Posts tagged ‘mike handley’

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

March 10, 2012

Spot 033: Revolver


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.



by Travis Smith

[should join us shortly}

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



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.



by Gita M. Smith

“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.”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

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.

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.”

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.



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.



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.’



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.
Can’t be.
Is so.
I’ll change.
You won’t.
It’s him.
It’s you.
No choice?
Too late.
Come here.
Fat chance.
Come back.
I’m gone,
she said.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.


January 14, 2012

Spot 025: Mime






































2501: Woven Orange
2502: Storm Crossing
2503: The Owl with the Heart-Shaped Face
2504: The Italy Story
2505: Ladder to the Loft
2506: No Return
2507: The Unfailing Flock
2508: Grad School and Blue
2509: Please Renew Your Subscription to Netflix
2510: Back when the Drive-In was Open
2511: Necessary Nests
2512: No Martinis
by Amy Hale Auker

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.



[2508] Blue Watch
by Sandra Davies

I couldn’t in all honesty claim I’d thought it out beforehand, especially when I’d already gone through how and when and who to ask to get the name and logo painted over, but it didn’t take long to realise that an old BT van would be even more anonymous. As anonymous as they had been to start with. The houses ‘fully-refurbished’ but there’d been little they could do to improve the folk they moved back in.
And a week of sitting, clipboard resting on the steering wheel, hard hat beside me on the seat and I’d identified her. Third house from the end. She’d changed, but so had I, and after five years she’d started to believe she was safe. Safe from me at any rate. Well, safe from thinking I might find her. Because now I had found her she wasn’t any longer. Just that she didn’t know it yet.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



2501: Brave The New World
2502: Trains Don’t Run Through Here No More
2503: Character Study
2504: The Missing Boy
2505: Bent
2506: The Family on Indian Woman Road
2507: Waves
2508: Harmony Road
2509: The Appearance
2510: Shift
2511: Black Eye
2512: Last Night Out
by Paul de Denus

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



[2511] Metaphor
by Sandra Davies

Neglect. Through carelessness – not caring enough – abandonment or sabotage?
Could not be denied it had originally been built with care, if not experience. The intention – to make something which would hold together, protect, contain, be beautiful as well as functional – had been clear. Built to last, if not forever then for the foreseeable future.
Awareness of danger had been there, had been guarded against, protections put in place; the need for privacy had been anticipated,
Repairs had regularly been made, to remedy early mistakes caused by ignorance, to mend expected wear and tear.
But it had outgrown its … not exactly usefulness, but was no longer deemed essential, or even, at times desirable. And so began a time of gradually-accelerating neglect. Followed by abandonment, to the elements.
The silver, beautiful in its way, in the weathered wood, flakes of blue adhering, remaining high-spots of a once-all protecting coat.
Their silver – their twenty-five years – their marriage – no doubt whatsoever of its greater tarnish, its rot, rather than just weathering..

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



2501: When Autumn Leaves
2502: Thunderhead
2503: All My Exes…
2504: Tracked
2505: The Gravity
2506: Gone to the Dogs
2507: Flight Tracking
2508: The Average Blue Homeowner
2509: When Sam Cooke Came to Clarksdale
2510: A Beautifully Rusted Ford
2511: The Main Chance
2512: Southern Comfort

[2513] The Spectacle of the Mime
by Michael D. Brown

Wordlessly, he gave a faultless performance, but it was as much the honky-tonk musical background as his body English or facial expressions that made the first act in any way memorable to me, teenagers drinking from bottles in plastic Oxxo bags, or gathered couples and single strollers. He appeared browless in a solid black leotard, with his shaved head painted in the same deathly-white paste that crusted where the neckline veed below his clavicle, suggesting the marks of noose burn. I don’t know that I would ever be willing to put my life on the line to preserve another’s, nor that I would ever expect another to do so for me, but I applauded as heartily as the rest as we, his audience, were unaware he had dressed and made up appropriately for his final show. He mimed a man obsessed by his ticking watch and some sort of mission; waiting for his destiny, which was a long time coming, seemingly overdue. Then, in mere seconds, he reacted quickly, shoving a pedestrian out of the way of an oncoming sports car, was struck himself, and performed a triple somersault before landing on his feet, then falling, arms outstretched, forward onto the pavement in front of us, as the driver sped away. We cheered, whistled, and clapped spontaneously for some time before someone remarked the mime had not moved a muscle from the moment his body hit the ground, and in our awestruck silence, we realized the rescued woman was sobbing.

Note: This piece originally appeared on The Six Sentence Social Network. See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



[2512] With Apologies to Amy
by Bill Lapham

When Daniel Dinkins stepped inside the saloon he knew: he would not get a martini in this place, shaken or stirred. Here, the desert dust inside was the same as the desert dust outside. His Birkenstock sandals blended in.

He waited to be seated for a minute then realized he might stand there all day for all anybody cared, looking like an idiot in his Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts and Yankees cap. Finally, he got the idea, perched his sunglasses on his hat and took his own seat.

He was in luck, the bartender came over.

“May I have a menu, please?” Daniel said.

“Hamburger, beer and whiskey,” said the man who looked like a refugee from an Alaskan caribou grazing range. “That’s the menu.”

“Excellent,” Daniel said. “I’ll have a burger—well-done, of course—and a Heineken.”

“We ain’t got no Heinies.”

“Coors Light then.”


“Coors it is.”

“That’s it?”

“And a shot of Drambuie.”

“Wild Turkey.”

“Fine. I’ll have a burger, a Coors—in a frosted mug, please—and a shot of Wild Turkey.”


When the Alaskan served his lunch, Daniel noticed the following discrepancies: the burger was charred black, the beer was warm and the whiskey was hot. He called the bartender over.

“My burger is burnt black, the beer is warm and the whiskey is hot.”

The music stopped. Patrons at the bar turned to look. The bartender’s black eyes glared.

Daniel placed a twenty on the table and left.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



Images 2501 through 2506 supplied by Kelly Hoyle Fuller © 2011.
Images 2507 through 2512 supplied by Gita M. Smith and Mike Handley © 2012.


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 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 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.


September 1, 2011

Spot 006: To Whose Benefit?


by Bill Lapham

The snatch had been made and the drop retrieved by the courier. Information on the invasion’s target was on its way. Across the Channel, they would adjust the defense and blood would run in the water.
The traitor was sitting on a park bench, right leg crossed over left, smoking a cigarette in the waning light of a sunless day. The street lamps cast shafts of light through droplets of water floating weightlessly. There was a statue on the far side of the park, a man sitting on a galloping charger, one hand on the reigns, the other thrusting his sword to the sky. That was how he felt, striking a blow against the King.
He was pleased with himself. He had been planted in a perfect position to receive information about the landing and he had done nothing to draw attention to himself. He carried out his chores like any other industrious Englishman. When the time came, he stole the orders that named the operation and its objective: Overlord, the Port of Calais.
Just then, a man joined him on the bench. Neither said a word for a time, but sat quietly in the evening drizzle.
“We have you, Jarvis,” the second man said.
Jarvis’s face slackened.
“You would tell them about Calais, you fuck?” the second man asked, raising a pistol.
Jarvis shook his head vehemently, put out his hand and pleaded, “No!”
When the second man fired, Jarvis was flung face first into the mud.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

It was a well-practised operation requiring only cooperation and a good memory for what had gone before. Was not the first time the situation had arisen and certainly would not be the last. Of all present, the eldest and most experienced one knew that. The elder of the males was most concerned at the likely outcome if they got it wrong, if they could not negotiate their way out of this, but he well remembered what had happened last time, and was not prepared to accept the consequences if the same conditions applied on this occasion. The youngest, most volatile, was most difficult to convince, still something of an optimist despite the fact that he suspected his inexperience had been taken advantage of. Each of them had something to lose, something to gain; if they could come to an agreement then this time two of them would gain, the loser would win another time. No agreement, they all lost. Eventually, following low-voiced discussion, a threat and then an offer to share the proceeds, they were heard to come to an agreement. The eldest told the second eldest “I owned up last time – it’s your turn now, and your turn to lose your pocket money.’

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Mike Handley

I never pulled the reporter’s notebook from my pocket.

A week earlier, I’d driven down the same dirt track to confirm and photograph the blond skeleton of what was to be a state official’s lakeside home. The lake wasn’t there yet, but that was just a formality.

The property owner — a longtime campaign supporter — had applied for the necessary creek-damming permit. He was also building the house for the man who forwarded an endorsement to the Corps of Engineers.

Strictly speaking, that’s a violation of the state’s ethics law. A public official cannot personally benefit from his or her office.

I met both men at the site of what they called a “guest house,” although the builders told me it was the politician’s vacation home. My hosts knew I’d come around and asked questions. This visit was for them to set the record straight, and I’m sure they appreciated my casualness.

I listened as they exchanged pleasantries like old chums, remarking over good deals on comfortable shoes. I shrugged when they asked, not rhetorically, why the media those days was so liberal. They talked about the pretty view and about how long it would take for the lake to grow a 10-pound bass.

A mile down the road, I pulled into a convenience store, got a cup of coffee and scribbled madly for close to two hours, documenting every word and action — pretty damning, considering they’d tried to maintain that they weren’t close friends at all.

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.



by Gita M. Smith

My Crystelle is not what you’d call a big earner. So the other day, when I goes in the salon for my usual, I slips her a $50.
“Mrs. Entwhistle, what’s this for?” she says, but I notice there’s no hand hesitation on the way to her pocket.
“Honey,” I says, “it’s because I got real pain-in-the-ass hair,” and I also notice she don’t deny it.
So later, when she’s finished my comb-out, real full, extra spray, like I like it, I asks her, I says, “Crystelle honey, you know I ain’t the kind to poke my beak in your business, but I can’t help asking how much you take in a week, on account of this place being so small and all, and there’s never hardly any clientele.”
So she leans in close and whispers, she says, “Mrs. E, this place ain’t supposed to take in a lot of money on account of the boss has other businesses, and he launders the money over here that he makes over there.”
So now I’m confused, but I don’t say nothing, and I walk over to the off-track because it’s Ladies’ Day Thursday. I’m thinking how nice it would be to win big and open up a little bakery (but no wedding cakes, too much agita). So then I’m crossing Delancey and I sees my friend, Rhoda Lazinsky, on the opposite sidewalk by the green grocer, and I calls to her, I yells, “Rhodie, don’t buy the plums! They’re non-union!”

Read more at: See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

According to the Kodak imprint mark, this picture of us was taken in 1962. The color in our cheeks has faded some. There’s mom and dad corralling Wendy, Newsome and me. Wendy is the stiff and stern looking bookend. She is the oldest and has the most to gain. Newsome is the capable mysterious one. Typical for the middle child I suppose. That’s me, Oriole, the youngest, on the end. We’ve never got along. You can see the detachment in our faces. The only thing we have in common: our parents and their money. Even now during these hard and desperate times, it hasn’t been easy… with the funeral and all.

Oh yes. The funeral.

We received the terrible news Monday. Our parents were found brutally butchered. With an axe. Can you imagine? The authorities haven’t been able to piece it together. Sorry, no pun intended. Did they deserve it? Hard to say. They had issues. Secrets. Things that could tear a family apart. They’re in the grave now. Yes it’s a horrible thing but the killers did us a favor. They brought us all together again. We’ll each get a pretty piece of the estate.

Oh yes. The estate.

That’s what it’s all about really…why we’re all here. Millions of dollars left behind. We’ve already met with the lawyers and settled the details. On Saturday, Wendy, Newsome and I will meet…sort of like a family again… and bury the hatchet. We’ve got to get along now.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Travis Smith

“Does she have an alibi?” he asked Detective Harris, the woman in charge of the investigation, nodding towards the Mayor’s widow in the other room.
“Says she was at the club, like she always is in the afternoon. The other women have confirmed that, but none recall exactly when she left.”
Morgan looked around. The Mayor’s body had been removed and the crime scene unit, which had been collecting evidence, were circled around to listen to him.
“Possible motives for her?”
“The usual: mistress, life insurance policy, prenup.”
“Do we know anything about the mistress?”
“Not much, apparently some cheap floozy he kept for fun on the side.”
“Anyone else who might want him dead?”
“He wasn’t the cleanest politician, we know that, and more than a few city workers are unhappy about the pension cuts last year, so the list is long.”
“All right then. Keep at it everyone, and be careful, given the high profile nature of the victim. Harris, you come with me. Yates, you’re in charge here, and be sure to keep someone with the widow.”

As they pulled out of the driveway he started laughing. “So you’re a cheap floozy?”
“Very funny.”
“Did you get into the safe?”
“Five hundred thousand cash plus his off-shore bank information, and yes, I changed the combination, so we can have it all transferred before they figure out what’s gone.”
“Then let’s finish the game. Now that our pensions have been reinstated our beach house in Montserrat is waiting.”

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

Roy tells me when we are alone shopping at Jersey malls for luggage for the books and movies I’m taking back with me, “Adrienne’s ex has no reason to move. He’s got a good deal paying only nine hundred dollars for the use of the whole house.” So back at my apartment when she is talking loudly on the phone with her sister, and trying to calm Felicia, who is ranting again about how her ex-husband Charlie is such a shit because he won’t come up with his quarter of the mortgage, I don’t feel her distress.
Roy says during a lull, “Never, get involved financially with family.”
He doesn’t like Adrienne having three hour liquid lunches with her boss and clients, although she says it’s one of the things an insurance broker has to do.
Each makes twice as much as I have ever earned teaching or working in an office. I only maintain the apartment in my name as a storage place for all my stuff, paying a portion of the rent to keep my books and belongings behind all the things they have moved in.
On my next to last day in New York, with both at work and Babette in doggie daycare, I have the apartment to myself. I watch old videotapes of my vacations with Jason and I’m aware of the urn containing his ashes on the bookcase filled with volumes of his stamp collection, but I can’t feel his presence in the place anymore.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

She was a stickler.
Every morning at 6:21AM, she took the 2nd aisle seat on the right side of the second car, and hunkered down for her 42-minute BART rail commute into San Francisco.
She’d started each ride with a love letter drafted to Larry for later e-mailing. She’d share thoughts and dreams, how things might be when he got out of the service, sometimes share office gossip and even write anecdotally of her commute.
This day, she settled into her seat and opened her laptop. As the train filled and eased away from its 3rd stop, she heard a long belch, off…over left shoulder. ‘Disgusting and rude,’ she thought,’ and added ‘imbecilic’ when riders giggled aloud. Another burp, and more laughter.
Someone’s bad manners shred her concentration like cheap cheese, grating her last nerve. When she heard the loud report of flatulence–unmistakably a fart, and loud– and then another, nearby riders couldn’t contain themselves! She slammed the laptop shut, jumped up and turned, barking “LISTEN, MISTER!” convinced it was a man.
It was her man. There stood her Larry in uniform, home early from Iraq, hitting “Play” on his smart-phone‘s .mp3 sound effects to the comedic roars complicitous riders. She vaulted over the seatback into his arms. He knelt and proposed to her, to cheers and tears of the crowd.

He proposed on car 5319, and they were married May 3, 2019 (5/3/19). They named their first-born, “Bart,” who trained to be a practical joker.

Joe Gensle is on assignment in New Orleans. See Authors page for his bio.



All illustrations for Spot 006 supplied by Sandra Davies.