Spot 020: Playing Catch Up


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.



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.



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.



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.



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.


3 Comments to “Spot 020: Playing Catch Up”

  1. Today’s Spot was the first time I’ve written straight nonfiction on here. I just felt like it for some reason. Habitat for Humanity rocks, by the way.

  2. Playing catch up here, well and truly, and like Gita, straight non-fiction – and what variety the prompt has brought.

  3. Entertaining set of posts – I like the non-fiction aspect in some and as always I love the range of directions that people take with the themes.

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