Archive for June, 2012

June 30, 2012

Spot 049: The Guiding Light

by Gita M. Smith

First, the old man showed us the star we had to follow. “Always keep that star in front of you,” he said. He lined us up where the tree line met a cornfield and had each one of us, even me, the youngest, face the open sky and point to the star.
“In case you get separated,” he said, “everyone can find the way alone.”
Alone. That scared me more than snakes or the whipping post.
We walked at night, blending into the shadows when we passed plantations where white men watched for runaways.
We took turns sleeping by day, boiling turnip greens and frying corn on small cook-fires built with dead wood (green wood makes smoke).
A spell of clouds rolled in and stayed a week, so we couldn’t travel by starlight. My daddy scouted to find shelter for us – 17 men, women and children – from the rains. The longer we stayed in one place, he said, the higher the danger of being found. People together make more noise than they know. More than all the animals in the same forest.
“How will we know when we have reached Ohio?” I asked. I was afraid we would miss some sign and walk like this forever.
My daddy took my hand. “If you have faith, you will see the signs and signals.”
And he was right.
The day we crossed the line I swear the air was sweeter and the dawn was purest gold.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

by Paul de Denus

On his fifty-sixth birthday, Sheriff John Anderson stood in the middle of the street and weighed his chances of ever seeing another one. Drunk as hell, the Barrett boys reeled before him, squinting all jittery-eyed into the sun, casting their heads in search of another kill.
Not a gift I was expecting, he thought.

Anderson moved his boots slowly in the heavy Wyoming mud, courtesy of last night’s downpour. He glanced to where Mr. Lee lay, arms and legs sprawled every which way, between overturned feed barrels, his body ripped up and down in dark red tufts. The Barrett boys – lawless, loudmouthed louts – were shouting, laughing over the ‘chinaman’s’ demise. Guns waving, they weaved in place, boots firming in the congealing quagmire.

Sheriff Anderson thought of them as candles; candles stuck in dark creamy icing, shaped tallow wilting in the slow burn of the morning sun. A halo’s glow danced and wavered around their heads. He felt the sun on his back, felt the good Lord’s hand resting on his shoulder. If steady enough, he just might be able to blow these out.

The two on the left were absently loading their guns, oblivious to his approach. Dall, the youngest, twitched like a burnt bug as he stared into the white glare. Yes, he’d take the one on the left first, then the middle one, then the twitchy one. Aim at the halo, he thought. Blow out the candles. Pray he got nothing in return.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

by Sandra Davies

Nature or Nurture.
And just last night a conversation on inheritance of an unwanted prudery which still dictates, at least, a first impulse even though I wish it didn’t.
Nature overwhelmed by nurture. Maternal nurture since after she died my father said she ever was old-fashioned. And I wonder why (but also know) he took no steps to intervene. Nor change the situation for himself until at the age of sixty-four he joined Dateline and tried to live the life he thought he had missed out on.
Yet she was allowed to be the guiding light. And that I am so rarely proactive meant I simply followed. Simply allowed a variety of catalysts to shape my path. (A path through a life that honesty compels me to say has been enjoyable. Good to me and filled with love and achievement more than commensurate with what I have put in.)
And so I have to ask myself what kind of guiding light have I allowed to shine?
To a type of rational person I am irrational. To the gregarious I am too solitary. To the non-creative I am too introverted. To the family-minded far too selfish.
And I doubtless have unwittingly misled my children at least as much as I could claim to have been deceived. Though ‘deceived’ is an over-harsh description of what must be too much an impulse towards regret when I glance retrospectively at my life.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

by Bill Lapham

I want to see around corners, to bend light, shape it, make it succumb to my will. Illuminate targets without pointing the way to the source of the light, me, my body, the thing that lives. I need to see around corners without exposing the top of my head to whatever dangers lurk around the bend.

Ours is not an intelligent design, the spatial relationship of our eyes to our brains is fucked up. I need eyeballs at my fingertips, not at the center of my thinking organ, the piece of meat that sustains my life. I need to see around stuff like corners and trees and rocks and things.


Polaris is a stable platform. A beam of light that never wobbles from its position directly above Earth’s North Pole. Polaris has guided sailors across oceans for thousands of years. When the sun’s light is blocked by the earth and we are awash in its shadow, it is reassuring to look up on clear night, find Ursa Major, the Big Dipper, and follow the curvature of its handle to Polaris. Keep it on your right shoulder and head west; your left and go east; keep it behind you for southbound and down; and in front of you to head into Neptune’s wrath, the North Wind.

North: clean, crisp, and crackling cold. Walk north, but walk fast. Keep the warm blood flowing. Exhaust your lungs on frozen fingertips, and pray for renewed light and heat tomorrow.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

by Michael D. Brown

“Like some pharos, no mere lighthouse, but exalted by an antiquated philosophy that doesn’t jive with the modern world, you lead me through a fog of your own initiation, always careful to place toe-stubbing rocks in my path, which I must then feign gratefulness for your helping me to avoid. I’m well aware of how you work my itinerary with an eye, your pharos eye, no doubt, toward improving your guide-like stature while denigrating my ability to do for myself. I’m not a tourist in this life. You’d have me believe I missed all the good stuff in being distracted by ephemera like colors and smells. Have you never heard God is in the details? Your brain is a wondrous database devoid of pleasures I learned to savor at a young age. In the end, if it turns out we have to give an accounting of ourselves, and if all that matters is the acquisition of esoteric trivia, you will certainly win the game, but if the numbers are based on life being lived, well, then I hope to have made a good showing. I’m grateful for signposts you directed me with early on, but make no mistake, I’ve been putting on my own shoes every morning for forty-something years.”
She breathed deeply twice as if preparing to say or drink more, but did neither and exited promptly, unaware of her more sober mentor taking pleasure in the rhythmic bobbing of her ample buttocks. He had always been an ass-man.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

Illustrations for Spot 040 illuminated by mdjb.

June 23, 2012

Spot 048: Reading Lips

by Bill Lapham

Newt was a jumpety fidgety feller. Theys didn’t want to kill him since they’d been told more than onct or twice that killing a man ‘shant be countenanced by the Lord’. So whats they did was to tie rope ’round a cinder block in the center of a old canoe, then they set Newt in there crosslegs with the block behind him, see, then they tied his hands to the block. A might uncomfortable position, and tight , too. Like to turn ol’ Newt’s hands purple.

“Whatchy’all gunna do?” Newt asked. “I have a terrible foreboding in my middle belly. Like to pee my pants, y’all.”

“We’s settin’ you free, you sonofabitch. Now holt still.” But he couldn’t holt still on account a bein’ twitchedy an’ all.

Newt figured this was all because he’d got too friendly with theys daughters. A couple a pretty ones, Henrietta and Anna Belle, had got pregnant and theys said it was Newt what forced hisself on ’em. Newt run away for a spell, but the urge to have those girls musta been o’erwhelming, and he had come back fo’ mo’. That’s when the mens got together and put the whuppin’ on ol’ Newt but good.

As the sun went down over Arkansas yonder, a couple a young fellers in a skiff towed Newt’s canoe out into the river and then cuts him loose to driff on his own ways. The canoe come ashore a couple days later down around Vicksburg.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

by Paul de Denus

Benton sat at his desk, his feet up, a gnawed pencil rotating between his teeth. Near the coffee machine, Carlyle and Gott were nodding, their lips murmuring slowly as if reciting secret prayers, Gott’s head tilting toward Heather the young secretary bending by the copier. Benton watched as Carlyle mouthed: ‘I’d do that in a minute.’ Gott responded in turn, silent lips twitching: ‘Amen brother, Amen.’

In the parking lot outside his window, Benton saw Mr. Sung from the building next door and another man talking. Benton observed them for a while, watched their lips moving in alternate beats trading conversation, their hands gesturing wildly, his own heart suddenly tapping in a quick up-tempo rhythm.

It was at that moment – as the men talked soundlessly – that a bear walked through the parking lot. Benton dropped his feet, sat up.
“Did you see that?”
Heather turned, looked at him.
“A bear… a bear just walked through the parking lot.”
Benton started to say something else but then… the bear was at the door, looking through the glass directly into his eyes, wordless mouth snapping in slow motion. Benton stood, clutched his shirt and arms. He moved his lips but nothing came out, only a vanishing exhaust.
“What is it,” Heather said, her mouth in pantomime, chewing the air. “Mr. Benton, are you alright?”
Benton watched her lips silently enunciate the words and as he fell, saw her soundlessly scream – “Call an ambulance!

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

by Michael D. Brown

Here in Chiapas, the locals, the ones I associate with, enjoy a certain amount of toilet humor. Example: Curtain goes up, Papa Smurf comes out and moons the audience. What’s the name of the movie? Ver Ano Azul. The uninitiated hears “Blue Summer,” and does not at first see the reason for the laughter.
Not buxom Anabeth, our French teacher, who likes to be called Babette. She accompanies me to the cinema to foreign films. I complain about having to work doubly hard at comprehending the actors speak German, French, Korean, or Italian, with subtitles in Spanish, but she won’t go to American or British movies because I’m too lazy. She knows I won’t read and improve my second language when I can understand what they’re saying. “Those you should rent or buy on DVD and turn off the sound. Read their lips,” she says.
I told her that was one of the rudest things I have ever heard a certain president saying to the American public, and she laughs. Says he was a burro, and we’re well rid of him. That’s when I turn sheepish, looking down, and remind her that I have spent the last twelve years here in Mexico. I left the States before he came to power. Sometimes this saddens her as she recalls watching the fall of los torres gemelos, but sometimes she catches my eyes falling where they should not between friends. “Sur mes lèvres,” she says, “Don’t read the subtitles, s’il te plaît.”

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

by Sandra Davies

After he had asked again all he’d asked me in his first phone call, this time in the far less bloodied kitchen while I uselessly sipped water to negate the taste of vomit, he asked me to go with him to the police station. I refused, indicating my desire to change my sick- and travel-stained clothes whereupon, still dour and seeming disapproving, he said ‘Within the hour, then, if you would be so good.’
This time a jaded grey-green room, windows too high to admit other than the darkening sky, his questions more circulatory. Several I asked him to repeat, unsure of… not what he wanted, but wondering if there was a direction he was looking to take in his investigation of my parents’ murder.
In a pause my stomach rumbled.
He looked up, startled then embarrassed. ‘I should have asked when you last ate.’
I shook my head, it did not matter. I wasn’t sure that I was hungry.
He checked his watch. ‘Another half an hour should see us out.’
Twenty minutes, then: ‘D.I. Pettinger concluding the interview with Sally-Ann Hopgood at eight thirteen’ and turned off the tape recorder.
‘We’ll go and find somewhere to eat.’
As I said, a man who believes that women were designed to do as they were told. I would have refused, but I’d been watching his mouth for the past hour and was wondering how soon I could get him to put his lips against my skin.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

Illustrations for Spot 048 subtitled by mdjb.

June 16, 2012

Spot 047: Wandering Around Town

by Bill Lapham

A glint in the eye. A corner of his mouth, the spot where the lips meet. A wisp of hair. A forehead wrinkle, or a crow’s-foot. The edge of a nostril, a reflection in a bead of sweat, dripping. A cochlear ripple, a freckle, a dimple, a wink. Some delicate detail in every human face reminded me of him. And the voices, the sinister chuckles, the venomous tempers. Gesticulations and flinches, strange gestures on exhibit in too familiar ways.
But he was dead. I saw him. They had left his casket open; not so much for us to seek closure, but to reassure us the bastard was really dead.
I saw features of him in every face, like déjà vu, and with each recognition, my heart took another shot of adrenaline, and my stomach soured, contracted, felt like it would eject its contents and make a nuisance of itself. He was everywhere, in everyone, and nowhere, no one.
My anxiety was worse now that he was dead. Before I could make sure I knew where he was at all times. Police departments kept me informed. Now, I felt his presence in every human face. Even in some inhuman ones: Underfed Doberman Guard Dogs on CrazyChains, Teased with Raw Blood-soaked Steak reminded me of him. Or Mike Tyson in his Terrible Twenties, the unleashed years.
Where was I going to find comfort? How was I going to live with the ghost of him everywhere I looked?

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.


by Sandra Davies

Dovercourt, in Essex, where I was born, I saw as tame and modern and was more inclined to claim as a birthplace its cheek-by-jowl neighbour, Harwich, whose shipbuilding history intertwined with Christopher Jones’ ‘Mayfair’ and randy diarist Samuel Pepys, both M.P and Secretary for the Navy. It was a surprise to discover that Dovercourt, once well-known for its brickfields, was in the Domesday book and Harwich not.
While I lived there the most exciting things were the circular boating lake where I learnt to row, the pale green, bench-seat tricycles ridden by visitors to the holiday camp and the semi-circular turreted first-floor corner of the Co-op restaurant from where stop-start traffic at the crossroads could be viewed while consuming ice cream from an aluminium dish. And, of course the beach, with its damp-black wooden groynes, its two pepper-pot-on-stilts lighthouses, the war memorial of spouting dolphins, the bay safe-enclosed by Felixstowe to the left and Clacton’s genteel neighbour Walton-on-the-Naze to the south.
We used to walk down past the football ground (its back lane fencing doubtless the source of my fascination with bill-postered, rusty, graffiti-ed corrugated iron), past the Royal Oak pub whose pungent hop-based smell caused me to ache to be grown up so I could taste what had made it, and to the stationers’ shop which my Grandad managed. There I was allowed, if I behaved, to peep into the sky-lit photographic studio at the rear, its pale, painted backcloth implying lack of colour meant more refined.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

by Paul de Denus

Opening one eye, Harlan was greeted with a wedge of bright light slicing through the drawn dark curtain.
“I wish someone would turn that damn streetlight out,” he grumbled, rolling onto his back. He could hear hushed voices in the hall, the gentle ring of a phone down by the nurse’s station. Turning onto his side, he saw someone standing in the doorway.
“Dr. Frego?”
“No,” a voice said, “it’s Winston… the night nurse. Jus’ checkin’ you out Mr. Harlan. Everythin’ okay?”
Harlan grunted.
“Think you could go outside and shut that goddamn streetlight off?”

Night nurse… my ass, Harlan thought. It was Doctor Frego. He was always there checking on him, only this time the doctor wore a white t-shirt and white pants. That was nothing new. He constantly changed outfits. It was part of the scam. Appearing as another staff member was another golden billing opportunity. He even wore a nurse’s uniform once. What a joke. The game here: more tests… more blood… more money… up the bill and take everything he had.

Doctor Frego was still standing in the doorway. The hall light behind draped him in shadow.
“What will you be taking now?” Harlan said.
Doctor Frego said nothing. He’d changed his clothing again. The white t-shirt was now black, floor-length with a hood. Something moved behind Doctor Frego’s back, spreading wide. Harlan shifted nervously in his bed, then stiffened. He could have sworn he saw wings.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

by Michael D. Brown

When Johnny ascertained that he was awake, observing his double shaving, then getting dressed, he asked if he could explain what was happening, Johnny 2 said it was his lucky day. He could spend it however he wished. He could not reckon why he deserved the treat, but lay back in his king-sized bed and read another chapter of Dostoevsky. Unfortunately, The Double left him feeling queasy. Afterwards, he discovered Johnny 2 must have drunk the last of the coffee, and taken his car.
Walking around town, he fared no better. He saw himself entering the cinema, and thought he could not enjoy a film with a lookalike sitting somewhere close. Plus he was upset that both of them had skipped work, so he walked to the office.
In the lobby, he bumped into his supervisor, who said, “Hey, have you done any work on the accounts I gave you thirty minutes ago?” It came to him then there were at least two duplicates, and Johnny 2 had indeed taken his job.
Later, he left and wandered around town for three hours, but grew disconcerted upon spotting five more copies in various places, and so he went home.
He knew he was in hell opening his door, finding six Johnnies arguing over his clothes, and would probably find more doing the same over space in his bed.
On the unluckiest day of his multiple lives, Johnny 1 sat down on the steps, covered his face, and wished he were dead.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

Illustrations for Spot 047 adapted and HoW.

June 9, 2012

Spot 046: I Know It When I See It


by Paul de Denus

Silence, the air gone from the room.
Mom, can you hear me?
Silence, the air gone from her lungs.

This is not the way I wish to remember her – this horizontal flat-line state as if she were napping, white hands folded across her chest, head propped regally on the white pillow. Dad – if he were here – wouldn’t like it either. “You’re messing up your hair,” he’d say, about the Bardot-style that was always her style.

I whisper for her to get up but this dream is too kind, too intoxicating. The others mill about quietly. Is it to counter the stillness of the scene? Move those legs and tongues and thoughts, those protected smiles! Does the activity assure us we go on? Perhaps for a while.

Mom told me about a dream she had after Dad died. She was relaxed and lucid and painfully honest. “He came to see me,” she said, “sat on my bed. We went for a walk and talked.” I sat crying and she told me through her own tears, it was all right. She said, “Oh it was so real you wouldn’t believe it. It really was.”
One imagines all sorts of truths during surreal times like this. Is it so real to believe now what I see, why I struggle to accept as the top is gently closed?

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

I don’t care what you call it, I call it war. War goes by other names: police actions, peace-keeping mission, border skirmishes. Lucifer is still Satan. Low intensity conflict is the name for war I like best. Tell the kid who has survived a vicious fire-fight, especially one in which he’s lost a friend, that he was engaged in a ‘low intensity conflict’ and he’s liable to low intensify your ass into the hospital. It’s like the difference between a low yield and a high-yield nuclear bomb. If you are the target of one of them, you won’t be wondering which one ruined your day for long. It just doesn’t matter. Either one will turn you into atomscatter.
The American political elite doesn’t like to refer to war as ‘war’. We learned in high school government class that the Constitution of the United States granted war making powers to the Congress. All those guys want to be President someday, so they want to keep the real ability to wage war in the Oval Office. Besides, if a war goes badly, as they are prone to do, they can all blame the guy who has either one or no elections in his or her future. Therefore, from Korea to Iraq we have called war something other than what it really is.
The kid in the Humvee turret might not be able to define war, but you can bet heavy that he knows it when he fucking sees it.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

It had taken me thirty years. Had started, circa 1980, with a through-the-post catalogue in which I saw exactly what I wanted. At a time when affording it was beyond me. Not, probably, that it was ridiculously expensive, just that there was not enough money left over from the mortgage and three growing children to afford that sort of expenditure on something I would have little occasion to wear.
Thereafter, and way beyond the availability of that particular multi-coloured jacquard-patterned jacket, the idea sat at the back of my mind. Something exciting, interesting, capable of being worn with jeans to dress them up or with something better to look really good when required. Something to transform me.
All through my ‘smart’ working years, when I had both the money and occasions to wear such a thing, there was nothing that ever appealed (not that I spent my time thinking about it— far too busy, and clothes never had been of compelling interest).
And so on until, in 2010, when I had ceased earning, ceased going to anything requiring ‘dressing up’ (except on a bi-annular occasion, perchance) I saw, on a tempestuously rainy day in New Orleans, the jacket I knew I had to have (although ‘twas black and silver silk!)
Yesterday Julia (who was with me then) accompanied me to York to find a top to wear under it, for my best-loved cousin’s surprise birthday party. She had to listen to the same refrain, again.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

“Oh, hell,” Adam snapped, “What do you know about gamesmanship?”
“I know it when I see it,” Noah said.
“Alphabetically and chronologically I come before you. I deserve the greater recognition.”
“Really? Who was evicted from paradise, and who was advised to move away from corruption? Methinks someone is overrating his own status based on conventions that didn’t even exist in your era. And let’s also not forget about original sin. You were an innovator all right.”
Saint Peter, on a break with only half an eon left before he had to return to Gate duty, interrupted their squabbling, “Hey, you two have been arguing about who shines brighter for forty generations. Give it a break, will you? Neither of you is a saint.”
“No fault of mine,” Adam said.
“Your hands were not bound when offered that apple.” Noah was angry. He never appreciated being reminded of missing out on beatification.
“And yours were during that nakedness-in-the-tent incident? C’mon, you old fart, that was perversion. You brought all the corruption with you.”
“If it wasn’t for your nasty kids, I wouldn’t have had to sail away from home.”
“I didn’t have those kids. My contribution ended with a rib I wasn’t even asked to donate.”
Peter, polishing his saint badge, said he was heading back to work early. “I’m gonna leave you two boys to your bickering. There’s no winning here. You’re both nasty pieces of work. I’d say you’re lucky either of you made it past the entrance.”

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.


Illustrations for Spot 046 derived from various sources.


June 2, 2012

Spot 045: One-Hit Wonders


by Sandra Davies

It must have been that conjunction of teenage self-discovery and that particular song. Not just the lyrics – confusing because overlaid, intertwined, with barely-noticed-at-the-time imagery from some trailer of the film I’d no likelihood of seeing but the dark smudged beauty of the face (I could be like that if only someone loved me enough …) – but also the gut-aching yearning for life not only to begin but to be somehow glamorous (the glamour via oblique association with multi-coloured squares of glass, perchance?)
And of course we had nothing in common. That was the point, someone unattainable to project, to practice my feelings on. We’d not spoken even (I knew not to ruin the dream!). He delivered the milk and a blue-eyed smile and I the self-sacrifice of sitting bikini-clad in the unavoidable shade early one morning just to be noticed.
I don’t remember his name at all, but she, the girl he walked with, down the road past my house every evening, was Pauline. She was dark, a perfect foil for his blonde curls. I practised being heartbroken, not enjoyably (that would have shattered the illusion) and thought I would die an unloved old maid.
But then there was another song, another dream, a theme for another summer, and this one, with its unglamorous appellation to Percy(!) was no one hit wonder.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

Brooks could kick a football sixty yards and a mile high. Serious hang time: a punterboy.

I looked up how much punters made in the NFL. Let’s just say I was pleased when he fell in love with my daughter. Subsequently, I fell in love with him. Brooks was a g, attractive, bright, and strong boy, and he was polite. A bonus.

My, they made a lovely couple.

He accepted a scholarship to Oklahoma. Went away to study meteorology and pigskin aerodynamics. The high school relationship couldn’t bear the college distance, though. The kids broke up.

Crestfallen, I continued to follow Brooks’ athletic exploits.

He got homesick after the first football season at OU and transferred to Maryland, became a Terrapin. He kicked the snot out of a football. Well enough to get drafted by the Chicago Bears; not well enough make the main team. Practice squad money paid for an Escalade.

This went on for a couple of years. Then the Bears traded him to the New England Patriots. Again, practice squad.

They say Brooks was never good enough to play on Sundays, or Monday nights, or the occasional Thursday night.

Until the Patriots’ primary punter got hurt. Groin, they said.

Brooks played in one live no shit NFL game, in New England, in the snow. He punted twelve times sending massive, booming, soaring raptors of pigskin elegance sailing into the snowy klieg-lit night.

One night in a year the Patriots won the Super Bowl.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Gita M. Smith

“When the angels ask me to recall
The thrill of them all
I will tell them I remember you.”

He came by to pick me up after school in a long black Chrysler. It smelled of his Canoe aftershave mixed with new leather. The AM radio was tuned to the top 40 hit parade station, and Frank Ifield was singing “I Remember You,” with a funny yodel in his voice.
The boy didn’t want to be seen with me because he was engaged to a girl named Cindy, although why a 19-year-old was already engaged I do not know. I was his “other woman” at the ridiculously tender age of 15. I had never been in love before, really really in love, I mean, with all the madness and compulsion and sincerity that comes with a teenage crush. He was my first “older man,” and this was our joint first illicit affair.
We drove around, listening to the songs of the moment, our thighs touching on the bench seat, radiating atomic-level heat.
That song always started a catch in my throat. Ifield went on to record songs that were hits in the UK, but this was his only big seller in the USA.
I don’t know where that boy is, today; I would highly doubt he remembers me. And he is not important, anyway. What is important is that once upon a time, I could feel with that much intensity and not spontaneously combust.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

By March 1974 I had been living on my own for three months, and would soon turn 21. Coming home each night to an empty apartment was more pleasant than finding my mother snoring, slumped in her chair with the television blaring.
When I announced I was moving to a studio on the Parkway, after drying tears, she said she might have cancer, and wanted my promise to call once a day, which I did from work each afternoon, to ascertain if she needed anything, or I could head to my fortress of solitude. Most days she was fine, occasionally complaining of little aches and pains, but she never mentioned cancer again.
Those months, I believed it was a fabrication to lay guilt on me for deserting, but visiting every Saturday, I soon noticed her weight loss.
Convincing myself she had not lied, no longer able to sleep comfortably at night, I suggested moving back, but told her she would have to cut down on the booze, as it bothered me so to see her that way. She said she had already.
“I don’t want you to break your lease,” she said, “but I would feel better if you were here more often.”
So for the next four months, it was three nights here, four nights there, then five and two, until one night in July. I realized I had returned to the nest.
And after she was gone, five years passed before I enjoyed another season in the sun.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

The Venezuelan was on the ropes. Kelly’s corner man was shouting, “he’s nothin’… nothin’! Put him down!”

Kelly laid a left into the Venezuelan’s right side, the skinny legs quivering in a wobbly little dance. The guy had his arms up, elbows together, hands bent above his beaten face like a swollen praying mantis. Kelly pounded another left to the ribs and followed it with a right to the ear. “Come on Eileen… I swear I’m not mean…” sang through his head and he let out an airless chuckle.

He was thinking of a music video from the eighties by an inbred British hillbilly band that wore overalls and sang on a street corner. It was about a girl named Eileen, the same name as Kelly’s wayward ex-wife.

With each blow, the rage sank deeper. “Come on Eileen… I swear I’m not mean…” her face swimming and connecting to the altered lyrics and precise punches.

“He’s nothin’ Kelly… put him out!”

The distant voice reminded him the fight was just a setup, an easy primer leading to the looming big bout in Chicago. The Venezuelan was nothing, a punching bag to make a statement… a slap to the head to get attention, a right-hook so she understood who was boss. She was nothing… the Venezuelan too… until the upper cut from his forgotten right arm lifted Kelly off his feet, sending him into total darkness.

“Come on Eileen… I swear I’m not mean…” fading… his corner man singing, screaming… COME ON KELLY… COME ON… GET UP!

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.


Illustrations for Spot 045 supplied by ?