Posts tagged ‘bill lapham’

July 30, 2012

A Year of MudSpots


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

July 21, 2012

Spot 052: The Last Dance

DECEMBER
by Sandra Davies

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

THE QUESTIONS OF 52
by Bill Lapham

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

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

Yes, I think so.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


OUR LAST DANCE
by Jen Schneider

For Denise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Jen’s bio.

TAKES TWO TO TANGO
by Bolton Carley

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

See Authors page for Bolton’s bio.


THE COMPETITION
by Travis Smith

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

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.

THE LAST DANCE
by Kristine E. Shmenco

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

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.


THE LAST KISS
by Sandra Davies

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

See Authors page again for Sandra’s bio.

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

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

See Authors page again for Gita’s bio.


HAPPY TRAILS
by Paul de Denus

To distract myself, I escape out the window.

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

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

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

See Authors page again for Paul’s bio.

ENDTITLE
by Michael D. Brown

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.


Illustrations for Spot 052 provided by mdjb.

July 14, 2012

Spot 051: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

THE VANGUARD OF THE LAMBS
by Bill Lapham


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

Anarchy reigned.

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

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

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


LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY
by Bill Lapham

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

Call me cynical.

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

FRATERNAL LIBERTIES
by Sandra Davies

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

THEY WERE HERE
by Paul de Denus

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

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

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

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

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

LIBERTY
by Michael D. Brown

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


EQUALITY
by Michael D. Brown

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


FRATERNITY
by Michael D. Brown

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


Illustrations for Spot 051 adapted from various sources.

July 7, 2012

Spot 050: Suicide Attack(s)

THE VICTIM
by Bill Lapham

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

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 

THE FIRST FATALITY
by Sandra Davies

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

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

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

ASK AND ANSWER
by Paul de Denus

What is the purpose?
We will make a statement.

What statement is that?
They will leave our land.

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

What about my family?
They will be proud.

Will this hurt?
Only those around you.

Why me?
It is His will.

Will I feel it?
You will feel liberation.

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

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

Then why don’t you do it?

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.


June 30, 2012

Spot 049: The Guiding Light

TRUE NORTH
by Gita M. Smith

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

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

WYOMING MORNING
by Paul de Denus

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

BLINDED BY THE LIGHT
by Sandra Davies

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

GUIDE, LIGHT
by Bill Lapham

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

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

***

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

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

READ LIKE A BOOK
by Michael D. Brown

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.


Illustrations for Spot 040 illuminated by mdjb.

June 23, 2012

Spot 048: Reading Lips

DRIFTING
by Bill Lapham

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

NOTHING TO SAY
by Paul de Denus

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

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

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

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

BABETTE
by Michael D. Brown


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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

INTERROGATION
by Sandra Davies

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.


Illustrations for Spot 048 subtitled by mdjb.

June 16, 2012

Spot 047: Wandering Around Town

TERRORIZED
by Bill Lapham

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 

WANDERING AROUND TOWN
by Sandra Davies

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

SHADOW OF A DOUBT
by Paul de Denus

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

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

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

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

DONE, WITHOUT MIRRORS
by Michael D. Brown

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.


Illustrations for Spot 047 adapted and HoW.

June 9, 2012

Spot 046: I Know It When I See It

 

COUNTER TO THE STILLNESS
by Paul de Denus

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 

 

CALL IT WAR
by Bill Lapham

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 

 

“IT’LL NEED TO BE SORT OF SILVERY-GREY, AND DRESSY”
by Sandra Davies

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 

 

WHO’S ON FIRST?
by Michael D. Brown

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


Illustrations for Spot 046 derived from various sources.

 

June 2, 2012

Spot 045: One-Hit Wonders

 

EVEN BEFORE BREAKFAST
by Sandra Davies

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


 

INTO THE KLIEGLIGHTNIGHT: A TRUE TALE WITH REAL HANGTIME
by Bill Lapham

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

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

My, they made a lovely couple.

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

Crestfallen, I continued to follow Brooks’ athletic exploits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

A BOY, A GIRL, A SONG
by Gita M. Smith

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

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

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

 


 

SEASONS IN THE SUN
by Michael D. Brown

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

THE LAST DANCE
by Paul de Denus

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

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

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

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

“He’s nothin’ Kelly… put him out!”

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

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

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


Illustrations for Spot 045 supplied by ?


 

May 26, 2012

Spot 044: Don’t Get Me Wrong

 


 

MISPLACED PROTECTION
by Sandra Davies

Gaspar, the maître d’ at Giuliano’s, was well-versed in discretion and the number and variety of women Ed Hetherington brought to his restaurant inevitably amused him, as did their pleasure at being in his company. He had a lot of admiration for such a man, for his taste and for his ability to draw to him and keep happy such ladies – all with far more than looks to recommend them.
But this one … he was not sure. The equal of any of the others in her possession of that indefinable something extra; possessed of the same natural attractiveness, something more than could be applied externally, but he had seen her once before and had wondered then …
Two weeks ago, the first time. She’d come with Ed, and had looked even less happy than she did today. She had made Ed late (he had phoned to warn which had made him smile) but when he arrived it clearly hadn’t been that that had made him late; he did not look at all satisfied, not like he usually did. And she had obviously been crying a lot.
Today she had arrived early, and alone. A little more controlled but still filled with sadness and confirming his suspicions from last time: definitely with child. With four daughters and three sons, all married, he knew the signs. And this one, unlike so many of the others, did not wear a wedding ring.
Gaspar assumed Ed knew, presumably that had caused his dissatisfaction.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 

IN THE SEA OF PEOPLE
by Bill Lapham

In the sea of people populating the planet, we had never met. Our fleeting glances collided in the smoke and locked-on in the dim and boisterous tavern, people packed drinking getting tighter and tighter. She was in no hurry but neither did she disengage the glance, and I was afraid to. I looked down for barely an instant, watched golden bubbles fire from the sides of my mug to join the others at the head. When I looked up she had moved closer, still staring. She moved in the in-between spaces, where poles either attract or repel, repelled, permitting her passage. Her feet didn’t seem to touch the floor, her strides seemed to require neither immaterial thought nor physical function; she just moved in her own space, all the time staring at me and never blinking her dark moist eyes, never wasting a single motion. I blinked and she placed her pint on the tabletop, wrapped her hand over mine. She breathed and her diamond solitaire responded. Her lip gloss reflected my nervousness back at me, reminded me how powerless I was, how weakened, how weak. She said something, but I couldn’t hear it, cocked my head like confused people do. She came around to my side of the table, leaned over and whispered in my ear: “Don’t get me wrong if you say “hello” and I take a ride upon a sea where the mystic moon is playing havoc with the tide.” I felt her breath, and I was gone.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 

MR. ROBINSON
by Paul de Denus

At times I don’t mind being so alone. It’s eye opening, this break from the world, from the rat race and responsibility that accompanies it. I certainly don’t miss the humdrum of work, the noise and pace, the treadmill routine. In some ways, I find it a blessing.

Don’t get me wrong. I do miss you and the kids. How could I not? I do wish to be home but honestly, I’m sometimes overwhelmed by the beautiful solitude of my surroundings. I find it’s all I need. Not that I don’t miss the comforts – the hot meals, warm showers, and our bed, even with the kids bouncing about. I hope you are all okay and not too worried.

I’ll admit it can be boring, but each day I find something useful to do. I need to be prepared. I’ve been working out. I’ve lost about fifteen pounds. That beer gut you used to tease me about is gone. Oh, but what I wouldn’t do for a cold one right now.

I send out messages every day, scribbles on scraps of paper from several travel magazines that washed ashore. I stuff them in empty water bottles I salvaged from the plane before it went down. Maybe a passing freighter will find them, figure out where I am and find this beautiful dot in the Arafura Sea. Until then I’m a regular Robinson Crusoe, thinking of home and pondering my future.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 

THERAPY – CATHARSIS = FUTILITY
by Michael D. Brown

After listening to each of your, quote reasons unquote, for joining this group, I’m convinced that separately or together you cannot help me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure all of you feel your stories are valid, and that for you these represent the biggest problems in your world, but my wife has tried to kill me, and that’s no lie. For many years we lived a meager existence, and I paid for our meals and the furniture, and transportation to our jobs before and after her car broke down. She won’t let me in the new one, since I’ve been out of work for the last two years. Now that we reside in the house her father paid for, she calls me a piker and says I’m living off the fat of the land. Oh, how quickly we forget yesterday’s sacrifices! If I mention the turnabout, or try to explain how I need time to finish my book, she says I had little to do with anything good in our lives, that eighteen months is a long time to have come up with only three chapters. She doesn’t appreciate perfection, and they are good. She’s a merciless Philistine, and it’s not true that I hide her things. Sure, she’s paying for these sessions because she wants me legally declared having failed to do me in with slow poison. In short, you’ve all come with problems of your own making whereas I was forced because someone else has greater issues.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 

SUMMER PLANS
by Gita M. Smith

Have you been listening to a word I’ve been saying?
Yes. There’s nothing wrong with my hearing.
Then answer me.
I didn’t hear an actual question. All I heard were declarative statements.
Okay, then how’s this: Are we going on vacation this year and if so, what did you have in mind?
I plan to go to Kansas in July to a writers’ gathering. I do not care what you do.
So you’re just going gallivanting off to Kansas with God knows who from the internet?
That’s about the size of it, yes.
And I am supposed to do what in the meantime?
Whatever you like. Feel free as the wind.
Then I am coming with you!
Madge, dear, don’t get me wrong. Going to this workshop means a lot to me. I don’t want to hurt you. But if you insist on tagging along, you will be quite sorry.
What’s that supposed to mean? Are you threatening me?
When you put it that way, I guess I am.
Oh yeah? What do you think you’re going to do?
Any number of quite ugly things.
You wouldn’t.
I would.
Well….how long will you be gone?
Five days give or take.
Will women be there?
Yes, several. All homely librarian types.
Men too?
Oh yes, all pudgy and professor-ish.
I suppose I could go to my sister’s in Cleveland.
Sounds like a ripping good time.
See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

 


Illustrations for Spot 044 derived from various sources.