Santa Monica Review

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The tabloids gave me a lot of credit for my unfiltered appearance. The regional manager came on the show the next week to compete for my hand in marriage. He won a second date, but then lost to the cowboy from Wyoming in the dirtbike competition.— Michelle Chihara

Cheerfulness, why are you teasing us with your lateness? In spite of the barrage of constant litter, the street median became instantly more beautiful, eye candy for older men like me. But I realized immediately that sixty flowers is hardly any display at all. What was I thinking? The median needed the colorful madness of more daffodils. — Gary Soto

And so it is that you sit up late at night reading that infernal book, the pages filled with characters you do not understand committing acts of horror you cannot fathom. Even when a familiar event occurs—a shootout between cowboys and Indians, for example—the encounter quickly devolves into an unmitigated bloodbath with no identifiable hero or villain. Who is the reader to root for?— Christian Kiefer

No one sings about the wars. There they are, across the globe, the damage and the after-damage, but they don’t step into the tunes. The verses are yours, and mine, twenty-four karat. The next time she sees you, by the time she sees the light, when she hears that diesel blow its long farewell.— Michael Cadnum

My bio-grandma passed three weeks prior to this visit with Dorothy, two years older than this woman, who recounts to me several key orgasms dating back to 1965. Two years older but senile, choking on her food and unable to wash herself. My German grandma recently courted by a Grecian sailor. My German grandma telling me the best is yet to come.— Trinie Dalton

In lieu of my early success as a writer in my field, the nature of our relationship became defined: disproportioned, unaligned, and coherent only in the creeping viral sort of way, like gangrene. But to me, it was two necessarily unlike units of a puzzle, nestled together nicely. — D. J. Lambert

I don’t know when I first came to realize that a particular semi was going down with me—the image of a mountain range wrapped around its trailer, a range I’d seen somewhere before, as though they’d finally found a way to turn the Earth to advertisement.— Erik Rangno

Even as a young girl, that Raja had her eyes set only on America. Now I see she is settled here like good food settles in the stomach. Hardly does she seem like she came from Mother India at one time. She is scientist like her father. Very, very smart girl. Let it be. Maybe in India there would have been no husband for her. Who can say? — Monona Wali

“I don’t know what’s happened, Joey,” said my mother one night, her syllables a lush’s thick maudlin clot, as she stood wobbly, disheveled, and open-robed in my bedroom’s darkened door. My sci-fi paperbacks stacked on the floor. My Tolkien calendar on a nail on the wall. A rocket ship mobile above my bed. “You used to be such a nice lookin’ little boy.— J. M. Hollwig”

I took your small hand and helped you beneath the barbed wire and into the neighboring pasture. We stood on the sleepy spines of upright cattle and tried to pluck every perfect idea from the sky. Yes, we wanted to finish what we started.— Ryan Ridge & Mel Bosworth

My boss back in Rotterdam, a tall man in his thirties who battles cold sores and acne, is intimidated by me, by my stolidity, my good though plain features, my indifference to office hours. He found me one morning asleep at my desk, head down on folded arms. I had been up all night in grueling teleconference with partners in Beijing. Signing off at 4 a.m, I collapsed. Since then, he has not questioned my work ethic.— Karl Taro Greenfeld

Whispers spread amongst playdaters. An alien creature had entered their realm. One by one, they collected at the doorways of the two-story great hall to watch it stomp from the kitchen sink to the van. Like Chewbacca, like Shrek. Back and forth. Forth and back. Checking another bathroom, getting more tools. Brothers Grimm in the 3-1-0.— Steve De Jarnatt

We would all of us wonder about how our reactions to his news might have changed everything for him, for us, but in the end came to realize we had no control over Harold’s fate, and that it had always been some kind of self-flattery to pretend we ever did.— Roberto Ontiveros

I pushed my mother off our front porch. She fell down two steps—her bad back smacking the concrete. I helped her up… she slapped me across the face. I deserved it. Or did she slap me first, then I shoved her aside, over two steps, the strike against me? — Lorene Delany-Ullman

The invitation was a real invitation engraved on heavy card stock, not an email. It had been addressed, touchingly, with a green calligraphy pen, and sealed with wax. Perhaps these were silly flounces, the extravagance of boredom, but they had spelled Catalina’s name correctly. It would be an honor, they had written, to have her.— Lisa Locascio

She was unsure what they were exactly, and introspection always seemed an unwelcome chore. She decided her thoughts could be divided into two categories, the first being “trivial,” which frolicked across her brain like cartoon deer, flitting in and out when she assessed her hair color or gossiped about a friend, and sometimes would prance for a while as banal daydreams. These were in the majority. The other type were stacked heavy as rocks on her chest, each thought compounding on the other. — Kathleen MacKay

Across the square, in Samuels Auto Repair, an air gun hissed to life, but then stopped suddenly and remained silent. Two men—Bill and Earl—carried a Civil War-era trunk into the antique shop, stumbling for a moment on the curb. In the Hallmark store, Grace restocked the Mother’s Day cards, stopping to read each one before she set it in its place. A child, holding her mother’s hand in front of the toy store, pointed in the window at a stuffed owl and began to hoot.— Mark Maxwell

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