THE WEBSITE by Cady Vishniac

The latest  Slush Pile  fiction at  Dig Boston:

YOUR FIRST MESSAGE is from some kid who only just gained the right to drink in bars this past November, and what he writes to you is I like older women. Good lord. You log off.

The next morning you wake up in your new bedroom in a small town on the New Hampshire border, a place full of peace and quiet and thin middle-aged women who jog around the reservoir by the graveyard. The cold is unbearable.

The baby lets out a bloodcurdling scream in her bassinet. She’s hungry, and you’ve been pumping exclusively since you got that infection in your left nipple, so you leave her crying in the bassinet while you waddle into the kitchen and grab the pump, a full bottle from the fridge, and a plastic cup of applesauce.

You empty the applesauce into the milk. She strains at the thick mixture for a few minutes, emptying only part before she nods off again. You’ve been pumping the whole time; you keep pumping for a minute or two after she’s asleep again. You swaddle her in one of those tight velcro wraps the Head Start nurse gave you and then it’s back in the bassinet.

You login again, although you weren’t necessarily planning to do so, and are surprised to see that strange men have left you a total of twenty-five messages overnight. You asked them only to contact you if they lived in town, but you also wrote that you didn’t want to meet them—that you can’t actually meet them, ever. The men appear not to have read that far, because they don’t live in town and they do want to meet you, desperately, as soon as possible. Some of them are from Newburyport, some from Boston, a couple from faraway places like Montreal and Nashville.

The boring ones (there are more than a dozen) all start with Hey or You’re beautiful. The offensive ones include such openers as Wanna fuck? and I love your big tits, which is funny because even now, swollen with milk, your breasts are tiny. One or two of the men are scary: You seem like a real cunt. Why are you even here? I hope someone rapes you. A couple of them want to lecture you. This is just how the world works, kid.

The twenty-third message is the only one that interests you.

(read more)

SAINT VALENTINA by Marion Bright

The latest  Slush Pile  fiction at Dig Boston:

YOU WERE BORN the day the IRA kidnapped Shergar. The radio reported it, and the t.v. did, too. The midwife suspected that the Russians had taken him. Only the most evil doers could harm a prize winner, we thought. It didn’t matter the crime was committed thousands of miles away; where we came from, we took better care of our horses than we did ourselves, and we expected the same of others, especially if they were Irish.

We had the ease to speculate on the news after your mother went into labor. We expected a smooth delivery: the midwife was there, all her tools were prepared. But it didn’t take long for your mother’s breathing to quicken, her face to writhe. The midwife, twisting a compress into a tight wad, instructed we go to the hospital. I tried to convince the woman that we had faith in her to take care of us, that we couldn’t afford the hospital.

“There’s only so much I can do,” she snapped. “This baby’s breech.”

In the hospital’s delivery room, I watched as your mother bled enough blood that when the nurse escorted me to the hallway, she imprinted a red smear on my arm. I couldn’t help but to avert my gaze and regret leaving you with masked strangers. As I left, your mother’s voice, calling my name, ricocheted in my head. When I returned, when you were in her arms, in a blanket wrapped so tightly you seemed immobile, we wept, your mother and I, long streams down our faces. She was tired, and I was scared.

I shouldn’t have cried. But it was too much– you were too much– and I was so saddled, then, with debt and guilt that one thought alone fueled me: escape.

We left the hospital that evening. At the apartment, your mother retreated to our bed, and I put you beside her. Then I stayed up until three in the morning packing. The t.v. flickered enough light to guide me around the bedroom while I shoved shoes and diapers into duffel bags. When I heard the early morning news, I welcomed the distracting reports of Shergar.

(read more)


The latest  Slush Pile  fiction at Dig Boston:

THE ROOM HAS THE APPEARANCE of something from a science-fiction film—all white, sterile, windowless, with a digital clock hanging high and centered on each of the four walls. I sit in the long black leather sofa that rests by the door, concentrating on the wall in front of me. It is grotesque, but necessary to the experience. Heads—faceless, hairless, porcelain heads—protrude from the wall with open cavities from the nose down.

At the top of the hour, these open spaces will be filled with the mouths of women. I won’t be able to see anything except their mouths and they won’t see me at all because the faceless heads have no eyeholes. And for sixty minutes those partial faces are all mine.

This is not a free service. At Previews, the Kissing Room is only one of the rooms offered. There are other rooms. My friend Roger goes to the I-Room. My belief is that anything goes in the I-Room. I don’t know this for sure because Roger hasn’t told me much. In the brochure there is an asterisk by the I-Room option, Clients must sign non-disclosure statement. The I-Room is insanely expensive—twelve hundred per hour.

The light comes on just on the other side of the wall, and soon the empty mouth holes are filled with actual mouths. Once all those empty cavities are filled, I have my choice of head. I’ve paid for sixty minutes to kiss any of those mouths that I want, or just one if that’s all I want. Or I can sample every one of them, which I often did when I first started at Previews.

All of the mouths are very attractive and very different. The first one from the left is bright red lipstick. Second is bright red lipstick with gloss. Different colors go down the line, alternating between non-gloss and gloss. Pink is next, then darker red, black, and plain. Of the ten heads on the wall, I’m stuck on pink with lip gloss, fourth one from the left, and have been for the better part of six months. Because I know her. She’s Roger’s wife. I think.

(read more)

TWO SMALL DOGS by Meredith K. Gray

The latest Slush Pile fiction at Dig Boston:

ONE DECEMBER SUNDAY, just two weeks before Christmas, Rose and Mark came home to discover Gretl alone in the yard, surrounded by trails of sticky black hair and a tangle of grayish, gnawed up bones. Hans’s rat-like skull, the eyes picked clean, poked out from under a deck chair on the far side of the patio. When they had left on Friday there were two small dogs. Now, there was just one. The first small dog—the dead one, Hans—had not loved Gretl, the other small dog. Gretl had loved him. It was simple and well-meaning, but misplaced, dog love.  It was, at times, frightening, in both its scope and intensity. In the end, understanding this love and its powers, or its needs, would become something important for Rose to consider.

At the time, however, what she thought was: Fuck.

This scene that greeted her as she slid open the back door of the lovely, New Haven home that she and Mark shared was jarring, an upside-down mixture of what should and should not belong. Gretl, always spritely and prancing upon the tips of her clickity toenails, danced in greeting. Behind her, strewn across the lip of the patio and into the crusty remnants of last week’s snow was Hans detritus, the long femur bones and narrow, cracked ribs. A flap of pink, inside-out skin was fuzzed with frost. FUCK, Rose thought this time. In all caps. After she’d called to him and explained her hypothesis, Mark stood in the middle of the yard, scanning for additional pieces of Hans. “Are you sure it’s him?” he asked at first, dazed, his hand stuck to the back of his head and buried in this thin, sandy-gray hair. “Could it be a cat?” (read more)

THE CAROLINES by Douglas Hill

The latest Slush Pile fiction at Dig Boston.

WHEN KAY WAS THIRTY-THREE, Ed performed lat pulldowns in front of her StairMaster at the gym for ten minutes. After a few months he decided to move in, and she let him. He was a finish carpenter, good with saws, so he should have been good with his hands, but he had no sense of modulation.

Now she was thirty-six and he had left for the coast. This could have been a Band-Aid falling off: he was too little fun for love, and too much gut for lust. Kay knew this, yet she missed him. She fell asleep watching cable in an armchair. The bed was too big. Her bathrobe was stained, mostly raspberry yogurt, her only refrigerator food. She stopped showering daily. Kay hoped that this was not evident at the store.

She owned The Pette Shoppe, but a “pet shop” is a definite thing, and this was not that. She sold only those things that a dog’s owners, up at their condo for a week, would imagine Prince or Snooky might hold in high regard. Embroidered cushions, oily four-legged sweaters knitted on Scottish islands, and her specialty: homemade dog treats. She baked them in the back room, so instead of the biting odors that soak a normal pet shop, there was a cozy kitchen smell.

The shop had started with a big batch of dog cookies, inexpensive Christmas presents well received. Then a card table at a craft fair. Then Ed put together a cart that she towed to festivals. And finally, because he argued her into it, the leap to the shop.

The shop was never full, and empty too often, as today. This was a poor living and a boring life, without Ed. Today was her birthday.

No card from Ed. (read more)

HOPE OF REBOOT by Hayes Moore

The latest Slush Pile fiction at Dig Boston:

MY SUPER-HUSBAND just sent me an interesting article. I call Paul my Super-Husband because he is both my supervisor and my husband. And because it is poetic.

The email said:

juliet—article below mentions a kid from your high school class. hope the code’s not too ugly? i’ll be looking for it tomorrow early. loves, p.

The article is the interesting part. It’s about Solon’s returning to Cambridge to be an assistant coach for Lesley University’s baseball team (Go Lynx!). I haven’t thought of Solon since 2001, senior year of high school. And that is a dramatic lie. I haven’t thought of Solon often since 2001, senior year of high school. That is closer to the truth. The truth is also that, as a computer programmer, I have never ceased thinking of Solon.

In 1993 my parents splurged for a new PC with the Windows 3.1 operating system, the system that introduced the mouse and that changed the world. That was the same year I met Solon. The two events are so entwined in my mind that, looking back on it now, they seem to have happened on the same day. Surely that can’t be true? Regardless, my life since then has been one expansion pack after another, trying to capitalize on 1993 with varying degrees of success. I was in fifth grade.

Solon was in fifth grade too. My parents’ obsession with the new operating system was infectious; it was like a new baby in the family but without the labor or time to prepare. Wham-bam thank you Mr. Gates. Solon was new to our school and we were both in Ms. Jones’s class. On the first day of class I was day-dreaming about PCs and OSs during roll call when Solon said his name, Solon, and its newness, its perfect symmetry—like the sound of a letter in an artificial alphabet—merged with the fantastic, all-consuming importance of our computer to convince me that Solon was as inextricably linked to our new baby as a plastic mouse. And that he was a robot. (read more)


The latest Slush Pile fiction at DigBoston:


FARAWAY IN THESE MOUNTAINS there are times when we know we live in darkness, and there are times when we know that what feels like darkness is simply the lack of light that rims the forward edge of our planet, hurtling towards dawn; and on a night in approximately the moment when both of our lives have begun to disintegrate we sit in the balcony of the only bar in the town that tries to deny its surroundings. Out in the darkness there are cowboys and hippies and fly fishermen and the clean broad street that will host the farmers’ market in the morning. There is our small college, run to ground against a hillside covered with sage. Here in the bar the lighting is chic and pastel. There is angular furniture, dance music. We look over the crowd of our students. Timothy’s wife is at a conference on the literary representation of the vampire; my wife is suffering the terror of depression again. Below us our students mill, full of excitement. Timothy talks about which ones he would take to bed and how he would do it.


“That one there,” he says, “with the curly hair and the dark eyes. You can’t see those eyes from here but they’re almost purple. I spent the semester in Feminist Critiques trying to worm myself into them. She’s one of these rock climbers. She wears a tank top to class and those muscles that runfrom her shoulders down towards her tits, you know exactly the ones I’m speaking of, those muscles are like steel cables. And her hands. You can see the strength in them, the hours spent clinging on to some little piece of sandstone. But you can also see the innocence. She is a series of contradictions. There is nothing soft in her, nothing elegant, yet she moves with such physical possession. When you put it all together, that body and that possession and those purple eyes, you realize that she doesn’t know quite what she’s capable of. And once you see this, the question immediately becomes, of course, how do you draw from that untapped potential, siphon it, without causing the dry rot of knowledge to set in? In short, how do you get her to go to bed with you? (read more)


The latest Slush Pile fiction at DigBoston:

TONIGHT WE’VE HAD SEX for hours with the windows open to the summer streets. We’ve fallen asleep and then woken up to have sex, and then fallen asleep and woken up, again and again. The sounds of the city below don’t change. On the street beneath us there are drunken proposals, sober rejections, diesel trucks, straying dogs, bitter laughter, the B line train, and someone vomiting. We have sex over it all, in spite of it all. Everyone would be jealous. It is wonderful. But it is, as it is happening, one of those things that I know is irreproducible. This diminishes the joy for me, and I don’t come very easily. It doesn’t diminish his joy, though. He’s just as vigorous, believe me. But the more he touches me, the more I am sad that this is one night, and we will not have a night exactly like it again. That there may be variations on a theme, nights in a pastel version of this night, but the temperature of this exact Boston air will not again align with the temperature of our skin and stew this wrenching alchemy in our abdomens. He will not again say, Oh I can’t stop thinking about you, when I’m right in front of him, because I will already know it, and so he won’t have to say it a second or a third time, and anyway second or third times are not as precious and divine as first times.

So I say, Let’s go camping. Let’s bring the dogs and go camping for a weekend.

He says, Of course. He is a poet—he teaches at the university, where undergraduate women giggle nervously around him—so while sometimes he is just brimming with all kinds of words, often, and now, he is sparing with words.

But of course, I hate camping. I hate camping and insects and heat. I love central air conditioning and cleanliness and hardwood floors and ceilings and ceiling fans... (read more)

COMPANION PLANTS by Kathryn Roberts

The latest Slush Pile fiction at DigBoston:

THE FIRST TIME I MISSED my period I washed a sprig of fresh parsley and pushed it as far into my vagina as I could reach. At sixteen I was still discovering the capabilities of my anatomy. Every six hours I boiled water and infused it with bunches of the fresh herb and after twenty minutes I gulped five tablespoons of the elixir with a vitamin C chaser. I switched out the sprig every twelve hours and didn’t worry when some of the leaves, softened from hours stewing, tore off the stem and stayed lodged. The website said this was harmless and the bleeding would start within three days.

I wouldn’t be able to hide a protruding stomach or a baby. Miscarriage sounded less deadly than abortion. Danny drove me to Whole Foods to buy organic parsley so I wouldn’t risk injecting my body with pesticides. I spent the weekend moving from my bedroom to the bathroom and back, checking for blood. We never told Jackie. (read more)


The latest Slush Pile fiction at Dig Boston:


I REMEMBER I DID MY HAIR UP with Elmer’s and Kool-Aid, real London Calling shit. Had my own apartment in Somerville. Fridge full of left-over pizza and beer. I read Burroughs and Stephen Hawking. I snorted a lot of speed, kicked it without a problem when money ran short. Thought I was really fucking cool.

First time I got cuffed, just laughed and laughed and shouted: “No future!” Now it hurts when I laugh.

At the time, I worked at this diner in Kendall Square. I remember this guy: Marvin. Marvin the Martian. Marvin was a prep cook. Seemed like a decent guy, wife and kids. He was some kind of preacher-in-training, giving practice sermons on off-days. Nice guy. Except, if you stood close to him, you could hear his teeth grind from the meth. You could say I’m not one to judge, but I did. We all did. (read more)

THE SUPERIOR ACT by Christopher Harris

The latest Slush Pile fiction at Dig Boston:

MY SUPER SOAKER WAS FILLED with cow piss. Bear Claw’s was filled with lemon pudding. Union Square smelled like wet bandages, and I was so anonymous in this crowd of thousands I could barely breathe. We crossed East 14th Street. Vastness never felt so vertical. This was the farthest south in Manhattan I’d ever gone; I’d been in New York three days.

Inside a store called Forever 21, Bear Claw made for the G-strings. (read more)

Announcing the DigBoston Slush Pile Fiction Partnership!

Fiction isn’t altogether new to the Dig. We’ve let our imaginations run wild before, most recently in a tale about artisanal food larceny and heartbreak for our first-ever cheese issue. At times we may have failed to properly label short stories–we still apologize for that false alarm about the mountain lion terrorizing Boston Common–but the spirit’s been alive within us despite our ongoing commitment to arts and news coverage.

With that said … thanks to a remarkable organizational collaboration with the Cambridge-based Slush Pile Magazine, DigBoston is beyond proud to announce our new monthly fiction series. There’s an incredible amount of talent in the region, and we will be accepting unsolicited submissions immediately at We only have a few rules–either the author should hail from or reside in New England, or their stories should take place here. It’s also good to make us laugh, though keep your slapstick for Mad Magazine.

Our debut installment, The Superior Act, comes from the Amherst-based Christopher Harris. An unlikely submitter of sorts, Christopher’s a senior writer for ESPN who also pens insightful (and in this case hilarious) short stories. We’re excited to feature his tale, which captures both a sense of literary bite and critical cultural relevance that Dig and Slush Pile hope to embrace much more of in the future. It’s also got an opening line that sold us from the get-go. Before we give anything more away …(read more)