Spot 029: The Fine Print


BINDING CONTRACT (The Malefic Bureaucrat)
by Bill Floyd

You’ll say I’m in the details, like it’s my fault, or the details’ fault. If you people paid the least bit of attention, exercised even minimal diligence, I couldn’t get away with any of it, could I?

It’s right there in black-and-white when you click ACCEPT.

You surrendered your right to a fair trail when you signed on so you could access the service, and if said service turned out not only to be not quite what you thought you were getting but something altogether shoddier and more disposable, well, blame yourselves.

It was right there in black-and-white when you signed the line.

(But you could taste it, you couldn’t wait. I barely had to sweeten the deal, barely had to touch it up with the airbrush.)

Now your only recourse is to an arbitrator, one who gets paid by me and decides in my favor 99% of the time. (And believe you me, he gets an earful about that 1%.) This was clearly stated in Section I44b, “Allowances and Restrictions, Cont.”, line 4,779.

I used to walk in the sun, among the angels. But I got shorted, deprived of the attention I deserved, and I guess I kind of pitched a fit. Cast down from the beatific realms, my name cursed by the human units of our currency, the ones whose value gives a clue to our true nature.

Now I’m just another bloody lawyer.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



WAR IS HELL in Two Parts: Part I
by Bill Lapham

The fine print said the government would assign me to a branch of service and a theater of operations according to its needs; God and the chief petty officers would do the rest. I thought, “Geez, that’s swell, whatever I can do to help.”

I signed on the dotted line. The sergeant said, “You look like a swabbie to me, son.”

“Swabbie,” I learned, is slang for a sailor in the Navy. Shoot, I ain’t never seen more water than could fit in a bath tub.

I went to boot camp at Great Lakes. Never been colder in my life. Then advanced shipboard training in San Diego. Up and forward on the starboard side; down and aft on the port side; General Quarters and man battle stations; bend over and kiss your ass good-bye. All that shit.

When I finally got my orders, it was to this behemoth fucking aircraft carrier. Hell, the only thing I knew could fly was a baseball and some birds. When I saw the ship for the first time, I thought, “Hell, yeah, I can get lost in that thing for a couple of years, ain’t nobody gonna find me.”

That was wrong. I got this chief who figured my ass was made to shine his boot. He was always gittin in my shit. First time I ever got underway on that ship I was leaning on the lifelines looking out at all that water when boom—up the ass with his boot.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

some print’s too fine to read
some prints so fine and only feel will do
some prince – but that’s for the blind to hear
sum prints, thumb prints, one on one prints
finger on skin prints
yours on mine, prince
finger whorls shadow as the sun goes down
delight whirls damp as your hand slips down
your imprint in mine forever known
some prints are fine

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by bolton carley

“So did you call the doctor or the drug company?”
“Company. I was so furious. Probably more with myself than them by the time I got done. I was on the phone with them for two hours. I finally just asked the customer service rep to pass me on to the manager who went rounds with me like it was a boxing match. Perhaps I was a giant fool to believe that over the course of six weeks, a pill with the magical powers of a genie could grant me a stomach plain instead the rolling hills of flab I possessed. Guess it was wishful thinking on my part. But damn those companies with their detailed messages hidden on the bottom of the box in writing as foreign as Sanskrit! I swear it’s like they’re muttering under their breath, ‘Duh, U Missed Big Awful Secret Side-effects!’
So then I wondered to myself, ‘What was I smokin’ that I didn’t look at the fine print? No wonder I’m looking like Santa Claus on steroids!’ I’m tellin’ you though, Rick, dumbass or not, they still took advantage of me!”

See Authors page for bolton’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

The guy was a genius. Marlon Fine, I mean. You know, the renowned artist. My God, have you looked closely at those brush strokes? He applied the paint in such believable layers one could almost feel the movement of the fabric. Like the famous portrait, ‘Major D’Abernville’; the uniform glows in hues of dazzling white and gray. And the intimate ‘Mrs. Cowen’, the drape and folds of her yellow gown… utterly radiant. As for ‘The Wellsley Children Seated in the Garden’… well what can one say other than, ‘completely masterful’. It’s agreed; color was important. I heard he studied and mixed his own pigments using techniques the Old Masters employed. But to my mind, it was his attention to detail that paid off.

I studied too. I learned to copy his work and must say – no pun intended – I did a fine job. I followed every detail and stroke, even chemically aged both canvas and frame. It was very lucrative; there were plenty of happy art dealers willing to cough up big money to get their hands on one. Everybody was happy… until I was caught.

I’ve been charged with a treasonable act. Here in Mr. Fine’s country of birth, he is revered; it seems the authorities are overly protective. The offense carries a life sentence. I have been going over the details of the court transcripts and the laws regarding forgeries. I need to fool the judge. The key is in the fine print.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

Marvin took up popular causes. He contributed spare change to whoever stuck a collection box in front of him, and when someone told him they wanted to form a union to increase their hourly wage, he signed the petition. He did not really feel they had a chance in hell (his words at an extended liquid lunch with his boss at The Angler) of getting anywhere with their plans, but he liked Angela, who never quite finished her business degree as every cent went to her parents, and she was usually sent to approach him for his input. Marvin had his own fish to fry. He was in line for a promotion, and if it took getting bombed twice a week while listening to his manager’s marriage problems, he would. He liked the Angler’s seafood platter, but it was murder with gin. After three months’ of wicked weekend hangovers, he was finally promoted. His first thought was to celebrate by asking Angela out, but that Thursday, Othmar called him into his office. Curiously sober, he laid out Marvin’s contract telling him to look over the fine print. He pointed to one particular paragraph. “So, as you see,” he said when Marvin looked up, “Management cannot participate in the forming of unions. As a matter of fact, the first order of business is I want you to find some way to get rid of Bill Stefanofsky, that goddamn insurrectionist, and your girlfriend, too, what’s her name, the bleeding heart in Accounting.”

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



5 Comments to “Spot 029: The Fine Print”

  1. A variety here with the devil in the details, military madness, different prints and princes’, the supposed magical power of the fine print, and the fine consequences.

  2. All I can say is, this is a fortunate group of writers who didn’t have a real-life horrid experience with fine print to recount. Nearly everyone I know has hit a wall at one point or another with an insurance policy or contract with an internet provider or car dealer. Kudos to Sandra for her playful poem. Michael, I do hope Angela stops by to read yours. As ever, you know how to write about workplace intrigue. Bolton’s piece reminded me about that diet pill that came out — I think it was called Alli — that caused unexpected explosive bowel movements. As for the rest of the guys, your fresh takes on the topic were delightful. Lapham’s convinced me that once you sign the line, the military really and truly does have your ass.

  3. What riches – Bill F’s had the elegance and bitterness of an espresso, and Bill L explained exactly why not and how to get sucked in. Bolton’s ever-unique voice always delightful – I enjoyed ‘went rounds with me’ and Paul’s fine art forgery was much closer to what I expected to be writing when I first read the challenge (don’t know where that poem came from!)
    The sadness I got from Michael’s densely-packed piece was because of the ubiquity of the scenario.
    Good to see some rarer participants

  4. Splendid! I feel so lucky to know this crowd.

  5. Definitely a huge mix here! Laughed that Bill F. went for the lawyer story and Paul went for the “artists” but Sandra stole my heart with her poem. All were well done and as Mike said, so honored to hang with this group!

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