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.


11 Comments to “Spot 012: Surveillance”

  1. Rich, rich, rich, and so colourful, powerful and wonderful wordful too – all good and I’ll be back and back again to savour several times throghout the day (the week).
    Thank you Michael, and thank you Gita for the theme.

  2. Some great pieces in there – I love the twist at the end of Michael’s piece – perfect way to wrap up the collection.

  3. In the true spirit of photography, we have a collection of stories that are both dark and bright, seen up close and viewed from a distance. Amy’s, to me, seems to have been created with a wide angle lensat first, and then a sharp close-up whereas Kristine’s lens was overhead at first before she zoomed in.
    There are many astute observations of the human heart all over this page that could have been taken with a macro lens, proving how well you all can write about caution, fear and rage: “Moments later, in the next photo, Sean was looking up at Christy, exchanging a glance of something serious, complex” from Sandra.
    “Ground shaking like Hell is trying to get out. The light goes out in one eye but it sees more than the other” from Bill.
    “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 cue?” from Joe. Ouch!
    Michael Brown just made me laugh out loud with his perceptive vignette about the ubiquitous technology that can ruin people in one nanosecond. I really enjoyed this week’s collection.

  4. Back for the third time today – Kristine never fails to set my mind and my imagination soaring while I tease out multiple interpretations. Amy’s honest efficiency in observation is almost scary, and so well-matched to the prompt, as is, of course, Gita’s scenario played out in resonant dialogue.
    I held my breath throughout Bill’s tale, as vivid an image as any he’s done, and the last line gut-kicking. Joe’s piece was heartfelt and painful, and Michael’s had a very different sort of punchline.
    All excellent.

  5. Where to start?
    My plate was just too full to participate this week, and maybe that’s a good thing, since I’m not sure I could’ve met the bar set here. Is it my imagination, or are these getting better and better each week, like everyone is quickly learning to master the 250-word story? My favorite title this week is Gita’s play on words. My favorite piece is Amy’s because THAT is precisely how I feel when I’m out and about, whether on a city street or sitting in a tree in the middle of nowhere. But I really like the whole lot of ’em. It’s always a treat to see who’ll go where with the prompts!

  6. Nice snaps from different perspectives- really liked Bill’s earthy take

  7. I had to come back to say what a terrific Spot Paul has written. It has the smell of desperation all over it. And wow, what a photo!

  8. I read ’em as they come in throughout the week, but purposely avoid you all as I try to cobble something together during the last hours before posting, and I’ll tell you why I do it that way. It’s because as the weeks go by, I’m hearing my own voice, which to me sounds static, while you all are getting better and better, reaching dramatic new heights. Some of you may have the same feelings about your own work as I do toward my writing. I think it takes other eyes and voiced reaction to be made aware of our own development. Let me say, twelve weeks ago, being somewhat aware how busy and otherwise involved each of you were, I never expected this level of achievement from practically every member of HoW. I mean, I know you’re all good. I just thought most of you would not find the time to offer these remarkable pieces to our cause. We are building a monument here.
    Je suis heureux comme un poisson dans l’eau d’être membre de ce groupe.

    • I’m somewhat astonished to realise that it’s been twelve weeks, obvious when you look at the numbers, but this still seems a fresh new challenge, (currently the only one with prompts) and a much-anticipated weekly treat.
      Carry on swimming, mon ami!

  9. Apparently, the camera never lies and what it shows us is quite dark. Massive stories, peeps, looking forward to next week.

  10. To Michael: Static is a word I wouldn’t have thought to apply to your writing. You teach me something every week. I’d like to share something Sandra told me yesterday. It was advice given to her in the context of learning printmaking, but it is perfectly adaptable to writing. “When you start a story, the room is full of people, all wagging their fingers and telling you how to do it. One by one, they’ll leave until you are left in the room, on your own, to get on with it.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: