Posts tagged ‘gita smith’

November 10, 2012

Spot 055: Compensation

by Paul de Denus

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

by Donal Mahoney

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


by Diana E. Backhouse

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


by Sandra Davies

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

by Michael D. Brown

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

by Gita M. Smith

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

September 15, 2012

HoW3 Book Ready

Sandra advises that the book is just about ready to go after a few minor tweaks, and it looks terrific! It feels so good to have something of such high quality to take one back to a blissful few days with imagination running rampant and being surrounded by good friends, good food, and great writing.

P.S.: You know you can have your bio updated at any time, and this blog remains active.

July 31, 2012

HoW 3

Spirit Lake, Perry, Kansas: 26 – 29 July 2012

The House of Writers, better known as HoW, had its third get-together at Spirit Lake. The first was in New Orleans on Labor Day weekend, 2010. The second was at Blowing Rock, N.C., on Bastille Day weekend, 2011. We enjoyed writing to prompts, reading work in group sessions, and challenging each other in games of Ex Libris among other activities. The setting around the lake was tranquil and inspirational, and an enjoyable publication should be forthcoming.
I regret that we only get to do this once a year. The fifty-two Spots preceding this post and featuring the work of HoW authors writing to themes were meant to serve as a bridge between meetings.
Those in attendance this time around were:

Bolton Carley
Bolton’s pieces can be found on 6S and her personal Bolton Carley’s Blog at wordpress.

Sandra Davies
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.

Ed Dean
Ed Dean grew up in Dearborn and Highland Park, Michigan until being drafted into the army and subsequently into the N.S.A. Having been in sales and marketing most of his life, Mr. Dean is now semi-retired and spends much of his time writing. His own experiences in the military, traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe, and as a wine enthusiast provided much of the background to his book. Mr. Dean has three books in the works, including a sequel to The Wine Thief.

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

Dorothy Pendleton
Dorothy has a solid grounding in the liberal arts, and can tell you which German preposition takes a dative ending, which an accusative, and which either/or (It’s all about movement and occupying space), but is mystified by how an engineer can go through the day with such faith in fact. She has just moved to Portland, Oregon — a lovely city with a young vibe and very genuine people. Some of her work can be read on Thinking Ten.

Jen Schneider
Jen is an English teacher. Married. She is currently writing a young adult novel and finding daily inspiration through her family and students. Her site is Life on Shuffle.

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

Gita Smith
Gita posts flash fiction at 6S and longer work at MuDJoB and LitFire. She blogs at Oh, Fine, Just Fine.

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

Michael D. Brown
Currently teaching English in Mexico, Michael maintains MuDJoB and MudSpots (and various other muddy projects) featuring his own and the work of other writers, 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.

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

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

June 30, 2012

Spot 049: The Guiding Light

by Gita M. Smith

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

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

by Paul de Denus

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

by Sandra Davies

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

by Bill Lapham

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

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


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

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

by Michael D. Brown

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

Illustrations for Spot 040 illuminated by mdjb.

June 2, 2012

Spot 045: One-Hit Wonders


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.



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.



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.



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.



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



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


May 5, 2012

Spot 041: In Hindsight


by Paul de Denus

I should not have gone to the emergency room. Looking back, I should have sucked it up and moaned through the weekend somehow, without taking any drastic measures. Drastic. That’s the word. It’s easy to say that now, now that I feel much back to normal. It’s a fine line between discomfort and pain, between scared and panic, between stable and overwhelmed.

The past is a muffled muddled memory. With it sits guilt, sadness, loss of control and a certain weakness. The after effects continue. Physically, I learned some things. Emotionally? That’s a different toll, a separate cost. There’s the bill from the hospital, from the radiologist, from the tests and pills. Three hours for the uninsured – without seeing a doctor – …over eight grand. Maybe it’s a good thing a doctor never peered in at me. I probably saved myself another thousand or two.

Over the years, I’ve spent the money for personal health insurance elsewhere, took my chances on staying healthy. I don’t know how people do it. We are one disaster from being destroyed. The rich don’t see it. The healthy don’t either.

The biggest pain sits by itself. I cannot fix this one; I can only listen and wait it out. Watching her face and the overtaking sadness is enough to kill me. I know too, this will pass.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

In hindsight, and the eyes of the media, it would have been the parents who were held up as criminal, criminally guilty of too much trust, of optimism, of wishful thinking. Fingers would have been pointed and accusations made, if anyone had known enough to accuse, if the details had got out. The truth.
But for a variety of reasons, not least the fact that the father of one of the victims was in the local CID, the details had been suppressed. The known details. Some had never even been suspected. Which was how the two guilty of perhaps the most officially heinous crime – for all it could be considered justified – went completely unsuspected. And thus uninvestigated and unreported. Unaccused.
The parents did, of course, feel guilt after the event, as did the victims. The two who carried out the crime felt guilty, naturally. But the strengths that had enabled them to do the deed also enabled them to conceal it. To cope and to keep the secret.
The man responsible never felt a thing.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

They say all things come to those who wait. I’ve had experience with that—small epiphanies when that thing I’ve long desired finally arrives. It still occurs, but not often enough to suit my tastes these days.
They say never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. God, I hate those people who say these things—so efficient, so righteous, never satisfied to sit and wait. Things come eventually. I’ve had experience.
They say never put all your eggs in one basket. This one I guess is good advice. You keep it all together, and you lose it all at once. It comes back. Yes, I can see that now, but it hurts for a while during the time you have to do without.
They say a stitch in time saves nine. That’s patchwork, and it never holds up. When you see the signs that something is going, believe it’s already gone. It is. It’s guaranteed to stop working when you’re really counting on it. Peter’s Principle—not just a clever turn of phrase. But, what goes around…
They say you’ll get your reward in the afterlife. Like the man who needed a parachute, what good is getting something after it’s no longer beneficial?
I say keep reading Vico, and recall that “verifiable truth and human concern share only a slight overlap, yet reasoning is required in both spheres.” You cannot live your life by listening to what “they” say alone. Be pragmatic, but don’t lose yourself waiting.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Gita M. Smith

He gave me his cell phone number, but not the one to his land line at home. I told myself, “Hey, lots of people give up their land lines and only use mobiles, nowadays. No biggie.”
He told me his job involved a lot of travel but never gave the name of the company where he worked.
“Laptops with Skype, and smart phones have replaced bricks-and-mortar offices,” I told myself. “Seems reasonable.”
He liked to come over to my place, said it was more comfortable and “artistic” than his new unfurnished apartment with its too-small bed and stand-up shower. There would be time for us to spend weekends at his place once he’d decorated it.
“Seems reasonable,” I told myself. I fantasized about the day when we’d go shopping for a bed and I would buy him sheets – the good ones, at least 400 count.
He also never introduced me to his friends. Not once. So no one even knew that I existed. It’s like we lived in a snow globe, just the two of us.
Of course, looking back I should have seen the signs. Even an amateur would have seen the signs. Of course he was married and never planned to buy a bed with me. That’s when I decided I had been reasonable long enough.
I saw it in his eyes, that perfect moment on the cusp of death before the light goes out – that 20/20 rearview mirror look that says, “Ooops. I fucked up.”
Just between us, I quite enjoyed it

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



Illustrations for Spot 041 supplied by Sandra Davies

April 28, 2012

Spot 040: In the Waiting Room


by Gita M. Smith

The damn clipboard. And its damn pen dangling on a chain, as if anyone would steal a cheap plastic Bic. Five sheets of paper to fill out, front and back if you please, and return them to the front desk when you’re through. And, oh, did I bring my medications with me?
No I did not. They don’t allow wheelbarrows on city buses.
First page: name, address, employer, employer’s address, who to call in case of emergency?
Well, sure as hell better not be my employer.
Is my illness related to a work accident? That depends. Is stupidity contagious?
Page two: Medical History. Now, that one’s interesting. The entire catalogue of defeated body parts and organ failures among my parents and siblings, laid end-to-end, would stretch from Manhattan to the North Carolina Outer Banks.
My own terrifying history, counting the minor degrading diseases like crabs and gonorrhea, would keep you up nights with the bedroom door barricaded and a gun under your pillow.
Third page: Consent to treatment. What do they think? That sick people come to their door to refuse treatment? Fucktwits.
Page four: Financial responsibility for payment. Am I the responsible party? I neatly print the name D-o-n-a-l-d T-r-u-m-p and the address of Trump Towers, New York City
Page five: What is your reason for coming today?
I hurt everywhere, I bleed from places that should not bleed. I have no hope for my future. I am scarlet with fever. I am pocked with smallness.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

The room where our mother dies is on the sixth floor in the palliative care unit of a hospital. The room is shared with a French Canadian woman in her early nineties. We don’t know why she is on this floor. She is recovering from a minor foot problem. Her stay is short term also but she will go home soon.

“What’s wrong with her?” the woman asks.
“She has cancer,” I reply.
The woman sports a toothless maw and softly pulls at her short gray hair.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she looks at me with pained, mothering eyes.
“That’s not good. Can you help me find my comb?”

While we wait, we periodically assist the French woman, helping her to bed, to a chair. She has the orderlies hopping, working the call button with concerned requests for lunch, medication and bathroom aid. She waits by the door, calling out to every passing person she sees.
“I need to see the doctor please! These pills aren’t working. Nothing works.”
At one point, a priest comes in to administer Communion and she is excited to partake in the prayers recited in French. On the wall above her head, hangs an upside down crucifix. I wonder if someone did that purposely. I expect the walls to crack, the ceiling to crumble and an ungodly loud voice to announce–
“So sorry! There’s been an unfortunate mistake! We only deal with the feet here!”

Defeat. Yes, that much feels true.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

The day began in a caravan near Arrochar, Loch Long and had been long and strange enough already. Woken by a crying and miserable child, in pain, initially we sought to reassure – children get pains enough that pass away. Eventually, no reason emerging we took him to a local surgery where, having seen him vomit copiously into a flower bed, the sympathetic patients in the day’s first waiting room made us go first.
Strongly suspected appendicitis and sent us down the narrow-roaded length of Loch Lomond, against the Friday never-ending current of weekend traffic. Arrived in splendid-sounding Alexandria to be dealt with kindness and with care and while the other offspring were taken off for much belated fish and chips, I waited beside the bed to reassure.
When they finally wheeled him into theatre my tight-held control relaxed and bowels to instant water – so poetic, but such pain! – and then the final waiting room, wherein I read a biography of Dirk Bogarde who, poor man, remained forever after associated with that night.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

Sitting where they left me after changing into a hospital johnnie, ready to take part in some experiment no one’s explained yet. Wait here, they said, but I’ve been waiting, what, three or four hours? No clock here.
Getting hungry—probably near dinner time already…must’ve dozed off, recalling past events—things I forgot I knew…waiting and waiting. I should push that red button to call someone. Let them know I’m starting to feel a little anxious. Don’t know where any of those doors lead, but hesitate to show my exasperation. Might be disqualified.
Told me the experiment required someone with great patience; good money in it if all goes well, but four and a half hours is a long frigging time to wait just to get started. I can put up with a lot of things, probably this too, if I knew what it was all about. I did hear what looked like two orderlies snickering. Could’ve been sharing a private joke. I shouldn’t let it get to me. I really need the dough. I could…
Nah, hell, can’t take this anymore. I’m no sucker. Must be another way to make some money—maybe give blood or something. Got to call someone and get out of here. I’m pressing the button!

One of the doors opens.
An attendant comes in, looking at a stopwatch, and says, “Hmmm, seventy-seven minutes. Not so long as some, but longer than most,” then adds, “Come with me, sir, and we’ll get you your check.”

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.


Illustrations for Spot 040 supplied by Gita Smith and by Sandra Davies.