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The Asshat Fund by Todd Morr

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1.

The wire digging into my wrists and the punches to the gut and face were unnecessary. I would have given them the name based on mean looks and harsh language. Depending on the day, they could have just asked nicely.

After digging another upper cut into the extra padding around my mid-section, he said, “Give me a name.” I looked up with full intention of not only telling him a name, but spelling it. Only when I looked up, standing behind the steroid junkie beating me senseless was the asshole I was planning to rat out.Read the rest

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This Land of the Strange by Math Bird

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Jernegan knew they’d come. He’d left enough clues for them to find him. Besides, Swain wanted him dead, so it was only a matter of time. Yet the moment he stepped off the bus and sniffed the air, such thoughts left, abandoning him to the smell of the soil, the pines, and the faint tang of the sea.

Jernegan took in the hills, the sky, and the faraway mountains, knowing this was the land that never changed, the place where he longed to be.

Thirty summers he’d waited, and with the passing of each season he had convinced himself it was special, magical even, the gradual reshaping of his memories telling him a better story.… Read the rest

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Zero Sum Game by Doug J. Black

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He’d do anything for her. No, really. Anything.

Barstow was my paradise.

Not something you hear very often about a Mojave town with triple the violent crime of the average U.S. city.

Barstow, the idiot offspring of the gold rush and the continental railroad, is surrounded by registered sex offenders living in plywood shacks and one of the Wal-Mart greeters is a leathery two-dollar whore named Bamby.

Slanders aside, my knack for forgery and Sally’s uncanny expertise in growing the finest strains of bud, left alone and barely noticed out there in San Bernardino County, made this my own empire nestled within Desert Town, U.S.A.… Read the rest

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Write Your Epitaph by Laird Long

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It’s never too late to catch a dream.

The judge was banging down hard on his gavel, but the angry hammering was lost in the babble of furious voices—shouting, swearing, screaming, howling. Someone stole a purse, busted into a store, scored some drugs, turned some tricks, fell down drunk—who knew? Who cared? The scum of the earth came here for their five minutes of assembly-line justice: step forward, plead your case, get sentenced. Next! Keep it moving! Too many criminals, too little justice. The gavel would bang all night long. And the next night, and the next night.… Read the rest

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Um Piexe Grande by Patti Abbott

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“Lie thou there; for here comes the trout that must be caught with tickling.” — William Shakespeare

Though his eyes were squeezed tight, Gas could hear Loretta standing in their bedroom doorway, his lunch bag crinkling in her hand. He also knew from a variety of signs and smells what the day outside was like: cloudy, damp, cold. He had no desire to do what his wife had in mind, though he’d been a fisherman all his life like his father and grandfather before him. But the money earned from throwing a line in the water no longer put much food on the table, and Loretta was after him to get a job at one of the tilapia farms if he was determined to stay in the fish business.… Read the rest

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