Archive for May, 2012

May 26, 2012

Spot 044: Don’t Get Me Wrong



by Sandra Davies

Gaspar, the maître d’ at Giuliano’s, was well-versed in discretion and the number and variety of women Ed Hetherington brought to his restaurant inevitably amused him, as did their pleasure at being in his company. He had a lot of admiration for such a man, for his taste and for his ability to draw to him and keep happy such ladies – all with far more than looks to recommend them.
But this one … he was not sure. The equal of any of the others in her possession of that indefinable something extra; possessed of the same natural attractiveness, something more than could be applied externally, but he had seen her once before and had wondered then …
Two weeks ago, the first time. She’d come with Ed, and had looked even less happy than she did today. She had made Ed late (he had phoned to warn which had made him smile) but when he arrived it clearly hadn’t been that that had made him late; he did not look at all satisfied, not like he usually did. And she had obviously been crying a lot.
Today she had arrived early, and alone. A little more controlled but still filled with sadness and confirming his suspicions from last time: definitely with child. With four daughters and three sons, all married, he knew the signs. And this one, unlike so many of the others, did not wear a wedding ring.
Gaspar assumed Ed knew, presumably that had caused his dissatisfaction.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.


by Bill Lapham

In the sea of people populating the planet, we had never met. Our fleeting glances collided in the smoke and locked-on in the dim and boisterous tavern, people packed drinking getting tighter and tighter. She was in no hurry but neither did she disengage the glance, and I was afraid to. I looked down for barely an instant, watched golden bubbles fire from the sides of my mug to join the others at the head. When I looked up she had moved closer, still staring. She moved in the in-between spaces, where poles either attract or repel, repelled, permitting her passage. Her feet didn’t seem to touch the floor, her strides seemed to require neither immaterial thought nor physical function; she just moved in her own space, all the time staring at me and never blinking her dark moist eyes, never wasting a single motion. I blinked and she placed her pint on the tabletop, wrapped her hand over mine. She breathed and her diamond solitaire responded. Her lip gloss reflected my nervousness back at me, reminded me how powerless I was, how weakened, how weak. She said something, but I couldn’t hear it, cocked my head like confused people do. She came around to my side of the table, leaned over and whispered in my ear: “Don’t get me wrong if you say “hello” and I take a ride upon a sea where the mystic moon is playing havoc with the tide.” I felt her breath, and I was gone.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.


by Paul de Denus

At times I don’t mind being so alone. It’s eye opening, this break from the world, from the rat race and responsibility that accompanies it. I certainly don’t miss the humdrum of work, the noise and pace, the treadmill routine. In some ways, I find it a blessing.

Don’t get me wrong. I do miss you and the kids. How could I not? I do wish to be home but honestly, I’m sometimes overwhelmed by the beautiful solitude of my surroundings. I find it’s all I need. Not that I don’t miss the comforts – the hot meals, warm showers, and our bed, even with the kids bouncing about. I hope you are all okay and not too worried.

I’ll admit it can be boring, but each day I find something useful to do. I need to be prepared. I’ve been working out. I’ve lost about fifteen pounds. That beer gut you used to tease me about is gone. Oh, but what I wouldn’t do for a cold one right now.

I send out messages every day, scribbles on scraps of paper from several travel magazines that washed ashore. I stuff them in empty water bottles I salvaged from the plane before it went down. Maybe a passing freighter will find them, figure out where I am and find this beautiful dot in the Arafura Sea. Until then I’m a regular Robinson Crusoe, thinking of home and pondering my future.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.


by Michael D. Brown

After listening to each of your, quote reasons unquote, for joining this group, I’m convinced that separately or together you cannot help me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure all of you feel your stories are valid, and that for you these represent the biggest problems in your world, but my wife has tried to kill me, and that’s no lie. For many years we lived a meager existence, and I paid for our meals and the furniture, and transportation to our jobs before and after her car broke down. She won’t let me in the new one, since I’ve been out of work for the last two years. Now that we reside in the house her father paid for, she calls me a piker and says I’m living off the fat of the land. Oh, how quickly we forget yesterday’s sacrifices! If I mention the turnabout, or try to explain how I need time to finish my book, she says I had little to do with anything good in our lives, that eighteen months is a long time to have come up with only three chapters. She doesn’t appreciate perfection, and they are good. She’s a merciless Philistine, and it’s not true that I hide her things. Sure, she’s paying for these sessions because she wants me legally declared having failed to do me in with slow poison. In short, you’ve all come with problems of your own making whereas I was forced because someone else has greater issues.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.


by Gita M. Smith

Have you been listening to a word I’ve been saying?
Yes. There’s nothing wrong with my hearing.
Then answer me.
I didn’t hear an actual question. All I heard were declarative statements.
Okay, then how’s this: Are we going on vacation this year and if so, what did you have in mind?
I plan to go to Kansas in July to a writers’ gathering. I do not care what you do.
So you’re just going gallivanting off to Kansas with God knows who from the internet?
That’s about the size of it, yes.
And I am supposed to do what in the meantime?
Whatever you like. Feel free as the wind.
Then I am coming with you!
Madge, dear, don’t get me wrong. Going to this workshop means a lot to me. I don’t want to hurt you. But if you insist on tagging along, you will be quite sorry.
What’s that supposed to mean? Are you threatening me?
When you put it that way, I guess I am.
Oh yeah? What do you think you’re going to do?
Any number of quite ugly things.
You wouldn’t.
I would.
Well….how long will you be gone?
Five days give or take.
Will women be there?
Yes, several. All homely librarian types.
Men too?
Oh yes, all pudgy and professor-ish.
I suppose I could go to my sister’s in Cleveland.
Sounds like a ripping good time.
See Authors page for Gita’s bio.


Illustrations for Spot 044 derived from various sources.


May 19, 2012

Spot 043: Reasonable Doubt


by Sandra Davies

‘You mentioned ‘damage’. Is that … I didn’t think you would ever damage her.’

‘Who the hell else would I be damaging? Apart from you?’

‘But, Christ, man, you can’t expect to hold on to her by hitting her – she’ll not stand for that!’

‘No? No, next time, she might not be left standing, her blood will be on your hands too.’

It was too soon to say whether the damage and the hurt had been mended by what came after. Better to have the one without the other, the mending without the damage, but in all their previous coming-togethers they’d never had a night like that, and to do so after, what? six years of marriage had been … invigorating, if that was the right word. He could only hope that it was enough, for her, could only be even halfway sure. Because this had been the third time she had … not talked him round exactly, but had sought to lay enough blame for him to forgive her, although he had done a better job of deflecting, disguising the fact that he knew what she was up to this time. Could he do it for a fourth time? Without compromising himself, his own principles? Jesus, he sincerely hoped so, because he knew his life would not be worth living without her. Just as he knew there was a limit beyond which he would not tolerate her behaviour. He just had to make sure she never reached that limit.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

I, the accused, have come to my own verdict. What I’ve told is the truth though I had to convince myself to really believe it. The way I see it, I never harmed anyone, just did what I was told. It was a good thing… is a good thing. I’m not guilty by any means. But oh I suffered for it. I did my best, took the stand and stood by my convictions, convinced those who’d listen with my words and actions.

Still, there remains one holdout. He hasn’t decided yet. He’s having doubts about my story. I understand. I will show him, just as I was shown. Tomorrow I will pull Thomas aside and reveal the lance wound, let him prod the nail marks in my hands, let him physically feel and if he still has reasonable doubt, well then… there is nothing more to do.

This is not an easy thing to accept, to believe. Even though something incredible has happened to me, I still wonder.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

I doubted I could write without telling the stories of my family and having everyone angry with me for giving away secrets.
I doubted I could succeed at something satisfying and retire at an early age. I would be working a hum-drum job until I dropped from exhaustion. They would carry me away from an unstoppable conveyor belt or assembly line and that would be my ignominious end.
I doubted my parents respected me as an adult, or as a child for that matter.
Twice I took a hiatus and did temporary work while attempting to write the Great American Novel. Reams of typewritten sheets sit in drawers and I understand why consistent achievers do not respect me.
I doubted my doctor advising me to exercise; I was sedentary; my cholesterol was high, and the ophthalmologist saying I was developing glaucoma. I figured he was in league with the optometrist who wanted to sell glasses. Strange, how I started using them for reading and now have to wear them watching movies.
Lately, I am having doubts about my doubting, using reverse psychology on myself. If I question something, that’s a good thing, but if I think it is good, the doctor will say it isn’t, and past transgressions have led me to the ornery position I am currently in.
I live alone and write most evenings, still trying to complete that novel, but doubt I will. All I’ve read says write what you know, but nothing ever happens to me.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.


Illustrations for Spot 043 are reasonably doubtful.


May 12, 2012

Spot 042: With Foresight


by Bill Floyd

The day was rainy and cold. You lived down the hall with your boyfriend, who worked nights, so you wanted to get out and let him sleep a while. I had the game on TV, muted, with Jim O’Rourke’s “The Visitor” on the stereo. Music like treebranches, each branch terminating in a unique leaf, sun-kissed or rain-dappled or windswept. We got a little high and talked about the things that were important to us, things that wouldn’t have made sense to anyone else. Nothing physical happened, yet it felt intimate. Yes it did. Then came the night with its strong drink and its regrets, but I never regretted the smoky blues of our rainy afternoon.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

We lean against the wooden slats like bored inmates killing time and take in the shape of the city. Fred casually pops a cigarette into his mouth, sets fire against a northern chill and brumes me in a delicious cloud.
“Did you hear about the barber down the alley?”

Fred is missing a few teeth that he exposes when he laughs, a wheezing sound that comes whistling up out of some deep vent.
His forearm slides through the gate, flicks orange spark out into the cold air.
“The fag he lived with?” Fred coughs. “Fuckin’ barber cut the guy’s head off.”

Fred doesn’t give away much. His face is a carved totem, like one of those dime store types you’d see down in Arizona. I count the seconds, wait for him to crack a calculating smile. It doesn’t come. I peer down the alleyway. On the corner, the quiet barbershop sits buried dead in snow, its drawn yellow-curtained windows now accessorized with yellow Police tape.

“You’re kidding.”
“Nope. That’s what I heard. Cut the head clean off.”
I didn’t know the barber, though I’d contemplated several times going in for a quick trim having passed his door a million times. The place never felt right, the building off-putting, sealed in dated stucco. I imagined the barber standing deathly still behind his seated partner, light conversation and electric trimmer buzzing the air, the smell of talc, the pulling of the razor, the benign, “take a little more off the top, love?”

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

Never wittingly a namesake – how could it be since I knew nothing of her existence? – merely coincidence because I had named my daughter for the month that she was due, with the smallest nod towards a school-friend whose straightforward confidence I admired and knew I lacked. (Not that I believed such qualities will transfer simply by naming!)
Eventually the other one appeared, first in a census maybe, daughter of a shopkeeper named David, then at the wedding of my grandmother, tall and splendid in an ostrich-feather hat. And eventually, at forty-five, she married and then, later, died, bequeathing her engagement ring to my father’s sister, who married later still, at sixty.
Before my father’s sister died she gave the ring to me, asking that I give it to my daughter ‘Since they shared a name, it seems but fitting.’
The ring, tiny as rings from the past always seem to be, had diamonds and, I think, some opals, and when I related its provenance to my determinedly-single daughter she laughed and estimated she could expect to wed when she was seventy-five.
But I doubt I’ll be around to see if it comes true.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

Every afternoon she sat in the same seat, or if taken when she stepped on, she would stand over the passenger in the otherwise empty car until he or she either reached their destination or removed themselves, perhaps with a huff, so she could sit as she made it so obvious that was what she wished to do. She would then reach into her tattersall bag and pull out her Modern Library Finnegans Wake and pretend to read another page. I could see where this was going long before it came about. Completing Joyce’s most impenetrable opus was not her main goal.
The other regular, obviously moneyed, who did not express a preference for any particular seat, but did ride the same compartment, always traveled in dark clothing of blue, or gray, or brown, sometimes a business suit, but more often casual wear, would wait until her book appeared before he extracted his own hardcover copy of Gaddis’ JR from his attaché.
I often wondered why these two chose such heavy tomes to flirt with and why it took them so long to connect. We shared the ride for well into three months.
After a week of traveling solo, I read about his body being found in a dumpster. The police had no clues about his assailant, and though I could have offered them a hint or two, I would not. We had all worked so hard at not being noticed, I figured such a perfect situation should remain unresolved.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.


Illustrations for Spot 042 by mdjb


May 5, 2012

Spot 041: In Hindsight


by Paul de Denus

I should not have gone to the emergency room. Looking back, I should have sucked it up and moaned through the weekend somehow, without taking any drastic measures. Drastic. That’s the word. It’s easy to say that now, now that I feel much back to normal. It’s a fine line between discomfort and pain, between scared and panic, between stable and overwhelmed.

The past is a muffled muddled memory. With it sits guilt, sadness, loss of control and a certain weakness. The after effects continue. Physically, I learned some things. Emotionally? That’s a different toll, a separate cost. There’s the bill from the hospital, from the radiologist, from the tests and pills. Three hours for the uninsured – without seeing a doctor – …over eight grand. Maybe it’s a good thing a doctor never peered in at me. I probably saved myself another thousand or two.

Over the years, I’ve spent the money for personal health insurance elsewhere, took my chances on staying healthy. I don’t know how people do it. We are one disaster from being destroyed. The rich don’t see it. The healthy don’t either.

The biggest pain sits by itself. I cannot fix this one; I can only listen and wait it out. Watching her face and the overtaking sadness is enough to kill me. I know too, this will pass.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

In hindsight, and the eyes of the media, it would have been the parents who were held up as criminal, criminally guilty of too much trust, of optimism, of wishful thinking. Fingers would have been pointed and accusations made, if anyone had known enough to accuse, if the details had got out. The truth.
But for a variety of reasons, not least the fact that the father of one of the victims was in the local CID, the details had been suppressed. The known details. Some had never even been suspected. Which was how the two guilty of perhaps the most officially heinous crime – for all it could be considered justified – went completely unsuspected. And thus uninvestigated and unreported. Unaccused.
The parents did, of course, feel guilt after the event, as did the victims. The two who carried out the crime felt guilty, naturally. But the strengths that had enabled them to do the deed also enabled them to conceal it. To cope and to keep the secret.
The man responsible never felt a thing.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

They say all things come to those who wait. I’ve had experience with that—small epiphanies when that thing I’ve long desired finally arrives. It still occurs, but not often enough to suit my tastes these days.
They say never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. God, I hate those people who say these things—so efficient, so righteous, never satisfied to sit and wait. Things come eventually. I’ve had experience.
They say never put all your eggs in one basket. This one I guess is good advice. You keep it all together, and you lose it all at once. It comes back. Yes, I can see that now, but it hurts for a while during the time you have to do without.
They say a stitch in time saves nine. That’s patchwork, and it never holds up. When you see the signs that something is going, believe it’s already gone. It is. It’s guaranteed to stop working when you’re really counting on it. Peter’s Principle—not just a clever turn of phrase. But, what goes around…
They say you’ll get your reward in the afterlife. Like the man who needed a parachute, what good is getting something after it’s no longer beneficial?
I say keep reading Vico, and recall that “verifiable truth and human concern share only a slight overlap, yet reasoning is required in both spheres.” You cannot live your life by listening to what “they” say alone. Be pragmatic, but don’t lose yourself waiting.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Gita M. Smith

He gave me his cell phone number, but not the one to his land line at home. I told myself, “Hey, lots of people give up their land lines and only use mobiles, nowadays. No biggie.”
He told me his job involved a lot of travel but never gave the name of the company where he worked.
“Laptops with Skype, and smart phones have replaced bricks-and-mortar offices,” I told myself. “Seems reasonable.”
He liked to come over to my place, said it was more comfortable and “artistic” than his new unfurnished apartment with its too-small bed and stand-up shower. There would be time for us to spend weekends at his place once he’d decorated it.
“Seems reasonable,” I told myself. I fantasized about the day when we’d go shopping for a bed and I would buy him sheets – the good ones, at least 400 count.
He also never introduced me to his friends. Not once. So no one even knew that I existed. It’s like we lived in a snow globe, just the two of us.
Of course, looking back I should have seen the signs. Even an amateur would have seen the signs. Of course he was married and never planned to buy a bed with me. That’s when I decided I had been reasonable long enough.
I saw it in his eyes, that perfect moment on the cusp of death before the light goes out – that 20/20 rearview mirror look that says, “Ooops. I fucked up.”
Just between us, I quite enjoyed it

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



Illustrations for Spot 041 supplied by Sandra Davies