Posts tagged ‘kristine shmenco’

September 15, 2012

HoW3 Book Ready

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

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

July 31, 2012

HoW 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael D. Brown
Currently teaching English in Mexico, Michael maintains MuDJoB and MudSpots (and various other muddy projects) featuring his own and the work of other writers, and would love more than anything to be preparing for the next HoW, right here, right now, but will wait (impatiently) to be with his friends in the flesh next summer.


July 30, 2012

A Year of MudSpots


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

July 21, 2012

Spot 052: The Last Dance

DECEMBER
by Sandra Davies

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

THE QUESTIONS OF 52
by Bill Lapham

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

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

Yes, I think so.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


OUR LAST DANCE
by Jen Schneider

For Denise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Jen’s bio.

TAKES TWO TO TANGO
by Bolton Carley

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

See Authors page for Bolton’s bio.


THE COMPETITION
by Travis Smith

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

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.

THE LAST DANCE
by Kristine E. Shmenco

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

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.


THE LAST KISS
by Sandra Davies

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

See Authors page again for Sandra’s bio.

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

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

See Authors page again for Gita’s bio.


HAPPY TRAILS
by Paul de Denus

To distract myself, I escape out the window.

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

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

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

See Authors page again for Paul’s bio.

ENDTITLE
by Michael D. Brown

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.


Illustrations for Spot 052 provided by mdjb.

March 10, 2012

Spot 033: Revolver

 

TAXMAN
by Michael D. Brown

“Let me tell you how it will be. I’m taking everything, Frank.” She was in one of her raunchier moods.
“Well, if you’ll allow me to be frank,” he said, “There’s going to be very little left to take.” He had been careful about investing vast sums in tax hedges he never told her about, and she was not the brightest star.
Her lawyer was her sister-in-law’s brother, and on his relationship with Marcus he would never be frank. Ostensibly, the two men did not get along, but in fact they did and in an intimate way Lisa would never be able to fathom. Indeed, she never reasoned why he was not contesting a divorce.
He had not counted on Eric, Lisa’s brother, who, although he also gave off dim light, was aware of something occurring between Frank and Marcus, but did not know what to call it, surreptitious though firm backslaps and ass pats notwithstanding.
“The taxman cometh,” Frank now said by way of humorous diffusion, “and he’s going to plow through our savings like Grant took Richmond.”
Lisa, who suffered mood swings, was trying on false eyelashes, and he believed she was already hatching a plan to flirt with the auditor, as yet unseen, and for all the good it would do her, while Frank thought maybe a few baseball games would provide the space he needed to explain to her brother the vicissitudes of friendship and how he would always consider him family no matter what happened.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 

 

ELEANOR RIGBY (MacKenzie’s Tale)
by Sandra Davies

The press got hold of it, of course. I might’ve guessed, mid-August and precious little else in the way of news, but not that they’d take quite so much interest, sending a film crew to the funeral, and then to have turned it into a song, a sort of mini-musical, string quartet backing and all the rest. It was them, the songwriters, who gave her that fancy name, made her sound better than she was. I mean, Eleanor was a queen, Castile, all those memorial crosses Edward I had erected in 1290 or thereabouts, whereas Nelly was little more than the nameless slut she was when I got her.
She was a quick learner, though, I’ll give her that – even at darning socks! – but that wasn’t what I needed her for. Just not always as … compliant … as I intended her to be. And more secretive than ever I gave her credit for.
At least they never found that it was not just her name that was buried along with her.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


 

I’M ONLY SLEEPING
by Travis Smith

[should join us shortly}

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.

 


 

LOVE YOU TO
by Michael D. Brown

Each day goes so fast. The mornings, despite my hacking and sniffling, are filled with bright thoughts of all I want to accomplish, which I don’t get round to in spite of best intentions. Then, most nights I stay up too late, noodling and doodling. It’s the twelve hours in between that dissipate like the smoke from one of my too, too many cigarettes. Of course, when I finally work up the energy to do a little housecleaning, I find that again. Everything is yellow with a film I can only imagine has blackened my lungs.
I’m reminded of the baby, little Bobby, who did not reach the age of two. Your mom and sisters finally getting it together to paint the wretched apartment. You had fun all afternoon drawing silly pictures on the walls before covering them over with that pale blue until late in the evening when you put down your brushes and turned off the radio to admire your newly brightened home. Nobody realized, even during his feeding, that Bobby was being asphyxiated by the fumes.
More than one person remarked how long his little body looked in the tiny casket, and how it did not signify when later you gashed holes in all the wooden walls. You have never been right since the loss of your little brother, have you?
I know it’s hard to commit, but I would love you to be here now.
I’m not sure what I should do about all these holes.

 


 

LOVE YOU TO: DIALOGUE
by Gita M. Smith

“Hello?”
“Barb, it’s Madge!”
“Madge? Oh… my goodness. We haven’t heard from you in ages. (Hand over receiver: Honey, it’s your sister.”)
“I know, and that’s why I’m calling! We have so much catching up to do. I’ve been on a retreat with my guru – you remember Sri Dev Hatmankandu – and he told us that we should return to the world after being sequestered for three months in Bangalore – you would NOT believe what passes for sanitation in some places — and to be with family as part of our re-entry.”
“I see…so…”
“SO! I am coming to visit you and Bart just as soon as I can eat solid food again. I caught a teeny parasite over there – all of us did, actually – and I’m almost recovered. My naturopath said it isn’t contagious.”
“Ah, Madge, dear, please hang on a sec while I get a cake out of the oven. I just heard the timer ding. (Bart, she said she’s coming to visit. I don’t know when. When she stops having diarrhea! THINK!)
“Heyyyy, I’m back! It’s so great that you traveled to India. And you know, about the visit? I’d love you to – and so would Bart. But he just, well he surprised me with the Winnebago I’ve been wanting for years and we’re about to hit the open road ourselves.”
“Will you be gone long?”
“Very long.”
“What should I do?
“Just sit tight. We’ll come to you. Eventually.”
“Oh! I’d love you to.”
“Buh-bye.”
“Namaste!”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

 


 

HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE
by Paul de Denus

Here
Detective Avery marks and bags several bottles of narcotic sitting on the nightstand. His partner Madison cork-fingers and bags the bottle of Jack, the one with granulated residue on the bottom. The woman – one Sarah Hope – has also been bagged and tagged and removed to the county morgue. The bedroom shows no sign of struggle. Her Chevy Vega sits quiet in the driveway; her purse still contains her keys and ID. No sign of cash. No sign of her twelve-year-old son either.

There
is a spew of blood painted on the back seat of the car. DNA is being checked.
There are accusations of abuse – according to the sister-in-law – flags like meth-lab and pill-mill activity mixed in too. The father took off months ago, resides in Little Woods, the next town over. “The boy suffered mightily at their hands,” the sister-in-law says. “Damaged goods.” Detective Avery digests the murder/suicide theory. “Happens all the time. Pill-popping mom kills son… dumps body… offs herself. Only thing missing is a suicide note.” Madison nods, adds, “And the boy.”

Everywhere
perhaps under darkened walkways or bleak alleys is where you’ll find them. Their noses hurt from the self-inflicted punch; didn’t think they’d bleed that much. The backseat blood fest should keep the police occupied for a while. Black thoughts caper and dance. “Momma had it coming… paid hard. Daddy will too.” They begin to walk again, then run, only a half-mile outside of Little Woods.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


 

THE YELLOW SUBMARINE
by Bill Lapham

When the wind blew and Neptune’s mood was dark, waves smashed against the shore-borne rocks and the spray would reach all the way to the windows of our house. In the winter, the water froze and the view was like looking through a crystal ball — with no future in sight. Not often did we see blue skies at that latitude, but quite often the sea was green as the vegetation it slopped ashore.

Not far away was a submarine base, and on a clear day, I could see them get underway. When the sun glinted off their hulls at just the right angle, the reflection had a golden, almost yellow, glow. With binoculars I could track them until they opened their vents and vanished, as if they’d been exiled for crimes against humanity.
I always wondered how the crews spent their hours underwater, living in a machine loaded with weapons of mass destruction, weapons of total annihilation. How could they live with that knowledge? Would they really launch them?

Once they were out of sight, they seemed to be non-existent. Then, in a different season, they would appear again, inbound, headed for their home port, families and safety. A place where the crew could rest and walk the highlands and think — until the next time they went to sea.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

SHE SAID SHE SAID
by Sandra Davies

‘So, when she told me – and obviously I was completely gobsmacked, felt quite wobbly in myself for a bit, like I did when I saw that accident last week – I told you about that didn’t I? Yes, thought I did, gave me a proper turn that did! Anyway, I said to her, I said, well asked more like, I said ‘Isn’t it about time you told me the truth?‘… my God look at the state of her, no, not that one, the one in the red dress, yes that’s the one, if that’s not mutton dressed as lamb I don’t know what is! … Where was I? Oh yes, last night. Well, yesterday afternoon I suppose it was, it must’ve only been four o’clock, if that, because the football results hadn’t been on and I know he’d’ve shut me up then, he always does, though, as I always say to him, none of it really matters does it, they’ll only be playing again next week, and anyway he always reads them again in the Sunday paper, all over the blooming breakfast table. And it’s only bloody football after all, load of overpaid prima donnas – did you read about that one and those models? It was in last week’s paper, three of them together, and Bollinger and goodness knows what else – more money than sense, obviously. But you’ve only got to look at her that I was telling you about, to know that, although what she did certainly takes some beating.’

 


 

SHE SAID SHE SAID: DIALOGUE
by Bill Floyd

She said: I’m gone.
He said: But why?
You know.
Please stay.
I can’t.
Why not?
My heart.
Oh, that.
Undone.
Can’t be.
Is so.
I’ll change.
You won’t.
It’s him.
It’s you.
Undying.
Unborn.
No choice?
Too late.
Come here.
Fat chance.
Come back.
I’m gone,
she said.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

SHE SAID SHE SAID
by Paul de Denus

She said I was cute. She said I was the best she ever had. She said let’s get married. She said she didn’t want any kids. She said my apartment was too small. She said we needed more room. She said the over-priced house was perfect. She said we should get a new car. She said I should clean up the garage. She said I should put my clubs in the attic. She said she wanted a bigger house. She said she didn’t care for my parent’s attitude. She said she didn’t want my family coming over anymore. She said my friends were immature. She said she didn’t want my friends coming over anymore. She said she was going shopping again. She said she needed a bigger closet. She said I didn’t make enough money. She said I should get a better job. She said the house was a mess. She said we needed a maid. She said she was bored. She said I never took her anywhere. She said she wanted something different. She said she didn’t think she loved me anymore. She said I should move out. She said, “What are you doing?” She said, “Is that a gun?” She said, “But honey-bun…” She said no more.

 

 

GOOD DAY SUNSHINE
by Mike Handley

I’d long buried the memory until a friend, perhaps giddy because he was sitting on my porch wearing nothing but a whiskey sour, felt compelled to remember the first time he disrobed without being self-conscious.

A teenager, he was hunting deer when inexplicably struck with a primal urge to stand naked among trees. His grin was a toothpaste commercial complete with pinging starburst.

“Oh my god, it was so cool,” he said.

To that point, I thought I alone had done such a thing.

I’d been in my mid-20s, afield before sunrise in the middle of an Alabama winter. Around midmorning, fascinated by the play of light and shadows across my clothes and the sun’s warm caress, I took off my many layers, folded and placed them on the log where I’d sat.

I basked for the next half-hour, watching the sun dapple my body, igniting the fine blond hair on my forearms and the coppery thatch at my groin. I wanted to stay that way forever, but the whistle of an approaching train snatched me out of Eden.

Interviewing the police chief not long afterward about a bust in which camo-clad officers had staked out a patch of marijuana in the middle of the woods and caught the grower, wearing only boots, coming to check his plants, I decided I wasn’t so eager to return to my private playground.

“What kind of freak would do that?” the chief asked.

“Beats me,” I lied.

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.

 


 

AND YOUR BIRD CAN SING
by Michael D. Brown

Chas spent the summer in London before moving on to the job in Lisle. On his penultimate day in town, he had drinks with Neville, who said although he knew Chas could not pass up the opportunity awaiting him, nevertheless he did not want to call this a goodbye luncheon.
“You’ve got the flat with all a bloke could want, and you’re trusting me to hold it together for you until November. How do you know we won’t hold wild smoking parties and destroy everything?”
“Is that your plan?”
“No. Course not. I’m just saying.”
“There was something else I wanted to ask of you, but I don’t quite know how to put it other than bluntly. Could you keep an eye on Heather?”
“How do you mean?” The fluttering under Neville’s left eye was confirming what Chas had suspected. He had already lost her.
“We promised to keep in touch and all, but, and it’s not as if I don’t trust her, just that she’s so pretty, and popular…”
“And she sings like a bird. Did I tell you I finally got a chance to go listen to her perform at the club last Friday? I know you think we’re not copacetic but I really do like her artistic bent. She’s like one of those beatnik chicks left over from the last generation, and…” Neville was rambling—always a sure sign he was covering up.
Yes, Heather could sing all right, and like a bird she had already flown.

 


 

FOR NO ONE
by Kristine Shmenco

She liked to sing in the shower, and sometimes she liked to practice for her next audition there. He liked to stand outside the door and listen while she entertained herself, hot water fading tepid. He listened to one late-night shower (she’d been out all night with the girls and wanted to wash the smoke from her hair, she said, before bed) and wondered what she was auditioning for this time. The lines went something like “it wasn’t all lies but it wasn’t all love, either.” She hummed through rooms dusting picture frames that were gone the next day and he wondered why she didn’t take the nails, too. He began taking long walks down by the pond in town and wondered why her hand wasn’t in his. Tired of walking, he took long turns at the bar wondering why she wasn’t sitting there, arguing the fine points of some crappy movie they watched eight years ago. He knew where she was. More importantly, she knew where he was, and it was easier this way. She hoped the ice in his glass tasted sweet, thinking about his gentle eyes. She knew he’d be okay the farther away she went and it wouldn’t be her getting smaller in the distance. She left it all in the house and took her convertible one last turn through a neighborhood she would never miss. She was happy for the first time in a long time and felt connected to herself and the sun.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.

 


 

DOCTOR ROBERT
by Paul de Denus

In his waiting room, the first thing you’ll notice is the upscale décor. The walls are lined with Eames, the single molded plywood type. They fit your body like perfect dentures. A 3-seat black leather sofa occupies the opposite wall and you’ll want to sit there awhile, just to feel it opiate your senses. A Skagen coffee table crouches between the sofa and chairs. It is adorned with picture perfect worlds that offer tastes you can only imagine. The doctor always delivers.

Stephanie will guide you in to the pleasure chair. Above your head, drop pendant lights hang like plucked eyeballs still attached to the optic nerve. You’ll try not to giggle. In the corner of the room, there is an empty dome-shaped birdcage. You’ll imagine a yellow canary on the empty swing singing a familiar soundless tune.

When the doctor appears, his hands will barely touch your face as he painlessly injects your mouth. His small hands will move like those of a mime. Your tongue will tingle as he tinkles the ivories and he’ll polish you off with a tasty minor flourish. His face will be close enough to kiss. He will nod in rhythm as if hearing the soundless music, perhaps the song of the imagined canary.

As you leave, Stephanie will hand you – discreetly of course – a white velvet bag. It’s what you came for, isn’t it? What’s inside will soon have you humming another tune.

 


 

I WANT TO TELL YOU
by Paul de Denus

I’ve been all over the album cover. Oh man, have you seen it? It’s a mixed bag of black and white caricature and photos. Some guy named Klaus Voormann did it. He’s on the far right, in George’s hair. If I’d known they loved this kind of art, I’d have submitted something to their Fan Club. It’s the kind of thing I draw. Ask Mr. Monteith, my art teacher. He’s also my Math teacher but he’s a damn good artist too and let me tell you, he’d know! I’m not knocking this Klaus guy. He’s fantastic! He went nuts on their hair. Shit, I wish I could grow my hair that long. Dad won’t let me – says it’s for girls. He’s having a hard time keeping up these days. But I’ve seen his foot clocking to Taxman.

The photos on the cover look like my dad took them, all dark and lousy. They’re cropped badly. I bet they slapped them together after dropping some bad LSD. The back cover has a dark photo too but it’s really cool. They’re all wearing glasses and paisley and suits and grinning like they’re high except for Paul. I bet that means something. I’ve looked for a revolver in the picture too. It’s probably buried in there somewhere. George looks like he’s holding something. Man, I just wanted to tell you, they’re totally capable of cool stuff like that. They really are.

 


 

GOT TO GET HER INTO MY LIFE
by Gita M. Smith

I live inside a snow globe at a Stuckey’s by the I-70 off-ramp to Torrington, Conn. It takes some getting used to, this life does. Snowglobe dwellers, or ‘Globers,’ as we like to call ourselves, forever have a 360-degree view of the world. Because of the convex curve of the globe’s glass walls, things on the outside look unpleasantly enlarged. A human eyeball approaching the glass surface appears like a vast milky moon with a watery dark center. A hand that grasps us is magnified a hundredfold. Fingerprints leave giant troughs and hills on the surface of our sky where they smear and mingle with other fingerprints.
Like whales, we hear sound waves through the medium of water. Normally, water mutes sounds, but the round walls bounce noise around and magnify it. But I am happy because I’m taken care of by Shelly, the store manager. How delicately and tenderly she picks up my snow globe to wipe away customer fingerprints. She peeks at me and smiles when the snow-glitter drifts down on my head and shoulders. “Well hello, there, little fellow,” she says, as sultry as the dark hair that falls over my world when she bends to dust my shelf.
Tragically, there has never been a successful relationship between a Glober and a human. Yet I hold out hope that someday soon, either she will shrink or I will grow. I long to be with her and hold the hand that holds my universe in its loving grasp.

 


 

TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS
by Nicole E. Hirschi

My senses refuse to focus.
I feel like I’m dying,
forgetting Here and Now,
drifting in dreams of Past,
believing wasted half-truths,
of loves come and gone,
lives spent in the briefest moments
of happiness outdone by sorrow.
Yesterday, I wished-
not for a second of Today
but for an eternity
of what lies beyond
in a world of Tomorrows.

My senses begin to fade.
Dying? But not dead.
Too much, TOO MUCH!
Today’s thoughts of doubt
struck down my reachable goals-
my promises of untold glory
waiting patiently on the shelves
of the ‘morrow.
Remembering Yesterday, I cry.
With back turned
to hide my face,
I give a poor farewell
to Yesterday’s wasted wishes.

My senses try to focus.
Surviving, but confused and hurt.
I try to comfort my heart,
burning for dreams to hold-
even if broken- to mold.
For what doubts festered in Today
will Tomorrow, become Yesterday’s.
Dreading what’s Past, but
scared of the Future,
I live through Tonight to realize
there is no need for wasted suffering
because after Today,
Tomorrow Never Knows…

See Authors page for Nicole’s bio.

 


 

Illustrations for Spot 033 inspired by Klaus Voorman and Sandra Davies.

 

March 3, 2012

Spot 032: The Tyranny of Things

 

UNDERWOOD
by Gita M. Smith

The shootings continue.
Last night, they eliminated teenaged girls who had gone mad when they could no longer text. The night before, it had been 13-year-old boys who were berserk over the loss of video games.
Fuck the whiny-baby pissants, anyway. It’s time young people learned to fend.
I myself have been very careful to stay in the weeds, and when asked how I’m doing, I say, “It’s a great day for golf, sure is!”
Out in mid-town park, there is fear and chaos. People have gathered, and they are stoking each other’s panic.
“If the machines never restart,” people cry, “what of the future?”
Yes, when the machines first quit, the quiet was eerie. But without radios, TVs or internal combustion engines, the world is actually quite a lovely place.
Noise was just another form of tyranny, when you think about it, because you could never escape it.
Once, I’d been fishing in far northern Canada where you would think you could get away from man-made sounds. But every 15 minutes or so, jets would boom overhead.
No, it’s definitely best not to whine or complain about what’s missing. Best to come up with a plan, and mine is to get out the old Underwood with sticky keys from the attic and bang out as many copies as possible of a newsletter.
My daddy always said, “Better believe it, he who controls the press, controls the people.”
To which I’d like to add, “and controls the future.”

This week’s theme was suggested by Gita. See Authors page for her bio.

 


 

FEDEX-PLETIVE
by Paul de Denus

“WHAT-THE-FU…!”
My pen is dead, out of ink.
“MOTHER-FU…”
The word falls with a heavy thud from my quivering lips. It transfers to my hand – the cramped one, the one doing all the writing, the one that presses through the four-layered shipping label, pen tip carving the heavy paper veneer, initialing a jagged trench along the tabletop.
“SUCKING-DOG-BAL…!”
The air bill is torn. It shouts at me: Please print and press hard.
“SHIT-FUCKER…!”
Ripe, it slips from between my teeth as I punctuate the air bill with spittle before crumpling it up, firing it across the room. If I have to write that FedEx account number one more time, I’ll…
“BITCH-HOLES…!”
I’m almost out of FedEx slips.

The FedEx system is down. How can that be? Hello? Press some buttons dudes and get it up again! You’re the world’s best delivery system, aren’t you? Please.
It took me two hours to find my print out copy with all these addresses. Sixty-one locations. I may kill myself.
SIXTY-ONE-HANDWRITTEN-BASTARD-DINKHOLE-LOCATIONS!!!

I’ll show them. I’ll make them work for it. Here’s an initial in front of my surname, an abbreviation for Street, one for Drive, random digits for phone numbers, a scribble for a signature. Does this shipment contain dangerous goods? Oh, it will. I promise. My hand pounds the table. I make a fist. It’s all I can do to attempt a middle finger. The hands too cramped to open.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


 

AFTER THE MACHINES FREAKED
by Bill Lapham

The day the machines freaked, the U.S. Defense Department felt the impact first and hardest. All its submarines, surface ships, fighters, bombers and drones, all the defense radars, missiles, guns and satellites were rendered useless.

The Pentagon requisitioned every sailboat in every marina on both coasts and Hawaii and dispatched them around the world to rescue stranded crews at sea. For months, convoys of sailboats brought the armed forces home.

With no means to generate power, everything that relied on electricity sat idle. Without pumps, production of petroleum products failed, and mechanized transportation ground to a halt.

Borders became indefensible. Governments, their laws and law enforcement became futile.

Populations migrated on foot to places that stayed warm and supported limited, organic farming. With the mass migrations, and the attendant bank failures, the architecture of religious organizations collapsed.

Competition for scarce resources became ferocious and homicide by blade and garrote proliferated. Blood ran in perilous streets and soaked the barren soil. The population of the world fell precipitously due to wide-spread famine, localized wars, and genocide. Viruses went viral.

With time, the population of Homo sapiens reached a sustainable equilibrium. Cells of families formed tribes. Those that found defensible cave complexes to live in, thrived by resorting to ancient hunting and gathering methods. With the evaporation of leadership, anarchy became the only workable political philosophy.

In the west, the most successful cells became known as Apaches; in the east they were called al-Qaeda. Separated by oceans, they lived peacefully for centuries.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

I DON’T SUCCUMB TO TYRANNY BUT I WONDER…
by Sandra Davies

I never would have continued without the Amstrad enabling me to type it up – my handwriting is so bad ¬– and although I was as willing as the rest to pay for pink and green certificates, to heave the slab-sized books around in dusty subterranean rooms, to scrabble away the ivy from the stones, I couldn’t help admitting it was easier when so much was made available on-line.
For convenience and cross-reference I pretty near abandoned multiple ring-binders of typed trees, pencilled annotations faded and photocopied documents taking space. Without the skills of Photoshop to zoom in and then compare the faces, the people in the photo albums would have remained unknown. Exchanging information with the similarly-minded from around the world would not have taken place.
But now my children tell me ‘If you really want us to know you will have to put our kin on Kindle’ I wonder whether when it all goes blank it will be as if I and my family’s history never was.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


 

THE TYRANNY OF THINGS
by Michael D. Brown

I wanted to sound clever and tell everyone present a story of some poor schlep who tried his damnedest to make things work, but who kept coming up against obstacles on which he had not counted, and then, you would all smile because you would see yourself in him and say oh, yes, well, it be that way sometimes, and really, what are you going to do about it? Unfortunately, the schlep turned out to be me, and I do not find the situation amusing enough to relate it in a way to evoke that smile. I am fucking pissed about where I find myself, if you want to know the truth. I never foresaw how being put in charge of friends and companions would place me in a different camp altogether nor how they would nod in agreement to everything and then proceed to follow their separate agendas. I never foresaw how being too busy to comply with an activity that brought me happiness would leave me sad all the time. I never thought I would have to beg off going to Kansas to be with other friends. I guess I just never thought ahead, period. The real tyranny is in how I trusted to fate, and it screwed me royally, and there isn’t much amusement in that. Things may yet be resolved in my favor, but at the moment, I’m feeling glum. I just wanted to share 250 words in an attempt to sidestep the malignancy. Everything sucks.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

IN THE BEGINNING
by Kristine E Shmenco

The sun lit the face of the earth, time zone by time zone, as it had since before machines recorded time. There was no herald, no precursor, no sign that it would happen. People took to their holy books to see if they could divine the meaning, but there was no prophecy, no name given to understand why we lost our machines. What horseman had come in the night and took the power away? No answer was found, no prayer answered.
It was a mercy that simple machines like wedge or pulley did continue to work, and that is probably all that saved us. People’s dreams began to change, and they dreamed of candles and clean water. Clean water—suddenly everyone on the face of the earth felt the same way about it—understood what it really meant. Families living in remotest Brazil, China, India, would find our new lives unremarkable. We all now stood on the same ground, only we were astonished. Agonized at the loss of connection.
The words “rain barrel” were resurrected. Men with horses were kings, and for a time there were riots for bottled water and when that was gone, we learned to cry over spilled water. The face of the earth changed, forever, in one night. The changes I’m certain you can imagine. I don’t know why I feel the need to write down what happened, because right now no one cares about why. But on this ship with pen and ink, I must write.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.

 


Illustrations?


 

November 26, 2011

Spot 018: Stolen

 

NO RETURN
by Paul de Denus

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


 

THRALL’S BANE
by Kristine E. Shmenco

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

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.

 

 

STEALING SPEED
by Bill Lapham

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

GEOLOGIC TIME
by Bill Floyd

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

A HYMN FOR THE AGES
by Robert Crisman

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.

 

 

KISS
by Grey Johnson

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

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.

 


 

MILITARY MISAPPROPRIATION
by Joe Gensle

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

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

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

 

 

REAL AND IMAGINARY
by Travis Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.

 


 

THEFT TAKES MORE THAN THE THING ITSELF
by Sandra Davies

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

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

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


 

TAKEN
by Michael D. Brown

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

Illustrations for Spot 018 adapted by Michael D. Brown.

 

November 19, 2011

Spot 017: Achilles’ Heel

 

RESIGNATION
by Elliott Cox

J leaned over and whispered, “What will we do, old man?”

80317 stared straight ahead, a grin across his cracked, deflated lips. “We wait for our turn. Then we stop waiting.”

Crack, a gunshot. Fwump, the sound like a full laundry duffel landing on a basement floor.

J said, “If we stay on our knees, we’re going to die. If we get up and fight…”

80317 turned his head toward J, his face serene with that grin pointing at his droopy eyes. Damn his stupid grin! “My wife, what a wonderful woman she was, my wife. Her eyes shined. Mmm-hmm. Honest and truly shined. Her worst moments, they shined.”

Crack. Fwump.

He licked his lips with a dry tongue. “Her harshest words came out soft, full of love they were. Hmm. Soft words. Calm and round as a morning dewdrop, yes. They were. Soft words.”

Crack. Fwump.

J looked down the line toward the sound of the crack, getting louder now. 80317 turned his head away from J, staring straight ahead again. “Four children she gave me, my wife. Oldest one, about your age I guess, was about your age, I guess. Couldn’t see very well, slow in the mind, he was. Happiest child I ever met.”

Crack. Fwump.

80317 watched the limp body two souls away fall to the ground. He turned to J, his grin gone, “You fight your fight.”

80317 looked straight ahead, put his chin on his chest and said, “Me?” He sighed. “I did what a man had to do. Fight your fight, kid, I’m going home.”

See Authors page for Elliott’s bio.

 

 

JOEY SANG SONGS
by Robert Crisman

On that lovely spring evening out on the Ave, with the sun going down in the west, Joey almost shone through the dirt and he had a bounce. The speedball he’d geezed no doubt brought some luster, but still.

Any minute, it seemed, he’d likely break out in a song… Rough Justice maybe; he loved the Stones…

He’d jumped into dope after Jeffrey his dead-of-AIDS lover, or so he told Rob, and that meant 20 years and…Jesus Christ! Most longtime junkies are bent, broken sticks, sucked up and silent. And Joey claimed he’d stayed fucking loaded the whole goddamned time.

Rob doubted that. No one stays loaded for 20 years straight, unless they are rich-rich, or else the finest cocksuckers this side of porn heaven. There are long days when a dopefiend can’t even find cotton to suck. His money gets funny. His dopeman got busted. The whole town went dry. Rob had no doubt that Joey’d been sprung the whole time. Just chasing the sack sucks you up, and most 20-year junkies look like they’re past dead on good days, at least on the street, and that’s where Joey called home, pretty much.

At three in the morning, alone in the bowels of some flophouse and dopesick, with life now defined by the scuffle for smack and the ever-there prospect of prison, and possibly death in an alley some night when the temperature’s headed toward zero, maybe his song came out different…

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.

 

 

THE SEEDS OF A PLAN
by Bill Lapham

“They are strong, Sheik. They have a large military with global reach.”
“Everyone has a vulnerability, Said.”
“Theirs, I cannot see, Sheik.”
“List all their strengths. Therein lay their vulnerabilities.”
“They have the world’s largest economy, most productive workforce, most advanced weapons systems, strongest and most plentiful universities, fastest and most ubiquitous communications systems. I fail to see the vulnerability, Sheik?”
“Their Achilles Heel is in that list.”
Said crossed to the other side of the mountain and sat on his favorite rock overlooking the desert. A lone Bedouin riding a camel kicked up a plume of dust miles away. Said watched him as he cantered across the land. He was perfectly alone, wind blowing his robes in a whirl behind him. No harm would come to a lone Bedouin transiting such a vast wasteland, Said realized. A solitary figure makes a poor target, its quality diminished by its quantity.
But he might join others at a predetermined destination and suddenly their threat would multiply by a factor determined by their size and capability. Get them in one at a time, gather at the last minute and attack.
He needed a target; he wanted the whole population of their country to feel the heat of their anger. Their economy was large, true, but its financial center of gravity was in New York City. They weren’t accustomed to attack at home. They would be unsuspecting.
‘Infiltrate singly, strike en masse, and strike hard, without mercy.’ The seeds of a plan.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 

 

ED INTERROGATED
by Sandra Davies

‘You admit you know what’s been going on then?’
‘I admit to knowing most, not all of it …’
‘When did you find out, how did you find out?’
‘Within a month of them marrying … obviously if I’d known sooner I’d’ve put a stop to it, but I was in the States, had been there for nine months. I did ask her to delay the wedding until I got back, but … I didn’t realise then, of course, what he was like, otherwise I’d’ve certainly come back, contract or not.’
‘And then?’
‘And then people started contacting me. For money he owed, about things he’d done. Or not done.’
‘Did you ask him about them?’
‘You bet I did. He laughed, admitted it all and laughed. Said I had no choice but; knew he’d got me over a barrel.’
‘And so?’
‘And so I started finding out what I could, putting pressure on in places where it couldn’t be traced back to me. Rescuing some things …’
‘Like Scot Cruise?’
‘Yeah. He needed the money … and I saw it was a business with potential. I am a businessman after all!’
‘But your past doesn’t exactly bear investigation does it?’
‘I’ve never got involved in porn … and certainly never murdered anyone.’
‘And now you know there’s murder involved, will you help trap him?’
‘So long as it’s understood that I cannot and will not do anything that might put Eleanor – my sister – at risk.’

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


 

ROAD KILL
by Paul de Denus

He loves what he sees: the blonde woman, alone.

A shimmering pageboy cut cups the sides of her face like the hands of God gently caressing her cheeks. She paces along side her Lincoln, which tilts on the side of the road, the angular hood up, signaling like a stiff erection. A glance in the mirror ensures the road behind is empty and he powers down the window. Her arms fold defensively across her chest; he slows and stops next to her.
“Need some help?” he says leaning over the passenger seat, his voice in steady certain control. He soaks in the glow of her pageboy crown, amazed the color matches his, a summer-surf tinting.
“Yes… I do,” she says, her eyes scanning his face with a cautionary curious once-over. Her crown wavers slightly as she steps back and he glides from his car. The words hum lightly about… lightly about… that head will go nicely in the basement freezer trophy case.
“Let’s see what we got here,” he says leaning over the hood.

He sees her step back, sees the mess of engine he knows nothing about, sees the sense made of his practiced story regarding the service station just down the road. What he doesn’t see is the tire iron swinging at his neck nor, later, the feel of her hand stroking his perfect blonde hair – a personal weakness – the so perfect shade that had until now eluded her growing collection.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 

 

TROUBLE ON OLYMPUS STREET
by Kristine E. Shmenco

“Mrs. Swanson! Are you guilty of the charges?”

“Course not!” she spat, as her husband threw a red flannel shirt over her head. The cops jostled him out of the way so they could stuff her in the car, red lights flashing and neighbors in every window.

“Mr. Swanson! Is your wife guilty of child endangerment?”

“Course not!” he said, trying to look brave and hating the lump in his throat.

“Sir, I’m Rod Nexus from MOD News. Will you take a few moments and tell us what happened?”

“Prolly shouldn’t talk to you without counsel, but I guess it can’t hurt to tell our side–if you’re going to tell it right, that is.” He stepped in close to make sure Roddy-boy got the message.

“If you’re suggesting I’ll report the story using a Redneck angle, you have my word I won’t. I simply want to tell your friends and neighbors’ the truth about what happened at a birthday pool party.”

“Well, we was in the house taking cookies out the oven, gone not five minutes, and I hear screaming. I run out so she don’t drop the cookies, and there’s two boys hanging my baby girl upside down in the pool. Says they’re giving her an Achilles heel so she can be immortal. The bitty next door seen it, called the cops and tells my wife she’s going down for child neglect. I’m taking my kids outta school for puttin’ this crap in their heads…”

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.

 

 

KRYPTONITE
by Michael D. Brown

In my twenties, I could be taken by an attractive face, handsome young men, strikingly beautiful women. I wanted so much to be liked by them, growing weak in the knees, desiring their attention. Aware of their beauty, they had other agendas. I’d be rapt, hoping in privacy that I had not obviously fawned. That was when I, too, held a degree of good looks and was in decent physical shape.
Later, in the 1980s, when we were all into ourselves, and after several disappointing relationships, I was most affected by people with obvious talents. If somebody could play a piano or guitar or sing well, he or she could easily win my heart. Artists of any stripe, like Paris with his bow, might shoot me from behind and I never felt taken advantage of, never minded being seen as a sycophant. Talent and ability, developed, were deserving of praise. That phase lasted some time.
I didn’t view myself as Superman, but he did have “powers and abilities far beyond mortal men,” and that indemnifying curl and square jaw with a cleft, so he bridged my two phases, and I wanted friends that reminded me of him.
In my dotage, intellectuals are my kryptonite. Talk to me smartly on any interesting topic, and I’m yours, if you want. If neither of us is worried about good looks anymore, so much the better. But, damn, don’t kill me with that ongepotchket attitude, oy vey! A person can only take so much.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

MEMBERS ONLY
by Bill Floyd

The young starlet laughed right in his face. “Who is this old fossil?” she exclaimed, there in front of the director and the lighting people and everyone. “This some kinda fetish flick, or what?”

His mama had to hold him by something when she dipped him in that river, and she knew the story about the old Greek warrior, so she didn’t hold him by his ankle. No, she used a different handle, which became his closest ally, peaking asp, dripping venom, his legend and his renown.

Years ago, anyway. When he felt the wane he tried Viagra and the Pullman Method and tantric rehabilitations and finally even the lash. But all great heroes must finally bow.

“Action.” “Cut.”

Hell is a toothless fluffer and a camera with no battery power.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

Seattle illustrations for Spot 017 supplied by Michael D. Brown.

 

November 11, 2011

Spot 016: Candles Burning

 

FEELIN’ THE BURN
by Bill Lapham

“See anything?”
“Not a fucking thing.”
“Tired?”
“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.”
“What?”
“Say it, or you’re a dead man.”
“I ain’t your ol’ lady.”
“Good.”
“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.

 


 

WORTH IT IN JACKSON HEIGHTS
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.”
“Hey cuz, sorry I woke ya.”
“Yokay?”
“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.

 


 

TREBLE-EDGED
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.

 


 

WHISKY CONVERSATION BETWEEN OLD FRIENDS
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?’
‘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.

 


 

RACING THE MOON
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.

 


 

PILLOW TALK
by Gita M. Smith

“Honey, are you asleep?”
mmmph.”
“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?”
narmnmn.”
“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?”
“________”
“LARRY!”
“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.”
mmph.”
“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.”
SNNKKK.”
“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.

 


 

FROM ONE TO TWO TO TWO TO THREE
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

 

POST-PRANDIAL CONVERSATION
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.

 

 

TALKING BALLS AND STRIKES
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.

 

 

CHASING TYNSDALE
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.

 

 

RULE
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.

 

 

DON’T TEASE THE OLD PEOPLE
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.

 

 

YOU ONLY GET ONE QUESTION
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.

 

 

RUDIMENTS OF MAN-LAW
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.

 

 

THE RULE OF PAJAMAS
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.