New Day

by Peggy McFarland

January 2009 "Six of the Month"

Today would be different. When the alarm rang, she would jump out of bed (not hit the snooze button six times) and find an exercise program on a cable channel (she heard endorphins improved one’s mood) before she showered. She would smile, not scowl, at the barista and try not to dwell on the girl’s incompetence (even if she added cinnamon sprinkles to her vanilla latte). At work, she would show interest and laugh at co-workers' jokes or commiserate with their troubles, offer to help with a dreaded chore and even accept an invitation to join them for a drink after work (if they offered). When the annoying buzzing woke her, she focused on the red digits and slid the bar to “off” instead of “snooze” and wished it was last month (hell, even last week) instead of today. Today would be different alright, after yesterday’s meeting with Comb-Over-Carlson and those three little words... you are fired.

The Hidden Pale

by Jessica Castro

My mother and father met while working together at a factory in downtown El Paso. She was thin then, with inky long hair that kissed her waist, fresh brown freckles on her skin that were not quite the age marks that smudge her face today and wore heavy eyeliner he often caught her re-applying while she was supposed to be sewing labels onto denim. He was her supervisor and tried to hide the faded skin that lived underneath the gold band he hid in his pocket until he got in his car and drove home to his family. As a child, all I could look at whenever he came over for the weekend was the skin beneath the stowed band, the skin itself hidden from light and fresh air whenever he wasn't with us, this ring of pale skin that marked a marriage and a different family from the one he created with us. My mother never seemed to notice it, or maybe she chose not to notice it and fixate on it in the way I did as he handed me money to buy my favorite candy from the corner store, or as he reached for the knob on the radio to turn on some slow music for them to dance to. Instead, she easily allowed his branded hand to hold hers as he swung her around our living room for eighteen years to the music, always tossing her head back and laughing.

An Unhappy Man

by Nik Perring

School didn't suit him, it was boring, so he left when he was fifteen. He started working in a factory, packing pills, but that didn't suit him either so he resigned and found work at a bakery, but he didn't like it there either. He went on the dole, but the dole didn't suit him, not enough money, nothing to do, so he joined the army. Staying on base didn't suit him but that was fine because before long he was transferred, sent to the front. He liked it there, felt at home, alive, like he was doing something worthwhile, but one day he got in the way of a bullet. The wheelchair they put him in didn't suit him at all.


by Summer Block Kumar

The old man had carried the crossword puzzle folded in his wallet for so long that the paper had gone soft and fine as cotton. He was one clue away from being done. He was too old to hurry. He was waiting for the world to teach him another word for relent. "Slacken," his son-in-law said loudly in the visitors lounge, "seven letters." His son-in-law was right: now nothing else fits.

Honeymoon at the Atomic

by Anthony Venutolo

Inside one of the darkest bars on the planet, away from the smoldering Vegas sun, two newlyweds barreled into my daytime bar, just off Freemont. Fresh-faced and scrubbed (he with his craggy polo and flip-flops, she with an equally wrinkled sun dress); they didn’t jibe since it was the kind of joint people came to when they just didn’t care anymore. The Atomic: a would-be beacon in a sea of grimeholes, beckoning its hopeless. And what of them? Lonely Nevada drunks, crappy pickpockets, former goddesses well beyond turning their tricks, and sunken men without prospect who abruptly discovered they were 46, scratchy and achy. Even the fucking jukebox gave up.

The Cheerleader

by Kevin Michaels

He sat behind her in Honors English, each day studying everything about her – how she casually flipped the hair from her face with a dip and shake of a shoulder and the way she brushed her fingers gently across her neck before raising a tentative hand with the answer to the teacher’s question. The Boy lived for those moments when she would turn around and talk with him before the bell rang, quietly laughing together while he hung on her smile and the things she said; alone at night he imagined walking home with her, sliding his hand inside hers while sharing something more meaningful, aching to matter to her. He noticed how she changed when school resumed after Thanksgiving; the words between them remained the same but her eyes told a different story – one of betrayal and hurt caused by someone she might have once trusted. Though the marks on her skin faded and the waves of time washed away what had been there, her pain never lightened. The Boy longed to find a quiet moment so he could tell her to be strong – not to waste her life trying to get back what had been taken away, but he could not work up his courage. He never found the words; before The Boy could say he was sorry for what she must have lost, she left school and took the fragments of her innocence somewhere new to start again.