Kickstarter rewards fulfillment.


Our 2013 fund drive is over! We're very happy to have hit our $10,000 stretch goal for the second year in a row. Thank you so much for your generous support.

We'll use this blog post to update everybody on the state of our backer rewards fulfillment. Please send us a message on Kickstarter if we missed you, or if there's a problem with any of your rewards.


PDFs of U#1 and U#2:

If you've responded to our backer survey and requested PDF editions of our first two issues, you should have received them via email at this point.

If you didn't respond to the survey on or before 11/27, no worries! We'll comb through all of the backer surveys and send another wave of PDFs in about a week.

EPUB and MOBI editions of #1 and #2 will be sent out soon.


All e-reader editions of U#1 and U#2:

If you haven't received e-reader copies of our first two issues, send us a Kickstarter message, because they've all gone out!

Excerpt: Will Kaufman, "The Beginning of Peace"


Every weekday during our Kickstarter drive, we'll publish a new excerpt from Unstuck #3. If you enjoy what we do—or if you just want a pair of deadly-stylish Unstuck sunglasses—please join our Kickstarter campaign.

"The Beginning of Peace," by Will Kaufman

It started as an epic of man versus beast, the sailors hunting a male swold whale, capturing him, and performing a vasectomy. There are etchings of men crushed by the two-hundred-ton monster as they struggled with its genitals on the deck of a ship. And their job was not done then, for after they had ensured the male would not inseminate the female, they needed to attach a yeast bundle to the tip of the male’s penis. Thus, when the male penetrated the female, she would be fooled into believing she was pregnant, when all she really carried was a colony of eager bacteria.  

Swold whales choose to be pregnant. For years, cetologists attempted to inseminate females artificially, with no success. The female would slough the fertilized egg because she had not heard the male’s song of impregnation, had not felt the male’s bulk against her back as he entered her, filled her with life. Now, of course, with the whales laid bare in their tanks, it’s a simple matter to pipe in the song, to send a diver in amongst their organs to prod here and stimulate there.

In the early days of the art, the sailors had to track the male, sometimes for months, until he copulated, then track the female for the twelve years of her pregnancy, never knowing if the yeast had been successfully delivered, if they or their successors would capture the creature only to receive from its womb the bath of sugar in which an infant was meant to have grown.

The sailors eventually discovered that the vasectomy was unnecessary. So long as the yeast payload had been delivered, the alcohol would kill the fetus before it grew large enough to affect the taste of the wine.
I longed to wash my hands and mouth in wine as it poured onto the deck of a rolling ship, fresh and sweet from a whale racked with pangs hidden by skin. I longed to believe in the sea, and the song. I longed for a tiny crew to climb inside my frame and manipulate my organs so that I might swell with honor and nobility.

Read the rest of this story in Unstuck #3.
Every weekday during our Kickstarter drive, we'll publish a new excerpt from Unstuck #3. If you enjoy what we do—or if you just want a pair of deadly-stylish Unstuck sunglasses—please join our Kickstarter campaign.

"Things You’re Not Proud Of," by Tom McAllister

“Are there people living inside our pipes?” my wife asks.

“Of course there are not people living inside our pipes,” I say, but: of course there are people living inside our pipes. Where does she expect them to stay? A hotel?

The thing she has never understood, will never understand, is this: real estate. Capital. Supply, demand. It’s the reality of the world. Homes are not affordable. Banks are broken. So you move inside somebody’s pipes if you have to move inside somebody’s pipes. It’s happening everywhere. 

They’re not proud of it. But life is full of things you’re not proud of.

*   *   *

She tells me to Drano the pipes, so I ask her if she’s okay with the moral implications of massacring the people inside the pipes just because she doesn’t like undrained water rising above her ankles when she showers. 

“I thought you said nobody lived in there,” she says.

“They don’t,” I say.

*   *   *

While she’s out buying the Drano, I’m lying facedown in the tub, warning the people in the pipes. She doesn’t know them like I do, doesn’t respect them, but I understand where she’s coming from. The tub drains too slowly. They pose legitimate health and safety hazards—it has to be against the health code to have people living in there, with their back hair and fluids and communicable diseases. The chaos of their conversations rattles within the pipes, and when they shout at one another about money, the walls hum and clang. They claim they can’t see our bodies when we’re showering, but I suspect they can see our bodies when we’re showering. 

So I get it. I do. 

Still and also, I am not enthused about killing them just because their existence is a little inconvenient to my own.

They think I’m bluffing. They say: You don’t have the guts. They say: Could you stop peeing in the shower? 

I say, “If you’re going to stay here, we need to establish some ground rules.”

*   *   *

I am still in the tub when she returns from the hardware store, am still working out a verbal contract with the people in the pipes. Negotiations have been arduous; they won’t even make simple concessions, i.e., they won’t tell me how many people are in there, let alone agree to stop inviting friends over for parties. 

“Listen,” I said. “She’s home, and I’m the only one who can stop her from killing you.” 

This isn’t right, the patriarch says. He says: Threats of violence. What happened to good faith negotiations? What happened to Constitutional rights? 

Deeper in the pipes there is a flush of applause. He says: I’m sending an email to my Congressman

I didn’t even know they had Internet access in there. 

Read the rest of this story in Unstuck #3.

Excerpt: H.M. Patterson, "Ballad of the Family Bishop"


Every weekday during our Kickstarter drive, we'll publish a new excerpt from Unstuck #3. If you enjoy what we do—or if you just want a pair of deadly-stylish Unstuck sunglasses—please join our Kickstarter campaign.

"Ballad of the Family Bishop," by H.M. Patterson

[When] he’d recovered from the rung bell that was his noggin, the hunter gazed up to make out a scraggly horse, sneezing, hip bones protruding, next to a ramshackle lean-to with unlit windows. And then, in a dress as filthy as the old gelding’s hide, a young woman—the likes of which Daryl’s path had never crossed—planted her bare feet next to Daryl’s sizzling ear and goose-egged temple. 

His gawking began at the cracked tea rose pink nail polish on her diminutive toes and made its way, deliberately slow, up the length of her sylphlike olive legs—which he could see in their entirety through the sheerness of her dress—thank heavens for this angle of sunlight!—to her waist, to her finger-tapping hands on hips, up the length of her scrawny arms to the swanlike elegance of a grimy neck. Then to her face, to her jet hair, to her face, to her face, to her dazzling face.

“You scared The Governor,” she said, tilting her head toward the horse, her voice somewhat deeper than Daryl would’ve imagined. The Governor shook, and a passel of flies lifted then landed back on his back. “You shooting everything in sight, or what?”

“Just doves. Mourning doves.”

“Well, thank goodness for that. Now The Governor and me can rest easy knowing our heads aren’t going to get blown off.”

Daryl attempted to stand, to speak. For the first time, he wasn’t aware of the location of his shotgun and the direction of its barrel. He ached to be clever in this moment. “You’re so pretty you could make a hound dog smile,” he stammered.

The young woman grinned and extended her hand. “I guess you’re sweet,” she said. “I’m Millie.”

* * *

Daryl asked for a sip of water, and when Millie led him inside the lean-to, he noted its enormous door, questioned his sense of scale, depth perception, wondered about the seriousness of his head injury, until The Governor followed him inside—not ducking—lightly kicked the door closed behind him, and commenced to nosing around in an enormous apron-sink filled with dried grass. “I’ve never seen a horse in a person’s house before.”

“Oh, this ain’t my place. It’s The Governor’s house. He just lets me stay here as long as I keep the sink filled with hay and tidy up once in a while.” Millie patted The Governor on his rump and he stamped his hoof on the rough pine floor.

Daryl believed he’d fallen asleep at the dinner table again, and rather than awaken to Viola and Dot amid a fury of forks to faces, he concentrated on keeping the dream rolling, accepting a horse munching away on his lunch in a kitchen and a woman as handsome as Millie picking him up off the ground and taking him by the hand. He looked at his hand; he’d heard that gazing upon your palm in a dream gave you the power to control it.

Read the rest of this story in Unstuck #3.

Excerpt: Etgar Keret, "Missiles, Small Talk"


Every weekday during our Kickstarter drive, we'll publish a new excerpt from Unstuck #3. If you enjoy what we do—or if you just want a pair of deadly-stylish Unstuck sunglasses—please join our Kickstarter campaign.

"Missiles, Small Talk," by Etgar Keret
Translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston

The pretty young woman in the airless stairwell won’t stop crying. “I don’t want to die,” she chants over and over again, like a mantra, “I don’t want to die.” The old woman next to her looks like she doesn’t care if she herself dies, and would care even less if the girl next to her got killed by a direct rocket hit. At least then, there’d be some quiet here. The number tattooed on her wrinkled arm is like a perpetual reminder that this lady has already seen a thing or two in her life that were a bit more threatening than an air-raid siren in Tel Aviv. “You won’t die,” I tell the frightened girl. “No one’s going to die. Even if a rocket manages to get this far, the Iron Dome will shoot it down. Trust me, I understand these things, I’m an aeronautical engineer.”

The girl is still crying, but she’s stopped muttering. Her left hand is clutching my arm as if it’s some kind of safety railing. I’m not really an engineer, I’m a writer, but in emergencies, I tend to pass myself off as the kind of professional most likely to instill a feeling of safety in the people around me. This tradition began twenty-one years ago, during the first Gulf War. Then too, I specialized in calming down young women during missile attacks, but I was still young myself then, and single, while today, the entire time I’m speaking to her, all I can think about is my seven-year-old son, silently hoping that the older kids don’t trample him on the way to the school shelter.

The explosion is loud, but high above us. “Iron Dome,” I say to the girl and smile, as if it were my invention, and I wanted to be sure to get the credit.

“God sent you to us,” she says, and wipes her nose on her shirt sleeve. “What are the chances that of all the people in the world, the one I’d be standing next to in the stairwell is an aeronautical engineer?” The old woman doesn’t wait for us to calculate the probability together, and goes back to her apartment on the floor above us. Judging from the pungent smell coming from inside, she left something cooking on the gas range.

Read the rest of this essay in Unstuck #3.

Excerpt: Joe Meno, "Lichens"


Every weekday during our Kickstarter drive, we'll publish a new excerpt from Unstuck #3. If you enjoy what we do—or if you just want a pair of deadly-stylish Unstuck sunglasses—please join our Kickstarter campaign.

"Lichens" by Joe Meno 

The couple made their camp near water. It seemed they had been having trouble communicating; a friend of theirs—a psychologist—had suggested they spend more time together. They had come to the forest, the shore, to do just that, but their problems had only gotten worse within the uneasiness of the woods. Apparently neither the man nor the woman had anything left to say, so every sound became an insult. Beyond the yellow trapezoid of their tent, there was the distinct complaint of some fur-hided animal poking about in the dark, the exclamation of the waves assaulting the slick black rocks, the restless scratch of distant trees. The tent itself was cramped; the couple was constantly nudging each other with their sharp elbows and itchy knees. They had tried to have sex inside a nylon sleeping bag but it had gone poorly. They were city people, it turned out, and needed the distractions of noise and light.

*   *   *

Peter, the man, was shaped like the letter A. The thing he most loved was the ocean. The thing he most enjoyed was silence—the silence of libraries, the silence of other people’s children, the silence that accompanied the first piece of birthday cake. 

*   *   *

Laura, the woman, was shaped like the letter F. She loved the smell of the forest, the white bark of the trees, the feeling of pine needles prickling her bare feet. The thing she most enjoyed was biting her fingernails down to the quick. 

*   *   *

By the third day, the couple stalled. Their camping trip was in danger of becoming a defeat. They tried collecting wood for a fire but the sticks were too mossy, too wet. They tried cooking but the cook stove caught fire and melted. The hiking trail was obstructed by a golden band of bees. On their last night, they were so disappointed that they slept facing away from each other, mouths twisted into scowls.

*   *   *

At midnight, the man, Peter, awoke to a rustle. He looked over and saw the woman was gone. He called out her name and heard what he assumed to be insects whistling back; he climbed out of his sleeping bag and then nervously crawled out of the vinyl opening of the tent. He stood up and stared suspiciously at the moon, seeing the forest, the shore, everything in shadow.

“Laura,” he called again and followed a path down to the lapping water. It was there that he found her, kneeling beside the black rocks in her hiking shorts, water wetting her bare knees. She had her hand to her mouth and seemed to be eating something. “Laura?” he called again, and when she turned, he could see strange green and white foam along her lips. 

There in her palm was an accumulation of several soft lichens—plant-like organisms, with wide angles and ridges. She appeared to be eating them.

“Laura!” he called out. Immediately, the foam at her mouth turned pink and her eyes began to palpitate, as if she were having an unfamiliar though ecstatic dream. Her body began to convulse and the man said “Laura” once more before she fell into his arms, dewy and weak. He sniffed her hands, touching her stained, inky fingers to his lips and then turned away in revulsion. But it was too late. He could already taste the brackish ocean, the grit of sea-life, the bony shell of the lichens somewhere at the back of his throat. Soon his own eyelids began to flutter, his limbs going slack, and then he could no longer feel the beat of his heart.

Read the rest of this story in Unstuck #3.

Excerpt: Charles Antin, "Maria and the Ferryman"


Every weekday during our Kickstarter drive, we'll publish a new excerpt from Unstuck #3. If you enjoy what we do—or if you just want a pair of deadly-stylish Unstuck sunglasses—please join our Kickstarter campaign.

"Maria and the Ferryman," by Charles Antin

On the way across the River Acheron, Maria wants the window seat. Even when we were alive she wanted all the best stuff: the window seat, the burnt part of the macaroni and cheese, the artichoke heart.

“You always took the window seat,” she says, “I think that now that we’re dead I deserve it.”

“You have a sense of arrogant entitlement that is very off-putting,” I say.

“I’m entitled to a lot, for putting up with you,” she says.

“Folks,” interrupts Charon. “Please pay attention up here. A few of you—USAir Flight 149, you know who you are—are here because you did not pay attention to the safety briefing in the first place. Mr. Reading-The-Kite-Runner-for-the-11th-time, I’m looking in your direction.”

The guy reading The Kite Runner is fat and sloth-like and looks very full of himself, like he made it to Hades via a considerable deal of self-aggrandizement. 

“I know the drill,” he mumbles without looking up. “My seat cushion can be used as a life preserver, the nearest exit may be behind me, the lavatories are equipped with a blah blah blah. It’s not like it would have done me any good.”

“That’s why the train is my preferred method of conveyance,” I whisper to Maria.

“So it was my fault?”

“I’m just saying, a train crashes and it just sort of comes to a stop. It’s not really so bad a lot of the time.”

“Shh,” she says. “I want to hear the safety briefing.”

Charon continues, “So, welcome to Hades. I’d like to point out that the emergency exits, as well as lifeboats and personal flotation devices are . . . nonexistent!”

He laughs and slaps his knee like he’s made the greatest joke in the underworld. 

“No, but seriously folks, I don’t care if you’re comfortable and there’s no food.”

My stomach growls. I wonder if perpetual hunger is part of being in Hades or if I just need a bag of peanuts. The seatback in front of me has a little personal TV, like on Jet Blue, so I turn it on. Every channel plays the same thing: scenes from the Elysian Fields in HD. Beautiful people in long white robes frolic willy-nilly on a sunny green field and drink ambrosia when they’re thirsty. In short, the whole nine yards. It looks pretty nice. I turn it off. 

“I hope this isn’t a long trip,” I say. “There’s nothing to do.”

“Why don’t you watch the Elysian Fields some more?”

“Too depressing.”

“Well, what do you want me to do? You didn’t pack any activities because you never plan for anything.”

“I like to be spontaneous,” I say, “I thought you liked that.”

“Spontaneous means a picnic lunch at the park that you plan and shop for and give me a massage after. Spontaneous doesn’t mean showing up to the airport without our tickets so we miss our flight and have to take some other flight to D.C.”

“It wasn’t so bad while it lasted.”

“It wasn’t so bad for you, because you took the window seat then too.”

Read the rest of this story in Unstuck #3.

Excerpt: Eugène Savitzkaya, "Family Portrait"


Every weekday during our Kickstarter drive, we'll publish a new excerpt from Unstuck #3. If you enjoy what we do—or if you just want a pair of deadly-stylish Unstuck sunglasses—please join our Kickstarter campaign.

"Family Portrait," by Eugène Savitzkaya
Translated from the French by Edward Gauvin

A wasp visits my mother, lying in her room. The wasp is truly golden and soot-streaked. Its abdomen is separated from its thorax by only a filament thin as a hair, which seems very close to snapping. The wasp says to my mother:

I know this room, I’ve been here three times before and I drank a good amount of sugar from your glass of blackcurrant cordial, the walls of this room are much too close and the window cold and hard like the tall sky.

*   *   *

And the wasp says:

I am a woman you met in the train taking you to Germany; it was I who, having put you at ease—you, sad and shattered—stole the envelope containing all your photos, my heart and my nerves are in my thorax and my abdomen contains the rest, and this clear division makes me invincible.

*   *   *

And the wasp says:

I have always been a wasp, golden and soot-streaked, social, relentless and quivering; the world doesn’t frighten me, already I have begun to eat you, I devoured your children and soon I will tell you how I went about it, I work the best when ignored, I am most effective when believed absent, I am also all the women who have harmed you.

I am your sister who let your little brothers with their colds run barefoot in the snow, that is to say I am your sister’s cavalierness and a great part of your rancor. I am your neighbor who poisons your air and pierces your eardrums, that is to say I am the bile and the voice of your neighbor as well as a great part of your rancor. I am your Russian friend who stole your blue raincoat. I am your Polish friend, thrifty in the extreme, who would drink the milk spoiled by three storms and suck the honey meant as refuge for a family of mice and die from arsenic, that is to say I am the old Polish lady’s peculiarity and a great part of your disgust.

I am that which does not cease to wither, change, and disappear, but also the circle of the sun, the abundance of fruit, the multitude of sugar crystals, the most alive and intact being amidst rot and decrepitude. 

I am the nerve of the overripe greengage and the beating heart of pears ready to liquefy, one last lifting of sparks in an October just gone sour, freezing in a luminous bitterness.

My near-perfection is the equal of your total disarray. I never grow old, for I never live long, just long enough to regenerate, and my dead bodies do not burden the earth. I hunt children as soon as they’re old enough to grimace. 

*   *   *

My mother makes do with slowly smoothing out her handkerchief and changing sides on the bed. There’s nothing else to do but listen to the buzzing of the voice that burns her gut:

Your children haven’t dodged any of the traps I’ve laid along their path, you’d think they sought them out to jump in with both feet. They got themselves so stuck I don’t even need to be congratulated for my science. One voluntarily withdrew into his body, whose openings he took care to plug. He is self-sufficient like a granite block, and I didn’t have to convince him of it. Another, wasp hunter by nature, who when quite young could have hurt me, for all children are quick to revolt against that which seems iniquitous to them—gravitation, weight, influence, selection—I wore him out by reminding him of his mistakes, and his ancestors’: you raised your hand in anger, you were the cause of tears, you lied, you ran away, etc. and these well-worn litanies worked marvelously. All it takes is knowing the eras conducive to remorse. I persuaded another he’d been wronged by his own.

*   *   *

My mother gets up, grabs her hair brush, and shoos away the wasp, which is silent now and pretending to sleep on the windowsill. That’s how she usually deals with what wrings her gut.

*   *   *

A plastic bag hung on a hazel branch moves in the wind and lightly whispers to my mother, always ready to hear rumors, these reprimands, these warnings:

In the next hour will come, as if by chance, called by someone in the house or the immediate area, someone I advise you to identify at any price, before it’s too late; will come, I say, on a mission to destroy the so-called wasp’s nest just under the roof, four firemen fully rigged out, four strapping oafs with pants and boots as foul as though they’d splashed the day away in a hundred hogs’ manure, speaking a tongue you won’t catch a word of.

Read the rest of this story in Unstuck #3.

Excerpt: Amy Parker, "The Witch Almanac"


Every weekday during our Kickstarter drive, we'll publish a new excerpt from Unstuck #3. If you enjoy what we do—or if you just want a pair of deadly-stylish Unstuck sunglasses—please join our Kickstarter campaign.

Amy Parker, "The Witch Almanac"

It was the end of February. Lean, interminable, capricious. The wife called out for lettuces every night. Night after night, in the dark, she shook her husband awake. Gaunt and sobbing, she begged him for greens he could not provide. She dreamed of lettuces, she said, dreamed of their wetness, their sharp bite. She was shriveling, while the child inside her grew, and gorged, and cried through her, she said, cried for leafy heads. It would not be denied. 

Do not ask a man for what he cannot give. Any witch knows that. Ask a man for what he can’t provide, and you invite disaster in. But the wife was in no state to be wise. The craving shook her. She thrashed in bed. She threw off the coverlid and paced the room, kicking at the coals in the hearth with her bare feet. The pain, she explained, relieved her mind. But it kept her husband from sleep. He led her back to bed. He stroked her. She put off his hands, and rose, and paced, and cried. He turned his back and tried to sleep. He did not often succeed.

The puppeteer tramped out every dawn with the puppet theater on his back. He went into the frozen town and performed for passers-by who had no time for him. Shivering, and muffled to the eyes, they ignored him. The puppets, he told his wife, only served to warm his hands. Then sell them, she said, and buy me lettuces. In the spring, he promised, in fair season, these puppets will keep us alive.  She only shook her head.

Late one evening the puppeteer came in out of the bitter dark to find his wife picking at the wall above her head. She had worked a small pockmark in the mortar with ragged nails. Grit littered her lap.

“Gnawing a mousehole?” he asked her. “You’re letting in the cold.” 

“Our child needs a window,” she said. “Nine months dwelling in the dark is prison enough. I will be his first window. I am fashioning his second. Our child needs a window.”

In her seventh month the wife was mealy-skinned and swollen. Her navel stood out hard like a Brussels sprout. She looked at him over the seedy lapful of stone chips. A straw of light from the hole in the mortar picked up their silicate glitter. He heard a curious, tentative whistling. The coals beneath her cauldron blazed, sank, and blazed again, lit to the tune of the breeze that crept in through the hole. His wife stopped the hole with her thumb. All quiet. She released the stop, and the whistling piped in.

“So you’ve turned our house into a flute. Some piper you are,” he said, trying to be cheerful and light, though to him the hole looked like a pair of lips, pursed, grim.

“Husband, do you smell it?”

She ought not ignore his heroic levity.

“Do you smell it?”

His heart sank.

He unstrapped the puppet tower from his back and laid the puppets on the lid. A pink cheeked princess smiled emptily up into the rafters. His wife put her lips to the hole and sipped the air.

“I can taste it. It’s green.”

“My shoulders are sore and my hands are chapped. I’m hungry.”

She made no move to peel the last of their potatoes. She just sat, big bellied and sallow, tracing the cleft in her chin with ragged nails. 

“I smell the witch’s rape.” 

And she could smell it, pungent and hot. It made her dribble.

“My teeth are loose. My mouth itches. My gums bleed.”

“Hold out until spring. We’ll eat fiddler’s ferns and wild onions. I’ll boil pine needles for you.”

He touched her shoulder, gently, though he could have shaken her. He was hungry and cold, and her eyes, half mad, stared through him, through his hunger. She shook off his hand. Her eyes turned inward and her nose, raw and quivering, snuffed at the hole again. 

“Your child is hungry for rape.”

“I’ll see to the potatoes, wife.”

Her hand rose back to the hole in the wall. She dug at it with her fingers, rooting out small pebbles.

“I must have it raw. I want it raw, as bitter as possible. Your child demands it.”

He busied his hands with paring knife and potato. He could not bring himself to tell her to wipe her lips. You try my patience, he did not say. She should notice that he did not say it. She should reward his patience with a grateful kiss.

“Do you still love me?” she asked.

“You’re my wife. Of course I…” But she turned away from his answer before he was through. Her fingers scrabbled fretfully at the wall, and she harvested bird bones and horsehair from the mortar. 

Presently she spoke again, in that affected tone he’d come to hate, if he wasn’t careful he’d slice himself, her voice high and wavering, with strange strained vowels and she never met his eye when this fit was on her, she cocked her eyes up at the ceiling like a martyr, affected, that’s what it was. Water bubbled in the kettle. He dug eyes out with the point of his knife.

She said: “Days are short in winter, if you measure by the sun. Count hours by craving and you get a different measure. I ride the shadows round. I jump their length to make them fall faster, faster. I sift hours like flour, in deep sacks.”

She sighed, swallowed, gestured fitfully, still looking at a point high on the ceiling to the left of his head. Bewitched, or pretending, he no longer cared. There, he’d cut himself. He thumbed bloody bits of bruised potato into the fire. She looked directly at him.

“They say a woman in her time is content to vegetate. That this is a green, growing time in which waiting is doing. But waiting’s all we women ever do. I never knew how long the days were until these cravings, water welling in my mouth and the monster in my belly crying 'Rape! Rape!' Oh, I do not want her, or the rape she craves! It is so bitter. I hanker after sweeter fruit. If I am the apple, she is the worm. This is your doing. The two of you. You have made a puppet out of me. I cannot wait for my body to give her away!”

The puppeteer put the potatoes on.

The next night, the hole she’d made was bigger. Dilated to the size of a fist. She sat with her back to the room, with her back to him, her mouth sealed to the hole, sucking greedily. Her hands kneaded the stone breast of the wall. Her belly pressed into the chairback. He touched her pale hair, clotted as it was with sweat. She turned a face to him that was gray-mouthed, rimmed with mortar. In the moment before disgust flooded him, he saw the pain she was in. It winded him. He could do nothing for her. And so, disgust, that false and bitter antidote to sympathy, erased his love. Helpless, he hated her. 

“The wall,” she said. “I smell it through the wall. If I could just have a taste, then I could rest. Just a taste. I drink it from the wind, but nothing gets in. My belly’s full of air, and howling. And my nostrils tell me, it’s there,  it’s there, and I try to taste it but the wall is in the way. I must have rape.”

“Rape, day and night you call for rape. I get no sleep. Shall I show you rape? Shall I?”

He took her by the shoulders and shook her. He thrust his thumbs deep under her shoulder blades and backed her against the opposite wall and slammed her, hard, so that her head bounced. Her belly pressed against him. He felt the baby kick. He slammed her again, tears streaming out of his right eye, but only his right, it was peculiar but the left remained steady and dry, it burned and looked down at her and hated the sight. 

“Go over the wall,” she said.  “Go tonight. Else I will die.”

“You won’t die,” he retorted. “No one dies of a whim.”

“I will die of you, or it.”

Every weekday during our Kickstarter drive, we'll publish a new excerpt from Unstuck #3. If you enjoy what we do—or if you just want a pair of deadly-stylish Unstuck sunglasses—please join our Kickstarter campaign.

Excerpt: Annie Hartnett, "The Oracle's Endangered Species Holiday Special"


Every weekday during our Kickstarter drive, we'll publish a new excerpt from Unstuck #3. If you enjoy what we do—or if you just want a pair of deadly-stylish Unstuck sunglasses—please join our Kickstarter campaign.

"The Oracle’s Endangered Species Holiday Special," by Annie Hartnett

We called the Oracle’s hotline every morning to listen to our daily horoscopes. We watched her two-hour talk show every afternoon, and we subscribed to the monthly magazine. We owned all of her cookbooks and her deluxe cake mixer and her donut fryer and we wanted her three-tier fondue cheese fountain but it was on backorder until next year. We went to her book signing in Long Beach after The Oracle: A Life came out and we shook hands with her ghostwriter. Once, we sent the Oracle an email introducing each of us, with a family photo attached, a picture showing off our fishtails.

But we never, and I mean never, expected her to write us back. She took two years to do it, too; by the time we got her reply, we’d just about forgotten we had written her at all.

The email was sent to Neptune’s account, so he saw it first, even though he was the one who hadn’t wanted to write the letter. Nep hadn’t gotten into the Oracle until later, after the accident. He’d since grown into a true fan, though.

He printed it and we read it over and over to each other at breakfast. We practiced reading it with her Tennessee accent.


Lucy, Neptune, & Ellie, 

Thank you for your letter. My oh my! Everyone’s special in their own way, but you three are the peach-crisp of my day. Your family photo made my heart tear up in joy.  

Honestly, you don’t know how lucky you are! I’d trade half my eyeballs for a sibling. Y’all get to grow up together, be each other’s best friends, and you’re still in the thick of it! You’re just guppies! The world is your oyster, as they say.

Well, what I mean, my little honeys, is that I’d love to have you three on The Oracle Show.

Please call—888-888-8888, ext. 4675—to confirm your appearance. We’ll film in L.A. July 12th.

With majestic motion,
The Oracle

We called the hotline and were put on hold. The show’s theme song played on loop.

“Do you think she really wrote it?” I asked. “It sounds like her.”

“Dictated,” Neptune said. “I bet it was dictated.”

We were beside ourselves, of course. But there was also that postscript, the part of the letter Neptune and I were trying to ignore:

P.S. – We’ll be taping the Endangered Species Holiday Special. You three wear Christmas sweaters and warm slipper-socks. There will be a snow machine and I don’t want my little sweeties to freeze!

“You three,” the letter said, three times. But there weren’t three of us anymore—and Eleanor was the only one who’d truly been endangered. Our sister Ellie had been half manatee. She had been beheaded in a jet ski accident the previous summer.

 “Several species of seahorses are endangered,” Neptune reminded me. He curled his tail toward his tummy.
But things were bad for me. Just days before, The New York Times had run an article titled “The Scourge of the Lion Fish: From Beautiful Novelty to Alien Invader.”

I was half invasive species—not just common, but invasive. What could be worse! I ran a finger along one of my fin rays, and felt my tongue swell almost immediately. I had killed my mother during childbirth; she’d had a severe reaction to the venom in my fins. Most people get a bad rash and a headache, sometimes they vomit, and even I get hives and swollen lips if I touch my fins, but death is very, very rare. Dad always has to explain this to the school nurse when she calls home because someone in my class bumped their leg against my tail and now they have a closed-up throat and puffy eyelids.

“Aren’t mermaids endangered?” Neptune said. “Wouldn’t you say?”

We came from a long line of mermaids. It came from my mother’s side, but it had skipped her and she’d been legged. Our dad was legged too, a completely ordinary man for most of our lives. We lived out of water because of this, and we could walk fine on our tails, waddling along the ground the way you’ve seen a seal move. We just had to stay hydrated.

The only other mermaid we knew was our grandma, who was half blowfish. She’d also killed her mother, our great-grand. Nana liked me best because of that. “I took a puffer breath when I shouldn’t have,” Nana explained to me, showing off a black-and-white snapshot of her bluefish mother.

I shook my head at Nep. “We’re not endangered, because it’s not a species. It’s a hereditary oddity. Like people who are born with an extra limb or without thumbs.”

“How’d you get to be the smart one?” Neptune asked, blowing bubbles into his orange juice. He’d gotten nicer since Ellie died.

“Do you think she’ll still want us without Ellie?” I asked. “Since we’re not really endangered?” 

“We’re not gonna tell her!” Neptune said. “Not until we get there. And besides--” He paused, gulping the last of the Minute Maid. “We can bring the jar.” 

*   *   *

Dad kept our sister’s head in a jar on his bedside table. Her blond hair had become knotted from the formaldehyde and acquired a greenish tinge, like strips of rockweed.

“Medusa,” Dad would joke, rapping on the jar with his one good hand.

Dad had a disease where his muscles and tissue turned bit-by-bit to rock. He was mostly limestone, though parts of him were sandstone and one toe was granite. No rhyme or reason, the doctors said, and then asked to take photographs for a manual on bone disease. The textbook was now in its sixth edition, and Dad had his own chapter.

By the summer of Ellie’s death, Dad could only move his left arm and his face, and he had to be hooked up to a ventilator. His limestone chest was crushing his lungs. Ellie pulled the tubes in and out of Dad’s nose twice a day so he could eat, but the rest of the time the ventilator had to be going. It sounded like a wolf, and I could hear it panting outside my bedroom while I tried to sleep.

Read the rest of this story in Unstuck #3.