*MISSING*: A Hard Pill by Nicole


Old Gray Man Ain’t What He Used to Be

by Brian Polk

The prompt, “When did Paul get so cool?” was given by Dan Landes

“I can’t really compare the way the city is now to how it used to be without comparing the way my life is now to how it used to be,” I told her.

“Yes,” Madison said, as she stared at the television screen, half paying attention to the conversation. “It’s easy to get lost in nostalgia.”

I nodded, knowingly. “Look at me,” I said. “I’m old and I work full time, so my life is pretty boring. Back then, when rents were cheap and you could still get a drink for $1.50, I was in college and I only worked part time. My rent was only $250 a month and my only goal was to have as much fun as possible. Plus I always had weekends off and my hangovers weren’t as fierce.”

“Definitely,” she said, making eye contact with me for the first time in several minutes. “And when you’re in your twenties, everything is designed strictly for you: music, fashion, bars. It’s all tailored to your interests. Once you hit your thirties, you’re demographic is dated and all you can think about is the way things used to be.”

“Exactly. I mean, look at this city. Rents are rising, bars are becoming sleeker, cleaner. It’s almost impossible to even find a bar without a television. That’s fucking crazy to me.”

“And 21 year olds look so damn young.”

We both laughed as I agreed enthusiastically. I ordered us another round of drinks and tried not to look at the TV. Just when I was about to add another point to our conversation, Paul came from behind us and embraced us both.

“Look who it is,” Paul said. “My two favorite misanthropes.”

We handed out hugs and greetings as Paul ordered his first drink.

“What are you two doing tonight?” he asked.

“Drinking,” I said. “And talking about how much cooler we used to be.”

“Sounds like a lot of fun,” he said facetiously.

“What are you up to?” Madison said.

“My girlfriend and all her friends are getting a drink here before we go dancing,” he replied. I asked where they were going to do that and he said, “There’s some ‘90s dance thing at Milk Bar.”

I felt dejected. In college, all my friends, including Paul, used to dance to ‘80s music. I didn’t even listen to the radio in the ‘90s.

“Come on, Paul, ‘90s music sucks,” I said.

He scoffed. “Remember in the early 2000s when ‘80s punks told us ‘80s dance music sucked?” I nodded. “Well now you’re a ‘90s punk telling the youngsters ‘90s dance music sucks.”

“Hmm,” I said. I thought about it for a few moments. “Yeah, but that’s different.”

Madison and Paul laughed at me. He ordered his drink and went back to the cool table with his young girlfriend and her young friends who were all kids in the ‘90s.

“When did Paul get so cool?” I asked Madison.

“He didn’t get cool,” she replied. “He’s just not a dick. He’s not bitter. He’s open to new experiences.”

“Well how do you do that?”

She shook her head as she laughed at me again.


Cancun with an Old Lover

by Dan Landes

The prompt “I haven’t been to a ladies night since last Christmas Eve" was given by Aaron Collins and Nikki Jones

We bought plane tickets to Cancun one night while lying in bed after sex. We were dazed and dreaming about adventures we could go on, like young lovers do.  

“Let’s go to Cancun over Christmas,” Alex said.

We weren’t in love, but we spent a lot of time together. We had decided to be exclusive and were apparently at the stage where we started making long-range plans.

“Cancun sucks,” I said.

“Yeah, but round trip tickets are only $150,” he said. “Let’s go. We’ll just fuck and eat and lay in the sun.”

The tickets were purchased that night in early October. We were basically broken up by mid November. They were non-refundable and non-transferable.

There wasn’t really a breakup. It was more a drifting apart. We annoyed each other. He took FOVEVER to get out the door. He didn’t like the way I chewed my food. The sex was great, the conversation okay. Neither of us felt compelled to fight for it.

“We’ll still go to Cancun over Christmas though,” he said.

“Sure,” I said. “Cancun really sucks though.”

It was snowing buckets the morning we left. I knew he was sleeping with someone else, a friend of a friend of mine. I didn’t care. I was sleeping with someone else too.

“Let me get this straight,” my new lover asked. “You’re going to a place you don’t like with a guy you don’t like?”

“Yes.” I said. “We bought tickets in October. They are non-transferable, non-refundable.”

“Are you going to fuck him?” my new lover asked.

“I’m not sure,” I said. “Probably.”

My lover pulled the covers off of me. I stuffed my underwear into my travel bag and left. Alex was waiting for me outside in a cab.

We drank too much on the plane. He wanted to sneak into the bathroom and do it. I said no. When we got to the room, he passed out. I went to the pool and smoked a cigarette. A local waiter offered to sell me weed. I met him in the pump room. He tried to kiss me.

When I got back to the pool, Alex was lying on a lounge chair next to mine. He had a bottle of water, a sunhat, and a book. He had packed seven books for the six-night trip. He took a photo of the spines and posted the pic on Instagram with this caption, “my friends for the week. #vivamexico #vacay” It got 43 likes.  2666 by Roberto Bolaño was lying uncracked, next to him on a towel. He just kept looking at his phone. I decided right then and there I was not going to fuck him.


There’s No Room

by Brian Polk

The prompt, “You could easily handle the truth,” was given by Skinny Freddy

She took my phone and scrolled through my Facebook.

“Who’s that?” she asked multiple times about multiple women in my feed.

“The names are right above their posts,” I said.

“That’s not what I meant,” she said.

It took a monumental amount of restraint not to laugh. I don’t know why I find jealousy so funny, but I can’t help it. Why would anyone spend all her energy worrying about losing me—especially when all that anxiety will only lead to the groundless accusations and round-the-clock micromanagemnet of my life that will only push me away? It makes no sense.

“They’re just people,” I said.

“Are you sleeping with any of them?”

I had to think about it. “No,” I said.

“Why did you have to think about it for so long?” she said. “I want the truth.”

I shrugged. “You know, I don’t go through your phone... You know what? Let me see it.”

I snatched her phone away from her and started scrolling through her text messages. I tapped on a message from Tim, since it was the first male name I saw. The message read: I can’t wait to fuck you tonight.

“Are you fucking this guy, Tim?” I asked. “I want the truth, even if you think I can’t handle it.”

“You could easily handle the truth,” she said. “Yes, I am.”

“Hmm,” I said.