Archive for August, 2011

August 25, 2011

Spot 005: Needful Things


by Sandra Davies

Penny, second uni year in Venice, with access to the archives of the Academia, Ambushed by gargantuan lust for fellow student, Guido. Devastated to discover his disinterest, determined not to let him know how much he damaged concentration, disturbed sleep and distracted her from education. Sought diversion, self-deceiving, deliberately denying it a sideways approach to him.
An innocent, and unsuspecting of ulterior motive, she was unaware that man could be immoral, avaricious, blinkered mercenary when it came to Art. What she had of willful blindness hid more even than she meant it to; she stumbled into evil, found the man she loved had feet at least clay-dipped, albeit by another since she saw he could not help but know the implications of the machinations of his so-called friend.
But when it threatened to implode, and was about to implicate herself, he stepped in and at some risk he shielded, lied, denied and eventually evaded retribution for them all.

At a cost.

Guido presented his account some five years later, forcing her confession, charging her to murder (mercy-killing from compassion) and in compensation giving her the evidence, the implicating information to finally put things right, compelling her to seek the other out, to force a reckoning, befriend an enemy, to seemingly betray a now-dead friend to win for him posthumous justice, and a guilt-free future for herself.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Gita M. Smith

Today is Friday, which is necklace day. I do so enjoy the feeling of gold chains and smooth pearls draped over my body. You know, sometimes I recline in the bath, trailing necklaces over all my hills and dales. And cock.
Sometimes I arrange them according to the dates I “acquired” them, the oldest at my ankles and the newest over my head, dripping down my face. I like the sharp, hard surfaces of diamonds against my teeth. Don’t you?

Aww. You’re not talking to me? Is that because I’m not sharing my jewels? Oh wait, I know. You’re not talking because I’ve taped your mouth shut.
You shouldn’t have made such a fucking ruckus when you found me in your house. You could have let me take your tiara, waited till I was down the street, then dialed your insurance agent. But let’s not quarrel. Let’s have a jewelry quiz!

What is this gemstone right here? What’s that you say? MMmmff? Nope. Wrong, wrong and wrong. It’s a black opal, set in platinum. The nice lady who used to own it didn’t make a fuss. Of course, she happened to be vacationing in the Pyrenees at the time I came across it.

My love for jewelry is pure. I never fence anything. You see, it’s not about the money: It’s about the beauty. I just can’t resist beauty.
Mercy, I hope you’ll stick around for a while. Tomorrow is bracelet day and the day after is all about earrings.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

Harold had learned he couldn’t control everything; couldn’t control most things, for that matter.

Usually, he behaved consistent with the ancient philosophies of Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius—like a stoic. He tried to stay aware of his reactions to occurrences, tried not to laugh too hard nor cry too long, tried to treat news of a death like the loss of his favorite coffee mug, and tried to treat pain as an affliction to an injured body part, not a reason for complaining to anybody who would listen about the severity of the pain.

He did not derive his happiness from things beyond his control, nor was he particularly annoyed by them either. He did not demand that things happen in conformity to his will. Rather, he had learned to accept things happening as they did happen.

Adopting stoicism as a way of life changed his life.

To his new way of thinking, there was nothing either good or evil. He strove to live each moment without regret, remorse or resentment. He stepped out of the yoke of desire and gave away everything except what he could carry in a pack, and walked toward the western desert.

When he got there, the sun glared in his eyes and he wished for sunglasses, it was hot and wished for air-conditioning, it was dry and he wished for a cup of ice water. He had forgotten all that he had learned, got lost, and was never heard from again.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Grey Johnson

When you listened, and watched him do
that awful thing
the thing that scratched your heart
leaving you flat and empty

did you foresee
what you would do
to feel your cup swell and spill?

Did you even know you had a cup?

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.



by Robert Crisman

“Four fucking thirty am,” Roanne said, “and, girl, there I was, skulking around in that alley, rooting and scrounging around in that dumpster and telling the rats to get out of my way—and praying some asshole had shitcanned his rig.”

“Oh God!” Michelle said.
They both fell out laughing. Horror viewed from a distance plays like a star turn at Giggles sometimes.

“If only you’d gotten it on video, dear,” Michelle said. “Talk about moments to share with your friends.” She laughed. “Did you find one?”

“What? A rig? Fuck no.”
“Worse luck.”
“Shit, with my luck I’d’ve come up with a nice case of AIDS.”
“Well, uh, yes, there is that.”
“Wouldn’t have stopped me though, if I’d found one. They could have had AIDS stamped on that fucker in big, bold red letters—‘Use this and die, motherfucker,’ and, yeah, well, that’s for later and this is right now, and I’m on a mission, so eat me, you know?”

“Whooee, party, party.”
“Yeah, girl, party for sure.”

Their laughter died. The longer the stroll down this particular memory lane, the more that past punched up from the stomach, taking on odor and taste…

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

“PJ, pick up your court card!,” boomed Phil’s rasp over those chattering after the meeting.
“I’m PJ.“
“You got a ‘nudge from the judge’ for A.A.,“ Phil chuckled, his eyes sparkling, riveted on PJ.
“Just ten meetings.“
PJ took the card Phil had initialled.
“But you don’t have an alcohol ‘problem,’” Phil declared.
“Everybody gets DWIs.”
“What did you blow?” the tanned, construction superintendent asked.
Phil grinned, “That’s how I got here!”
PJ was silent.
“I notice you walked–didn’t arrive in a car. Wanna ride?”
“I’m good.”
“Judge yanked my license, too,” Phil offered.
“Which judge?”
“He’s dead!! It was 19 years ago,” laughed Phil, “Been sober ever since!”
PJ muttered, shrugged and shuffled away.
“PJ!!,” Phil hollered.
The disheveled man looked back.
“My hands shook, too! Meetings made ‘em stop.” and Phil winked.
PJ hit the alley and bee-lined to a nearby beer dive. He proffered a five and quickly downed a $4.50 small pitcher of draft. He stepped out into the night and froze.
Phil leaned against his truck’s chromed grille.
“I watched you take the money when we passed the meeting’s basket,” Phil said, quietly, “and I repaid it. Alkies steal for a drink but you don’t have a problem,” grinned Phil as he got in the truck.
“Here’s my number. Keep comin’ back…just for the shaky hands, o‘ course,“ and Phil roared off.
PJ wiped away a frustration tear, his fingers trembling.
He’d see that laughing bastard tomorrow night.
He hated…but wanted to like Phil.

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Amy Hale Auker

It was like shoplifting, this stealing of moments and smiles and secrets that she tucked into the folds of her memory, cheap trinkets of special to be lifted out and savored when the mundane wore her down.
Her best friend gave her one of those mommy looks she was so good at.
“Sounds like an emotional affair to me. Don’t give me this bullshit about only friends when you guard your cell phone like it was gold and check your e-mail before your first sip of coffee. An emotional affair is supposed to be much more damaging than the real deal, you know. Doesn’t sound like just friends to me.”
Blah, blah, blah. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
She preferred listening to her imaginary friends who understood the words “marital rape” without her having to “confide” the sordid details, understood her need for something new, for something hopeful, for conversation that lifted her up out of “omg, this is what I have for the rest of my friggin’ life?” syndrome.
She set her ringtone for him to “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail” , accidentally brushed his hand when he came into her place of work for a beer, and without any thought of right or wrong, she reached for all of the passion, all of the zing, all of the delicious details, all of the incentives to keep on breathing in and out that she could find.
And every day she whispered to him what color panties she wore.

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

I believed the young man was telling the truth. How could I not considering the circumstances?
“Please, continue,” I said, my voice low, even.
The man told me more about the women. He told me of the things he had done, of the secrets he’d forced them to keep, the lies covering his actions.
“Did you hurt them?” I asked.
The man was near tears and did not answer.
“You are safe here… it’s better to say. Did you hurt them?”
“Yes,” the man replied.
“Tell me then. Tell me everything.”

There was relief in the man’s voice as he let go his burden. I leaned back and listened, lightly tapping my fingers on the pages in front of me, mentally noting the details. The stories were salacious. The room felt close and I loosened my collar a notch.
“Can you forgive me?” the man asked when finished.
It was not for me to say. I knew I should kick this one upstairs to a superior but this territory was very familiar; I needed to let the man know I understood his pain. I told him I had been there myself, that his confession had been the first step to understanding. The next steps would be more important.

Through the crossed slats, I watched the young priest return to the rectory. There would be more talk later. I’d see what I could do… personally… contact some of the women… ask about specifics. After all, I’m into the details.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

He lived in confusion. His mother, pensioned and frail, let him move into her little apartment, and when he felt guilty, he would try to take care of her needs. He did not often suffer guilt, and there were several times when Clara Spotter sat alone while Henry walked the streets disoriented, sleeping in an alley if the signposts looked unfamiliar. Once, Clara sat for three days in her frayed wing chair, and survived on a slowly consumed can of beans. When Henry finally did find his way home, he was in the apartment for three hours complaining about the terrible odor before he realized from whence it came. Then, he dutifully washed his mother, changed her clothes, and fed her some soup before helping her into bed. She was grateful when she awoke to find him sitting there looking at an old Times, which she knew he could not read, but after walking her back to her chair, and placing several tomatoes and a glass of orange juice beside her on the little cloth-covered mahogany table, he went out for a walk and was gone for fourteen hours.
Life continued like that for two years. Then, Clara died at 77, and Henry was homeless again.
Now, as he stood before the judge who was sentencing him for having stolen a small boat that had been moored in the canal, Henry wanted to ask the assistant district attorney if it was his handsome face he had seen in a newspaper.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Travis Smith

The gunshot was still echoing in my mind. I had been taught to use guns safely. To use them as a weapon, a tool of war, but I had also been taught that it was not right to kill. Not right to injure another person. The body on the ground told me that I had used some of those lessons and forgotten others.

What the hell had happened?

She had been beautiful, every inch of her, but I had never once left the path of faithful husband…until last night, but once it happens it is done and we live with the consequences.

Those consequences found me this morning.

She was waiting as I left the subway. I would say it was blackmail, but it went deeper than that. She was still beautiful and my heart led me along in her wake. It was until the end that her true heart shone through, pulling all light into its black depths.

She had struck first, killing the man in cold blood. Turning to look at me her eyes were a swirl of darkness, beacons telling me that I was next. It was a struggle against my desire to have her again, but I raised the gun she had given me and fired. I am not sure she is dead. I am not sure she was ever living. So I am not sure that I have killed anyone, but I am sure she needed to be killed.

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



by Nicole E. Hirschi

He sat at his keyboard, finger pecking his solemn lonely life away. Today, he struggled not with the influx of words. Time turned to years, flew by, and opportunity allowed him to create a relationship that never existed.

She squirmed in her seat. Sighing, she held down her backspace key until all that remained was the emptiness of her screen. The void matched her heart, having been worn on her sleeve too long. Anger burned behind her eyes.

His eyes widened when he read the email. She hadn’t sent him the next installment, but instead sent what read almost like a “Dear John” letter.

Her fingers had thrummed to life, fed by stubborn frustration. Realization had finally sunk in. He was a man with two faces, and she had been played.

Part of him knew he had gone too far, creating something she had believed in. The other part smiled gleefully. He had put his conscience aside and manipulated a naive heart right into the palm of his hand. Wondering what next, he sat alone, drinking his coffee, trying to decide if silence or begging would be her undoing.

A response, she knew, wouldn’t come. She sat tall in her chair, and arched her back, stretching. She knew there was but one thing left to do. Reaching up, she brushed her sleeve, and with imaginative sight, chuckled to no one, as she watched a card featuring a joker flutter to her feet. Dreams are, after all, only dreams.

See Authors page for Nicole’s bio.



Illustrations for Spot 005: All photos contributed by Sandra Davies.



August 18, 2011

Spot 004: Heavy, Man, Heavy


by Paul de Denus


In the cafeteria, the shooter takes out Mr. Hollis. BAM!…BAMBAM!… a ruler smacking a table and Hollis hits the wall and disappears down, like the floor just opened under him. The guy – it’s Billy Krazik – turns and aims at Jamie Stockwell, sitting there calmly as if he’s in the play or something and he takes two to the head. He rocks a little, then sits still. The fuck moves forward, looking right at me, our eyes lock and he points the gun… I peer down the black hole, see Krazik’s chewed red fingernail twitch slightly to the left as he fires off a barrage of shots. BAM!…BAMBAMBAM!… tables splinter and scatter behind me; there are heavy thumps and screams and I blink uncontrollably, a deranged twist creasing my face.
And then there’s Colby, backpack in hand, crossing the floor. He strides in quick purposeful steps. He looks insane. Parallel to Krazik, light as a ghost, I don’t think he sees it coming.
I’m woven in a cocoon. On the soundless floor, I watch bodies twitch. Heads cover. Krazik’s moved into the hallways. My chest weighs heavy, bubbling pink. Colby has nothing to say, his eyes vacant, surprised. Earlier this morning he boasted he’d brought his old man’s Glock to school… just to show it off you understand. Colby was cool… just playing … but well… Krazik’s crazy and he decided to swipe it and play the heavy… for real. He plays it well.


Note: This week’s heavy theme was suggested by Paul. See Authors page for his bio.



by Joe Gensle


You are in prime physical condition at the tops of your respective games, too-young multi-millionaires with sports acumen born from magical mixes of natural ability, rigorous training, coaching, practice, assuming the risks and suffering the consequences of occupational injuries.
Your work is seasonal, requires separation from stability’s anchors of home and family.
You are one of a team, and you are a team of one.
You’re trapped in the eyes and voices of scrutiny, before millions, with your triumphs analyzed and replayed over and over on cable and the airwaves. Images and descriptors of your failures splash through every hue in the spectrum of public media and social networking ten-fold more times than your triumphs.
Exposure of your bad choices and secreted actions force hasty retreats, elicit false denials, propel you into freefall, crashing you into realities that eviscerate more than fortunes few can ever know.
Your personal wreckage is licked and consumed by hungered flames hard-blown by bellows of ridicule, incinerating you on the pyre of public disdain.
Tiger Woods. Golf legend. Infidel. Liar.
Michael Vick. Football quarterback. Phenom. Animal torturer. Liar. Convict.
You emerge, your receipts stamped “Paid in Full,” but by separate and oppositional currencies.
From ashes, two Phoenixes are embodied. Each rises if unsteadily at first.
One wings away.
In plain view, the other contrives an aura of normalcy but flops and flails, grounded by wings shorn and weighted by demons that neither show or have yet to be exorcised. Ever the good sport.


See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Sandra Davies


In the aftermath the bulk of her concern had been for him, not his physical state so much as his mental, regardless that his apologetic truce had been made with the sole intention of negating his self-condemnation.
The apology had been made to her of course, but he knew her well enough to have correctly judged her lack of need for it. Knew too, and had the maturity not to condemn, that a portion of her concern had been for the other man, despite the fact that as perpetrator – did that stem from ‘traitor?’ – he was less deserving, owed only what remained from their shared history.
And so thus occupied she gave no thought to the inner workings of herself.
He did.
Eventually, deliberately delaying so to shorten any agony for her, since he was at least as capable of concern as she, he asked and devastated she discovered ‘yes’.
Six months to wait instead of … eight? Six months and now her concern matched, possibly exceeded, his and, once again because of what they’d had, reached out a little to the other man who, it had to be acknowledged, might yet need to know.
Almost too much concern to be contained despite the compensating increase of her body, prepared to bear anxiety as well as an unborn child of indeterminate paternity.


See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Mike Handley


Facing a date with a masked man who wanted to saw open my sternum and pluck my heart’s strings, my thoughts drifted to who would miss me and why. What would the people on this very short list say about my life, would that I allow a funeral?
Sadly, most would toss out only a few adjectives and nouns: quiet, funny, creative, kind, writer, artist, hunter, loner, picky eater, provider and workaholic. Not a bad list, if anyone’s keeping a ledger, but isn’t just as much known about serial killers?
I might be remembered for some of the stories I’ve told, some I’ve lived, or by the old R&B I adore.
But despite having acquaintances across this and faraway lands, almost none have seen what’s inside my bum heart or in my head. Divulging isn’t my strong suit, but here’s fodder for my eulogy:
I believe love and lovemaking should not be limited by plumbing.
I believe supremacy over a woman’s body should rest solely between her ears.
I believe anyone who abuses a child should face the severest of consequences, and that those who abuse dogs are assholes.
I believe that people who spread their cards and try to persuade me to pick a religion (any religion) need directions back to the carnival.
I believe those who judge a whole race of people by the actions of a few should, when the time comes, be eased into the dank hereafter by the caring brown hands they’ve long feared.


See Authors page for Mike’s bio.



by Gita M. Smith


In 2312, when the biodome over central Mars was finished and sealed, they sent for everyone incarcerated in Parchman, San Quentin, Leavenworth and the supermax daddy of them all, Attica. Putting us to work here, in the Haliburton Martian mines, saved Americans a bazillion taxpayer dollars a year. No one minded that 200 death row prisoners were let out of their cells and put on rocket ships. It was explained to the public that inmates would die out here much faster than on Earth.
The gravity on Mars is something fierce, man. It ups our body weights by 182 percent. No way can our hearts cope with such density for more than a few years. Each step you take on Mars is slow and leaden, as if your leg was dragging a whole other person. I’m young, man, but I can’t even walk a block. Meanwhile, the guards trip around in antigravity suits, light as orioles.
Down inside the titanium mines, Haliburton had to install anti-gravity machines or we’d never get any work done. Titanium is the new miracle mineral, strong as steel when forged but lighter than aluminum.
Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce the Next Big Thing, brought to you by the murderers and grand theft auto committers and rapists and eye gougers and welfare cheaters of America.
Above ground, we’re just your average army of foot-dragging, bent-over, weighed-down losers. But below ground? Baby, we’re the cheapest, non-union dead men walking in the universe!


See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Bill Lapham


Socrates said ‘the unexamined life is not worth living.’ So do most of the old-timers in Alcoholics Anonymous, only they add a few more words. They got these damn Steps (it’s a twelve-step program you know) and one of them demands reflection on all the crap you stirred up during a lifetime of intoxication.
Depending on the sponsor you choose, and the length of your inebriation, the weight of that written examination could be hefty. Good people have written tomes regarding their despicable nature when they’re drunk.
Dale Desjardins had written them too, and tossed them out, and written them again, and tossed them out again. It’s not important to save them, he thought, it’s only important to write them. It’s the examination that matters, not the score.
Anyone willing to embark on such a journey of self-discovery ought to be warned in advance, though. Working on the Steps AA lays out for its members can lead to sobriety, and all the shit that encompasses. Conversely, not working them can leave you dissolute and lonely. Knowing the damn things exist, studying them, working on them, and then ignoring them to return to a life dominated by the chemical fire, will likely consume the consumer in a blaze of self-assured, nihilistic fury.
Or not.
“Fuck it, mate, pour me another; I’m thirsty and I gotta go home soon. Shit, pour one for everybody,” he said, waving his arm unsteadily about the room.


See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Nicole E. Hirschi


“Ignorance is bliss, right?” He hissed between clenched teeth. The hand at his throat squeezed tighter, threatening to rob him of his breath entirely. “We made a deal!” He croaked, clawing at the unseen hand holding him high in the air.
“You can’t make a deal with the devil and still expect to go to heaven.” The soul clutching voice mocked. “God won’t have you,” and in a triumphant voice, “you’re mine!”
“You didn’t…uphold…all of your end!” He gasped, struggling to stay conscious even with the spots of black dancing across his vision.
“I never said you would live to see all of your requests granted, not here anyway.” The eerie voice drawled. “You should feel lucky I’ve allowed you to live this long.”
The black now crawling across his mind promised to take away the feelings of hurt and physical pain. Finally giving in, he realized he had played with fire and gotten burned.
With a sickening crunch, the King of Lost Souls smiled with viscous delight. Payment had been received.


Nicole E. Hirschi also known as Coraline J. Thompson writes when time and muse agree. Her short flashes and poetry can be found splashed across the ‘Net and in a few books as well. Read more at



by Amy Hale Auker


There once was a woman who carried many stones. She started carrying them early in life for her father was verbose and talked his way through his adult problems so that she knew of his attraction for his teenage students and how Zoloft made him impotent. Some of the stones she carried were the color of the circles under her mother’s eyes. She carried her husband’s stones since he wasn’t strong enough to heft more than the cherry cigars he was fond of lighting. She carried a baby on each hip, a boy child who struggled to be released, a girl child who both clung and stung. She had a mentor whose wife was a good cook; he offered her fatherly advice and hidden secret smiles that weighed a ton, and she wondered what the good cook would think of those. The next mentor took her skinny dipping under a goddess moon, but even a glass of wine with him was serious business. She carried stones for her sister, her girlfriends, for the lady at the grocery store who sighed as she scanned the produce. Later on she met another man who claimed to be able to carry his own stones, but he called her late at night with the weight of desire in his voice.
One day, the woman dropped all of her stones to the ground, and people said she had gone insane. She stood and danced upon their weight and they turned to jewels beneath her toes.


Amy Hale Auker writes and rides on a working cattle outfit in Arizona. She has published one book of creative non-fiction and currently seeks an agent and fiction editor for her novels. Visit her website at



by Bill Floyd


My heart is gonna stop. One day, yes, it’s gonna stop. And I never swam the English Channel or hosted SNL or dug real deep. But I’ve seen some things. I’ve done some things you just wouldn’t believe. I never felt warm flesh go still, but maybe I want to. Maybe something in me wants to. But not tonight, this feels too right. I know where you are because I’ve got what you want. Don’t stop.


Bill Floyd has made some regrettable decisions in the past. He doesn’t regret writing about them.



by Grey Johnson


A crowded presence marks our clock
As if, when the children grew away, the ceiling lowered
And the unneeded cups and bowls formed a silent phalanx
Empty chairs now rush our table
Pressing me aside, to devour what is gone
There is a conspiracy here of memory, and anger
That we fail to face
Performing our solitary maneuvers in the kitchen, the den
So I stand
Alone against a house of factions, facing you
My partner in this box of lonely crime


See Authors page for Grey’s bio.



by Travis Smith


He moved with an uneven stride across the bluff towards the edge that looked out over the sea. To an observer it might seem that each step was a herculean effort, his feet weighed down by years of travel along paths that most will never know. Inside his mind it wasn’t his feet, but rather his heart that pulled him down with a force beyond what gravity should allow. His heart had taken the same unseen paths, sometimes choosing the way, sometimes dreading it, but carried the years in different ways, and there had been a lot of years. A lot of joy, love, pain and loss.
He shuffled to the edge, stopping there to breathe the air. It had the familiar smell and feel that could only be found here at the border between land and sea and air. He knew the power of this air and he could feel it now, seeping into his soul. He looked down at the rocks below, where the water crashed. He could hear the voices echoing up to him, but hidden in a different realm. He breathed in deeply again, Someday, he thought, someday this old body will float out into this magical air….but not today.
He turned and walked back across the bluff, his step lighter and heart no longer heavy, knowing that he had many paths left to travel in his appointed life.


Travis Smith lives in North Carolina where his day job as an ecologist supports his desire to write fiction. More of his work can be found on 6S and T10.



by Michael D. Brown


Rampaging around the room, destroying objects, like a bull elephant in musth, Jorge played his scene until deflated, after which he would weep like a child surveying destruction. Then he would come to Elena and take her in blasphemous thumping, frontwards and back, bringing her to rapture she would not feel throughout the nights of a year. It was the drink, she knew, that brought him to his threshold, but it was also the season. They wanted, for everything, oh, how they wanted.
Four of their children were conceived in this way.
Later, when their situation had not improved and neither saw any route to that possibility, Elena looked forward to her mate’s annual charge, but Jorge had grown weary throughout the years of trying, trying to achieve something lasting, a permanence to prosperity, and their one big encounter occurred with less and less vigor.
Last Christmas, he did not get angry, did not find cause to argue even with her prompting, although they coupled as expected, and in this, Elena, no longer of an age of conception, having abandoned any sense of responsibility and briefly wearing the smugness of satisfaction, as the days passed into the New Year, grew concerned.
Though she will not speak of it to cousin nor sister nor even close friend, she is absolutely certain the next yuletide will be silent. She can feel in her bones, wearied by too much childbearing, she will finally be a widow like most of the women she knows.


See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Kristine E. Shmenco


Heavy doesn’t visit me often. It’s usually when I come across your work. The mouse stops scrolling. The keys stop ticking. Open mouthed and soundless is usually how you leave me when it’s heavy. You challenge my brain and it’s wonderful.
Heavy is an appropriate word for something deep. I can’t grasp it all at once so I have to go back and nibble on it later. I find heavy tastes salty but sometimes sweet, never fails to satisfy, and it’s unending on the plate.
Heavy is too heavy for me to write about because I’m afraid to feel it. There. I said it. I’m in the shadow of something bigger than all of us, and none of us will approach it the same way.
She came to work this morning and left an hour later because her brother who has been dying for 100 years will let his light go now. How strange it is to be talking on the phone, typing, thinking about writing, eating a sandwich, laughing with my cube-mates; driving under a slate-gray sky that threatens rain, thinking about how to prepare dinner and how to be patient with the world around me, when I know across town a man is leaving us. Leaving his family. It is time, and I’m not sad for him. But how strange that I *know* his light is leaving us while I’m doing all this… stuff.
Very strange. Very heavy. But not unbearable.


Kristine is married to a patient rust farmer and says she’s working on being a writer who’s still learning the art and diplomacy of commenting to posts. We say she’s far too humble. Her site is mirrorknobdream at wordpress



Illustrations for Spot 004: The petroglyphs are photographs lent to the site by Amy Hale Auker. The rest of the graphics are just mdjb fooling around with rocks.



August 11, 2011

Spot 003: From Order Comes Freedom: Renewal


by Mike Handley


Her sustained notes on a skyward-pointing clarinet leave listeners gasping. Vocally, she could be Satchmo’s much more talented sister.
A jazz icon, she’s performed for presidents plural, here and abroad, and she’s appeared in the HBO series “Treme.”
Her smile can unfurl fiddleheads. Her voice is a defibrillator. And there’s a reason the locals call her the Clarinet Queen. Although these have combined to put her name in lights for more than two decades, it’s a French Quarter crossroads that restocks the fridge, both figuratively and literally.
Doreen Ketchens is proof that talent does and does not pay the bills.
Saturday mornings, she and Lawrence the Sousaphone player hoist the giant umbrella, unfold chairs, bungee the open briefcase containing CDs to the suitcase with more, position buckets emblazoned with dollar signs toward the front of their paved stage, and then plug in the microphone. It’s their weekend ritual at the corner of Royal and St. Peter streets, where they delight crowds, except for a crotchety woman down the street who calls the police, even though the badges have turned a deaf ear to the familiar complaint.
Whether she’s there for us, or we’re there for her, Doreen’s talent and the band’s soulful blend of Dixieland standards keep passers-by immobilized for hours. How could she not return to the streets, this woman who has performed in the Lincoln Center in pearls?
For her, it’s about renewal and survival, about going home and keeping the home.
Nobody does it better.


Mike Handley is a career journalist, artist and member of the zipper club who mourns sausage made from non-flying things. His musings can be seen at, and his paintings at



by Bill Lapham


When they woke, they inspected the weapons they had cleaned the night before—M-4’s, 240’s, 203’s and the venerable M-60—ate breakfast and formed the “Huddle.” Only Weapons Squad, Baker, Brown, De Jesus, Callahan and Jakes huddled up before a patrol. They would gather in a circle, arms on shoulders, heads together, iPod sound system blaring Drowning Pool’s “Soldiers”—cranked. They would scream the line: “On your feet/who’s with me” stand up and slam into each other. Then they would scream the line: “THIS is for the soldiers/THIS is for the soldiers” while pounding on each other with fists, usually at half to three-quarters power. There wasn’t anything like it done anywhere in the theater of operations, let alone their regiment. These five guys, who had been together for three combat tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and Afghanistan again, had come from all over the United States to form this particular warfighting team. You weren’t accepted as a member unless you got the shit kicked out of you by its collective; you didn’t go on leave without getting beaten black and blue; and you didn’t come back from leave without suffering the same fate. Better to stay connected with the team, get into the routine and stay there, than to go away and fuck off. That was soft shit: made you think and act like a civilian, and they did not countenance civilians. Civilians were clueless. Not them. When the song ended, they were dancing on a razor’s edge, and ready.


This story continues here. See Authors page for Bill Lapham’s bio.



by Gita Smith


A belief in orderliness was the backbone of Jean’s world view. She believed in the rule of law. She liked cities laid out on a grid. She thought that a hanging hem on a woman was a sign of slovenliness.
Jean liked movies with linear plots (she hated “Inception,” which was about layers of dreams within dreams). “I’m not without imagination,” she told Howard as they left the theater. “But that was chaotic.”Howard drove a bulldozer. He came home regularly at 5:30, scraped mud from his boots in the garage and slipped off his dirty clothes. Then he was ready for his evening pleasures: a small plate of cheese and Saltines, a short glass of bourbon, television, one hot meal and bed.
Jean and Howard didn’t like unplanned detours, save one. On every anniversary, Jean blindfolded Howard who threw a dart at a wall map of the world. Wherever the dart stuck was where they would go for their vacation. The rule was, no backing out, even if the dart landed in Pakistan.
Come August, they set out, feeling like vagabonds from the 60s. Howard let his beard grow. Neither one wore a watch (unthinkable back home). Jean, with her no-iron skirts, felt like an exotic gypsy. Even the sex was better, although neither could have told you why since their routine never varied.
“We are not who we are,” Howard would whisper to Jean, their secret holiday motto. “And we are not who we were,” she would answer.


See Authors page for Gita Smith’s bio.



by Joe Gensle


Shower. Carbs. Bus to the gym. Seven days a week. I lift every day and do a mile on the treadmill. I been doin’ it just over two years, leading up to this first race.
I’m only 5’8”, but agile and quick. Gunny calls me ‘Pinball.’ His favorite expression is, “Pinball, on the point!” I’m hardcore Corps. Love the shit.
I’m in the ‘Hell Hounds‘–an infantry platoon, 3rd Marines, near Kabul. We start a sweep on a compound with suspected Taliban. We train and train to clear hidey-holes like these, and excel at it.
Word’s out: You want it done? Send the ‘Hell Hounds’ and it’s mission accomplished. We earned the rep, take pride.
But guys get it. I did. Boom! Lights out. It must have been a grenade or booby trap that found me waking up in the U.S. without a right leg.
Twenty-six months of therapy and workouts with a prosthesis, then a metal, spring-looking thing that replaces it so guys like me can actually run.
Race day. I’m in the 100-yard dash, a guy clips me. I go down… and can you believe this shit? I fracture my shin bone twenty feet from winning.
Ignoring pain, I got that down! I low-crawl across the line, roll onto my back and laugh, “Dead last, without a leg to stand on!”
You prepare to train and train to be prepared. You give 101% and God picks the results.
You live to finish. You just gotta….
Know what I mean?


See Authors page for Joe Gensle’s bio.



by Paul de Denus


It’s that time of month again and I’ve got a confession to make. The old man’s made it clear that we all got to go today. Shit, it’s not even Sunday. He says it’s a sort of “divine intervention” moment, a time to expel guilt, renew the spirit, and wipe the deep stains from our souls. Sounds to me like we’re changing our underwear. I don’t know what he’s done to feel guilty… other than to yell and falsely accuse me!!! of punching my little brother when he, asshole!!! started it!!
Anyway, this confessing thing is quite embarrassing. And trusting a complete stranger with your most intimate failings is sheer lunacy. I, for one, will opt to blatantly lie. And I’ll use my trusty routine of standards too: lied, swore, had bad thoughts. Through the grate, I can see its Father Farrell sitting there in the dark. He’s young and might give me a pass. He looks like he’s writing stuff down. Maybe he wants to be a novelist someday, perhaps write a ‘tell-all’ book to rival the Bible… hehe! Shit… is that blasphemy? Fuck, that’s a mortal sin I bet. God I’m so doomed.
Little brother insisted I go first. Fine. He’ll get his. He’s going to say the same bullshit I’m going to lie about and Father’s going to see he’s shitting him and hopefully call him on it. Then we’ll see if there’s such a thing as “divine intervention” … or righteous punishment for telling Pop on me.


See Authors page for Paul de Denus’s bio.



by Sandra Davies


Jake and Jessica, Rory and Rowena, eleven months between the brothers and similar between the neighbouring girls who grew up either side of them. To Jessica, such alliterative symmetry presaged their futures. And even after she’d outgrown childhood there was a sizeable part of her which believed that the logic held, would hold, until Jake returned from his first term at university and pointed out, not urgently, the naïve illogicality of that, thereby tumbling her into two years of misery and dislocation, which she buried under a façade of manic gaiety. When she in turn left home, it was as a bright-polished, stone-hearted maiden.
Jessica did not finally relinquish hope until she saw Jake’s face as he and Marietta exchanged their marriage vows in the summer before her final year. Pride, in her intelligence, prevented her failing to work, lack of it, in her perception of herself as too unattractive to maintain a relationship, ensured several months of intended casual but in actuality lacerating promiscuity, at the end of which her sole desire was to escape.
Three months of near-solitude in South America might have fully healed her had she not met Tom; a month of mountainous passion taught her much, as did his last-minute confession, as he put her on the plane home, that he was indissolubly married.
Rory met her at Heathrow, familiar, friendly and, two months later, startling her with a confession that as far as he was concerned, it had always been Rory and Jessica.


See Authors page for Sandra Davies’s bio.



by Grey Johnson


I have an imaginary apartment at the corner of Main and Fairlee, over a small café with a charming name, where the tinkling of cups and sidewalk shuffle rise to my windows on the mornings that I leave them open; it is surrounded on three sides by breezy glass, its walls are a warm buttercream yellow, and there is only a fabulous bed drenched in white cotton for my furniture. I never vacuum, as it is too loud, but I enjoy sweeping and seeing little dust motes float in the early sun. My lover (I know his name but am not telling) thinks my writing is wonderful, and is never concerned about his role in inspiring me, or the suggestive content of what I write; he visits, sometimes for lengthy stays, but knows he can never claim part of my space as his, and he is not troubled by this, either – he even respects my girlfriend and does not interfere in our special friendship. I imagine that my children, parents, and friends have all forgiven me for leaving my husband, and many of them wonder aloud about what took me so long. In my imaginary apartment, I am wondrously free of mental illness, and have the energy and enthusiasm to lead the life I want. I imagine that some love remains for my husband, having been transmuted away from the suffering we both felt, into a kind and warm regard, and a sincere wish for happiness.


See Authors page for Grey Johnson’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown


I am trying really hard to remain calm at this moment, but feel so indignant that I want to yell and pound my fist through a door. I was robbed again tonight. I lost my passport again. I know. It was stupid of me to be carrying it back and forth to work when I should have left it home in a safe place, and I usually do. The thing is after returning from HoW2, I never got around to taking it out of the knapsack type bag I used on that trip and use to carry my papers and things to school every day. I also lost another computer, and a little item of great sentimental value among other stuff, which for the most part is replaceable. That little handmade booklet with signatures and good wishes from friends met for the first time in person at HoW1 cannot be replaced. I know. It was careless to leave my bag in the back seat out of sight under a big loose-leaf binder in Álvaro’s car while the two of us stopped for coffee for fifteen minutes at Starbuck’s. Fifteen fucking minutes! I was looking for a bit of a pick-me-up after a long day at work, and had no idea I would instead be pushed back and have to work my way forward again. It is said, “From order comes freedom.” I don’t know if that is true, but I am feeling disorderly just now, and it’s restrictive as hell.


See Authors page for Michael D. Brown’s bio.



by Bill Floyd


Eddie says I should just ditch the handwritten pages along with the rest of the shit that’s not pawnable, but something makes me hold onto them. I forget about them until that night, when I find the folded sheets in my pocket all rumpled and creased. Smoke curls from the day’s last cigarette as I scan the words by lamplight. There’s like five different short stories, really short, nothing like the bullshit they made us read in class back when I was in school. Something happens, like in a dream where you suddenly realize you’re naked and ashamed. The stories are about this guy and his life, the ladies he knows and his friends and what he thinks about shit. The way the words are strung together gives me this weird feeling. I keep the pages in a box under my bed, along with my stash. Eddie’s all like why the fuck am I writing in a little notebook all the time now. He thinks maybe I’m snitchin. So I show him my stories and he’s just puzzled. The whole crew makes fun of me, but I don’t care none–I finally found some shit I can keep.


Bill Floyd lives in North Carolina, where he writes novels and flash fiction.



Illustrations for Spot 003: All photos shot by mdjb. The town center is undergoing a major renewal to make this city, the state capitol, more of a tourist attraction and belatedly bring it into the twenty-first century.


August 4, 2011

Spot 002: The “Golden” Rule


by Gita Smith


My Pa, a riveter by trade, died building the Golden Gate Bridge. On Feb. 17, 1937, his work scaffold collapsed. They had stretched a safety net under the floor of the bridge from end to end, but it was only capable of catching men and their tools. It had saved 19 men from a cold drowning. Those lucky ones, they laughed and called themselves the “Halfway to Hell” club. But my Pa’s scaffold was too heavy, and it broke clean through the net, carrying him and ten others down into the freezing, salty strait.
Three months later, when they opened the bridge to pedestrian traffic, my mother put on her Easter bonnet and best shoes and took us kids to walk “that bridge.” All the Golden Gate widows were given a place of honor beside the mayor on a platform, and in the warm spring sunshine with a cheering crowd, the bridge boss, Smiling Joe Strauss, called out the names of the men who had died “giving California this greatest of gifts.”
We walked the bridge, and my mother pointed to the soaring red towers, each with 600,000 rivets, she said, put in place by men like my Pa, by their sweat and arms as hard as balcony railings.
“It’s a modern marvel,” everyone said, and they posed for smiling photographs. I wanted to love the bridge, then and ever since. But all I can see of it is cold unyielding steel and a falling man pleading with the sky.


Gita posts flash fiction at 6S and longer work at MuDJoB and LitFire. She blogs at ohfinejustfine.



by Grey Johnson


The light eased through the windowpanes
on the last footsteps of the day,
toward the chairs and tables of a vacant restaurant,
quiet furniture waiting for service.
Along the curved backs of the chairs,
it came to rest in bright rectangles,
welcoming and absent.
On the street, no one passed.
The two of them stood in the silent kitchen,
gazing at the glow of it through the serving bay,
her hips pushed against a metal table which slowly turned silky and the color of bright tokens.
They were supposed to be somewhere else,
but instead they captured the light,
as they stroked a warm bronze and stainless dream.


See Authors page for Grey Johnson’s bio.



by Brian Michael Barbeito


Francis had read about her and it was said that people like her were sometimes protected by unseen guardians. Then one day she said she had almost been in a traffic accident. She paused while saying such. Then she said, ‘And I must have been protected, because somehow it was avoided.’ She was at once wise and naive, beautiful and wicked, sweet and sinister. Her eyes were forest inlets that proved darker than the bottom of something ancient. Her hair was the alchemist’s progeny, spun to gold long ago and always new. It caught the rays of light and this is when it seemed to move like the ocean that rolled but stayed the same. Francis looked away because angels were terrifying. Then back again. This strange creature of a woman, with charms and quiet scents to spare. She was a bold figure, as if winged, yet with no wings. Even and especially in anger she exuded something eclectic, a different part of universe. Francis wondered further about her hair. Each strand like time. Some parts of it appeared preternaturally bright. Yes. One day it would turn even from its golden hue to pure white energy. He told her he was glad she was safe.


See Authors page for Brian Michael Barbeito’s bio.



by Paul de Denus


The fields ran by, flashing on the glass screen like an old-time movie reel. Ripples of prairie wheat and corn, a two second frame of crooked farm road, a six second frame of dirt brown field… then another… and another… a zoom in of a giant silo and cows standing still… then back to the moving picture – a new theme introduced this time – sunflower yellow fields. While we watched, we took in the drone – that sound of rubber on the road humming below – a certain hum that allowed our eyes to drop heavy, pulling us down helplessly into easy sleep. The sun reflected on the windows, the ghosts of three boys and a girl revealed, propped against the doors and pillows; on the radio, the hypnotic voice of a crooner attempted to infiltrate our back seat reverie.
The car shuddered as passing big rigs shoved and shouldered us, like over-sized bullies pushing down school hallways, plowing weaker bodies into lockers. With light fading, our dad silenced the radio and piped his mantra again, something he’d repeated every few miles or so. “Anybody see it yet?”
I didn’t want to miss it… to be the first to pick out the Golden Boy on the horizon, the sun glinting off its golden torch, signifying we were almost home. Eyes wide open, I jockeyed for position on the seat, cheek against the glass. Shit, no sibling was going to beat me out of seeing it first.


* reference: The Golden Boy statue (named Eternal Youth) sits atop the Legislative buildings in Winnipeg Manitoba.
See Authors page for Paul de Denus’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown


With Ana, nothing is what it is. There is always a rubric. Use phi, the infinite irrational constant, to determine the beauty in the real estate of her smile. It pleases her, and broadens that smile, to know how hard you try, taking not the least muscular twitch for granted. Then, it all fits into place, and ostensibly the puzzle appears to be complete. You must leave the glue to her, however, and carry the thing a mile without losing any of the unhinged pieces.
Salary commensurate with the work performed on a busy day, it could be claimed you are a thief of time, surfing the ‘Web, planning without moving toward fruition. Be at every meeting. Offer at least one comment or suggestion from which it may be inferred you have heard everything to which you only half listened. Maintain a switchable screen-saver; preferably one that simulates the appearance of a spreadsheet, but alternate between that and the Manet replicated on the poster brought from Quebec. You chose her favorite. Do unto others… and you’re golden.
Chi needs to flow unobstructed throughout the office, yin and yang balanced in the space. If gossip is to be shared, let it be the good kind, like good and bad cholesterol. All that friendship noise is then mere acquaintance, the music of which plays in an infinite loop, an earwig’s breadth removed from muzak, but pleasant enough, an ambient background in which you recognize the faintest strains of something almost familiar.


See Authors page for Michael Brown’s bio.



by Joe Gensle


Spectral-colored refractions highlighted chardonnay in the goblet as he swirled it in a shard of natural light. It captivated his gaze and drifting thoughts.
If Jack Kennedy had the job, we’d all be better off. Joey was in ‘Nam but had managed to get a telegram–his last words–to them that long-ago day, yellowed paper now pressed into their family Bible. His other brother, Jake, looked like a scarecrow in a tux.
Next to him at the linen-clothed table, she was afar in her mind. He could return, at-will. She was anchored there, untouchable, unreachable.
His life was her present, the reason they wed on her 21st birthday. She swore to drink him in, that day and henceforth. Their lives were as brimmed as her untouched water glass, never empty as her stare.
Rome wisely deemed “L” as their numeral for fifty,” he thought, for love spanning decades, for her loss, first to Alzheimer’s and a subsequent stroke. It was for lucky, for there was no day, no moment or instance when he couldn’t feel lucky to hold the vision of her in their youth.
He moved the spoon to brush her lower lip with a small piece of anniversary-birthday cake, putting it into her mouth, wiping a crumb away at its corner. Tears in the corners of his eyes were emotional tattletales. He smiled at his lifelong love and whispered, “Thank you.”
The anniversary was golden by tradition, his life, gilded by her permeating presence within it.


Joe Gensle is a left-handed, right-thinking Kentuckian stuck in the desert Southwest with his Chihuahua, “Coconut.” He enjoys international travel, kitchen escapades disguised as cooking, and is wrestling with an in-progress novel.



by Elliott Cox


Lenny’s first brush with the world was an addiction to heroin. His second was being wrapped in a plastic grocery bag lined with fast food napkins. Hospitals had that safe haven law in effect for…how long now?…but she just pushed him out, dropped him off, and knew that someone would take care of him. They always did. Right?
Eva stepped out back for a smoke and looked down, sighed, then brought Lenny up to the NICU. She said, “Got another one for ya. Ain’t it a shame.”
Before he was able to comprehend comprehension, Lenny went through detox – burning, shaking, freezing, dying. The nurses that checked on him did so through professional eyes, keeping to the symptoms and the charts. NICU nurses learned early on that attachment almost always equaled devastation – numbers and doses don’t make them clutch their children when they get home and vow to never let them out into the world.
On the third floor, a couple was being consoled by the hospital’s grief counselor. Their fifth attempt at carrying a baby to full term had come to an end, as had the previous four. “I’m certainly not trying to convince you to stop working for a child of your own.” A beat “Have you ever considered adoption?”
When Lenny stepped on the bus for his first day of school, he waved goodbye to his mother and blew her a kiss. She smiled and wept, waved goodbye, and gave the tiny blue hospital bracelet a gentle kiss.


Elliott Cox is a father, son, aircraft mechanic, college student, writer, and musician. Not always in that order, and never all at the same time. Elliott writes in both of his spare minutes, but never without the help of his friends.Some of Elliott’s work can be found at MuDJoB, 6S, and T10.



by Sandra Davies


Even at the time the occasion had felt significant, a realisation that there was a different and considerably more interesting world beyond that of her parents; in hindsight the slenderness of the chain of coincidences which had brought her there was terrifying.
On the strength of her impromptu assistance on Tuesday, Liz had asked her to help with the food (she was too young for alcohol) at this Private View at Carrington’s Gallery. The paintings – Annabel’s nudes – were an eye-opener for a start, and then all the people – it was like she’d lived a black and white – a grey! – life up till now and someone had suddenly coloured it in.
She would have expected to be overwhelmed, shy and tongue-tied, but Bernard – she’d only known then that he was Annabel’s brother – had talked to her a bit before it opened, seeing her, once Liz was ready, go round looking, and he’d somehow made it easy to ask about them, not made her feel ignorant – he even said he found people scary – and afterwards he’d talked a bit more, told her who some of the people were (although he didn’t know that many), and she’d met Annabel.
She been tearful when it had ended, seeing it as a world she’d never be able to find her way into again, though when Bernard asked her to sit for him, she had not thought ‘that’ll be a step in the right direction’, just knew that it felt right, she wanted to.


See Authors page for Sandra Davies’s bio.



by Bill Lapham


Bernard’s golden glow and tailored suits announced his presence before he even said hello. The golden boy had never made a mistake that cost him anything, not money, not relationships, neither prestige nor reputation.
He was handsome in an athletic movie-star sort of way. He was smarter than ninety-nine percent of his peers. A brilliant, creative and innovative thinker, he solved problems both simple and complex without looking like he was trying very hard to solve them. He was unflappable, calm to a fault, and never let anybody see him sweat. Hell, he didn’t sweat, except in his gym.
He married the prettiest girl on campus, who was also brilliant, of course. Janice became a noted physician while Bernard was in finance, banking, venture capital management, the stock market and bond trading. Together they had access to more money on a moment’s notice than most third-world countries. Their house did not look like a house, but a place you usually see sitting adjacent to a world-class championship golf course, which they also had, in the “backyard,” bordering the sea. Their garage was almost as big as the Dallas Cowboy’s indoor practice facility, and it was packed with vintage motorcars, modern roadsters, motorcycles and all manner of off-road vehicles. There was a helipad on the property and a helicopter ready on a moment’s notice.
Bernard was golden. He took big risks and made big profits. His gambits were complex but lucrative and he almost never lost a bet, until yesterday.


Read the conclusion here. See Authors page for Bill Lapham’s bio.