.

The wolves are nocturnal curiosity. The wolves are night's probing tongue.


On more than one occasion, Car has been described as ‘an unfortunate twig of a human.’

A diminutive girl, even her name is a diminutive of a diminutive of a diminutive. Carolane shortens to Carole which truncates to Caro which abridges to Car. Given the French propensity to abandon the final letters of any given word, her name comes out as a melodious and barely pronounced Ca. Like a stifled cough someone tried to sing.

She suspects if she doesn't get married soon, her name might vanish all together.

At fifteen, with a penchant for imagining boys without their clothes on, she has tacitly defined herself as all humans do: unique among the mass of existence but with no clear understanding of how, while patiently waiting for evidence of this belief to present itself. She thinks herself unique despite knowing that all humans think themselves unique, which makes her unique.

She is aware of the irony.

"I saw a wolf last night." In the morning, she tells her mother who scrubs at the washbasin.

The porridge in Car’s bowl is warm but not warm enough to fend off night’s catacomb chill. The pots her mother hangs are valuable and kept far from the window where they might be stolen.

"Going to market later."

"I said a wolf came to the window last night."

"Good thing you have no meat on you."

The wolves are new to Paris, having entered the city's dilapidated defensive walls from the surrounding forest that has been raked clean by the two hundred thousand people who reach out from the ancient city. But people seldom care about failing walls: a wall's disrepair is a gift from peace.

Outside, between houses, the trash barrels haves been knocked over, their contents rummaged and sniffed and tested.

The wolves are the need to survive. The wolves are the forest’s reflexive reach.


When at church, Car passes her time glancing around in search of boys whom she imagines without clothes. It is not a particularly easy task, seeing as how she has never seen a boy her age naked. She has seen older men on two occasions. Once, when her grandfather needed the assistance of two people to get out of bed. The second, at a public beheading where the body lay on the street afterwards.

Both times were a mere glance. Both times didn't quite seem representative of real life.

When service ends, an argument ensues outside the church. It seems Madam LaCour’s child is dead, attacked by wolves. Held in place, the mourning woman screams threats while the men debate whether to let her see the remains of her child. On the far side of the courtyard, Monsieur Clarion holds a wrapped blanket stained in red, his back to the arguing crowd.

Car finds a declaration of curfew nailed to the church door. If it is to be believed, more than just this one child have already been killed.

Atop the holy water floats a thin sheet of broken ice.


Car's boyfriend's name is Etienne. They have kissed twice. She has not seen him naked.

He works at the dock and speaks almost exclusively of his future successes without providing a means by which he will accomplish them. Two years older than her, he doesn't like the word boyfriend or use the word girlfriend and will not let her tell anyone they have met a few times at night.

Car often fixates on the word boyfriend, which holds within it the connotation of worthiness, but not as much as the word fiancé, which she one day looks forward to using so everyone can see that she's valued and therefore valuable.

At night, they meet in an alley behind the pub he frequents.

"You smell good."

"Like what?" The quickness of her response betrays her neediness.

He licks her lips. "Don't know." He sucks on her neck. He makes her feel not so thin. She can see her own breath and he smells of beer and she asks, "Can I see you naked?"

The sucking on her ear is too loud.

"It's cold," he says and takes her hand, guides it under his clothing, and she feels, explores, without aim or knowledge of any desire that might exist beyond exploration. What she’s done to his body is physical proof of her desirability.

Down the street, the pale glint of a wolf’s eye flashes across the intersection. It pauses, assesses them as Etienne's hand makes explorations of its own.

When the wolf moves on, an entire pack follows behind it.

The wolves are moving grey famine. The wolves are a skin-hugged rebuttal to a city's plunder.


Dozens are dead.

The eight-year-old daughter of a merchant. A homeless man under a bridge. It's hard to know what’s rumor and what’s real. The poor are the hardest hit.

Car's family is not poor but not rich. Her blankets are thick and supple – her favorite possessions – and if she complains of the cold, she'll be told to put some meat on her bones. If she asks for more blankets, her father will chuckle and tell her to sleep with the rest of the family like a normal person. She refuses.

The room she has claimed as her own is actually a large storage closet, at one point used to store barrels of mead when their house was a store. The rest of the house is definitely warmer, but having her own space makes her feel in control and fascinating.

At night, in the room that isn't a room but is hers, she masturbates without knowing the word masturbate, unaware that she is not the first to discover such a thing.

At first, she impersonates Etienne's finger, which itself had uncomfortably impersonated intercourse, but soon she finds something decidedly better, simultaneously delicate and seismic.

Her mind sets on the feel of Etienne's hardness. She climaxes without knowing there is such a thing and is somewhat startled, and when the wolf comes back, she's already looking at the window, her head lolled to the side, mouth breathing little clouds just beyond the frontier of blankets, confused about what just happened, unafraid, so certain this animal understands her.

The wolves are innocent desire. The wolves are nature's exploratory touch.


Car can't wait to be older but knows when she's older she'll want to be young again, which means there must be a day in between where she's exactly happy with her age and wonders if that'll be the day she and Etienne will announce themselves to the world.

Etienne has spoken of their future only once. It's hard to get him to speak of it again.

The people of Paris have given a name to the leader of the pack. The largest reddish wolf with a missing tail. They call him Courtaud. Marie Claire next door writes a song about him and sings it in the street.

As the wolves grow bolder, King Charles and the city's government present no plan other than declaration that the curfew is now enforceable by police. So men begin speaking of organizing a militia.


Behind the pub, Etienne's hands feel colder than they should on Car’s belly. The curfew makes it easier to see him now, makes it easier to be out at night.

She waits for the heat of the moment. "Should we get married?"

"Boss has me carting now 'stead of working the dock."

"Should I come visit you?"

His face buries into her neck. Her mouth parts. He moves quickly, hikes her dress, exposes her to night's cold. In the days to come, an assembled militia, including her mourning father, will gather and drive the wolves onto Île de la Cité, where they will be surrounded and beaten before the cathedral of Notre Dame.

Over Etienne's shoulder, Car sees the pack collect, shift, their focus maniacal and confident as Etienne works and she is unique and wanted and there are things more important than curfew.

Ryan Deegan

Ryan Deegan lives in the deserts of Las Vegas, where he masquerades as an airline pilot by day so that he might write stories by night. His primary focus is long form fiction. You can find out more or connect with Ryan at

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Waves | Francesca Leader


My in-laws’ summer house is two thousand and eighty-two steps from the Marmara Sea. The kids count as we walk, sandals slapping, zig-zagging the landmines of rotting figs and dog turds. Three summers ago, we only had Sibel and Erol. Now there’s Beril, the last one, fat-thighed anchor around my waist. We gave them names that work in both Turkish and English. Names designed to ferry them safely between their father’s culture and mine.

At the beach, we find cigarette butts. Bottle caps. Glass shards. A dirty diaper, plump with disdain, wedged between stone wall and trash can. Making the best of things, I find a clean patch wide enough to set up the chaise lounge, spread the towels and toys out, and warn the kids not to dig too deep. Little Beril stays near, content as a monk in a garden, scraping her shovel, filling her bucket with ancient rock glitter. Sibel and Erol run screeching toward the water. They hobble at the edge where pebbles collect, harder to walk on. As you go out farther, the sand takes over again. It stays shallow a while. You can wade almost to the end of the pier. Then it drops off, with a corresponding plunge in temperature, and you know the ocean’s touched you. This is where they turn back, call out to me.

When (if) Orhan shows up, he’ll make them swim. He’ll carry one on his back, pull the others by their arms, far out into the cold, scary part. He knows the resting points—boulders and sandbars breaking the deep where they can pause when they get tired, shout and wave at each other across a blue-black expanse. I can see them again, the way they were three years ago. The ideal children Orhan imagined we’d have. Before they began to defy and deceive, to push for selfhood. Before he retaliated by raising the branch of his love too high, and taught them to fight for it.

I was seven months pregnant with Beril on our last visit. Erol was two and couldn’t swim but didn’t know it. I kept pulling him back, and he kept toddling into the water, eyes wide, mouth open, and stood there, wobbling in ecstasy as the waves crashed into him. Sibel, who was four, forgot I existed, calling “Daddy, Daddy!” all day long, begging him to take her back out into the deep. The kids adored him that summer. I watched them with my hand on the calm waters of my womb, reassured that I’d made the right choice. That one more baby would make Orhan—and, thereby, all of us—happy. I imagine him back at the house now, enjoying a leisurely breakfast with his mother waiting on him as she did until he moved abroad for college, wife and children (shooed off to the beach) waiting for him. Perhaps for the moment, at least, Orhan is satisfied, reliving the ease of his youth.

The waves bear flotillas of jellyfish the color and size of lychee fruit, harmless unless you grab them, and a few that are huge and lightning-charged as the lost contact lenses of Zeus. The kids shriek whenever something in the water brushes them. They come crying they’ve been stung, but no marks. I say it must’ve been seaweed. Look back at the sweat-dampened page of the book I’ve been pretending to read as a way of being alone inside myself. It’s almost ten and getting hot.

But a discovery, at last, draws me out: dozens of hermit crabs, in shells like severed ice cream cone tips. We capture as many as we can, put them in a bucket filled with seawater, kelp, a little sand-scape. They put out claws and feelers, start to get the gist. Then they panic, scurrying around the perimeter of the bucket, getting nowhere. Each kid picks a crab and says I’m this one. We watch them battle. First Sibel’s crab is winning; then Erol’s crab. “That’s you, Mommy!” says Sibel. She means a small, harried one with a hanging leg. Wounded, but still going. We all know which one’s Daddy—the big bully, emboldened by an extra-large shell.

Long after the kids have moved on, redirecting their energies to complaint of hunger or thirst or fatigue, I find myself unable to stop watching the crabs do laps around the bucket, crashing into and running over each other. I think of the thing we all want: escape.

“Why does daddy do this?” Sibel furiously flings these words, and herself, into the sand.

“I don’t know, sweetheart.”

“He’ll be mad if we leave,” says Erol, lip trembling.

“No, he’ll understand,” I say. It’s a hope, a lie, a mix of both.

Beril alone is unperturbed, still certain of her own perfection. But I’ve seen this before. It can’t last.

Dumping the bucket of crabs back into the waves, I see it’s already too late. The big bully crab has subdued all the others, pinching off their legs and eye-stems, dooming them to drift, blind and rudderless, waiting for the pain to end.

We take a side street, in case Orhan is finally on his way. If we ran into him, he’d drag us all right back to the beach, tired or not. Sibel, the fiercest resister, is small enough yet that he could carry her—and he would, kicking and screaming. Once he got her back to the water he’d say, See, what was all the fuss about? I’d check her later, out of his sight, for bruises. What will I do, I wonder, when the first mark appears, dark as a crushed plum, on my child’s skin? Will it be enough to propel me—frightened, overburdened—into the unknown reaches?

I say, “Hold my hand, Erol,” because he needs me to. With Beril on my hip, Sibel out in front, we walk back to the house that’s not ours, each of us preparing, in different ways, for what awaits.

Francesca Leader

Francesca Leader is a self-taught writer and artist originally from Western Montana. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, Fictive Dream, Barren, CutBank, the Leon Literary Review, JMWW, the Mom Egg Review, Stanchion, Streetcake, Bullshit Lit, the revival issue of Shō Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. Learn more about her work at, or connect with her on Instagram at and Twitter at @mooninabucket.

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Postmemory | Michael Don


Sometimes she would put her hands on his shoulders and plead, “Are we gonna be alright?” and he would reply, “What’s the alternative?” This was in their early years of togetherness, when uncertainty reared its head so boldly that she began consulting her family psychic, the one her grandma and most beloved aunt used. He also consulted his family psychic, secretly, as no men in his family, at least not openly, had ever done so. His maternal grandfather read coffee cups, but jokingly, only to make a spectacle of himself. Scholars or psychologists might attribute their mode of being—this resigned doom—to the genocide their grandparents and great-grandparents had barely escaped in 1915. Internalized postmemory trauma, or something of that nature. But she would never use the past as an excuse for the present; she would say it was simply how they were wired, and he tended to agree, praying that it wasn’t in fact more complicated.

The psychic was right. She always was. In the second decade of their togetherness they had met all the major milestones they had set out to meet. Only time had been doing something very funny and one day they woke up and realized not only were they middle-aged, but the other side of middle-age was imminent—everything was now imminent, shrinking, filling in. Somehow their baby—who became a boy, an adolescent, a young man—was already on his second marriage. Many of their dearest friends, the ones they would host for dinner parties and even the couple with whom they once shared a THC-induced carnal night, were gradually moving away to retirement communities in warm climates or the city their eldest grandchild inhabited. Back in their mid-thirties, the beginning of middle-age in view, the night they closed on their house, they laid in bed unable to sleep, pinkies clasped, feet touching—he declared it would be the last time they would move, and she agreed, assuming they were blessed with the best of fortunes.

When his body finally powered off, he was ninety-three and she was ninety-one, having spent the majority of their togetherness acknowledging and basking in and questioning their good fortune, waiting for it to turn on its head. Too bad all along he’d been pulling out his eyebrows and she’d been chewing the skin inside her cheeks. Too bad the psychics couldn’t penetrate their cores. Too bad shit never did hit the fan. Too bad their child never rebelled, never said they were being unreasonable or that he hated them for what they passed along to him or that he wished he was never born. Too bad she never told her husband that her psychic declared there was no legitimacy to their self-fulfilling prophecy. Too bad she never trusted her psychic, never reported any of the good news to her husband. Too bad she fired and rehired the psychic dozens of times because she refused to acquiesce to any of that positivity nonsense.

Now, in their beautiful old colonial, over black coffee and popcorn with her dearest and oldest friend, she declares everything did more or less work out—even if thanks to it her son can’t hold onto a job and thanks to it her nine-year-old granddaughter can’t sleep in her own room—and she finds herself smiling at whether she stays or goes, all that being inside of her, his flakes and nails and hairs still collecting in cracks and corners and under things.

Michael Don

Michael Don is the author of the story collection Partners and Strangers (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2019) and Coeditor of Kikwetu: A Journal of East African Literature. His work has appeared in journals such as Washington Square Review, The Southampton Review, World Literature Today, and the Brooklyn Review.

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