Archive for April, 2012

April 28, 2012

Spot 040: In the Waiting Room


by Gita M. Smith

The damn clipboard. And its damn pen dangling on a chain, as if anyone would steal a cheap plastic Bic. Five sheets of paper to fill out, front and back if you please, and return them to the front desk when you’re through. And, oh, did I bring my medications with me?
No I did not. They don’t allow wheelbarrows on city buses.
First page: name, address, employer, employer’s address, who to call in case of emergency?
Well, sure as hell better not be my employer.
Is my illness related to a work accident? That depends. Is stupidity contagious?
Page two: Medical History. Now, that one’s interesting. The entire catalogue of defeated body parts and organ failures among my parents and siblings, laid end-to-end, would stretch from Manhattan to the North Carolina Outer Banks.
My own terrifying history, counting the minor degrading diseases like crabs and gonorrhea, would keep you up nights with the bedroom door barricaded and a gun under your pillow.
Third page: Consent to treatment. What do they think? That sick people come to their door to refuse treatment? Fucktwits.
Page four: Financial responsibility for payment. Am I the responsible party? I neatly print the name D-o-n-a-l-d T-r-u-m-p and the address of Trump Towers, New York City
Page five: What is your reason for coming today?
I hurt everywhere, I bleed from places that should not bleed. I have no hope for my future. I am scarlet with fever. I am pocked with smallness.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

The room where our mother dies is on the sixth floor in the palliative care unit of a hospital. The room is shared with a French Canadian woman in her early nineties. We don’t know why she is on this floor. She is recovering from a minor foot problem. Her stay is short term also but she will go home soon.

“What’s wrong with her?” the woman asks.
“She has cancer,” I reply.
The woman sports a toothless maw and softly pulls at her short gray hair.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she looks at me with pained, mothering eyes.
“That’s not good. Can you help me find my comb?”

While we wait, we periodically assist the French woman, helping her to bed, to a chair. She has the orderlies hopping, working the call button with concerned requests for lunch, medication and bathroom aid. She waits by the door, calling out to every passing person she sees.
“I need to see the doctor please! These pills aren’t working. Nothing works.”
At one point, a priest comes in to administer Communion and she is excited to partake in the prayers recited in French. On the wall above her head, hangs an upside down crucifix. I wonder if someone did that purposely. I expect the walls to crack, the ceiling to crumble and an ungodly loud voice to announce–
“So sorry! There’s been an unfortunate mistake! We only deal with the feet here!”

Defeat. Yes, that much feels true.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

The day began in a caravan near Arrochar, Loch Long and had been long and strange enough already. Woken by a crying and miserable child, in pain, initially we sought to reassure – children get pains enough that pass away. Eventually, no reason emerging we took him to a local surgery where, having seen him vomit copiously into a flower bed, the sympathetic patients in the day’s first waiting room made us go first.
Strongly suspected appendicitis and sent us down the narrow-roaded length of Loch Lomond, against the Friday never-ending current of weekend traffic. Arrived in splendid-sounding Alexandria to be dealt with kindness and with care and while the other offspring were taken off for much belated fish and chips, I waited beside the bed to reassure.
When they finally wheeled him into theatre my tight-held control relaxed and bowels to instant water – so poetic, but such pain! – and then the final waiting room, wherein I read a biography of Dirk Bogarde who, poor man, remained forever after associated with that night.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

Sitting where they left me after changing into a hospital johnnie, ready to take part in some experiment no one’s explained yet. Wait here, they said, but I’ve been waiting, what, three or four hours? No clock here.
Getting hungry—probably near dinner time already…must’ve dozed off, recalling past events—things I forgot I knew…waiting and waiting. I should push that red button to call someone. Let them know I’m starting to feel a little anxious. Don’t know where any of those doors lead, but hesitate to show my exasperation. Might be disqualified.
Told me the experiment required someone with great patience; good money in it if all goes well, but four and a half hours is a long frigging time to wait just to get started. I can put up with a lot of things, probably this too, if I knew what it was all about. I did hear what looked like two orderlies snickering. Could’ve been sharing a private joke. I shouldn’t let it get to me. I really need the dough. I could…
Nah, hell, can’t take this anymore. I’m no sucker. Must be another way to make some money—maybe give blood or something. Got to call someone and get out of here. I’m pressing the button!

One of the doors opens.
An attendant comes in, looking at a stopwatch, and says, “Hmmm, seventy-seven minutes. Not so long as some, but longer than most,” then adds, “Come with me, sir, and we’ll get you your check.”

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.


Illustrations for Spot 040 supplied by Gita Smith and by Sandra Davies.


April 21, 2012

Spot 039: Time Shifting


by Gita M. Smith

Cicada sleeps for seven years, a curled and brittle pupa in the soil.
He stirs and digs his way toward the light.
All those years, he thinks, for just one chance to fuck.
I hope she’s pretty.

He climbs a tree and lures a female with his song. Reeee-ee! Reee-ee!
Later, the two engage in pillow talk.
“Why can’t we be like crickets or mosquitoes? Why such a long gestation? It’s not efficient.”
They sit a while, clinging to bark or branch.
He rubs his legs against his abdomen, hoping for one more hump before his time is up.

She busies herself, laying her eggs in holes around the tree.
Poor kids, she thinks. Our kind are most unfortunate. We never get to meet our mom and dad. If only we could speed the process up.
And then she dies.

The gods are busy, but they hear her prayers. Even the small cicada’s hopes get noticed.
“What do you think, do we change the schedule?” asks Jehovah.
Shiva and Zeus convene a focus group.
“It wouldn’t work,” the panel votes. “Those leaf eaters would strip the trees and crops if we let them come back every year.”
“That’s true,” Jehovah reasons. “Remember that plague of locusts I sent down?”
“Are locusts the same as cicadas?” asks a minor deity from Burma.
“Yeah, a while back someone changed the name. Same difference.”
“Okay, well, then I guess it’s settled. No shift in policy. They’ll have to serve their time.”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

My old man was a veteran from the school of hard knocks. He never missed an opportunity to teach me what that was all about… how it felt… how it stung… how I’d remember. Once, a punch to the neck left me half paralyzed on the carpet. The old man trailed a heavy foot, dragging it over my head as he sauntered to the fridge for another refill of fun. That kind of fun got him down the road for serious jail time. I guess I took that same broken path.

My bed used to feel comfortable, fluffed and entangled with caverned blankets and heady pillows. The sheets here are thin as tissue paper and rash my skin. I could have sworn they just changed them. The pillows encourage no dreams. I’m comforted sleeping on the floor. I’ve been there before. My thoughts bounce around a bit, circle up to the vertical bars and return. I’ll straighten it out once I take care of this.

He’s coming down the hall now carrying a tray of medicinal drinks and pills. His face shifts to that of a black man… disguised as an orderly like he’s here to help calm things. The dude makes the same clopping sound as the old man, not quite as heavy but still dangerous. He don’t fool me. I’ve been this way before. I know who he is. This time I’m ready for him. His key in the cell door, my shiv awaits.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

The cosmologist said, “An egg can become an omelet, but you can’t unmake an omelet,” and felt he had explained entropy for those of us too slow to grasp the technical terms.
Concurrent with his explanation, Jan was talking about how we had fallen into a static trap. We were going nowhere in our relationship.
I guess I had the television on to drown out her voice, and my responsive thoughts, but I could still make out bits of both.
“Without aging or metabolism or anything like that, it’s just random fluctuations.”
“Will you pay attention to what I’m saying? Am I just a blip on your radar?”
I was thinking, yes, when you start speaking in clichés, I don’t hear anything progressing.
The erstwhile commentator announced a station break, and it crossed my mind that a program such as this one should have been broadcast on public television. Jan must have seized upon my look of disinterest because she suddenly remarked, “And you paid that gardener seventy dollars. It doesn’t look as if this grass is growing at all.”
I had a wicked premonition it would green and thrive if her corpse were feeding it from underneath. It was momentary, but cruel even for me. I anticipated the cosmologist’s return, and perhaps a solution to our own problems. I think he was onto something when he stated after leaving a room of neatly stacked paper, a mess would not shock, but the other way round would freak us out.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

With the arrival of the main course, helping themselves to rice and nan bread, flicking fingers to dissipate heat, they talked of other things, and each found much to like in the other once they moved away from topics where they were unavoidably opposed. Afterwards, and after some minor wrangling over the bill, Luke insisting so that, as he said, ‘we can do this again when it’s your turn to pay,’ Luke asked Ed ‘Will you be seeing Baz again? ‘
‘I certainly intend to keep in touch with him, with both of them. Not to sound too … interfering or big-headed, I want to see if I can get them together again, sooner rather than later. Someone has to act as go-between and I’m willing to try.’
‘Then will you tell him I said ‘What about Susannah’? Make sure he knows that I’m not in any way intending that as a reason, an excuse or means of revenge because it isn’t. That wasn’t at all why it happened, such a thing never entered my mind, and the only reason I mention it is because it might help him get things in perspective.’
‘’What about Susannah?’ Okay, I’ll do that, and will let you know what he says, if anything.’
‘If you think it … helpful, tell him I am sorry … but I doubt it will be.’
‘It won’t.’

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.


Illustrations for Spot 039 supplied by Sandra Davies.


April 14, 2012

Spot 038: Without a Word of Lie


by Sandra Davies

‘The whole thing was a lie, we know that!’
‘Yes, but you and I know a different lie to the others – after all, we told the first, the biggest lie, and although at the time they were exhausted enough not to question it, to accept it at face value, you can bet your sweet life, once they’d got home, had a bath, been fed …’
‘… and got over the fucking nightmares!’
‘They’d not’ve been so bad for them as it was for us!’
‘Still bad though … but Stu … he was always the weakest of the lot …’
‘Which was why we did what we did! He was obviously the one most likely to, so it made sense to offer him up as a scapegoat …’
‘An apparent scapegoat, don’t forget – there was never any intent to … though he obviously didn’t trust us any more than he trusted him.’
‘We couldn’t have told him the truth, he didn’t have the balls to pretend …’
‘Nor the brains. Didn’t have the sense to keep quiet either.’
‘And it was our ill-luck that he had a brother with both brains and balls. If he hadn’t we wouldn’t be in this mess now!’
‘Potential mess …’
‘All the more potential for you being so intent on getting your end away. Christ almighty, man, this is the second time in a month a fuck of yours has landed me in deep shit – I’ve a mind to cut it off for you!’

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Gita M. Smith

We were in the crowded elevator, and they were standing two layers of people away from me. They talked in low tones, but I mean, come on. Who doesn’t hear a conversation in an elevator?
I could smell Helen’s scent, her old standby Shalimar, through the double-wall of bodies, and I could hear Calvin’s murmuring, low and insistent.
“A quick dinner, then, say 7-ish at the Tavern?”
TAVERN? Tavern on the Green? I had begged him to take me there on our anniversary. We’d ended up at Fu-Chow’s (as always) for the tired mandarin beef and kung-pao chicken.
I strained to see whether Helen was nodding or shaking her head. Nodding it appeared.
“Great, I’ll see you there.”
The door opened, Calvin strode out of sight and the crowd reshuffled.
I eased forward and tapped Helen on the shoulder blade. Hard.
She turned, eyes widening with a quick intake of breath. So predictable, the eyes, the breath, the 20-year old “signature” perfume.
“I hear you may have dinner plans,” I said.
“Not.. no, not if you’d rather…”
“Yes,” I said cheerily, “I’d love to go in your place.”
I almost said, “Let it be our secret,” but I remembered where we were.
Eleven riders were looking somewhere else. One was texting, even though there was no signal in this elevator shaft.
Helen departed on floor sixteen, and I continued riding.
“So,” I said, digging in my purse for my wallet. “What’s the going price for silence nowadays?”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

Lying in the emergency room, I find no solace in God. He’s hanging there on the wall, a golden sliver on natural wood, silently watching over the gurney, half-naked, stripped – much like me – to his skivvies. Through puffy eyes, I hone in on the middle part of his thin chest, just below the ribcage, silently seethe – ‘right there asshole… that’s the spot… feel that!’ I asked you for a bit of help last week… remember… reluctantly of course… when all other natural options for relief failed. I thought I’d give you a try, even threw in an Allah or two and a Shiva for good measure… just in case you were all on the same frequency.
Your silence is killing me.

My wife slumps in the corner. Her eyes look like they’re going to fall out of her head. We’ve said little.
“How do you feel?”
“Fine,” I lie.
“Don’t worry,” she lies back. “You’ll be okay.”
We should be talking more but I’m afraid I might cry.

Where the fuck is that goddamn doctor anyway? I’ve pissed in a bottle and passed the EKG. That was two hours ago. I tilt my head and stare at the golden boy. He doesn’t look in pain though I imagine his circumstance could be much worse than mine. Maybe that’s why they put him there?
“Hey buddy, look at this poor schmuck! You ain’t got it so bad!

“Are you praying?”
“Me? No.” I lie.
“Well… only for a doctor.”

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

The panel comprises four former politicians, two lifetime reporters, and the host. All are now considered political analysts, although the host is usually referred to as a pundit, given he has such a way with words. He’s been a moderator for years now, and is good at cutting off speakers who occasionally veer off topic. The one to watch, however, is Adela Richardson. She’s done prime-time news for all the major networks and freelances with specials called “slice of life” investigations where she never pokes fun at her unfortunate subjects. Here, she’s a regular and about as popular as the host, who can frequently be caught smiling while she has her way with these good old boys and gals. As loud as they raise their voices attempting to override interruption, she dances over their words. Even Ryan Burrows, the other reporter, knows enough to let her have her head. He admires her. She’s good. She knows these newly appointed experts have lost their “lie-ability,” a phrase she is granted with coining, and though they are no longer afraid of her, they still respect her many years at the helm. Many credit her influence in having that old pervert Egon Murvitz almost admit what he’d done with those Congressional pages before stepping down, and, I kid you not, for turning four Senators into respectable citizens in their retirement. But these guys, and Olivia Harrington—they’ve never had proper changes of heart. They remain fair game under her cleaver every Saturday afternoon.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



Illustrations for Spot 038 supplied by Sandra Davies.


April 7, 2012

Spot 037: A Bird in the Hand


by Sandra Davies

Complementary colours. Yellow and purple, my least favourite, and presumably the thinking behind all these municipal crocuses. What she was wearing, my favourite, blue dress and tawny hair, strong and vivid. The other combination I never did much care for and now, seen close too, like even less.
I suppose it was my fault, a misunderstanding on my part. I really did think she fancied me, because she kept appearing wherever I went – pub, gym, at the station and now here in the park. And she certainly looked more fanciable than what I had at home, I can tell you. I’d never heard her speak – that made a difference, the sort of voice they had on them, God knows! because in my experience, although harsh could get on right on your tits, the soft sweet ones were capable of uttering the greatest amount of vitriol.
So, she walks towards me, face to face, I smile, ‘Hi sweetheart, we meet at last!’ and her voice, in reply, was perfectly pleasant. It was what she said that I found harsh, my fault, obviously, for misreading the signals, thinking I was in with a chance.
‘Fuck off pervert – leave me alone!’
‘But … but I thought …’ I grabbed her arm, tried to explain, but she put her hand in her pocket and pulled out not a phone but a knife, three slashes, one push and I was lying on the green grass, contemplating the less than complementary combination of it with red.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

Fresh out of high school, Dickie Wilby married his sweetheart, Rose Gardner. The marriage was cozy and comfortable, fertile ground to begin their life together. Dickie quickly found employment at the local plant and settled in the tool department while Rose stayed home, worked in a garden she loved, and imbedded herself in colorless duties as a housewife. Two years in, their marriage began to wither.

At work, Dickie met Rosemund Hemp, a sales rep for an advertising magazine. Dickie found Rosemund sharper, colorful. He was smitten by her worldliness, her stories of travel and adventure. They secretly met for drinks at the corner bar near work. At home, Dickie seeded the idea they should travel, get out more and see the world. Rose told him she was content, perfectly happy with their growing relationship.

When his relationship with Rosemund eroded, Dickie continued to frequent the bar. He became friends with the bartender, Betty Sawrosi. She was even sharper than Rosemund, her fingernails digging thin rows along his back. The torrid affair lasted six months before drying up and Dickie returned to the simple familiarity of his unswayable wife.

Rose remained rooted and said nothing. Quietly, she prepared a new garden. She was seeing someone too, her divorce lawyer, Stone Ritch. In due time, she would tell Dickie it was over. In due time, her thorny side would show and she would burst Dickie’s thin bubble. For now, she tended to avoid the prick.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

Jack offered Sylvie a lift although it would take him out of his way. After a hard week, all he could think of was getting to his place, taking off his clothes, and kicking back to watch some comedy reruns. He never had anything to do on a Friday night, but planned to get up early next day and hang out at the gym. He hoped the twins would be there for their workout. Annie was larger up front, and Amanda brought up the rear. Together, they were awe inspiring, and he always felt stronger at midday after ogling them from the treadmill. Sylvie was nothing to look at, but she was a hard worker and had helped him finish this week’s project on time. That was why he felt he owed her a ride.
When they stopped at a light, he glanced over and was taken aback noticing the two attractive women in the car next to them. That was no friendly peck on the cheek. They were making out. Sylvie was looking at them, too. As if in unattended reaction, her hand brushed his thigh, and he felt himself stiffen. The two women were gorgeous. Sylvie had her hair tied up in a receptionist’s bun. Almost without thinking, Jack revised his agenda.
“Say, are you doing anything tomorrow,” he asked, “I mean, anything you have to prepare for tonight?”
She turned to him smiling, and he was grateful she didn’t take him to task for having needed prompting.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



Illustrations for Spot 037 supplied by Sandra Davies.


April 1, 2012

Spot 036: April Fools


by Cicero [translated by Etaoin Shrdlu]

No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a person who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?
We denounce with righteous indignation and dislike people who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. In a free hour, when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided. But in certain circumstances, it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. Wise people always hold in these matters to this principle: reject pleasure to secure other greater pleasures, or else endure pain to avoid worse pains.

Cicero needs no introduction, and he won’t be getting one. Etaoin Shrdlu is a lynotypist who…well, you know where to look.



by mdjb channeling Lewis Carroll

‘It’s all about as curious as it can be,’ said Fanny.
‘It all came different!’ Sara complained. ‘I’d like to hear her try and repeat something now. Tell her to begin.’ She looked at Dita as if she thought she had some kind of authority over Alix.
‘Stand up and repeat “I know nothing important and never will,”‘ said Dita.
‘Oh my god,’ thought Alix, ‘She’s always trying to give orders and make us repeat lessons we were supposed to learn years ago! I might as well be back at school.’ However, she got up, and began to repeat what Dita told her, but her head was so full of the underdressed boys from the Gay Pride Parade, that she hardly knew what she was saying, and the words came very queer indeed:—
‘It’s the voice of Lady GaGa; I heard her declare, “You have baked me too brown, I must sugar my hair.” You know that I can’t love you, ‘cause that’s how it goes. Trim your belt and your buttons, and turn out your toes. It’s just a game. Don’t call my name, Alejandro’ [later editions continued as follows When the clouds are all dark, he is gay as a lark, And will walk all night through MacArthur Park.]
‘That’s different from what I used to say when I was a girl,’ said Sara.
‘Well, I never heard it before,’ said Fanny; ‘and it sounds uncommon nonsense.’
Alix said nothing; she sat down with her face in her hands, wondering if anything would EVER happen in a natural way again.

See Authors page for mdjb’s channel.



by Paul de Denus

I’ve decided this will be the month to quit writing. The tank has been dry for a while, my stale ideas vaporizing like bad farts. I’m out of gas. I’m putting my pen down, ignoring Word for a while. April has never been a good month anyway. Or maybe I’m just fooling myself.

The weather’s crummy, rainy and my health always seems to deteriorate a bit with achy bones and stuffed sinuses and after writing the shaky check to pay my taxes the day before they’re due, well, there’s no desire to do creative writing; I did all that on my fudged return.

The thing is, I can’t put down or turn off my brain. There’s that idea about homeless people and the one about the rubber room and the one about the pond and the other piece about a birdman I haven’t quite figured out yet. They all feel promising… just not now.

Will I continue to write? Maybe. May has such a positive tone.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

Babette resented every minute of her pregnancy. And she was one of those rare women who knew the moment she became pregnant, so experienced every second of those forty weeks and two days.
Not even the first three, five or seven weeks of wondering “Am I?” Nor the sense of increasing delight that usually, in a family where to-be-father and grandparents are actively desirous of such, where the house in which it will be born, nurtured and live out its life already possesses a well-equipped nursery and where there is no question of the child having to go without any material item whatsoever.
Morning sickness was moderate, ligaments could certainly have stretched further without discomfort, skin on stomach and breasts showed only the most delicate of silvery stretch-marks. Ankles did not swell nor did she suffer the unspeakable purpling pain of piles. Instead she bloomed, skin flushed and lovely, hair glossy and in the last ten weeks or so she only had to open her mouth for someone to solicitously ask “What can I get you? How can I help?”
Such a crowd attended the birth too and even before the umbilical cord was severed there was something approaching a scuffle to be the first to see, to touch, to hold this oh-so-wanted son.
But the baby lacked the necessary organs and seeing their faces (and breathing a sigh of relief) Babette said to her husband’s assembled family “Your first child, first grandchild, my daughter, is to be called April.”

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



Illustrations if you can call them such supplied by foolonhill.