Posts tagged ‘grey johnson’

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

January 7, 2012

Spot 024: Looking Forward

 

HOMEWARD BOUND
by Paul de Denus

Dearest Mom and Pop,

This is my third lap on my journey home. I’m writing this from Mrs. Bennett’s little desk in Warrington. I arrived here about teatime and were they surprised! Mr. and Mrs. Bennett are both looking very well. They have a lovely home with roses everywhere. There is a small pond and rockery just beside me out the window. They told me Ron was in Rangoon. He will be home in sixteen days. They miss him very much.

It has been a hectic week over here; everybody’s so excited, they’ve gone mad for a few days. We are all very relieved and thankful it is all finished in this area. I think I realized – for the first time in five days – the war is over. It’s so wonderful when you think about it. That George could see this day! But that is not for us to decide. God rest his soul. We will never forget him.

Mrs. Bennett and I went to town to look around this morning. I tried to contact Emmie Flavell at Pont Street but nobody home. We had coffee at a nice place then back home for lunch. After supper we took a walk in the country.

I slept in Ron’s room last night and had tea in bed this morning. It’s wonderful to be a human being again. I do hope you are both well. The way things are going I should be there well within two weeks time. Keep smiling.

All my love,
Freddie

Inspired by letters from my Dad to his folks 1945. See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


 

…and it makes her want to drink.
by Grey Johnson

They are walking down a rusty dirt road, and the sun is kissing little clouds of afternoon gnats in the golden aster. The day is at that sweet spot where the light turns warm and low but the clouds have not gone wanton. She is walking slightly ahead, holding his hand, and just as she turns to see his face, he becomes distracted by an early moth. Absently, he drops her hand, and there, in the dirt, she sees the bigger picture, as the releasing motion of his hand magnifies to fill her heart. Their shadows spread behind them, like parted cloudy water…

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.

 


 

GEOMANCY
by Gita M. Smith

Sixteen rusted boxcars stand in line, joined by rusted couplings on a long-abandoned sidetrack. From a distance, they are beads in a necklace strung out against a blue silk sky.
They, and the fallow land around them, have no more use, mirroring what America has become. All they can do is stand in place and decay.
Here in this vast, flat Mississippi Delta, stasis is as much a fact of life as cotton bolls and red-tailed hawks.
Stand or walk among the rows for one full day until the sun’s long evening rays turn everything auburn. Stay until the sky is bruised and the first stars blink on.
You will understand how the land can fasten your humanity to a place and hold you down. You’ll understand that change is temporary and all man’s endeavors – subdivisions, boxcars and microchips – will eventually fail.
You don’t need a geomancer to divine that all your plans and resolutions are phantoms. Only the land is for certain, and it will swallow you and take back your phosphorous as surely as it reclaims the iron of old freight trains.
This broad indention that was a sea bottom 65 million years ago, that was worked by slaves 300 years ago, is a mighty force. Do not be fooled into thinking it is only a stretch of soil.
It is a magnet more powerful than any modern tool and certainly more powerful than fools with plans to change it.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

 


 

I DON’T WANT TO ENFEEBLE THE IMAGES ON ISSUES FILLING A SPACE
by Michael D. Brown

I waited too long. There was all that moving and shuffling and the problems with Immigration. Nice people sent photographs dynamically charged with fervor and meaning, but I had no Internet connection, and the days slid into weeks. The New Year is already upon us, and the stories I have lived through are yesterday’s news, but I am not beyond slipping in a dream or two to grease the wheels.
Know what I will do? Next issue will comprise the missing images and I will theme it Mime. You, dear reader, will have to supply your own tales. As we are still behind the halfway mark, there is plenty of time to catch up. I know, I know. We have already played that game, but this time there will be nuances to make it worth your while.
When the Mayan calendar concludes, and we are screaming at the edges of craters, we will have moments to remember, and won’t that feel like a safety net? Well, maybe not so much. If we lose the electricity, all will be virtual, but some of these images should provide a respite before we succumb to disaster.
I’m not making this up as I go along. I promise you, I had it all planned out, the issue, I mean. I never counted on the artful pioneering leaving me disconnected, but that has always been my problem, the lack of foresight. Plan, plan, snap, snap; before you know it another year has gone belly up.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

CLARITY OF CRYSTAL BALLS
by Sandra Davies

She was always one to speak as much for effect as to impart information and I had grown resistant to her oft-repeated tales, always told to put her in a good light. This one was meant to demonstrate her quick-thinking, her ability to outwit a fortune teller. She’d removed her wedding ring and had been both amused and scornful to be given the usual ‘meet a tall dark stranger’ spiel, because he was fair headed.
But he was shortly after dead, and less than two years later the tall dark stranger became my Dad.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


 

LOOKING FORWARD
by Bill Lapham

My sister died of leukemia when she was thirteen. I was the big brother who couldn’t keep her safe from those sorts of things, like disease. After her funeral, I was mad at God, but I tried to remain friends with him. About thirty-five years later I gave up on the bastard as if he existed. When I heard the last line of the poem you read yesterday, “God allows three year olds to die of leukemia,” I was shocked, but I’m guessing it was the reaction you sought to evoke. It took me a second to realize I needn’t be angry, though; indeed, I suspect we share a similar perspective on divine providence. To get to the point, I look forward to the day when we can protect all children from all evil, tyranny, disease and dogma.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

No illustrations included in Spot 024.

 

November 26, 2011

Spot 018: Stolen

 

NO RETURN
by Paul de Denus

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


 

THRALL’S BANE
by Kristine E. Shmenco

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

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.

 

 

STEALING SPEED
by Bill Lapham

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

GEOLOGIC TIME
by Bill Floyd

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

A HYMN FOR THE AGES
by Robert Crisman

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.

 

 

KISS
by Grey Johnson

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

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.

 


 

MILITARY MISAPPROPRIATION
by Joe Gensle

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

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

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

 

 

REAL AND IMAGINARY
by Travis Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.

 


 

THEFT TAKES MORE THAN THE THING ITSELF
by Sandra Davies

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

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

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


 

TAKEN
by Michael D. Brown

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

Illustrations for Spot 018 adapted by Michael D. Brown.

 

October 6, 2011

Spot 011: In the Wee Small Hours

 


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.

 


MOOD INDIGO
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.

 


THE ADDICT’S HUN
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?

“Nnhhahhh.”

“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.

 


I GET ALONG WITHOUT YOU VERY WELL
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.

 


DEEP IN A DREAM
(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.

 


I SEE YOUR FACE BEFORE ME
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.

 


CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS?
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.

 


FIRST BLOOD IN DREAMS LONG AGO
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.

 


WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?
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.

 


LAST NIGHT WHEN WE WERE YOUNG
(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.

 


ILL WIND
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.

 


20:35 HINDSIGHT
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.

 


HOPE AND WATER
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.

 


1955
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.

 


THIS LOVE OF MINE
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

 

THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
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 (http://toomuchpractice.blogspot.com)
Website: http://jkdavies-dailywritingpractice.blogspot.com/

 

 

WHERE WHALES WANDER
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.

 

 

DREAM WEAVERS
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.

 

 

BENEDICTION FOR AN IRISH LASS
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.

 


 

BUGS, WEEDS, DIRT, SWEAT – AND A SPLINTER
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.

 

 

APPROACHING SANDAY
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.

 

 

SHOPPING
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.

 


 

BEAUTY IN A STORM
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.

 

 

SALAD DAYS
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.

 

 

BEYOND THE GRAY
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.

 


 

COLORSHOW
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.

 

September 8, 2011

Spot 007: Spies and Secrets

 

AWKWARD EXISTENCES
by Nicole E. Hirschi

Exaggerated sighs could be heard all around when rumor of his death was heard, after all, how could it be so, considering his age?

In all likelihood of things unseen, there couldn’t be and wasn’t another way. The alibi, cheap as it might be, held strong, and despite old world views, women can’t be tried for witchcraft and burned at the stake any longer.

Strengths previously un-possessed lingered for months after the affair leaving visitors and well-wishers with an unhealthy feeling of need to make a sign to ward off the evil eye once outside of her home.

Light replaced the once dark world to Jancie, but her countenance, continued to beat an unholy black darker than night, feeding off of the lighter auras of those around her.

“Tell us something about the blasphemous affair!” Gossiping women would often demand.

“Majik,” she’d say, pouring herself and the uneasy women around her a cup of tea, “is just another proof that God and the Devil, indeed do, exist.”

See Authors page for Nicole’s bio.

 

 

A SECRET KEPT
by Bill Lapham

Just after Harry died he was thinking of all the things that had happened in his life, all his desires and revulsions, his pleasures and pains, his friends and enemies.

He remembered a secret he had kept for many years, locked away so deep he never thought about it, almost didn’t recognize it now that everything seemed so clear, so simple, so easy to remember.

Harry wasn’t sure how he could remember all these things only that he could. The last four years of his life had been bewildering; he had lost his memory, didn’t even know his wife and kids.

What seemed so recent and so vivid were scenes from his youth, like they had happened yesterday: playing baseball with his friends behind school, running on trails through the woods by the creek, celebrating mass as an altar boy, inventing places to hide.

Now dead, his world was kaleidoscopic, filled with colors and shapes and motion, and from behind a dazzling blue crystal stepped a little old man in robes, walking with a cane but not taking any steps.

He asked Harry if he had any secrets to tell.

Harry was afraid and said, none that I can remember.

Are you sure, the old man asked, most people’s memories are pretty clear at this point.

Yes, I’m sure, Harry said.

That’s too bad, the old man said, I can’t let you proceed with secrets, Harry.

Harry turned and walked away, taking the memories of the priest with him.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 

 

WILLING TO CONCEAL
by Sandra Davies

“But it says “proceeds from the sale of house and contents plus twenty thousand pounds to each of my two sons,” that’s only …” and here David had the grace to acknowledge with a self-conscious grimace the inappropriateness of that ‘only’, if not the greed.
Impatient at the interruption his younger sibling asked “Only what?”
“Only what Dad left her, three years ago. The exact wording of his will. There should be more.”
“What more?”
“Well, there were those books she was supposed to have written – actually wrote apparently – don’t know what, I never read any of them …”
“Oh yeah, I remember her always scribbling … and then she got herself a computer, didn’t she?” “Thing is, I remember Dad saying, five years or so before he died, that she’d earned more than him the previous year. He’d meant to sound pleased but I got the impression he was less than happy about it.”
“Royalties I suppose, and suchlike. Advances?”
“And maybe film rights, or TV – she did go to America a couple of times didn’t she?”
“Christ yes, so she did! Smartened herself up quite a bit after he died. So where’s the money from all that then?”
“Precisely. We’ll have to ask the solicitor – she probably didn’t instruct him properly.”

But the solicitor had no knowledge of any other will. Nor of any nom de plume, of any other bequest, of any lover, of any daughter. Or of any other life led by the recently deceased

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 

 

ANOTHER SPY IN THE HOUSE OF LOVE
by Michael D. Brown

At first, he thought women were avoiding him, that kind of thing going with the territory. He knew they were very much in love. It was obvious by the ostentatious displays they put on for the benefit of observers, those less fortunate, who had not yet found life’s true happiness.
In his obscurity, however, he noted life’s other truth. All the lovers were spying on each other comparing their levels of appeasement. Who had the biggest ring? Whose mate would go broke first? Whose phone held the fewest contacts? Who was dying to ask, but could not bring themselves to utter the words?
On weekend nights, he walked alone, only waving, while never stopping to intrude.
The men pitied him for all the wrong reasons. The women kept their own counsel. Each of them had known him intimately before their current situations and knew also that it would be indiscrete to discuss that knowledge among themselves. Thus, they maintained a cautious distance from the subject of love, preferring to act it out, and “interpret that how you will.”
One Saturday, he met Laurita, sitting alone until he joined her for cocktails. They made small talk, and sat, and observed. She shocked him when she confided, “I’ve dated three of those guys, and now they won’t even say hello.” He feigned disillusionment as he came to the conclusion the spy business was the more overcrowded field, but smiled upon noting the glint of a wedding band inside her see-through paneled handbag.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 

 

BOND TRADER
by Paul de Denus

“The name’s Bahn. James Bahn.” Yeah, it always gets a big laugh around the office. “Good morning Mr. Bahn!” Haha! I get it, the staff having a little fun at the new guy’s expense. No problem. It’s about the only interesting thing about me anyway. But I do pay attention and I am catching on… like to the dirty little secrets the mucky-mucks hide around this place.

Ty Rollins and Bill Bender for instance, over by the water cooler talking stock trades. They banter information openly, staring through me as if I didn’t have a clue about what they were talking about. Okay, it’s not my department but I’m not as slow as they think. They’re talking insider trading for their clients and it’s illegal. And the other day while in old Pitchford’s office, I heard something else. He was on the phone with the mayor – the mayor! – mentioning a few names and dollar numbers, lowering his voice as he waved me from the room.

That’s alright. I’ll keep all their secrets for a while. I know where they keep computer passwords and where Pitchford keeps his secrets: a list of problematic phone numbers and a private journal. I have the combination to Pitchford’s safe too and when the cash is right, I’ll do some trading of my own.

Yup, the name’s Bahn… James Bahn, janitorial service agent, but I have sweet information that’s hot enough to shake and stir.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 

 

FILE MANAGEMENT
by Grey Johnson

If you click the c drive icon,

and then double click on Users,

and then double click on the file with his name

(because he would never look in his own file for something like that),

and then double click on Downloads

(because he never downloads anything),

you will find a document with a generic sounding name, like Resumé or Newsletter.

If you double click that document,

it will open to reveal

a list

of every item she plans to take with her when she leaves.

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.

 

 


 

All illustrations for Spot 007 supplied by Michael D. Brown.

 

August 25, 2011

Spot 005: Needful Things

 

DISGUISING NEED BEGETS A NEED TO THEN DISGUISE
by Sandra Davies

Penny, second uni year in Venice, with access to the archives of the Academia, Ambushed by gargantuan lust for fellow student, Guido. Devastated to discover his disinterest, determined not to let him know how much he damaged concentration, disturbed sleep and distracted her from education. Sought diversion, self-deceiving, deliberately denying it a sideways approach to him.
An innocent, and unsuspecting of ulterior motive, she was unaware that man could be immoral, avaricious, blinkered mercenary when it came to Art. What she had of willful blindness hid more even than she meant it to; she stumbled into evil, found the man she loved had feet at least clay-dipped, albeit by another since she saw he could not help but know the implications of the machinations of his so-called friend.
But when it threatened to implode, and was about to implicate herself, he stepped in and at some risk he shielded, lied, denied and eventually evaded retribution for them all.

At a cost.

Guido presented his account some five years later, forcing her confession, charging her to murder (mercy-killing from compassion) and in compensation giving her the evidence, the implicating information to finally put things right, compelling her to seek the other out, to force a reckoning, befriend an enemy, to seemingly betray a now-dead friend to win for him posthumous justice, and a guilt-free future for herself.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 

 

NEEDFUL THINGS
by Gita M. Smith

Today is Friday, which is necklace day. I do so enjoy the feeling of gold chains and smooth pearls draped over my body. You know, sometimes I recline in the bath, trailing necklaces over all my hills and dales. And cock.
Sometimes I arrange them according to the dates I “acquired” them, the oldest at my ankles and the newest over my head, dripping down my face. I like the sharp, hard surfaces of diamonds against my teeth. Don’t you?

Aww. You’re not talking to me? Is that because I’m not sharing my jewels? Oh wait, I know. You’re not talking because I’ve taped your mouth shut.
You shouldn’t have made such a fucking ruckus when you found me in your house. You could have let me take your tiara, waited till I was down the street, then dialed your insurance agent. But let’s not quarrel. Let’s have a jewelry quiz!

What is this gemstone right here? What’s that you say? MMmmff? Nope. Wrong, wrong and wrong. It’s a black opal, set in platinum. The nice lady who used to own it didn’t make a fuss. Of course, she happened to be vacationing in the Pyrenees at the time I came across it.

My love for jewelry is pure. I never fence anything. You see, it’s not about the money: It’s about the beauty. I just can’t resist beauty.
Mercy, I hope you’ll stick around for a while. Tomorrow is bracelet day and the day after is all about earrings.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

 


 

THE STOIC
by Bill Lapham

Harold had learned he couldn’t control everything; couldn’t control most things, for that matter.

Usually, he behaved consistent with the ancient philosophies of Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius—like a stoic. He tried to stay aware of his reactions to occurrences, tried not to laugh too hard nor cry too long, tried to treat news of a death like the loss of his favorite coffee mug, and tried to treat pain as an affliction to an injured body part, not a reason for complaining to anybody who would listen about the severity of the pain.

He did not derive his happiness from things beyond his control, nor was he particularly annoyed by them either. He did not demand that things happen in conformity to his will. Rather, he had learned to accept things happening as they did happen.

Adopting stoicism as a way of life changed his life.

To his new way of thinking, there was nothing either good or evil. He strove to live each moment without regret, remorse or resentment. He stepped out of the yoke of desire and gave away everything except what he could carry in a pack, and walked toward the western desert.

When he got there, the sun glared in his eyes and he wished for sunglasses, it was hot and wished for air-conditioning, it was dry and he wished for a cup of ice water. He had forgotten all that he had learned, got lost, and was never heard from again.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 

 

QUESTIONS FROM THE WELL
by Grey Johnson

When you listened, and watched him do
that awful thing
again
the thing that scratched your heart
leaving you flat and empty

did you foresee
what you would do
to feel your cup swell and spill?

Did you even know you had a cup?

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.

 


 

MEMORY LANE
by Robert Crisman

“Four fucking thirty am,” Roanne said, “and, girl, there I was, skulking around in that alley, rooting and scrounging around in that dumpster and telling the rats to get out of my way—and praying some asshole had shitcanned his rig.”

“Oh God!” Michelle said.
They both fell out laughing. Horror viewed from a distance plays like a star turn at Giggles sometimes.

“If only you’d gotten it on video, dear,” Michelle said. “Talk about moments to share with your friends.” She laughed. “Did you find one?”

“What? A rig? Fuck no.”
“Worse luck.”
“Shit, with my luck I’d’ve come up with a nice case of AIDS.”
“Well, uh, yes, there is that.”
“Wouldn’t have stopped me though, if I’d found one. They could have had AIDS stamped on that fucker in big, bold red letters—‘Use this and die, motherfucker,’ and, yeah, well, that’s for later and this is right now, and I’m on a mission, so eat me, you know?”

“Whooee, party, party.”
“Yeah, girl, party for sure.”

Their laughter died. The longer the stroll down this particular memory lane, the more that past punched up from the stomach, taking on odor and taste…

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.

 

 

NO PROB….
by Joe Gensle

“PJ, pick up your court card!,” boomed Phil’s rasp over those chattering after the meeting.
“I’m PJ.“
“You got a ‘nudge from the judge’ for A.A.,“ Phil chuckled, his eyes sparkling, riveted on PJ.
“Just ten meetings.“
PJ took the card Phil had initialled.
“But you don’t have an alcohol ‘problem,’” Phil declared.
“Everybody gets DWIs.”
“What did you blow?” the tanned, construction superintendent asked.
“Two-point-one.”
Phil grinned, “That’s how I got here!”
PJ was silent.
“I notice you walked–didn’t arrive in a car. Wanna ride?”
“I’m good.”
“Judge yanked my license, too,” Phil offered.
“Which judge?”
“He’s dead!! It was 19 years ago,” laughed Phil, “Been sober ever since!”
PJ muttered, shrugged and shuffled away.
“PJ!!,” Phil hollered.
The disheveled man looked back.
“My hands shook, too! Meetings made ‘em stop.” and Phil winked.
PJ hit the alley and bee-lined to a nearby beer dive. He proffered a five and quickly downed a $4.50 small pitcher of draft. He stepped out into the night and froze.
Phil leaned against his truck’s chromed grille.
“I watched you take the money when we passed the meeting’s basket,” Phil said, quietly, “and I repaid it. Alkies steal for a drink but you don’t have a problem,” grinned Phil as he got in the truck.
“Here’s my number. Keep comin’ back…just for the shaky hands, o‘ course,“ and Phil roared off.
PJ wiped away a frustration tear, his fingers trembling.
He’d see that laughing bastard tomorrow night.
He hated…but wanted to like Phil.

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.

 


 

PANTIES
by Amy Hale Auker

It was like shoplifting, this stealing of moments and smiles and secrets that she tucked into the folds of her memory, cheap trinkets of special to be lifted out and savored when the mundane wore her down.
Her best friend gave her one of those mommy looks she was so good at.
“Sounds like an emotional affair to me. Don’t give me this bullshit about only friends when you guard your cell phone like it was gold and check your e-mail before your first sip of coffee. An emotional affair is supposed to be much more damaging than the real deal, you know. Doesn’t sound like just friends to me.”
Blah, blah, blah. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
She preferred listening to her imaginary friends who understood the words “marital rape” without her having to “confide” the sordid details, understood her need for something new, for something hopeful, for conversation that lifted her up out of “omg, this is what I have for the rest of my friggin’ life?” syndrome.
She set her ringtone for him to “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail” , accidentally brushed his hand when he came into her place of work for a beer, and without any thought of right or wrong, she reached for all of the passion, all of the zing, all of the delicious details, all of the incentives to keep on breathing in and out that she could find.
And every day she whispered to him what color panties she wore.

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.

 

 

‘TRUE CONFESSIONS’
by Paul de Denus

I believed the young man was telling the truth. How could I not considering the circumstances?
“Please, continue,” I said, my voice low, even.
The man told me more about the women. He told me of the things he had done, of the secrets he’d forced them to keep, the lies covering his actions.
“Did you hurt them?” I asked.
The man was near tears and did not answer.
“You are safe here… it’s better to say. Did you hurt them?”
“Yes,” the man replied.
“Tell me then. Tell me everything.”

There was relief in the man’s voice as he let go his burden. I leaned back and listened, lightly tapping my fingers on the pages in front of me, mentally noting the details. The stories were salacious. The room felt close and I loosened my collar a notch.
“Can you forgive me?” the man asked when finished.
It was not for me to say. I knew I should kick this one upstairs to a superior but this territory was very familiar; I needed to let the man know I understood his pain. I told him I had been there myself, that his confession had been the first step to understanding. The next steps would be more important.

Through the crossed slats, I watched the young priest return to the rectory. There would be more talk later. I’d see what I could do… personally… contact some of the women… ask about specifics. After all, I’m into the details.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


 

HENRY SPOTTER
by Michael D. Brown

He lived in confusion. His mother, pensioned and frail, let him move into her little apartment, and when he felt guilty, he would try to take care of her needs. He did not often suffer guilt, and there were several times when Clara Spotter sat alone while Henry walked the streets disoriented, sleeping in an alley if the signposts looked unfamiliar. Once, Clara sat for three days in her frayed wing chair, and survived on a slowly consumed can of beans. When Henry finally did find his way home, he was in the apartment for three hours complaining about the terrible odor before he realized from whence it came. Then, he dutifully washed his mother, changed her clothes, and fed her some soup before helping her into bed. She was grateful when she awoke to find him sitting there looking at an old Times, which she knew he could not read, but after walking her back to her chair, and placing several tomatoes and a glass of orange juice beside her on the little cloth-covered mahogany table, he went out for a walk and was gone for fourteen hours.
Life continued like that for two years. Then, Clara died at 77, and Henry was homeless again.
Now, as he stood before the judge who was sentencing him for having stolen a small boat that had been moored in the canal, Henry wanted to ask the assistant district attorney if it was his handsome face he had seen in a newspaper.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 

 

BEACON OF DARKNESS
by Travis Smith

The gunshot was still echoing in my mind. I had been taught to use guns safely. To use them as a weapon, a tool of war, but I had also been taught that it was not right to kill. Not right to injure another person. The body on the ground told me that I had used some of those lessons and forgotten others.

What the hell had happened?

She had been beautiful, every inch of her, but I had never once left the path of faithful husband…until last night, but once it happens it is done and we live with the consequences.

Those consequences found me this morning.

She was waiting as I left the subway. I would say it was blackmail, but it went deeper than that. She was still beautiful and my heart led me along in her wake. It was until the end that her true heart shone through, pulling all light into its black depths.

She had struck first, killing the man in cold blood. Turning to look at me her eyes were a swirl of darkness, beacons telling me that I was next. It was a struggle against my desire to have her again, but I raised the gun she had given me and fired. I am not sure she is dead. I am not sure she was ever living. So I am not sure that I have killed anyone, but I am sure she needed to be killed.

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.

 

 

A JOKER
by Nicole E. Hirschi

He sat at his keyboard, finger pecking his solemn lonely life away. Today, he struggled not with the influx of words. Time turned to years, flew by, and opportunity allowed him to create a relationship that never existed.

She squirmed in her seat. Sighing, she held down her backspace key until all that remained was the emptiness of her screen. The void matched her heart, having been worn on her sleeve too long. Anger burned behind her eyes.

His eyes widened when he read the email. She hadn’t sent him the next installment, but instead sent what read almost like a “Dear John” letter.

Her fingers had thrummed to life, fed by stubborn frustration. Realization had finally sunk in. He was a man with two faces, and she had been played.

Part of him knew he had gone too far, creating something she had believed in. The other part smiled gleefully. He had put his conscience aside and manipulated a naive heart right into the palm of his hand. Wondering what next, he sat alone, drinking his coffee, trying to decide if silence or begging would be her undoing.

A response, she knew, wouldn’t come. She sat tall in her chair, and arched her back, stretching. She knew there was but one thing left to do. Reaching up, she brushed her sleeve, and with imaginative sight, chuckled to no one, as she watched a card featuring a joker flutter to her feet. Dreams are, after all, only dreams.

See Authors page for Nicole’s bio.

 


 

Illustrations for Spot 005: All photos contributed by Sandra Davies.

 

 

August 18, 2011

Spot 004: Heavy, Man, Heavy

 

GUN PLAY
by Paul de Denus

 

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

 

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

 

 

PHOENIXES OF SPORT
by Joe Gensle

 

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

 

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.

 


 

CONSEQUENCES
by Sandra Davies

 

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

 

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 

 

THIS I BELIEVE
by Mike Handley

 

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

 

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.

 


 

HEAVY LABOR
by Gita M. Smith

 

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

 

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

 

 

THE EXAMINATION: A WORK OF FICTION
by Bill Lapham

 

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

 

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

ONE CANNOT HAVE TWO MASTERS
by Nicole E. Hirschi

 

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

 

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

 

 

DANCING UPON THEIR WEIGHT
by Amy Hale Auker

 

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

 

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

 


 

VICODINS & COCAINE
by Bill Floyd

 

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

 

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

 

 

MITIGATED
by Grey Johnson

 

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

 

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.

 


 

THE HEART’S PATH
by Travis Smith

 

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

 

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

 

 

HEAVING AND HAULING
by Michael D. Brown

 

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

 

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

HEAVY
by Kristine E. Shmenco

 

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

 

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

 


 

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

 

 

August 11, 2011

Spot 003: From Order Comes Freedom: Renewal

 

CROSSROADS
by Mike Handley

 

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

 

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

 

 

DANCING ON A RAZOR’S EDGE
by Bill Lapham

 

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

 

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

 


 

JEAN AND HOWARD
by Gita Smith

 

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

 

See Authors page for Gita Smith’s bio.

 

 

HEART BEYOND THE PURPLE AND RED
by Joe Gensle

 

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

 

See Authors page for Joe Gensle’s bio.

 


 

I HAVE A CONFESSION TO MAKE
by Paul de Denus

 

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

 

See Authors page for Paul de Denus’s bio.

 

 

PRIMARY SYMMETRY
by Sandra Davies

 

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

 

See Authors page for Sandra Davies’s bio.

 


 

QUIET LITTLE APARTMENT
by Grey Johnson

 

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

 

See Authors page for Grey Johnson’s bio.

 

 

UNTITLED
by Michael D. Brown

 

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

 

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

 


 

ILL GOTTEN GAINS
by Bill Floyd

 

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

 

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

 


 

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

 

July 28, 2011

Spot 001: Darkness Before Light

 

OVER THE HORIZON
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.

 


 

APHELION
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.

 

 

PRECIPITATION
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.

 


 

DARK SIDE OF THE MOON
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.

 

 

FRANCIS
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.

 


 

A QUEEN’S RASPING BREATH UNDER RUBBLE
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.

 

 

AFTER DARKNESS I HOPE FOR LIGHT
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. http://samraddon.blogspot.com

 


 

TOTAL FREEDOM
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.

 


 

MINER DIFFERENCES
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.