Spot 002: The “Golden” Rule

 

FALLING MAN
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.

 

 

BEFORE THE STREETLAMPS
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.

 


 

THE ALCHEMIST’S PROGENY
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.

 

 

GOLDEN BOY
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.

 


 

WORKING THE MEAN: SYMMETRY, PROPORTION, HARMONY
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.

 

 

THE GILDING
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.

 


 

BAD SEED
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.

 

 

ZOË
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.

 


 

GOLDEN BOY
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.

 

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12 Comments to “Spot 002: The “Golden” Rule”

  1. wow… I am impressed once again with the turn out here and the diversity- great writing to all and your site is golden Michael!

  2. I have written three stories (I’ve made available only two of them) totaling over ten thousand words, and all based on your two MudSpot suggestions. I don’t know what it is about the 250 limit for this site, Michael, but it seems to be a magic number for me. I can’t stop there once I’ve reached that far. Or maybe it’s just the classic look of this site. I don’t know. It is fun though. Well done.

  3. I was honored to be in such good company. Brian’s piece knocked me over. Grey had me feeling somehow disappointed for the couple in their restaurant kitchen. She is always good at making me feel. Michael, I’d kill to write as well as you do. I don’t think you know how good you are. Seriously, your intellect is like a clear light. Lapham’s story about the perfect life of the golden boy reminded me of a John Cheever short story, “The Worm in the Apple,” which is by no means to infer that Lapham’s piece was derivative. Rather, that it put me in mind of a great American short story writer. Joe, ahh, Joe can write heartbreak like nobody’s business. This was tender and sad. Paul’s journey to my mother’s hometown was especially welcome because he knows how to make his readers feel like children again.
    Elliott brought me back to earth with a scenario that is one of our painful realities – babies are born addicted every day. I was grateful that he found a positive outcome in the end. Sandra, although I searched her story for some reference to golden, took me to one of my favorite events, art gallery openings and I strolled among the guests drinking nice crisp Chablis and eavesdropping on lively chatter. By the end of Spot#2 I felt full and content,

  4. Another outstanding collection. I love MudSpots. Now that I’ve cleared a portion of my deck, I hope I can join in the next one.

  5. This place is magical. My favorite writers shine even brighter here. Well done and I hope to join you soon.

  6. Of course, Gita’s words gave me the big head, but I am exceedingly thrilled to learn Bill has written so many words working from these prompts. Can’t put a price on the feeling THAT gives me to know that for a few minutes I may have been dancing with his muse, or WE may have danced, since this site owes whatever it is or becomes to all of you. Thank you.
    Now, I wonder if we could inspire Bill to write a full-length novel, hmmm…

  7. TLC was commenting at the same time I was, and I felt obligated to return and say I’m holding her to her word.
    BTW, I forgot to mention that you will be able to find the next theme prompt on the page listed on the menu on the right, and that if anyone wants the little bio listed on the Authors page changed, (new links, updated credits, etc.) just send a note and it will be taken care of.

  8. This is a deeply satisfying collection. It took me ten minutes to read it the first time, and no less than thirty minutes on the second read-through. After only two prompts, MudSpots is a living, breathing thing…and I like it. A lot.

  9. I wanted to say one more thing: I am still new to fiction writing and putting words on a screen for everyone to see can be scary. But this community of writers makes me feel safe to try anything once. For that I thank Michael Brown and all those who encouraged me at HoW.

  10. these were great! Like T I will get here one soon!

    Elliott, your piece was the standout piece for me, the unattached nurses nature, the matter of fact & conversational tone, and above all a fantastic title.

  11. Late to this, and awed – overawed – at the incredibly high standard set, and amazed at the sheer variety of responses, from which I find it impossible to pick out a favourite.
    Apologies for lack of specific ‘golden’ reference – I had in mind the implication that Zoë’s future had been secured as a result of her meeting with Bernard, although neither knew it at the time.
    Thank you Michael for setting up such a well-pitched challenge to keep us ever-stretching.

  12. Once again I’m commenting on the comments because I can’t out-do the heavies, here, the long-hauled talent whose work I admire, and love to read. The look, the feel, everything about this site, Michael, makes it a place– gives it an ambiance–making it a very comfortable, non-threatening and siren-like place to brave placement of my writing. For me, the site threads our HoW confraternity together in a place of familar expression, making the Mudspots experience all the ‘specialler’ changing me, caterpillar-like, from a simple dirt clod into one proud Mudspot by the humidiy of your creative flit gun.

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