Archive for September, 2011

September 29, 2011

Spot 010: Compunction


by Joe Gensle

People reading cemetery headstones might read mine and calculate, “He didn’t make sixty.” No guarantees, right?

My birthday’s October 16th. That makes September 16th my official ‘final approach to land on Runway-birthday Oh-Sweet-Jesus.’ As the I rip each successive page from my Rolodex calendar at work, I don’t get a visceral response to the sum the integer, one, adds to my age.

You know how wedding anniversaries are associated to a substance each year, like silver or plastic or golden or diamond? Approaching birthdays are ‘pine,’ filled with ‘F’onlies.’

F’only I had chosen college instead of being a navy corpsman. F’only I hadn’t fought so much in school. F’only I hadn’t married at twenty. F’only I’d married Cassie instead of Marla. F’only I didn’t remarry. F’only we’d given Vicki a sibling. F’only I accepted that offer in Minneapolis. F’only I was faithful and avoided the second divorce. F’only I could have a dog. F’only I could get out of this apartment, into another house. F’only I’d earned a 4-year, not a 2-year nursing degree.

F’only. Ad nauseum. Ad infinitum.

I know ‘pine’ is mental tar with splinters, and F’only is the faulty human perspective of eyes in one’s ass.

Thank God the sunburst of grace takes over. Positive results of other choices deliver gratitude. I’m able to live today and plan a tomorrow or six.

When you see my headstone, read the engraving: No regrets   🙂   [smiley-face included]

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

This planet rotates on its axis as it orbits the sun while states execute doomed humans at “sundown” without remorse. Rocks fall from the face of cliffs without remorse, no matter whose skull they crush when they hit them. Fish eat seafood and raptors eat chipmunks without concern for their prey’s suffering. Predator drones, cruise missiles, nuclear warheads, bullets, and bombs-smart and otherwise-all do what they’re designed to do while separating the shooter from the target by some distance, which mitigates the feelings of guilt and remorse a normal human might feel, even if, as in some cases they must, they kill children. Billions of people have eaten hamburgers cooked at McDonalds, not to mention their competitors, without a single thought about the fucking cows. Close to six billion people sleep peacefully every night while one billion others linger near death from starvation and disease, in abject poverty, drinking filthy water and suffering constant physical violence. We pump tons and tons of crap into the atmosphere every day while telling the climate scientists to go sit in the corner with a dunce cap on their heads. The government of the people of the United States sent Lance Cpl. Terry C. Wright, USMC, 21, of Scio, Ohio, to Afghanistan. He died September 21, 2011 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province. The incident is under investigation. Who knew? Things happen constantly without a single tear shed in their wake, and the stars keep shining in the firmament.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

His first reaction had been to duck under the table, an adolescent urge to avoid retribution which, considering his hard-achieved status, his high profile reputation for toughness – and his age for fuck’s sake! – had briefly but severely rattled him. Then the mirrored slug-quiver of retrospective horror across the other man’s face told him that the shame-stitched silence would be between them until death. Beyond, if deemed essential.

And then instinctive, telepathic understanding had kicked in, one-time second nature in that time when they had shared shit-slick fear and daily degradation. He blanked his face to bland unrecognition, skin prickling with the knowledge that another play was starting, and with the hope that what had gone before had been the whole, not merely a rehearsal; that what was to come would not be some conscience-waking encore, guaranteed to end in death.

Ah, death. Only two of them had strength enough to deal it. Him and the man that now sat across from him. At which, a second, and more fervent, urgent, optimistic hope that they were on the same side – he would not want him for an enemy.

Much later, following unscripted loud-voiced rudeness, false-faced red-rage disturbance and demand to sit elsewhere, amidst the horrified expressions of other diners, and after semi-reassuring explanations to their not-really wives, they met again, unseen, and established that this time the deaths would not be down to them and that the one that had been they did not regret.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

How I got myself in this mess I’ll probably never rightly answer. Just is, that’s all. They say the boy was only fourteen. Didn’t look that to me, more like seventeen or eighteen with that cap on his head and all. He shouldn’t have been there, not then anyway.

Sitting here, I’ve been thinking about home. Philadelphia seems so long ago. I had a job in the feed trade business but I gave it up. After Amanda got pregnant, I up and left – ran I guess you’d say and that’d be the truth. I feel bad about leaving her. I was angry. Scared. With the war over, I come out west. God damn that war. It ripped our family apart. This country too. So much loss. My brother James… cut down at Shiloh. He was just a boy. He didn’t deserve to die.

I fell in with some bad folks out here, with this sort in the next cell and well… I feel remorse for shooting that boy but he come out of nowhere, just kicking along the street as we was leaving the bank and that confederate hat he was wearing just set something off in me. Didn’t really think about it… just reacted as if I was making something right. Making it even.

The others and me will swing in the morning and nobody will feel as bad as I but until then I’ll ponder on what’s been done and what will.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Mike Handley

He watched the uprooted tree glide past, a great blue heron riding it like a surfer with no arms. A week of unrelenting rain had turned the river into a foamy ribbon of chocolate milk, and Daniel wondered if the heron would fly before or after its board crashed into the bend.

The smell of bacon frying filled the cabin, adding another layer of grease to the yellowing deer head on the wall, its glass eyes as dull as the day he put out its lights.

Daniel glanced at the canvas on his easel, yet another deer painting, which would put gas in his old Lincoln, smoke in his lungs and cholesterol in his plumbing. That was how he hunted them now, with a camera, and he was happier for it.

He turned the bacon, started a second pot of coffee and pulled two chipped plates from the cupboard. Rita would be there soon, which he’d been announcing to the dog all morning.

The mutt was singing opera even before Daniel heard the crunch of gravel beneath tires.

Rita and he had been married once. She’d flown before his tree, uprooted and carried by a river of bourbon, hit the bank. “I can’t watch this anymore,” she’d finally decreed.

He’d let Chase foreclose on his house, left his truck with the keys in it at the Ford dealership, and moved back to the shack where he’d proposed to her. He would do anything to see her eyes shine again.

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.



by Gita Smith

The commitment papers in front of Jo had been pre-marked with Xes where she was to sign or initial.

For the hundredth time, Jo asked herself, “Is Mirella a danger to herself and to others?”

Jo could plainly see her own bandaged arm where Mirella had clawed her, but did that constitute a danger serious enough to warrant locking her mother away?

Before inking her name on the commitment document, Jo considered again, was Mirella a danger to herself?

Admittedly, yes, when she forgot to take her medication or took so much that she passed out and hit her head on hard surfaces.

She looked at her mother — so small and fearful – swallowed by the high-backed chair across the conference table, and all Jo wanted in that moment was to hold her Mummy and be held. She regretted ever having taken the situation this far. She never should have involved psychiatrists and lawyers. Surely, she could continue caring for the fragile woman at home.

Impulsively, Jo walked around the table to kneel by Mirella’s chair. She raised her arms for the expected embrace, opened her lips to whisper, “Mummy, let’s just go home and try again.”

But the flashing blade was quicker and surer than Jo’s hesitant words.

“NOBODY,” came the scream, “puts Mirella — slash — Contessa – slash — di Marco — slash — in a goddamn HOME!”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Travis Smith

She was still beautiful. Older, and the years showed, but still beautiful. Watching her now from just beyond her sight the image of the subtle curves that formed her body, although hidden beneath designer clothes, came easily to his mind. He could still recall the smiling face of the young woman on the street. Lost, hungry, desperate. She had been ready to do whatever he wanted if it meant a warm place to sleep. After a shower, her beauty had shown through and he listened to her story. College degree. No job. Homeless. He had taken pity and instead of paying her for sex he gave her a job. That memory made him shake his head. He had made mistakes in his life, but that was his biggest. He should have used the bitch and left her back on the street corner.

She had been a natural. Intelligent. Charismatic. Calculating. Ruthless. There was nothing she wouldn’t do to get what she wanted. Sex with him had helped propel her to the top but then he was unnecessary, and in the way, so he was gone.

He was past feeling regret, that was for the living, but revenge, now that was something for the dead to think about. He may have been blinded by her beauty while living, but he had been ruthless in his own rise to the top and now he had an eternity in death to plan her fall

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

With David in the hospital for six weeks, Kathia in torment wondered what followed a situation like this. There was no going back, nor forward.
The day of his heart attack she’d been out of her mind, finding pictures on his computer, hundreds of files – all without descriptive names but numbered sequentially. All of youngsters engaged in sex acts. At first, she was afraid, looking into the mind of someone she’d lived with for so long but had never really known.
David had done an article on Internet pornography for his magazine two years ago! He couldn’t explain this as research material – not the way the files were carefully numbered and stored in a misleadingly named folder.
She was scared, then angry, considering their son Freddy upstairs.
In the murk of reaction, she formatted the hard drive and recalled how David had asked her to cut her hair boyishly short and how their sex life improved a bit. He claimed he was taking Viagra. But that didn’t last very long.
When he arrived home unexpectedly early, she confronted him.
Excuses that sounded lame were followed by clutching his chest and falling at her feet.
With a twinge of remorse, alone at her kitchen table, she realized she had probably sentenced him to self-annihilation that day with hatred in her eyes and threatening him with the largest knife that came to hand.
Then, another thought crossed her mind.
She couldn’t remember what she’d been searching for when she discovered those pictures.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



All photos for Spot 010 supplied by Michael D. Brown.



September 22, 2011

Spot 009: Aphorisms


by Gita Smith

At the soiree with 47 beautiful people,
you sidled up to me just as I slipped on
my Party Mask of Indifference.

The floor vibrated with dance steps
(the tune, in case you need to know,
in case you want to make it “our song,”
was Soul Sacrifice by Santana)
and you were a glowing object on my periphery.

“Dance?” you asked.

I turned, seeing you for the first time, taking in your loose-limbed posture, your frank and curious eyes
and answered, “Sure, why not?”

Some hours later when the crowd had thinned,
you placed your hand on mine and leaned in close.

“I’d like to take you home,” you said.

“To meet your mother?”

“Something like that,” you laughed.

With no more sureness than a baby bird
about to take its first, precarious flight,
I contemplated gravity.

I judged your pull to be non-fatal
and answered, “Sure, why not?”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

My daughter’s generation doesn’t understand their children. She’s annoyed with my grandchildrens’ “Whatever” as a dismissal but it really irks her when they say, “It’s all good.” She yells at ‘em to speak ‘normally.’

I lost patience with my daughter, had to pull her off of ‘em, scolding ‘em for this very thing.

“Enough, Belva-Jean! The kids aren’t the problem. You are.”
“PAPA! How COULD you!!”
“You don’t speak their language so you can’t understand it.”
“How’s that, Papa?” she demanded, indignant.
“I raised you right, didn’t I?”
“What’s the point?!”
“Took you to church, right?”
“My grandkids are havin’ a religious experience!”

She glared, hands on hips.

“Sure, honey. ‘It’s all good.’ That’s biblical! Romans, chapter 8 an’ 28– QUOTE:
‘And we know that in all things God works for the good,’ blah-blah. See? It’s ALL GOOD, Belva-Jean!”

She fought a smile. I winked at the kids, who laughed and bumped fists.

“That’s not FAIR, Papa!” she said with a stomp in mock anger, spreading a grin.
“What-EV-ER, Belva-Jean!”

The grandkids lost it. Belva-Jean threw a throw pillow.

“Careful! I can quote ‘Whatever’ from the Good Book, too!”

I wasn’t the grandkids’ hero very long once she told them I showed her the error of her ways. My daughter’s dragging them to church this Sunday and every Sunday, thereafter.

Seems I have a fishing engagement and can’t join ‘em. Poor little bastards.

Belva-Jean’s mama sure wasn’t a vindictive bitch.

Now where’d that gol-dern rod an’ reel get to….

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

Danny Cole, in perfect shape and impeccable health received the small box on Friday at 1:14 in the afternoon. His wife found him dead moments later, a Vitruvian Man in a pool of blood, an exploded hole gaping from his chest. The box he’d received, sat on the floor beside him, its once plain brown wrapping faded, almost translucent in appearance. Its delivered contents: remnants of a bloodied deformed organ.

On the same day – at exactly the same time – ninety-seven-year old Carmen Whitehead, a suffering multi-billionaire recluse, received a similar box.
“The joys of the rich,” he smirked, absently rubbing his chest as his spindly assistant skittered about, making last-minute preparations around the life-support system.

Carmen couldn’t remember when he had first discovered the box. It had been long ago, in some long forgotten country where fantasy and reality seemed to meld together. He couldn’t recall the details. It was as if the box had always been. It was everything then, the box giving him virtually all the wealth and power he desired, allowing him to do things he’d never questioned, not even now.

In the operating room of his private island’s medical center, a shark’s smile swallowed his hardened face as he examined the contents of the box again. The newly delivered heart appeared perfect, absolutely perfect.

Good gifts come in small packages.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

Timothy Cohen always seemed to be on the winning team, even if the team was one—him. His high school baseball, football and wrestling teams were state and regional champions. He won spelling bees, poetry slams, math competitions, everything. He got straight A’s in school, took AP courses in his junior and senior year, attained perfect scores on the ACT and SAT’s, went to Harvard and Yale Law School for free and became a very successful Wall Street investor and financial advisor to the stars. He owned a house on each coast and one in the mountains, a yacht and a jet. He had a beautiful wife whom he adored and they had three children who grew up to be successful in their own rights. Tim read the classics and the not-so-classics and he was a popular lecturer who earned top dollar for talking for an hour, which he donated to charity. He retired early and he and his wife enjoyed the many fruits of their hard work.

“The Most Interesting Man in the World” ran a distant second to Tim, he just didn’t brag about it; he let the Dos Equis beer man enjoy all the fame. Tim cared for none of it.

Then one day Tim couldn’t remember his wife’s name. He saw a doctor who ordered tests that came back positive for early onset dementia. When the doctor gave Tim the diagnosis, he drove home, put the barrel of a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the…

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

He saw that she was trying to keep open the option of returning, but this was the second time they had decided it was not working and he refused to contemplate a third.

Last night’s meal had ended in argument, this morning she had appeared just before nine, immaculate as ever, despite it being Sunday. His answering the door, unshaven and barefoot, wearing old jeans and an ancient university sweatshirt, graphically underlined her failure to integrate him within her world. She did pride herself on her success in infiltrating his, but had she told him – not that he needed telling, since he was more astute than people credited him for – he would have laughed in her face knowing that she was merely paddling in the shallows, was unaware of the depths.

He recognised that she was, to put it crudely, posh girl believing she had found herself a bit of rough, and although he had behaved well within the bounds of civilisation, not bothering to act up to her fantasy, she still wanted to smooth his uneven edges. He had been both irritated and resistant and neither wanted nor needed her enough to let himself be so polished, but saw no point in hurting or antagonising her. Steering between truth and tact as he closed the boot of her car on the last of her neatly-boxed possessions he said ‘I hear that the ‘Herald’ has a new arts reporter, I suggest you get yourself along to ‘Tosca’ next week.’

[Adapted from a longer piece and loosely based on Marcus Aurelius’ eighth ‘Counsel when offended’: ‘Our anger and annoyance are more detrimental to us than the things themselves which anger or annoy us’] See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Amy Hale Auker

Lightning pops all around, drills the ground high on the mesa above, and following every heart-stopping zigzag comes a hammering boom that does not allow for the resumption of heartbeats. With every crack of thunder, the big white horse beneath me leaps and spins and acts a fool, trying to escape what he can’t see. The sky is black, the wind ominous, the drenching imminent. My hands are full, and the field we are gathering seems exposed and exposing. I am powerless to protect myself from something I cannot control.
We are seven miles from the nearest man-made building, and we’ve just gotten our cows thrown together for the trek towards home. Of course, one of the babies in the herd is without his mother, but he doesn’t want to leave the safety of aunties and cousins, no matter how hard we try to cut him back. He huddles, perhaps smarter than we are, under the necks and flanks of mama cows who stand with heads down, waiting the storm. Without us, they’d be off in the creek, down low, lying quietly chewing their cud, content that thunder happens and storms come.
A bright and dense finger of lightning descends, zapping the red rock rim above me. You yell, “STEP OFF!”
I stand on solid ground as my horse tries to jerk the reins from my hands and run. He is shod with iron.
I curse the cowboy who once said, “We’ll take a rain or a calf, any day.”

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.



by Bolton Carley

“What about her?” Missy questioned.
“The one with the Q-tip afro perm?” I asked.
“Yeah, her. What do you think she’s like now?” Missy and I had spent many an hour staring at old yearbooks in the school library envisioning people’s lives post small town upbringings.
“Oh, there’s no question about her. Look at that cat t-shirt. It couldn’t be more obvious.” I state confidently.
“What does the cat t-shirt have to do with anything?” she asked as I stared at her in dismay. How could she not get it?
“A cat t-shirt says it all. It is a well-known fact if you wear kitty-cats rolling a ball of yarn as a child you become a grandma-type by age 26. The only difference is that they start dressing in standard issue gray sweatshirts with lavendar and pink ribbons instead of t-shirts because they get cold so easily. That sweatshirt will hide a crumpled Kleenex tucked in the sleeve and be worn with pajama pants or elastic-waist jeans that taper in at her orthopedic white sneakers. Guarantee she still has curly hair, has never even considered dying it even though it’s as gray as foggy mornings, lives with at least 2 cats, and a husband who doesn’t deserve her. She babysits her grandkids for free every day, needlepoints cat dish towels and doilies in her rocking chair every evening, and hand-paints calicos and Siamese Christmas ornaments for the annual craft fair which she arrives at wearing her parka and furry mittens calling everybody ‘honey’. Bottom line: everybody knows that a kitten shirt equals a naively sweet woman.”

Bolton’s pieces can be found on 6S and her personal blog



by Michael D. Brown

“I don’t get it.”
“Enjoy it for what it is. When we met–something about your eyes–couldn’t say for sure, but the longer I looked, the less I wanted to leave. Matter of fact, because we didn’t hit it off at first I knew it was a thing.”
“You make me question my own esthetics.”
“Not a bad thing.”
Len nods. Annoyed?
“Do you always trust first impressions?”
“How do you take step two, if the first isn’t on firm ground?”
“People continue to reveal themselves over years.”
“Are you trying to Gaslight me?”
“It’s the sincerity of your smile when you’re amused. How appealing. Of course, now I’ve mentioned it…”
A child looking at the sculpture in front of us brings his hand to his lips. Giggles. Touches marble as I have. Then looks at us and stops giggling but continues smiling.
“How charming is this little guy?” Len asks, reaching to pat his head, but the child walks away. He stops with his back to us at a sculpture of a nude woman.
“Touch this,” I suggest. It’s cold and sensual at the same time. He puts his hand on the nodule close to the plinth but his eyes are on the nude in front of the child. If he can get it he appreciates it. Some things just take time. Years ago I was the same way.
Len smiles and I feel an urge to say something clever.
He says, “Let’s go look at some paintings.”

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



All illustrations for Spot 009 supplied by Sandra Davies.


September 15, 2011

Spot 008: Beauty from Within


by jk davies

For you are not beautiful
to behold but yesterday
you said something to me
that cut the doubts out of
my mind
I am not beautiful to behold
but to be held would be
my reward for steadfastness
or maybe clinginess and
I find
your imagined smile striking
warm thoughts from me
typing across the miles still
a closely held secret, oh
your smile
a sign I have made you happy
I thank you for your help and
my gratitude is a warm tide in
your heart, I tell you this with
no guile
at least I would like to think so
you would see my eyes shine
with sincerity but even I don’t know
if calculation enters as we play
this game
we might dance in the bedsheets
gaze into each others eyes
strip ourselves down to honest
longing, we might want
the same
things, we might. If only our eyes could
behold each others once more, not
beautiful and not without betrayal
of others but the simple want is to
be held.

J.K. Davies is a practised reader & practising writer living in Germany. She blogs mostly at practice makes perfect and has a nasty side at too much practice (



by Bill Lapham

You can hear the air escaping as seawater fills the main ballast tanks making the submarine heavier, less buoyant. It takes a few minutes, but when the tanks are full, it is quieter inside. This is silence like no other. The sound of the waves crashing against the hull is gone and the ocean’s swells do not toss the tons like a cork in a bath.
You have entered another world on the same planet as yours, a bigger world filled with strange animals and the sounds they make. Whales calling one another, making sure their calves don’t get too far away or wander into water too deep, like a family of humans might do on a day at the beach. Dolphins sing their tunes as they race the boat to nowhere. They do it only for the love of the race. Shrimp cackle and click and sea monsters no human has seen and no human has named scan the deep with a sonar no human has heard looking for food no human has tasted.
The boat moves forward but seems so still, as if it is hovering, or still moored to a pier. It changes depth, goes deeper, and prowls in darkness where no sun warms the water.
One hundred and fifty men say no words, step like ghosts floating, and listen. Men who have been awake too long preparing for this moment can rest now, retire to their bunks and sleep in the quiet where whales wander.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Gita Smith

There are just two ways to earn a living in Chambers County: you walk into the textile mills or you drive out in a truck. Before retiring, my parents worked in the Westpoint-Stevens textile plants – he in Langdale #3 and she in Shawmutt #2. Both were half-deafened before age 30 from laboring in those funhouses where the hurdy-gurdy of machinery often registered 140 decibels, where crashing, giant looms jarred your very bones.

My parents had that look common to mill people. Repetitious labor doesn’t just wear out joints or muscles; it wears out the spark in each of us that’s fed by anticipating something new coming in the future. People on the line, trimming extra threads from towels and sheets year in and out, know there’s nothing new coming at them, not ever. Mill workers are pale and suffer from breathing cotton dust. But they also suffer from dull eyes and dull dreams.

Sometimes at night, if they drew lucky shifts, my Pa and Ma were both at home. Then I would hear them pillow-talking, low and happy, into each other’s necks where they could hear one another. The sound was like two gossamer threads, one warp, one woof, united by teasing twists and silken whispers. Young and beautiful in the darkness, alone together, my parents spun their stories and their imagined future – a day when they’d run out of the mill holding hands, fling off their aprons and never again pick cotton lint from each other’s hair.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

The travel magazine a Yank left behind lay open on a table she’d wiped ten thousand times if once, in the small Balbriggan pub where, for 12 years, Chloe slung ale, delivered plates and hand-scrubbed floors.

O’er three years, the colorful canyon’s photo consumed her idle thoughts. It dominated the tiny flat’s kitchen wall to which it was taped, the object of daily meditations compacted with Irish resolve.

To fund her journey, she bought fewer groceries and tea, halved her cigarettes, and braved walking to work.

Two hours before sun-up, behind the El Tovar Lodge, the sky spread more stars before her than Chloe’s eyes had ever gathered. Adrenaline and American coffee dissolved jet lag and fatigue. Her countenance postured to fully alert with an occasional shiver of chilly air tinged with anticipation and ‘pinch-me’ surrealism.

She arose and stood on the park bench with outstretched arms. Slowly increasing, intensifying light gave birth, bled life into color onto the walls of the Grand Canyon’s shifting mural. Tears let go as her lungs cycled crisp mountain air.

She was transfused, brimmed to completion. Where once an empty void echoed, Chloe felt spirit’s reunion with soul.

On the return flight to Dublin, Chloe drifted off clutching a silver cross adorned with turquoise.

A flight attendant gently adjusted the blanket over the soundly sleeping woman. His gaze was affixed to the passenger’s transcendent smile, as warming as a mother’s loving hug.

Chloe awoke knowing her purpose, seeing her course, a path enlightened.

[A revitalized post from an April, 2010, 6S submission] See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Grey Johnson

In the late afternoon, they move the truck away from the road and into the brush at the back of the lot. It resembles a small savannah there, with myrtles spreading their dry arms into the speckled light. Everywhere there are small yellow flowers, swaying on sparse stalks, which he has been slinging away at all day. A cloud of gnats dances in an ebb of sunshine nearby. She watches him chug water like a cowboy, looking peacefully at his dirt and sweat, and the tiny bits of cactus sticking to his glasses. He stands on the ground beside the truck, and leans inside her door. The wetness of his shirt has turned cool, and smells pure, and specks of sand and grass from it cling to her skin, and his mouth is sweetly cold from the jug of water. He stops and pulls some of the yellow flowers from their stems and decorates her belly. His hands shake and she soothes his knuckles with the back of her hand. When the time comes for her to leave, she puts the flowers into her pocket. Once home, she takes them out, and places them on the dresser, where they think, in the quiet, of being pressed and saved. A tiny white ghost of a splinter tingles her finger, and she leaves it there until morning, letting it remind her of her hand clasping his shirt in the glow of the waning sun.

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

We were on the second ferry before I thought to ask – a little blue and white bustling one and please God this’d be less rough than the other – and as with so much of our conversation during the past … Christ, only about thirty-six hours, that was all I’d known her for, this hitherto unknown, unimagined, existence-undreamt-of daughter, my question was one that should have been asked before now.

‘Did you tell your mother I was coming?’

She shook her head, the wind blowing her hair, dark like mine, but that, her likeness to me, was how I had been identified, otherwise I would still be unaware that I had fathered her.

Once again I cast my mind back nineteen years to see if I could remember what her mother looked like, once again the memory was reduced to a voice – soft with a distinctive accent – and a ribcage, part of a ribcage. The room had been too dark to see her face; my state of intoxication obviously not detrimental to … well if not performance, certainly ability to perform, to impregnate, although it had definitely impaired my visual memory.

And yet, and yet, from just these slender tangibles, and from a helluva powerful and long-lasting something other than tangible, I had carried the memory of this girl – woman now – in my heart ever since. And despite never having seen her, I was confident I would recognise her, as confident as her daughter was that she would recognise me.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

From the small bench in the mall’s center court, the man watches them arrive. He has seen them before, this beautiful woman and her child. The woman wears a sheer summer dress, sea grass green and her auburn hair is pulled back in a bobbing ponytail. He tightens his mouth and puffs his cheeks a little, offering a simple closed-mouth smile as they pass. He notices her eyes move over his face and for a second, she mirrors his closed mouth smile before averting them down, angelic toward the child. They float down the mall and the child looks back, his eyes staring, blank.

Across from him, the man observes the Foot Locker clerk act out a sales pitch. The associate’s eyes are wide and he smiles and pantomimes knowingly as he holds the shoe up next to his head like a phone. His other hand flits about, a bird anticipating flight. He outlines the features of the shoe but the customer frowns, turns and continues to shop. The associate masks a look the man recognizes. The customer turns with a question and the associate’s smile reappears, as if flicked on by a switch, all rosy cheek and white teeth.

Later in his apartment, the man stands before his mirror and practices. He widens his eyes, waves his hand. He nods his head and puffs his cheeks and shows some teeth. He thinks about the beautiful woman. He observes his shiny white teeth. He thinks tomorrow, she will too.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Travis Smith

Lendin looked down, amazed at the simple beauty of birth. The mother had labored most of the night, delivering the child just before sunrise. She was exhausted, but her face showed only joy as she held the baby girl on her chest. The conditions here were not ideal for giving birth. The medic in their group had never delivered a baby before, but several of the women, along with Lendin, had done their best to keep the mother safe and comfortable throughout her labor.
Lendin walked back to the mouth of the cave wondering how was it that such beauty could exist on this world. The baby’s father was missing along with most of the other people from the village. Lendin’s squad had managed to rescue a handful of people, bringing them back to this cave, but the rest were captured or dead. He doubted the mother realized the full extent of the situation, that her husband would likely never see his beautiful daughter. For the moment she was happy, and that was enough. She would have time for sorrow later.
He looked back at the mother and child. The moment of happiness, the joy of a mother holding her new baby, gave Lendin a reason to smile, if only briefly. There were not many reasons to smile here so he tried hard to freeze that moment of simple beauty in his mind as a buffer against the death and destruction of the war around them.

This piece originally appeared on Blake N. Cooper’s Thinking Ten. See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

I had vowed not to be set up again on a blind date, but after six months’ Saturday nights at home Wii bowling, I agreed to dinner and dancing with Emma and Mike, and cousin Alfreda.
I got the “great personality” recommendation from Emma. Mike offered to pay for dinner, and though I reneged on his largesse, I didn’t expect much. I dressed nicely, planned to be on best behavior, and that bowling had put me in shape, so I hoped to impress Alfreda at least.
It turned out, she was rather sweet. She laughed in a becoming way at my mots, bon and otherwise, but wasn’t the most attractive woman around, although neither the worst looking. The problem was explained over dinner, during which she nibbled a small Waldorf salad. She had spent a fortune on Reiki healing, modified tanning treatments, paraffin waxing, holistic therapy, some electrolysis, but no plastic surgery. “I’ll never go under the knife,” she swore, but along the way she had forgotten to eat, and now, painfully thin, no longer could in the way she used to. I felt guilty every time I lifted my fork, and tried to recall jokes I could tell in mixed company. Later, she wowed us with her dancing, and nodded when I asked how she felt about bowling.
I’m on a mission not to spend weekends at home alone anymore, and must have read half a million words this week on cooking for the weight conscious.
The target’s 120.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Mike Handley

Arthritic, their porous bones sagging from a lifetime of supporting others, they stand like defiant street people, giving a vacant eye to the unseeing who stroll or drive past. Their skins are gray, pocked by the elements, and they can no longer hide bent spines, scars or missing teeth once so uniform along porch railings.

Every time I see one, I’m drawn to it like a blue fly to a carcass. But instead of sucking the dead out, I want to breathe life back into it.

Rather than hear the laughter, sobs and soft cries of passion that once filled the rooms, I simply want to add my own while the ghosts listen and remember. I want to restore things, put them right, and to preserve the original builders’ craftsmanship far beyond adding fresh coats of paint or a new roof.

To let these works of art become compost is like watching a daylily wilt, shrivel and fall to the earth to be devoured by worms.

If a dog year is worth seven human years, a day in the life of some lilies is like a century for old farmhouses. The beauty will remain only with those who remember yesterday, or perhaps with those who see beyond the gray.

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.



by Elliott Cox

The two of them had been art buddies for a while now, Roger and Jeremy. Jeremy caught all of the nuances in Roger’s writing and Roger could literally put his finger on at least eleven different emotions in each of Jeremy’s paintings. They were illuminating a Saturday night with beer and conversation in Jeremy’s studio when Roger said, “Okay man, I have to ask…” Jeremy’s eyes shined with anticipation. “Why all of the blank canvas’ lying all over the place? I get that you need your medium when the muse strikes, but this…” Roger gestured with his hands. “This is a bit overkill, no? You’ve got rolls of canvas leaning against anything that’ll hold them, you’ve got framed, blank canvas’ hanging on the walls. Hell, I had to move at least a dozen chunks of canvas a few minutes ago so I could take a leak. What gives, man?”

Jeremy smiled and said, “Roger, my friend, you writers are all the same. You see a blank sheet of paper, or a blank page on your computer with the cursor blinking at you, and you freak out because you see nothing, and you’re scared to death that nothing’s all you’ll end up with. When I see an empty canvas, every bump, every thread, each aching millimeter screams to me for color. I make each thread and every bump suffer with anticipation until they stop thinking about the color that they want, and tell me about the color that they need.

See Authors page for Elliott’s bio.



Most illustrations for Spot 008 supplied by Michael D. Brown. The old house in Pennington is from Mike Handley.


September 8, 2011

Spot 007: Spies and Secrets


by Nicole E. Hirschi

Exaggerated sighs could be heard all around when rumor of his death was heard, after all, how could it be so, considering his age?

In all likelihood of things unseen, there couldn’t be and wasn’t another way. The alibi, cheap as it might be, held strong, and despite old world views, women can’t be tried for witchcraft and burned at the stake any longer.

Strengths previously un-possessed lingered for months after the affair leaving visitors and well-wishers with an unhealthy feeling of need to make a sign to ward off the evil eye once outside of her home.

Light replaced the once dark world to Jancie, but her countenance, continued to beat an unholy black darker than night, feeding off of the lighter auras of those around her.

“Tell us something about the blasphemous affair!” Gossiping women would often demand.

“Majik,” she’d say, pouring herself and the uneasy women around her a cup of tea, “is just another proof that God and the Devil, indeed do, exist.”

See Authors page for Nicole’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

Just after Harry died he was thinking of all the things that had happened in his life, all his desires and revulsions, his pleasures and pains, his friends and enemies.

He remembered a secret he had kept for many years, locked away so deep he never thought about it, almost didn’t recognize it now that everything seemed so clear, so simple, so easy to remember.

Harry wasn’t sure how he could remember all these things only that he could. The last four years of his life had been bewildering; he had lost his memory, didn’t even know his wife and kids.

What seemed so recent and so vivid were scenes from his youth, like they had happened yesterday: playing baseball with his friends behind school, running on trails through the woods by the creek, celebrating mass as an altar boy, inventing places to hide.

Now dead, his world was kaleidoscopic, filled with colors and shapes and motion, and from behind a dazzling blue crystal stepped a little old man in robes, walking with a cane but not taking any steps.

He asked Harry if he had any secrets to tell.

Harry was afraid and said, none that I can remember.

Are you sure, the old man asked, most people’s memories are pretty clear at this point.

Yes, I’m sure, Harry said.

That’s too bad, the old man said, I can’t let you proceed with secrets, Harry.

Harry turned and walked away, taking the memories of the priest with him.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

“But it says “proceeds from the sale of house and contents plus twenty thousand pounds to each of my two sons,” that’s only …” and here David had the grace to acknowledge with a self-conscious grimace the inappropriateness of that ‘only’, if not the greed.
Impatient at the interruption his younger sibling asked “Only what?”
“Only what Dad left her, three years ago. The exact wording of his will. There should be more.”
“What more?”
“Well, there were those books she was supposed to have written – actually wrote apparently – don’t know what, I never read any of them …”
“Oh yeah, I remember her always scribbling … and then she got herself a computer, didn’t she?” “Thing is, I remember Dad saying, five years or so before he died, that she’d earned more than him the previous year. He’d meant to sound pleased but I got the impression he was less than happy about it.”
“Royalties I suppose, and suchlike. Advances?”
“And maybe film rights, or TV – she did go to America a couple of times didn’t she?”
“Christ yes, so she did! Smartened herself up quite a bit after he died. So where’s the money from all that then?”
“Precisely. We’ll have to ask the solicitor – she probably didn’t instruct him properly.”

But the solicitor had no knowledge of any other will. Nor of any nom de plume, of any other bequest, of any lover, of any daughter. Or of any other life led by the recently deceased

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

At first, he thought women were avoiding him, that kind of thing going with the territory. He knew they were very much in love. It was obvious by the ostentatious displays they put on for the benefit of observers, those less fortunate, who had not yet found life’s true happiness.
In his obscurity, however, he noted life’s other truth. All the lovers were spying on each other comparing their levels of appeasement. Who had the biggest ring? Whose mate would go broke first? Whose phone held the fewest contacts? Who was dying to ask, but could not bring themselves to utter the words?
On weekend nights, he walked alone, only waving, while never stopping to intrude.
The men pitied him for all the wrong reasons. The women kept their own counsel. Each of them had known him intimately before their current situations and knew also that it would be indiscrete to discuss that knowledge among themselves. Thus, they maintained a cautious distance from the subject of love, preferring to act it out, and “interpret that how you will.”
One Saturday, he met Laurita, sitting alone until he joined her for cocktails. They made small talk, and sat, and observed. She shocked him when she confided, “I’ve dated three of those guys, and now they won’t even say hello.” He feigned disillusionment as he came to the conclusion the spy business was the more overcrowded field, but smiled upon noting the glint of a wedding band inside her see-through paneled handbag.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

“The name’s Bahn. James Bahn.” Yeah, it always gets a big laugh around the office. “Good morning Mr. Bahn!” Haha! I get it, the staff having a little fun at the new guy’s expense. No problem. It’s about the only interesting thing about me anyway. But I do pay attention and I am catching on… like to the dirty little secrets the mucky-mucks hide around this place.

Ty Rollins and Bill Bender for instance, over by the water cooler talking stock trades. They banter information openly, staring through me as if I didn’t have a clue about what they were talking about. Okay, it’s not my department but I’m not as slow as they think. They’re talking insider trading for their clients and it’s illegal. And the other day while in old Pitchford’s office, I heard something else. He was on the phone with the mayor – the mayor! – mentioning a few names and dollar numbers, lowering his voice as he waved me from the room.

That’s alright. I’ll keep all their secrets for a while. I know where they keep computer passwords and where Pitchford keeps his secrets: a list of problematic phone numbers and a private journal. I have the combination to Pitchford’s safe too and when the cash is right, I’ll do some trading of my own.

Yup, the name’s Bahn… James Bahn, janitorial service agent, but I have sweet information that’s hot enough to shake and stir.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Grey Johnson

If you click the c drive icon,

and then double click on Users,

and then double click on the file with his name

(because he would never look in his own file for something like that),

and then double click on Downloads

(because he never downloads anything),

you will find a document with a generic sounding name, like Resumé or Newsletter.

If you double click that document,

it will open to reveal

a list

of every item she plans to take with her when she leaves.

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.




All illustrations for Spot 007 supplied by Michael D. Brown.


September 1, 2011

Spot 006: To Whose Benefit?


by Bill Lapham

The snatch had been made and the drop retrieved by the courier. Information on the invasion’s target was on its way. Across the Channel, they would adjust the defense and blood would run in the water.
The traitor was sitting on a park bench, right leg crossed over left, smoking a cigarette in the waning light of a sunless day. The street lamps cast shafts of light through droplets of water floating weightlessly. There was a statue on the far side of the park, a man sitting on a galloping charger, one hand on the reigns, the other thrusting his sword to the sky. That was how he felt, striking a blow against the King.
He was pleased with himself. He had been planted in a perfect position to receive information about the landing and he had done nothing to draw attention to himself. He carried out his chores like any other industrious Englishman. When the time came, he stole the orders that named the operation and its objective: Overlord, the Port of Calais.
Just then, a man joined him on the bench. Neither said a word for a time, but sat quietly in the evening drizzle.
“We have you, Jarvis,” the second man said.
Jarvis’s face slackened.
“You would tell them about Calais, you fuck?” the second man asked, raising a pistol.
Jarvis shook his head vehemently, put out his hand and pleaded, “No!”
When the second man fired, Jarvis was flung face first into the mud.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

It was a well-practised operation requiring only cooperation and a good memory for what had gone before. Was not the first time the situation had arisen and certainly would not be the last. Of all present, the eldest and most experienced one knew that. The elder of the males was most concerned at the likely outcome if they got it wrong, if they could not negotiate their way out of this, but he well remembered what had happened last time, and was not prepared to accept the consequences if the same conditions applied on this occasion. The youngest, most volatile, was most difficult to convince, still something of an optimist despite the fact that he suspected his inexperience had been taken advantage of. Each of them had something to lose, something to gain; if they could come to an agreement then this time two of them would gain, the loser would win another time. No agreement, they all lost. Eventually, following low-voiced discussion, a threat and then an offer to share the proceeds, they were heard to come to an agreement. The eldest told the second eldest “I owned up last time – it’s your turn now, and your turn to lose your pocket money.’

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Mike Handley

I never pulled the reporter’s notebook from my pocket.

A week earlier, I’d driven down the same dirt track to confirm and photograph the blond skeleton of what was to be a state official’s lakeside home. The lake wasn’t there yet, but that was just a formality.

The property owner — a longtime campaign supporter — had applied for the necessary creek-damming permit. He was also building the house for the man who forwarded an endorsement to the Corps of Engineers.

Strictly speaking, that’s a violation of the state’s ethics law. A public official cannot personally benefit from his or her office.

I met both men at the site of what they called a “guest house,” although the builders told me it was the politician’s vacation home. My hosts knew I’d come around and asked questions. This visit was for them to set the record straight, and I’m sure they appreciated my casualness.

I listened as they exchanged pleasantries like old chums, remarking over good deals on comfortable shoes. I shrugged when they asked, not rhetorically, why the media those days was so liberal. They talked about the pretty view and about how long it would take for the lake to grow a 10-pound bass.

A mile down the road, I pulled into a convenience store, got a cup of coffee and scribbled madly for close to two hours, documenting every word and action — pretty damning, considering they’d tried to maintain that they weren’t close friends at all.

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.



by Gita M. Smith

My Crystelle is not what you’d call a big earner. So the other day, when I goes in the salon for my usual, I slips her a $50.
“Mrs. Entwhistle, what’s this for?” she says, but I notice there’s no hand hesitation on the way to her pocket.
“Honey,” I says, “it’s because I got real pain-in-the-ass hair,” and I also notice she don’t deny it.
So later, when she’s finished my comb-out, real full, extra spray, like I like it, I asks her, I says, “Crystelle honey, you know I ain’t the kind to poke my beak in your business, but I can’t help asking how much you take in a week, on account of this place being so small and all, and there’s never hardly any clientele.”
So she leans in close and whispers, she says, “Mrs. E, this place ain’t supposed to take in a lot of money on account of the boss has other businesses, and he launders the money over here that he makes over there.”
So now I’m confused, but I don’t say nothing, and I walk over to the off-track because it’s Ladies’ Day Thursday. I’m thinking how nice it would be to win big and open up a little bakery (but no wedding cakes, too much agita). So then I’m crossing Delancey and I sees my friend, Rhoda Lazinsky, on the opposite sidewalk by the green grocer, and I calls to her, I yells, “Rhodie, don’t buy the plums! They’re non-union!”

Read more at: See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

According to the Kodak imprint mark, this picture of us was taken in 1962. The color in our cheeks has faded some. There’s mom and dad corralling Wendy, Newsome and me. Wendy is the stiff and stern looking bookend. She is the oldest and has the most to gain. Newsome is the capable mysterious one. Typical for the middle child I suppose. That’s me, Oriole, the youngest, on the end. We’ve never got along. You can see the detachment in our faces. The only thing we have in common: our parents and their money. Even now during these hard and desperate times, it hasn’t been easy… with the funeral and all.

Oh yes. The funeral.

We received the terrible news Monday. Our parents were found brutally butchered. With an axe. Can you imagine? The authorities haven’t been able to piece it together. Sorry, no pun intended. Did they deserve it? Hard to say. They had issues. Secrets. Things that could tear a family apart. They’re in the grave now. Yes it’s a horrible thing but the killers did us a favor. They brought us all together again. We’ll each get a pretty piece of the estate.

Oh yes. The estate.

That’s what it’s all about really…why we’re all here. Millions of dollars left behind. We’ve already met with the lawyers and settled the details. On Saturday, Wendy, Newsome and I will meet…sort of like a family again… and bury the hatchet. We’ve got to get along now.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Travis Smith

“Does she have an alibi?” he asked Detective Harris, the woman in charge of the investigation, nodding towards the Mayor’s widow in the other room.
“Says she was at the club, like she always is in the afternoon. The other women have confirmed that, but none recall exactly when she left.”
Morgan looked around. The Mayor’s body had been removed and the crime scene unit, which had been collecting evidence, were circled around to listen to him.
“Possible motives for her?”
“The usual: mistress, life insurance policy, prenup.”
“Do we know anything about the mistress?”
“Not much, apparently some cheap floozy he kept for fun on the side.”
“Anyone else who might want him dead?”
“He wasn’t the cleanest politician, we know that, and more than a few city workers are unhappy about the pension cuts last year, so the list is long.”
“All right then. Keep at it everyone, and be careful, given the high profile nature of the victim. Harris, you come with me. Yates, you’re in charge here, and be sure to keep someone with the widow.”

As they pulled out of the driveway he started laughing. “So you’re a cheap floozy?”
“Very funny.”
“Did you get into the safe?”
“Five hundred thousand cash plus his off-shore bank information, and yes, I changed the combination, so we can have it all transferred before they figure out what’s gone.”
“Then let’s finish the game. Now that our pensions have been reinstated our beach house in Montserrat is waiting.”

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

Roy tells me when we are alone shopping at Jersey malls for luggage for the books and movies I’m taking back with me, “Adrienne’s ex has no reason to move. He’s got a good deal paying only nine hundred dollars for the use of the whole house.” So back at my apartment when she is talking loudly on the phone with her sister, and trying to calm Felicia, who is ranting again about how her ex-husband Charlie is such a shit because he won’t come up with his quarter of the mortgage, I don’t feel her distress.
Roy says during a lull, “Never, get involved financially with family.”
He doesn’t like Adrienne having three hour liquid lunches with her boss and clients, although she says it’s one of the things an insurance broker has to do.
Each makes twice as much as I have ever earned teaching or working in an office. I only maintain the apartment in my name as a storage place for all my stuff, paying a portion of the rent to keep my books and belongings behind all the things they have moved in.
On my next to last day in New York, with both at work and Babette in doggie daycare, I have the apartment to myself. I watch old videotapes of my vacations with Jason and I’m aware of the urn containing his ashes on the bookcase filled with volumes of his stamp collection, but I can’t feel his presence in the place anymore.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

She was a stickler.
Every morning at 6:21AM, she took the 2nd aisle seat on the right side of the second car, and hunkered down for her 42-minute BART rail commute into San Francisco.
She’d started each ride with a love letter drafted to Larry for later e-mailing. She’d share thoughts and dreams, how things might be when he got out of the service, sometimes share office gossip and even write anecdotally of her commute.
This day, she settled into her seat and opened her laptop. As the train filled and eased away from its 3rd stop, she heard a long belch, off…over left shoulder. ‘Disgusting and rude,’ she thought,’ and added ‘imbecilic’ when riders giggled aloud. Another burp, and more laughter.
Someone’s bad manners shred her concentration like cheap cheese, grating her last nerve. When she heard the loud report of flatulence–unmistakably a fart, and loud– and then another, nearby riders couldn’t contain themselves! She slammed the laptop shut, jumped up and turned, barking “LISTEN, MISTER!” convinced it was a man.
It was her man. There stood her Larry in uniform, home early from Iraq, hitting “Play” on his smart-phone‘s .mp3 sound effects to the comedic roars complicitous riders. She vaulted over the seatback into his arms. He knelt and proposed to her, to cheers and tears of the crowd.

He proposed on car 5319, and they were married May 3, 2019 (5/3/19). They named their first-born, “Bart,” who trained to be a practical joker.

Joe Gensle is on assignment in New Orleans. See Authors page for his bio.



All illustrations for Spot 006 supplied by Sandra Davies.