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**CURRENT PRINT: 318: Installment 25 features "318," by Birmingham's Nadria Tucker, the story of a stripper's daughter in prep for a beauty pageant and so much more. Also: "Big Doug Rides Torch," a short from Chicago's Jonathan Messinger's new Hiding Out collection.
**WEB: CONSTRUCTION WORKER'S WIFE Kate Duva
VERSIONS 11 & 12 OF HOW WE MET Kevin O'Cuinn
PARKING Lauren Pretnar
WHY SHE DIDN'T TELL HIM ABOUT DEATH J. Marcus Weekley
THE ANTIPURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE: SPACESUIT | Andrew Davis
A LISTLESS ZEITGEIST Richard Egan
MIXTAPE: YOU OUGHTA KNOW Mark Snyder

CONSTRUCTION WORKER'S WIFE
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Kate Duva

Kate Duva is a Chicago hermit, storyteller, and poet. Find her on Flashquake and in Fugue, as a finalist in the 2007 Winning Writers War Poetry contest, and in her private diaries at kateduva.blogspot.com.

We sit on our porch. Plants make fine company. I squeeze the fat tabby to my chest because I am addicted to him. And at the tender peak of dusk, Stipo takes me across the alley to lock up the town homes.

Most of the homes have no innards, and the alley is a wasteland of work pebbles and broken bottles from the bohunks who drink on the roof on Friday afternoons. A young white woman who plunked her half a million early is puttering in her honey kitchen, which has a view of MRI Tech, where citizens go to scan their brains, and a locked box on the back door reads No Valuables -- Urine and Blood Specimens Only.

Fiction on Demand

While Stipo makes the rounds I murmur to myself about the funeral home. It was here first, and every morning I sat chomping cereal under a raw sky, watching the hearse pull out to gather the night's dead. The town homes also swallowed a vast parking lot where kids had glorious games of ball and looped on their bicycles to infinity.

Stipo takes me to the model home, the Saturday showcase. It's all granite and safe geometry, and it smells like shrinkwrap. The chandelier in the dining room is afraid to have an opinion. Fake Granny Smith apples lie in a pewter bowl. I sit on a chenille couch under a pheasant mosaic and say, "How ethnic! Honey, what should we have for dinner?"

We examine the Jacuzzi and its bubble-blowing capabilities, and I ask him to please throw me on the model bed. He smooths it after that is done.

We end up on the top floor, my favorite: nothing but carpet. Residents usually put their exercise equipment up here, Stipo tells me. Out the sliding doors is a view of the glorious dying sky. We cuddle on the carpet and I put him in my mouth a little, only to half-mast. "Just so you can tell your friends you got blown in Unit 2!"

We stand up. It's night. We go back across the alley to our creaky old home, which smells of spider plant and chinchilla, and is nowhere bare, and peels to reveal many, many layers.

COWBOY & BOBO

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