Archive for November, 2011

November 26, 2011

Spot 018: Stolen


by Paul de Denus

The mourners are stiff, like dead men awaiting graves, the chapel silent as the closed coffin. I lean into Reggie and voice just how much I think everyone has aged. “The years have not been good for some,” I say quite loudly, observing those hunched over in the surrounding pews. Reggie pokes me in the ribs with a crooked forefinger. “Shhhh,” she whispers, “you’ll wake the dead.”

We lean together under the arch of an ornate wall, next to a nook dancing red and black, the cast of votive flame. Around the chapel, familiar faces – buried under years of time – reveal themselves, old high school ghosts wavering just beneath the surface. We are here for ‘Denny G’ as in Dennis Gable, student voted “most likely to succeed” from our class of 1967.

Denny had been a success, a successful abuser and sadist attracted to the weaker students, those like Reggie and me. After school, he’d quietly graduated to keener sport. Animals disappeared from the neighborhood and then one day, two students went missing. Through the years, Denny went on to steal more lives; he was never caught.

“Here comes the prick now,” Reggie says. We stand and watch Denny climb shakily out of his coffin. What he took from us, we will never get back but there will be a reckoning.
“Time to pay,” I say, as Denny G shambles down the aisle, cold recognition in his eyes as he follows us out, down to a rightful punishment.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Kristine E. Shmenco

None slept. It was easier to get off your knees and go outside to look for survivors. Whoever remained was tended on dirt floors, wounds tied off with rags—the only thing left. No one looked a woman in the eye. No one asked and no one felt the need to speak. Who had the strength to speak (or listen) anyway? The well was checked again for bodies and for once didn’t appear to be tainted. No one looked up to see the sun struggling to rise behind pale curtains. All was blood in the water: Hovels. Fields. Stone walls. Holes in the ground waiting to receive.
The last time they came, they took everything that was metal. If it glinted or had weight it was stuffed in a sack or used to bludgeon anyone whose eye showed a little too much fight. This time they took everything that was wooden-made. There would be nothing left for them to take next time but their bodies, and there were precious few of them now that were slave-worthy. Yet feeding them, keeping them in rough clothes and alive, which was to their minds akin to health, this would become the Viking’s problem. The burden would be lifted from their fathers. Could one fare better in distant lands? No. It wouldn’t matter. Death is death wherever the body falls.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

“Yes, Professor, someone erased your equation.”
“Why would they do that?”
“Perhaps they stole the equation and hoped you would forget it.”
“But I did forget it. E=m something, I think.”
“Da, Si.”
“No, Professor, I meant ‘c’, the constant, speed of light.”
“Was the equation E=mc squared?”
“I told you already. I forget. Besides, I’m not so sure nothing is faster than the speed of light anymore. Could be neutrinos are faster.”
“You think a particle could be faster than a photon?”
“It doesn’t matter what I think, son. The only thing that matters is the truth.”
“The truth?”
“Yes, son, the truth.”
“Fuck the truth, Al, I wanted to know who stole your equation.”

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Bill Floyd

There is a clock at the heart of the world, and it is winding down. Man created the measurement of time, but not time itself. Time is proof of God, because nature bows to time. We are allotted a fleeting, infinitesimal begrudgement of moments, and then we are outside of time, dispersed, nanospurts in the inky black. Time is the most valuable of all possessions. I stole time from you. I stole with lies and I stole with laziness and now my time is at an end. The worst of all the sins I ever committed is the time I took away from you, watching your smile dim from that flashpoint to which there is no returning. Take my hand. The alarm is set.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Robert Crisman

Religion is passed off as DNA Gospel by Pharaohs and Pimps and all other Priests, their main tenet being, “A man is a man and a woman a woman, and never the twain shall meet—though when they do, the man rests on top.”

Babies unborn have that pounded into their heads via drumbeats unleashed by their mothers’ unease in the womb.

Kim and I reached for heaven, a chemical-spiritual eon away, our struggles made sticky by hellish ambitions, mine the desire to take my place among men in the Pharaoh’s Valhall, hers the deep need to have Beauty possessed, as treasure or pillage, though in this land where wealth is a hunger, the difference is surely semantic distinction.

Self-contradictions, those unavowed, mandate the donning of masks in the Passion Play, truly, yet flesh and blood dictate an honest accounting and death to all gods that pose in the mirror your vain hopes have fixed to the walls and the ceiling and floor.

A Theban elegy, Death of a Marriage, 3,000 BC: “A husband walks out the door to go get some smokes—in Memphis with young Nefertiti…”

I pillaged and walked out the door as fear and shame made a grab for my throat…

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.



by Grey Johnson

Wondering whether to use a tissue
the back of her hand
or her sleeve
She feels the leftover taste
of what once was warm and kind
and hides to wipe her lips
Thinking the next time she will turn her face
at the last second
to make it look like it was just an accident that
He missed her mouth

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

“State your name, rank and unit, please.
“Sergeant Ike Petrie, A-Company, First Battalion, Fifth Special Forces, sir.”
“What’s your military occupational specialty?”
“Three-hundred-F-one-Zulu-forty, sir.”
“And what is that?”
“Special forces medic, sir.”
“Why are you here, Sergeant??
“Sir, as a character witness for Sergeant Robinson.
“LeShay Robinson is a friend or acquaintance of yours?
“No, sir.”
“So…you treated him at sick-call, or something?”
“We don’t do sick call, sir, in-garrison medics do.”
“You have no connection to Robinson, but petitioned to testify!??”
“Sir, my connection’s obvious: I eat in his mess when I’m in from the bush.”
“So you know you’re eating stolen food?”
“Robinson’s charged with 32 counts misappropriation/diversion of government property and black marketeering–and you’re testifying to his good character!??”
“Absolutely, sir.”
“For a thief, Sergeant Petrie!”
“For selfless soldier, sir. He traded booze rations, even mine…stuff we didn’t need for fruits and vegetables we did, on the local economy. so we could be healthy when we got our asses shot-off. He did it –not for personal gain–for men who execute the missions, sir.”
“You aided and abetted with your booze-ration coupons?”
“And would, again, sir. Five-fifths of booze a month would kill me; Robinson kept me and the team healthy.”

I was fined $200 and busted-down a rank, the only green beret medic corporal in the army. Despite 14 years’ honorable service, SSG LeShay Robinson was reduced to buck private, sentenced to 10 years hard labor at Ft. Leavenworth, and dishonorably discharged.

[This actual event has been fictionalized and names changed. There were 43 enlisted men, like Petrie and higher, who testified as character witnesses in an effort to effect leniency in the courts-martial sentencing–J.G.]   See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Travis Smith

I was new in town, doing my best to start a new life. Today I tried “the other” coffee shop that was farther from my office. I settled in, taking a breath of the morning air, then she came. She was walking, mumbling to herself. No one else was paying attention to her. She saw me watching and turned from her slow walk. She was pretty, and well dressed, but I could see that something was not right.

“Stolen!” she yelled, quickening her pace, becoming visibly frantic. “Gone! No one will look. Please help me!” She stared into my face with unfocused eyes, clouded with a delusional craze, before spinning in a circle repeating her initial word, “stolen”.

Unsure what to do I smiled, “What was stolen?”

Her eyes locked onto mine once again and for a moment the haze cleared, “My baby, they took her. Please help.” Sadness filled her eyes and a tear rolled down her cheek. Then she stood and walked away, mumbling to herself again.

“Her baby wasn’t stolen,” the man at the next table said. “She died during childbirth and the mom lost it.”

I watched the woman for a moment, my own memories flooding over me. A tear rolled down my cheek as I recalled the pain of piecing a shattered soul back together. “Maybe so, but I understand. The baby took a part of her soul and until she finds that no one can hep her put it back together.”

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

David switched his phone off, took Susy’s phone from her and turned that off too.
‘Time for us …’
‘Christ, David, it’s not exactly quality time is it?’
‘No, but it’s our best chance so far. And I’ve waited long enough.’
‘Long enough? It’s barely four days.’
‘That’s at least three days too long.’

When Paul discovered that both phones were switched off his instinct was to return as quickly as possible, despite knowing that anyway it would be too late.

Unsurprisingly, he was monosyllabic with her. Equally unsurprisingly, she was silent, certainly not happy with her behaviour nor the effect it was having on him. Retreating to the bathroom she allowed herself, briefly, to cry. Wondered why.
Paul noticed her red eyes. Stopped what he was doing and stared at her.
‘Either he didn’t and you’re feeling rejected or, more likely, he did. So you are either regretting it now or it was crap. Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know, but I would appreciate it if you refrained from totally humiliating me and continued to behave as a wife while we are on this ship. Being cuckolded is, I am surprised to learn, just as painful even when it is pretence. Presumably because it reflects on one’s self-esteem. It is also ill-mannered and thoughtless. I hadn’t expected such behaviour from you, Susy.’

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

My director sat stony-faced, asking, “What was taken this time,” in a tone I found offensive and soon felt justified when she followed up with, “That’s another thing I don’t understand. In my whole life, I’ve never been robbed.”
Exactly, I thought, you are thirty-eight, and you don’t know how it feels, and yet you sit and pass judgment, ready to castigate the victim. In my forty-seven years in New York, I had likewise never been robbed. As the word trailed away my head was reviewing what else had been lost. At semester’s beginning she and I had seemed to have a rapport that now was a memory.
Admittedly, my ill-timed excursion to Seattle had made re-establishment of good graces nearly impossible, but I felt, too, the thieves had been responsible for the loss of more than just my dignity.
I noticed cracks running spines on every wall like a Batuz photo. Apparently to her the school was the be all and end all of her interest. I had a life, or rather, believed I had had one before my fourth robbery.
Perhaps I was still being naïve, but I didn’t think so. I would say to people after living in Mexico for ten years, I was beginning to know the drill, yet did not want to believe my adopted country was rife with the corruption everyone back in the States talked about.
Difference in our ages all too apparent that afternoon, she was unnecessarily bitchy, and I felt taken.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



Illustrations for Spot 018 adapted by Michael D. Brown.


November 19, 2011

Spot 017: Achilles’ Heel


by Elliott Cox

J leaned over and whispered, “What will we do, old man?”

80317 stared straight ahead, a grin across his cracked, deflated lips. “We wait for our turn. Then we stop waiting.”

Crack, a gunshot. Fwump, the sound like a full laundry duffel landing on a basement floor.

J said, “If we stay on our knees, we’re going to die. If we get up and fight…”

80317 turned his head toward J, his face serene with that grin pointing at his droopy eyes. Damn his stupid grin! “My wife, what a wonderful woman she was, my wife. Her eyes shined. Mmm-hmm. Honest and truly shined. Her worst moments, they shined.”

Crack. Fwump.

He licked his lips with a dry tongue. “Her harshest words came out soft, full of love they were. Hmm. Soft words. Calm and round as a morning dewdrop, yes. They were. Soft words.”

Crack. Fwump.

J looked down the line toward the sound of the crack, getting louder now. 80317 turned his head away from J, staring straight ahead again. “Four children she gave me, my wife. Oldest one, about your age I guess, was about your age, I guess. Couldn’t see very well, slow in the mind, he was. Happiest child I ever met.”

Crack. Fwump.

80317 watched the limp body two souls away fall to the ground. He turned to J, his grin gone, “You fight your fight.”

80317 looked straight ahead, put his chin on his chest and said, “Me?” He sighed. “I did what a man had to do. Fight your fight, kid, I’m going home.”

See Authors page for Elliott’s bio.



by Robert Crisman

On that lovely spring evening out on the Ave, with the sun going down in the west, Joey almost shone through the dirt and he had a bounce. The speedball he’d geezed no doubt brought some luster, but still.

Any minute, it seemed, he’d likely break out in a song… Rough Justice maybe; he loved the Stones…

He’d jumped into dope after Jeffrey his dead-of-AIDS lover, or so he told Rob, and that meant 20 years and…Jesus Christ! Most longtime junkies are bent, broken sticks, sucked up and silent. And Joey claimed he’d stayed fucking loaded the whole goddamned time.

Rob doubted that. No one stays loaded for 20 years straight, unless they are rich-rich, or else the finest cocksuckers this side of porn heaven. There are long days when a dopefiend can’t even find cotton to suck. His money gets funny. His dopeman got busted. The whole town went dry. Rob had no doubt that Joey’d been sprung the whole time. Just chasing the sack sucks you up, and most 20-year junkies look like they’re past dead on good days, at least on the street, and that’s where Joey called home, pretty much.

At three in the morning, alone in the bowels of some flophouse and dopesick, with life now defined by the scuffle for smack and the ever-there prospect of prison, and possibly death in an alley some night when the temperature’s headed toward zero, maybe his song came out different…

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

“They are strong, Sheik. They have a large military with global reach.”
“Everyone has a vulnerability, Said.”
“Theirs, I cannot see, Sheik.”
“List all their strengths. Therein lay their vulnerabilities.”
“They have the world’s largest economy, most productive workforce, most advanced weapons systems, strongest and most plentiful universities, fastest and most ubiquitous communications systems. I fail to see the vulnerability, Sheik?”
“Their Achilles Heel is in that list.”
Said crossed to the other side of the mountain and sat on his favorite rock overlooking the desert. A lone Bedouin riding a camel kicked up a plume of dust miles away. Said watched him as he cantered across the land. He was perfectly alone, wind blowing his robes in a whirl behind him. No harm would come to a lone Bedouin transiting such a vast wasteland, Said realized. A solitary figure makes a poor target, its quality diminished by its quantity.
But he might join others at a predetermined destination and suddenly their threat would multiply by a factor determined by their size and capability. Get them in one at a time, gather at the last minute and attack.
He needed a target; he wanted the whole population of their country to feel the heat of their anger. Their economy was large, true, but its financial center of gravity was in New York City. They weren’t accustomed to attack at home. They would be unsuspecting.
‘Infiltrate singly, strike en masse, and strike hard, without mercy.’ The seeds of a plan.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

‘You admit you know what’s been going on then?’
‘I admit to knowing most, not all of it …’
‘When did you find out, how did you find out?’
‘Within a month of them marrying … obviously if I’d known sooner I’d’ve put a stop to it, but I was in the States, had been there for nine months. I did ask her to delay the wedding until I got back, but … I didn’t realise then, of course, what he was like, otherwise I’d’ve certainly come back, contract or not.’
‘And then?’
‘And then people started contacting me. For money he owed, about things he’d done. Or not done.’
‘Did you ask him about them?’
‘You bet I did. He laughed, admitted it all and laughed. Said I had no choice but; knew he’d got me over a barrel.’
‘And so?’
‘And so I started finding out what I could, putting pressure on in places where it couldn’t be traced back to me. Rescuing some things …’
‘Like Scot Cruise?’
‘Yeah. He needed the money … and I saw it was a business with potential. I am a businessman after all!’
‘But your past doesn’t exactly bear investigation does it?’
‘I’ve never got involved in porn … and certainly never murdered anyone.’
‘And now you know there’s murder involved, will you help trap him?’
‘So long as it’s understood that I cannot and will not do anything that might put Eleanor – my sister – at risk.’

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

He loves what he sees: the blonde woman, alone.

A shimmering pageboy cut cups the sides of her face like the hands of God gently caressing her cheeks. She paces along side her Lincoln, which tilts on the side of the road, the angular hood up, signaling like a stiff erection. A glance in the mirror ensures the road behind is empty and he powers down the window. Her arms fold defensively across her chest; he slows and stops next to her.
“Need some help?” he says leaning over the passenger seat, his voice in steady certain control. He soaks in the glow of her pageboy crown, amazed the color matches his, a summer-surf tinting.
“Yes… I do,” she says, her eyes scanning his face with a cautionary curious once-over. Her crown wavers slightly as she steps back and he glides from his car. The words hum lightly about… lightly about… that head will go nicely in the basement freezer trophy case.
“Let’s see what we got here,” he says leaning over the hood.

He sees her step back, sees the mess of engine he knows nothing about, sees the sense made of his practiced story regarding the service station just down the road. What he doesn’t see is the tire iron swinging at his neck nor, later, the feel of her hand stroking his perfect blonde hair – a personal weakness – the so perfect shade that had until now eluded her growing collection.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Kristine E. Shmenco

“Mrs. Swanson! Are you guilty of the charges?”

“Course not!” she spat, as her husband threw a red flannel shirt over her head. The cops jostled him out of the way so they could stuff her in the car, red lights flashing and neighbors in every window.

“Mr. Swanson! Is your wife guilty of child endangerment?”

“Course not!” he said, trying to look brave and hating the lump in his throat.

“Sir, I’m Rod Nexus from MOD News. Will you take a few moments and tell us what happened?”

“Prolly shouldn’t talk to you without counsel, but I guess it can’t hurt to tell our side–if you’re going to tell it right, that is.” He stepped in close to make sure Roddy-boy got the message.

“If you’re suggesting I’ll report the story using a Redneck angle, you have my word I won’t. I simply want to tell your friends and neighbors’ the truth about what happened at a birthday pool party.”

“Well, we was in the house taking cookies out the oven, gone not five minutes, and I hear screaming. I run out so she don’t drop the cookies, and there’s two boys hanging my baby girl upside down in the pool. Says they’re giving her an Achilles heel so she can be immortal. The bitty next door seen it, called the cops and tells my wife she’s going down for child neglect. I’m taking my kids outta school for puttin’ this crap in their heads…”

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

In my twenties, I could be taken by an attractive face, handsome young men, strikingly beautiful women. I wanted so much to be liked by them, growing weak in the knees, desiring their attention. Aware of their beauty, they had other agendas. I’d be rapt, hoping in privacy that I had not obviously fawned. That was when I, too, held a degree of good looks and was in decent physical shape.
Later, in the 1980s, when we were all into ourselves, and after several disappointing relationships, I was most affected by people with obvious talents. If somebody could play a piano or guitar or sing well, he or she could easily win my heart. Artists of any stripe, like Paris with his bow, might shoot me from behind and I never felt taken advantage of, never minded being seen as a sycophant. Talent and ability, developed, were deserving of praise. That phase lasted some time.
I didn’t view myself as Superman, but he did have “powers and abilities far beyond mortal men,” and that indemnifying curl and square jaw with a cleft, so he bridged my two phases, and I wanted friends that reminded me of him.
In my dotage, intellectuals are my kryptonite. Talk to me smartly on any interesting topic, and I’m yours, if you want. If neither of us is worried about good looks anymore, so much the better. But, damn, don’t kill me with that ongepotchket attitude, oy vey! A person can only take so much.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Bill Floyd

The young starlet laughed right in his face. “Who is this old fossil?” she exclaimed, there in front of the director and the lighting people and everyone. “This some kinda fetish flick, or what?”

His mama had to hold him by something when she dipped him in that river, and she knew the story about the old Greek warrior, so she didn’t hold him by his ankle. No, she used a different handle, which became his closest ally, peaking asp, dripping venom, his legend and his renown.

Years ago, anyway. When he felt the wane he tried Viagra and the Pullman Method and tantric rehabilitations and finally even the lash. But all great heroes must finally bow.

“Action.” “Cut.”

Hell is a toothless fluffer and a camera with no battery power.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



Seattle illustrations for Spot 017 supplied by Michael D. Brown.


November 11, 2011

Spot 016: Candles Burning


by Bill Lapham

“See anything?”
“Not a fucking thing.”
“What’s that?”
“Tired, you know, low on energy, drowsy, exhausted, tired.”
“I was tired two days ago, man. This is beyond tired.”
“Your eyes are bloodshot.”
“My ears are bloodshot. I think my brain is bleeding.”
“When you think we might see something?”
“You gotta be fucking kidding me.”
“Right. How could we know that?”
“Now you’re cooking with gas.”
“I can’t keep my eyes open.”
“You’ll keep ’em open if I stick my fingers in ’em, you fuck.”
“Why you gotta be like that, man?”
“Keeps you awake.”
“I want to go to sleep.”
“Sleep when you die. And if you go to sleep on me, man, I’ll kill you. Problem solved.”
“You wouldn’t kill me, man.”
“Fucking try me.”
“I’m your friend, your buddy, your pal.”
“All three them fuckers be dead if you go to sleep, man.”
“Really? You ain’t tired?”
“I told you. I’m dog ass tired.”
“Dog ass tired?”
“It’s an expression a speech.”
“You mean a figure of speech.”
“Fuck you. Figure my ass.”
“You are cranky when you get tired, dude.”
“You sound like my ol’ lady.”
“I am your ol’ lady, what’re you talking about?”
“Shut up, man.”
“But I like talkin’ to you.”
“You ain’t my ol’ lady.”
“Say it, or you’re a dead man.”
“I ain’t your ol’ lady.”
“You see that?”
“That’s him.”
“Range: 1-400 meters. Wind: Left: 3.”
“I got him.”
“Range is hot, sergeant.”
“Target is down.”

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Kristine E. Shmenco

It was way past midnight and Nanci couldn’t sleep. She poured a whisky with a beer chaser, slumped at the kitchen window and watched Mr. Ruiz struggle with his Pontiac. Eighty-ninth Street was a helluva place to swap out a thermostat she thought and admired his tenacity. It felt good to be done grading papers for her professor, but the outline for her thesis was trash and she had to be up in three hours to open the store. She ran her tongue around the outside of the bottle, then blew across the top and smiled at the foghorn it made. She thought about quitting the store again but slammed the door on it. That was her sanity money—no way would she miss her pilgrimage to Rio. It was all worth it, she sighed, mostly believing it.
Lori heard the foghorn and shuffled into the dark kitchen.
“Hey cuz, sorry I woke ya.”
“Yeah. Can’t sleep, you know?”
“Why don’t you call in sick?” she yawned.
“Because, Miss ‘Up All Night Blogging And Ignoring The Laundry,’ there’s no way I’m calling in.”
“Nothing good comes of burning it at both ends. IMHO,” she said and shuffled back to her bedroom.
‘Tell that to Mr. Ruiz,’ Nanci thought and drank a toast in his honor.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

After an intentionally brutal workout, Jim bent to tie his wing-tips, already feeling stiffening soreness. He had to tell her tonight. Guilt was carving his insides like a blade separating cantaloupe from its rind.

Weeks before, lovemaking ended with the mutual disinterest of apathy. They lay on their sides, spooning in sleepwear in the master of their fashionable condo. Silence awaited his puncture, despite the gentleness of phrasing he’d rehearsed in the shower at the gym.

He sighed and slowly inhaled.

“Don’t.” Celeste whispered, “I know about you two…everything.”

He groped for the nightstand lamp. Celeste’s confident whisper was infused with clairvoyance-informed surety possessed by women with a cheating spouse.

“The first time Stephanie invited me up,” Celeste smiled, “she seduced me, too. We got crazy wild. We’re still lovers.”

With every muscle’s pained report, Jim untwined to right himself out of the bed.

“We watched videotapes I shot of you two from the closet,” she said, and mocked, “‘Oh puss-y-cat,’ you pathetically whined in one episode. We replayed that one over and over, howling with laughter, Jim!”

In shadows of a lamp-lit stare-down, Celeste rolled onto his pillow to deliver the quietus.

“Steffie leased the penthouse. She took a job in L.A. and I’m going with her…. You may want to start packing, because we leave, Sunday. And you can’t afford this place on your own.”

Jim gulped painfully, embarrassed she heard it.

“The couch is that way,” she pointed, retracting her arm to twist the lamp switch.

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

‘But ‘oh fuck it ‘ is what all these honeymoon couples are thinking right now isn’t it? You can sense it, all the bloody time, and I don’t know about you and Susy …?’
Paul shook his head
‘No, well, nor Alice and I, either.’ David grimaced, discontented.
Paul grinned. ‘No sleeping with lower ranks eh?’
‘No. Well, not entirely, sometimes it’s OK but not in this case, because she’s only just got promoted, is right at the beginning of her career and I don’t think it’d be a good idea, for all sorts of reasons. But surely that doesn’t apply to you and Susy?’
‘No. We just know that we don’t fancy each other. Never have.’
‘And that’s what’s stopping you?
Paul didn’t reply. David watched him for a moment then said ‘Which of you said they didn’t fancy the other?’
‘…I did.’
‘So as to stop her saying it first?’
‘Pretty much, yeah.’
‘So do you?’
‘Do I what?’
‘You’re protesting too much.’
‘Well, she’s far from repugnant …’
David snorted, ‘If that’s your idea of a compliment, I can see why you’ve never married.’
‘Did you? Marry?’
‘No. Doesn’t go that well with the job But you’ve changed the subject.’
‘From you and Susy.’
‘And you want to talk about Susy?’
‘Not talk about … more ask about …’
‘Ask what?’
‘You know fine well what.’
‘Then it’s her you need to be talking to, not me’

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

Von Oslin cannot put the pen down. He will not stop. The villagers who know him say at this pace, it will kill him. He hardly eats, never sleeps. He just writes. And writes. And writes. From his window, day and night, you see the candles burn. Some say he acquired a sickness, others say he is cursed. I know something different. He said he found what always eluded him. “The talent,” he whispered, his sunken eyes, black holes against the flame. “The talent… is mine.”

Von Oslin is the writer, scribing the town’s modest news and events. He is well respected but privately he wished for more. About a year ago, he left the village and traveled through the mysterious low country, near the dark mountains. I warned him to stay away. When he returned, he said he’d met a man who granted him a wish.

“I will give you the talent but you must write one million words before the rise of the winter’s moon.”
“What price is there to be paid?” Von Oslin asked.
“Your words are reward enough but you mustn’t stop. In exchange I will take away our old life and dispose of it.”

The words are the easy part. They flow and intoxicate like valley wine. It is what he is doing now, filling volumes of paper, gibberish strewn about his room. He is racing the moon. He understands that the moon will always rise and if he stops writing, he will die.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Gita M. Smith

“Honey, are you asleep?”
“Because, I want to tell you this idea I’ve been kicking around for a start-up. I think we have the capital to make this happen. Dear? You listening?”
“For once, I won’t have to ask Daddy for money. I made enough in the last quarter – after taxes of course, I won’t make THAT mistake again – so I feel sure we could swing this. I’ll call Ginny in the morning and see if she has the projected earnings. Guess what she said last night.”
“Dear? Larry? You listening?”
“wha? Whut time zit?”
“It’s… no, that can’t be right. Did you set the clock ahead instead of back? Let me get my cell phone.”
“Anyway, time isn’t the issue. I’m talking real possibilities, here. The economy is perfect for getting in on the ground floor. I bet we’ll get an IPO upwards of $20 per share! In fact, I’m going to call Ginny right now. I bet she’s still up.”
RING. RING. “You have reached the phone of Ginny McElmore. Please leave your message at the beep… BEEP.”
“Ginny? Hi, it’s Carley. I know it’s late but I’ve been doing some thinking and it’s looking better for an IPO than I thought yesterday, so can you work up the proposal asap and we’ll call the bank stat. Okay, call me when you get this.”
“Larry, honey, turn on your side. You’re doing the apnea thing. Larry? LARRY! You’re keeping me awake.”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

She tried to make the most of their hour every day. Their first thought was to cancel, not feeling the imperative the way she did. When she proposed moving the class one hour ahead, the way she said it sounded like a machine gun spitting out a threat they found funny enough to produce nervous laughter, but they knew they weren’t getting off easily. Half would show; half would claim prior commitments.
Her best student, the one who put in the most time and effort, she felt free to joke with and about in front of the others. Her own extensive overtime kept her from seeing how deep the cuts were, how they were scarring, how much his efforts cost. Unbeknownst to his peers, he had tried hanging himself twice and failed, he had tried gassing himself, but did not remember the bill had not been paid, and he reached the point of merely feeling foolish.
He was tired of working so hard to maintain equilibrium.
Finally, he succeeded with his estranged father’s luger, ostensibly left behind for his mother to protect the two of them from intruders. He lay on their living room floor about to reach nirvana while the red, red blood oozed from the wound above his heart, while in the classroom Miss H asked, “And where’s my prize student Jorge? I know he wouldn’t want to miss a reposition. Has anyone seen him today?”
And one of the wiseguys in the back called out, “Jorge who?”

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



Illustrations for Spot 016 supplied by Michael D. Brown.


November 3, 2011

Spot 015: Unwritten Rules


by Sandra Davies

Antagonism had escalated throughout the meal. Zoë had been put in mind of a couple of large dogs meeting in the street, suspicious territorial sniffing, noses then anus and bollocks, stiff-legged, tails upheld like … like mediaeval pikes, that was it. The ugly bloke a boxer, the other a longish-haired, what they called ‘yellow’ retriever perhaps? And neither wife up to firmly holding the leash, nor well-enough practised to have yet got them trained, for all they looked so competent, assured.
Bernard had feared that Zoë might have become even more intimidated by the naked antagonism of the two men, which had fast escalated into something only a whisker away from physical violence, before one of them stood up and dragged his wife away causing, throughout the dining room, a whirlpool of well-bred eyes to fast-avert, but her eyes were wide with shocked delight.
‘I didn’t know grown men – and they certainly are grown men aren’t they? – could behave so badly! What was that all about?’
He thought over the conversation. ‘It started with some remark about privilege didn’t it?’
‘Yes – True Blue soup spoons or something …’
‘And then, somehow, they got onto religion.’
‘Oh God, yes, that remark about two-faced fucking Christians!’
‘Which just goes to show they’re right to say you should avoid those topics at the dinner table’
‘Well, at least they didn’t get round to sex.’
‘No – but that was what they were fighting over.’

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

That’s nine balls in a row. Nine! I respond with my favorite gesture: Jesus splayed on the cross with burning mad dog eyes. The ump -Ray Charles- whips off his mask and glares back, mouthing words I don’t understand. Walter, my catcher has taken off his mask too and is calmly talking while nodding to me. I throw in a scream, “you like d’ balls very much azhole?” That gets the ump – Helen Keller – walking my way, allowing old coach Hardwick to move like a fever out of the dugout to head him off.

I don’t see the problem. In the country I come from, language is part of the game, the passion expressed. It is life! Without expression, there is nothing. The crowd seems to enjoy the performance. I listen to their cheers and jeers. The umpire – Stevie Wonder – is standing in front of the plate looking over coach’s shoulder and asking me what I said. “Your mowder enjoys the donkey,” I respond and flail my hand in a fisted pumping motion. The crowd erupts as the ump – Salvador Pena- returns the favor by giving me the out-of-here thumb jerk. He is from a country like mine and plays our game well. He continues to bark at coach Hardwick who has picked up the passion by arguing the strike zone. Nine balls for God’s sake! I’ll show him balls! The next two he sees will be mine, as I unzip and show him my striking pair.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

The trail went up for fucking ever. They put one boot down in the mud and tried to put the other one down just ahead of it. That way they made progress up the mountain up the mountain up the mountain.
Pounds of sweat would not evaporate. Under the noontime sun it was too hot for helmets and too dangerous without them. Shirts smotherstuck to their ribs; pants chafed the tender skin around their testicles. Sweat trickled down their legs and filled their boots. Wet socks made blisters.
Tynsdale hoped the guy on point was paying attention because he wasn’t.
A shot nobody heard bored a hole in a tree next to Carter’s head. He pulled a splinter out of his cheek and it bled.
Lucky bastard, Carter, Tynsdale said. Carter nodded.
The lieutenant decided to get off the trail, climb the mountain through the bush, hacking ahead inches at a time with machetes. The soldiers would be exhausted when they reached their objective but exhausted was better than dead.
We can sleep when we die, somebody said, but we ain’t dyin’ today.
He was wrong. He was always wrong.
The last thing Tynsdale heard was a metallic click. The last thing he saw was white. The last thing he felt were his legs going wobbly and the last thing he smelled was cordite.
Half the platoon spent hours retrieving the pieces of Tynsdale while other half provided perimeter security because they understood, the rule was: nobody gets left behind.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Kristine E. Shmenco

You recognize them. You know what they are when somebody trespasses on them. In my 15695 days of living, the occasional fool comes along and says the unspeakable and breaks the unwritten rules.

When a kid does it we slough it off because they’re still learning the rules. “Mommy, you’re THAT old?” Your insides grit a little and you chuckle and pat junior on the head and hope nobody’s looking too hard for liver spots and smile lines, never mind the crow’s feet. Or, “Mommy had a little accident with wine so she’s not feeling very good this morning,” you hear your dear one tell his grandma. Now there’s a gut clencher if ever there was, and you wish everyone was old enough to zip it and stick to the unwritten rule: Thou shalt not discuss thy hangover for it makes thy shame multiply.

Grownups (also known as spouses and partners) definitely know the rules, but once in a while they cross the line. DON’T ask the question if you DON’T want to hear ‘It’s winter and I don’t HAVE to shave my legs if I don’t wanna, or until it’s time to wear SHORTS, whichever comes first!” Hopefully our partners never cross this line: “Put that pizza down, I thought you said you were on a diet?”

But we, in our infinite wisdom and grace, would never break the unwritten rules. We’re perfect, after all.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Travis Smith

The old woman sat on a box in front of a rusted metal door. She watched as one of the roving gangs crashed through the gates and listened to the screams as they moved through the compound.

The law had forsaken the deepest parts of the city. That’s not to say they didn’t have rules. They were just enforced in different ways. The more law-abiding residents tended to police themselves. Most of their laws dealt with loyalty to their communities. Steal from your neighbor and you would be thrown out. It was that simple, and here in the depths getting thrown out was not good.

Outside the isolated communities the gangs ruled, roving in groups terrorizing anyone they found, occasionally attacking one of the communities. There were no laws for them, might made right, but even they knew to follow certain rules.

The gang moved quickly, intent on getting out with what they could before a defense was mounted. One stopped as he ran towards the gate, looking at the box the woman was sitting on.

“No, leave the old woman alone,” another yelled, but he was already moving, crude sword slashing at her. His arm jarred to a stop as her thin hand, moving faster than he could see, caught the blade. Her head cocked to the side as she stared at him, unblinking eyes reflecting like mirrors. He didn’t try to pull his sword free, just turned and ran, his screams added to the chaos.

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



by Gita Smith

Her husband said to meet him at a diner. He was a middle-aged tugboat on swollen ankles. He’d come with an attitude. Cuckolds always do. They never consider why their wives go looking elsewhere for pleasure.
“Jesus, how old are you?” he asked.
“That’s a boring question,” I said.
His eyes were kidney beans wrapped in dough.
“I mean, if we’re talking numbers, how much do you weigh? That could figure into this.”
“Listen, you,” he snarled. “Who the fuck do you think you are?
“Sorry pal,” I said, “you only get one question here at the exit interview corral. The answer’s 26.”
I remembered my first exit interview: he was some shitbird lawyer who’d found my number behind the visor in his old lady’s Lexus and demanded a meet-up: Saturday morning, Country Club.
Husbands come to these meets all bowed up for a bush-pissing contest. That’s the only playbook they know.
But I don’t play by those rules. I showed up in full androgyny theater: high-heels, eyeliner, leather.
Shitbird’s eyes went neon. “What the hell was your number doing in my wife’s car?”
“She must have put it there.”
And then I split.

If the guy wants to fix things, he should be asking wifey. Not me.
And if he’s asking wifey questions, there’s only one to ask.
Not, “who’s this guy?” Or “how long have you known him?”
The only one that matters, the one she wants to hear is, “How can I make you happy?”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

“Does this dress make me look fat?”
“Do these pants make my ass look big?”
“You wouldn’t want me to not be on birth control, wouldja Dad?”
“Isn’t my mother’s meatloaf delicious, honey?”
“These shoes were $299 but I got them for only $179! Aren‘t they cute!?”
“My parents have invited us to go to the cabin with them for 10 days. Isn’t that exciting?”
“See, Dad? Brendan’s piercings were’nt as bad as you thought thought, were they!”
“What do you think about going out and looking for some new furniture for the living, dining and family rooms?”
“I like me with a perm! What do you think?”
“If I took golf lessons, do you realize how much more quality time we could spend together, honey?”
“So how many women have you slept with?”

“Chapter III – In Decades 3-4“, from Rudiments of Man-Law: “There cometh a time to practice for the inevitable, to quelleth change of facial expression, to knoweth when a prevarication sinneth not, and to recognizeth when one must standeth on thy lips with the boot-strength of a thousand armies, all ye appendaged with penises.”

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

When we first lived together, Amy would wear my unused tops and I the bottoms; I had six pairs. On good nights, we went to bed without arguing and would watch a comedy before dropping off early. We had killing jobs then, she as an insurance broker, and I as amanuensis to an alcoholic writer (I’m not going to mention his name, but you’d recognize it if I did). On other good nights, if she came out of the bathroom in a negligee, I’d discard my bottoms, slide naked under the covers next to her, and there would be no television.
One night, after having traded barbarous words then experiencing silence for an hour, she exited the john with a scowl that begged not to be questioned, and was wearing her own cotton pajamas, top and bottoms. The TV stayed off, with no Friends in evidence. Although next morning we were speaking civilly again, lunched together that afternoon, and an incident appeared to blow over, nevertheless, a rule had been established.
Amy worked at four different firms in the following years before opening a small advisory business of her own. Apparently, too beautiful for some codgers to resist making a play, when she became agitated, I would randomly be subject to the rule. After the drunk died, and I began writing my own as yet unpublished books, randomness was removed. Television has not been watched in months, and I haven’t felt silk or lace in I don’t know how long.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



All illustrations for Spot 015 supplied by Michael D. Brown.