The Question

by John Williams

He had come to that moment in his age when there occurred to him, with increasing intensity, a question of such overwhelming simplicity that he had no means to face it. He found himself wondering if his life were worth the living; if it had ever been. It was a question, he suspected, that came to all men at one time or another; he wondered if it came to them with such impersonal force as it came to him. The question brought with it a sadness, but it was a general sadness which (he thought) had little to do with himself or with his particular fate; he was not even sure that the question sprang from the most immediate and obvious causes, from what his own life had become. It came, he believed, from the accretion of his years, from the density of accident and circumstance, and from what he had come to understand of them. He took a grim and ironic pleasure from the possibility that what little learning he had managed to acquire had led him to this knowledge: that in the long run all things, even the learning that let him know this, were futile and empty, and at last diminished into a nothingness they did not alter.


John Williams won the National Book Award for his 1972 novel Augustus. His six sentences are excerpted from his 1965 novel Stoner.



by Max Schnitzler

Listen closely, you'll hear Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major. You can hear it, can't you? No? Perhaps you're in the wrong place, or perhaps you lack imagination. In either case, it's playing. Somewhere.


Max Schnitzler lives and works in Vienna.


Orange Blue White

by Johnny K. Parsons

The man in the orange t-shirt, blue shorts and white sneakers walks around the track. His back is hairy - you can tell by the way his longish upper-back hairs stick up and out from under his frayed, sweat-soaked collar. He's tallish, over six feet, and has a fat, bouncing stomach. In wintertime, he doesn't wear a jacket or a hat or even pants, he wears the same maddening getup: orange t-shirt, blue shorts, white sneakers. Everyone hates this guy, that's my theory. Maybe I'm projecting.


Johnny K. Parsons was born in August in Van Nuys, California a long, long time ago.


Following Orders

by Matthew Dawson

"All the way," said Comstock. We knew what he meant. Leave nothing. Decimate. Burn it all. So we did.


Matthew Dawson manages a SERVPRO in Brooklyn.



by Michael D. Brown

If you want to write well on diverse topics, there are a few things to remember. First, we must pretend there is real purpose to all the things we find ourselves doing; otherwise, we are just spinning our wheels. Second, anything that requires power usually does not come supplied with batteries, and the model must change constantly. Third, it seems we will never be able, physically, to visit the past and return, but we might be able to travel into the future and stay there. If you are a story teller, you can never really know anything for certain, but you must give the impression that you do. Keep your eyes and ears open, and something will come along providing you with an opportunity to bullshit extemporaneously.


Michael D. Brown writes whenever he can. Some of his work can be found here.


Dinty’s on Jefferson Street

by Tony Press

Every Tuesday that summer, Aggie and Jeanne met at noon outside Dinty's. After a quick hug, they entered the diner, but not before twisting their wedding rings so they appeared to be mere pieces of jewelry. But, whether this act was from fear of theft, as some of the men inside were rather sketchy, or to hide their own marriages, it was not clear. And, if the latter, were they attempting to fool the men or themselves? That, too, remained unclear. Until it wasn't.


Tony Press tries to pay attention and sometimes he does.