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.


2 Comments to “Spot 048: Reading Lips”

  1. Wonderful selection of images Michael – and equally so the voices behind the writings: Bill’s so accent-full, Paul’s exactly what I thought was required (but could not do) and Michael’s so very multi-layered. And I am glad to have had the opportunity to add a final twist to a story I wrote for elsewhere.

  2. Oh, the photos, the photos. YOu should have been a magazine page designer, MB. Especially gruesome are the lips of the plastic surgery disaster.
    No, maybe the urinals. I don’t know. Paul gets this week’s prize for raising the small hairs on my arms. He packed more weird into 250 words than Stephen King ever did.
    Michael’s story is a very real “lost in translation” chapter of a life in a country not one’s own. I know because I am living it. The woman character is interestingly bossy. I wondered, why does this man let her decide what movies he will see, since movies are a pleasure — 90 minutes or so away from reality — that we all deserve?
    Bills story about the “not murder” of Newt is suitablt grizzly, and as one who has paddled many miles in canoes, I know how easily they tip and how certain and clever Newt’s death was. Kudos for the dialect. Yet I couldn’t relate it to the theme of reading lips. Am I daft?
    I laughed at the end of Sandra’s police interrogation. What kind of cold-blooded chick wants to have sex with a cop right after her parents have been murdered? Crikey!
    Well done, you guys.

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