“Sorry you didn’t get the promotion,” Lara said. She and Ronni were the only two in the breakroom, but she had still approached both Ronni and the conversation topic furtively.

“Oh, it’s alright,” Ronni answered.

Lara shook her head. “Bastards.”

“It’s fine, really,” Ronni insisted. “I don’t even care.” It was a lie that Lara could see through easily, even though they weren’t that close. But then, Lara wasn’t the one Ronnie was trying to convince. Perhaps it was the very fact that Lara had spotted the attempted self-deception and didn’t call her on it that allowed Ronni to finally admit the truth. “I shouldn’t care, right?”

“You . . . shouldn’t?”

“I hate this job!” she declared. Lara’s eyes widened, which somehow encouraged Ronni. “I hate the people I work for. I hate the way this company treats its customers. Why do I even care what any of those . . . those . . . those bastards think?”

“Yeah, screw ‘em!” Lara suggested.

“Screw ‘em!” Ronni echoed. “Wait—no.”


Ronni sighed. “No . . .”

“Why not?”

“Because . . . I do care, dammit.” She looked around, took in the dingy, depressing breakroom and considered her place in it. “I guess . . . I guess I just wanted it all to mean something.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

A Lot

“Oh, oh hey!” Juliet said, spinning Bianca around and pointing. “This brewery does carryout. We could totally buy a pack and take them up to the roof of my apartment. You’ve gotta see the view!” But when Juliet looked over to see if Bianca was bouncing with excitement too, she instead saw a nervous, wide-eyed face that looked even paler than usual. “Sorry,” Juliet said. “Never mind.”

“What?” Bianca asked. “I didn’t—”

“You don’t have to say anything. I saw your reaction.”
“I’m sorry,” Bianca said, blushing, “it was just . . . a lot.”

Juliet swallowed hard. The words reverberated in her mind, adding to the echoes of all the other times she had heard that same phrase. Next would be the part where the person fled. She forced herself to smile. “People say I’m best in small doses. Come on, I’ll walk you home.”

“But . . . the roof?”

“I was kidding,” Juliet shrugged. “You can forget about it.”

But Bianca was rooted in place. “I said it was a lot. I didn’t say that was bad.”

“You mean . . .”

Bianca hooked her arm through Juliet’s and pulled her toward the brewery. “You move fast,” she said, “but you’re always worth catching up to.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Underwear (V)

Sam barely even registered the intersection as he stepped on the brake. He was just a couple blocks from home and already imagining the cold beer and dull TV noise which would give his mind an escape from the labyrinth of angst he had tumbled into when he discovered his underwear matched a murder victim’s. But right before Sam could proceed through the intersection, a solitary figure sprinted across the street, jacket flapping in the wind. A moment later, two more people followed running at the same pace. “Shit,” Sam spat, as a feeling of duty smacked him in the face. He was not home yet, but in a police car, in a neighborhood that some of his fellow officers would probably consider a slum. And there were young men in hoods chasing someone.

Were they young men? Had he really seen them? But as fast as it had been, Sam knew how to recognize aggression. That was a pursuit, and it would probably end badly unless he did something.

Accelerating around the corner, Sam quickly caught up with the runners. White sneakers shone like beacons on the poorly lit streets. All three were still running as fast as they could and hadn’t noticed that it was a squad car behind them. Just scare them off, Sam thought. He was off duty, he needed to be prudent, but he could still help someone. Brights flashed in the night. Window rolled down, Sam barked a simple, “Hey!” in a tone of practiced authority. Three faces looked over their shoulder, recognized the lightbar on top of the squad car and understood. All three turned sharply and disappeared into the shadows. Sam stopped sharply. Whoever these young men were, they were now lurking around other people’s property. He could hear voices speaking in sharp tones, but couldn’t make out the words. “Get out of there,” he yelled.

There was a burst of profanity and a sound of scuffling and rapid footsteps. A shrub nearby started rustling. Sam opened the door of his car and stood up tall and powerful. “Get out of there,” he repeated.

More rustling—breaking foliage—rapid footsteps. Somewhere nearby a voice called out, “No! Stop!” Something bad was happening. Sam shouldn’t have even gotten out of the car, but he felt duty bound to take action now. He quickly reached into his car and turned on the vehicle’s spot light. The beam immediately fell on a solitary figure just beyond the reach of the headlights, illuminating wide eyes, white shoelaces, the metal zipper of a dark hoodie, and hands that were raised nervously in the air. “Please!” the young black man called back. He was shaking, “Don’t shoot!”


“Please,” he called out, voice cracking. “Don’t shoot me.”

The plea didn’t make sense. What did this kid think was going on? But then Sam realized that his hand was on the grip of his gun. The weapon was still safely holstered, but he couldn’t even remember reaching for it. He relaxed his hand, forced his breathing to slow, but there was still blood pounding against the skin throughout his body. “Look, just . . . just go on home,” he called. Aside from his shaking, the young man didn’t move. Hands above his head, face twisted and stretched with fear, eyes unblinking as they stared straight into the spotlight. Sam stared back. For a moment the whole world outside of that spotlight’s beam ceased to exist.

Man and Boy.

Officer and Citizen.

Cop and Thug.

Blood pounded in Sam’s ears. Angry at himself and at the thug who reminded him how much he was still a scared and confused kid, Sam roared, “Go!” The young man jumped, fell over backward, scrambled to his feet in such a panic that he slipped out of one shoe, and left it behind, fleeing into the night with a lopsided gallop. Sam stood beside his car until the only sound he could hear was his own shallow breathing. Trembling, he climbed into his car, turned off the spotlight, and drove home.

* * *

First // Series

Story by Gregory M. Fox


They’re going to tell you that I’m crazy, and you’re probably going to believe them because I sound crazy, and there’s nothing I can do to persuade you that I’m not, even if everything I say is true, because the lies will have such pleasing colors and smooth shapes, and the truth will cut you open with its jagged edges and uncomfortable barbs, and I can’t blame you for wanting to avoid the same pain that makes me howl like a beast into the chaos of humanity, and I can’t blame you for ignoring my screams when they have told you I am crazy just because they’re scared of what I’ve seen and what I know and what I might reveal about the way they control us like viruses that creep in and become a part of the body even as they weaken it, and more than anything they are afraid that I might tell you how to remove their influence for good, but even if I told you what had to be done, you would say that I’m crazy, and I would answer that the whole world is insane, so the mad are the only ones you can trust.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Underwear (IV)

“They’re here again,” Kit said, grim resignation in her voice.

“Of course they are,” Sam replied. He was feeling unsettled by a whole swarm of thoughts that had nothing to do with protesters and really didn’t have the capacity to think much about their repeated complaints. Of course, the protesters had no intention of letting him off so easily.

The wall of humanity lining the curb in front of the police station held their signs proudly as they had every weekend for the last couple of months. However familiar the slogans had become to the officers who had to pass them, the demands remained uncompromising:

“Hands Up – Don’t Shoot.”

“Demilitarize the Police.”

“Don’t Kill My Son.”

“I’m Not A Thug.”

“Black Lives Matter.”

Bold statements in black and white, a report as loud as a gunshot in the night.

Sam’s knuckles were white on the steering wheel as a sea of angry faces turned toward their slowing squad car. There was no specific reason for these two parties to mistrust each other. There had been no incidents of violence at any protests in the county, and if the news reports were to be believed, this community had a more open dialogue than most in the country during the latest wave of discontent. Nevertheless, Sam and Kit tensed up under the scrutiny of so many angry faces. As their car pulled into the lot, a megaphone amplified countdown sounded off: “Four, Three, Two, One!” A riot of voices followed, shouting, “I CAN’T BREATHE!” Together, a couple dozen protesters threw their bodies to the ground in a simulated death.

Kit shook her head. “If only they knew how much of our job is just writing traffic tickets,” she said, trying to lighten the mood.

Sam didn’t answer. His breathing had gone shallow. Was it a new sign? Or was it simply one he had never paid attention to before today? Resolute brush strokes of black paint asked, “Am I not a Man and a Brother?” Matter-of-fact and furious. The tall black man who held the sign stared boldly into the squad car, unflinchingly into Sam’s eyes.

“Sam,” Kit said in a soft voice. “Don’t engage, Same.”

It would be hours later when Sam realized that his partner had thought he was angry. He probably should have told her that he was actually terrified.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

First // Series


Cyan wrapped their arms tightly around Kevin’s broad chest, nuzzled the back of his neck, and whispered, “I love you.” To Cyan’s surprise, they felt Kevin’s body tense abruptly.

“Oh my god,” Kevin muttered.

“What?” Cyan asked tersely, anger swooping in to mask a sudden swell of anxiety as they drew back.

Kevin turned, unable to meet his fiance’s eyes. “I . . . I just farted.”

“You just . . .” Reflexively, Cyan sniffed, and then immediately regretted it. “Like right now?”

Kevin’s face had gone bright red, and he could barely meet Cyan’s eyes. “Right when you grabbed me.”

“So . . . right into my crotch,” Cyan said, nose now wrinkling involuntarily for multiple reasons.

As the fart cloud lingered around them, Kevin’s embarrassment only grew. He was just as revolted by the smell, but felt he just had to endure it as a sort of penance. “I’m so, so sorry,” he said.

Cyan folded their arms, giving their fiance a calm, appraising stare. Then a shrug. “That’s alright,” they said. “I’ll just fart in the bed tonight.”

“You’ll—” Kevin blinked rapidly, too surprised to be embarrassed. Then he saw the wide grin spreading across Cyan’s face.

Laughter, sudden, hearty, and pure.

“I love you too.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Underwear (III)

Jones was squatting down, inspecting the corpse’s face. “Son of a bitch,” he said. “It really is Rupert Polbrock. Devin, go call it in. This case just got bigger than a bunch of beat cops.” Devin Collins nodded and walked out of the house. Jones started looking around with increased fascination at the flattened shag, sagging couch, and faded curtains. “People have always said he was a bit of a scumbag,” Jones said, “but I still wonder how he ended up shot in the back in a place like this.”

“Maybe it was an affair,” Kit offered, examining photos of a smiling couple which notably did not include Rupert Polbrock. “You know, angry husband sort of thing. Happens all the time.”

“Probably,” Jones said. “But if you’re as loaded as Polbrook, why do you need to go slumming?”

“Slumming?” Sam asked.

“Well, yeah,” Jones said gesturing around vaguely.

“I live in a neighborhood like this,” Sam said sharply.

“Yeah, but you don’t own half of Hay Street.”

“This guy’s really that rich?” Kit asked.

“Oh yeah,” Jones said. “The guy probably has a swimming pool full of money in his backyard.”

“Damn, why couldn’t he have slummed it with me?”

“It’s not a slum,” Sam grumbled

Devin Collins strolled back inside. He was a laid-back officer, one of the only black officers on the force. He moved slowly despite his height and long strides. “Well, half the homicide division is on the way,” he announced “and even the commissioner is coming.”

“Sounds like it’s going to be crowded,” Sam said. “We’ll wait out front.”

“Oh will we?” Kit said sarcastically.

But Sam was already heading out the door. “Come on,” he growled.

“Jesus. What’s got your boxer-briefs in a twist?” Kit teased.

“Nothing,” Sam growled.

When the fellow officers exchanged inquisitive glances, Kit explained, “Farnsworth’s been getting all existential over our dead guy’s underwear.”

“Existential?” Collins asked, perking up.

“Yeah, you know, ‘who am I?’ ‘Life is too short.’ ‘What sort of underwear should I buy?’ That sort of stuff.” Sam glowered at Kit’s imitation of him, but she just shrugged her shoulders.

“Oh, well that might be an identity crisis,” Jones offered casually, “but it’s not exactly existentialism.”

Kit sneered. “What are you talking about – not existentialism?”

“It’s not a crisis,” Sam insisted, then glanced again at the dead man’s underwear. “It’s just . . . weird, you know?”

“Weird like you’re discovering that the universe is ultimately meaningless, and it’s up to you as a free individual to determine the course of your own life?”

Jones stared at his partner with his eyes narrowed. “What the fuck are you talking about, Devin?”

Collins just shrugged. “Existentialism.”

“What the fuck, man?” Jones asked, still waiting for the punchline.

Devin straightened up slightly and stuck out his chin. “I double majored in philosophy in college. That’s how I’m gonna make detective in a couple years.”

“Alright then, Detective, enjoy your case,” Sam said brusquely before finally stepping out the door.

“I’m telling you,” Kit said in a loud whisper as she followed Sam out of the room, “crisis.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

First // Series


Round and round Ana wound the thread, bright turquoise running between her fingers. “If you would just let me explain…” she tried to say.

“You’re not going,” the older woman announced, not even glancing away from her work on the loom. “There’s no point discussing it.” Her fingers danced like a harpist plucking the strings, but hers was a song of color and patterns that would take weeks to complete. Ana marveled, not for the first time, how someone as severe as her mother was capable of creating such beauty.

Every thread in its place.

Round and round, Ana spun the thread, her grip on the shuttle so tight her fingers started to hurt. Her mother continued weaving. “You don’t really need me here, Ana remarked.

The answer came automatically. “Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I do.”

No thread out of place, Ana thought. The last of the turquoise thread slipped through her fingers. The shuttle was ready. But instead of handing it to her mother, Ana slipped it into her pocket and said, “Mother, I think this will be your finest work yet.”

Ana meant what she said, but her mother simply scoffed. Ana didn’t care. She was leaving.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Underwear (II)

“Hey, you alright?” Kit asked.

Sam’s face was twisted and scrunched up as he contemplated the dead body they had found. “I have that same underwear,” he repeated.

Kit rolled her eyes. “And yesterday the chick in the stall next to me was wearing the same shoes I was. It’s not worth flipping out about.”

A corpse, body gone cold and white. The blood that had sprayed onto the wall and pooled beneath the body and congealed into the elastic waistband of those boxer-brief’s that matched the very same ones he felt gripping his hips. Shouldn’t that be significant somehow? “But—”

“Look,” she said with a bit more attitude, “where do you buy your underwear?”

“Uh, Wal-Mart.”

This time Kit grimaced. “First off,” she said, “I must reiterate that you can really do better when it comes to how you take care of your—”


“And secondly, hasn’t it occurred to you that someone else might have picked up one of the millions of identical packs of underwear that Wal-Mart sells?”

Still flustered and uneasy, Sam finally looked away from the corpse and said, “A dead body is different than some random person in the next stall. He picked out that underwear and then he died in it. You never think about what your corpse is going to be wearing when you pick out your underwear. I mean, this could have been me. If I died in a pair of gray boxer-briefs, what would that say about me?” He knelt down to look into the face of the dead man. “This guy is—oh shit!” Sam had been so distracted by the underwear, that he had not yet taken a look at the victim’s face until that moment. “You know who this is, don’t you?” he asked.

Kit crossed the room to see the man’s face, studied it a moment, and shook her head. “Should I?”

Sam’s mouth was dry. “This is Rupert Polbrock,” he said, pronouncing the name with deliberate care as he felt old wounds threaten to tear themselves open. Kit still showed no sign of recognition. “He’s a . . . a real estate developer,” Sam continued. There were so many other words he could have thought to use, but like a good cop, he tried to stick to the facts.. “He buys out cheap properties and ‘renovates’ them. Gentrification, that sort of thing.”

“So our dead guy’s rich,” Kit said, though she still didn’t seem very impressed.

“And he’s wearing my underwear.”


She should have been mad, but she just felt tired. So very tired. Much too tired to spend another night fighting, especially since she no longer knew what she was fighting for.

“Okay,” she said.


“Okay,” she repeated. “I’m leaving.”

“What? Hold on; you can’t just leave.” She didn’t answer. She just walked to the closet and pulled out her coat and a pair of shoes. “Where are you going?”

She shrugged. “Away.”

“Well stop,” he growled. “I’m trying to tell you I’m sorry.”

A vague nod as she walked to the door. “You told me.”

Helpless with fury, he cried, “Why are you punishing me?”

She stopped, hand on the nob, and turned. Her eyes crashed through him like a brick through glass. Nights of rage, nights of grief, nights of wondering and of regret had condensed into a dense, dark abyss that sucked all further words from his throat. “Punishing you?” she echoed softly. “Believe me, I’m not doing this for you.”

And then she was gone.

The night was cold, her feet ached, and she had no idea where she was going. She should have been scared. Instead she felt the wind stirring.

She followed it.