Posts tagged ‘joe gensle’

July 30, 2012

A Year of MudSpots

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

November 26, 2011

Spot 018: Stolen


by Paul de Denus

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Kristine E. Shmenco

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

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Bill Floyd

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Robert Crisman

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.



by Grey Johnson

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

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

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

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

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



by Travis Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

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

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

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



Illustrations for Spot 018 adapted by Michael D. Brown.


November 11, 2011

Spot 016: Candles Burning


by Bill Lapham

“See anything?”
“Not a fucking thing.”
“What’s that?”
“Tired, you know, low on energy, drowsy, exhausted, tired.”
“I was tired two days ago, man. This is beyond tired.”
“Your eyes are bloodshot.”
“My ears are bloodshot. I think my brain is bleeding.”
“When you think we might see something?”
“You gotta be fucking kidding me.”
“Right. How could we know that?”
“Now you’re cooking with gas.”
“I can’t keep my eyes open.”
“You’ll keep ’em open if I stick my fingers in ’em, you fuck.”
“Why you gotta be like that, man?”
“Keeps you awake.”
“I want to go to sleep.”
“Sleep when you die. And if you go to sleep on me, man, I’ll kill you. Problem solved.”
“You wouldn’t kill me, man.”
“Fucking try me.”
“I’m your friend, your buddy, your pal.”
“All three them fuckers be dead if you go to sleep, man.”
“Really? You ain’t tired?”
“I told you. I’m dog ass tired.”
“Dog ass tired?”
“It’s an expression a speech.”
“You mean a figure of speech.”
“Fuck you. Figure my ass.”
“You are cranky when you get tired, dude.”
“You sound like my ol’ lady.”
“I am your ol’ lady, what’re you talking about?”
“Shut up, man.”
“But I like talkin’ to you.”
“You ain’t my ol’ lady.”
“Say it, or you’re a dead man.”
“I ain’t your ol’ lady.”
“You see that?”
“That’s him.”
“Range: 1-400 meters. Wind: Left: 3.”
“I got him.”
“Range is hot, sergeant.”
“Target is down.”

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Kristine E. Shmenco

It was way past midnight and Nanci couldn’t sleep. She poured a whisky with a beer chaser, slumped at the kitchen window and watched Mr. Ruiz struggle with his Pontiac. Eighty-ninth Street was a helluva place to swap out a thermostat she thought and admired his tenacity. It felt good to be done grading papers for her professor, but the outline for her thesis was trash and she had to be up in three hours to open the store. She ran her tongue around the outside of the bottle, then blew across the top and smiled at the foghorn it made. She thought about quitting the store again but slammed the door on it. That was her sanity money—no way would she miss her pilgrimage to Rio. It was all worth it, she sighed, mostly believing it.
Lori heard the foghorn and shuffled into the dark kitchen.
“Hey cuz, sorry I woke ya.”
“Yeah. Can’t sleep, you know?”
“Why don’t you call in sick?” she yawned.
“Because, Miss ‘Up All Night Blogging And Ignoring The Laundry,’ there’s no way I’m calling in.”
“Nothing good comes of burning it at both ends. IMHO,” she said and shuffled back to her bedroom.
‘Tell that to Mr. Ruiz,’ Nanci thought and drank a toast in his honor.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

After an intentionally brutal workout, Jim bent to tie his wing-tips, already feeling stiffening soreness. He had to tell her tonight. Guilt was carving his insides like a blade separating cantaloupe from its rind.

Weeks before, lovemaking ended with the mutual disinterest of apathy. They lay on their sides, spooning in sleepwear in the master of their fashionable condo. Silence awaited his puncture, despite the gentleness of phrasing he’d rehearsed in the shower at the gym.

He sighed and slowly inhaled.

“Don’t.” Celeste whispered, “I know about you two…everything.”

He groped for the nightstand lamp. Celeste’s confident whisper was infused with clairvoyance-informed surety possessed by women with a cheating spouse.

“The first time Stephanie invited me up,” Celeste smiled, “she seduced me, too. We got crazy wild. We’re still lovers.”

With every muscle’s pained report, Jim untwined to right himself out of the bed.

“We watched videotapes I shot of you two from the closet,” she said, and mocked, “‘Oh puss-y-cat,’ you pathetically whined in one episode. We replayed that one over and over, howling with laughter, Jim!”

In shadows of a lamp-lit stare-down, Celeste rolled onto his pillow to deliver the quietus.

“Steffie leased the penthouse. She took a job in L.A. and I’m going with her…. You may want to start packing, because we leave, Sunday. And you can’t afford this place on your own.”

Jim gulped painfully, embarrassed she heard it.

“The couch is that way,” she pointed, retracting her arm to twist the lamp switch.

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

‘But ‘oh fuck it ‘ is what all these honeymoon couples are thinking right now isn’t it? You can sense it, all the bloody time, and I don’t know about you and Susy …?’
Paul shook his head
‘No, well, nor Alice and I, either.’ David grimaced, discontented.
Paul grinned. ‘No sleeping with lower ranks eh?’
‘No. Well, not entirely, sometimes it’s OK but not in this case, because she’s only just got promoted, is right at the beginning of her career and I don’t think it’d be a good idea, for all sorts of reasons. But surely that doesn’t apply to you and Susy?’
‘No. We just know that we don’t fancy each other. Never have.’
‘And that’s what’s stopping you?
Paul didn’t reply. David watched him for a moment then said ‘Which of you said they didn’t fancy the other?’
‘…I did.’
‘So as to stop her saying it first?’
‘Pretty much, yeah.’
‘So do you?’
‘Do I what?’
‘You’re protesting too much.’
‘Well, she’s far from repugnant …’
David snorted, ‘If that’s your idea of a compliment, I can see why you’ve never married.’
‘Did you? Marry?’
‘No. Doesn’t go that well with the job But you’ve changed the subject.’
‘From you and Susy.’
‘And you want to talk about Susy?’
‘Not talk about … more ask about …’
‘Ask what?’
‘You know fine well what.’
‘Then it’s her you need to be talking to, not me’

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

Von Oslin cannot put the pen down. He will not stop. The villagers who know him say at this pace, it will kill him. He hardly eats, never sleeps. He just writes. And writes. And writes. From his window, day and night, you see the candles burn. Some say he acquired a sickness, others say he is cursed. I know something different. He said he found what always eluded him. “The talent,” he whispered, his sunken eyes, black holes against the flame. “The talent… is mine.”

Von Oslin is the writer, scribing the town’s modest news and events. He is well respected but privately he wished for more. About a year ago, he left the village and traveled through the mysterious low country, near the dark mountains. I warned him to stay away. When he returned, he said he’d met a man who granted him a wish.

“I will give you the talent but you must write one million words before the rise of the winter’s moon.”
“What price is there to be paid?” Von Oslin asked.
“Your words are reward enough but you mustn’t stop. In exchange I will take away our old life and dispose of it.”

The words are the easy part. They flow and intoxicate like valley wine. It is what he is doing now, filling volumes of paper, gibberish strewn about his room. He is racing the moon. He understands that the moon will always rise and if he stops writing, he will die.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Gita M. Smith

“Honey, are you asleep?”
“Because, I want to tell you this idea I’ve been kicking around for a start-up. I think we have the capital to make this happen. Dear? You listening?”
“For once, I won’t have to ask Daddy for money. I made enough in the last quarter – after taxes of course, I won’t make THAT mistake again – so I feel sure we could swing this. I’ll call Ginny in the morning and see if she has the projected earnings. Guess what she said last night.”
“Dear? Larry? You listening?”
“wha? Whut time zit?”
“It’s… no, that can’t be right. Did you set the clock ahead instead of back? Let me get my cell phone.”
“Anyway, time isn’t the issue. I’m talking real possibilities, here. The economy is perfect for getting in on the ground floor. I bet we’ll get an IPO upwards of $20 per share! In fact, I’m going to call Ginny right now. I bet she’s still up.”
RING. RING. “You have reached the phone of Ginny McElmore. Please leave your message at the beep… BEEP.”
“Ginny? Hi, it’s Carley. I know it’s late but I’ve been doing some thinking and it’s looking better for an IPO than I thought yesterday, so can you work up the proposal asap and we’ll call the bank stat. Okay, call me when you get this.”
“Larry, honey, turn on your side. You’re doing the apnea thing. Larry? LARRY! You’re keeping me awake.”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

She tried to make the most of their hour every day. Their first thought was to cancel, not feeling the imperative the way she did. When she proposed moving the class one hour ahead, the way she said it sounded like a machine gun spitting out a threat they found funny enough to produce nervous laughter, but they knew they weren’t getting off easily. Half would show; half would claim prior commitments.
Her best student, the one who put in the most time and effort, she felt free to joke with and about in front of the others. Her own extensive overtime kept her from seeing how deep the cuts were, how they were scarring, how much his efforts cost. Unbeknownst to his peers, he had tried hanging himself twice and failed, he had tried gassing himself, but did not remember the bill had not been paid, and he reached the point of merely feeling foolish.
He was tired of working so hard to maintain equilibrium.
Finally, he succeeded with his estranged father’s luger, ostensibly left behind for his mother to protect the two of them from intruders. He lay on their living room floor about to reach nirvana while the red, red blood oozed from the wound above his heart, while in the classroom Miss H asked, “And where’s my prize student Jorge? I know he wouldn’t want to miss a reposition. Has anyone seen him today?”
And one of the wiseguys in the back called out, “Jorge who?”

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



Illustrations for Spot 016 supplied by Michael D. Brown.


November 3, 2011

Spot 015: Unwritten Rules


by Sandra Davies

Antagonism had escalated throughout the meal. Zoë had been put in mind of a couple of large dogs meeting in the street, suspicious territorial sniffing, noses then anus and bollocks, stiff-legged, tails upheld like … like mediaeval pikes, that was it. The ugly bloke a boxer, the other a longish-haired, what they called ‘yellow’ retriever perhaps? And neither wife up to firmly holding the leash, nor well-enough practised to have yet got them trained, for all they looked so competent, assured.
Bernard had feared that Zoë might have become even more intimidated by the naked antagonism of the two men, which had fast escalated into something only a whisker away from physical violence, before one of them stood up and dragged his wife away causing, throughout the dining room, a whirlpool of well-bred eyes to fast-avert, but her eyes were wide with shocked delight.
‘I didn’t know grown men – and they certainly are grown men aren’t they? – could behave so badly! What was that all about?’
He thought over the conversation. ‘It started with some remark about privilege didn’t it?’
‘Yes – True Blue soup spoons or something …’
‘And then, somehow, they got onto religion.’
‘Oh God, yes, that remark about two-faced fucking Christians!’
‘Which just goes to show they’re right to say you should avoid those topics at the dinner table’
‘Well, at least they didn’t get round to sex.’
‘No – but that was what they were fighting over.’

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

That’s nine balls in a row. Nine! I respond with my favorite gesture: Jesus splayed on the cross with burning mad dog eyes. The ump -Ray Charles- whips off his mask and glares back, mouthing words I don’t understand. Walter, my catcher has taken off his mask too and is calmly talking while nodding to me. I throw in a scream, “you like d’ balls very much azhole?” That gets the ump – Helen Keller – walking my way, allowing old coach Hardwick to move like a fever out of the dugout to head him off.

I don’t see the problem. In the country I come from, language is part of the game, the passion expressed. It is life! Without expression, there is nothing. The crowd seems to enjoy the performance. I listen to their cheers and jeers. The umpire – Stevie Wonder – is standing in front of the plate looking over coach’s shoulder and asking me what I said. “Your mowder enjoys the donkey,” I respond and flail my hand in a fisted pumping motion. The crowd erupts as the ump – Salvador Pena- returns the favor by giving me the out-of-here thumb jerk. He is from a country like mine and plays our game well. He continues to bark at coach Hardwick who has picked up the passion by arguing the strike zone. Nine balls for God’s sake! I’ll show him balls! The next two he sees will be mine, as I unzip and show him my striking pair.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

The trail went up for fucking ever. They put one boot down in the mud and tried to put the other one down just ahead of it. That way they made progress up the mountain up the mountain up the mountain.
Pounds of sweat would not evaporate. Under the noontime sun it was too hot for helmets and too dangerous without them. Shirts smotherstuck to their ribs; pants chafed the tender skin around their testicles. Sweat trickled down their legs and filled their boots. Wet socks made blisters.
Tynsdale hoped the guy on point was paying attention because he wasn’t.
A shot nobody heard bored a hole in a tree next to Carter’s head. He pulled a splinter out of his cheek and it bled.
Lucky bastard, Carter, Tynsdale said. Carter nodded.
The lieutenant decided to get off the trail, climb the mountain through the bush, hacking ahead inches at a time with machetes. The soldiers would be exhausted when they reached their objective but exhausted was better than dead.
We can sleep when we die, somebody said, but we ain’t dyin’ today.
He was wrong. He was always wrong.
The last thing Tynsdale heard was a metallic click. The last thing he saw was white. The last thing he felt were his legs going wobbly and the last thing he smelled was cordite.
Half the platoon spent hours retrieving the pieces of Tynsdale while other half provided perimeter security because they understood, the rule was: nobody gets left behind.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Kristine E. Shmenco

You recognize them. You know what they are when somebody trespasses on them. In my 15695 days of living, the occasional fool comes along and says the unspeakable and breaks the unwritten rules.

When a kid does it we slough it off because they’re still learning the rules. “Mommy, you’re THAT old?” Your insides grit a little and you chuckle and pat junior on the head and hope nobody’s looking too hard for liver spots and smile lines, never mind the crow’s feet. Or, “Mommy had a little accident with wine so she’s not feeling very good this morning,” you hear your dear one tell his grandma. Now there’s a gut clencher if ever there was, and you wish everyone was old enough to zip it and stick to the unwritten rule: Thou shalt not discuss thy hangover for it makes thy shame multiply.

Grownups (also known as spouses and partners) definitely know the rules, but once in a while they cross the line. DON’T ask the question if you DON’T want to hear ‘It’s winter and I don’t HAVE to shave my legs if I don’t wanna, or until it’s time to wear SHORTS, whichever comes first!” Hopefully our partners never cross this line: “Put that pizza down, I thought you said you were on a diet?”

But we, in our infinite wisdom and grace, would never break the unwritten rules. We’re perfect, after all.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Travis Smith

The old woman sat on a box in front of a rusted metal door. She watched as one of the roving gangs crashed through the gates and listened to the screams as they moved through the compound.

The law had forsaken the deepest parts of the city. That’s not to say they didn’t have rules. They were just enforced in different ways. The more law-abiding residents tended to police themselves. Most of their laws dealt with loyalty to their communities. Steal from your neighbor and you would be thrown out. It was that simple, and here in the depths getting thrown out was not good.

Outside the isolated communities the gangs ruled, roving in groups terrorizing anyone they found, occasionally attacking one of the communities. There were no laws for them, might made right, but even they knew to follow certain rules.

The gang moved quickly, intent on getting out with what they could before a defense was mounted. One stopped as he ran towards the gate, looking at the box the woman was sitting on.

“No, leave the old woman alone,” another yelled, but he was already moving, crude sword slashing at her. His arm jarred to a stop as her thin hand, moving faster than he could see, caught the blade. Her head cocked to the side as she stared at him, unblinking eyes reflecting like mirrors. He didn’t try to pull his sword free, just turned and ran, his screams added to the chaos.

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



by Gita Smith

Her husband said to meet him at a diner. He was a middle-aged tugboat on swollen ankles. He’d come with an attitude. Cuckolds always do. They never consider why their wives go looking elsewhere for pleasure.
“Jesus, how old are you?” he asked.
“That’s a boring question,” I said.
His eyes were kidney beans wrapped in dough.
“I mean, if we’re talking numbers, how much do you weigh? That could figure into this.”
“Listen, you,” he snarled. “Who the fuck do you think you are?
“Sorry pal,” I said, “you only get one question here at the exit interview corral. The answer’s 26.”
I remembered my first exit interview: he was some shitbird lawyer who’d found my number behind the visor in his old lady’s Lexus and demanded a meet-up: Saturday morning, Country Club.
Husbands come to these meets all bowed up for a bush-pissing contest. That’s the only playbook they know.
But I don’t play by those rules. I showed up in full androgyny theater: high-heels, eyeliner, leather.
Shitbird’s eyes went neon. “What the hell was your number doing in my wife’s car?”
“She must have put it there.”
And then I split.

If the guy wants to fix things, he should be asking wifey. Not me.
And if he’s asking wifey questions, there’s only one to ask.
Not, “who’s this guy?” Or “how long have you known him?”
The only one that matters, the one she wants to hear is, “How can I make you happy?”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

“Does this dress make me look fat?”
“Do these pants make my ass look big?”
“You wouldn’t want me to not be on birth control, wouldja Dad?”
“Isn’t my mother’s meatloaf delicious, honey?”
“These shoes were $299 but I got them for only $179! Aren‘t they cute!?”
“My parents have invited us to go to the cabin with them for 10 days. Isn’t that exciting?”
“See, Dad? Brendan’s piercings were’nt as bad as you thought thought, were they!”
“What do you think about going out and looking for some new furniture for the living, dining and family rooms?”
“I like me with a perm! What do you think?”
“If I took golf lessons, do you realize how much more quality time we could spend together, honey?”
“So how many women have you slept with?”

“Chapter III – In Decades 3-4“, from Rudiments of Man-Law: “There cometh a time to practice for the inevitable, to quelleth change of facial expression, to knoweth when a prevarication sinneth not, and to recognizeth when one must standeth on thy lips with the boot-strength of a thousand armies, all ye appendaged with penises.”

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

When we first lived together, Amy would wear my unused tops and I the bottoms; I had six pairs. On good nights, we went to bed without arguing and would watch a comedy before dropping off early. We had killing jobs then, she as an insurance broker, and I as amanuensis to an alcoholic writer (I’m not going to mention his name, but you’d recognize it if I did). On other good nights, if she came out of the bathroom in a negligee, I’d discard my bottoms, slide naked under the covers next to her, and there would be no television.
One night, after having traded barbarous words then experiencing silence for an hour, she exited the john with a scowl that begged not to be questioned, and was wearing her own cotton pajamas, top and bottoms. The TV stayed off, with no Friends in evidence. Although next morning we were speaking civilly again, lunched together that afternoon, and an incident appeared to blow over, nevertheless, a rule had been established.
Amy worked at four different firms in the following years before opening a small advisory business of her own. Apparently, too beautiful for some codgers to resist making a play, when she became agitated, I would randomly be subject to the rule. After the drunk died, and I began writing my own as yet unpublished books, randomness was removed. Television has not been watched in months, and I haven’t felt silk or lace in I don’t know how long.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



All illustrations for Spot 015 supplied by Michael D. Brown.


October 20, 2011

Spot 013: Missing Numbers


by Mike Handley

Unable to run, her swollen feet suddenly nailed to the floor, Shirley clutched purse to bosom and began sobbing. Tears flowed like invisible lava, searing her cheeks, and a wet scream lodged in the sands of her throat.

“Beee, beee, beee …,” she wailed.

Nearby children stopped to stare, boxed Barbies and plush Nemos forgotten. Some tugged at their mommies’ skirts and pointed at the woman unraveling in aisle six.

It was June 6, a Saturday, and Shirley had come to Wal-Mart in search of chlorine for the church’s baptismal font. En route to the pool supplies, she’d strolled through the toy section, which is where the date and place slammed into her consciousness the minute she saw the figurine.

It was a leopard-like creature with bearish paws and seven heads, all with at least one horn. Ten in all. Runes decorated the leonine brows, and white bandanas encircled each.

“Beee, beee, beee …,” she continued to chant, a crowd cautiously gathering.

She fell then, her eyes rolling upward, her body releasing sea water to a final gasped “… ssst.”

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.


© Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons License.


by Gita Smith

We were having a marvelous season in Fontainebleau — this was 1923, after all – as a sort of madness overtook the Château Le Prieuré. The main attraction was the arrival of the world-renowned mystic Georgii Gurdjieff, and nouveau-riche Americans mingled with old-money Europeans in a frenzy to absorb his aura.
Every night, the cognoscenti gathered for lavish dinner parties (a bottle of wine for every guest) at which my Marcel played a private game. Whenever conversation stopped and the table utterly hushed – as inevitably happened – he would look at a clock. He maintained that such lulls always occurred at twenty past the hour of eight.
When I said, “Darling, that’s utter rubbish; it can’t possibly happen every evening at the same moment,” he produced his tally. But his game eventually turned into morbid fascination, then a dread with apocalyptic overtones and, finally, sleepless nights.
“Eight twenty is merely a time of evening, not a number from the Book of Revelations,” I insisted.
“Surely it foretells the hour of my death,” he shuddered.
Instead of joining me to take Fontainebleau’s healing waters or paint en plain air, Marcel succumbed abed to a black despair. Worse, our lovemaking stopped.
In exasperation, I arranged an audience for Marcel with Gurdjieff, himself, for an answer to this 8:20 question.
The Master thought awhile before clasping Marcel’s shoulders. His deep black eyes bored into Marcel’s fearful ones
“Worry no more, my friend. Eight-twenty is the precise moment when the cook is ordered to table with the dessert.”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Kristine E. Shmenco

“Children of the earth, we are awake and alive as never before and can be proud of the lives we live today because we chose to follow the Rule of Self a decade ago. Today the rules of common sense shall govern us, drafted by the hand of reality. We have rejected the mythology that cowed us for so long. We recognize that after the Great Struggle, the tyrannical hold on our lives has ended. We recognize that a word is a word; a name just a name; a number is simply a number. We have stricken off the shackles of fear and put our faces to the sun, knowing our destinies are ours and ours alone to mold and shape as we will. Cross yourselves no more. Today marks the day we reject the word evil, knowing there is only life in nature, and that no one shall be punished for whatever nature failed to provide in the mind. Remove the symbols from your body that have kept generations in the dark and be faithful to your Self—the reward was promised and you have received.

The real light is here, sitting beside us, taking our hands and guiding our race to the stars. We shall depart this Earth and start new generations of the Free, and we can say it began on this day.”

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. — Charles Baudelaire

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

‘Aim for the top – you gotta be number one else you ain’t nowhere!’
‘Well, I’m not that bothered …’
‘Well you gotta be bothered – if you ain’t gonna try and always be best, you’ll go nowhere!’
‘But I’m just joining this writing group for the experience, because it sounds interesting, is something I want to see if I’m any good at. It could be a way of meeting people who think like me – I’m not interested in being first.’
‘Well you bloody oughter be – whadda you think we named you Aaron for if it weren’t to be sure of always coming first, and with a surname like Abacromby … well, there’s not many going to beat that!’
‘Yeah, well, most people spell it A b e r, but that’s a detail, the thing is I hate the idea of being number one, of coming first, of being the one that everybody notices. Trying all the time to make sure of being some sort of winner takes all the pleasure out of whatever I’m doing, and I’ve decided I’m having no more of it.’
‘Well, you’re no son of mine, that’s all I can say!’
That that was a strong possibility shut both of them up – Zephaniah had known for a long time that his wife hadn’t been the innocent she pretended to be, that few seven month babies weighed seven pounds at birth, and it had been the man next door who taught Aaron to read and write.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.


"© Copyright Dong Haojun and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons License."


by Joe Gensle

binary system: “A system in which information can be expressed by combinations of the digits 0 and 1.”–

Binary, in perspective:

1 – “It’s the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.” Three Dog Night lyric from smash single, “One,” ABC Dunhill, 1969.

11 – the second, as a replacement-synonym for “junior,” e.g. Pope Paul II. [Could we Catholics ever call a the Vicar of Rome, the successor of Peter, the Holy Roman Pontiff, “Junior“(?!)]

111 – Balls (you’ve almost walked); Strikes (yerrrrrrr OUT!)

1111 – Forty-one minutes past my bedtime; the year Henry V was crowned ‘Holy Roman Emperor’

11111 – Yahtzee!

111111 – Friday, November 11th, 2011–If you haven’t done it before, take the day off to wear a stars ‘n stripes pin and pack a cooler with sandwiches and drinks. Drag some cheap lawn chairs down to your local veterans parade because it’s Veterans Day. Sit and wave and smile and sip and munch and reflect and enjoy. If your town doesn’t have a veterans parade, conduct your own with your children or grandchildren. If you‘re alone and your town doesn’t have a parade, buy a big flag and march around your block until someone asks what the hell you’re doing. Please refrain from showing him your binary middle finger for his ignorance, choosing peace for the moment it takes to educate him.

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

At the Big House everybody saw two football teams standing on the sidelines and twenty-two men on the field facing each other.
What Axel saw were numbers. Numbers in constant motion. Whole numbers, digits, numerals, integers, flowing, mixing. He saw sums and differences, products and quotients, and he saw primes. When substitutions went into the game, he saw one number replacing another which altered the pattern he saw on the field.
Theorems and axioms.
He saw the ball’s parabolic flight. Trajectories. Ballistic parameters.
There was force, the product of mass multiplied by acceleration.
The numbers smashed into each other, glanced, ricocheted at odd angles, some acute. Numbers rolled and fought and opposed.
Some got tired and some got hurt. Some rejoiced while others mourned. But always they moved, mixed, changed shapes, morphed.
Axe was getting overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, SOUNDS. The Big House started turning as if on a pottery wheel, an art project gone wrong. It turned slowly, then gradually picked up speed.
Inertia, he thought. Then centrifugal force.
The numbers slid into the vortex and were flung into space at a speed greater than sound. There was a sonic boom each time one flew out of the bowl. The crowd noise had a Doppler effect as sections passed by Axel’s stationary position, increasing in frequency as they approached and decreasing as they moved away.
When the Big House reached a certain velocity, Maize blended with Blue.
And the band played on.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Amy Hale Auker

The preacher stated firmly, “Marriage is not an agreement between two people, but a contract between a husband and a wife and God. A holy covenant, one in which you should allow Him to be the center.”
Mother and father and baby make three.
The counselor crossed her legs, letting her skirt slide up a tiny bit, smiled sympathetically at the man in the chair across the way as his wife explained how tired she was each night and how it would be better if he could at least help the kids with their homework or take the trash out from time to time. The wife saw their glances, and wanted to scream, “Or at least pick up fucking take-out, you moron, and quit looking down her blouse! She is our goddamned marriage counselor!”
Three weeks later she talked to him about how her best friend had gotten a divorce and could they perhaps ask her to join them for their planned cruise in the Bahamas since she was so lonely and all?
The best friend went to the gym every day, determined to be in shape for the first vacation she’d had in three years. She hoped she’d meet a nice man, nicer than her first two husbands.
And God, as the active third party in the marriage, thought the newly-divorced best friend was hot, too, and carefully poured the third cocktail.
On the third day out at sea a triangular sin was created, but a marriage was saved.

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

It could all well be a dream. A lazy path in his memory – the first life – a mansion in a place called Vermont where a woman caresses his thick fur. Outside the frosted glass, a world lays white and cold, the woman’s tears falling warm on his paws. The second path is a dusty farm on dustier land where mice are king and he freewheels outdoors until dusk, the luckiest feline alive. The third is dark, a filthy dwelling with others matted and cut like him, surviving only by luck until the day a man’s brutal hand brings darkness again. The fourth life is darker. He is a she this time, blind and mewling, only days old under planked wood, clawing alone in the dirt and the dark comes mercifully, quick. The fifth life is a nursing home with a Mr. Doggett. Years later, they cross together, peacefully. Six and seven are linked. He embraces death in an animal shelter with failed kidneys but miraculously returns to health through the tenacity of one lucky vet. The eighth path is shared with one named ‘Sergeant Garcia’ and it is his best memory. There is mutual respect, companionship and the closest experience of love for another of his kind. Now on the ninth path – once more female – something different is coming. There is a door with the number nine floating above and her happily tired and curious mind wonders what luck it might bring this time.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

I haven’t been inactive. What I’ve been up to is not immediately apparent. You have to follow the links. I found a book, written in Spanish, perfect in presentation. Small, a mere 4.5 by 6.25, but how does compactness signify when the words enrich?
Attending for several hours listening and trying to translate los chistes y las anécdotas while my feeble brain burned with plans for publishing, something was missing, a number, a word, a syllable, a vowel. I couldn’t put my finger on it. What was I doing here? Tuesday seemed wrong for a party. Eira mentioned plans to visit Washington DC on the fourth of July, and I tried to convince her to change it to Bastille Day in New Orleans, but she would not have it. Of course, she has family in DC, is not impressed by cherry blossoms in April, nor a parade of drag queens in July, so her mind is set, but nobody at that table would concede to me. For them, every line was laughable. Angelica did her shtick, totalmente en español, and I missed all the punchlines. Maru gave me Gumasat’s number, and even though she is not with him anymore, she claimed he has a good heart, and would help me get our words published.
Still, I wish I could relate some of the stuff that everyone found so hilarious, but tense, numerically uncertain, I lost something, and in my compensatory articulation I could not locate it, para ni amor ni dinero.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



London: twenty past eight at Big Ben
“© Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.”
Other illustrations for Spot 013 supplied by Michael D. Brown, except where noted.


October 13, 2011

Spot 012: Surveillance


by Kristine E. Shmenco

He closes the door on day’s end and walks to his Infinity, starts the engine and soaks in the ear-ringing silence. Hands close around the hard, smooth steering wheel and he releases a breath, deciding which way to go. He arrives at the park and finds himself walking on the footpath: his body was on autopilot, it seemed. He folds himself on a park bench under a broken light. It’s a muggy evening and the breezes are hard, and it takes him back to Floridian nights, tangled bed sheets and a view looking down on the tumult. What view was more gorgeous, he wonders: her back curved and colored in shadow or the silent neon colors floating up from the street? He felt for his Blackberry and knew he could call her right now and she’d be ready to meet him. Another unannounced absence would surprise no one, and it was nobody’s business, after all. He’d earned the right to…to flee.
He waited a long time before driving home, trying to organize his thoughts and put her out of his mind. Soon, she said, three days, and he closed his heart around her voice, trying to shield it from the world.
He passed through the security gate and gave the guard a tired smile. The front door would be unlocked and he would eat in the kitchen alone. His wife was too busy reading phone transcripts to notice he was back, and was pleased to think soon she would have peace.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Amy Hale Auker

The old mare knows better, but she still snatches bites of grass as we ride along the trail. Like her, I glean from every moment.

I see the mole on the inside of your arm, the bone sticks you have pushed through your too-neat bun, how you hesitate to hug that one person in the group–but your eyes follow her. I hear how your voice changes when your mother calls, notice when you pinch your child hard on the shoulder even as you smile brightly and click along the sidewalk in heels, how you push the mushrooms to the edge of the plate. I am there when the appetizers come out of the oven, the guests gather round, and the first bottle of wine becomes a dead soldier. I see how your smile is not real when it is time to go home, notice the broken rubber band on the floor of your car, the way your eyes look when you are bored, and smell the smoke on your breath.

I will steal your glittery blouse, the mascara smear on your cheek bone, the way the waiter almost spilled the tea pitcher when the Suns scored on the television over the bar, the lint from your pocket, your shopping list, the way you talk baby-talk to your ex-wife, the way that guy tied a bandana around his neck.

Behind my innocent eyes, a red light blinks, for a writer is simply a camera obscura, and I have no off button.

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.



by Gita Smith

“Pssssst! Malcolm, it’s me!”
Stu’s face is pressed against the security camera, making his nose look enormous. His breath fogs the lens. I buzz him in.
I hear his unbuckled galoshes slap-slapping their way down the hall — real subtle for a private eye. He falls into my office in a mock-faint at the exertion. It was funny in 1999 — maybe.
“Stu,” I begin, you don’t have to get ON the camera to be recognized. Just stand by the damn door.”
“I know, I know,” he says, kicking off his boots.
“Okay, so, whassup?”
Stu pulls a notepad from his hip pocket. “Turns out, your golf buddy, Mr. Host with the Most, is cheating on his wife and his girlfriend.”
Stu grins. I sense a bet coming: guess-who-kills-golf-guy-harder, the Wife or Honey #1.
“Yep. Life’s just one buffet,” Stu says.
Ahh, sex, the many-headed want that bankrupts otherwise-good men.
“You have film?”
“Need you ask?” He pops a fluorescent thumb drive into my Mac.
“Whoa, Nelly!” I say, feeling reverence for Stu’s art with a zoom lens. This new Honey #2 was being shadowed because her suspicious husband hired our firm. Catching my rich, asshole golf-guy was a bonanza.
“I’ll call him and set up a meeting,” I say. “How you want to play this?”
Stu ponders.
“Holmes,” he says in a plummy Brit accent, “might we get paid twice for these shots – by my client and by Mr. Golfballs?”
“I believe we could, Watson.”
‘Tis why I love this business.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

Insofar as ‘moments of truth’ were concerned it was Annie’s photographs – she had a proper camera and knew how to use it – which were especially successful. Yet she had been startled to see that among these consciously-observed shots were some which had recorded a moment more revealing, suggested depths of emotion and connection not apparent from casual observation. Most were in the background to shots of Liam, of which there were many. For example, one showed Sean and Bridie, her head on his shoulder, eyes closed, strained and despairing, Sean an arm tight around her, his lips on her hair, obviously consoling. Even more curious, moments later, in the next photo, Sean was looking up at Christy, exchanging a glance of something serious, complex. Annie didn’t know them well enough to say whether it had been conspiratorial or antagonistic. Had Christy said something to upset Bridie? While Kate had been willing to tell her quite a bit about Liam’s family she had restricted herself to facts, but Liam had once mentioned Christy and Sean seriously falling out.
And one she did remember taking, with a degree of secrecy, so intrigued had she been, of Liam with Bridie, just the two of them in the kitchen. She had watched from the hallway as he had caught hold of her arm, asked a brief question, concern in his face, before giving her a hug. Nothing to worry about – it was obviously brotherly, but why was Liam concerned for Bridie?

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

I had the earth to my back. No danger would approach from that direction. Smoke dust dirt and sky in the eyes. Loud static loud static would somebody please turn down the fucking sound? Burning feces garbage bodies hair. Hot heat. Foundry furnace heat. Raw exposed nerves and broken bones. Clenched teeth. Punched in the solar plexus wind knocked out gasping for air pain. Whistles and bells and low rumbling explosions. Ground shaking like Hell is trying to get out. The light goes out in one eye but it sees more than the other.

Where’s my rifle?

Catch breath calm down don’t panic pay attention. Cross right arm over chest right leg over left now roll. Keep going keep going too exposed here. Roll. The earth is in front of me. All the danger is to my rear. Keep everything in contact with the earth. Sweet Mother Earth soil of protection shield me from my foe deflect his bullets harmlessly away and bring me to safety amen.

There is a rock a big rock a rock so big it might provide cover. Crawl to the rock. Crawl slowly slow is smooth and smooth is fast. I remember I can remember things! That’s good isn’t it? I have a memory? Slither be one with the earth like a snake. Don’t smile for the camera fool. This is no photo opportunity. Don’t lift up or smile or wave for the people at home. Send them a message.

Get me out of here.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

Pictures of dear, old, now-dead Dad are around, somewhere. In one, he looks 40, wearing a football uniform(??). Another shows him wearing a zippered, coverall flight suit with a jet in the background (he was Army).
I don’t care to see his face, except….
Vivid childhood memories include Dad’s repeated use of Mom’s hair as a handle to drag her down the hall, into the bedroom, so he could administer the physical beat-down she deserved… buying the wrong detergent brand? Not laughing on queue? Paying $2 too much for a sweater? Not greeting him ingratiatingly enough when he got home from the day’s service to the county, with interim stops to service a girlfriend or two?
You may have met his temper in my previous writing, but pictures? There are only two I‘d love to see.
The first is a shot of my 215-pound co-creator crawling out of his non-girlfriend(?) coworker’s tiny bathroom window after 1AM, taken by a private investigator hired by Mom’s attorney–and I understand there were many photographs, some of dad and his pincushion ‘acting-out.’
The 2nd photo doesn’t exist, of Dad’s and his attorney’s faces when they saw a private investigator’s photos collapsed their case like a beer can under a railroad car’s wheel.
Despite his legal bullying in my parents’ divorce, photos proved him the liar and cheat he‘d always been, and Mom got what she wanted and needed in the settlement.
Unlike MasterCard’s “Priceless” commercials, he paid. And paid.

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

“Was I a pig last night,” Ocky said. “Good thing the ex wasn’t having me tailed.”
“Would she do that?” Izzy asked. “I mean what’s it worth to her now to get the goods on you?”
“Just saying…Those two ladies from Binghamton could put me bankrupt, if Ariel wanted.”
“They always used to say the camera doesn’t lie, but not anymore when everything can be Photoshopped into another dimension.”
“Well, when Pericles Voder was caught handing over money to that streetwalker, his girlfriend put up a stink.”
“Please. He’s a Byronic hero. That little blip helped his career.”
“When Annabella Teekuff was getting out of the limo pantyless, you think seeing what she had for breakfast helped her?”
“She was a great beauty who committed the unpardonable sin of going to fat. Those photos didn’t do as much damage as the double chins and cellulite had already accomplished.”
“What about Trini Markham caught shoplifting?”
“Rich bitch with mental problems. Everybody already hated her. Anyways, you’re no celebrity, Ocky. What career is at stake?”
“Just saying I’m glad nobody snapped any pics last night. What a hangover I had. I didn’t make it to work, didn’t even get out of bed until three.”
“Well, you know I always have my little smartphone with me. I thought these might amuse you.”
“You didn’t.”
“Hey, what are you doing?”
“Deleting evidence. I don’t want anybody seeing me in that condition.”
“Obviously, you haven’t been online today. There’re already about forty comments on Facebook.”

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

I must admit the picture for the paper was quite the shot. It received much notoriety, even made it to the big paper in Mexico City. I suppose you could say I was lucky capturing the moment like that. But as I quickly prepare to burn my studio to the ground containing all my photographs and apparatus, plate boxes and camera, I don’t feel that luck. In fact, I believe I am cursed.

The one in the photo – I will not speak his name – the one on the wrong end of the guns. He was the devil. Or perhaps I should say he is the devil. Diablo.

There was something about him as he stood there awaiting his fate, a patient look I saw through the lens. His dark face shifted, his mouth smiled and moved in silent curses. The day of the execution happened to fall on the Day of the Dead. It is normally a time of celebration; a day that encourages visits by departed souls. I believe something else was unleashed.

I have left the original exposure – the gelatin dry plate – and the original developed picture in a box in my dark room. I have doused everything with flammable chemical. You see… the picture has changed. The once white smoke from the ricocheting bullets exiting is now a pitch black, darker than death’s night. It’s bigger too… growing, taking shape and I must hurry… for now there are eyes.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



The illustrations for Spot 012 were suggested by Gita Smith and Photoshopped by Michael D. Brown, except for the Firing Squad submitted by Paul de Denus.


October 6, 2011

Spot 011: In the Wee Small Hours


by Gita Smith

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

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.


by Joe Gensle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.


by Elliott Cox

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


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

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

See Authors page for Elliott’s bio.


by Nicole E. Hirschi

To A Jeffrey McKibbon:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I get along without you very well.

-Your Mother
From times long past

See Authors page for Nicole’s bio.


(alternate lyrics)
by Mike Handley

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.


by Amy Hale Auker

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

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.


by Kristine E. Shmenco

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

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.


by Robert Crisman

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.


by Bill Floyd

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.


(a tribute to Frank Sinatra)
by Brian Michael Barbeito

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

See Authors page for Brian’s bio.


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

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

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


by Bill Lapham

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.


by Sandra Davies

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

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

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.


by Travis Smith

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.


by Michael D. Brown

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

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


by Grey Johnson

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

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.



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


September 29, 2011

Spot 010: Compunction


by Joe Gensle

People reading cemetery headstones might read mine and calculate, “He didn’t make sixty.” No guarantees, right?

My birthday’s October 16th. That makes September 16th my official ‘final approach to land on Runway-birthday Oh-Sweet-Jesus.’ As the I rip each successive page from my Rolodex calendar at work, I don’t get a visceral response to the sum the integer, one, adds to my age.

You know how wedding anniversaries are associated to a substance each year, like silver or plastic or golden or diamond? Approaching birthdays are ‘pine,’ filled with ‘F’onlies.’

F’only I had chosen college instead of being a navy corpsman. F’only I hadn’t fought so much in school. F’only I hadn’t married at twenty. F’only I’d married Cassie instead of Marla. F’only I didn’t remarry. F’only we’d given Vicki a sibling. F’only I accepted that offer in Minneapolis. F’only I was faithful and avoided the second divorce. F’only I could have a dog. F’only I could get out of this apartment, into another house. F’only I’d earned a 4-year, not a 2-year nursing degree.

F’only. Ad nauseum. Ad infinitum.

I know ‘pine’ is mental tar with splinters, and F’only is the faulty human perspective of eyes in one’s ass.

Thank God the sunburst of grace takes over. Positive results of other choices deliver gratitude. I’m able to live today and plan a tomorrow or six.

When you see my headstone, read the engraving: No regrets   🙂   [smiley-face included]

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

This planet rotates on its axis as it orbits the sun while states execute doomed humans at “sundown” without remorse. Rocks fall from the face of cliffs without remorse, no matter whose skull they crush when they hit them. Fish eat seafood and raptors eat chipmunks without concern for their prey’s suffering. Predator drones, cruise missiles, nuclear warheads, bullets, and bombs-smart and otherwise-all do what they’re designed to do while separating the shooter from the target by some distance, which mitigates the feelings of guilt and remorse a normal human might feel, even if, as in some cases they must, they kill children. Billions of people have eaten hamburgers cooked at McDonalds, not to mention their competitors, without a single thought about the fucking cows. Close to six billion people sleep peacefully every night while one billion others linger near death from starvation and disease, in abject poverty, drinking filthy water and suffering constant physical violence. We pump tons and tons of crap into the atmosphere every day while telling the climate scientists to go sit in the corner with a dunce cap on their heads. The government of the people of the United States sent Lance Cpl. Terry C. Wright, USMC, 21, of Scio, Ohio, to Afghanistan. He died September 21, 2011 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province. The incident is under investigation. Who knew? Things happen constantly without a single tear shed in their wake, and the stars keep shining in the firmament.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

His first reaction had been to duck under the table, an adolescent urge to avoid retribution which, considering his hard-achieved status, his high profile reputation for toughness – and his age for fuck’s sake! – had briefly but severely rattled him. Then the mirrored slug-quiver of retrospective horror across the other man’s face told him that the shame-stitched silence would be between them until death. Beyond, if deemed essential.

And then instinctive, telepathic understanding had kicked in, one-time second nature in that time when they had shared shit-slick fear and daily degradation. He blanked his face to bland unrecognition, skin prickling with the knowledge that another play was starting, and with the hope that what had gone before had been the whole, not merely a rehearsal; that what was to come would not be some conscience-waking encore, guaranteed to end in death.

Ah, death. Only two of them had strength enough to deal it. Him and the man that now sat across from him. At which, a second, and more fervent, urgent, optimistic hope that they were on the same side – he would not want him for an enemy.

Much later, following unscripted loud-voiced rudeness, false-faced red-rage disturbance and demand to sit elsewhere, amidst the horrified expressions of other diners, and after semi-reassuring explanations to their not-really wives, they met again, unseen, and established that this time the deaths would not be down to them and that the one that had been they did not regret.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

How I got myself in this mess I’ll probably never rightly answer. Just is, that’s all. They say the boy was only fourteen. Didn’t look that to me, more like seventeen or eighteen with that cap on his head and all. He shouldn’t have been there, not then anyway.

Sitting here, I’ve been thinking about home. Philadelphia seems so long ago. I had a job in the feed trade business but I gave it up. After Amanda got pregnant, I up and left – ran I guess you’d say and that’d be the truth. I feel bad about leaving her. I was angry. Scared. With the war over, I come out west. God damn that war. It ripped our family apart. This country too. So much loss. My brother James… cut down at Shiloh. He was just a boy. He didn’t deserve to die.

I fell in with some bad folks out here, with this sort in the next cell and well… I feel remorse for shooting that boy but he come out of nowhere, just kicking along the street as we was leaving the bank and that confederate hat he was wearing just set something off in me. Didn’t really think about it… just reacted as if I was making something right. Making it even.

The others and me will swing in the morning and nobody will feel as bad as I but until then I’ll ponder on what’s been done and what will.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Mike Handley

He watched the uprooted tree glide past, a great blue heron riding it like a surfer with no arms. A week of unrelenting rain had turned the river into a foamy ribbon of chocolate milk, and Daniel wondered if the heron would fly before or after its board crashed into the bend.

The smell of bacon frying filled the cabin, adding another layer of grease to the yellowing deer head on the wall, its glass eyes as dull as the day he put out its lights.

Daniel glanced at the canvas on his easel, yet another deer painting, which would put gas in his old Lincoln, smoke in his lungs and cholesterol in his plumbing. That was how he hunted them now, with a camera, and he was happier for it.

He turned the bacon, started a second pot of coffee and pulled two chipped plates from the cupboard. Rita would be there soon, which he’d been announcing to the dog all morning.

The mutt was singing opera even before Daniel heard the crunch of gravel beneath tires.

Rita and he had been married once. She’d flown before his tree, uprooted and carried by a river of bourbon, hit the bank. “I can’t watch this anymore,” she’d finally decreed.

He’d let Chase foreclose on his house, left his truck with the keys in it at the Ford dealership, and moved back to the shack where he’d proposed to her. He would do anything to see her eyes shine again.

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.



by Gita Smith

The commitment papers in front of Jo had been pre-marked with Xes where she was to sign or initial.

For the hundredth time, Jo asked herself, “Is Mirella a danger to herself and to others?”

Jo could plainly see her own bandaged arm where Mirella had clawed her, but did that constitute a danger serious enough to warrant locking her mother away?

Before inking her name on the commitment document, Jo considered again, was Mirella a danger to herself?

Admittedly, yes, when she forgot to take her medication or took so much that she passed out and hit her head on hard surfaces.

She looked at her mother — so small and fearful – swallowed by the high-backed chair across the conference table, and all Jo wanted in that moment was to hold her Mummy and be held. She regretted ever having taken the situation this far. She never should have involved psychiatrists and lawyers. Surely, she could continue caring for the fragile woman at home.

Impulsively, Jo walked around the table to kneel by Mirella’s chair. She raised her arms for the expected embrace, opened her lips to whisper, “Mummy, let’s just go home and try again.”

But the flashing blade was quicker and surer than Jo’s hesitant words.

“NOBODY,” came the scream, “puts Mirella — slash — Contessa – slash — di Marco — slash — in a goddamn HOME!”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Travis Smith

She was still beautiful. Older, and the years showed, but still beautiful. Watching her now from just beyond her sight the image of the subtle curves that formed her body, although hidden beneath designer clothes, came easily to his mind. He could still recall the smiling face of the young woman on the street. Lost, hungry, desperate. She had been ready to do whatever he wanted if it meant a warm place to sleep. After a shower, her beauty had shown through and he listened to her story. College degree. No job. Homeless. He had taken pity and instead of paying her for sex he gave her a job. That memory made him shake his head. He had made mistakes in his life, but that was his biggest. He should have used the bitch and left her back on the street corner.

She had been a natural. Intelligent. Charismatic. Calculating. Ruthless. There was nothing she wouldn’t do to get what she wanted. Sex with him had helped propel her to the top but then he was unnecessary, and in the way, so he was gone.

He was past feeling regret, that was for the living, but revenge, now that was something for the dead to think about. He may have been blinded by her beauty while living, but he had been ruthless in his own rise to the top and now he had an eternity in death to plan her fall

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

With David in the hospital for six weeks, Kathia in torment wondered what followed a situation like this. There was no going back, nor forward.
The day of his heart attack she’d been out of her mind, finding pictures on his computer, hundreds of files – all without descriptive names but numbered sequentially. All of youngsters engaged in sex acts. At first, she was afraid, looking into the mind of someone she’d lived with for so long but had never really known.
David had done an article on Internet pornography for his magazine two years ago! He couldn’t explain this as research material – not the way the files were carefully numbered and stored in a misleadingly named folder.
She was scared, then angry, considering their son Freddy upstairs.
In the murk of reaction, she formatted the hard drive and recalled how David had asked her to cut her hair boyishly short and how their sex life improved a bit. He claimed he was taking Viagra. But that didn’t last very long.
When he arrived home unexpectedly early, she confronted him.
Excuses that sounded lame were followed by clutching his chest and falling at her feet.
With a twinge of remorse, alone at her kitchen table, she realized she had probably sentenced him to self-annihilation that day with hatred in her eyes and threatening him with the largest knife that came to hand.
Then, another thought crossed her mind.
She couldn’t remember what she’d been searching for when she discovered those pictures.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



All photos for Spot 010 supplied by Michael D. Brown.



September 22, 2011

Spot 009: Aphorisms


by Gita Smith

At the soiree with 47 beautiful people,
you sidled up to me just as I slipped on
my Party Mask of Indifference.

The floor vibrated with dance steps
(the tune, in case you need to know,
in case you want to make it “our song,”
was Soul Sacrifice by Santana)
and you were a glowing object on my periphery.

“Dance?” you asked.

I turned, seeing you for the first time, taking in your loose-limbed posture, your frank and curious eyes
and answered, “Sure, why not?”

Some hours later when the crowd had thinned,
you placed your hand on mine and leaned in close.

“I’d like to take you home,” you said.

“To meet your mother?”

“Something like that,” you laughed.

With no more sureness than a baby bird
about to take its first, precarious flight,
I contemplated gravity.

I judged your pull to be non-fatal
and answered, “Sure, why not?”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

My daughter’s generation doesn’t understand their children. She’s annoyed with my grandchildrens’ “Whatever” as a dismissal but it really irks her when they say, “It’s all good.” She yells at ‘em to speak ‘normally.’

I lost patience with my daughter, had to pull her off of ‘em, scolding ‘em for this very thing.

“Enough, Belva-Jean! The kids aren’t the problem. You are.”
“PAPA! How COULD you!!”
“You don’t speak their language so you can’t understand it.”
“How’s that, Papa?” she demanded, indignant.
“I raised you right, didn’t I?”
“What’s the point?!”
“Took you to church, right?”
“My grandkids are havin’ a religious experience!”

She glared, hands on hips.

“Sure, honey. ‘It’s all good.’ That’s biblical! Romans, chapter 8 an’ 28– QUOTE:
‘And we know that in all things God works for the good,’ blah-blah. See? It’s ALL GOOD, Belva-Jean!”

She fought a smile. I winked at the kids, who laughed and bumped fists.

“That’s not FAIR, Papa!” she said with a stomp in mock anger, spreading a grin.
“What-EV-ER, Belva-Jean!”

The grandkids lost it. Belva-Jean threw a throw pillow.

“Careful! I can quote ‘Whatever’ from the Good Book, too!”

I wasn’t the grandkids’ hero very long once she told them I showed her the error of her ways. My daughter’s dragging them to church this Sunday and every Sunday, thereafter.

Seems I have a fishing engagement and can’t join ‘em. Poor little bastards.

Belva-Jean’s mama sure wasn’t a vindictive bitch.

Now where’d that gol-dern rod an’ reel get to….

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

Danny Cole, in perfect shape and impeccable health received the small box on Friday at 1:14 in the afternoon. His wife found him dead moments later, a Vitruvian Man in a pool of blood, an exploded hole gaping from his chest. The box he’d received, sat on the floor beside him, its once plain brown wrapping faded, almost translucent in appearance. Its delivered contents: remnants of a bloodied deformed organ.

On the same day – at exactly the same time – ninety-seven-year old Carmen Whitehead, a suffering multi-billionaire recluse, received a similar box.
“The joys of the rich,” he smirked, absently rubbing his chest as his spindly assistant skittered about, making last-minute preparations around the life-support system.

Carmen couldn’t remember when he had first discovered the box. It had been long ago, in some long forgotten country where fantasy and reality seemed to meld together. He couldn’t recall the details. It was as if the box had always been. It was everything then, the box giving him virtually all the wealth and power he desired, allowing him to do things he’d never questioned, not even now.

In the operating room of his private island’s medical center, a shark’s smile swallowed his hardened face as he examined the contents of the box again. The newly delivered heart appeared perfect, absolutely perfect.

Good gifts come in small packages.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

Timothy Cohen always seemed to be on the winning team, even if the team was one—him. His high school baseball, football and wrestling teams were state and regional champions. He won spelling bees, poetry slams, math competitions, everything. He got straight A’s in school, took AP courses in his junior and senior year, attained perfect scores on the ACT and SAT’s, went to Harvard and Yale Law School for free and became a very successful Wall Street investor and financial advisor to the stars. He owned a house on each coast and one in the mountains, a yacht and a jet. He had a beautiful wife whom he adored and they had three children who grew up to be successful in their own rights. Tim read the classics and the not-so-classics and he was a popular lecturer who earned top dollar for talking for an hour, which he donated to charity. He retired early and he and his wife enjoyed the many fruits of their hard work.

“The Most Interesting Man in the World” ran a distant second to Tim, he just didn’t brag about it; he let the Dos Equis beer man enjoy all the fame. Tim cared for none of it.

Then one day Tim couldn’t remember his wife’s name. He saw a doctor who ordered tests that came back positive for early onset dementia. When the doctor gave Tim the diagnosis, he drove home, put the barrel of a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the…

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

He saw that she was trying to keep open the option of returning, but this was the second time they had decided it was not working and he refused to contemplate a third.

Last night’s meal had ended in argument, this morning she had appeared just before nine, immaculate as ever, despite it being Sunday. His answering the door, unshaven and barefoot, wearing old jeans and an ancient university sweatshirt, graphically underlined her failure to integrate him within her world. She did pride herself on her success in infiltrating his, but had she told him – not that he needed telling, since he was more astute than people credited him for – he would have laughed in her face knowing that she was merely paddling in the shallows, was unaware of the depths.

He recognised that she was, to put it crudely, posh girl believing she had found herself a bit of rough, and although he had behaved well within the bounds of civilisation, not bothering to act up to her fantasy, she still wanted to smooth his uneven edges. He had been both irritated and resistant and neither wanted nor needed her enough to let himself be so polished, but saw no point in hurting or antagonising her. Steering between truth and tact as he closed the boot of her car on the last of her neatly-boxed possessions he said ‘I hear that the ‘Herald’ has a new arts reporter, I suggest you get yourself along to ‘Tosca’ next week.’

[Adapted from a longer piece and loosely based on Marcus Aurelius’ eighth ‘Counsel when offended’: ‘Our anger and annoyance are more detrimental to us than the things themselves which anger or annoy us’] See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Amy Hale Auker

Lightning pops all around, drills the ground high on the mesa above, and following every heart-stopping zigzag comes a hammering boom that does not allow for the resumption of heartbeats. With every crack of thunder, the big white horse beneath me leaps and spins and acts a fool, trying to escape what he can’t see. The sky is black, the wind ominous, the drenching imminent. My hands are full, and the field we are gathering seems exposed and exposing. I am powerless to protect myself from something I cannot control.
We are seven miles from the nearest man-made building, and we’ve just gotten our cows thrown together for the trek towards home. Of course, one of the babies in the herd is without his mother, but he doesn’t want to leave the safety of aunties and cousins, no matter how hard we try to cut him back. He huddles, perhaps smarter than we are, under the necks and flanks of mama cows who stand with heads down, waiting the storm. Without us, they’d be off in the creek, down low, lying quietly chewing their cud, content that thunder happens and storms come.
A bright and dense finger of lightning descends, zapping the red rock rim above me. You yell, “STEP OFF!”
I stand on solid ground as my horse tries to jerk the reins from my hands and run. He is shod with iron.
I curse the cowboy who once said, “We’ll take a rain or a calf, any day.”

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.



by Bolton Carley

“What about her?” Missy questioned.
“The one with the Q-tip afro perm?” I asked.
“Yeah, her. What do you think she’s like now?” Missy and I had spent many an hour staring at old yearbooks in the school library envisioning people’s lives post small town upbringings.
“Oh, there’s no question about her. Look at that cat t-shirt. It couldn’t be more obvious.” I state confidently.
“What does the cat t-shirt have to do with anything?” she asked as I stared at her in dismay. How could she not get it?
“A cat t-shirt says it all. It is a well-known fact if you wear kitty-cats rolling a ball of yarn as a child you become a grandma-type by age 26. The only difference is that they start dressing in standard issue gray sweatshirts with lavendar and pink ribbons instead of t-shirts because they get cold so easily. That sweatshirt will hide a crumpled Kleenex tucked in the sleeve and be worn with pajama pants or elastic-waist jeans that taper in at her orthopedic white sneakers. Guarantee she still has curly hair, has never even considered dying it even though it’s as gray as foggy mornings, lives with at least 2 cats, and a husband who doesn’t deserve her. She babysits her grandkids for free every day, needlepoints cat dish towels and doilies in her rocking chair every evening, and hand-paints calicos and Siamese Christmas ornaments for the annual craft fair which she arrives at wearing her parka and furry mittens calling everybody ‘honey’. Bottom line: everybody knows that a kitten shirt equals a naively sweet woman.”

Bolton’s pieces can be found on 6S and her personal blog



by Michael D. Brown

“I don’t get it.”
“Enjoy it for what it is. When we met–something about your eyes–couldn’t say for sure, but the longer I looked, the less I wanted to leave. Matter of fact, because we didn’t hit it off at first I knew it was a thing.”
“You make me question my own esthetics.”
“Not a bad thing.”
Len nods. Annoyed?
“Do you always trust first impressions?”
“How do you take step two, if the first isn’t on firm ground?”
“People continue to reveal themselves over years.”
“Are you trying to Gaslight me?”
“It’s the sincerity of your smile when you’re amused. How appealing. Of course, now I’ve mentioned it…”
A child looking at the sculpture in front of us brings his hand to his lips. Giggles. Touches marble as I have. Then looks at us and stops giggling but continues smiling.
“How charming is this little guy?” Len asks, reaching to pat his head, but the child walks away. He stops with his back to us at a sculpture of a nude woman.
“Touch this,” I suggest. It’s cold and sensual at the same time. He puts his hand on the nodule close to the plinth but his eyes are on the nude in front of the child. If he can get it he appreciates it. Some things just take time. Years ago I was the same way.
Len smiles and I feel an urge to say something clever.
He says, “Let’s go look at some paintings.”

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



All illustrations for Spot 009 supplied by Sandra Davies.


September 15, 2011

Spot 008: Beauty from Within


by jk davies

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

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



by Bill Lapham

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Gita Smith

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

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

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

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



by Grey Johnson

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

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

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

‘Did you tell your mother I was coming?’

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

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

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

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

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

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

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Travis Smith

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

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



by Michael D. Brown

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Mike Handley

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.



by Elliott Cox

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

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

See Authors page for Elliott’s bio.



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