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.



7 Comments to “Spot 010: Compunction”

  1. I don’t regret reading any of these! Regret and death seem to be a common theme here- good stuff everybody

  2. I suppose with the prompt it couldn’t be other than death – death past, death now, death future – but it has been dealt with in a myriad of lively ways.
    Thursday has become the most-looked-forward-to day of the week: thank you Michael.

  3. Michael always puts his own piece at the bottom. But today, it was the perfect ending to a half hour of slowly reading everyone’s excellent work. I mean, how cool is his last sentence?
    I have a philosophical question to ask: Is it truly remorse if the feeling is tied to one’s own survival?

  4. Oh, and I LOVE this week’s photos. I want to send in some but my photo albums are all of people or flowers.

  5. A dark themed week, by definition, but excellently done all around. Like others have sated – I really look forward to seeing these on Thursday Mornings.

  6. All very good – and Michael, Q.E.D. was truly tight. Have to echo what other’s have said about the beauty of Thursdays.

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