Archive for October, 2011

October 27, 2011

Spot 014: Modern Fables


by Gita Smith

A fox moved her den close to a pleasant farm with a chicken house. She prowled the perimeter every night, seeking a hole in the fence or a wayward chick who’d wriggled through the wire. She had three kits to feed, and poultry was their favorite food group.
One evening, during her usual reconnaissance, the entire flock broke through the fence. Chickens by the dozens were ba-kawww-ing frantically as Bard Rocks and Rhode Island Reds ran helter skelter.
“Why are you all amok?” asked the fox, concerned about rabies and other contagions.
“There’s a fucking HAWK in the coop,” shrieked a dowager hen, “and it’s eating all the Banties and chicks.”
“I’ll fix that!” the fox said, and she rushed the coop with bared fangs.
Moments later, she emerged with a limp hawk in her jaws. The hens thronged the coop to survey the damage. But the rooster, always well-mannered, bowed to the fox, saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend. How can I repay you?”
Fox pondered this main chance and said, “Would you trade me that plump dowager hen for this tough old hawk so that my kits can eat well tonight?”
Rooster grew very sad, for he knew that graciousness required him to say yes. He hated to sacrifice one of his own, but he was smart enough to know that a fox makes a better friend than an enemy.
And that, children, is the way of business in the world: It’s all about accommodation.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

To begin with, before he saw that, no matter how she tried to hide it, she was besotted with Guido, Eric had assumed Penny was there, at those long, lazy meandering Sunday night meals, because of him. Eventually he told her that she was wasting her time. ‘You’re way out of his league – he only goes for posh girls, and always Venetians – rich bitches, daddy’s money and daddy telling them to keep their legs crossed. And you know why don’t you?
‘Why they keep their legs crossed?’
‘No, you silly girl, why he always goes for the money?’
‘… I suppose it’s what he’s used to, he’s obviously from a rich family.’
Eric laughed, nastily. ‘Likes to give that impression doesn’t he? Truth is very different – he needs it to keep his family afloat – literally.’
Penny wondered whether Eric laughed nastily – high-pitched, giggly – because he was nasty? He certainly wasn’t nice: overweight, permanently pink and shiny, like naked Turkish Delight after someone’s licked the icing sugar off, but what he said rang sufficiently true for her to back off, too well aware of her poverty and her lack of sophistication.
Later, five years too late, she learnt, from Guido himself, that he had never been rich, that Eric had lied to and manipulated him as much as he had her, that they both had underestimated him. Soon after, Guido was dead, but not before giving her the wherewithal to exact revenge.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

The hawk dove out of the sky and snatched a fish out of the water. Flapping its wings hard to regain altitude, it was making headway when a bald eagle, attacking out of the sun, swooped down and thumped the hawk in the head with its massive talons. Shaken, the hawk dropped the fish and veered off toward the safety of the forest. Meanwhile, the eagle dove for the water and grabbed the stunned fish before it could swim away. Pumping hard to gain altitude like the hawk had done, it flew to its nest at the top of a telephone pole on the other side of the lake. The eagle screeched before biting into its lunch.
Jake heard the eagle’s echo on the other side of the lake as he fought to bring a vigorous bass to the surface. When he got its head out of the water, he grabbed it by the gill, hauled it up and pulled the hook out of its mouth. Just then, Frankie, Jake’s friend and the guy who owned the bright red bass boat with the two hundred horsepower Merc, punched Jake’s forearm, made it go numb and caused Jake to drop the fish back in the water. Frankie scooped the bass into a landing net, reached in and pulled out the fish.
Frankie was smiling. He was very pleased with the size of the fish. “Jake, quick, take our picture,” he said.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Travis Smith

He had learned early in his life to cherish what he had because death was always around the next corner. It wasn’t easy though. He was small and not very strong. He was smart though. Not book smart, there were no schools in the depths of the city, but smart, and eventually he had made his way out. When the war broke out he had realized it was his path out of that hell and over the course of the war his brain, and seniority as the death toll climbed, had propelled him to higher and higher ranks. Now he stood in front of his men, veterans alongside new recruits. His heart heavy as he looked at them, knowing he was about to send a few to certain death. One recruit caught his eye and recognition opened doors in his mind.
His mind drifted back to that time before, the time that seem like an eternity of death in hell. Back then he tried hard to stay out of trouble. Tried to stay hidden and beneath notice. It hadn’t always worked. One group in particular had been the bane of his existence. They sought him out. Tormented him. Some days he got away. Some days he didn’t and the sounds of their laughter still haunted him.
Looking back at the new recruit a smile lifted the corner of his mouth. At least he would not feel bad about one of the deaths.

Based (loosely) on “The Heifer and the Ox.” See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



by bolton carley

Out for a big night in the national park, Patty Porcupine and Porsha Peacock were single and ready to mingle. They’d spend hours prepping. Porsha had feathered her plumage 80’s style while Patty needled her endlessly about her ‘fro of epic proportions.
“You know I earned every colorful feather I’ve got!” Porsha pointed out.
“Oh, I know who you slept with to get ‘em, alright!”
“You have no room to judge, Patty. Someone’s not exactly quill-less even with that prickly nature of hers!” Patty’s cacti-like coat raised sky-high in fake dismay.
“Whatever. Let’s just get going before the good ones are taken.” Patty bristled.
“Don’t act all pious. You know what I always say, ‘we is who we is and we be damn proud of it!’”
The discussion continued as they made their way to the campfire. Porsha started strutting her stuff the minute she saw the opossums hanging around and heard the owls hooting comments. Patty was right there with her, parading around like she owned the place. Even the frogs were chirping about them until Sasha showed up.
Porsha glared at the competition. “Damn that Sasha!”
“I know.” Patty agreed. “Look at her – matted down, cloaked in black with her one white stripe from head to toe. What kind of statement is that?”
“Exactly. I can’t stand her and her nasty ass perfume.”
“Me, either, but the males sure don’t seem to mind.”

The moral of the story: Appearances are often deceptive. See Authors page for bolton’s bio.



by Kristine E. Shmenco

Little Creature slept on Father’s chest and was content, but one evening, Little Creature awoke, thrilled—amazed—spellbound by the glow and the lights of his brother Duskbird, and wanted to take his place. He pushed off Father’s chest and asked, “May I wear those lights like Duskbird and settle the world to sleep?” Father Blowing Rock said, “Dear one, no! You are my singer, my sweet Storyteller, and no one can replace our Duskbird.”
Little Creature had no form, no shape, and struggled to know his place in everything. Certainly he sang greater than any, and told tales that made the moon stand still until Father set the moon free. But Little Creature had no form and wanted very much to be colorful, loud, and beautiful like the stained glass Duskbird. Little Creature scuttled about, trying to figure ways to impress Father and astonish Man. Father Blowing Rock knew what was in Little Creature’s heart and did nothing to stop it. A creature will be what they will, as water flows its way down the easiest path.
One day, Little Creature crept up to Duskbird after a long day of calling, and he gladly (proudly?) told Little Creature about its songs and his inspiration. Little Creature pounced and tore the wings from Duskbird, wrapping the stained glass warmth and beauty around itself. When Father learned what transpired, he transformed it into a songless creature, placed him upside down in a tree and abandoned him to his disobedience.
Little Creature, humbled, watches us from branches and scribes our hearts. Beware what he tells Father Blowing Rock…

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Amy Hale Auker

I’ve spent my life carrying donkeys, eating the goose that laid my golden eggs, petitioning Juniper for a better master.
I’ve underestimated the slow and the steady, hurt myself with hate, deemed the high grapes sour.
I’ve gathered and stored and sung and danced, hoping to find a balance between fun and drudgery.
“We are not wise, and not very often kind,” says another poet, and so each day dawns brand new.
I will celebrate the parts of you hidden from the common view, until the time is right to spread your wings, and I’ll bundle my sticks together with yours, say “ha!” to a world that would break us.
I’ll drop pebbles into the jar until we can quench our thirst.
But nature does indeed exceed nurture, and so I will again need your stories, your fables, your songs, to remind me that I am a mouse in need of a king.

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

Lion had been the General Director for a number of years, and everyone at school was pleased working under his regime, but the time had come for him to retire and write scholarly papers as his legacy. All the animals were called to a junta wherein he announced his successor should be elected.
The Cow from Accounting, taking minutes, assumed it would be she, but being demure wouldn’t ring her own bell, and was hoping the Director’s secretary, a Fox, who knew the Cow’s moods, would speak on her behalf.
When the Bear who taught Philosophy nominated himself claiming he could make ethical decisions, and then the new Rabbit intern piped in with the need for a fresh point of view, everyone noticed how she nervously thumped her foot in time to her words, and the Parrot, who had been around as long as the Lion, brushed his still colorful plumage repeating their words backed with a thumping sound of his own. He did this after each nomination. Eventually, he was elected. It seemed Parrot had qualities similar to all the other animals combined, making him the obvious choice. Relieved to have come to a quick decision, the animals ended the meeting and went home early.
Not three months later, when the school was in deep financial difficulties requiring firm action, and the Parrot’s only response was, “I should be Director, aarghk, because I can make ethical decisions, thump, thump, thump,” the animals realized what deep shit they were in.

The moral of the story: Think quick. Where have I heard this before? See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



All illustrations for Spot 014 supplied by Michael D. Brown.


October 20, 2011

Spot 013: Missing Numbers


by Mike Handley

Unable to run, her swollen feet suddenly nailed to the floor, Shirley clutched purse to bosom and began sobbing. Tears flowed like invisible lava, searing her cheeks, and a wet scream lodged in the sands of her throat.

“Beee, beee, beee …,” she wailed.

Nearby children stopped to stare, boxed Barbies and plush Nemos forgotten. Some tugged at their mommies’ skirts and pointed at the woman unraveling in aisle six.

It was June 6, a Saturday, and Shirley had come to Wal-Mart in search of chlorine for the church’s baptismal font. En route to the pool supplies, she’d strolled through the toy section, which is where the date and place slammed into her consciousness the minute she saw the figurine.

It was a leopard-like creature with bearish paws and seven heads, all with at least one horn. Ten in all. Runes decorated the leonine brows, and white bandanas encircled each.

“Beee, beee, beee …,” she continued to chant, a crowd cautiously gathering.

She fell then, her eyes rolling upward, her body releasing sea water to a final gasped “… ssst.”

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.


© Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons License.


by Gita Smith

We were having a marvelous season in Fontainebleau — this was 1923, after all – as a sort of madness overtook the Château Le Prieuré. The main attraction was the arrival of the world-renowned mystic Georgii Gurdjieff, and nouveau-riche Americans mingled with old-money Europeans in a frenzy to absorb his aura.
Every night, the cognoscenti gathered for lavish dinner parties (a bottle of wine for every guest) at which my Marcel played a private game. Whenever conversation stopped and the table utterly hushed – as inevitably happened – he would look at a clock. He maintained that such lulls always occurred at twenty past the hour of eight.
When I said, “Darling, that’s utter rubbish; it can’t possibly happen every evening at the same moment,” he produced his tally. But his game eventually turned into morbid fascination, then a dread with apocalyptic overtones and, finally, sleepless nights.
“Eight twenty is merely a time of evening, not a number from the Book of Revelations,” I insisted.
“Surely it foretells the hour of my death,” he shuddered.
Instead of joining me to take Fontainebleau’s healing waters or paint en plain air, Marcel succumbed abed to a black despair. Worse, our lovemaking stopped.
In exasperation, I arranged an audience for Marcel with Gurdjieff, himself, for an answer to this 8:20 question.
The Master thought awhile before clasping Marcel’s shoulders. His deep black eyes bored into Marcel’s fearful ones
“Worry no more, my friend. Eight-twenty is the precise moment when the cook is ordered to table with the dessert.”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Kristine E. Shmenco

“Children of the earth, we are awake and alive as never before and can be proud of the lives we live today because we chose to follow the Rule of Self a decade ago. Today the rules of common sense shall govern us, drafted by the hand of reality. We have rejected the mythology that cowed us for so long. We recognize that after the Great Struggle, the tyrannical hold on our lives has ended. We recognize that a word is a word; a name just a name; a number is simply a number. We have stricken off the shackles of fear and put our faces to the sun, knowing our destinies are ours and ours alone to mold and shape as we will. Cross yourselves no more. Today marks the day we reject the word evil, knowing there is only life in nature, and that no one shall be punished for whatever nature failed to provide in the mind. Remove the symbols from your body that have kept generations in the dark and be faithful to your Self—the reward was promised and you have received.

The real light is here, sitting beside us, taking our hands and guiding our race to the stars. We shall depart this Earth and start new generations of the Free, and we can say it began on this day.”

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. — Charles Baudelaire

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

‘Aim for the top – you gotta be number one else you ain’t nowhere!’
‘Well, I’m not that bothered …’
‘Well you gotta be bothered – if you ain’t gonna try and always be best, you’ll go nowhere!’
‘But I’m just joining this writing group for the experience, because it sounds interesting, is something I want to see if I’m any good at. It could be a way of meeting people who think like me – I’m not interested in being first.’
‘Well you bloody oughter be – whadda you think we named you Aaron for if it weren’t to be sure of always coming first, and with a surname like Abacromby … well, there’s not many going to beat that!’
‘Yeah, well, most people spell it A b e r, but that’s a detail, the thing is I hate the idea of being number one, of coming first, of being the one that everybody notices. Trying all the time to make sure of being some sort of winner takes all the pleasure out of whatever I’m doing, and I’ve decided I’m having no more of it.’
‘Well, you’re no son of mine, that’s all I can say!’
That that was a strong possibility shut both of them up – Zephaniah had known for a long time that his wife hadn’t been the innocent she pretended to be, that few seven month babies weighed seven pounds at birth, and it had been the man next door who taught Aaron to read and write.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.


"© Copyright Dong Haojun and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons License."


by Joe Gensle

binary system: “A system in which information can be expressed by combinations of the digits 0 and 1.”–

Binary, in perspective:

1 – “It’s the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.” Three Dog Night lyric from smash single, “One,” ABC Dunhill, 1969.

11 – the second, as a replacement-synonym for “junior,” e.g. Pope Paul II. [Could we Catholics ever call a the Vicar of Rome, the successor of Peter, the Holy Roman Pontiff, “Junior“(?!)]

111 – Balls (you’ve almost walked); Strikes (yerrrrrrr OUT!)

1111 – Forty-one minutes past my bedtime; the year Henry V was crowned ‘Holy Roman Emperor’

11111 – Yahtzee!

111111 – Friday, November 11th, 2011–If you haven’t done it before, take the day off to wear a stars ‘n stripes pin and pack a cooler with sandwiches and drinks. Drag some cheap lawn chairs down to your local veterans parade because it’s Veterans Day. Sit and wave and smile and sip and munch and reflect and enjoy. If your town doesn’t have a veterans parade, conduct your own with your children or grandchildren. If you‘re alone and your town doesn’t have a parade, buy a big flag and march around your block until someone asks what the hell you’re doing. Please refrain from showing him your binary middle finger for his ignorance, choosing peace for the moment it takes to educate him.

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

At the Big House everybody saw two football teams standing on the sidelines and twenty-two men on the field facing each other.
What Axel saw were numbers. Numbers in constant motion. Whole numbers, digits, numerals, integers, flowing, mixing. He saw sums and differences, products and quotients, and he saw primes. When substitutions went into the game, he saw one number replacing another which altered the pattern he saw on the field.
Theorems and axioms.
He saw the ball’s parabolic flight. Trajectories. Ballistic parameters.
There was force, the product of mass multiplied by acceleration.
The numbers smashed into each other, glanced, ricocheted at odd angles, some acute. Numbers rolled and fought and opposed.
Some got tired and some got hurt. Some rejoiced while others mourned. But always they moved, mixed, changed shapes, morphed.
Axe was getting overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, SOUNDS. The Big House started turning as if on a pottery wheel, an art project gone wrong. It turned slowly, then gradually picked up speed.
Inertia, he thought. Then centrifugal force.
The numbers slid into the vortex and were flung into space at a speed greater than sound. There was a sonic boom each time one flew out of the bowl. The crowd noise had a Doppler effect as sections passed by Axel’s stationary position, increasing in frequency as they approached and decreasing as they moved away.
When the Big House reached a certain velocity, Maize blended with Blue.
And the band played on.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Amy Hale Auker

The preacher stated firmly, “Marriage is not an agreement between two people, but a contract between a husband and a wife and God. A holy covenant, one in which you should allow Him to be the center.”
Mother and father and baby make three.
The counselor crossed her legs, letting her skirt slide up a tiny bit, smiled sympathetically at the man in the chair across the way as his wife explained how tired she was each night and how it would be better if he could at least help the kids with their homework or take the trash out from time to time. The wife saw their glances, and wanted to scream, “Or at least pick up fucking take-out, you moron, and quit looking down her blouse! She is our goddamned marriage counselor!”
Three weeks later she talked to him about how her best friend had gotten a divorce and could they perhaps ask her to join them for their planned cruise in the Bahamas since she was so lonely and all?
The best friend went to the gym every day, determined to be in shape for the first vacation she’d had in three years. She hoped she’d meet a nice man, nicer than her first two husbands.
And God, as the active third party in the marriage, thought the newly-divorced best friend was hot, too, and carefully poured the third cocktail.
On the third day out at sea a triangular sin was created, but a marriage was saved.

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

It could all well be a dream. A lazy path in his memory – the first life – a mansion in a place called Vermont where a woman caresses his thick fur. Outside the frosted glass, a world lays white and cold, the woman’s tears falling warm on his paws. The second path is a dusty farm on dustier land where mice are king and he freewheels outdoors until dusk, the luckiest feline alive. The third is dark, a filthy dwelling with others matted and cut like him, surviving only by luck until the day a man’s brutal hand brings darkness again. The fourth life is darker. He is a she this time, blind and mewling, only days old under planked wood, clawing alone in the dirt and the dark comes mercifully, quick. The fifth life is a nursing home with a Mr. Doggett. Years later, they cross together, peacefully. Six and seven are linked. He embraces death in an animal shelter with failed kidneys but miraculously returns to health through the tenacity of one lucky vet. The eighth path is shared with one named ‘Sergeant Garcia’ and it is his best memory. There is mutual respect, companionship and the closest experience of love for another of his kind. Now on the ninth path – once more female – something different is coming. There is a door with the number nine floating above and her happily tired and curious mind wonders what luck it might bring this time.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

I haven’t been inactive. What I’ve been up to is not immediately apparent. You have to follow the links. I found a book, written in Spanish, perfect in presentation. Small, a mere 4.5 by 6.25, but how does compactness signify when the words enrich?
Attending for several hours listening and trying to translate los chistes y las anécdotas while my feeble brain burned with plans for publishing, something was missing, a number, a word, a syllable, a vowel. I couldn’t put my finger on it. What was I doing here? Tuesday seemed wrong for a party. Eira mentioned plans to visit Washington DC on the fourth of July, and I tried to convince her to change it to Bastille Day in New Orleans, but she would not have it. Of course, she has family in DC, is not impressed by cherry blossoms in April, nor a parade of drag queens in July, so her mind is set, but nobody at that table would concede to me. For them, every line was laughable. Angelica did her shtick, totalmente en español, and I missed all the punchlines. Maru gave me Gumasat’s number, and even though she is not with him anymore, she claimed he has a good heart, and would help me get our words published.
Still, I wish I could relate some of the stuff that everyone found so hilarious, but tense, numerically uncertain, I lost something, and in my compensatory articulation I could not locate it, para ni amor ni dinero.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



London: twenty past eight at Big Ben
“© Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.”
Other illustrations for Spot 013 supplied by Michael D. Brown, except where noted.


October 13, 2011

Spot 012: Surveillance


by Kristine E. Shmenco

He closes the door on day’s end and walks to his Infinity, starts the engine and soaks in the ear-ringing silence. Hands close around the hard, smooth steering wheel and he releases a breath, deciding which way to go. He arrives at the park and finds himself walking on the footpath: his body was on autopilot, it seemed. He folds himself on a park bench under a broken light. It’s a muggy evening and the breezes are hard, and it takes him back to Floridian nights, tangled bed sheets and a view looking down on the tumult. What view was more gorgeous, he wonders: her back curved and colored in shadow or the silent neon colors floating up from the street? He felt for his Blackberry and knew he could call her right now and she’d be ready to meet him. Another unannounced absence would surprise no one, and it was nobody’s business, after all. He’d earned the right to…to flee.
He waited a long time before driving home, trying to organize his thoughts and put her out of his mind. Soon, she said, three days, and he closed his heart around her voice, trying to shield it from the world.
He passed through the security gate and gave the guard a tired smile. The front door would be unlocked and he would eat in the kitchen alone. His wife was too busy reading phone transcripts to notice he was back, and was pleased to think soon she would have peace.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Amy Hale Auker

The old mare knows better, but she still snatches bites of grass as we ride along the trail. Like her, I glean from every moment.

I see the mole on the inside of your arm, the bone sticks you have pushed through your too-neat bun, how you hesitate to hug that one person in the group–but your eyes follow her. I hear how your voice changes when your mother calls, notice when you pinch your child hard on the shoulder even as you smile brightly and click along the sidewalk in heels, how you push the mushrooms to the edge of the plate. I am there when the appetizers come out of the oven, the guests gather round, and the first bottle of wine becomes a dead soldier. I see how your smile is not real when it is time to go home, notice the broken rubber band on the floor of your car, the way your eyes look when you are bored, and smell the smoke on your breath.

I will steal your glittery blouse, the mascara smear on your cheek bone, the way the waiter almost spilled the tea pitcher when the Suns scored on the television over the bar, the lint from your pocket, your shopping list, the way you talk baby-talk to your ex-wife, the way that guy tied a bandana around his neck.

Behind my innocent eyes, a red light blinks, for a writer is simply a camera obscura, and I have no off button.

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.



by Gita Smith

“Pssssst! Malcolm, it’s me!”
Stu’s face is pressed against the security camera, making his nose look enormous. His breath fogs the lens. I buzz him in.
I hear his unbuckled galoshes slap-slapping their way down the hall — real subtle for a private eye. He falls into my office in a mock-faint at the exertion. It was funny in 1999 — maybe.
“Stu,” I begin, you don’t have to get ON the camera to be recognized. Just stand by the damn door.”
“I know, I know,” he says, kicking off his boots.
“Okay, so, whassup?”
Stu pulls a notepad from his hip pocket. “Turns out, your golf buddy, Mr. Host with the Most, is cheating on his wife and his girlfriend.”
Stu grins. I sense a bet coming: guess-who-kills-golf-guy-harder, the Wife or Honey #1.
“Yep. Life’s just one buffet,” Stu says.
Ahh, sex, the many-headed want that bankrupts otherwise-good men.
“You have film?”
“Need you ask?” He pops a fluorescent thumb drive into my Mac.
“Whoa, Nelly!” I say, feeling reverence for Stu’s art with a zoom lens. This new Honey #2 was being shadowed because her suspicious husband hired our firm. Catching my rich, asshole golf-guy was a bonanza.
“I’ll call him and set up a meeting,” I say. “How you want to play this?”
Stu ponders.
“Holmes,” he says in a plummy Brit accent, “might we get paid twice for these shots – by my client and by Mr. Golfballs?”
“I believe we could, Watson.”
‘Tis why I love this business.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

Insofar as ‘moments of truth’ were concerned it was Annie’s photographs – she had a proper camera and knew how to use it – which were especially successful. Yet she had been startled to see that among these consciously-observed shots were some which had recorded a moment more revealing, suggested depths of emotion and connection not apparent from casual observation. Most were in the background to shots of Liam, of which there were many. For example, one showed Sean and Bridie, her head on his shoulder, eyes closed, strained and despairing, Sean an arm tight around her, his lips on her hair, obviously consoling. Even more curious, moments later, in the next photo, Sean was looking up at Christy, exchanging a glance of something serious, complex. Annie didn’t know them well enough to say whether it had been conspiratorial or antagonistic. Had Christy said something to upset Bridie? While Kate had been willing to tell her quite a bit about Liam’s family she had restricted herself to facts, but Liam had once mentioned Christy and Sean seriously falling out.
And one she did remember taking, with a degree of secrecy, so intrigued had she been, of Liam with Bridie, just the two of them in the kitchen. She had watched from the hallway as he had caught hold of her arm, asked a brief question, concern in his face, before giving her a hug. Nothing to worry about – it was obviously brotherly, but why was Liam concerned for Bridie?

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

I had the earth to my back. No danger would approach from that direction. Smoke dust dirt and sky in the eyes. Loud static loud static would somebody please turn down the fucking sound? Burning feces garbage bodies hair. Hot heat. Foundry furnace heat. Raw exposed nerves and broken bones. Clenched teeth. Punched in the solar plexus wind knocked out gasping for air pain. Whistles and bells and low rumbling explosions. Ground shaking like Hell is trying to get out. The light goes out in one eye but it sees more than the other.

Where’s my rifle?

Catch breath calm down don’t panic pay attention. Cross right arm over chest right leg over left now roll. Keep going keep going too exposed here. Roll. The earth is in front of me. All the danger is to my rear. Keep everything in contact with the earth. Sweet Mother Earth soil of protection shield me from my foe deflect his bullets harmlessly away and bring me to safety amen.

There is a rock a big rock a rock so big it might provide cover. Crawl to the rock. Crawl slowly slow is smooth and smooth is fast. I remember I can remember things! That’s good isn’t it? I have a memory? Slither be one with the earth like a snake. Don’t smile for the camera fool. This is no photo opportunity. Don’t lift up or smile or wave for the people at home. Send them a message.

Get me out of here.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

Pictures of dear, old, now-dead Dad are around, somewhere. In one, he looks 40, wearing a football uniform(??). Another shows him wearing a zippered, coverall flight suit with a jet in the background (he was Army).
I don’t care to see his face, except….
Vivid childhood memories include Dad’s repeated use of Mom’s hair as a handle to drag her down the hall, into the bedroom, so he could administer the physical beat-down she deserved… buying the wrong detergent brand? Not laughing on queue? Paying $2 too much for a sweater? Not greeting him ingratiatingly enough when he got home from the day’s service to the county, with interim stops to service a girlfriend or two?
You may have met his temper in my previous writing, but pictures? There are only two I‘d love to see.
The first is a shot of my 215-pound co-creator crawling out of his non-girlfriend(?) coworker’s tiny bathroom window after 1AM, taken by a private investigator hired by Mom’s attorney–and I understand there were many photographs, some of dad and his pincushion ‘acting-out.’
The 2nd photo doesn’t exist, of Dad’s and his attorney’s faces when they saw a private investigator’s photos collapsed their case like a beer can under a railroad car’s wheel.
Despite his legal bullying in my parents’ divorce, photos proved him the liar and cheat he‘d always been, and Mom got what she wanted and needed in the settlement.
Unlike MasterCard’s “Priceless” commercials, he paid. And paid.

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

“Was I a pig last night,” Ocky said. “Good thing the ex wasn’t having me tailed.”
“Would she do that?” Izzy asked. “I mean what’s it worth to her now to get the goods on you?”
“Just saying…Those two ladies from Binghamton could put me bankrupt, if Ariel wanted.”
“They always used to say the camera doesn’t lie, but not anymore when everything can be Photoshopped into another dimension.”
“Well, when Pericles Voder was caught handing over money to that streetwalker, his girlfriend put up a stink.”
“Please. He’s a Byronic hero. That little blip helped his career.”
“When Annabella Teekuff was getting out of the limo pantyless, you think seeing what she had for breakfast helped her?”
“She was a great beauty who committed the unpardonable sin of going to fat. Those photos didn’t do as much damage as the double chins and cellulite had already accomplished.”
“What about Trini Markham caught shoplifting?”
“Rich bitch with mental problems. Everybody already hated her. Anyways, you’re no celebrity, Ocky. What career is at stake?”
“Just saying I’m glad nobody snapped any pics last night. What a hangover I had. I didn’t make it to work, didn’t even get out of bed until three.”
“Well, you know I always have my little smartphone with me. I thought these might amuse you.”
“You didn’t.”
“Hey, what are you doing?”
“Deleting evidence. I don’t want anybody seeing me in that condition.”
“Obviously, you haven’t been online today. There’re already about forty comments on Facebook.”

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

I must admit the picture for the paper was quite the shot. It received much notoriety, even made it to the big paper in Mexico City. I suppose you could say I was lucky capturing the moment like that. But as I quickly prepare to burn my studio to the ground containing all my photographs and apparatus, plate boxes and camera, I don’t feel that luck. In fact, I believe I am cursed.

The one in the photo – I will not speak his name – the one on the wrong end of the guns. He was the devil. Or perhaps I should say he is the devil. Diablo.

There was something about him as he stood there awaiting his fate, a patient look I saw through the lens. His dark face shifted, his mouth smiled and moved in silent curses. The day of the execution happened to fall on the Day of the Dead. It is normally a time of celebration; a day that encourages visits by departed souls. I believe something else was unleashed.

I have left the original exposure – the gelatin dry plate – and the original developed picture in a box in my dark room. I have doused everything with flammable chemical. You see… the picture has changed. The once white smoke from the ricocheting bullets exiting is now a pitch black, darker than death’s night. It’s bigger too… growing, taking shape and I must hurry… for now there are eyes.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



The illustrations for Spot 012 were suggested by Gita Smith and Photoshopped by Michael D. Brown, except for the Firing Squad submitted by Paul de Denus.


October 6, 2011

Spot 011: In the Wee Small Hours


by Gita Smith

I was telling Ralph – you know my brother, right? – the other day. I said, “I can’t get a good night’s rest. I wish I could sleep like a teenager again.”
Well then, of course, he launches into a whole megillah about his insomnia – it’s Ralph after all – with acid reflux this and restless leg that. Whatever you have, he has worse.
If you told him you had a neck tumor, he’d tell you he’s got stage four brain tumor.
So anyway, I can’t sleep for nuthin’. It’s driving me nuts. We have a TV in the bedroom, but if I turn it on, I’ll wake Estelle.
It’s 1 a.m., then 2, then I hear noises in the attic. My balls itch, and I worry about the bedbug epidemic. I tell you, insomnia can make you a lunatic.
Then I get this idea. I’ll go in the den and call Ralph. If he’s sleeping while I’m tossing, that puts the kibosh on his long-suffering act. No more one-upmanship.
If he’s awake, hey, we can talk about the Phillies’ chances in the World Series.
So I call, and after six rings he says, “Benji, I was out on the deck. I have terrible insomnia — for two days, now — my blood pressure’s in the tank, we have bedbugs and there’s a rattlesnake in the attic.”
I can’t win with that guy. My one satisfaction is that when I die, the miserable little shit will die too. Just to show me.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.


by Joe Gensle

He spilled his story, sat lost in thought before the psychiatrist recalling how he got there. ‘Other guys’ wives run off with cops but they don’t get sick with ‘Mood Indigo,’ Melvin pondered.

His friend, Gabe, pleaded, “You need help, Mel!” on seeing the apartment trashed, the coin collection strewn about, learning Melvin abandoned his bowling team, lost the vice presidency of the model train club. But the goldfish and hamster, dead of starvation and stinking forced an intervention.

Dr. Engvaldsson asked, “You say ‘Mood Indigo…‘ because it was a cop?!”
Melvin brightened, “Classic case! I read it on WebPsychHelpLine. Mood Indigo’s a condition of jilted spouses experiencing devastating consequences from extramaritals with cops!”

The psychiatrist retorted, “Jilted? Your wife’s sexual appetites changed, you didn’t buy-in…don’t like rough stuff, dress-up, or bondage. Might that drive her into the arms and handcuffs of that so-called ‘kinky’ cop?”

Melvin blanched, teeth clenched, freed his stare to glance at photographs behind the doctor’s desk.

“You’re selfish, own your consequences. It’s pity-potted depression, not ‘Mood Indigo.’ Build a bridge. Get over it!” chuckled the blonde doctor.

Adrenaline launched Melvin over the desk, grabbing the letter opener in a clumsy lunge, but he missed. The blade angled into Melvin’s own over-aged baby fat.

Melvin’s blues were actualized in a navy blue prison uniform (for attempted murder). Prison foreplay inflicted purplish-blue bruises, his rape occurring in a checkered-blue tiled shower, ignored by blue-shirted guards. The infirmary was blue. Blue like the eyes of Engvaldsson’s children.

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.


by Elliott Cox

“Aww hell, son, it ain’t gonna hurtcha none. You been doin’ bidness with me for, what now? Damn near ten years? Hmph. You got it figgered boy, shee-it, ain’t hurtcha before now, right? Ain’t gonna hurtcha now, un hunh. Not now, not never. All ya gotta do is…ahh, yeah, that’s it. Feels good, huh?


“Yeah, I know it hurts at first; it should hurt sometime, keepya modest, ya know? But it don’t take long to…hah! Got it already, didja? Mmm hmm, thaaaas why you keep comin’ back, right? Cause I makeya feel good, right? Makeya feel like you ain’t jus a tree in summer, coverin’ itself up, feelin’ like nothin’ but part of the forest. Naw, that ain’tchoo, friend, that ain’tchoo. You live the fall, right? You live the life, you drop your leaf’s an’ say check it out! This is me! Look rycheer! This is ME goddamnit! I ain’t jus another tree in the forest! Well, thas whatchoo should be doin’, anyway. Your own thing…hmph…be nice, right?

“Hey. HEY! You listnin’ to me? Nah, you out…guess you ain’t heard a word I said, didja? Hmph. Look atcha…feelin’ it, ain’tcha? Getchaself up, son. Longer ya let me enya head, longer Ima be enya head. Wake up, boy, ‘fore I putcha to sleep for good.”

See Authors page for Elliott’s bio.


by Nicole E. Hirschi

To A Jeffrey McKibbon:

I’ve forgotten you, just like I should – no more newspaper articles about your victims, no more angry letters, or my house being egged – yes, I’ve forgotten you, just like I should, of course I have.

Your letter came, and I had to ask my husband if he recognized your name. In a hurry he snatched the letter from me and threw it in the flames of our pre-winter fire. Flames licked and caressed the envelope until it consumed all of its contents. I stared at my husband’s face, questioning, until he finally answered, “It was from your son.”

A thousand memories flooded. Who was I to kid the moon, thinking I could forget you with years of no more tears. My hands trembled. I picked up the phone to call, as I had done so many years ago, to talk to you, my child, my son.

The number to the prison would not come to mind. I could hear the dial tone turn to those annoying beeps and placed the phone back on its receiver.

Why I’m writing this to a crazed murderer, who claims to be my son, I’ll never know except perhaps that I’m a fool.

Your letter, if read, would probably have broken my heart in two, so for now, I write to ask do not send anymore – for I’ve forgotten you like I should, of course I have.

I get along without you very well.

-Your Mother
From times long past

See Authors page for Nicole’s bio.


(alternate lyrics)
by Mike Handley

Whiskey-voiced crooners
Under hats with short brims
Serenade while your lips leave prints on the rim.
We clink to good times, to spooning, to woo,
While I’m deep in a dream of you.

The fresh smell of washed hair,
Your scent on my hands;
The mingling of toothpaste, cigarettes and glands;
Eyes closed, yet registering the smoky hue;
When I’m deep in a dream of two.

We later swap leads on the floor and indeed,
No bounds for our passion remain.
We dance on the ceiling,
Our love is reeling,
Heat shared by the gliding insane.

I awake with a gasp, a shudder to sparks,
Mourn images fading,
It’s no longer dark.
Now a rudderless ship, afloat with no crew,
Plowing deep in a dream of you.

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.


by Amy Hale Auker

I see your face before me. And I see it all over my past. For years I ran my fingers gently over the lines beside your eyes, smoothed your mustache, felt the lines in your forehead deepen, touched you behind your ears where we usually never feel the fingers of another.
I am not allowed to touch your face anymore. I am not allowed to hear your voice. You told me that we can’t be friends because you know how I smell.
I pull the Coors Light box down out of the closet and riffle through the flat images that represent our past. There you are looking young, so lost… why didn’t I see how lost you were back then when you stole that boot jack from the boot shop, shoving it into the 18-inch tops when the boot maker wasn’t looking?
There you are looking strong and proud and found, holding our infants, striding toward adulthood. There you are looking responsible and … tired. There you are looking like a peacock in always new clothes, while I look smaller and smaller by your side. I don’t remember how you smell.
Now I go to facebook to see you, and you look a little desperate, aiming toward the biggest fun, the loudest laugh, constant and always movement, that promised new love who has yet to appear, yet to stay, and you so desperately need someone to stay.
I see your face before me, but your heart is hidden from sight.

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.


by Kristine E. Shmenco

I got my head in my hands and arms on my knees, just sitting here. Nobody knows why I’m just sitting here (but they do because you know how it goes in the city though your eyes are on pavement you still see everything that goes on. I hear the scuff and click of heels going by; men in black suits and gold bracelets with women on their arms that radiate vanilla and they know I’m here and haven’t a care why, so long as I stay and behave on the stairs.
There are three ways to get around things, and that’s all I’ve been doing: Getting around and getting by and I tell myself that’s why nobody’s coming around. I don’t need anybody coming by, after all.
What I need is you. I want you back here, sitting next to me instead of before or after me. I need to hear you complain and carry on, and I want to wake beside you wondering how you could get so inside of me. You took the best and left the worst of me…of us. Friends is not what we’re made of, and we would never know how to behave. I don’t want to be friends, darling, I want us to cling like enemies and fight our way down from this mountain.
But tonight this place where we stood is empty.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.


by Robert Crisman

The endrocine system of dreams allowed my lost love one last turn, wreathed as she was in blue smoke in the old gutted building on Third as I stood transfixed in a doorway and waited. She wore her black hair as a crown that haloed her pale aristocrat’s face, skin tight over bone, from which she’d conjured a mask of indifference.

She smoked cigarettes, and I knew that she waited as I did.

I saw her nerves chewing, and maybe she waited on me. To save her? I felt lust in that doorway and lust is not rescue, yet also I felt an ache stirring, an ache that I’d felt through 10 lifetimes, an ache that had made me jump, dance, and sing to the music she played from Day One, when I saw that our sins would rule us, hers etched with scalpels, mine written on water…

My tears are silent, unshed, dried to dust now—as if I could match her indifference and then bleed her that way and then walk away, free at last from the fear that took hold of my throat the red night that we ripped at each other and she bled me first, then gave me to know that First Blood will last ‘til the end of my time here on earth.

I wait—hoping she’ll break? Yes, and bleed. I can go to her then and wrap her like smoke, pull her free…

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.


by Bill Floyd

Damn right, it’s pure. That’s about all anyone knows for sure. A sweep of the leg, springcoils of smoke past her eyes, the careless flick of the ash. It is not what we make of it, but we are most certainly what it makes of us. That smolder, the clarinet’s seduction. Frank asked the Lord up in heaven above, and the Lord said it’s a crazy little thing: a mood, a time of morning, a face, a dance. The hardest heart will not break it, the craftiest mind will not outwit it, and the most lofty morality will not survive it without compromise. This bared shoulder at daybreak, this everlasting night. Love is that thing that beckons your gaze, corners your thoughts, and demeans your aspirations. Your plans mean nothing to her, but she might have time for a song. Love strings spiderwebs between the stars, binding silverfire throughout the coldest emptiest dark. Love charts infinity: You are here.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.


(a tribute to Frank Sinatra)
by Brian Michael Barbeito

Everything was there. Absolutely everything! But it was not known that we were in the sea that could do no wrong, or a world unto itself that had only electric magic and intensities untold. You know, we were waiting and waiting- on a soul level- for such a thing to come true, to come alive- it is no secret that that is what everyone longs for. And the night- eons and eons had preceded us- but the night at a time like that is new- it is the first night of the world in fact. Hair and cheekbones, gait and smile, eyes full of Gnostic secrets shining and they are dark diamonds. The city is not so bad after all, and two spirits traveling through time recognize one another and something meshes, melds. How is it that you run your fingers through your hair? How is it that that you are like the good serpent? How is it that you could have walked through the world and the inhabitants of the world not knelt in reverence and awe? But there is something else- after a circle is drawn there is only a moment- and then the circle must break apart. The other one- the wiser one- said, ‘You two will now be apart- practically forever- the allure was too intense- and now the universe will even it all out.’ You don’t get to be young forever- far from it.

See Authors page for Brian’s bio.


I’LL BE AROUND (Alone Together)
by Ed Dean

A casualty of the mind often goes unseen.
The yellow buff brick apartment building that Suzie occupied was reasonable for her needs. Her unit was decorated with an eclectic flair, somewhat like Suzie’s personality.
Late in the peace of the evenings was the only time Suzanne and I ever communicated.
“Suzanne?” The gentle stillness of her mind made me comfortable. Pushing herself back into the plush couch, she closed her eyes and spoke.
“Hi, are we on speaking terms again?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Oh I guess I thought you were mad about the drunk I pulled on you the other evening.”
“You know I was there but with all that alcohol, I couldn’t speak. You do that to me all the time. I thought we were best friends. Why do you shut me out like that?”
“You’re just going to learn to take care of yourself like I do. Sit back and enjoy the ride!”
“Come on Suzanne, you know we’re better than that! We could do great things together. Why aren’t you trying?”
“Knock it off! It’s me not we. I’m into fun and that’s all. I’m going upstairs to see Bobby; he knows how to have fun. Honestly, you bore me sometimes. You want to come along?”
“Suit yourself; you always do”
The full dark straight hair that framed Bob Boyce’s long slender face made his large sleepy eyes more pronounced. It seemed to speak to his sexuality. His ruddy pock marked face added strength to the perception.

To read the rest of this story, click here. See Authors page for Ed’s bio.


by Bill Lapham

Sam Merit picked up a rock, felt its heft, rubbed its smooth surface with his callused thumb, and considered his situation. The sky had turned black in the southwest.
“Fucking supercell,” he said in a phlegmatic voice.
He leaned his thin frame to the left to ease the weight off an old wound on his right and pulled a dirty hanky from his pants pocket. He slid his ragged hat back on his head and wiped his weather-beaten face. He felt the hanky scrape against the stubble of his beard, wiped the grit from the deep furrows around his eyes, and spat.
He stuffed the hanky back in his pocket, dropped the rock and pulled out a flask. He removed the cork and drank a mouthful of whiskey. His eyes watered as his belly warmed.
A quick look around revealed nothing but open range.
Sam was a dowser hired to look for water by a wealthy developer with plans to build a resort spa in the middle of nowhere. He had found the middle of nowhere, but not the groundwater, yet.
He had confidence in his methods which relied more on his pappy’s old hickory divining rod than science. If it was there, he would find it. He had felt water in the rock.
Just then, an ill wind blew and Sam couldn’t get low enough to protect himself. He was never seen again, but his diving rod was found stuck in the earth over a bountiful freshwater aquifer.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.


by Sandra Davies

We’d moved in a couple of days previously, and even at seven I knew that my mother hated this raw-edged bungalow in its builder’s wrack of a rock-strewn earthen plot, knew that my father’s tangible tense anxiety as we arrived, crammed into the cab of Patterson’s green pantechnicon, had been justified, although even now I don’t know to what extent she had foredoomed it.

And when, a couple of afternoons later, this younger-than-my-mother woman came tripping across, glossy black curls vivid against scarlet blouse, bare feet in scuffed and worn-flat shoes and a crinkle-eyed, chipped tooth smile, introducing herself as Maureen, in an accent I later learnt was Black Country but then saw as exotic(!), and clutching an album of her wedding photos to show us, I was charmed by her friendliness, thinking her kind and welcoming, and increasingly embarrassed at my mother’s off-hand disinterest, at the minor hostility she exuded. With what seemed ill-mannered haste my mother ushered her out, and turned to me with some derogatory remark, speedily enough for my encouraging comment to be clamped.

Only now do I recall that exactly twenty years later it was my turn to repel the advances of a would-be friendly neighbour. This one had tripped from further, her smile was far less innocent and disappeared completely when she saw that our furniture was impoverished and mismatched and that we had not yet put carpets down. Only now do I wonder how my children judged the tolerance of my behaviour then.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.


by Travis Smith

What is that? Water I guess, but why is it forming circles on the ceiling? I want to stand and look, but I can’t move…Is that someone calling my name?

I know I hear someone calling, but I can’t remember if that is my name. I try to call back, but no sounds come out.

I remember other things. A woman. I can see her smile. My hands recall the feel of her hand resting in mine. I can see the soft curves of her body as those same hands, now limp at my side, trace them gently from head to toe. I can remember every detail about her, except her name which I can’t recall any more than my own.

I hear the voice calling again. It’s a woman’s voice. Is it her, or is it just my mind playing tricks to give me hope?

I am tired and I should rest. Maybe if I did I would be able to move when I wake up, or maybe I will still be stuck here, wherever here is, and the hope will be gone. I think I will stay awake, watching as my hope floats to the ceiling and dances in the watery circles while I think about the woman I remember dancing with under the soft glow of the moon in some other place and some other time. The details are not as clear as the image of her, moving so gracefully, entwined with my soul.

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.


by Michael D. Brown

“Married two years, of which we’ve spent eighteen months separated. You hardly see the baby, and won’t acknowledge the one on the way. Couldn’t expect you to, not being certain it’s yours.”
[click] Love has lost its meaning and so have the stars.
“Remember how you never wanted to play this new Scrabble game,? I wasn’t trying to embarrass you, Red. I’d forgotten you never learned to read.”
Nothing’s what it once used to be.
“Went to the movies with a girlfriend and couldn’t believe when the kids jumped up to dance to Rock Around the Clock. Never saw anything like that before, and wanted to join them. Would have been difficult with this big belly, but still, I had the yen.”
Song birds say it’s spring. I don’t believe them. “I’m not the teenager I was.
“Churchill resigned, but I have a feeling he’ll be back.
“They’re taking down the Third Avenue El. That we’ll never ride again.”
Once love was king, but kings can be wrong.
“A program’s coming on the television called The $64,000 Question. What I wouldn’t give to have a go at that, even though I’m not smart enough to win anything big as you’ve told me often enough.
“It’s a new age. The War’s been over for ten years, and it’s about time for a change. We’re all due for a hearty laugh.”
A smile will help hide the ache in my heart. [click]
“It’s late, and I was wondering if you’d stay tonight.”

To read the rest of this story, click here. See Authors page for Michael’s bio.


by Grey Johnson

The dew has fallen and the air has grown gentle in the dark. She is wearing no shoes, and only her lover’s cast-off shirt, which she slipped on in the bathroom. As she creeps out the creaky storm door onto the porch, without any light or eyeglasses, she very nearly misses the top step. Pausing to catch herself, she tries to think of a reason she could give for being outside so late, barefoot and wearing a strange man’s shirt, to her husband who remains inside sleeping, should he wake to find her missing from their bed. No good lie comes to mind as she steps out onto the grass, and looks up to see not a single star. Above her is just a soft ceiling of cloud tinted by streetlamps, as familiar now as it was before sunset. The risk she has taken by sneaking out into the yard, half-clothed, in the middle of the night, to seek a simple shining pinpoint seems foolish. There is only one way to wish, she realizes, on a night such as this, with no stars flickering hope. She reaches out, her arms reflecting the branches of the tree standing sentinel in her yard. Reeling inside, she opens her heart to the wide hiding sky, and aches to trust, above the clouds, all the glowing bits of light she cannot see.

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.



All tracks for Spot 011 suggested by and / or adapted from Frank Sinatra’s 1955 landmark album
In the Wee Small Hours.