Archive for ‘themes’

December 1, 2012

Spot 057: Envy and Regret

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PURGATORY SEX TWINS
by Callan

My sister and I hold hands as we walk up the long flight of cold, white, marble stairs. The stairs gleam in the perpetual blackness. I can not see the bottom of the steps when I am at the top and I can not see the top of them when I am at the bottom. When we reach the last step I let go of her hand, and the great empty dark space grows still dimmer.
“I can’t go with you any further.” My voice booms out in the cavernous darkness much louder than I intend.

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IT’S NOT ME, IT’S HYMN
by Sandra Davies

I’m not immortal, only feel like I’m invisible and, God knows, not at all wise, none of which would normally make a blind bit of difference, but that article in the paper, the one about divorces amongst the over-sixties being on the rise really made me think.
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ONLY ON A SUNDAY
by Diana E. Backhouse

Dear Lord, forgive me all my sins
Send my demons far away.
I really promise to be good, Lord,
But only on a Sunday.

On Monday, with licentiousness,
My head and heart are full of lust.
On Tuesday gluttony takes charge;
I eat until I’m fit to bust.

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A MIDNIGHT CALL TO ACTION
by Edward Strand

…If I could redeem myself in her eyes, everything would turn out nicely. I had said some things in the morning, which I later regretted. Those remarks left me feeling as if I had been bound in duct tape and left on the old rail lines outside Scranton. My pride was smashed for one thing, and I felt like a single shoe pocketed in an old felt shoe bag without its mate, an outcast in my own neighborhood. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can sour the whole morning. By noon, I experienced a sense of déjà vu. I was checking out the bookstore’s latest acquisitions and recalled the day in 1985 when we were laughing and joking in Hemlock’s, by Row S, when someone from my past said hello, and she got all uptight about the encounter as if I had arranged for it to happen.
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SLIPSTREAM
by Michael D. Brown

…She was the one who first noticed the wispy-haired older man who lay tanning himself, on his blanket every afternoon, staring at the kids with what appeared to be envy, though he never spoke to any of them, and then when the other girls mentioned that they thought he was creepy, she said she found it kind of sad that he was always there alone. One day in late August, Stephanie did not show up, and when she didn’t come the next day, or the day after, Andrew went calling for her, and discovered that she and her mother no longer lived in the two-family house on Crichton Avenue, that in fact, they had just up and moved away from the neighborhood, telling no one where they were going.
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November 17, 2012

Spot 056: Deception and Acquisition

OTTO & THE CLOTH BABY
by Harris Tobias

OTTO and the Cloth Baby were just changing back into civilian dress after yet another astounding super caper involving an international crime cartel whose attempt to smuggle drugs in hollowed out cucumbers met with a stunning defeat. The two Department of Agriculture super heroes were going off duty and, hopefully, getting some much needed R & R.
They had changed into their secret identities: Otto as Clanston Mudridge, wealthy bachelor and gay man about town; and The Cloth Baby as his illegitimate son, Drone.

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THE CAT THAT GOT THE CREAM
by Diana E. Backhouse

Kitty had a coat of silk,
she groomed to make it gleam.
She didn’t care much for her milk
preferring only cream.

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IF YOU TRY SOMETIME
by Michael D. Brown

“Well, you know,” I reminded her, “One of the prime facets of due diligence is you have to understand the custom obtaining in the target’s home jurisdiction.”
“Mmmm,” she agreed in an ostensibly distracted way as if to let me know she did not enjoy being advised in regard to the job she was paid to do. She knew her stuff, and I knew that she knew by the way she skimmed two blood-red fingernails down the side of her wineglass while keeping it perfectly balanced with the rest.
The Stones were playing on the piped-in system but sounding somewhere off in the distance. Low and not at all antagonistic.
No, you can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime, you just might find

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November 10, 2012

Spot 055: Compensation

MAD ABOUT YOU
by Paul de Denus

So yeah, we were friends, she a bit younger, a naïve doll-face with breasts that ran around her sweater whenever she moved, which I suppose was the initial attraction for most of us that hounded after her. She was seeing an older guy, a lawyer who decided his law would be abusive, slapped her with bruises and nightmares as part of his practiced sex routine, hammered her self-worth into self-doubt and she’d call me for advice as if I were some kind of friendly lawyer myself with constructive answers. I’d suggest she either dump the prick or kill him but she would always go back, believing she could fix him.
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THE SCAPULAR
by Donal Mahoney

The money debated and settled,
flipped from his wallet, tossed in her purse,
they prepare to take off.

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TAKING STOCK OF MY PUNISHMENT
by Diana E. Backhouse

It could have been six lashes of the cat o’ nine tails or a spell on the rack until I was six inches taller.
Maybe walking the plank at six bells with six evil pirates brandishing their cutlasses behind me, or facing a firing squad of six riflemen.

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THE BLACKSMITH’S WIFE, PART 8
by Sandra Davies

‘If I reek of roasted meat, will you still want me? As you wanted me before ever we were wed?”
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This is part 8 of ‘The blacksmith’s wife’ …The story can be read in its entirety here.


COMPENSATION
by Michael D. Brown

I do like the idea of transcendence, but that could be because I get to wallow first, for it is said we never appreciate that which comes easily, and you cannot swim with dolphins without getting wet. I have mucked about long enough. The return on my investment is greater than I could have imagined, for though the beans are small, and the cheese hard, they are unquestionably edible, sustaining, and of a singular provenance.
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THE SECRET KEEPER
by Gita M. Smith

“A secret is a funny thing, Harry. If you know a set of facts, they lie there in your brain like a potato – completely ordinary and not especially tasty. But if someone tells you, ‘that set of facts is top-secret,’ you won’t be able to wait to set it on a silver platter and show it to at least one other person. A secret will give you the bends, Harry, and you will want nothing as badly as to share it, just to take the pressure off. You must resist that impulse, boy. For if you share the secrets I’m about to tell you, that will be the end of all your hopes and dreams.”
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November 3, 2012

Spot 054: Boasting and Modesty

DAY 12 NaNo – 30940
by Sandra Davies

Lots of words today, but not ones I’m very pleased about. A couple of sections are cliche-ridden and boring and I knew this as I typed them, but the idea was to get the episode down, to work through the plot of it – the confrontation, the explanation, the threat, the frightening bits … and I was surprised that even out of this quite uncomfortable way of writing, a new development made itself known, so that I have this poor girl who may or may not have been murdered, who disappears but it isn’t clear who, if anyone, might have caused it to happen. Was it murder or misfortune? I don’t know yet …
But what I do know is that I can go back and tighten, improve the words later…

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POINT MADE
by Kerry Logan

She could still feel the heat from the surge of indignant rage that had washed through her. But her pulse, now, was beginning to return to normal. She licked the wound on her upper lip and wondered what it looked like. Was her blood thin, orange tinted, and watery from the spray, running down her face in rivulets or was it more like thick molasses, clotting right near the surface of each small hole. Knowing her, it was probably the later. She kept everything close on a boat, including her blood.
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FALLEN STAR
by Michael D. Brown

After my performance on Tuesday, there was talk of the Tin Cat Pub discontinuing karaoke nights. Everyone knows what a ham I am. Hell, I know it. Of course, they were all unaware of the hours I had spent in front of a mirror rehearsing in an attempt to appear naturally talented when called upon, momentarily protesting, to do my moonwalking Michael Jackson, or soulful Jackson Browne. Let me tell you, it’s not a pretty sight segueing between the two with a large stain covering your crotch…
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AM I WRITE? (Not a Lot)
by Diana E. Backhouse

With no degree in literature or journalism, nor a published novel to my name, I’m sure that many would disagree with me when I say I am a writer.
I am a writer simply because I write, as I am a needlewoman and an artist due to the fact that I sew and draw, and a gardener because I am the one who does the majority of the gardening in our household.

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October 27, 2012

Spot 053: Abandonment

LUCKY’S STORY
by Diana Backhouse

With the speed of light he won his race,
The pride of the trainer showed on his face.
He was led from the track to collect his prize,
The best dog ever in his owner’s eyes.
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INSIDE OUTSIDE IN
by Paul de Denus

We stay beneath the wood behind the man and woman’s house, Bella by my side, his black fur sleek and shiny. We wait patiently while the man and woman leave food and milk, slip away a distance to watch, their eyes warm like the sun.
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A CHANGE OF FOCUS
by Sandra Davies

The scarlet handset appeared to have spewed a map of South Africa, matching stain spreading and disappearing beneath the sprawled body of the dark-haired woman.

‘What’s that godawful noise?’
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ABANDONED
by Michael D. Brown

Tuesday night, I sat in the absolute darkness of what is jokingly called my living room and lit a single candle. When I realized I was becoming mesmerized by the tiny ovoid flame, I blew it out.
My left temple ached, and I could feel my hands trembling because I knew Lilith was not coming back.

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IN TRANSIT
by Kristine E. Shmenco

One step in front of the other, with his little hand in mine (or what I recall of its feeling in my palm), I walked the long way of the river. I tried not to think of him the whole way, but it was impossible. The river kept its eye on me, never letting me get too far, always keeping me in sight. I kept walking.
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July 30, 2012

A Year of MudSpots


achilles’ heel amy hale auker aphorisms beauty benefit bill floyd bill lapham bolton carley brian michael barbeito camera candles burning catch up compunction darkness ed dean elliott cox fables gita smith golden grey johnson heavy jen schneider jk davies joe gensle kristine shmenco light michael brown mike handley mirrors need nicole hirschi numbers paul de denus peace renewal revolver robert crisman sam raddon sandra davies smoke stolen travis smith unwritten rules wee small hours within

July 21, 2012

Spot 052: The Last Dance

DECEMBER
by Sandra Davies

A school-friend’s fourteenth birthday party in a too-large-for-the-numbers wooden-floored church hall. Nineteen sixty, the year that a brown two-piece – the words run together to become ‘toupees’ – a pleated skirt and a boxy sort of short-sleeved top, was the only thing to wear. (The only way I would have worn it since our school uniform was brown and the colour never did suit me.) My version (cheap for sure) had a unique additional glisten as if briefly dunked in petrol and imperfectly allowed to dry. The pleats were too narrow as well.
But she, this friend called Jennifer, she knew boys. Boys. From Bishop Stortford College. Posh, well-spoken, rich. Smooth-skinned and lustrous-eyed. Exotic ones I only ever caught a glimpse of from the top deck of our rickety school bus. In the summer they wore beautiful scarlet blazers, pale straw boaters with a dark ribbon round the crown. God-like. Of a different breed to anything we had in our village, where most were of the agricultural ilk.
As were my social skills. Knock-kneed dumb ineptness, uncertain smile and a total lack of quips or speed of mind with which to greet their quick-flit confidence.
I was kissed in a cupboard by a boy called Mark.
And Ben E. King’s ‘Save the last dance for me’ played on repeat all evening.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

THE QUESTIONS OF 52
by Bill Lapham

We are never alerted to the fact that what we are about to do will be the last time we ever do it. If we were, what would we do? Try harder? Seek to enjoy the sensation more? Get drunk? Stay sober? Not do the thing we’re about to do? Do more of it, for a longer time, if we can? Savor the taste? Eat a hot dog? Wash it down with a gin and tonic? Listen closer? Tune ourselves to the wavelength of the experience better? Smell more roses? Piss off more popes?

What if this was my last Mudspot submission, the last thing I ever wrote in my life? Have I said the thing I’d want you to always remember?

Yes, I think so.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


OUR LAST DANCE
by Jen Schneider

For Denise

“It doesn’t look good,” the doctor said the words I had been dreading. Remission, better, improvement, hope: those were words that I prayed for every day. That was the language of optimism that I longed for.

But it wasn’t. “It’s spread to her brain.”

My mind was in absolute turmoil. My daughter was dying. She’d never have children, my grandchildren, or walk down the aisle. I’d never dance with my beautiful daughter on her wedding day.

Diana’s boyfriend, Peter, was in the waiting room when I left the doctor’s office, holding my 34-year-old daughter’s hand. “Thirty four.” I thought. She’ll be buried before her thirty-fifth birthday.

Peter ran his hand through his hair and dropped to his knee. “Diana?” His eyes told me what question he was going to ask. “Will you marry me?”

“Peter,” my daughter’s eyes filled with tears. “I can only promise to love you as long as we shall live, and well,” she stammered, “that won’t be much longer.”

“The rest of your life is all I ask, but I will love you for the rest of mine,” he said.

As my daughter murmured her affirmative reply through her muffled tears, I prayed that I would have that last dance with my little girl on her wedding day.

Just days later, if only for a moment, I took my daughter in my arms, lifting her from her wheelchair on her wedding day. I never thought I’d see this moment. It would be our last dance.

See Authors page for Jen’s bio.

TAKES TWO TO TANGO
by Bolton Carley

Wiggling in under the covers, Tony pushed his way over nearer to Tanya. Fully engrossed, Tanya paid little attention as she cranked up the volume another notch in an attempt to hear the TV better over his rustling sheets.
Tony rolled over, throwing his arm over Tan’s flat stomach. Tan sighed and squirmed further up out of the blankets glued to the TV. To no avail, Tony edged over even closer to Tanya hoping for a quick rendezvous, the kind that puts a man into a deep sleep. Having none of it, Tanya ignored Tony for her favorite show caught up in the fox trot, the tango, and a hip-hop number in which she marveled at their flexibility. The way the girl slithered under her partner who did push-ups symbolizing a roll in the hay, oh, how Tanya envied their sex appeal. Tony nuzzled Tanya’s ear, noticing her breathing change at the sexual innuendo of the final piece of the night.
Tony had no love for So You Think You Can Dance. He pretty much referred to it as two hours of misery, but every once in awhile the last dance was a risqué number that put his girl in “the mood.” Leaning in, Tony kissed the crease in Tan’s neck making her giggle like a bubble gum wrapper joke. Grabbing the remote, Tony clicked off the TV and whispered like a teenage boy in a car backseat, “Wanna make that last dance a reality?”

See Authors page for Bolton’s bio.


THE COMPETITION
by Travis Smith

Tears streamed down Tracy’s cheek, dripping from her face to fall towards the river winding through the rocks below. The months of planning: choosing a dress, picking a hair style, buying the perfect jewelry, the hours in the gym to look her best. All wasted.
This was supposed to be her debut. Yes, the ball was opened to all of the debutantes in the area. Yes, the ball was to raise money for charity, but she was the reigning Miss Jackson County. She was the class president. She should be the center of the ball. Bobby Marcum should be dancing with her, not that red-headed bitch from Knoll County.
“Isn’t it beautiful out here?”
Tracy turned towards the voice.
“I can’t believe he is dancing with me,” the girl went on. “It is like a dream come true.” She spun gracefully, her white dress flaring out.
Her scream lasted only a moment.
Yes, it is like a dream come true, Tracy thought.
The girls red hair was visible splayed out over the rocks where she had landed and Tracy watched as all sparks of life went extinct in the broken body below. She turned towards the sound of music starting again and carefully dabbed the tears from her eyes.
What luck, she thought seeing that no one was around. It may look like an accident.
She smoothed her dress as she walked inside, intent on being Bobby Marcum’s partner for the next dance.

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.

THE LAST DANCE
by Kristine E. Shmenco

She floated up slowly from the depths, broke the surface of sleep, reluctant to leave her dreams. She dipped below the surface to look for his eyes. Reached out to find his arms, felt his waist and hard ribs beneath her fingertips. A smile for her alone. Music, faint, rose up and surrounded her, buoyed her back to the surface. It was time to leave him, to rise and walk into sunlight. She smiled beneath the covers knowing whatever stumbled her during the day, she could close her eyes and hear that music and rise.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.


THE LAST KISS
by Sandra Davies

The last dance.
The last kiss.
The last time he touched me.
That was the night before. He said he did not want me at the station. Said it would be too distressing, he did not want to show himself up as weak in front of his pals.
I thought they would surely be feeling the same way, saying goodbye to their own best girls, wives, children. Mothers, too though they would be brave for them. More futile in a way because mothers know more death, about damage done to bodies. Know that that glory is too close to gory.
But I wanted to see him one last, last time.
So I went to the station. The high glass dome almost hidden behind drifting sepia-coloured smoke, perfect for the desperate sadness of the day. Tangible, cloying, khaki, the almost snot-green smoke from poor grade coal. Enough on its own to clog the throat, sting the eyes.
Not all khaki. Over by the ABC caff there was a dozen or so in dusty air-force blue.
Blue interspersed with the drabness of too-many-seasons-worn winter-weight woollen coats.
And even had there been more than a dozen he would have been easy to spot, at six feet three. Plus the gold of his hair, suddenly spot-lit by the reluctant emergence of the November sun.
As was the similarly-coloured hair of the woman he had his arms around. As were the two blonde children clinging onto the hem of his jacket.

See Authors page again for Sandra’s bio.

“WHY ARE YOU CALLING?”
by Gita M. Smith

Why are you calling me here? I told you never to call me here.
I didn’t know what else to do.
There are a hundred other things to do like wait until tomorrow night. You are impossible!
It’s important and I thought you’d want to –
What I ‘want to’ do is hang up and forget you bothered me. Now go –
Stewart! Listen to me. I can’t meet you tomorrow night. I have to cancel.
What do you mean? Thursday is our night. We agreed it would always take precedence.
Stewart, I just can’t this week.
Can’t? Why would you make any other plans? Do you know the inconvenience our arrangement has caused me over the years? The excuses I’ve had to make? How dare you schedule something else for Thursday?
I didn’t schedule anything. That is, not exactly.
Malina, you’re not making sense. Spit it out. This call has gone on long enough.
I’ve met someone. I don’t feel comfortable keeping Thursday.
You what? You met someone since last Thursday?
Earlier, actually.
How could you do this to me?
You’re married, Stewart. I don’t see that I’ve done anything to you.
Malina! Thursdays are what I live for! Please don’t do this.
I deserve someone, Stewart. Someone full time, I mean.
I’ll fall apart, Malina. Please! Please meet me tomorrow. Just one last time? To say goodbye? Our usual place?
Just once?
Just once. And Malina, thank you… for calling.

See Authors page again for Gita’s bio.


HAPPY TRAILS
by Paul de Denus

To distract myself, I escape out the window.

Clouds flirt and tango. Panache brassieres, full and fleeting boogie overhead, such happy pillows on which to bury one’s dream. Along the distant telephone wires, a musical staff of black birds line dance. The sky is but a light blue slip.

Walking up the sky, upper winds now sheer-shape the clouds Disney-esque, forming mickey mouse ears and goofy stovetop hats. A package of hard rain lands against the window banging a heavy beat but I’m whistling Happy Trails and everything’s clear. As the billowing ballet waltzes slowly across the promenade, the dark curtain pulls away and I remember I don’t like to dance. I don’t like anything about dance; I’m afraid I don’t know how.

My room is warm and in shadow, my bed feels like its floating, sleepy head on those happy pillows. Next to me, I notice a tiny dancer swing low on a gossamer cloud.
“Time for your medication,” the tiny dancer sings. Her eyes crinkle seductively, softening her small face.
“Would you like to dance?” she asks.
“You know I don’t want to,” I say.
“I’ll be gentle.”
Hooking my arm, we skirt along the hem of the horizon.

See Authors page again for Paul’s bio.

ENDTITLE
by Michael D. Brown

Ed waited all night to dance with the attractive brunette with the friendly smile. She beamed when she arrived, then was immediately surrounded by the cadre of clear-complexioned, well-built young men who exuded their wealth. What chance had he with his acne scars, and awkwardness in making interesting conversation? They had little in common outside of enthusiasm. He avoided his usually stealthy drink at snack time in order to maintain a clear outlook. From the other side of the room he gazed feeling her personality wafting across. She was clearly a star. He recalled once discussing the weather with someone and having something green stuck to his teeth because that woman had laughed in an odd superior way, staring at the words leaving his mouth. He kept licking his teeth and afterwards checked in a mirror but found nothing. His insecurity was his greatest flaw.
Now at the end of the evening, he danced like the trouper he dreamed of being. He was Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and a bit of John Travolta rolled into one. He convinced himself it was worth waiting for the other guys to have their turn, so he could outshine them. Still, he wished for an audience in his moment, and the mop he gallantly tossed was not a responsive partner.
After he changed into his street clothes and shut the lights, he took one last look back at the empty hall, telling himself next time he would foxtrot as that displayed his best moves.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.


Illustrations for Spot 052 provided by mdjb.

July 14, 2012

Spot 051: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

THE VANGUARD OF THE LAMBS
by Bill Lapham


After the war, caution didn’t matter. Vigilance was not a guarantor of life. Luck mattered. Fate mattered. Norms that had previously kept a lid on man’s propensity to act violently, vanished, violently. A seething cauldron of hate spilled over and scalded the wary and the oblivious alike. It seemed like every idea mankind had ever devised to control his wicked twin had evaporated like a puddle on a hot day.

Anarchy reigned.

Armed men were powerless to protect themselves; the unarmed squealed like lambs trapped in the path of stampeding bison. Believing moral turpitude had been supplanted by a wave human kindness and generosity, some men had grown complacent. They believed a divine providence would protect and sustain them somehow. Those who assumed compassion, mercy and thoughtful prayer were sufficient to shield themselves from wonton belligerence were consumed by the fervor of their own misgivings.
             * * *
The unsuspecting vanguard of the lambs strode into a peaceful meadow when the leader of the ambush unleashed his attack. The attackers loosed an execrable display of brutality and ruthlessness. They showed no mercy, accepted no pleas. Primal instincts dictated their course. They killed every aspirating thing except the flies. Black clouds of them swarmed to the feast.

The warm stench of open mortal wounds wafted in the chill morning air like steam. Blades and bullets silenced the wounded one by one. Death lay everywhere, bleeding. Scalps. Heads. Viscera.

The attackers melted into the woods, the Kid with them.


LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY
by Bill Lapham

I don’t know why the absence of shackles should make the air sweeter to breathe, the water colder to drink, sleep deeper and darker, wakefulness clearer and less shot-through with fear, but it does.
             *
Fuck equality. This system is not conducive to the attainment of equality. It’s an illusion, a word Jefferson stuck in there to make us all feel better, like if we thought we were all equal, we would be happy. Bullshit. We compete. There are winners and losers. There will always be somebody richer, stronger, smarter, more agile, luckier, more privileged, talented, and connected than we are. Even systems designed to impose equality — from each according to his means, to each according to his needs — failed.

Call me cynical.

             *
Three boys grew up together, they were more than neighbors, they were brothers. They were kids, and young. They played games, sports, army. Built forts, climbed trees, ran through the woods. They played baseball and football; swam, ran and rode bikes, before triathlons.

Life intervened and split them up. One became a trial lawyer, one a civil engineer, and the third, a military leader. Life happened to them for decades without them ever talking to each other about any of it. They lived alone through times when being alone made things worse.

Then one day one of them figured out how to get them back together in the village of their childhood.

Forty years later they played like they hadn’t spent a day away.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

FRATERNAL LIBERTIES
by Sandra Davies

‘Lie? I don’t lie to you. You should know that.’
‘I should know it, yes. Thought I did at one time … but now I’m not so sure. Perhaps I’ve been too trusting.’
She turned from the mirror to face him.
Immediately an escalation of danger, a fleshed and real man rather than a glass reflection. The heat of his skin flared in her nostrils, and she became aware of his breathing and much more of the anger and scathing contempt for her in his eyes.
She had to fight back.
‘If you didn’t think you could trust me why didn’t you say something, when you saw what your brother was doing? Why wait until now? Isn’t it more than a little dishonest of you to ignore it then and only complain now? I didn’t know you’d seen him. I don’t know whether or not he knew he’d been seen. But if he thought you knew but weren’t going to complain then he’d’ve been perfectly justified in thinking you didn’t mind.’
‘Perhaps I wanted to test you?’
‘You don’t ‘test’ people you trust! You either trust them or you don’t.’
‘I saw that you didn’t stop him. And that he continued to touch you, to put his hand in your knickers. That you hadn’t exactly slapped his hand away. I asked myself ‘why not’?’
‘And what did you answer yourself?’
‘I didn’t. I want you to tell me that, to tell me why not.’

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

THEY WERE HERE
by Paul de Denus

In the late 70’s, eager to leave the cold confines of Canada, I moved to San Francisco and immediately warmed up to the Californian pipe dream: a counterculture of peace, love and understanding. Wandering the steep straight streets and grid-shaped districts, I was set free, wide-open to the vibe. I observed and absorbed, listened and learned and reevaluated and rebuilt my previously sheltered life.

I made some friends, met my wife and found a job at a department store as a graphic artist. Rit and Richard. Jack and Rich. Tim and Daniel. Bud and Colin. Richard and Stephen. Roger and Gary. These were my associates, most from a place of work called Liberty House, theirs’ a fraternity of gay brotherhood in the world of visual display. Some I didn’t know too well. Others became good friends and working partners.

In the 80’s, the AIDS epidemic quietly swept San Francisco, insidiously infiltrating the gay community. Some friends suddenly showed symptoms. Some got sick. Dangerous concoctions of untested pills were taken. Some got sicker. Some died. It was devastating and frightening. But friendships survived.

Over the years, having moved away, we lost touch with the community. Then out of the blue, we received an email from a friend telling us of an interview he had done for a documentary about AIDS. It was good to hear from Daniel again but the documentary was a devastating reminder of those dark days, the friends lost.

The link to the movie trailer is here. See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

LIBERTY
by Michael D. Brown

The lake lies flat, unmoving, not as glass, but in its grayness promising comfort like an expansive bed, a matrimonial bed, although here he has no partner, only friends, and the freedom to be whatever he wants. For the long weekend, he will sleep alone and, awake, drift through moments undefined. Too often there is an agenda, a to-do list, must needs, and pronto, but not here, not now. Sitting arched to avoid the recurrence of lower back pain, coffee cup to one side, cigarette tamped, and staring contentedly at the opposite shore, he could understand a Virginia Woolf-like wading into oblivion, not to say a suicidal desperation to escape madness would drive him; rather a slipping away into the soft haze of making this instance of total freedom last forever—never again to respond to obligation, merely to pass the time in the company of like-minded mates under a creative impetus and to be one with the subsuming water. These sentiments arrive in retrospect simply because he is remiss in promptly stating his case, and hindsight provides perspective to which he is neither entitled nor begrudged. He was free of restraints, seized a viewpoint, and situated it in place. Were he to wander, that freedom would chain him to an unmanageable trepidation, but in this place the unknown is not a consideration. Some of us are slaves to our emotions. Some lead. Some follow. No one is left behind. Dreams of deliverance from earthbound responsibilities generate a static tide.


EQUALITY
by Michael D. Brown

In the cabin, cooled by forced air, all are on equal footing, a little unsteady. Prompted, a back story presents itself, but chance rules. Will they appreciate him? It is a fair question after spending twelve months in the company of strangers to whom he is mortally attached. He fears he may waver, but poise and dignity are easily maintained until he nods off and someone attempts to snap a photograph. Inactivity is out of the question. Inside versus outside may be considered a balanced equation—the relaxing drift apposite to hive-like business but always personal. This is not industry though there is industriousness in evidence. Ghost brothers and sisters walk among us, some having already been assigned roles while others wait to be placed. All are of equal value. Some will supply the romance of mystery and the science of speculation while others act the victim or the perpetrator. It is often hard to tell the actual from the imagined, difficult to remark spaces between, and nearly impossible to separate what coalesces. To be sure, there are moments of what the uninitiated would refer to as real life, but here they serve as connecting fibers; real is unreal, and unreal is actual. Stepping out to gaze at stars gives one pause to reflect on how much of either is required. A speck is a speck regardless of size. We are all specks in the universe, relatively speaking. Does he have a right to yearn for greatness? He thinks not.


FRATERNITY
by Michael D. Brown

The brotherhood discusses women, and he has it on good authority the sisterhood talks about men in regard to similar attributes differentiated merely by gender.
He often thought they were related—siblings from different parents, but the highlight of this sighting was when they provoked his memory with tales of activities in which he never dreamt of participating and boosted him with tokens of esteem.
“We love you,” a brother said fraternally, frankly. Although those words come easily to many, they did not feel insincere, yet surprisingly facile to one who has to wrench sentiment from a cynical heart.
An untwinned sister told him she did not want him to leave, but managed goodbye on the verge of tears, and he had to focus on a detail of the landscape to avoid following suit, a finger snap away from complying.
In a yellow shirt, he was about to enter a yellowed building serving as a transition between what mattered most and what pays the bills. He could but watch them drive away, segueing into the year that would fall among all of them, wondering if his name would be mentioned, and felt it might, but could not imagine in what regard.
He has brothers and sisters in far-flung locales, and if truth be told, he manufactured the distance long ago while searching for a sweet spot. Absence is the substance, or lack thereof, which constitutes an awareness of the need for proximity. They are under his skin, brushing his soul.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


Illustrations for Spot 051 adapted from various sources.

July 7, 2012

Spot 050: Suicide Attack(s)

THE VICTIM
by Bill Lapham

I was sitting on in a plane, in a bus, in a train. I was going to market, to church, to synagogue, to mosque. I bore my friend aloft in a box made for burial, in a crowd of mourners, sobbing. I was standing on queue, in a line, in a mob. I was a dissident, a citizen, an insurgent, an infidel. I was a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew. I was an American soldier, a contractor, a bodyguard, a body. I was a man, a father, a brother, a husband, a son. I was a woman, a mother, a sister, a wife, a daughter. I was a kid playing with other kids. I was a merchant, a police officer, a shop keeper, a cook. I could read, I could write, I could cypher numbers. I tried counting the stars once, but lost count. I never tried counting the grains of sand. I read the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, and a few others. The best was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I watched sports, I played sports, sports is a metaphor for lots of things.

I had seen them happen, heard them happen, felt them happen, but I never thought one would happen to me. This one I never saw coming, never heard happening, never felt the reverb. She was right next to me, then she was not, and then she was. And just before she pressed the button, I thought.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 

THE FIRST FATALITY
by Sandra Davies

Was it something in the air on these occasions? The long-standing wood-beamed barn itself holding some atavistic catalyst for violence? Or the accumulated testosterone of annually-assembled Burdock males reaching criticality?
Last year’s had maybe been the worst of all, but thankfully confined so that neither condemnation nor breach of confidence had reached too many ears. This year, fingers crossed, who knows …
Who knew?
Who told?
In drink and maybe with an eye to puncturing pomposity (unnecessary: his, while obvious, was basically good-natured, harmless). But someone had suggested he look to his wife, had drifted in another Burdock name – one so unlikely as to be quite ludicrous – and while he drank and talked and acted cock of the walk, he watched.
And saw what he had previously been blind to.
Saw that while she still tried to be discreet, still emulated wifely chastity, he – and his unseemly wife –were hell-bent on marital suicide.
But in the end it was neither of them that died.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

SMILE WHEN YOUR HEART IS ACHING…
by Michael D. Brown

They say people likely to walk into a bank with a bomb strapped on have always had suicidal tendencies and aren’t making statements for patriotic or religious glory. Some slit their wrists or take an overdose of barbiturates and fail to do the deed, or realize there isn’t enough PR inherent in sinking privately into a blood- filled tub because where is the personal demon recognition they desire? Too, there is the misguidance to which they’re so susceptible readily available from the internet and radical books. Let’s not even consider head-banging death metal rock, whose proponents claim it diverts them from doing themselves in by allowing discovery of others with dark problems making money shouting about them. Hopelessness, depression, guilt, shame, and rage are a powerful combination the sufferer knows cannot be alleviated externally. Anyone at the point of blowing up himself; statistically men do this more than women, and taking a bunch of people with him isn’t looking for a cure to what ails him. And he’d have to be more than a bit insane to believe there’s someone out there who appreciates whatever it is he’s trying to achieve. Now, insane people usually do not admit to the condition, but a clever individual might to keep you from thinking he was.
I’ve no idea why I’m saying all this. I just dove in and took a stance. It was either this or go with my original plan to order Acme plastic explosives and wear them into First National.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

ASK AND ANSWER
by Paul de Denus

What is the purpose?
We will make a statement.

What statement is that?
They will leave our land.

Why must I do this?
You will be remembered as a martyr.

What about my family?
They will be proud.

Will this hurt?
Only those around you.

Why me?
It is His will.

Will I feel it?
You will feel liberation.

Will it be worth it?
Your reward is the kingdom… and more.

But why must I do this?
Because there is no greater honor.

Then why don’t you do it?

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.


June 30, 2012

Spot 049: The Guiding Light

TRUE NORTH
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.

WYOMING MORNING
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.

BLINDED BY THE LIGHT
by Sandra Davies

Proactive.
Reactive.
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.

GUIDE, LIGHT
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.

READ LIKE A BOOK
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.