Archive for January, 2012

January 28, 2012

Spot 027: By Halves

 

A Brown Day’s Conversation
by Sandra Davies

‘You don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it …’
Safety net lyrics – but these days I bounce and drop again, to the memory of a conversation in Amsterdam, a conversation which, due in part to being out of place, out of time, had been unusually frank.
She’d wanted lunch, I knew a place to go, and we sat on tall stools in the window of a stepped, dusty-wooden floored café near the Rijksmuseum, one used by locals, the food cheap and unpretentious, the day’s menu chalked palimpsest on a ragged-edged blackboard, barely discernible amongst the clutter of dull and long-drained bottles.
A virtual stranger, ballsy and hard lacquered, face in shadow, angle-poised fingers stubbing out a cigarette, mouth an acid sine wave. I listened, and saw without seeing the staccato traffic-light control of the scurrying, lunchtime pedestrians, the sparkler-wheeled bicycles and the stop-go cars as, à propos of nothing at all, she said ‘If I’d known then how hard it would be I’d never have done it, never have left him.’
Another song: ‘If I’d known then’, and I wondered how often are our lives dictated by the lyrics of our adolescence? But then I thought of Neil Sedaka’s ‘dum dooby doo dum dum’ and knew that was one that would never stop me.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 

 

By Halves
by Amy Hale Auker

The poor man stood as if turned to stone, with wide eyes, open mouth, and the empty halves of his flip phone in his hand. After a moment, he slapped it shut.
He’d been the puppeteer and he’d been the puppet. He’d been the songwriter and he’d been the song. He’d been the horse and he’d been the rider. He’d been the balloon and he’d been the helium. He’d been the highway and he’d been the sunset. He’d been the whiskey and he’d been the bitten lips that sipped from the highball glass. On the rocks.
He had stood in the wings and listened to the dedicated love song thinking, “How sweet.” Earlier he had heard the singer say, “She’s free. If she ever comes to me and says she’d be better off with you, I tell her to go with my blessing.”
He missed the next song the singer sang, the one about friendship and some roads, mainly because he was thinking that now the ball was in her court. He wanted to jump up and down and scream, “I’m open, I’m open!” Wave his arms wildly to get her attention.
But she was sitting in front of the stage, smiling at the show.
So, he’d waited, made his call later, explained what her lover had said. Repeated it to her again, “You are free. He said so. Said you could come to me with his blessing.”
And she’d laughed.
He never did anything by halves, even act the fool.

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.

 


 

Some People
by Bill Lapham

The world is divided.

Some people have walked on the surface of the moon while others have merely been shot into space to gaze weightlessly on the face of infinity. Still others, of course, have never escaped the limitations that bind us to earth.

Some people have driven submarines, some have circumnavigated the globe while remaining submerged the whole way round; others, sadly, have never left their home ocean, the one called Atlantic, the Pond between North America and Europe. Some have never been to sea, poor sots.

Some people have seen war, some have died of mortal wounds, or disease, or starvation, and some have suffered the horrible damage of body and mind; others, thankfully, have known only relative peace. Maybe they are the one percent.

Some people have gone to college to learn which questions to ask; others have intuited them their whole lives with little help from school.

Some people have been incarcerated as convicted criminals while others simply haven’t been caught, and still others stand falsely accused.

Some people are some of us and some people are Others. Some are fellow citizens and some foreign aliens. Some look like us, but most don’t.

Some people fly and some people swim, I take the train on a traveling whim. Some people rhyme and some people just can’t.

Lots of people are in the one percent, and some are the ninety-nine. Some people go back and forth.

The world is divided; but not in equal halves.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 

 

The Other Half
by Michael D. Brown

“Sally, my boy, you don’t do anything by halves, do you? I never finish my projects to more than eighty percent. Why do you think that is?”
“‘Cause you’re a fuck-up.”
“Never one to mince words either. Thank you for that.”
“Well, you want me to be honest, don’t you?”
“I always thought honesty was over-rated.”
“Oh, please. Don’t be trite as well as tardy.”
“No, you’re right. You’re a shit for saying it, but you’re right.”
“Wanna go to the movies? The Quad is having a Whitney double bill, The Bodyguard and The Preacher’s Wife.”
“As attractive as that sounds, I really have to finish this essay on Class Management and Planning.”
“And you don’t wanna put that off.”
“Well, I’ve got it half done. I need another 1500 words, but, really, I can’t think of anything at the moment. I guess I could use a break.”
“Just call me devil’s advocate.”
“I can think of a few more things I’d like to call you, but I don’t want to endanger our friendship.”
“No chance of that, Jules. Who else could I so easily persuade with my brilliant banter? I wanna dance with somebody. I wanna feel the heat…
“All right, I’ll go to the movies with you; only, please stop singing.”
“Listen, you come and watch Whitney with me. Then, we’ll grab a bite to eat, and I’ll help you with the essay when we get back.”
“Thanks. That’s the kind of thing I’ve learned to count on.”

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

All halftones for Spot 027 supplied by Michael D. Brown.

 

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January 21, 2012

Spot 026: A Long Time Coming

 

Dreadfully Speaking
by Bill Lapham

I spent my whole life trying to avoid this one last decision. I ate healthy food, avoided the carcinogens I knew about, wore my seatbelt before “Click it or Ticket,” ran the equivalent of once around the planet at the equator, got married, raised kids, had some friends, yada yada yada. I wasn’t a perfect health nut though. I smoked cigarettes from time to time, but always gave them up. I drank yours and my share of booze over the years, but gave that up, too. Still, in the end, the end has come.
I made all those life and death choices over the years, daily choosing this healthy alternative over that unhealthy one. That’s okay, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We all decide, all the time, everyday, even if we decide to postpone the decision, again.
But today I got the diagnosis, and it ain’t good, brothers and sisters. It ain’t good at all. Not that I’m going to die, at least not right away. No, first, the medical community rip-off artists want their cut. They want to see how long I can hold out. Ply me with talk about ‘courage’ and shit. Well, I know about courage, folks. I’ve seen courage; and cowardice, too. And this decision isn’t about either.
This is about how I want to spend the rest of my ‘nasty, brutish and short’ life. Because looking back from the abyss of eternity, the span of a human lifetime will look dreadfully, pitifully, brief.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

An Early Lesson, Not Fully Heeded
by Sandra Davies

White shoes, low down in the window, behind yellow cellophane to protect from midday sun shining down into Hertford’s narrow Fore Street. Low heels, which I needed because I was embarrassingly tall. Only twenty-two shillings and sixpence, which, at half a crown a week pocket money, meant nine weeks’ saving, without buying anything else at all. No good asking my parents, they would disapprove.
And so I saved, and went back every week to check that they were still there.
And eventually I bought them, aware but not admitting to myself that by then the ones to have were much more pointed, had narrower, higher heels and were shiny leather and not some sort of imitation suede. And cost more money than I was prepared to save for any longer.
And so I wore them, at the dance in the Widford village hall, a mile up the road from where I lived.
And no I don’t remember why I left there early and alone, but I still remember crying on the way home and am far from sure it was just from the pain from my now-bleeding feet.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


 

Laid in Her Arms
by Amy Hale Auker

She’d envisioned it as a celebration… warm, sparkling, with raised glasses, and compliments, and oohs and aahs, and the makings of an event, perhaps a speech or two, her thanking everyone for their support.
But the actual moment reminded her of the birth of her son which had not gone down as she had envisioned. There had been no slick wet baby recently pushed from the cooperative womb laid still gooey in his tired, but happy, mother’s arms with father looking on, a full breast waiting for a hungry and alert mouth.
No, he’d been several hours old before she got to hold him, her eyes swollen shut from the meds and unsuccessful pushing. She’d struggled out from under the anesthesia, and she wished she’d read the chapter on c-section in the birth books, but she hadn’t entertained that possibility. Her husband had already gone off to sleep for awhile, and the baby was as groggy as she was.
Now that baby, and the others, were grown, busy with their own lives, and the ink was more than dry on the divorce. Her first book was stacked in boxes left by the UPS man. And she had walking pneumonia, though the diagnosis was three days away. She slit the tape with her knife and pulled a book from beneath the invoice.
The still bitey spring wind blew. The book was wrapped in plastic. No party, no loving man at her side, no editor making nice noises, no toasts. Just wheezing.

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.

 


 

Pilgrim’s Progress
by Paul de Denus

Looking up from his book, the old man peeps, “I hate to say this, but I did mention it’d be a waste.” His glasses teeter on the precipice of his nose, hand waving. A glacier of ice cracks and shifts in the amber glass. I hate him for saying anything but oh… I’d wanted this thing bad. All my friends own one. Shit, everyone does.

“The dark ages are over,” I shot back. “Time to catch up with today Pop. That’s called progress, in case you didn’t know.”

“Yeah, I read that somewhere,” he says, pushing back into the recliner, disappearing back into a tattered book.

The old man’s stuck behind the curve. The cell phone he carries around is an embarrassment, pure old school technology. “I call people on it and they call me back,” he says. “Works perfectly… the way it’s supposed to. Don’t need no fancy contraption to simply communicate.”

Okay, he may have a point but I sure as hell won’t give him the satisfaction of it. This here is supposed to make things easier but I’m having doubts. It doesn’t feature any bells and whistles and the keyboard is a little bitch. Maybe my fingers are too big. Maybe I’m too impatient. Or maybe it’s just a piece of crap. I don’t know how many times I’ve toggled the ‘previous page’ button. Even then I’m unable to find the page I want to reference.

In the other room, the old man laughs at his book and I want to scream.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


 

That Open Avenue
by Michael D. Brown

“Helps keep out the riff-raff,” she said, but I was too distracted by the lateness of the afternoon to remark how elitist she sounded. These days it darkens around five-thirty, and I have a distaste for the indications concerning work done or yet to be done. My nights are sacred. Soon I would be free to walk away from unpleasantness, but not yet. Her sister was a onetime aberration. Her brother is another story.
“Christ, it pains me to think we won’t reach our goal by the weekend,” I said, more in the way of a rejoinder than I had planned. I wanted her to think I paid little mind to her sarcasm.
“Help me with this, won’t you?” She was attempting to hold the soft paper poster against the wind while applying paste to the wall of outdated announcements.
Last concert I danced with twelve different women, my apostles I called them, though half of them did not listen to anything I said. Julie was one who did. “My mother told me she wished I was more like my brother,” I had told her.
“By which she meant…”
“I don’t really know.”
“I think you do,” she said.
Now, I observed that open avenue down which a stiff breeze was moving and traffic was not, and recalled I would be attending the concert with Doubting Thomas. “I guess it was just a long time coming.” This time, she appeared not to hear me as she slapped on more paste.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

There are no illustrations for Spot 026. Please go back and have a look at those in Spot 025.


 

January 14, 2012

Spot 025: Mime

 

2501

 


 

2502

 


 

2503

 


 

2504

 


 

2505

 


 

2506

 


 

2507

 


 

2508

 


 

2509

 


 

2510

 


 

2511

 


 

2512

 


 

2501: Woven Orange
2502: Storm Crossing
2503: The Owl with the Heart-Shaped Face
2504: The Italy Story
2505: Ladder to the Loft
2506: No Return
2507: The Unfailing Flock
2508: Grad School and Blue
2509: Please Renew Your Subscription to Netflix
2510: Back when the Drive-In was Open
2511: Necessary Nests
2512: No Martinis
by Amy Hale Auker

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.

 


 

[2508] Blue Watch
by Sandra Davies

I couldn’t in all honesty claim I’d thought it out beforehand, especially when I’d already gone through how and when and who to ask to get the name and logo painted over, but it didn’t take long to realise that an old BT van would be even more anonymous. As anonymous as they had been to start with. The houses ‘fully-refurbished’ but there’d been little they could do to improve the folk they moved back in.
And a week of sitting, clipboard resting on the steering wheel, hard hat beside me on the seat and I’d identified her. Third house from the end. She’d changed, but so had I, and after five years she’d started to believe she was safe. Safe from me at any rate. Well, safe from thinking I might find her. Because now I had found her she wasn’t any longer. Just that she didn’t know it yet.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


 

2501: Brave The New World
2502: Trains Don’t Run Through Here No More
2503: Character Study
2504: The Missing Boy
2505: Bent
2506: The Family on Indian Woman Road
2507: Waves
2508: Harmony Road
2509: The Appearance
2510: Shift
2511: Black Eye
2512: Last Night Out
by Paul de Denus

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


 

[2511] Metaphor
by Sandra Davies

Neglect. Through carelessness – not caring enough – abandonment or sabotage?
Could not be denied it had originally been built with care, if not experience. The intention – to make something which would hold together, protect, contain, be beautiful as well as functional – had been clear. Built to last, if not forever then for the foreseeable future.
Awareness of danger had been there, had been guarded against, protections put in place; the need for privacy had been anticipated,
Repairs had regularly been made, to remedy early mistakes caused by ignorance, to mend expected wear and tear.
But it had outgrown its … not exactly usefulness, but was no longer deemed essential, or even, at times desirable. And so began a time of gradually-accelerating neglect. Followed by abandonment, to the elements.
The silver, beautiful in its way, in the weathered wood, flakes of blue adhering, remaining high-spots of a once-all protecting coat.
Their silver – their twenty-five years – their marriage – no doubt whatsoever of its greater tarnish, its rot, rather than just weathering..

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


 

2501: When Autumn Leaves
2502: Thunderhead
2503: All My Exes…
2504: Tracked
2505: The Gravity
2506: Gone to the Dogs
2507: Flight Tracking
2508: The Average Blue Homeowner
2509: When Sam Cooke Came to Clarksdale
2510: A Beautifully Rusted Ford
2511: The Main Chance
2512: Southern Comfort

[2513] The Spectacle of the Mime
by Michael D. Brown

Wordlessly, he gave a faultless performance, but it was as much the honky-tonk musical background as his body English or facial expressions that made the first act in any way memorable to me, teenagers drinking from bottles in plastic Oxxo bags, or gathered couples and single strollers. He appeared browless in a solid black leotard, with his shaved head painted in the same deathly-white paste that crusted where the neckline veed below his clavicle, suggesting the marks of noose burn. I don’t know that I would ever be willing to put my life on the line to preserve another’s, nor that I would ever expect another to do so for me, but I applauded as heartily as the rest as we, his audience, were unaware he had dressed and made up appropriately for his final show. He mimed a man obsessed by his ticking watch and some sort of mission; waiting for his destiny, which was a long time coming, seemingly overdue. Then, in mere seconds, he reacted quickly, shoving a pedestrian out of the way of an oncoming sports car, was struck himself, and performed a triple somersault before landing on his feet, then falling, arms outstretched, forward onto the pavement in front of us, as the driver sped away. We cheered, whistled, and clapped spontaneously for some time before someone remarked the mime had not moved a muscle from the moment his body hit the ground, and in our awestruck silence, we realized the rescued woman was sobbing.

Note: This piece originally appeared on The Six Sentence Social Network. See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

[2512] With Apologies to Amy
by Bill Lapham

When Daniel Dinkins stepped inside the saloon he knew: he would not get a martini in this place, shaken or stirred. Here, the desert dust inside was the same as the desert dust outside. His Birkenstock sandals blended in.

He waited to be seated for a minute then realized he might stand there all day for all anybody cared, looking like an idiot in his Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts and Yankees cap. Finally, he got the idea, perched his sunglasses on his hat and took his own seat.

He was in luck, the bartender came over.

“May I have a menu, please?” Daniel said.

“Hamburger, beer and whiskey,” said the man who looked like a refugee from an Alaskan caribou grazing range. “That’s the menu.”

“Excellent,” Daniel said. “I’ll have a burger—well-done, of course—and a Heineken.”

“We ain’t got no Heinies.”

“Coors Light then.”

“Coors.”

“Coors it is.”

“That’s it?”

“And a shot of Drambuie.”

“Wild Turkey.”

“Fine. I’ll have a burger, a Coors—in a frosted mug, please—and a shot of Wild Turkey.”

“Hmph.”

When the Alaskan served his lunch, Daniel noticed the following discrepancies: the burger was charred black, the beer was warm and the whiskey was hot. He called the bartender over.

“My burger is burnt black, the beer is warm and the whiskey is hot.”

The music stopped. Patrons at the bar turned to look. The bartender’s black eyes glared.

Daniel placed a twenty on the table and left.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

Images 2501 through 2506 supplied by Kelly Hoyle Fuller © 2011.
Images 2507 through 2512 supplied by Gita M. Smith and Mike Handley © 2012.

 

January 7, 2012

Spot 024: Looking Forward

 

HOMEWARD BOUND
by Paul de Denus

Dearest Mom and Pop,

This is my third lap on my journey home. I’m writing this from Mrs. Bennett’s little desk in Warrington. I arrived here about teatime and were they surprised! Mr. and Mrs. Bennett are both looking very well. They have a lovely home with roses everywhere. There is a small pond and rockery just beside me out the window. They told me Ron was in Rangoon. He will be home in sixteen days. They miss him very much.

It has been a hectic week over here; everybody’s so excited, they’ve gone mad for a few days. We are all very relieved and thankful it is all finished in this area. I think I realized – for the first time in five days – the war is over. It’s so wonderful when you think about it. That George could see this day! But that is not for us to decide. God rest his soul. We will never forget him.

Mrs. Bennett and I went to town to look around this morning. I tried to contact Emmie Flavell at Pont Street but nobody home. We had coffee at a nice place then back home for lunch. After supper we took a walk in the country.

I slept in Ron’s room last night and had tea in bed this morning. It’s wonderful to be a human being again. I do hope you are both well. The way things are going I should be there well within two weeks time. Keep smiling.

All my love,
Freddie

Inspired by letters from my Dad to his folks 1945. See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


 

…and it makes her want to drink.
by Grey Johnson

They are walking down a rusty dirt road, and the sun is kissing little clouds of afternoon gnats in the golden aster. The day is at that sweet spot where the light turns warm and low but the clouds have not gone wanton. She is walking slightly ahead, holding his hand, and just as she turns to see his face, he becomes distracted by an early moth. Absently, he drops her hand, and there, in the dirt, she sees the bigger picture, as the releasing motion of his hand magnifies to fill her heart. Their shadows spread behind them, like parted cloudy water…

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.

 


 

GEOMANCY
by Gita M. Smith

Sixteen rusted boxcars stand in line, joined by rusted couplings on a long-abandoned sidetrack. From a distance, they are beads in a necklace strung out against a blue silk sky.
They, and the fallow land around them, have no more use, mirroring what America has become. All they can do is stand in place and decay.
Here in this vast, flat Mississippi Delta, stasis is as much a fact of life as cotton bolls and red-tailed hawks.
Stand or walk among the rows for one full day until the sun’s long evening rays turn everything auburn. Stay until the sky is bruised and the first stars blink on.
You will understand how the land can fasten your humanity to a place and hold you down. You’ll understand that change is temporary and all man’s endeavors – subdivisions, boxcars and microchips – will eventually fail.
You don’t need a geomancer to divine that all your plans and resolutions are phantoms. Only the land is for certain, and it will swallow you and take back your phosphorous as surely as it reclaims the iron of old freight trains.
This broad indention that was a sea bottom 65 million years ago, that was worked by slaves 300 years ago, is a mighty force. Do not be fooled into thinking it is only a stretch of soil.
It is a magnet more powerful than any modern tool and certainly more powerful than fools with plans to change it.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

 


 

I DON’T WANT TO ENFEEBLE THE IMAGES ON ISSUES FILLING A SPACE
by Michael D. Brown

I waited too long. There was all that moving and shuffling and the problems with Immigration. Nice people sent photographs dynamically charged with fervor and meaning, but I had no Internet connection, and the days slid into weeks. The New Year is already upon us, and the stories I have lived through are yesterday’s news, but I am not beyond slipping in a dream or two to grease the wheels.
Know what I will do? Next issue will comprise the missing images and I will theme it Mime. You, dear reader, will have to supply your own tales. As we are still behind the halfway mark, there is plenty of time to catch up. I know, I know. We have already played that game, but this time there will be nuances to make it worth your while.
When the Mayan calendar concludes, and we are screaming at the edges of craters, we will have moments to remember, and won’t that feel like a safety net? Well, maybe not so much. If we lose the electricity, all will be virtual, but some of these images should provide a respite before we succumb to disaster.
I’m not making this up as I go along. I promise you, I had it all planned out, the issue, I mean. I never counted on the artful pioneering leaving me disconnected, but that has always been my problem, the lack of foresight. Plan, plan, snap, snap; before you know it another year has gone belly up.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

CLARITY OF CRYSTAL BALLS
by Sandra Davies

She was always one to speak as much for effect as to impart information and I had grown resistant to her oft-repeated tales, always told to put her in a good light. This one was meant to demonstrate her quick-thinking, her ability to outwit a fortune teller. She’d removed her wedding ring and had been both amused and scornful to be given the usual ‘meet a tall dark stranger’ spiel, because he was fair headed.
But he was shortly after dead, and less than two years later the tall dark stranger became my Dad.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


 

LOOKING FORWARD
by Bill Lapham

My sister died of leukemia when she was thirteen. I was the big brother who couldn’t keep her safe from those sorts of things, like disease. After her funeral, I was mad at God, but I tried to remain friends with him. About thirty-five years later I gave up on the bastard as if he existed. When I heard the last line of the poem you read yesterday, “God allows three year olds to die of leukemia,” I was shocked, but I’m guessing it was the reaction you sought to evoke. It took me a second to realize I needn’t be angry, though; indeed, I suspect we share a similar perspective on divine providence. To get to the point, I look forward to the day when we can protect all children from all evil, tyranny, disease and dogma.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

No illustrations included in Spot 024.

 

January 1, 2012

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,500 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.