Spot 018: Stolen

 

NO RETURN
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.

 


 

THRALL’S BANE
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.

 

 

STEALING SPEED
by Bill Lapham

“Erased?”
“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.”
“C?”
“Da, Si.”
“No, Professor, I meant ‘c’, the constant, speed of light.”
“Oh.”
“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.

 


 

GEOLOGIC TIME
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.

 


 

A HYMN FOR THE AGES
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.

 

 

KISS
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.

 


 

MILITARY MISAPPROPRIATION
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?”
“Sir??”
“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.

 

 

REAL AND IMAGINARY
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.

 


 

THEFT TAKES MORE THAN THE THING ITSELF
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.

 


 

TAKEN
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.

 

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4 Comments to “Spot 018: Stolen”

  1. There is only one word for this superbly rich collection. And that is ‘chilling’, without exception.
    Clearly they responded to your plea Michael, in spades.

  2. This a really exceptional mix of pieces this week. The variety of styles is always great to see in these pieces.

  3. a great response to Michael’s request- impressed by Grey’s poetic piece

  4. Paul, thank you.

    Bill F’s piece had a hint of longing and regret that I found moving. Kristine’s historic/end-of-the-word post was entertaining and imaginative. So much good writing from all. Thank you, Michael.

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