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.

3 Comments to “Spot 049: The Guiding Light”

  1. Heaven’s to Murgatroyd – what a collection this is. Two shining stars in Gita and Bill (and Gita’s so well-linked to a recent T10 piece) and Paul’s sheriff’s confrontation, heavy and alarming and surely saying more than is possible in 250 words..
    On first reading Michael’s I laughed out loud at the end, second time it was painful to hear the woman’s articulacy directed so wastefully.

    • Thanks. I thought it was the drink talking, but couldn’t be sure as she seemed to be making sense. He does stop to smell the roses surreptitiously. It’s just that she’s never noticed. Whose ego is larger here? LOL.
      And, yes, kudos to Paul for expressing in about two minutes what took High Noon about eighty to get across.

  2. Oh – brilliantly-lit illustrations too …

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