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I Am Muslim by Muhammad Qasim

I am Muslim. When Osama bin Laden died in 2011, I was in middle school. Everyone in school, including me, rejoiced because a madman had been eliminated. But people teased and bullied me just because of my race and religion. They said things like, “sorry to hear about your dad” as if Bin Laden was my father. They said other horrible things such as calling me a “Rag Head.” But those hurtful remarks were not enough for them: they had to go further and physically abuse me. I would walk to my classes and out of nowhere I would be pushed, shoved, and sometimes punched. Only thing going through my mind at that time was “why me?” I didn’t know what I did to deserve such viciousness from others. I always kept to myself and never spoke out. It was only because I was a Muslim that I deserved such hate. They didn’t understand what it was like to be me. They didn’t understand how difficult it was for me to be true to my faith and still fit in. I couldn’t tell my teachers what was going on otherwise the bullying would just get worse. All I could do was let them do what they wanted and hope that it would all end soon. » More …

Smoke Break by William Erickson

Zach, Tommy, and I were sauntering across the empty church parking lot near our small Catholic school in Vancouver, Washington when Tommy paused and turned his head. An engine hummed in the distance, passing through the quiet, buttoned-up neighborhood. I heard it too, but swiftly curbed my hesitation. We were blocked from view on two sides by rows of large arborvitae trees, on the third by the brick mass of the church itself. The street that passed in plain sight was empty. Tommy just scared easily.It was the fall of 1996, the first few weeks of our last year in middle-school. It was a Saturday, one scented with rain and chimney smoke—like fresh mud and tree roots interrupted by draughts of spicy roasting pine. Though no girls were there, a noticeable aura of Polo cologne dawdled behind all three of us, breaking into the harvest air like a needle skip. » More …

How to be a Man by Miguel Bustos

Javier had always been around and was one of my closest friends, so feeling his neck in my five-year-old hands as I pressed him to the ground and tried to kill him was not how I wanted to spend my day. I was bigger than him, but there was no way I could have held him on my own, especially once the panic set in and he realized I wasn’t just playing. This wasn’t the first time I had pretended to strangle him, but this time I had to go through with it. » More …

A Run on the (Memory) Bank by Brian Metz

bank (baNGk) n.

  1. A place of safekeeping or storage: a computer’s memory bank.
  2. Obsolete; a moneychanger’s table or place of business.

[Middle English banke, from French banque, from Old Italian banca, bench, moneychanger’s table, from Old High German banc.]

The sun is running through the sliding glass doors to the patio, painting a jumping veil of highlights off the surface of the pool outside, onto the ceiling above the kitchen table where she and I are sitting. We’ve each got the first in a long series of coffees in front of us, the too-warm, too-still desert air winding the twinned pillars of twining smoke from our respective cigarettes (hers: menthol, mine: relentless, filterless Camels. It bothers me that I can’t remember her brand). I have The Times crossword in front of me and she has the local Tri-Cities one. In the quiet of the summer morning kitchen we occasionally look to one another for inspiration, or more often make cracks about the news on the radio. » More …