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.



12 Comments to “Spot 005: Needful Things”

  1. Yes, I know, it’s been said, but truly this DOES keep getting better, the responses more varied than I’d’ve thought possible and the standard incredibly high. I was especially snagged this week by Gita’s sparkling jewellery and the absolute perfection of Rob’s street dialogue – warm and amusing. Paul gets more and more scary: each week a perfect example of a psychological thrill, and Michael and Travis left me dislocated and challenged – just as it should be,

  2. I spent 25 minutes writing a comment that included everybody’s work on here and it got lost when I went to put in my wordpress ID. DAMMIT!

  3. Meant also to say, Michael, that your conjunction of pictures to words is brilliant !

  4. I agree! the variety is superb-especially enjoyed Gita’s story
    also love the 250 max which really allows for stretching the brevity, if that makes sense.

  5. yup, loved them all but that Gita lady keeps coming (pun intended) up diamonds 😉

  6. I will try again, after my original 25-minute-to-write comment disappeared and I got so discouraged.
    Michael’s Henry Spotter piece made me come undone. Mentally ill adults are so vulnerable. Sandra’s use of alliteration made her piece more poem than prose. Joe’s made me laugh out loud. Of COURSE Phil would be standing there when PJ came out of the bar! He’s had 19 years of practice. Travis has a future as a horror genre writer of renown. There was something roald Dahl-ish about that ending that chilled me. Grey’s poem was remarkable, in my view, for explaining an emotional state in so few words. I wish she would publish a collection of her poems. Amy’s piece is so full of great lines. I liked “cheap trinkets of special to be lifted out and savored when the mundane wore her down.” I was nodding my head like a bobble-doll on a dashboard while reading this whole thing.
    My favorite line of the week comes from Lapham: Adopting stoicism as a way of life changed his life. Oh man. I wondered whether I could insert any other nouns and have that work as well and YES, it does: Adopting hedonism as a way of life changed his life.. Adopting Calvinism..adopting skepticism.. It is a perfectly balanced sentence and I want to steal it.
    Nicole’s piece made me sad because it didn;t feel like fiction. Who among us has not felt low when someone didn’t appreciate the gifts we offered?
    Paul De Denus made me sit stright up in my chair because I had JUST read a piece in the NY Times about priests sexually abusing parishioners. I can’t t ell which is worse — the sinning or the prurience of the listener. Seriously terrificly creepy. Crisman’s story about dopesickness/recklessness is the most chilling of all because you just know there are junkies out there still, dumpster diving for used rigs with no thought about tomorrow. Really powerful work, RC.
    I have not been able to recreats my original post entirely, but that was the jist of it.
    I love you all and feel lucky to be a part of this.

  7. And the photos are perfect.

  8. First of all, I was struck by the photos. Wow!!!! Sandra, they are perfect, and Michael, you laid this out beautifully. I have to admit that some of the pieces this week did not resonate with me until the second or third pass… but after spending some time with them, I am simply in awe. Crisman, you keep giving this country girl glimpses of a place I have never been. Nicole, we’ve not yet met, but I absolutely love this contribution. Excellent read. One of the standout pieces for me was Paul’s which I thought was chilling simply because details turn me on, too, in both writing and life. Bill L., I want to take a philosophy course with you as the teacher. And Joe… we all live by a river in Egypt, but you captured the frustration of being forced to admit something to one’s self.
    But for me, the absolute “jewel” in this week’s offerings was Gita’s, creepy, honest, and perfect. The words “And cock,” are placed in just such a way as to make my stomach plunge.

  9. I regret not being a part of this one, but I just couldn’t connect with this prompt (which is why I usually suck at these). When they resonate with me, I can fly. If they don’t, I’m left staring at a blank screen or page. But this ain’t about me.
    I love this project, as well as most of the writers who contribute regularly and the man at the helm. I’ve hesitated to single out specific pieces, thus far, because … well, I don’t know why really. After reflecting on it, I’ve decided I can’t keep my mouth shut. The ones that moved me the most this week are the pieces by Travis and Mud. That’s not to say I didn’t like others; just that these two boys made me say “COOL” out loud. But kudos to you all. Reading your stuff here is the highlight of my reading week.

  10. oh my gosh you guys… i need to come back and read this all over again. wonderful!

  11. It was another week of fine reading here. Gita’s piece was tremendously imaginative, as others have said. Looking forward to what next week holds.

  12. wow! these are fantastic! i’m completely jealous of all of it! can’t wait to take part in the next round!

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