Posts tagged ‘elliott cox’

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

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.


September 15, 2011

Spot 008: Beauty from Within


by jk davies

For you are not beautiful
to behold but yesterday
you said something to me
that cut the doubts out of
my mind
I am not beautiful to behold
but to be held would be
my reward for steadfastness
or maybe clinginess and
I find
your imagined smile striking
warm thoughts from me
typing across the miles still
a closely held secret, oh
your smile
a sign I have made you happy
I thank you for your help and
my gratitude is a warm tide in
your heart, I tell you this with
no guile
at least I would like to think so
you would see my eyes shine
with sincerity but even I don’t know
if calculation enters as we play
this game
we might dance in the bedsheets
gaze into each others eyes
strip ourselves down to honest
longing, we might want
the same
things, we might. If only our eyes could
behold each others once more, not
beautiful and not without betrayal
of others but the simple want is to
be held.

J.K. Davies is a practised reader & practising writer living in Germany. She blogs mostly at practice makes perfect and has a nasty side at too much practice (



by Bill Lapham

You can hear the air escaping as seawater fills the main ballast tanks making the submarine heavier, less buoyant. It takes a few minutes, but when the tanks are full, it is quieter inside. This is silence like no other. The sound of the waves crashing against the hull is gone and the ocean’s swells do not toss the tons like a cork in a bath.
You have entered another world on the same planet as yours, a bigger world filled with strange animals and the sounds they make. Whales calling one another, making sure their calves don’t get too far away or wander into water too deep, like a family of humans might do on a day at the beach. Dolphins sing their tunes as they race the boat to nowhere. They do it only for the love of the race. Shrimp cackle and click and sea monsters no human has seen and no human has named scan the deep with a sonar no human has heard looking for food no human has tasted.
The boat moves forward but seems so still, as if it is hovering, or still moored to a pier. It changes depth, goes deeper, and prowls in darkness where no sun warms the water.
One hundred and fifty men say no words, step like ghosts floating, and listen. Men who have been awake too long preparing for this moment can rest now, retire to their bunks and sleep in the quiet where whales wander.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Gita Smith

There are just two ways to earn a living in Chambers County: you walk into the textile mills or you drive out in a truck. Before retiring, my parents worked in the Westpoint-Stevens textile plants – he in Langdale #3 and she in Shawmutt #2. Both were half-deafened before age 30 from laboring in those funhouses where the hurdy-gurdy of machinery often registered 140 decibels, where crashing, giant looms jarred your very bones.

My parents had that look common to mill people. Repetitious labor doesn’t just wear out joints or muscles; it wears out the spark in each of us that’s fed by anticipating something new coming in the future. People on the line, trimming extra threads from towels and sheets year in and out, know there’s nothing new coming at them, not ever. Mill workers are pale and suffer from breathing cotton dust. But they also suffer from dull eyes and dull dreams.

Sometimes at night, if they drew lucky shifts, my Pa and Ma were both at home. Then I would hear them pillow-talking, low and happy, into each other’s necks where they could hear one another. The sound was like two gossamer threads, one warp, one woof, united by teasing twists and silken whispers. Young and beautiful in the darkness, alone together, my parents spun their stories and their imagined future – a day when they’d run out of the mill holding hands, fling off their aprons and never again pick cotton lint from each other’s hair.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

The travel magazine a Yank left behind lay open on a table she’d wiped ten thousand times if once, in the small Balbriggan pub where, for 12 years, Chloe slung ale, delivered plates and hand-scrubbed floors.

O’er three years, the colorful canyon’s photo consumed her idle thoughts. It dominated the tiny flat’s kitchen wall to which it was taped, the object of daily meditations compacted with Irish resolve.

To fund her journey, she bought fewer groceries and tea, halved her cigarettes, and braved walking to work.

Two hours before sun-up, behind the El Tovar Lodge, the sky spread more stars before her than Chloe’s eyes had ever gathered. Adrenaline and American coffee dissolved jet lag and fatigue. Her countenance postured to fully alert with an occasional shiver of chilly air tinged with anticipation and ‘pinch-me’ surrealism.

She arose and stood on the park bench with outstretched arms. Slowly increasing, intensifying light gave birth, bled life into color onto the walls of the Grand Canyon’s shifting mural. Tears let go as her lungs cycled crisp mountain air.

She was transfused, brimmed to completion. Where once an empty void echoed, Chloe felt spirit’s reunion with soul.

On the return flight to Dublin, Chloe drifted off clutching a silver cross adorned with turquoise.

A flight attendant gently adjusted the blanket over the soundly sleeping woman. His gaze was affixed to the passenger’s transcendent smile, as warming as a mother’s loving hug.

Chloe awoke knowing her purpose, seeing her course, a path enlightened.

[A revitalized post from an April, 2010, 6S submission] See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Grey Johnson

In the late afternoon, they move the truck away from the road and into the brush at the back of the lot. It resembles a small savannah there, with myrtles spreading their dry arms into the speckled light. Everywhere there are small yellow flowers, swaying on sparse stalks, which he has been slinging away at all day. A cloud of gnats dances in an ebb of sunshine nearby. She watches him chug water like a cowboy, looking peacefully at his dirt and sweat, and the tiny bits of cactus sticking to his glasses. He stands on the ground beside the truck, and leans inside her door. The wetness of his shirt has turned cool, and smells pure, and specks of sand and grass from it cling to her skin, and his mouth is sweetly cold from the jug of water. He stops and pulls some of the yellow flowers from their stems and decorates her belly. His hands shake and she soothes his knuckles with the back of her hand. When the time comes for her to leave, she puts the flowers into her pocket. Once home, she takes them out, and places them on the dresser, where they think, in the quiet, of being pressed and saved. A tiny white ghost of a splinter tingles her finger, and she leaves it there until morning, letting it remind her of her hand clasping his shirt in the glow of the waning sun.

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

We were on the second ferry before I thought to ask – a little blue and white bustling one and please God this’d be less rough than the other – and as with so much of our conversation during the past … Christ, only about thirty-six hours, that was all I’d known her for, this hitherto unknown, unimagined, existence-undreamt-of daughter, my question was one that should have been asked before now.

‘Did you tell your mother I was coming?’

She shook her head, the wind blowing her hair, dark like mine, but that, her likeness to me, was how I had been identified, otherwise I would still be unaware that I had fathered her.

Once again I cast my mind back nineteen years to see if I could remember what her mother looked like, once again the memory was reduced to a voice – soft with a distinctive accent – and a ribcage, part of a ribcage. The room had been too dark to see her face; my state of intoxication obviously not detrimental to … well if not performance, certainly ability to perform, to impregnate, although it had definitely impaired my visual memory.

And yet, and yet, from just these slender tangibles, and from a helluva powerful and long-lasting something other than tangible, I had carried the memory of this girl – woman now – in my heart ever since. And despite never having seen her, I was confident I would recognise her, as confident as her daughter was that she would recognise me.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

From the small bench in the mall’s center court, the man watches them arrive. He has seen them before, this beautiful woman and her child. The woman wears a sheer summer dress, sea grass green and her auburn hair is pulled back in a bobbing ponytail. He tightens his mouth and puffs his cheeks a little, offering a simple closed-mouth smile as they pass. He notices her eyes move over his face and for a second, she mirrors his closed mouth smile before averting them down, angelic toward the child. They float down the mall and the child looks back, his eyes staring, blank.

Across from him, the man observes the Foot Locker clerk act out a sales pitch. The associate’s eyes are wide and he smiles and pantomimes knowingly as he holds the shoe up next to his head like a phone. His other hand flits about, a bird anticipating flight. He outlines the features of the shoe but the customer frowns, turns and continues to shop. The associate masks a look the man recognizes. The customer turns with a question and the associate’s smile reappears, as if flicked on by a switch, all rosy cheek and white teeth.

Later in his apartment, the man stands before his mirror and practices. He widens his eyes, waves his hand. He nods his head and puffs his cheeks and shows some teeth. He thinks about the beautiful woman. He observes his shiny white teeth. He thinks tomorrow, she will too.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Travis Smith

Lendin looked down, amazed at the simple beauty of birth. The mother had labored most of the night, delivering the child just before sunrise. She was exhausted, but her face showed only joy as she held the baby girl on her chest. The conditions here were not ideal for giving birth. The medic in their group had never delivered a baby before, but several of the women, along with Lendin, had done their best to keep the mother safe and comfortable throughout her labor.
Lendin walked back to the mouth of the cave wondering how was it that such beauty could exist on this world. The baby’s father was missing along with most of the other people from the village. Lendin’s squad had managed to rescue a handful of people, bringing them back to this cave, but the rest were captured or dead. He doubted the mother realized the full extent of the situation, that her husband would likely never see his beautiful daughter. For the moment she was happy, and that was enough. She would have time for sorrow later.
He looked back at the mother and child. The moment of happiness, the joy of a mother holding her new baby, gave Lendin a reason to smile, if only briefly. There were not many reasons to smile here so he tried hard to freeze that moment of simple beauty in his mind as a buffer against the death and destruction of the war around them.

This piece originally appeared on Blake N. Cooper’s Thinking Ten. See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

I had vowed not to be set up again on a blind date, but after six months’ Saturday nights at home Wii bowling, I agreed to dinner and dancing with Emma and Mike, and cousin Alfreda.
I got the “great personality” recommendation from Emma. Mike offered to pay for dinner, and though I reneged on his largesse, I didn’t expect much. I dressed nicely, planned to be on best behavior, and that bowling had put me in shape, so I hoped to impress Alfreda at least.
It turned out, she was rather sweet. She laughed in a becoming way at my mots, bon and otherwise, but wasn’t the most attractive woman around, although neither the worst looking. The problem was explained over dinner, during which she nibbled a small Waldorf salad. She had spent a fortune on Reiki healing, modified tanning treatments, paraffin waxing, holistic therapy, some electrolysis, but no plastic surgery. “I’ll never go under the knife,” she swore, but along the way she had forgotten to eat, and now, painfully thin, no longer could in the way she used to. I felt guilty every time I lifted my fork, and tried to recall jokes I could tell in mixed company. Later, she wowed us with her dancing, and nodded when I asked how she felt about bowling.
I’m on a mission not to spend weekends at home alone anymore, and must have read half a million words this week on cooking for the weight conscious.
The target’s 120.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Mike Handley

Arthritic, their porous bones sagging from a lifetime of supporting others, they stand like defiant street people, giving a vacant eye to the unseeing who stroll or drive past. Their skins are gray, pocked by the elements, and they can no longer hide bent spines, scars or missing teeth once so uniform along porch railings.

Every time I see one, I’m drawn to it like a blue fly to a carcass. But instead of sucking the dead out, I want to breathe life back into it.

Rather than hear the laughter, sobs and soft cries of passion that once filled the rooms, I simply want to add my own while the ghosts listen and remember. I want to restore things, put them right, and to preserve the original builders’ craftsmanship far beyond adding fresh coats of paint or a new roof.

To let these works of art become compost is like watching a daylily wilt, shrivel and fall to the earth to be devoured by worms.

If a dog year is worth seven human years, a day in the life of some lilies is like a century for old farmhouses. The beauty will remain only with those who remember yesterday, or perhaps with those who see beyond the gray.

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.



by Elliott Cox

The two of them had been art buddies for a while now, Roger and Jeremy. Jeremy caught all of the nuances in Roger’s writing and Roger could literally put his finger on at least eleven different emotions in each of Jeremy’s paintings. They were illuminating a Saturday night with beer and conversation in Jeremy’s studio when Roger said, “Okay man, I have to ask…” Jeremy’s eyes shined with anticipation. “Why all of the blank canvas’ lying all over the place? I get that you need your medium when the muse strikes, but this…” Roger gestured with his hands. “This is a bit overkill, no? You’ve got rolls of canvas leaning against anything that’ll hold them, you’ve got framed, blank canvas’ hanging on the walls. Hell, I had to move at least a dozen chunks of canvas a few minutes ago so I could take a leak. What gives, man?”

Jeremy smiled and said, “Roger, my friend, you writers are all the same. You see a blank sheet of paper, or a blank page on your computer with the cursor blinking at you, and you freak out because you see nothing, and you’re scared to death that nothing’s all you’ll end up with. When I see an empty canvas, every bump, every thread, each aching millimeter screams to me for color. I make each thread and every bump suffer with anticipation until they stop thinking about the color that they want, and tell me about the color that they need.

See Authors page for Elliott’s bio.



Most illustrations for Spot 008 supplied by Michael D. Brown. The old house in Pennington is from Mike Handley.


August 4, 2011

Spot 002: The “Golden” Rule


by Gita Smith


My Pa, a riveter by trade, died building the Golden Gate Bridge. On Feb. 17, 1937, his work scaffold collapsed. They had stretched a safety net under the floor of the bridge from end to end, but it was only capable of catching men and their tools. It had saved 19 men from a cold drowning. Those lucky ones, they laughed and called themselves the “Halfway to Hell” club. But my Pa’s scaffold was too heavy, and it broke clean through the net, carrying him and ten others down into the freezing, salty strait.
Three months later, when they opened the bridge to pedestrian traffic, my mother put on her Easter bonnet and best shoes and took us kids to walk “that bridge.” All the Golden Gate widows were given a place of honor beside the mayor on a platform, and in the warm spring sunshine with a cheering crowd, the bridge boss, Smiling Joe Strauss, called out the names of the men who had died “giving California this greatest of gifts.”
We walked the bridge, and my mother pointed to the soaring red towers, each with 600,000 rivets, she said, put in place by men like my Pa, by their sweat and arms as hard as balcony railings.
“It’s a modern marvel,” everyone said, and they posed for smiling photographs. I wanted to love the bridge, then and ever since. But all I can see of it is cold unyielding steel and a falling man pleading with the sky.


Gita posts flash fiction at 6S and longer work at MuDJoB and LitFire. She blogs at ohfinejustfine.



by Grey Johnson


The light eased through the windowpanes
on the last footsteps of the day,
toward the chairs and tables of a vacant restaurant,
quiet furniture waiting for service.
Along the curved backs of the chairs,
it came to rest in bright rectangles,
welcoming and absent.
On the street, no one passed.
The two of them stood in the silent kitchen,
gazing at the glow of it through the serving bay,
her hips pushed against a metal table which slowly turned silky and the color of bright tokens.
They were supposed to be somewhere else,
but instead they captured the light,
as they stroked a warm bronze and stainless dream.


See Authors page for Grey Johnson’s bio.



by Brian Michael Barbeito


Francis had read about her and it was said that people like her were sometimes protected by unseen guardians. Then one day she said she had almost been in a traffic accident. She paused while saying such. Then she said, ‘And I must have been protected, because somehow it was avoided.’ She was at once wise and naive, beautiful and wicked, sweet and sinister. Her eyes were forest inlets that proved darker than the bottom of something ancient. Her hair was the alchemist’s progeny, spun to gold long ago and always new. It caught the rays of light and this is when it seemed to move like the ocean that rolled but stayed the same. Francis looked away because angels were terrifying. Then back again. This strange creature of a woman, with charms and quiet scents to spare. She was a bold figure, as if winged, yet with no wings. Even and especially in anger she exuded something eclectic, a different part of universe. Francis wondered further about her hair. Each strand like time. Some parts of it appeared preternaturally bright. Yes. One day it would turn even from its golden hue to pure white energy. He told her he was glad she was safe.


See Authors page for Brian Michael Barbeito’s bio.



by Paul de Denus


The fields ran by, flashing on the glass screen like an old-time movie reel. Ripples of prairie wheat and corn, a two second frame of crooked farm road, a six second frame of dirt brown field… then another… and another… a zoom in of a giant silo and cows standing still… then back to the moving picture – a new theme introduced this time – sunflower yellow fields. While we watched, we took in the drone – that sound of rubber on the road humming below – a certain hum that allowed our eyes to drop heavy, pulling us down helplessly into easy sleep. The sun reflected on the windows, the ghosts of three boys and a girl revealed, propped against the doors and pillows; on the radio, the hypnotic voice of a crooner attempted to infiltrate our back seat reverie.
The car shuddered as passing big rigs shoved and shouldered us, like over-sized bullies pushing down school hallways, plowing weaker bodies into lockers. With light fading, our dad silenced the radio and piped his mantra again, something he’d repeated every few miles or so. “Anybody see it yet?”
I didn’t want to miss it… to be the first to pick out the Golden Boy on the horizon, the sun glinting off its golden torch, signifying we were almost home. Eyes wide open, I jockeyed for position on the seat, cheek against the glass. Shit, no sibling was going to beat me out of seeing it first.


* reference: The Golden Boy statue (named Eternal Youth) sits atop the Legislative buildings in Winnipeg Manitoba.
See Authors page for Paul de Denus’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown


With Ana, nothing is what it is. There is always a rubric. Use phi, the infinite irrational constant, to determine the beauty in the real estate of her smile. It pleases her, and broadens that smile, to know how hard you try, taking not the least muscular twitch for granted. Then, it all fits into place, and ostensibly the puzzle appears to be complete. You must leave the glue to her, however, and carry the thing a mile without losing any of the unhinged pieces.
Salary commensurate with the work performed on a busy day, it could be claimed you are a thief of time, surfing the ‘Web, planning without moving toward fruition. Be at every meeting. Offer at least one comment or suggestion from which it may be inferred you have heard everything to which you only half listened. Maintain a switchable screen-saver; preferably one that simulates the appearance of a spreadsheet, but alternate between that and the Manet replicated on the poster brought from Quebec. You chose her favorite. Do unto others… and you’re golden.
Chi needs to flow unobstructed throughout the office, yin and yang balanced in the space. If gossip is to be shared, let it be the good kind, like good and bad cholesterol. All that friendship noise is then mere acquaintance, the music of which plays in an infinite loop, an earwig’s breadth removed from muzak, but pleasant enough, an ambient background in which you recognize the faintest strains of something almost familiar.


See Authors page for Michael Brown’s bio.



by Joe Gensle


Spectral-colored refractions highlighted chardonnay in the goblet as he swirled it in a shard of natural light. It captivated his gaze and drifting thoughts.
If Jack Kennedy had the job, we’d all be better off. Joey was in ‘Nam but had managed to get a telegram–his last words–to them that long-ago day, yellowed paper now pressed into their family Bible. His other brother, Jake, looked like a scarecrow in a tux.
Next to him at the linen-clothed table, she was afar in her mind. He could return, at-will. She was anchored there, untouchable, unreachable.
His life was her present, the reason they wed on her 21st birthday. She swore to drink him in, that day and henceforth. Their lives were as brimmed as her untouched water glass, never empty as her stare.
Rome wisely deemed “L” as their numeral for fifty,” he thought, for love spanning decades, for her loss, first to Alzheimer’s and a subsequent stroke. It was for lucky, for there was no day, no moment or instance when he couldn’t feel lucky to hold the vision of her in their youth.
He moved the spoon to brush her lower lip with a small piece of anniversary-birthday cake, putting it into her mouth, wiping a crumb away at its corner. Tears in the corners of his eyes were emotional tattletales. He smiled at his lifelong love and whispered, “Thank you.”
The anniversary was golden by tradition, his life, gilded by her permeating presence within it.


Joe Gensle is a left-handed, right-thinking Kentuckian stuck in the desert Southwest with his Chihuahua, “Coconut.” He enjoys international travel, kitchen escapades disguised as cooking, and is wrestling with an in-progress novel.



by Elliott Cox


Lenny’s first brush with the world was an addiction to heroin. His second was being wrapped in a plastic grocery bag lined with fast food napkins. Hospitals had that safe haven law in effect for…how long now?…but she just pushed him out, dropped him off, and knew that someone would take care of him. They always did. Right?
Eva stepped out back for a smoke and looked down, sighed, then brought Lenny up to the NICU. She said, “Got another one for ya. Ain’t it a shame.”
Before he was able to comprehend comprehension, Lenny went through detox – burning, shaking, freezing, dying. The nurses that checked on him did so through professional eyes, keeping to the symptoms and the charts. NICU nurses learned early on that attachment almost always equaled devastation – numbers and doses don’t make them clutch their children when they get home and vow to never let them out into the world.
On the third floor, a couple was being consoled by the hospital’s grief counselor. Their fifth attempt at carrying a baby to full term had come to an end, as had the previous four. “I’m certainly not trying to convince you to stop working for a child of your own.” A beat “Have you ever considered adoption?”
When Lenny stepped on the bus for his first day of school, he waved goodbye to his mother and blew her a kiss. She smiled and wept, waved goodbye, and gave the tiny blue hospital bracelet a gentle kiss.


Elliott Cox is a father, son, aircraft mechanic, college student, writer, and musician. Not always in that order, and never all at the same time. Elliott writes in both of his spare minutes, but never without the help of his friends.Some of Elliott’s work can be found at MuDJoB, 6S, and T10.



by Sandra Davies


Even at the time the occasion had felt significant, a realisation that there was a different and considerably more interesting world beyond that of her parents; in hindsight the slenderness of the chain of coincidences which had brought her there was terrifying.
On the strength of her impromptu assistance on Tuesday, Liz had asked her to help with the food (she was too young for alcohol) at this Private View at Carrington’s Gallery. The paintings – Annabel’s nudes – were an eye-opener for a start, and then all the people – it was like she’d lived a black and white – a grey! – life up till now and someone had suddenly coloured it in.
She would have expected to be overwhelmed, shy and tongue-tied, but Bernard – she’d only known then that he was Annabel’s brother – had talked to her a bit before it opened, seeing her, once Liz was ready, go round looking, and he’d somehow made it easy to ask about them, not made her feel ignorant – he even said he found people scary – and afterwards he’d talked a bit more, told her who some of the people were (although he didn’t know that many), and she’d met Annabel.
She been tearful when it had ended, seeing it as a world she’d never be able to find her way into again, though when Bernard asked her to sit for him, she had not thought ‘that’ll be a step in the right direction’, just knew that it felt right, she wanted to.


See Authors page for Sandra Davies’s bio.



by Bill Lapham


Bernard’s golden glow and tailored suits announced his presence before he even said hello. The golden boy had never made a mistake that cost him anything, not money, not relationships, neither prestige nor reputation.
He was handsome in an athletic movie-star sort of way. He was smarter than ninety-nine percent of his peers. A brilliant, creative and innovative thinker, he solved problems both simple and complex without looking like he was trying very hard to solve them. He was unflappable, calm to a fault, and never let anybody see him sweat. Hell, he didn’t sweat, except in his gym.
He married the prettiest girl on campus, who was also brilliant, of course. Janice became a noted physician while Bernard was in finance, banking, venture capital management, the stock market and bond trading. Together they had access to more money on a moment’s notice than most third-world countries. Their house did not look like a house, but a place you usually see sitting adjacent to a world-class championship golf course, which they also had, in the “backyard,” bordering the sea. Their garage was almost as big as the Dallas Cowboy’s indoor practice facility, and it was packed with vintage motorcars, modern roadsters, motorcycles and all manner of off-road vehicles. There was a helipad on the property and a helicopter ready on a moment’s notice.
Bernard was golden. He took big risks and made big profits. His gambits were complex but lucrative and he almost never lost a bet, until yesterday.


Read the conclusion here. See Authors page for Bill Lapham’s bio.


July 28, 2011

Spot 001: Darkness Before Light


by Bill Lapham

Otwon had heard stories about a light stick you could hold in your hand and shine on the ground to find your way in the dark, but he had never seen one. The stories were told by the old one in the tribe when Otwon was young. He wished he had one now.
Otwon was one of the hunters in his tribe, a tracker, a scout. He ranged far ahead of his hunting pack. He worked alone, traveling light, eating little, drinking only what little water he found in pools on the ground. The skin on his feet was as hard as the dry ground he strode upon.
On nights like this, Otwon worked in complete darkness. Clouds covered the sky and the sun had set behind him miles back. He only sensed the direction of his prey’s movement. Something inside him bordering on hope kept him from becoming the prey himself.
Otwon could defend himself, he had a weapon. It was a long shaft of hard wood shaved to points on both ends. He had killed with it, but had only barely escaped with his life in the fights. He preferred to attack the exhausted animal after surrounding it with his hunting friends who would catch up in due time.
When dawn painted the morning sky rose, Otwon slowed his pace. He didn’t want to approach too close, too soon. He crouched in the long grass, held his spear at the ready, and waited for help.

Bill Lapham is a retired submarine sailor and current MFA student at Goddard College in Vermont. Find his blog and the conclusion to this story, here.



by Grey Johnson

If is dark enough
you can imagine anything, and
I have done it.
The sheets became the twisted fabric of someone’s clothes.
That was where
a face drew close enough for me to feel its breath in a murmur,
or it snapped absent altogether,
if that was what I needed.
The room I was in was no longer a room.
It left me feeling the blackness of the sky
with the stars gone dark in dreams of their own,
my body a minor planet
wandering blissfully random,
outside my own orbit.

I live a life that, from the outside, is small and quite conventional. Writing is a way of looking at something more, and lately, there seems to be a lot of that.



by Sandra Davies

Those etchings, the first time for months that she’d been moved to express something in visual terms.
She had feared that to even try would end in failure, something else to add to the failure of her marriage, had been mired for too many weeks in a black – no not black, nothing so dramatic as black, more a muddy, dreary grey state of mind. But that morning she’d been woken by a dawn-daft blackbird heralding a clean-slate day and her mind, her fingers had tingled with the urgent need to set down, in strong black lines on white, all that had been surging in her head since he’d left.
She recalled the half-dozen square aluminium plates stacked in her studio, rehearsed the process of degreasing, bevelling, backing with parcel tape, and the careful application of resistant etching grounds, hard for a crisp quality of line, soft for tonal variation.
She thought of the bath for the poisonous-looking turquoise saline copper sulphate solution, of the bubbling, red scum thereby produced, set beside a second bath of water to pause the process before checking depth of etch with the hinged, and wonderfully-named linen-tester.
The plates were where she would make her marks, draw out her pain … after etching would come inking, firm intaglio application of glossy Lamp Black ink, then wiping with rag, polishing with shiny Izal tissue and then through the press, the anticipation of that first pulled print on dampened and torn-to-size Somerset Satin paper.

Sandra Davies is a writer and printmaker, occasionally combining both disciplines as in ‘Edge: curve, arc, circle’ and ‘One that got away’ the precursor to four more novels. Recent poetry has been published in Pigeon Bike’s ‘Beyond the Broken Bridge’ and more is forthcoming from Scribble and Scatter. Sandra’s main writing blog is lines of communication from which links to printmaking blogs can be accessed.



by Paul de Denus

The moon was full, glazed, the size of the world. He watched it eye him through the transom in his living room. A lover’s moon or the dead’s marker? he pondered. The latter he was sure. What was the moon after all but a lifeless, airless place. An ancient pebble drifting down the dark void.
The living room lit a deathly blue. Ice cold breaths smoked out his mouth in ghastly white plumes. He stretched his withered legs, curled long fingers around the armrest of his recliner. He squeezed nails into it, the leather splitting under his grip. Blood iced through his veins, surging hotter as he let the dark overtake him. He stared into the moon’s disfigured face. After dark, there is hope for light, he mused. Light entertainment perhaps and chuckled at the thought. Dark and light. Life and death; his awakening to another. I am the dark of the moon, he said out loud and he almost screamed.
There was a segment of cloud crossing the moon now, blue gray in shading, moving and boiling like a spider’s nest. The cloud looked like Jesus, the face hung deathly white, a ragged beard tormented the chin. His eyes narrowed. The winds swirled. The taxi would arrive soon. There were dinner plans tonight. He would insist the cabbie join him. The jesus face changed. The beard dipped like a tornado funnel, a pointed devil’s beard. A grin cut his face.

I write because my golf game sucks. Writing for me is a moment to moment thing, an itch that needs scratching, a hairball regurgitated after which there’s such a relief. I’m a graphic artist in the real world.



by Brian Michael Barbeito

The sun set far too early and you could look out at five fifteen and see that it was getting dark. If you looked out again at five thirty, it may as well have been the witching hour, because night had taken everything for itself. A group called out from the forest, and taunted Francis. Coming up the path, he saw a grinning deviant of a man aiming a rifle at him from a window. The other thing Jacob noticed was a large tree that looked over the end of the ravine. A boy had hanged himself from this tree just before Christmas. People left flowers in the summer months. But now, with the snow covering everything, the tree stood barren and with no hint of sentiment. It was as if the tree was saying that it had taken life and was strong, and would live to kill again. When Francis arrived home, immediately he rushed to the back window and peered out. Then he turned around and tried to breathe. Upstairs he finally fell into slumber, but in the middle night was awoken by a presence. The spectre tried to speak, but there was no volume. Francis then passed out and into sleep once more. Hours later the morning sun had taken away the ghosts of the night. The brightness splashed on the bricks that were brown and black and red. Birdsong sounded and the clouds waited tidily, like curt and sure boats in a calm sky water.

Brian Michael Barbeito writes short fiction. His work has appeared at Glossolalia, Exclusive Conclave of Delights Magazine, Lunatics Folly, and Mudjob. He resides in Ontario, Canada.



by Robert Crisman

A stick of a woman limps into a room for the refugees back from the tier below hell where neon makes black absolute.
She wears a rumpled black skirt, torn black hose, a ragged black topcoat, scuffed, broke-down shoes, also black. They look as if they’ve been fished from a barrel and left out to dry on a sidewalk.
On her head, a black hat, a crown worn for years in a kingdom of cripples.
Is she 30 or 50 years old?
Why isn’t she dead?
Death: an end to all pain.
Her life: a long dose of pain.
All she has left are starved echoes of dreams.
Dreams of her reign as the Queen who ruled where the skin is not prison.
A chimera really, but born of a hunger that points toward the light.
Starved echoes of dreams, under corpses time left in its wake, yet feeding her courage now as she sits in the room. She left death on the doorstep outside and staggered on in as death begged her to stay.
She no longer dreams of uncaring comfort and ease.
There are only the echoes, a Queen’s rasping breath under rubble, still seeking light.

The woman’s name is Roanne. Robert Crisman knew her back when they both chased the bag in downtown Seattle. Crisman got out of the dope life intact, and brought a bit of Roanne along with him.



by Sam Raddon

This resonates with the cords of life in so many ways. To me, the darkness can seem brief once past it, but while living through it, seem infinite. The light on the other hand, seems to pass us by so quickly that its often forgotten, or seems like a short reprise for what we have been suffering. The post spero lucem is usually internal. Our mind crying out for the unfairness of how the world seems to be treating us when in reality we are beating ourselves up for what we think shouldn’t be our problems. Envious of other’s lives, and coveting what we believe others have without realizing that they too may be in the darkest pit of their lives we tell ourselves that eventually, after darkness we may see the light. Some can be vocal about their problems while others internalize it, but the truth is, we judge ourselves based on what we think others have and we don’t.
I’ll be honest and say that I need to take a good long look in the mirror and figure out what I can be doing better with the crap that the “good lord” is dishing out to me, but I won’t deny that I’ll also be blaming life for events I think are unfairly being dished out onto my own plate.
This probably isn’t making a lick of sense, but either way, I think darkness is a nightmare created by our own minds to allow us to believe we see or might see the light – that or we wish to have others see the good in us (even if its minimal) and therefore we give ourselves hope to see the good in others.

Sam Raddon is a High School English teacher who enjoys basking in the warm Florida sun while trying to inspire himself and students alike.



by Michael D. Brown

We went to a club on Long Island, not Sayville; I don’t remember the name of the place, back in the day, when we used to do that kind of thing—follow friends to any bar we had never danced at. We’d drink far too many beers, inhale amyl-nitrate by the pint, it seemed, and shirts would come off. If we lost them, we’d snatch somebody’s wet, crumpled clothing despite being a different color, if we could still see. We’d wear something strange home, have sloppy sex and wake up the next day with a hangover, feeling altogether like different people.
On this night, four or five of us; I don’t remember if Marvin was with us, went outside to share a joint, and walked off the road into the pitch black woods. I couldn’t see my hand when I held it up in front of me. It was that dark. The only thing visible was the tiny orange spot at the end of the joint being passed around.
When we came to a clearing, we stood quietly under a canopy of stars, pinpricks of light in the velvet blackness, yet we still could not see each other’s faces. When the roach was spent, one of you must have swallowed it, and there was nothing but eternity, the soft sound of breathing, and the awareness of us, which had to be taken on faith. I would have stayed there forever had I not been so cold in my sweat-soaked tee-shirt.

MDJB is the caretaker for this site, an annex of MuDJoB, and would love more than anything to be preparing for the next HoW, right here, right now, but will wait (impatiently) to be with his friends in the flesh next summer.



by Elliot Cox

“Whatchoo mean I got no right to complain? – HUNH! – I’m down this mine, same as you, hoss. Hmph. – HUNH!”

“Sheeee-it, Colin – HUNH! – you know just as good as me – HUNH! – that you better off outside this shaft than me, son. – HUNH! – You walk up to the man and he see you as a man. – HUNH! – I walk up to him and he don’t see nothin’ – HUNH! – but some black face – HUNH! – that ain’t good for nothin’ – HUNH! – other’n – HUNH! – movin’ this coal out to make him rich.”

Colin put his pick over his shoulder. “The man don’t see me no different’n he sees you, Phil. When we walk out this shaft, every face is blacker’n the last. Ain’t nothin’ but black down here.”

Phil said, “Foreman comin’!”

“Better keep that hammer swingin’ boy! West Virginia ain’t built on rest!”

Colin looked at Phil and said, “Hmph – HUNH! – You say I ain’t got no right to complain – HUNH!”

“That black on your face’ll wash right off, son – HUNH! – Mine don’t. – HUNH! – My kids cain’t wash their’n off, neither – HUNH! – They go to the comp’ny store, they scrip ain’t no good – HUNH! – You say your scrip ain’t good for more’n twenty cent on the dollar – HUNH! – Mine ain’t good for no cent on the dollar – HUNH! – You ever rock your cryin’ babies to sleep cause water was all what was in they bellies? – HUNH! – Me an you, heh – HUNH! – me an you the same down here, friend – HUNH! – but up top, we ain’t nothin’ alike.”

Elliott Cox is a father, son, aircraft mechanic, college student, writer, and musician. Not always in that order, and never all at the same time. Elliott writes in both of his spare minutes, but never without the help of his friends.Some of Elliott’s work can be found at MuDJoB, 6S, and T10.