Archive for December, 2011

December 31, 2011

Spot 023: Looking Back

 

THE FOG OF WAR
by Bill Lapham

With all the lucidity of retrospection, it was simple to see how the proceedings of the day fashioned the outcome that they did, but when one is in the midst of the mayhem, playing a vigorous role in theatrical production that is life on Earth, participating in the associations that contribute to basic human survival from one moment to the next, it’s difficult to distinguish safe routes from hazardous ones let alone predict and comprehend the terminal state of affairs, or the consequences of them on future conditions.

In other words, things had gotten pretty screwed up over the course of the day, and though I should have see it coming—the end result, I mean—I couldn’t, because I was involved, to say the least. Had I been a fly on the wall, an observer rather than a participant, a spectator instead of a player, maybe then I could have predicted the results with some accuracy. But as it was, I couldn’t, and we would all end up paying the consequences.

Chalk it up to the fog of war, dammit.

The “if onlies” have been driving me crazy. If only I had done this, or, if only I had done that—anything but what I did do, none of this would have occurred and we could go on living the comfortable life to which we had grown accustomed. But such was not the case. Never again would we return home to relax with good friends and cold beer. Shit.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

NO LAUGHING MATTER
by Paul de Denus

“You want the no onion?” the man with the odd accent said and repeated, the inflection pinging through the tinny drive-thru box. Julia buried her giggling face in the sleeve of her sweater, unable to order. Jaddock leaned toward the speaker, soundlessly howling, managing ‘yes… un… yuns… pleeease.’ “Geez Dad,” Julia said, after leaving the pickup window, “you know once I start, I can’t stop.”

Looking back, it had always been like that, out of control laughter, set off by the most innocent event. Even after eighty years, Jaddock still got a kick out of it. It didn’t take much to set his daughter off and she erupted again when Jaddock blurted out a comic “O…H… D…EER!!!” Through wet eyes, Julia saw it too late. A deer stood in the curve of the road. She swerved helplessly and launched the car quietly over the edge into the ravine.

That was three days ago; there was no laughter now. Julia leaned silent in the driver’s seat, a crumpled paper doll propped against the window. A deep ugly crevice marked her once beautiful mouth. It smiled blankly back at a clicking maw… a wolf’s black mouth relentlessly snapping against the thin glass. Jaddock lay wedged between the backseats, flat palms pressed over his ears. “Wolf’s at the door,” he whispered to no one.

Thinking about it now, stopping for lunch had been a mistake. “Weren’t even hungry,” Jaddock said. “Am now.” An insane giggle escaped his throat as he stared into the wolf’s gray eyes. “Ready for my order?”

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


 

LOOKING BACKWARD
by Sandra Davies

I’m looking back at Christmas 2011, family familiar, warmth and laughter. Lots of chat and conversation, sometimes light and sometimes deep. Much amusement, easy, references and asides, long-held, oft-repeated phrases, well-worn jokes.
Music, food and drink, lights in the darkness, consideration and forethought.
I’m looking back, I cannot remember specifics, just the residue of family warmth.
The previous year was shrill and squealing, granddaughters’ excitement, and a far more fractured allocation of attentions.
Further back when my children were younger we had more to do, were a little less relaxed as we entertained the grandparents, but were responsible for the creating of traditions.
Such traditions required compromise – as a child I had a stocking, homemade, which always contained an orange and a shiny penny along with several small toys. He, my children’s father, had a pillowcase with all of his presents in it.
Earlier still when I was aged about three, I recall standing in the house we shared with my paternal grandparents, my eyes somewhat below table height, the underneath space filled with wrapped presents, and a similar quantity piled on top. How true this recollection I do not know, but it is my earliest Christmas memory.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


 

YOU DON’T KNOW THE DREAM YOU LEFT ME HOME WITH ALL ALONE
by Michael D. Brown

I was crushing some buds to roll a doobie. The little stalk of dried white flowers had me perplexed. I’d never seen flowers in the previous batches. Someone had tried stretching the grass, the way cooks use Hamburger Helper, but I continued because without the adulterant there wouldn’t have been a decent sized joint. Then Ada sidled over and asked, “Would you guys like to smoke something real?” When she pulled out a tightly packed number from her purse my first thought was to enhance what I had, getting two workers out of the combination, but Dave snatched and lit it immediately. “You see how he is, never thinks of others?” But he passed it; I inhaled deeply, and was hit. Suddenly three faces were in a close triangle and the joint went from mouth to mouth before Ada kissed him. They were sucking face for a moment or two before moving in on me. At first I felt nothing but stoned. Then, after closing my eyes, I became aroused. In the back of my mind, I thought it strange how Dave was able to clearly say, “Let’s go to the movies,” in the midst of heavy tongue action. Upon awakening, feeling my own darting from side to side in my mouth and seeing the two of them sitting back chatting, I felt foolish. My pot smoking days are way behind me, and I don’t even like these two, but know that all dreams signify in one way or another.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

No illustrations provided for Spot 023

 

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December 24, 2011

Spot 022: Home / Not Home for the Holidays

 

CHRISTMAS PUNCH
by Sandra Davies

“Baby’s First Christmas” is proclaimed by a handful of over-sentimental cards. Competing grandmothers have invested far too much expectation of entertainment from a six-month old girl child who sleeps for much of the day, and whose comprehension of the day’s significance is nil. A dwarfing, bad-taste teddy bear earns my silent condemnation, while the welcome gift of ‘Beggar’s Banquet’ provides an apt but far too muted soundtrack, which at least partially rescues the day from total apathy for our respective, bored witless younger brothers – their first Christmas as uncles.

The Christmas punch, of dodgy home-made wine enlivened by dregs of various unwise holiday-purchased liquors (although not, I’m fairly sure, the Angolan whisky which we’d used to clean the drains) is most enthusiastically received by respective mothers-in-law; its kitchen conversation tongue-loosening effect on them ought to have been more educational:

“I don’t know why but he never seems interested these days.”

“You’re lucky – I wish I could say the same.”

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 

 

WAILING AT THE END OF A CHAIN
by Bill Lapham

December 23rd and we couldn’t reach the pier. We couldn’t go forward or back. We were at anchor in the harbor, stuck in a fog so thick you couldn’t see either end of the boat from the middle, blasting the ship’s whistle at random intervals not to exceed two minutes in accordance with the rules of the road.

You could press your ear against the pressure hull of a nuclear-powered submarine making steam and you would hear nothing of the operations and conversations going on inside. A nuclear reactor making pressurized water more than two and a half times hotter than you can make in an open pot on your stove, flashing pure water into superheated steam, spinning giant turbines to make electricity enough to power Des Moines, running air compressors to blow through the whistle, illuminating hundreds of lights for humans to see in a hermetic tube, making food for the anxious men of the crew, all wondering if Santa Claus will get laid before they do.

Home for the holidays? We were home, all right. And we weren’t. We had been at sea for months, and now were so close to the pier I could hit a golf ball from the missile deck to the bollard standing erect to receive our mooring line, but we couldn’t narrow the gap safely.

The whistle was loud, one-hundred pound air releasing through a metal venturi. Over eight thousand times we heard it. Two days of wailing at the end of a chain.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 

 

KNIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
by Paul de Denus

Man, this midnight Mass is a pain. It’s way too hot in here… like serving in Hell. I can see Father Malinfant at the head of the procession, arms bent, hands up as if describing ‘the big one that got away on his fishing trip’… he’s reading a passage from the big missal Pierre is holding… I wish he’d hurry it up ‘cause this crummy candle with the drippy wax is as heavy as a cross and my arms are about to drop.

Gordy Cannon is wiggling something awful. He told me before mass he’d had apple pie at dinner and now I can tell he’s fighting the crabapple quicksteps… Jesus, he just oinked an F Major through his cassock… throats are clearing and there are quivering shoulders in front of me… God if they laugh out loud… oh shit, it’s my demented sister sticking her big head out into the aisle looking back with her big moon face… man if she says anything, I’ll pound her… please Jesus, start the goddamn music… wait… the lines moving forward again.

God, I want to get home, get out of this heavy red robe and surplice and into pajamas and light off to bed. Santa’s on his way… man I’m so excited! I’ve been pretty good this year. I bet Santa can’t wait to get home either after all that crazy traveling. I wonder if he has to go to Mass? God will give him a pass. What a lucky guy.

author note: Altar boys were known as Knights of the Altar. See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 

 

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
by Michael D. Brown

I am tortured by the idea of belonging at home with family. Meant to desire this above all, for traveling salesmen, soldiers stationed overseas, students in schools far away from where they were raised, returning to a safe harbor provides reassurance of love and security, an anchor outside the world of disappointments and failure. On the other hand, coming back to be reminded of the same occurring growing up amidst a dysfunctional family comprising disparate personalities that have succumbed to dependence on untrustworthy support can be as disorienting as being adrift in a country of strangers.
When I died, I had undergone a sixty-forty sagacity of release to freedom mixed with wrenching separation from the only sense of reality any of us have heretofore been able to relate. On the living side were the feeling of always having been a disappointment to my parents who only had enough room in their hearts for each other, the exhausting pain of the cancer eating me up from inside, and the guilt of abandoning my emotionally unstable younger sister to the vicissitudes of a life she had forever appeared unable to deal with. Beyond the threshold lay promises of never again having to strive for approval, deliverance from agonizing torment, and belief that left to develop inner strength, Emily would thrive and prosper.
But she did not, she calls me back most desperately at the end of each year, and I am unable to find peace in the void or among the survivors.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

NO, THANKS.
by Gita M. Smith

We were invited to five parties last year. The Nethertons were hosting an open house wassailing party to which one would arrive, drink copious whisky-nogs, laugh at George’s bad jokes, and leave. The Olssens’ buffet offered the same horrors every year, the least of them being a kim-chee-smelling fish paste. Barney and Arnie, across the hall played two Elvis Christmas CDs all night long in rotation and their egg nog was so sweet that it made your pancreas scream for mercy. You sister’s party left you in a sweat because she invited your previous two husbands and their wives just for bonhomie, to show she had no hard feelings. And your college roommate’s bash, which fell on one of the holy days – Michaelmas of Thomas-mas – was a sorority reunion complete with vicious in-the-kitchen gossip.

This year, my darling, you are gone, and I have not even found the energy to open Christmas cards. They are still lying on the floor inside the front door where they slid from the postman’s hand.

The phone has been ringing. I hear the messages on the machine inviting me to parties. But I refuse to budge.

If ever a man could say he’s glad of one thing after becoming a widower, I can say that at long last, in this season of peace on Earth, I’ll finally get some.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

 


 

Christmas decorations for Spot 022 supplied by Michael D. Brown.

 

December 17, 2011

Spot 021: Peace in the Midst of Turmoil

 

AN OBSERVATION
by Nicole E. Hirschi

I find that all I seem to be doing is bitching, about being behind at work, about my divorce not being finished, about not writing, and not as loudly, about my need to change who I have become. I never thought myself a narcissist, at least not until recently, and now that’s all I’m able to see.

I look for peace in all my turmoil of life, but in looking harder and harder for it, I know I’m missing it. Looking, but never seeing, reading, but not between the lines, searching, but never finding – and it all has my mind in a chaotic state.

I’m coming more to terms with myself only to find that I no longer like who I am, and I’m confused. Who am I, and who do I want to become? Will I change but unknowingly hold on to my narcissism and other bad habits? What parts of me am I willing to change and which parts am I not? I haven’t yet decided.

No one holds the old skeleton key to ornate treasure chest containing the answers anymore; it’s long been buried in the unknown desert sands of time. Alone and desperate, I know, it’s a waste to shed tears over my personal disgrace, but I will put my glass up and drink to acknowledging my years of failure, and wonder if anyone ever truly finds peace in this life.

See Authors page for Nicole’s bio.

 

 

PEACE TALKS
by Paul de Denus

My job is simple: keep the peace. I will be the moderate voice of tolerance. Yelling, cursing, hair pulling, eye poking, food throwing, gravy spilling, spitting, dead-eye staring, index finger across throat, and utensil wagging will be reviewed and most likely denounced. There is one unbreakable rule: nobody dies unless of course someone has a heart attack or gets food poisoning. Let me clarify, food poisoned on purpose! I am here at the head of the table orchestrating the big event, the family Holiday dinner. I’ve already cribbed my notes. Keep Aunt Rene away from Aunt Clara at all costs. Intertwining cheating husbands is a complicated matter and will not be resolved this year. Seat Uncle William next to his brother Carl, as they will spend the whole evening safely discussing sports and not attempt to hit on my girl Shelly, she with the double D wardrobe. Keep my sisters Margaret, Sonya and Beth out of the kitchen. There are too many utensils and moving appliances to issue a ‘safety zone’ designation. Place Shelly D, (she with the double D wardrobe) between Rodney and Carson. Perhaps they can discuss fashion tips. All children will be sequestered in the living room with the flat screen and video games. Uncle Louie – who is a sometimes lawyer – has told them that should they misbehave, he will personally issue a restraining order against Santa from visiting the house. Ahhh, I see glassy-eyed Clara reaching for the gravy boat. Time for a toast.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


 

WEDDING NIGHT
by Sandra Davies

And then, as she had done so many times before, she grasped the hem of her dress, pulled it up and over her head, so that it was inside out, turned it the right way round, folded it lengthways and laid it on the chair before climbing onto the bed. He saw that he had guessed right – she had worn nothing underneath all day.
He had lit the large oil lamp which stood on the low chest beside him, and now was overwhelmed by the softness of its light, and of her in it. She was totally relaxed, leaning back against the new cotton of the pillowcase, whose right-angled, straight-out-of-the-packet folds were sharp enough to cast shadows. Her hair was gathered on her shoulders or fell behind her back, save a strand which reached below her breast. Her right foot was tucked under her left leg which was extended, soles of both feet a little grubby, hands lay loose on her thighs, fingers interlinked, palms upturned, peaceful, content and calm.
Without a mark on her skin, as if she was, once again, simply posing for him.
Not a mark.
Unblemished.
Unbroken.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 

 

F3
by Bill Lapham

I remember that day.
I was on my hands and knees pulling weeds in the garden. Fucking hot, it was. Sweat dripped off my nose and made mud spots in the soil. When my tee shirt got wet, I took it off and wrung the water out of it, put it back on so I wouldn’t burn up in the sun.
Most of the neighbors weren’t home, had gone to work, or shopping. Mrs. Canfield, who lived next door, she was cleaning candle stick holders down at the church, spending time with that new priest she liked.
Me? I live alone. Been that way my whole life. Like it that way, nice and quiet.
The sky got dark real fast that afternoon. The clouds looked like a swirling brew of hot lava, deep purples, blue and black, flashes of lightning. There wasn’t much rain but the wind blew like a mother scorned and everything not tied down flew.
The freight train sounded too close, the tracks were on the other side of town. I thought it must have been some kind of sound channel bringing it in the wind. I didn’t realize until later that it was the wind. Trees bent and broke. Branches crashed on houses. A roof flew like a Frisbee. Bikes and picnic tables and bricks and kiddy pools.
I laid flat on the ground, stuck my face in the dirt, tried to bury myself. Whatever it was, passed right over me, left me laying there, wondering.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

‘TIS THE SEASON
by Michael D. Brown

I believed I was running dry. This post itself was very late getting to the page. Prior to Sandra’s rescue effort, I hadn’t a clue as to appropriate accompanying images. I had hoped if I left these things open, something might come along, and am grateful. The year ends and it feels as if the Spots might do as well. Should properly just post the pieces that have been sent my way, but I had a perfect record along with Bill and am reluctant to admit defeat.
Feels like plenty of turmoil going on at the moment, but I don’t wish to bore anyone with the details, besides, I have done already several times, and this is the season to be jolly. I wrote thousand-word essays, so it’s not a block. It’s too bad this piece has no peace to share.
I think of going on hiatus until the new year, but there’s no guarantee my muse will return from holiday ready, and able to kick into fiction. And, I am afraid if I lie low for too long others will lose interest and stop sending all those marvelous stories. Could be I’m not ready to write about peace in the midst of turmoil because my life is not tumultuous enough, and I exaggerate my discomfort. But I have to say, these last few weeks have been murder on my self-esteem. Surely, I survived with a smile, but I never convinced myself that it was more than a facial contortion.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

Illustrations for Spot 021 generously provided by Sandra Davies.

December 10, 2011

Spot 020: Playing Catch Up

 

WILTED
by Gita M. Smith

The Habitat for Humanity foreman left a message in a harried voice. The house on Oakshire was completed, and the moving-in ceremony was a week away. When would I get over there and seed the lawn?
I used to volunteer my landscaping services to Habitat so that the newly-built modest houses would not sit on scraped-flat, red clay yards. I begged bedding plants and shrubs from nurseries in the area – hydrangeas and azaleas for shady lots or Indian hawthorn for sunny ones. I ordered grass from Gustafsson’s Seed and Feed and guilt tripped them out of materials to brighten up the Habitat homes’ front walkways.
Year in and out, I and a dedicated crew of Master Gardeners would improve the properties of people who had never owned a home before, who’d always lived in government housing or run-down apartments.
They did not understand about watering their emerging grass and flowers every day in the baking Alabama summers.
Often, I would revisit a house a year after a family had moved in only to find everything crisped and the yard reverted to eroding red clay.
I tried running back and forth among the many houses to teach the new owners to care for the plantings. Most often, there would be a small blue wading pool and a small chained dog where the garden had been. I exhausted myself and finally quit. There’s no way to catch up with – let alone get ahead of – a constant, merciless August sun.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

 


 

SECRET SANTA
by Michael D. Brown

A malaise has settled over my days and nights, and I know surely as God kills all His little green apples the safest way I have of wading through is attempting to gather up minutes and make them count for something I value. I would be shitting you if I claimed satisfaction from the seventy-six percent of how I usually function, the part for which I get paid. Women I greet every day are impediments to my progress, except for the psychologist with whom I smoke, and I am her secret Santa. The men are clowns in business suits smarting under negligible parlance. Not one could discover the ass end of an adjective clause, nor do they care what it does to a sentence. Everyone laughs at the slightest provocation, but it’s a hollow, empty sound drifting down a lunchtime hallway, bouncing off locked doors. I often wonder what we lock them against. But, then, small pieces of equipment have gone missing, yes, even in this school y ambiance.
I am thirty-five days behind in prompted paragraphs, and nearly sixty years late in attaining any kind of equanimity. As usual, I am probably being a bit foolish in thinking the holidays will provide working space and a chance to make good. But here’s the thing, at the moment, dragging around my tarnished star, that little hope is all the polish I can muster. Asked what I intend for the break, I tell them travel but don’t say I’m going home.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

SAY IT AIN’T SO
by Bill Lapham

It was a small town, but it had a bookstore and that attracted my attention. I walked in with intention to browse having no particular book in mind to add to my collection. The place smelled like a bookstore, fresh ink on new paper, coffee brewing, pastries. A low hum of communication, like a library, but without the suffocating totalitarian administration.

I passed by the new releases. Big books with hard covers that are hard on the hands and wrists to hold for hours. But they look nice, they look substantial and inviting, like something I’d like to own, just not at that price.

I strolled deeper into the store. I could see an overhead sign that said, “Literature/Fiction.” That seemed right, stuck as it was between “Science-fiction” and “Poetry.”

Four young men in their mid-teens, I’d guess, were holding a quiet conversation at the sci-fi end-cap. The one who was talking was bigger than the others, by a large margin. The others were paying strict attention, enthralled.

All I heard was an emphatic, “Dude, it destroyed four star-systems!”

So many thoughts ran through my head. What kind of weapon could do that, ‘destroy four star-systems?’ Was it a weapon, or a black hole? Why hadn’t I heard of this powerful force before? How much catching up did I have to do to know as much as this teenager did about such an incredible force?

What the hell is a ‘star-system?,’ and how many are left?

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

CATCHING UP ON THINKING TEN
by Sandra Davies

Thanks to Travis, Thinking Ten prompts begin again and faced with the three words “They started rolling” I had ten minutes to think of something to roll, to create something that would turn into a story, something that would be read and enjoyed by others.
Barrels? Beer or for storing whisky in – a pleasantly odorous memory of the huge dimly-lit store at the Highland Park distillery, dates stencilled on their ends and always mention of the ‘angel’s dram’. Pastry? Too domestic, colourless and boring. Easter eggs? I’ve never rolled them – too fearful of them breaking and me losing my full share of the chocolate.
Change focus. Think of something less obvious, something perhaps only I would choose to write about. After all, we do have our individual ‘bents’ – Kerry, the crab boat, Bill, his war time stories —what do I have that could be rolled? (Apart from the flesh round my belly about which we will not speak here and now, if you don’t mind.)
Ink. I am a printmaker and printmakers roll ink. And so to the opening three words I added “ink” and went from there. I put my mind in gear and it flowed, as easy as well-warmed Charbonnel, alas no longer used by me being oil-based and far, far too messy, but its smell was one to get high on.
As I got high, realising that it didn’t take long to catch up with the ability to spin a tale in ten.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


 

THE NUMBER 47 ON SANSOME STREET
by Paul de Denus

I’m finally done… all caught up getting the affairs in order, the funeral arrangements settled, flowers and cards, contacting friends and family. It’s been such a whirlwind; I’ve barely had time to think.

We had planned to go together but you left too soon. I guess that bus barreling down Sansome had its own plan. It was an accident the police report said – the bus behind schedule, wet pavement and the driver in a hurry. It had been raining. You were wearing that lovely black London Fog raincoat and that canary yellow scarf around your hair; how could he not have seen you? The impact knocked you right out of your shoes.

I come here often and sit on the warm bench, right where the accident happened. Everything was taken away that day, in that instant, our forty-seven years together… gone. You were my life. We had planned to grow old together… planned to die together. Now here I am left behind.

As I said, I’m all caught up getting the affairs in order and I’m ready now. I can hear it. The old number 47 barreling down Sansome. The engine roars as I stand up. Across the street, I see you, barefoot and waving, your hair draped in a yellow glow. I can hear the hiss and squeal of brakes and I smile. I step out.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


Illustrations for Spot 020 still on order.


 

December 3, 2011

Spot 019: Smoke and Mirrors

 

UNDILUTED
by Michael D. Brown

How did my clock become adept at sleight of hand? Midnight chimed yet instantly, I noted the italic el of three-o-five. What the hell! The truth in two-hundred-fifty words stared from my laptop’s screen. It could have been taken as libelous, were it not for how my rant nailed our situation in currency. Typed by a dervish, but with immediate editing, a chunky paragraph remained.
Some think I am on top of my game. A few believe I am under it, while most do not offer opinions as to me or my performance. It isn’t magic by any stretch—just a chain of commodious idioms, dull observations effected in deft movements. Alone I worry over taking the front or back seat, but in the heat of the moment, I will almost always step forward and sing loudly. One should never hesitate when it comes to that because you can convince yourself all is hackneyed, trite, and too, too familiar given the bad air. And, too, no reward is forthcoming.
Can complaints become art; does libel entertain; is the Pope catholic when he is on his private throne? Go with your first notion, I advise. I often discover the correct response corrected into negativity, and it distresses me to carry disowned points away from the stage. Do you have any favorites? There’s a tune I’m sure you haven’t heard in a long time. Give me ample space with that last one tucked away, and note, please, I have nothing up my sleeve.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

PARLOR GAME
by Gita M. Smith

Gallantry was his forte. That and a charming total recall of faces and small details that women confided while slow dancing at parties. The second time he met a woman, he’d lean in and whisper, “You are wearing Obsession tonight. I thought White Diamonds was your scent,” or some version thereof.
The woman would be utterly captivated — and utterly sure he was smitten with her. Who else but a suitor would notice her perfume?
It was his favorite parlor trick.
One spring evening, at a party for the Italian ambassador, he was standing by a stunning Eurasian woman in teal blue taffeta. They had met once before (La Scalla-November- intermission-Puccini), and he opened with, “Have you been to the opera since we last spoke?”
She registered no surprise, saying, “I see you have given up horn-rimmed glasses.”
He bent to her beautiful shoulder and murmured, “And you are still wearing Fleurs-du-Rocaille.”
Brushing her lips over his ear she countered, “And you still like Vetiver by Creed.”
“Have you missed me?” he asked, feeling strangely heady.
“Not at all,” she answered. “I keep quite busy.”
“So do I,” he said, “quite enjoyably.”
“Do your lady friends take you to Monte Carlo for the season, or to the Met in Manhattan?”
“Well, no, that’s not how women relate to me.”
“Then,” she whispered deliciously again, “I get the better bargain. Now do excuse me as I must refresh my perfume. I have a wealthy Belgian banker to confuse.”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

 


 

IN A VOID
by Bill Lapham

Hankins and Jenks were in their hole in the jungle, listening. They couldn’t see shit—no stars, moon, campfires, nothing. No light whatsoever. They saw blackness, like blind men in a common grave, alone with their thoughts, maintaining strict communications discipline a long way from home. Human flesh in a void. They heard the sounds of the night jungle. No wind, a drizzle of rain, no respite from the tension. They choked the life out of their plastic and steel weapons, eyes and ears straining to register the slightest deviation from nothing.

“You see that?” one of them asked so faintly it may have only been a thought.

“No,” the other one said, air tiptoeing across his vocal cords.

They were alert, if clinically sleep deprived, but this was no clinic. This was real, for the most part. Minutes or hours ticked by, they couldn’t tell which.

“You see that?” the other one thought he said.

“No,” the first one breathed.

Siamese twins had more privacy than Hankins and Jenks. They had been friends since before the war. They could complete each others’ thoughts. Hold conversations without saying a word. If one suspected trouble in the darkness, the hair on the other one’s neck stood up.

The eastern sky leaked light into the jungle one wave-particle at a time.

“Light,” one said when he noticed.

The other nodded.

They would crawl out of their hole when they could see well enough to make their way. That was the plan anyway.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

ASHES OF A CONVERSATION
by Travis Smith

“You can’t keep doing this.”
“Who are you to judge what I do?” the man asked, turning towards the voice.
“They will catch you and we will all pay the price.”
“This place deserves to burn.”
“Why is it your right to decide?”
“They sit here in their hallowed walls and judge others. It is time for someone to judge them.”
“Burning their church will not stop them.”
“With no walls of isolation they will be forced to see the world outside.”
“They will rebuild it.”
“And I will burn it again.”
“They will catch you and then you will be judged.”
“No. The judgment will be on them.”
“You will …..,” the voice faded as smoke drifted across the mirror.
“See how easily you are wiped away? The smoke from my judgment obscures your image. You think you can judge me, but I have the power to judge, not you.”
“You don’t judge. You destroy,” the voice cracked through the growing smoke.
“You are the one who is stuck there, frozen in glass. You are just envious of my freedom.”
“You aren’t free. You are trapped by hate.”
“LIAR!” the man raged, punching the mirror. “You are weak and now you can burn here in this house of judges and lie in the ashes of their altar.”
The man looked down at his image reflecting in a blood splattered shard of mirror.
“You are wrong, I will be waiting for you wherever you go.”

See Authors page for Travis ‘s bio.

 


 

SECOND TIME AROUND?
by Sandra Davies

In the early days we’re so eager to impress, to be the sort of person this wonderful person (because in the early days they are wonderful, aren’t they, else why bother?) thinks you really are, and when it’s gone on for a bit, then you can’t suddenly announce out of the blue “Well, actually … ” can you? At least I can’t. And I don’t think I suffer any more than most people from self-deception.

So no, I didn’t want to hear the truth from him. Because then I’d have to tell him my truth. And he’d never cope with that.

That said, of course, he won’t be telling the truth. He knows when he’s well off, thinks I can’t see what he’s up to. Which, of course both gives him away and makes me suspicious. And angry.

Oh I admit he’s clever, hides his tracks very well, but whenever someone starts behaving like that, inappropriately, given the circumstances. I always look for a reason. And I didn’t have to look far in this instance.

He was very careful to begin with, very careful, but then he got over-confident. And careless. He should know better than to leave evidence lying around, evidence that I’m perfectly capable of interpreting.
I’m biding my time, but he will learn, when the time is right, right for me, he will learn that he’ll have to be a good deal cleverer before he can expect to run rings around me!

See Authors page for Sandra ‘s bio.

 


 

SMOKE & MIRRORS
by Paul de Denus

“Where did you get the money?” my girl asks, knowing we have none for such luxury. She doesn’t realize I have talents. I can scrum up the scratch for the weed, the cash for the coke anytime. She’s happy to see the stuff on the table – a free ride to oblivion – and her question quickly fades in a cloud of smoke.

How do I do it? Smoke and mirrors; that’s my game. They’re my high, our high. How do I get it? I have a look that’s appealing to some. I’m young and fit, can flash a smile that makes the eager ones quiver though I have zero interest in their needs. They see what they want to see, believe what they want to believe. “You know I’m good for it,” I’ll say, with a wink or a touch to the thigh and out comes the blunt or the whole bag or the ridge of snow on an ice pond and everybody’s happy for a while.

My girl won’t bring up the money subject until we’re way low again and I’ll come up with something to remedy the situation. It’s all smoke and mirrors you see and what’s a little deception when everyone gets what they need in the end.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


Illustrations for Spot 019 still on order.