Posts tagged ‘bill floyd’

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

May 12, 2012

Spot 042: With Foresight


by Bill Floyd

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.


Illustrations for Spot 042 by mdjb


March 10, 2012

Spot 033: Revolver


by Michael D. Brown

“Let me tell you how it will be. I’m taking everything, Frank.” She was in one of her raunchier moods.
“Well, if you’ll allow me to be frank,” he said, “There’s going to be very little left to take.” He had been careful about investing vast sums in tax hedges he never told her about, and she was not the brightest star.
Her lawyer was her sister-in-law’s brother, and on his relationship with Marcus he would never be frank. Ostensibly, the two men did not get along, but in fact they did and in an intimate way Lisa would never be able to fathom. Indeed, she never reasoned why he was not contesting a divorce.
He had not counted on Eric, Lisa’s brother, who, although he also gave off dim light, was aware of something occurring between Frank and Marcus, but did not know what to call it, surreptitious though firm backslaps and ass pats notwithstanding.
“The taxman cometh,” Frank now said by way of humorous diffusion, “and he’s going to plow through our savings like Grant took Richmond.”
Lisa, who suffered mood swings, was trying on false eyelashes, and he believed she was already hatching a plan to flirt with the auditor, as yet unseen, and for all the good it would do her, while Frank thought maybe a few baseball games would provide the space he needed to explain to her brother the vicissitudes of friendship and how he would always consider him family no matter what happened.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



ELEANOR RIGBY (MacKenzie’s Tale)
by Sandra Davies

The press got hold of it, of course. I might’ve guessed, mid-August and precious little else in the way of news, but not that they’d take quite so much interest, sending a film crew to the funeral, and then to have turned it into a song, a sort of mini-musical, string quartet backing and all the rest. It was them, the songwriters, who gave her that fancy name, made her sound better than she was. I mean, Eleanor was a queen, Castile, all those memorial crosses Edward I had erected in 1290 or thereabouts, whereas Nelly was little more than the nameless slut she was when I got her.
She was a quick learner, though, I’ll give her that – even at darning socks! – but that wasn’t what I needed her for. Just not always as … compliant … as I intended her to be. And more secretive than ever I gave her credit for.
At least they never found that it was not just her name that was buried along with her.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Travis Smith

[should join us shortly}

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

Each day goes so fast. The mornings, despite my hacking and sniffling, are filled with bright thoughts of all I want to accomplish, which I don’t get round to in spite of best intentions. Then, most nights I stay up too late, noodling and doodling. It’s the twelve hours in between that dissipate like the smoke from one of my too, too many cigarettes. Of course, when I finally work up the energy to do a little housecleaning, I find that again. Everything is yellow with a film I can only imagine has blackened my lungs.
I’m reminded of the baby, little Bobby, who did not reach the age of two. Your mom and sisters finally getting it together to paint the wretched apartment. You had fun all afternoon drawing silly pictures on the walls before covering them over with that pale blue until late in the evening when you put down your brushes and turned off the radio to admire your newly brightened home. Nobody realized, even during his feeding, that Bobby was being asphyxiated by the fumes.
More than one person remarked how long his little body looked in the tiny casket, and how it did not signify when later you gashed holes in all the wooden walls. You have never been right since the loss of your little brother, have you?
I know it’s hard to commit, but I would love you to be here now.
I’m not sure what I should do about all these holes.



by Gita M. Smith

“Barb, it’s Madge!”
“Madge? Oh… my goodness. We haven’t heard from you in ages. (Hand over receiver: Honey, it’s your sister.”)
“I know, and that’s why I’m calling! We have so much catching up to do. I’ve been on a retreat with my guru – you remember Sri Dev Hatmankandu – and he told us that we should return to the world after being sequestered for three months in Bangalore – you would NOT believe what passes for sanitation in some places — and to be with family as part of our re-entry.”
“I see…so…”
“SO! I am coming to visit you and Bart just as soon as I can eat solid food again. I caught a teeny parasite over there – all of us did, actually – and I’m almost recovered. My naturopath said it isn’t contagious.”
“Ah, Madge, dear, please hang on a sec while I get a cake out of the oven. I just heard the timer ding. (Bart, she said she’s coming to visit. I don’t know when. When she stops having diarrhea! THINK!)
“Heyyyy, I’m back! It’s so great that you traveled to India. And you know, about the visit? I’d love you to – and so would Bart. But he just, well he surprised me with the Winnebago I’ve been wanting for years and we’re about to hit the open road ourselves.”
“Will you be gone long?”
“Very long.”
“What should I do?
“Just sit tight. We’ll come to you. Eventually.”
“Oh! I’d love you to.”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

Detective Avery marks and bags several bottles of narcotic sitting on the nightstand. His partner Madison cork-fingers and bags the bottle of Jack, the one with granulated residue on the bottom. The woman – one Sarah Hope – has also been bagged and tagged and removed to the county morgue. The bedroom shows no sign of struggle. Her Chevy Vega sits quiet in the driveway; her purse still contains her keys and ID. No sign of cash. No sign of her twelve-year-old son either.

is a spew of blood painted on the back seat of the car. DNA is being checked.
There are accusations of abuse – according to the sister-in-law – flags like meth-lab and pill-mill activity mixed in too. The father took off months ago, resides in Little Woods, the next town over. “The boy suffered mightily at their hands,” the sister-in-law says. “Damaged goods.” Detective Avery digests the murder/suicide theory. “Happens all the time. Pill-popping mom kills son… dumps body… offs herself. Only thing missing is a suicide note.” Madison nods, adds, “And the boy.”

perhaps under darkened walkways or bleak alleys is where you’ll find them. Their noses hurt from the self-inflicted punch; didn’t think they’d bleed that much. The backseat blood fest should keep the police occupied for a while. Black thoughts caper and dance. “Momma had it coming… paid hard. Daddy will too.” They begin to walk again, then run, only a half-mile outside of Little Woods.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

When the wind blew and Neptune’s mood was dark, waves smashed against the shore-borne rocks and the spray would reach all the way to the windows of our house. In the winter, the water froze and the view was like looking through a crystal ball — with no future in sight. Not often did we see blue skies at that latitude, but quite often the sea was green as the vegetation it slopped ashore.

Not far away was a submarine base, and on a clear day, I could see them get underway. When the sun glinted off their hulls at just the right angle, the reflection had a golden, almost yellow, glow. With binoculars I could track them until they opened their vents and vanished, as if they’d been exiled for crimes against humanity.
I always wondered how the crews spent their hours underwater, living in a machine loaded with weapons of mass destruction, weapons of total annihilation. How could they live with that knowledge? Would they really launch them?

Once they were out of sight, they seemed to be non-existent. Then, in a different season, they would appear again, inbound, headed for their home port, families and safety. A place where the crew could rest and walk the highlands and think — until the next time they went to sea.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

‘So, when she told me – and obviously I was completely gobsmacked, felt quite wobbly in myself for a bit, like I did when I saw that accident last week – I told you about that didn’t I? Yes, thought I did, gave me a proper turn that did! Anyway, I said to her, I said, well asked more like, I said ‘Isn’t it about time you told me the truth?‘… my God look at the state of her, no, not that one, the one in the red dress, yes that’s the one, if that’s not mutton dressed as lamb I don’t know what is! … Where was I? Oh yes, last night. Well, yesterday afternoon I suppose it was, it must’ve only been four o’clock, if that, because the football results hadn’t been on and I know he’d’ve shut me up then, he always does, though, as I always say to him, none of it really matters does it, they’ll only be playing again next week, and anyway he always reads them again in the Sunday paper, all over the blooming breakfast table. And it’s only bloody football after all, load of overpaid prima donnas – did you read about that one and those models? It was in last week’s paper, three of them together, and Bollinger and goodness knows what else – more money than sense, obviously. But you’ve only got to look at her that I was telling you about, to know that, although what she did certainly takes some beating.’



by Bill Floyd

She said: I’m gone.
He said: But why?
You know.
Please stay.
I can’t.
Why not?
My heart.
Oh, that.
Can’t be.
Is so.
I’ll change.
You won’t.
It’s him.
It’s you.
No choice?
Too late.
Come here.
Fat chance.
Come back.
I’m gone,
she said.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

She said I was cute. She said I was the best she ever had. She said let’s get married. She said she didn’t want any kids. She said my apartment was too small. She said we needed more room. She said the over-priced house was perfect. She said we should get a new car. She said I should clean up the garage. She said I should put my clubs in the attic. She said she wanted a bigger house. She said she didn’t care for my parent’s attitude. She said she didn’t want my family coming over anymore. She said my friends were immature. She said she didn’t want my friends coming over anymore. She said she was going shopping again. She said she needed a bigger closet. She said I didn’t make enough money. She said I should get a better job. She said the house was a mess. She said we needed a maid. She said she was bored. She said I never took her anywhere. She said she wanted something different. She said she didn’t think she loved me anymore. She said I should move out. She said, “What are you doing?” She said, “Is that a gun?” She said, “But honey-bun…” She said no more.



by Mike Handley

I’d long buried the memory until a friend, perhaps giddy because he was sitting on my porch wearing nothing but a whiskey sour, felt compelled to remember the first time he disrobed without being self-conscious.

A teenager, he was hunting deer when inexplicably struck with a primal urge to stand naked among trees. His grin was a toothpaste commercial complete with pinging starburst.

“Oh my god, it was so cool,” he said.

To that point, I thought I alone had done such a thing.

I’d been in my mid-20s, afield before sunrise in the middle of an Alabama winter. Around midmorning, fascinated by the play of light and shadows across my clothes and the sun’s warm caress, I took off my many layers, folded and placed them on the log where I’d sat.

I basked for the next half-hour, watching the sun dapple my body, igniting the fine blond hair on my forearms and the coppery thatch at my groin. I wanted to stay that way forever, but the whistle of an approaching train snatched me out of Eden.

Interviewing the police chief not long afterward about a bust in which camo-clad officers had staked out a patch of marijuana in the middle of the woods and caught the grower, wearing only boots, coming to check his plants, I decided I wasn’t so eager to return to my private playground.

“What kind of freak would do that?” the chief asked.

“Beats me,” I lied.

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

Chas spent the summer in London before moving on to the job in Lisle. On his penultimate day in town, he had drinks with Neville, who said although he knew Chas could not pass up the opportunity awaiting him, nevertheless he did not want to call this a goodbye luncheon.
“You’ve got the flat with all a bloke could want, and you’re trusting me to hold it together for you until November. How do you know we won’t hold wild smoking parties and destroy everything?”
“Is that your plan?”
“No. Course not. I’m just saying.”
“There was something else I wanted to ask of you, but I don’t quite know how to put it other than bluntly. Could you keep an eye on Heather?”
“How do you mean?” The fluttering under Neville’s left eye was confirming what Chas had suspected. He had already lost her.
“We promised to keep in touch and all, but, and it’s not as if I don’t trust her, just that she’s so pretty, and popular…”
“And she sings like a bird. Did I tell you I finally got a chance to go listen to her perform at the club last Friday? I know you think we’re not copacetic but I really do like her artistic bent. She’s like one of those beatnik chicks left over from the last generation, and…” Neville was rambling—always a sure sign he was covering up.
Yes, Heather could sing all right, and like a bird she had already flown.



by Kristine Shmenco

She liked to sing in the shower, and sometimes she liked to practice for her next audition there. He liked to stand outside the door and listen while she entertained herself, hot water fading tepid. He listened to one late-night shower (she’d been out all night with the girls and wanted to wash the smoke from her hair, she said, before bed) and wondered what she was auditioning for this time. The lines went something like “it wasn’t all lies but it wasn’t all love, either.” She hummed through rooms dusting picture frames that were gone the next day and he wondered why she didn’t take the nails, too. He began taking long walks down by the pond in town and wondered why her hand wasn’t in his. Tired of walking, he took long turns at the bar wondering why she wasn’t sitting there, arguing the fine points of some crappy movie they watched eight years ago. He knew where she was. More importantly, she knew where he was, and it was easier this way. She hoped the ice in his glass tasted sweet, thinking about his gentle eyes. She knew he’d be okay the farther away she went and it wouldn’t be her getting smaller in the distance. She left it all in the house and took her convertible one last turn through a neighborhood she would never miss. She was happy for the first time in a long time and felt connected to herself and the sun.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

In his waiting room, the first thing you’ll notice is the upscale décor. The walls are lined with Eames, the single molded plywood type. They fit your body like perfect dentures. A 3-seat black leather sofa occupies the opposite wall and you’ll want to sit there awhile, just to feel it opiate your senses. A Skagen coffee table crouches between the sofa and chairs. It is adorned with picture perfect worlds that offer tastes you can only imagine. The doctor always delivers.

Stephanie will guide you in to the pleasure chair. Above your head, drop pendant lights hang like plucked eyeballs still attached to the optic nerve. You’ll try not to giggle. In the corner of the room, there is an empty dome-shaped birdcage. You’ll imagine a yellow canary on the empty swing singing a familiar soundless tune.

When the doctor appears, his hands will barely touch your face as he painlessly injects your mouth. His small hands will move like those of a mime. Your tongue will tingle as he tinkles the ivories and he’ll polish you off with a tasty minor flourish. His face will be close enough to kiss. He will nod in rhythm as if hearing the soundless music, perhaps the song of the imagined canary.

As you leave, Stephanie will hand you – discreetly of course – a white velvet bag. It’s what you came for, isn’t it? What’s inside will soon have you humming another tune.



by Paul de Denus

I’ve been all over the album cover. Oh man, have you seen it? It’s a mixed bag of black and white caricature and photos. Some guy named Klaus Voormann did it. He’s on the far right, in George’s hair. If I’d known they loved this kind of art, I’d have submitted something to their Fan Club. It’s the kind of thing I draw. Ask Mr. Monteith, my art teacher. He’s also my Math teacher but he’s a damn good artist too and let me tell you, he’d know! I’m not knocking this Klaus guy. He’s fantastic! He went nuts on their hair. Shit, I wish I could grow my hair that long. Dad won’t let me – says it’s for girls. He’s having a hard time keeping up these days. But I’ve seen his foot clocking to Taxman.

The photos on the cover look like my dad took them, all dark and lousy. They’re cropped badly. I bet they slapped them together after dropping some bad LSD. The back cover has a dark photo too but it’s really cool. They’re all wearing glasses and paisley and suits and grinning like they’re high except for Paul. I bet that means something. I’ve looked for a revolver in the picture too. It’s probably buried in there somewhere. George looks like he’s holding something. Man, I just wanted to tell you, they’re totally capable of cool stuff like that. They really are.



by Gita M. Smith

I live inside a snow globe at a Stuckey’s by the I-70 off-ramp to Torrington, Conn. It takes some getting used to, this life does. Snowglobe dwellers, or ‘Globers,’ as we like to call ourselves, forever have a 360-degree view of the world. Because of the convex curve of the globe’s glass walls, things on the outside look unpleasantly enlarged. A human eyeball approaching the glass surface appears like a vast milky moon with a watery dark center. A hand that grasps us is magnified a hundredfold. Fingerprints leave giant troughs and hills on the surface of our sky where they smear and mingle with other fingerprints.
Like whales, we hear sound waves through the medium of water. Normally, water mutes sounds, but the round walls bounce noise around and magnify it. But I am happy because I’m taken care of by Shelly, the store manager. How delicately and tenderly she picks up my snow globe to wipe away customer fingerprints. She peeks at me and smiles when the snow-glitter drifts down on my head and shoulders. “Well hello, there, little fellow,” she says, as sultry as the dark hair that falls over my world when she bends to dust my shelf.
Tragically, there has never been a successful relationship between a Glober and a human. Yet I hold out hope that someday soon, either she will shrink or I will grow. I long to be with her and hold the hand that holds my universe in its loving grasp.



by Nicole E. Hirschi

My senses refuse to focus.
I feel like I’m dying,
forgetting Here and Now,
drifting in dreams of Past,
believing wasted half-truths,
of loves come and gone,
lives spent in the briefest moments
of happiness outdone by sorrow.
Yesterday, I wished-
not for a second of Today
but for an eternity
of what lies beyond
in a world of Tomorrows.

My senses begin to fade.
Dying? But not dead.
Too much, TOO MUCH!
Today’s thoughts of doubt
struck down my reachable goals-
my promises of untold glory
waiting patiently on the shelves
of the ‘morrow.
Remembering Yesterday, I cry.
With back turned
to hide my face,
I give a poor farewell
to Yesterday’s wasted wishes.

My senses try to focus.
Surviving, but confused and hurt.
I try to comfort my heart,
burning for dreams to hold-
even if broken- to mold.
For what doubts festered in Today
will Tomorrow, become Yesterday’s.
Dreading what’s Past, but
scared of the Future,
I live through Tonight to realize
there is no need for wasted suffering
because after Today,
Tomorrow Never Knows…

See Authors page for Nicole’s bio.



Illustrations for Spot 033 inspired by Klaus Voorman and Sandra Davies.


February 11, 2012

Spot 029: The Fine Print


BINDING CONTRACT (The Malefic Bureaucrat)
by Bill Floyd

You’ll say I’m in the details, like it’s my fault, or the details’ fault. If you people paid the least bit of attention, exercised even minimal diligence, I couldn’t get away with any of it, could I?

It’s right there in black-and-white when you click ACCEPT.

You surrendered your right to a fair trail when you signed on so you could access the service, and if said service turned out not only to be not quite what you thought you were getting but something altogether shoddier and more disposable, well, blame yourselves.

It was right there in black-and-white when you signed the line.

(But you could taste it, you couldn’t wait. I barely had to sweeten the deal, barely had to touch it up with the airbrush.)

Now your only recourse is to an arbitrator, one who gets paid by me and decides in my favor 99% of the time. (And believe you me, he gets an earful about that 1%.) This was clearly stated in Section I44b, “Allowances and Restrictions, Cont.”, line 4,779.

I used to walk in the sun, among the angels. But I got shorted, deprived of the attention I deserved, and I guess I kind of pitched a fit. Cast down from the beatific realms, my name cursed by the human units of our currency, the ones whose value gives a clue to our true nature.

Now I’m just another bloody lawyer.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



WAR IS HELL in Two Parts: Part I
by Bill Lapham

The fine print said the government would assign me to a branch of service and a theater of operations according to its needs; God and the chief petty officers would do the rest. I thought, “Geez, that’s swell, whatever I can do to help.”

I signed on the dotted line. The sergeant said, “You look like a swabbie to me, son.”

“Swabbie,” I learned, is slang for a sailor in the Navy. Shoot, I ain’t never seen more water than could fit in a bath tub.

I went to boot camp at Great Lakes. Never been colder in my life. Then advanced shipboard training in San Diego. Up and forward on the starboard side; down and aft on the port side; General Quarters and man battle stations; bend over and kiss your ass good-bye. All that shit.

When I finally got my orders, it was to this behemoth fucking aircraft carrier. Hell, the only thing I knew could fly was a baseball and some birds. When I saw the ship for the first time, I thought, “Hell, yeah, I can get lost in that thing for a couple of years, ain’t nobody gonna find me.”

That was wrong. I got this chief who figured my ass was made to shine his boot. He was always gittin in my shit. First time I ever got underway on that ship I was leaning on the lifelines looking out at all that water when boom—up the ass with his boot.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

some print’s too fine to read
some prints so fine and only feel will do
some prince – but that’s for the blind to hear
sum prints, thumb prints, one on one prints
finger on skin prints
yours on mine, prince
finger whorls shadow as the sun goes down
delight whirls damp as your hand slips down
your imprint in mine forever known
some prints are fine

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by bolton carley

“So did you call the doctor or the drug company?”
“Company. I was so furious. Probably more with myself than them by the time I got done. I was on the phone with them for two hours. I finally just asked the customer service rep to pass me on to the manager who went rounds with me like it was a boxing match. Perhaps I was a giant fool to believe that over the course of six weeks, a pill with the magical powers of a genie could grant me a stomach plain instead the rolling hills of flab I possessed. Guess it was wishful thinking on my part. But damn those companies with their detailed messages hidden on the bottom of the box in writing as foreign as Sanskrit! I swear it’s like they’re muttering under their breath, ‘Duh, U Missed Big Awful Secret Side-effects!’
So then I wondered to myself, ‘What was I smokin’ that I didn’t look at the fine print? No wonder I’m looking like Santa Claus on steroids!’ I’m tellin’ you though, Rick, dumbass or not, they still took advantage of me!”

See Authors page for bolton’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

The guy was a genius. Marlon Fine, I mean. You know, the renowned artist. My God, have you looked closely at those brush strokes? He applied the paint in such believable layers one could almost feel the movement of the fabric. Like the famous portrait, ‘Major D’Abernville’; the uniform glows in hues of dazzling white and gray. And the intimate ‘Mrs. Cowen’, the drape and folds of her yellow gown… utterly radiant. As for ‘The Wellsley Children Seated in the Garden’… well what can one say other than, ‘completely masterful’. It’s agreed; color was important. I heard he studied and mixed his own pigments using techniques the Old Masters employed. But to my mind, it was his attention to detail that paid off.

I studied too. I learned to copy his work and must say – no pun intended – I did a fine job. I followed every detail and stroke, even chemically aged both canvas and frame. It was very lucrative; there were plenty of happy art dealers willing to cough up big money to get their hands on one. Everybody was happy… until I was caught.

I’ve been charged with a treasonable act. Here in Mr. Fine’s country of birth, he is revered; it seems the authorities are overly protective. The offense carries a life sentence. I have been going over the details of the court transcripts and the laws regarding forgeries. I need to fool the judge. The key is in the fine print.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

Marvin took up popular causes. He contributed spare change to whoever stuck a collection box in front of him, and when someone told him they wanted to form a union to increase their hourly wage, he signed the petition. He did not really feel they had a chance in hell (his words at an extended liquid lunch with his boss at The Angler) of getting anywhere with their plans, but he liked Angela, who never quite finished her business degree as every cent went to her parents, and she was usually sent to approach him for his input. Marvin had his own fish to fry. He was in line for a promotion, and if it took getting bombed twice a week while listening to his manager’s marriage problems, he would. He liked the Angler’s seafood platter, but it was murder with gin. After three months’ of wicked weekend hangovers, he was finally promoted. His first thought was to celebrate by asking Angela out, but that Thursday, Othmar called him into his office. Curiously sober, he laid out Marvin’s contract telling him to look over the fine print. He pointed to one particular paragraph. “So, as you see,” he said when Marvin looked up, “Management cannot participate in the forming of unions. As a matter of fact, the first order of business is I want you to find some way to get rid of Bill Stefanofsky, that goddamn insurrectionist, and your girlfriend, too, what’s her name, the bleeding heart in Accounting.”

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



November 26, 2011

Spot 018: Stolen


by Paul de Denus

The mourners are stiff, like dead men awaiting graves, the chapel silent as the closed coffin. I lean into Reggie and voice just how much I think everyone has aged. “The years have not been good for some,” I say quite loudly, observing those hunched over in the surrounding pews. Reggie pokes me in the ribs with a crooked forefinger. “Shhhh,” she whispers, “you’ll wake the dead.”

We lean together under the arch of an ornate wall, next to a nook dancing red and black, the cast of votive flame. Around the chapel, familiar faces – buried under years of time – reveal themselves, old high school ghosts wavering just beneath the surface. We are here for ‘Denny G’ as in Dennis Gable, student voted “most likely to succeed” from our class of 1967.

Denny had been a success, a successful abuser and sadist attracted to the weaker students, those like Reggie and me. After school, he’d quietly graduated to keener sport. Animals disappeared from the neighborhood and then one day, two students went missing. Through the years, Denny went on to steal more lives; he was never caught.

“Here comes the prick now,” Reggie says. We stand and watch Denny climb shakily out of his coffin. What he took from us, we will never get back but there will be a reckoning.
“Time to pay,” I say, as Denny G shambles down the aisle, cold recognition in his eyes as he follows us out, down to a rightful punishment.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Kristine E. Shmenco

None slept. It was easier to get off your knees and go outside to look for survivors. Whoever remained was tended on dirt floors, wounds tied off with rags—the only thing left. No one looked a woman in the eye. No one asked and no one felt the need to speak. Who had the strength to speak (or listen) anyway? The well was checked again for bodies and for once didn’t appear to be tainted. No one looked up to see the sun struggling to rise behind pale curtains. All was blood in the water: Hovels. Fields. Stone walls. Holes in the ground waiting to receive.
The last time they came, they took everything that was metal. If it glinted or had weight it was stuffed in a sack or used to bludgeon anyone whose eye showed a little too much fight. This time they took everything that was wooden-made. There would be nothing left for them to take next time but their bodies, and there were precious few of them now that were slave-worthy. Yet feeding them, keeping them in rough clothes and alive, which was to their minds akin to health, this would become the Viking’s problem. The burden would be lifted from their fathers. Could one fare better in distant lands? No. It wouldn’t matter. Death is death wherever the body falls.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

“Yes, Professor, someone erased your equation.”
“Why would they do that?”
“Perhaps they stole the equation and hoped you would forget it.”
“But I did forget it. E=m something, I think.”
“Da, Si.”
“No, Professor, I meant ‘c’, the constant, speed of light.”
“Was the equation E=mc squared?”
“I told you already. I forget. Besides, I’m not so sure nothing is faster than the speed of light anymore. Could be neutrinos are faster.”
“You think a particle could be faster than a photon?”
“It doesn’t matter what I think, son. The only thing that matters is the truth.”
“The truth?”
“Yes, son, the truth.”
“Fuck the truth, Al, I wanted to know who stole your equation.”

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Bill Floyd

There is a clock at the heart of the world, and it is winding down. Man created the measurement of time, but not time itself. Time is proof of God, because nature bows to time. We are allotted a fleeting, infinitesimal begrudgement of moments, and then we are outside of time, dispersed, nanospurts in the inky black. Time is the most valuable of all possessions. I stole time from you. I stole with lies and I stole with laziness and now my time is at an end. The worst of all the sins I ever committed is the time I took away from you, watching your smile dim from that flashpoint to which there is no returning. Take my hand. The alarm is set.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Robert Crisman

Religion is passed off as DNA Gospel by Pharaohs and Pimps and all other Priests, their main tenet being, “A man is a man and a woman a woman, and never the twain shall meet—though when they do, the man rests on top.”

Babies unborn have that pounded into their heads via drumbeats unleashed by their mothers’ unease in the womb.

Kim and I reached for heaven, a chemical-spiritual eon away, our struggles made sticky by hellish ambitions, mine the desire to take my place among men in the Pharaoh’s Valhall, hers the deep need to have Beauty possessed, as treasure or pillage, though in this land where wealth is a hunger, the difference is surely semantic distinction.

Self-contradictions, those unavowed, mandate the donning of masks in the Passion Play, truly, yet flesh and blood dictate an honest accounting and death to all gods that pose in the mirror your vain hopes have fixed to the walls and the ceiling and floor.

A Theban elegy, Death of a Marriage, 3,000 BC: “A husband walks out the door to go get some smokes—in Memphis with young Nefertiti…”

I pillaged and walked out the door as fear and shame made a grab for my throat…

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.



by Grey Johnson

Wondering whether to use a tissue
the back of her hand
or her sleeve
She feels the leftover taste
of what once was warm and kind
and hides to wipe her lips
Thinking the next time she will turn her face
at the last second
to make it look like it was just an accident that
He missed her mouth

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

“State your name, rank and unit, please.
“Sergeant Ike Petrie, A-Company, First Battalion, Fifth Special Forces, sir.”
“What’s your military occupational specialty?”
“Three-hundred-F-one-Zulu-forty, sir.”
“And what is that?”
“Special forces medic, sir.”
“Why are you here, Sergeant??
“Sir, as a character witness for Sergeant Robinson.
“LeShay Robinson is a friend or acquaintance of yours?
“No, sir.”
“So…you treated him at sick-call, or something?”
“We don’t do sick call, sir, in-garrison medics do.”
“You have no connection to Robinson, but petitioned to testify!??”
“Sir, my connection’s obvious: I eat in his mess when I’m in from the bush.”
“So you know you’re eating stolen food?”
“Robinson’s charged with 32 counts misappropriation/diversion of government property and black marketeering–and you’re testifying to his good character!??”
“Absolutely, sir.”
“For a thief, Sergeant Petrie!”
“For selfless soldier, sir. He traded booze rations, even mine…stuff we didn’t need for fruits and vegetables we did, on the local economy. so we could be healthy when we got our asses shot-off. He did it –not for personal gain–for men who execute the missions, sir.”
“You aided and abetted with your booze-ration coupons?”
“And would, again, sir. Five-fifths of booze a month would kill me; Robinson kept me and the team healthy.”

I was fined $200 and busted-down a rank, the only green beret medic corporal in the army. Despite 14 years’ honorable service, SSG LeShay Robinson was reduced to buck private, sentenced to 10 years hard labor at Ft. Leavenworth, and dishonorably discharged.

[This actual event has been fictionalized and names changed. There were 43 enlisted men, like Petrie and higher, who testified as character witnesses in an effort to effect leniency in the courts-martial sentencing–J.G.]   See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Travis Smith

I was new in town, doing my best to start a new life. Today I tried “the other” coffee shop that was farther from my office. I settled in, taking a breath of the morning air, then she came. She was walking, mumbling to herself. No one else was paying attention to her. She saw me watching and turned from her slow walk. She was pretty, and well dressed, but I could see that something was not right.

“Stolen!” she yelled, quickening her pace, becoming visibly frantic. “Gone! No one will look. Please help me!” She stared into my face with unfocused eyes, clouded with a delusional craze, before spinning in a circle repeating her initial word, “stolen”.

Unsure what to do I smiled, “What was stolen?”

Her eyes locked onto mine once again and for a moment the haze cleared, “My baby, they took her. Please help.” Sadness filled her eyes and a tear rolled down her cheek. Then she stood and walked away, mumbling to herself again.

“Her baby wasn’t stolen,” the man at the next table said. “She died during childbirth and the mom lost it.”

I watched the woman for a moment, my own memories flooding over me. A tear rolled down my cheek as I recalled the pain of piecing a shattered soul back together. “Maybe so, but I understand. The baby took a part of her soul and until she finds that no one can hep her put it back together.”

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

David switched his phone off, took Susy’s phone from her and turned that off too.
‘Time for us …’
‘Christ, David, it’s not exactly quality time is it?’
‘No, but it’s our best chance so far. And I’ve waited long enough.’
‘Long enough? It’s barely four days.’
‘That’s at least three days too long.’

When Paul discovered that both phones were switched off his instinct was to return as quickly as possible, despite knowing that anyway it would be too late.

Unsurprisingly, he was monosyllabic with her. Equally unsurprisingly, she was silent, certainly not happy with her behaviour nor the effect it was having on him. Retreating to the bathroom she allowed herself, briefly, to cry. Wondered why.
Paul noticed her red eyes. Stopped what he was doing and stared at her.
‘Either he didn’t and you’re feeling rejected or, more likely, he did. So you are either regretting it now or it was crap. Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know, but I would appreciate it if you refrained from totally humiliating me and continued to behave as a wife while we are on this ship. Being cuckolded is, I am surprised to learn, just as painful even when it is pretence. Presumably because it reflects on one’s self-esteem. It is also ill-mannered and thoughtless. I hadn’t expected such behaviour from you, Susy.’

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

My director sat stony-faced, asking, “What was taken this time,” in a tone I found offensive and soon felt justified when she followed up with, “That’s another thing I don’t understand. In my whole life, I’ve never been robbed.”
Exactly, I thought, you are thirty-eight, and you don’t know how it feels, and yet you sit and pass judgment, ready to castigate the victim. In my forty-seven years in New York, I had likewise never been robbed. As the word trailed away my head was reviewing what else had been lost. At semester’s beginning she and I had seemed to have a rapport that now was a memory.
Admittedly, my ill-timed excursion to Seattle had made re-establishment of good graces nearly impossible, but I felt, too, the thieves had been responsible for the loss of more than just my dignity.
I noticed cracks running spines on every wall like a Batuz photo. Apparently to her the school was the be all and end all of her interest. I had a life, or rather, believed I had had one before my fourth robbery.
Perhaps I was still being naïve, but I didn’t think so. I would say to people after living in Mexico for ten years, I was beginning to know the drill, yet did not want to believe my adopted country was rife with the corruption everyone back in the States talked about.
Difference in our ages all too apparent that afternoon, she was unnecessarily bitchy, and I felt taken.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



Illustrations for Spot 018 adapted by Michael D. Brown.


November 19, 2011

Spot 017: Achilles’ Heel


by Elliott Cox

J leaned over and whispered, “What will we do, old man?”

80317 stared straight ahead, a grin across his cracked, deflated lips. “We wait for our turn. Then we stop waiting.”

Crack, a gunshot. Fwump, the sound like a full laundry duffel landing on a basement floor.

J said, “If we stay on our knees, we’re going to die. If we get up and fight…”

80317 turned his head toward J, his face serene with that grin pointing at his droopy eyes. Damn his stupid grin! “My wife, what a wonderful woman she was, my wife. Her eyes shined. Mmm-hmm. Honest and truly shined. Her worst moments, they shined.”

Crack. Fwump.

He licked his lips with a dry tongue. “Her harshest words came out soft, full of love they were. Hmm. Soft words. Calm and round as a morning dewdrop, yes. They were. Soft words.”

Crack. Fwump.

J looked down the line toward the sound of the crack, getting louder now. 80317 turned his head away from J, staring straight ahead again. “Four children she gave me, my wife. Oldest one, about your age I guess, was about your age, I guess. Couldn’t see very well, slow in the mind, he was. Happiest child I ever met.”

Crack. Fwump.

80317 watched the limp body two souls away fall to the ground. He turned to J, his grin gone, “You fight your fight.”

80317 looked straight ahead, put his chin on his chest and said, “Me?” He sighed. “I did what a man had to do. Fight your fight, kid, I’m going home.”

See Authors page for Elliott’s bio.



by Robert Crisman

On that lovely spring evening out on the Ave, with the sun going down in the west, Joey almost shone through the dirt and he had a bounce. The speedball he’d geezed no doubt brought some luster, but still.

Any minute, it seemed, he’d likely break out in a song… Rough Justice maybe; he loved the Stones…

He’d jumped into dope after Jeffrey his dead-of-AIDS lover, or so he told Rob, and that meant 20 years and…Jesus Christ! Most longtime junkies are bent, broken sticks, sucked up and silent. And Joey claimed he’d stayed fucking loaded the whole goddamned time.

Rob doubted that. No one stays loaded for 20 years straight, unless they are rich-rich, or else the finest cocksuckers this side of porn heaven. There are long days when a dopefiend can’t even find cotton to suck. His money gets funny. His dopeman got busted. The whole town went dry. Rob had no doubt that Joey’d been sprung the whole time. Just chasing the sack sucks you up, and most 20-year junkies look like they’re past dead on good days, at least on the street, and that’s where Joey called home, pretty much.

At three in the morning, alone in the bowels of some flophouse and dopesick, with life now defined by the scuffle for smack and the ever-there prospect of prison, and possibly death in an alley some night when the temperature’s headed toward zero, maybe his song came out different…

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

“They are strong, Sheik. They have a large military with global reach.”
“Everyone has a vulnerability, Said.”
“Theirs, I cannot see, Sheik.”
“List all their strengths. Therein lay their vulnerabilities.”
“They have the world’s largest economy, most productive workforce, most advanced weapons systems, strongest and most plentiful universities, fastest and most ubiquitous communications systems. I fail to see the vulnerability, Sheik?”
“Their Achilles Heel is in that list.”
Said crossed to the other side of the mountain and sat on his favorite rock overlooking the desert. A lone Bedouin riding a camel kicked up a plume of dust miles away. Said watched him as he cantered across the land. He was perfectly alone, wind blowing his robes in a whirl behind him. No harm would come to a lone Bedouin transiting such a vast wasteland, Said realized. A solitary figure makes a poor target, its quality diminished by its quantity.
But he might join others at a predetermined destination and suddenly their threat would multiply by a factor determined by their size and capability. Get them in one at a time, gather at the last minute and attack.
He needed a target; he wanted the whole population of their country to feel the heat of their anger. Their economy was large, true, but its financial center of gravity was in New York City. They weren’t accustomed to attack at home. They would be unsuspecting.
‘Infiltrate singly, strike en masse, and strike hard, without mercy.’ The seeds of a plan.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

‘You admit you know what’s been going on then?’
‘I admit to knowing most, not all of it …’
‘When did you find out, how did you find out?’
‘Within a month of them marrying … obviously if I’d known sooner I’d’ve put a stop to it, but I was in the States, had been there for nine months. I did ask her to delay the wedding until I got back, but … I didn’t realise then, of course, what he was like, otherwise I’d’ve certainly come back, contract or not.’
‘And then?’
‘And then people started contacting me. For money he owed, about things he’d done. Or not done.’
‘Did you ask him about them?’
‘You bet I did. He laughed, admitted it all and laughed. Said I had no choice but; knew he’d got me over a barrel.’
‘And so?’
‘And so I started finding out what I could, putting pressure on in places where it couldn’t be traced back to me. Rescuing some things …’
‘Like Scot Cruise?’
‘Yeah. He needed the money … and I saw it was a business with potential. I am a businessman after all!’
‘But your past doesn’t exactly bear investigation does it?’
‘I’ve never got involved in porn … and certainly never murdered anyone.’
‘And now you know there’s murder involved, will you help trap him?’
‘So long as it’s understood that I cannot and will not do anything that might put Eleanor – my sister – at risk.’

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

He loves what he sees: the blonde woman, alone.

A shimmering pageboy cut cups the sides of her face like the hands of God gently caressing her cheeks. She paces along side her Lincoln, which tilts on the side of the road, the angular hood up, signaling like a stiff erection. A glance in the mirror ensures the road behind is empty and he powers down the window. Her arms fold defensively across her chest; he slows and stops next to her.
“Need some help?” he says leaning over the passenger seat, his voice in steady certain control. He soaks in the glow of her pageboy crown, amazed the color matches his, a summer-surf tinting.
“Yes… I do,” she says, her eyes scanning his face with a cautionary curious once-over. Her crown wavers slightly as she steps back and he glides from his car. The words hum lightly about… lightly about… that head will go nicely in the basement freezer trophy case.
“Let’s see what we got here,” he says leaning over the hood.

He sees her step back, sees the mess of engine he knows nothing about, sees the sense made of his practiced story regarding the service station just down the road. What he doesn’t see is the tire iron swinging at his neck nor, later, the feel of her hand stroking his perfect blonde hair – a personal weakness – the so perfect shade that had until now eluded her growing collection.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Kristine E. Shmenco

“Mrs. Swanson! Are you guilty of the charges?”

“Course not!” she spat, as her husband threw a red flannel shirt over her head. The cops jostled him out of the way so they could stuff her in the car, red lights flashing and neighbors in every window.

“Mr. Swanson! Is your wife guilty of child endangerment?”

“Course not!” he said, trying to look brave and hating the lump in his throat.

“Sir, I’m Rod Nexus from MOD News. Will you take a few moments and tell us what happened?”

“Prolly shouldn’t talk to you without counsel, but I guess it can’t hurt to tell our side–if you’re going to tell it right, that is.” He stepped in close to make sure Roddy-boy got the message.

“If you’re suggesting I’ll report the story using a Redneck angle, you have my word I won’t. I simply want to tell your friends and neighbors’ the truth about what happened at a birthday pool party.”

“Well, we was in the house taking cookies out the oven, gone not five minutes, and I hear screaming. I run out so she don’t drop the cookies, and there’s two boys hanging my baby girl upside down in the pool. Says they’re giving her an Achilles heel so she can be immortal. The bitty next door seen it, called the cops and tells my wife she’s going down for child neglect. I’m taking my kids outta school for puttin’ this crap in their heads…”

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

In my twenties, I could be taken by an attractive face, handsome young men, strikingly beautiful women. I wanted so much to be liked by them, growing weak in the knees, desiring their attention. Aware of their beauty, they had other agendas. I’d be rapt, hoping in privacy that I had not obviously fawned. That was when I, too, held a degree of good looks and was in decent physical shape.
Later, in the 1980s, when we were all into ourselves, and after several disappointing relationships, I was most affected by people with obvious talents. If somebody could play a piano or guitar or sing well, he or she could easily win my heart. Artists of any stripe, like Paris with his bow, might shoot me from behind and I never felt taken advantage of, never minded being seen as a sycophant. Talent and ability, developed, were deserving of praise. That phase lasted some time.
I didn’t view myself as Superman, but he did have “powers and abilities far beyond mortal men,” and that indemnifying curl and square jaw with a cleft, so he bridged my two phases, and I wanted friends that reminded me of him.
In my dotage, intellectuals are my kryptonite. Talk to me smartly on any interesting topic, and I’m yours, if you want. If neither of us is worried about good looks anymore, so much the better. But, damn, don’t kill me with that ongepotchket attitude, oy vey! A person can only take so much.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Bill Floyd

The young starlet laughed right in his face. “Who is this old fossil?” she exclaimed, there in front of the director and the lighting people and everyone. “This some kinda fetish flick, or what?”

His mama had to hold him by something when she dipped him in that river, and she knew the story about the old Greek warrior, so she didn’t hold him by his ankle. No, she used a different handle, which became his closest ally, peaking asp, dripping venom, his legend and his renown.

Years ago, anyway. When he felt the wane he tried Viagra and the Pullman Method and tantric rehabilitations and finally even the lash. But all great heroes must finally bow.

“Action.” “Cut.”

Hell is a toothless fluffer and a camera with no battery power.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



Seattle illustrations for Spot 017 supplied by Michael D. Brown.


October 6, 2011

Spot 011: In the Wee Small Hours


by Gita Smith

I was telling Ralph – you know my brother, right? – the other day. I said, “I can’t get a good night’s rest. I wish I could sleep like a teenager again.”
Well then, of course, he launches into a whole megillah about his insomnia – it’s Ralph after all – with acid reflux this and restless leg that. Whatever you have, he has worse.
If you told him you had a neck tumor, he’d tell you he’s got stage four brain tumor.
So anyway, I can’t sleep for nuthin’. It’s driving me nuts. We have a TV in the bedroom, but if I turn it on, I’ll wake Estelle.
It’s 1 a.m., then 2, then I hear noises in the attic. My balls itch, and I worry about the bedbug epidemic. I tell you, insomnia can make you a lunatic.
Then I get this idea. I’ll go in the den and call Ralph. If he’s sleeping while I’m tossing, that puts the kibosh on his long-suffering act. No more one-upmanship.
If he’s awake, hey, we can talk about the Phillies’ chances in the World Series.
So I call, and after six rings he says, “Benji, I was out on the deck. I have terrible insomnia — for two days, now — my blood pressure’s in the tank, we have bedbugs and there’s a rattlesnake in the attic.”
I can’t win with that guy. My one satisfaction is that when I die, the miserable little shit will die too. Just to show me.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.


by Joe Gensle

He spilled his story, sat lost in thought before the psychiatrist recalling how he got there. ‘Other guys’ wives run off with cops but they don’t get sick with ‘Mood Indigo,’ Melvin pondered.

His friend, Gabe, pleaded, “You need help, Mel!” on seeing the apartment trashed, the coin collection strewn about, learning Melvin abandoned his bowling team, lost the vice presidency of the model train club. But the goldfish and hamster, dead of starvation and stinking forced an intervention.

Dr. Engvaldsson asked, “You say ‘Mood Indigo…‘ because it was a cop?!”
Melvin brightened, “Classic case! I read it on WebPsychHelpLine. Mood Indigo’s a condition of jilted spouses experiencing devastating consequences from extramaritals with cops!”

The psychiatrist retorted, “Jilted? Your wife’s sexual appetites changed, you didn’t buy-in…don’t like rough stuff, dress-up, or bondage. Might that drive her into the arms and handcuffs of that so-called ‘kinky’ cop?”

Melvin blanched, teeth clenched, freed his stare to glance at photographs behind the doctor’s desk.

“You’re selfish, own your consequences. It’s pity-potted depression, not ‘Mood Indigo.’ Build a bridge. Get over it!” chuckled the blonde doctor.

Adrenaline launched Melvin over the desk, grabbing the letter opener in a clumsy lunge, but he missed. The blade angled into Melvin’s own over-aged baby fat.

Melvin’s blues were actualized in a navy blue prison uniform (for attempted murder). Prison foreplay inflicted purplish-blue bruises, his rape occurring in a checkered-blue tiled shower, ignored by blue-shirted guards. The infirmary was blue. Blue like the eyes of Engvaldsson’s children.

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.


by Elliott Cox

“Aww hell, son, it ain’t gonna hurtcha none. You been doin’ bidness with me for, what now? Damn near ten years? Hmph. You got it figgered boy, shee-it, ain’t hurtcha before now, right? Ain’t gonna hurtcha now, un hunh. Not now, not never. All ya gotta do is…ahh, yeah, that’s it. Feels good, huh?


“Yeah, I know it hurts at first; it should hurt sometime, keepya modest, ya know? But it don’t take long to…hah! Got it already, didja? Mmm hmm, thaaaas why you keep comin’ back, right? Cause I makeya feel good, right? Makeya feel like you ain’t jus a tree in summer, coverin’ itself up, feelin’ like nothin’ but part of the forest. Naw, that ain’tchoo, friend, that ain’tchoo. You live the fall, right? You live the life, you drop your leaf’s an’ say check it out! This is me! Look rycheer! This is ME goddamnit! I ain’t jus another tree in the forest! Well, thas whatchoo should be doin’, anyway. Your own thing…hmph…be nice, right?

“Hey. HEY! You listnin’ to me? Nah, you out…guess you ain’t heard a word I said, didja? Hmph. Look atcha…feelin’ it, ain’tcha? Getchaself up, son. Longer ya let me enya head, longer Ima be enya head. Wake up, boy, ‘fore I putcha to sleep for good.”

See Authors page for Elliott’s bio.


by Nicole E. Hirschi

To A Jeffrey McKibbon:

I’ve forgotten you, just like I should – no more newspaper articles about your victims, no more angry letters, or my house being egged – yes, I’ve forgotten you, just like I should, of course I have.

Your letter came, and I had to ask my husband if he recognized your name. In a hurry he snatched the letter from me and threw it in the flames of our pre-winter fire. Flames licked and caressed the envelope until it consumed all of its contents. I stared at my husband’s face, questioning, until he finally answered, “It was from your son.”

A thousand memories flooded. Who was I to kid the moon, thinking I could forget you with years of no more tears. My hands trembled. I picked up the phone to call, as I had done so many years ago, to talk to you, my child, my son.

The number to the prison would not come to mind. I could hear the dial tone turn to those annoying beeps and placed the phone back on its receiver.

Why I’m writing this to a crazed murderer, who claims to be my son, I’ll never know except perhaps that I’m a fool.

Your letter, if read, would probably have broken my heart in two, so for now, I write to ask do not send anymore – for I’ve forgotten you like I should, of course I have.

I get along without you very well.

-Your Mother
From times long past

See Authors page for Nicole’s bio.


(alternate lyrics)
by Mike Handley

Whiskey-voiced crooners
Under hats with short brims
Serenade while your lips leave prints on the rim.
We clink to good times, to spooning, to woo,
While I’m deep in a dream of you.

The fresh smell of washed hair,
Your scent on my hands;
The mingling of toothpaste, cigarettes and glands;
Eyes closed, yet registering the smoky hue;
When I’m deep in a dream of two.

We later swap leads on the floor and indeed,
No bounds for our passion remain.
We dance on the ceiling,
Our love is reeling,
Heat shared by the gliding insane.

I awake with a gasp, a shudder to sparks,
Mourn images fading,
It’s no longer dark.
Now a rudderless ship, afloat with no crew,
Plowing deep in a dream of you.

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.


by Amy Hale Auker

I see your face before me. And I see it all over my past. For years I ran my fingers gently over the lines beside your eyes, smoothed your mustache, felt the lines in your forehead deepen, touched you behind your ears where we usually never feel the fingers of another.
I am not allowed to touch your face anymore. I am not allowed to hear your voice. You told me that we can’t be friends because you know how I smell.
I pull the Coors Light box down out of the closet and riffle through the flat images that represent our past. There you are looking young, so lost… why didn’t I see how lost you were back then when you stole that boot jack from the boot shop, shoving it into the 18-inch tops when the boot maker wasn’t looking?
There you are looking strong and proud and found, holding our infants, striding toward adulthood. There you are looking responsible and … tired. There you are looking like a peacock in always new clothes, while I look smaller and smaller by your side. I don’t remember how you smell.
Now I go to facebook to see you, and you look a little desperate, aiming toward the biggest fun, the loudest laugh, constant and always movement, that promised new love who has yet to appear, yet to stay, and you so desperately need someone to stay.
I see your face before me, but your heart is hidden from sight.

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.


by Kristine E. Shmenco

I got my head in my hands and arms on my knees, just sitting here. Nobody knows why I’m just sitting here (but they do because you know how it goes in the city though your eyes are on pavement you still see everything that goes on. I hear the scuff and click of heels going by; men in black suits and gold bracelets with women on their arms that radiate vanilla and they know I’m here and haven’t a care why, so long as I stay and behave on the stairs.
There are three ways to get around things, and that’s all I’ve been doing: Getting around and getting by and I tell myself that’s why nobody’s coming around. I don’t need anybody coming by, after all.
What I need is you. I want you back here, sitting next to me instead of before or after me. I need to hear you complain and carry on, and I want to wake beside you wondering how you could get so inside of me. You took the best and left the worst of me…of us. Friends is not what we’re made of, and we would never know how to behave. I don’t want to be friends, darling, I want us to cling like enemies and fight our way down from this mountain.
But tonight this place where we stood is empty.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.


by Robert Crisman

The endrocine system of dreams allowed my lost love one last turn, wreathed as she was in blue smoke in the old gutted building on Third as I stood transfixed in a doorway and waited. She wore her black hair as a crown that haloed her pale aristocrat’s face, skin tight over bone, from which she’d conjured a mask of indifference.

She smoked cigarettes, and I knew that she waited as I did.

I saw her nerves chewing, and maybe she waited on me. To save her? I felt lust in that doorway and lust is not rescue, yet also I felt an ache stirring, an ache that I’d felt through 10 lifetimes, an ache that had made me jump, dance, and sing to the music she played from Day One, when I saw that our sins would rule us, hers etched with scalpels, mine written on water…

My tears are silent, unshed, dried to dust now—as if I could match her indifference and then bleed her that way and then walk away, free at last from the fear that took hold of my throat the red night that we ripped at each other and she bled me first, then gave me to know that First Blood will last ‘til the end of my time here on earth.

I wait—hoping she’ll break? Yes, and bleed. I can go to her then and wrap her like smoke, pull her free…

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.


by Bill Floyd

Damn right, it’s pure. That’s about all anyone knows for sure. A sweep of the leg, springcoils of smoke past her eyes, the careless flick of the ash. It is not what we make of it, but we are most certainly what it makes of us. That smolder, the clarinet’s seduction. Frank asked the Lord up in heaven above, and the Lord said it’s a crazy little thing: a mood, a time of morning, a face, a dance. The hardest heart will not break it, the craftiest mind will not outwit it, and the most lofty morality will not survive it without compromise. This bared shoulder at daybreak, this everlasting night. Love is that thing that beckons your gaze, corners your thoughts, and demeans your aspirations. Your plans mean nothing to her, but she might have time for a song. Love strings spiderwebs between the stars, binding silverfire throughout the coldest emptiest dark. Love charts infinity: You are here.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.


(a tribute to Frank Sinatra)
by Brian Michael Barbeito

Everything was there. Absolutely everything! But it was not known that we were in the sea that could do no wrong, or a world unto itself that had only electric magic and intensities untold. You know, we were waiting and waiting- on a soul level- for such a thing to come true, to come alive- it is no secret that that is what everyone longs for. And the night- eons and eons had preceded us- but the night at a time like that is new- it is the first night of the world in fact. Hair and cheekbones, gait and smile, eyes full of Gnostic secrets shining and they are dark diamonds. The city is not so bad after all, and two spirits traveling through time recognize one another and something meshes, melds. How is it that you run your fingers through your hair? How is it that that you are like the good serpent? How is it that you could have walked through the world and the inhabitants of the world not knelt in reverence and awe? But there is something else- after a circle is drawn there is only a moment- and then the circle must break apart. The other one- the wiser one- said, ‘You two will now be apart- practically forever- the allure was too intense- and now the universe will even it all out.’ You don’t get to be young forever- far from it.

See Authors page for Brian’s bio.


I’LL BE AROUND (Alone Together)
by Ed Dean

A casualty of the mind often goes unseen.
The yellow buff brick apartment building that Suzie occupied was reasonable for her needs. Her unit was decorated with an eclectic flair, somewhat like Suzie’s personality.
Late in the peace of the evenings was the only time Suzanne and I ever communicated.
“Suzanne?” The gentle stillness of her mind made me comfortable. Pushing herself back into the plush couch, she closed her eyes and spoke.
“Hi, are we on speaking terms again?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Oh I guess I thought you were mad about the drunk I pulled on you the other evening.”
“You know I was there but with all that alcohol, I couldn’t speak. You do that to me all the time. I thought we were best friends. Why do you shut me out like that?”
“You’re just going to learn to take care of yourself like I do. Sit back and enjoy the ride!”
“Come on Suzanne, you know we’re better than that! We could do great things together. Why aren’t you trying?”
“Knock it off! It’s me not we. I’m into fun and that’s all. I’m going upstairs to see Bobby; he knows how to have fun. Honestly, you bore me sometimes. You want to come along?”
“Suit yourself; you always do”
The full dark straight hair that framed Bob Boyce’s long slender face made his large sleepy eyes more pronounced. It seemed to speak to his sexuality. His ruddy pock marked face added strength to the perception.

To read the rest of this story, click here. See Authors page for Ed’s bio.


by Bill Lapham

Sam Merit picked up a rock, felt its heft, rubbed its smooth surface with his callused thumb, and considered his situation. The sky had turned black in the southwest.
“Fucking supercell,” he said in a phlegmatic voice.
He leaned his thin frame to the left to ease the weight off an old wound on his right and pulled a dirty hanky from his pants pocket. He slid his ragged hat back on his head and wiped his weather-beaten face. He felt the hanky scrape against the stubble of his beard, wiped the grit from the deep furrows around his eyes, and spat.
He stuffed the hanky back in his pocket, dropped the rock and pulled out a flask. He removed the cork and drank a mouthful of whiskey. His eyes watered as his belly warmed.
A quick look around revealed nothing but open range.
Sam was a dowser hired to look for water by a wealthy developer with plans to build a resort spa in the middle of nowhere. He had found the middle of nowhere, but not the groundwater, yet.
He had confidence in his methods which relied more on his pappy’s old hickory divining rod than science. If it was there, he would find it. He had felt water in the rock.
Just then, an ill wind blew and Sam couldn’t get low enough to protect himself. He was never seen again, but his diving rod was found stuck in the earth over a bountiful freshwater aquifer.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.


by Sandra Davies

We’d moved in a couple of days previously, and even at seven I knew that my mother hated this raw-edged bungalow in its builder’s wrack of a rock-strewn earthen plot, knew that my father’s tangible tense anxiety as we arrived, crammed into the cab of Patterson’s green pantechnicon, had been justified, although even now I don’t know to what extent she had foredoomed it.

And when, a couple of afternoons later, this younger-than-my-mother woman came tripping across, glossy black curls vivid against scarlet blouse, bare feet in scuffed and worn-flat shoes and a crinkle-eyed, chipped tooth smile, introducing herself as Maureen, in an accent I later learnt was Black Country but then saw as exotic(!), and clutching an album of her wedding photos to show us, I was charmed by her friendliness, thinking her kind and welcoming, and increasingly embarrassed at my mother’s off-hand disinterest, at the minor hostility she exuded. With what seemed ill-mannered haste my mother ushered her out, and turned to me with some derogatory remark, speedily enough for my encouraging comment to be clamped.

Only now do I recall that exactly twenty years later it was my turn to repel the advances of a would-be friendly neighbour. This one had tripped from further, her smile was far less innocent and disappeared completely when she saw that our furniture was impoverished and mismatched and that we had not yet put carpets down. Only now do I wonder how my children judged the tolerance of my behaviour then.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.


by Travis Smith

What is that? Water I guess, but why is it forming circles on the ceiling? I want to stand and look, but I can’t move…Is that someone calling my name?

I know I hear someone calling, but I can’t remember if that is my name. I try to call back, but no sounds come out.

I remember other things. A woman. I can see her smile. My hands recall the feel of her hand resting in mine. I can see the soft curves of her body as those same hands, now limp at my side, trace them gently from head to toe. I can remember every detail about her, except her name which I can’t recall any more than my own.

I hear the voice calling again. It’s a woman’s voice. Is it her, or is it just my mind playing tricks to give me hope?

I am tired and I should rest. Maybe if I did I would be able to move when I wake up, or maybe I will still be stuck here, wherever here is, and the hope will be gone. I think I will stay awake, watching as my hope floats to the ceiling and dances in the watery circles while I think about the woman I remember dancing with under the soft glow of the moon in some other place and some other time. The details are not as clear as the image of her, moving so gracefully, entwined with my soul.

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.


by Michael D. Brown

“Married two years, of which we’ve spent eighteen months separated. You hardly see the baby, and won’t acknowledge the one on the way. Couldn’t expect you to, not being certain it’s yours.”
[click] Love has lost its meaning and so have the stars.
“Remember how you never wanted to play this new Scrabble game,? I wasn’t trying to embarrass you, Red. I’d forgotten you never learned to read.”
Nothing’s what it once used to be.
“Went to the movies with a girlfriend and couldn’t believe when the kids jumped up to dance to Rock Around the Clock. Never saw anything like that before, and wanted to join them. Would have been difficult with this big belly, but still, I had the yen.”
Song birds say it’s spring. I don’t believe them. “I’m not the teenager I was.
“Churchill resigned, but I have a feeling he’ll be back.
“They’re taking down the Third Avenue El. That we’ll never ride again.”
Once love was king, but kings can be wrong.
“A program’s coming on the television called The $64,000 Question. What I wouldn’t give to have a go at that, even though I’m not smart enough to win anything big as you’ve told me often enough.
“It’s a new age. The War’s been over for ten years, and it’s about time for a change. We’re all due for a hearty laugh.”
A smile will help hide the ache in my heart. [click]
“It’s late, and I was wondering if you’d stay tonight.”

To read the rest of this story, click here. See Authors page for Michael’s bio.


by Grey Johnson

The dew has fallen and the air has grown gentle in the dark. She is wearing no shoes, and only her lover’s cast-off shirt, which she slipped on in the bathroom. As she creeps out the creaky storm door onto the porch, without any light or eyeglasses, she very nearly misses the top step. Pausing to catch herself, she tries to think of a reason she could give for being outside so late, barefoot and wearing a strange man’s shirt, to her husband who remains inside sleeping, should he wake to find her missing from their bed. No good lie comes to mind as she steps out onto the grass, and looks up to see not a single star. Above her is just a soft ceiling of cloud tinted by streetlamps, as familiar now as it was before sunset. The risk she has taken by sneaking out into the yard, half-clothed, in the middle of the night, to seek a simple shining pinpoint seems foolish. There is only one way to wish, she realizes, on a night such as this, with no stars flickering hope. She reaches out, her arms reflecting the branches of the tree standing sentinel in her yard. Reeling inside, she opens her heart to the wide hiding sky, and aches to trust, above the clouds, all the glowing bits of light she cannot see.

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.



All tracks for Spot 011 suggested by and / or adapted from Frank Sinatra’s 1955 landmark album
In the Wee Small Hours.


August 18, 2011

Spot 004: Heavy, Man, Heavy


by Paul de Denus


In the cafeteria, the shooter takes out Mr. Hollis. BAM!…BAMBAM!… a ruler smacking a table and Hollis hits the wall and disappears down, like the floor just opened under him. The guy – it’s Billy Krazik – turns and aims at Jamie Stockwell, sitting there calmly as if he’s in the play or something and he takes two to the head. He rocks a little, then sits still. The fuck moves forward, looking right at me, our eyes lock and he points the gun… I peer down the black hole, see Krazik’s chewed red fingernail twitch slightly to the left as he fires off a barrage of shots. BAM!…BAMBAMBAM!… tables splinter and scatter behind me; there are heavy thumps and screams and I blink uncontrollably, a deranged twist creasing my face.
And then there’s Colby, backpack in hand, crossing the floor. He strides in quick purposeful steps. He looks insane. Parallel to Krazik, light as a ghost, I don’t think he sees it coming.
I’m woven in a cocoon. On the soundless floor, I watch bodies twitch. Heads cover. Krazik’s moved into the hallways. My chest weighs heavy, bubbling pink. Colby has nothing to say, his eyes vacant, surprised. Earlier this morning he boasted he’d brought his old man’s Glock to school… just to show it off you understand. Colby was cool… just playing … but well… Krazik’s crazy and he decided to swipe it and play the heavy… for real. He plays it well.


Note: This week’s heavy theme was suggested by Paul. See Authors page for his bio.



by Joe Gensle


You are in prime physical condition at the tops of your respective games, too-young multi-millionaires with sports acumen born from magical mixes of natural ability, rigorous training, coaching, practice, assuming the risks and suffering the consequences of occupational injuries.
Your work is seasonal, requires separation from stability’s anchors of home and family.
You are one of a team, and you are a team of one.
You’re trapped in the eyes and voices of scrutiny, before millions, with your triumphs analyzed and replayed over and over on cable and the airwaves. Images and descriptors of your failures splash through every hue in the spectrum of public media and social networking ten-fold more times than your triumphs.
Exposure of your bad choices and secreted actions force hasty retreats, elicit false denials, propel you into freefall, crashing you into realities that eviscerate more than fortunes few can ever know.
Your personal wreckage is licked and consumed by hungered flames hard-blown by bellows of ridicule, incinerating you on the pyre of public disdain.
Tiger Woods. Golf legend. Infidel. Liar.
Michael Vick. Football quarterback. Phenom. Animal torturer. Liar. Convict.
You emerge, your receipts stamped “Paid in Full,” but by separate and oppositional currencies.
From ashes, two Phoenixes are embodied. Each rises if unsteadily at first.
One wings away.
In plain view, the other contrives an aura of normalcy but flops and flails, grounded by wings shorn and weighted by demons that neither show or have yet to be exorcised. Ever the good sport.


See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Sandra Davies


In the aftermath the bulk of her concern had been for him, not his physical state so much as his mental, regardless that his apologetic truce had been made with the sole intention of negating his self-condemnation.
The apology had been made to her of course, but he knew her well enough to have correctly judged her lack of need for it. Knew too, and had the maturity not to condemn, that a portion of her concern had been for the other man, despite the fact that as perpetrator – did that stem from ‘traitor?’ – he was less deserving, owed only what remained from their shared history.
And so thus occupied she gave no thought to the inner workings of herself.
He did.
Eventually, deliberately delaying so to shorten any agony for her, since he was at least as capable of concern as she, he asked and devastated she discovered ‘yes’.
Six months to wait instead of … eight? Six months and now her concern matched, possibly exceeded, his and, once again because of what they’d had, reached out a little to the other man who, it had to be acknowledged, might yet need to know.
Almost too much concern to be contained despite the compensating increase of her body, prepared to bear anxiety as well as an unborn child of indeterminate paternity.


See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Mike Handley


Facing a date with a masked man who wanted to saw open my sternum and pluck my heart’s strings, my thoughts drifted to who would miss me and why. What would the people on this very short list say about my life, would that I allow a funeral?
Sadly, most would toss out only a few adjectives and nouns: quiet, funny, creative, kind, writer, artist, hunter, loner, picky eater, provider and workaholic. Not a bad list, if anyone’s keeping a ledger, but isn’t just as much known about serial killers?
I might be remembered for some of the stories I’ve told, some I’ve lived, or by the old R&B I adore.
But despite having acquaintances across this and faraway lands, almost none have seen what’s inside my bum heart or in my head. Divulging isn’t my strong suit, but here’s fodder for my eulogy:
I believe love and lovemaking should not be limited by plumbing.
I believe supremacy over a woman’s body should rest solely between her ears.
I believe anyone who abuses a child should face the severest of consequences, and that those who abuse dogs are assholes.
I believe that people who spread their cards and try to persuade me to pick a religion (any religion) need directions back to the carnival.
I believe those who judge a whole race of people by the actions of a few should, when the time comes, be eased into the dank hereafter by the caring brown hands they’ve long feared.


See Authors page for Mike’s bio.



by Gita M. Smith


In 2312, when the biodome over central Mars was finished and sealed, they sent for everyone incarcerated in Parchman, San Quentin, Leavenworth and the supermax daddy of them all, Attica. Putting us to work here, in the Haliburton Martian mines, saved Americans a bazillion taxpayer dollars a year. No one minded that 200 death row prisoners were let out of their cells and put on rocket ships. It was explained to the public that inmates would die out here much faster than on Earth.
The gravity on Mars is something fierce, man. It ups our body weights by 182 percent. No way can our hearts cope with such density for more than a few years. Each step you take on Mars is slow and leaden, as if your leg was dragging a whole other person. I’m young, man, but I can’t even walk a block. Meanwhile, the guards trip around in antigravity suits, light as orioles.
Down inside the titanium mines, Haliburton had to install anti-gravity machines or we’d never get any work done. Titanium is the new miracle mineral, strong as steel when forged but lighter than aluminum.
Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce the Next Big Thing, brought to you by the murderers and grand theft auto committers and rapists and eye gougers and welfare cheaters of America.
Above ground, we’re just your average army of foot-dragging, bent-over, weighed-down losers. But below ground? Baby, we’re the cheapest, non-union dead men walking in the universe!


See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Bill Lapham


Socrates said ‘the unexamined life is not worth living.’ So do most of the old-timers in Alcoholics Anonymous, only they add a few more words. They got these damn Steps (it’s a twelve-step program you know) and one of them demands reflection on all the crap you stirred up during a lifetime of intoxication.
Depending on the sponsor you choose, and the length of your inebriation, the weight of that written examination could be hefty. Good people have written tomes regarding their despicable nature when they’re drunk.
Dale Desjardins had written them too, and tossed them out, and written them again, and tossed them out again. It’s not important to save them, he thought, it’s only important to write them. It’s the examination that matters, not the score.
Anyone willing to embark on such a journey of self-discovery ought to be warned in advance, though. Working on the Steps AA lays out for its members can lead to sobriety, and all the shit that encompasses. Conversely, not working them can leave you dissolute and lonely. Knowing the damn things exist, studying them, working on them, and then ignoring them to return to a life dominated by the chemical fire, will likely consume the consumer in a blaze of self-assured, nihilistic fury.
Or not.
“Fuck it, mate, pour me another; I’m thirsty and I gotta go home soon. Shit, pour one for everybody,” he said, waving his arm unsteadily about the room.


See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Nicole E. Hirschi


“Ignorance is bliss, right?” He hissed between clenched teeth. The hand at his throat squeezed tighter, threatening to rob him of his breath entirely. “We made a deal!” He croaked, clawing at the unseen hand holding him high in the air.
“You can’t make a deal with the devil and still expect to go to heaven.” The soul clutching voice mocked. “God won’t have you,” and in a triumphant voice, “you’re mine!”
“You didn’t…uphold…all of your end!” He gasped, struggling to stay conscious even with the spots of black dancing across his vision.
“I never said you would live to see all of your requests granted, not here anyway.” The eerie voice drawled. “You should feel lucky I’ve allowed you to live this long.”
The black now crawling across his mind promised to take away the feelings of hurt and physical pain. Finally giving in, he realized he had played with fire and gotten burned.
With a sickening crunch, the King of Lost Souls smiled with viscous delight. Payment had been received.


Nicole E. Hirschi also known as Coraline J. Thompson writes when time and muse agree. Her short flashes and poetry can be found splashed across the ‘Net and in a few books as well. Read more at



by Amy Hale Auker


There once was a woman who carried many stones. She started carrying them early in life for her father was verbose and talked his way through his adult problems so that she knew of his attraction for his teenage students and how Zoloft made him impotent. Some of the stones she carried were the color of the circles under her mother’s eyes. She carried her husband’s stones since he wasn’t strong enough to heft more than the cherry cigars he was fond of lighting. She carried a baby on each hip, a boy child who struggled to be released, a girl child who both clung and stung. She had a mentor whose wife was a good cook; he offered her fatherly advice and hidden secret smiles that weighed a ton, and she wondered what the good cook would think of those. The next mentor took her skinny dipping under a goddess moon, but even a glass of wine with him was serious business. She carried stones for her sister, her girlfriends, for the lady at the grocery store who sighed as she scanned the produce. Later on she met another man who claimed to be able to carry his own stones, but he called her late at night with the weight of desire in his voice.
One day, the woman dropped all of her stones to the ground, and people said she had gone insane. She stood and danced upon their weight and they turned to jewels beneath her toes.


Amy Hale Auker writes and rides on a working cattle outfit in Arizona. She has published one book of creative non-fiction and currently seeks an agent and fiction editor for her novels. Visit her website at



by Bill Floyd


My heart is gonna stop. One day, yes, it’s gonna stop. And I never swam the English Channel or hosted SNL or dug real deep. But I’ve seen some things. I’ve done some things you just wouldn’t believe. I never felt warm flesh go still, but maybe I want to. Maybe something in me wants to. But not tonight, this feels too right. I know where you are because I’ve got what you want. Don’t stop.


Bill Floyd has made some regrettable decisions in the past. He doesn’t regret writing about them.



by Grey Johnson


A crowded presence marks our clock
As if, when the children grew away, the ceiling lowered
And the unneeded cups and bowls formed a silent phalanx
Empty chairs now rush our table
Pressing me aside, to devour what is gone
There is a conspiracy here of memory, and anger
That we fail to face
Performing our solitary maneuvers in the kitchen, the den
So I stand
Alone against a house of factions, facing you
My partner in this box of lonely crime


See Authors page for Grey’s bio.



by Travis Smith


He moved with an uneven stride across the bluff towards the edge that looked out over the sea. To an observer it might seem that each step was a herculean effort, his feet weighed down by years of travel along paths that most will never know. Inside his mind it wasn’t his feet, but rather his heart that pulled him down with a force beyond what gravity should allow. His heart had taken the same unseen paths, sometimes choosing the way, sometimes dreading it, but carried the years in different ways, and there had been a lot of years. A lot of joy, love, pain and loss.
He shuffled to the edge, stopping there to breathe the air. It had the familiar smell and feel that could only be found here at the border between land and sea and air. He knew the power of this air and he could feel it now, seeping into his soul. He looked down at the rocks below, where the water crashed. He could hear the voices echoing up to him, but hidden in a different realm. He breathed in deeply again, Someday, he thought, someday this old body will float out into this magical air….but not today.
He turned and walked back across the bluff, his step lighter and heart no longer heavy, knowing that he had many paths left to travel in his appointed life.


Travis Smith lives in North Carolina where his day job as an ecologist supports his desire to write fiction. More of his work can be found on 6S and T10.



by Michael D. Brown


Rampaging around the room, destroying objects, like a bull elephant in musth, Jorge played his scene until deflated, after which he would weep like a child surveying destruction. Then he would come to Elena and take her in blasphemous thumping, frontwards and back, bringing her to rapture she would not feel throughout the nights of a year. It was the drink, she knew, that brought him to his threshold, but it was also the season. They wanted, for everything, oh, how they wanted.
Four of their children were conceived in this way.
Later, when their situation had not improved and neither saw any route to that possibility, Elena looked forward to her mate’s annual charge, but Jorge had grown weary throughout the years of trying, trying to achieve something lasting, a permanence to prosperity, and their one big encounter occurred with less and less vigor.
Last Christmas, he did not get angry, did not find cause to argue even with her prompting, although they coupled as expected, and in this, Elena, no longer of an age of conception, having abandoned any sense of responsibility and briefly wearing the smugness of satisfaction, as the days passed into the New Year, grew concerned.
Though she will not speak of it to cousin nor sister nor even close friend, she is absolutely certain the next yuletide will be silent. She can feel in her bones, wearied by too much childbearing, she will finally be a widow like most of the women she knows.


See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Kristine E. Shmenco


Heavy doesn’t visit me often. It’s usually when I come across your work. The mouse stops scrolling. The keys stop ticking. Open mouthed and soundless is usually how you leave me when it’s heavy. You challenge my brain and it’s wonderful.
Heavy is an appropriate word for something deep. I can’t grasp it all at once so I have to go back and nibble on it later. I find heavy tastes salty but sometimes sweet, never fails to satisfy, and it’s unending on the plate.
Heavy is too heavy for me to write about because I’m afraid to feel it. There. I said it. I’m in the shadow of something bigger than all of us, and none of us will approach it the same way.
She came to work this morning and left an hour later because her brother who has been dying for 100 years will let his light go now. How strange it is to be talking on the phone, typing, thinking about writing, eating a sandwich, laughing with my cube-mates; driving under a slate-gray sky that threatens rain, thinking about how to prepare dinner and how to be patient with the world around me, when I know across town a man is leaving us. Leaving his family. It is time, and I’m not sad for him. But how strange that I *know* his light is leaving us while I’m doing all this… stuff.
Very strange. Very heavy. But not unbearable.


Kristine is married to a patient rust farmer and says she’s working on being a writer who’s still learning the art and diplomacy of commenting to posts. We say she’s far too humble. Her site is mirrorknobdream at wordpress



Illustrations for Spot 004: The petroglyphs are photographs lent to the site by Amy Hale Auker. The rest of the graphics are just mdjb fooling around with rocks.



August 11, 2011

Spot 003: From Order Comes Freedom: Renewal


by Mike Handley


Her sustained notes on a skyward-pointing clarinet leave listeners gasping. Vocally, she could be Satchmo’s much more talented sister.
A jazz icon, she’s performed for presidents plural, here and abroad, and she’s appeared in the HBO series “Treme.”
Her smile can unfurl fiddleheads. Her voice is a defibrillator. And there’s a reason the locals call her the Clarinet Queen. Although these have combined to put her name in lights for more than two decades, it’s a French Quarter crossroads that restocks the fridge, both figuratively and literally.
Doreen Ketchens is proof that talent does and does not pay the bills.
Saturday mornings, she and Lawrence the Sousaphone player hoist the giant umbrella, unfold chairs, bungee the open briefcase containing CDs to the suitcase with more, position buckets emblazoned with dollar signs toward the front of their paved stage, and then plug in the microphone. It’s their weekend ritual at the corner of Royal and St. Peter streets, where they delight crowds, except for a crotchety woman down the street who calls the police, even though the badges have turned a deaf ear to the familiar complaint.
Whether she’s there for us, or we’re there for her, Doreen’s talent and the band’s soulful blend of Dixieland standards keep passers-by immobilized for hours. How could she not return to the streets, this woman who has performed in the Lincoln Center in pearls?
For her, it’s about renewal and survival, about going home and keeping the home.
Nobody does it better.


Mike Handley is a career journalist, artist and member of the zipper club who mourns sausage made from non-flying things. His musings can be seen at, and his paintings at



by Bill Lapham


When they woke, they inspected the weapons they had cleaned the night before—M-4’s, 240’s, 203’s and the venerable M-60—ate breakfast and formed the “Huddle.” Only Weapons Squad, Baker, Brown, De Jesus, Callahan and Jakes huddled up before a patrol. They would gather in a circle, arms on shoulders, heads together, iPod sound system blaring Drowning Pool’s “Soldiers”—cranked. They would scream the line: “On your feet/who’s with me” stand up and slam into each other. Then they would scream the line: “THIS is for the soldiers/THIS is for the soldiers” while pounding on each other with fists, usually at half to three-quarters power. There wasn’t anything like it done anywhere in the theater of operations, let alone their regiment. These five guys, who had been together for three combat tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and Afghanistan again, had come from all over the United States to form this particular warfighting team. You weren’t accepted as a member unless you got the shit kicked out of you by its collective; you didn’t go on leave without getting beaten black and blue; and you didn’t come back from leave without suffering the same fate. Better to stay connected with the team, get into the routine and stay there, than to go away and fuck off. That was soft shit: made you think and act like a civilian, and they did not countenance civilians. Civilians were clueless. Not them. When the song ended, they were dancing on a razor’s edge, and ready.


This story continues here. See Authors page for Bill Lapham’s bio.



by Gita Smith


A belief in orderliness was the backbone of Jean’s world view. She believed in the rule of law. She liked cities laid out on a grid. She thought that a hanging hem on a woman was a sign of slovenliness.
Jean liked movies with linear plots (she hated “Inception,” which was about layers of dreams within dreams). “I’m not without imagination,” she told Howard as they left the theater. “But that was chaotic.”Howard drove a bulldozer. He came home regularly at 5:30, scraped mud from his boots in the garage and slipped off his dirty clothes. Then he was ready for his evening pleasures: a small plate of cheese and Saltines, a short glass of bourbon, television, one hot meal and bed.
Jean and Howard didn’t like unplanned detours, save one. On every anniversary, Jean blindfolded Howard who threw a dart at a wall map of the world. Wherever the dart stuck was where they would go for their vacation. The rule was, no backing out, even if the dart landed in Pakistan.
Come August, they set out, feeling like vagabonds from the 60s. Howard let his beard grow. Neither one wore a watch (unthinkable back home). Jean, with her no-iron skirts, felt like an exotic gypsy. Even the sex was better, although neither could have told you why since their routine never varied.
“We are not who we are,” Howard would whisper to Jean, their secret holiday motto. “And we are not who we were,” she would answer.


See Authors page for Gita Smith’s bio.



by Joe Gensle


Shower. Carbs. Bus to the gym. Seven days a week. I lift every day and do a mile on the treadmill. I been doin’ it just over two years, leading up to this first race.
I’m only 5’8”, but agile and quick. Gunny calls me ‘Pinball.’ His favorite expression is, “Pinball, on the point!” I’m hardcore Corps. Love the shit.
I’m in the ‘Hell Hounds‘–an infantry platoon, 3rd Marines, near Kabul. We start a sweep on a compound with suspected Taliban. We train and train to clear hidey-holes like these, and excel at it.
Word’s out: You want it done? Send the ‘Hell Hounds’ and it’s mission accomplished. We earned the rep, take pride.
But guys get it. I did. Boom! Lights out. It must have been a grenade or booby trap that found me waking up in the U.S. without a right leg.
Twenty-six months of therapy and workouts with a prosthesis, then a metal, spring-looking thing that replaces it so guys like me can actually run.
Race day. I’m in the 100-yard dash, a guy clips me. I go down… and can you believe this shit? I fracture my shin bone twenty feet from winning.
Ignoring pain, I got that down! I low-crawl across the line, roll onto my back and laugh, “Dead last, without a leg to stand on!”
You prepare to train and train to be prepared. You give 101% and God picks the results.
You live to finish. You just gotta….
Know what I mean?


See Authors page for Joe Gensle’s bio.



by Paul de Denus


It’s that time of month again and I’ve got a confession to make. The old man’s made it clear that we all got to go today. Shit, it’s not even Sunday. He says it’s a sort of “divine intervention” moment, a time to expel guilt, renew the spirit, and wipe the deep stains from our souls. Sounds to me like we’re changing our underwear. I don’t know what he’s done to feel guilty… other than to yell and falsely accuse me!!! of punching my little brother when he, asshole!!! started it!!
Anyway, this confessing thing is quite embarrassing. And trusting a complete stranger with your most intimate failings is sheer lunacy. I, for one, will opt to blatantly lie. And I’ll use my trusty routine of standards too: lied, swore, had bad thoughts. Through the grate, I can see its Father Farrell sitting there in the dark. He’s young and might give me a pass. He looks like he’s writing stuff down. Maybe he wants to be a novelist someday, perhaps write a ‘tell-all’ book to rival the Bible… hehe! Shit… is that blasphemy? Fuck, that’s a mortal sin I bet. God I’m so doomed.
Little brother insisted I go first. Fine. He’ll get his. He’s going to say the same bullshit I’m going to lie about and Father’s going to see he’s shitting him and hopefully call him on it. Then we’ll see if there’s such a thing as “divine intervention” … or righteous punishment for telling Pop on me.


See Authors page for Paul de Denus’s bio.



by Sandra Davies


Jake and Jessica, Rory and Rowena, eleven months between the brothers and similar between the neighbouring girls who grew up either side of them. To Jessica, such alliterative symmetry presaged their futures. And even after she’d outgrown childhood there was a sizeable part of her which believed that the logic held, would hold, until Jake returned from his first term at university and pointed out, not urgently, the naïve illogicality of that, thereby tumbling her into two years of misery and dislocation, which she buried under a façade of manic gaiety. When she in turn left home, it was as a bright-polished, stone-hearted maiden.
Jessica did not finally relinquish hope until she saw Jake’s face as he and Marietta exchanged their marriage vows in the summer before her final year. Pride, in her intelligence, prevented her failing to work, lack of it, in her perception of herself as too unattractive to maintain a relationship, ensured several months of intended casual but in actuality lacerating promiscuity, at the end of which her sole desire was to escape.
Three months of near-solitude in South America might have fully healed her had she not met Tom; a month of mountainous passion taught her much, as did his last-minute confession, as he put her on the plane home, that he was indissolubly married.
Rory met her at Heathrow, familiar, friendly and, two months later, startling her with a confession that as far as he was concerned, it had always been Rory and Jessica.


See Authors page for Sandra Davies’s bio.



by Grey Johnson


I have an imaginary apartment at the corner of Main and Fairlee, over a small café with a charming name, where the tinkling of cups and sidewalk shuffle rise to my windows on the mornings that I leave them open; it is surrounded on three sides by breezy glass, its walls are a warm buttercream yellow, and there is only a fabulous bed drenched in white cotton for my furniture. I never vacuum, as it is too loud, but I enjoy sweeping and seeing little dust motes float in the early sun. My lover (I know his name but am not telling) thinks my writing is wonderful, and is never concerned about his role in inspiring me, or the suggestive content of what I write; he visits, sometimes for lengthy stays, but knows he can never claim part of my space as his, and he is not troubled by this, either – he even respects my girlfriend and does not interfere in our special friendship. I imagine that my children, parents, and friends have all forgiven me for leaving my husband, and many of them wonder aloud about what took me so long. In my imaginary apartment, I am wondrously free of mental illness, and have the energy and enthusiasm to lead the life I want. I imagine that some love remains for my husband, having been transmuted away from the suffering we both felt, into a kind and warm regard, and a sincere wish for happiness.


See Authors page for Grey Johnson’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown


I am trying really hard to remain calm at this moment, but feel so indignant that I want to yell and pound my fist through a door. I was robbed again tonight. I lost my passport again. I know. It was stupid of me to be carrying it back and forth to work when I should have left it home in a safe place, and I usually do. The thing is after returning from HoW2, I never got around to taking it out of the knapsack type bag I used on that trip and use to carry my papers and things to school every day. I also lost another computer, and a little item of great sentimental value among other stuff, which for the most part is replaceable. That little handmade booklet with signatures and good wishes from friends met for the first time in person at HoW1 cannot be replaced. I know. It was careless to leave my bag in the back seat out of sight under a big loose-leaf binder in Álvaro’s car while the two of us stopped for coffee for fifteen minutes at Starbuck’s. Fifteen fucking minutes! I was looking for a bit of a pick-me-up after a long day at work, and had no idea I would instead be pushed back and have to work my way forward again. It is said, “From order comes freedom.” I don’t know if that is true, but I am feeling disorderly just now, and it’s restrictive as hell.


See Authors page for Michael D. Brown’s bio.



by Bill Floyd


Eddie says I should just ditch the handwritten pages along with the rest of the shit that’s not pawnable, but something makes me hold onto them. I forget about them until that night, when I find the folded sheets in my pocket all rumpled and creased. Smoke curls from the day’s last cigarette as I scan the words by lamplight. There’s like five different short stories, really short, nothing like the bullshit they made us read in class back when I was in school. Something happens, like in a dream where you suddenly realize you’re naked and ashamed. The stories are about this guy and his life, the ladies he knows and his friends and what he thinks about shit. The way the words are strung together gives me this weird feeling. I keep the pages in a box under my bed, along with my stash. Eddie’s all like why the fuck am I writing in a little notebook all the time now. He thinks maybe I’m snitchin. So I show him my stories and he’s just puzzled. The whole crew makes fun of me, but I don’t care none–I finally found some shit I can keep.


Bill Floyd lives in North Carolina, where he writes novels and flash fiction.



Illustrations for Spot 003: All photos shot by mdjb. The town center is undergoing a major renewal to make this city, the state capitol, more of a tourist attraction and belatedly bring it into the twenty-first century.