Posts tagged ‘robert crisman’

July 30, 2012

A Year of MudSpots

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

November 26, 2011

Spot 018: Stolen


by Paul de Denus

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Kristine E. Shmenco

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

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Bill Floyd

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Robert Crisman

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.



by Grey Johnson

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

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

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

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

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



by Travis Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

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

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

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



Illustrations for Spot 018 adapted by Michael D. Brown.


November 19, 2011

Spot 017: Achilles’ Heel


by Elliott Cox

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

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

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

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

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

Crack. Fwump.

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

Crack. Fwump.

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

Crack. Fwump.

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

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

See Authors page for Elliott’s bio.



by Robert Crisman

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

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

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

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

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Kristine E. Shmenco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Bill Floyd

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

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

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

“Action.” “Cut.”

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



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


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.


August 25, 2011

Spot 005: Needful Things


by Sandra Davies

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

At a cost.

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

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Gita M. Smith

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

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

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

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

Adopting stoicism as a way of life changed his life.

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

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

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Grey Johnson

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

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

Did you even know you had a cup?

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.



by Robert Crisman

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.



by Joe Gensle

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

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.



by Amy Hale Auker

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

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.



by Paul de Denus

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

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

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

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

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

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Travis Smith

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

What the hell had happened?

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

Those consequences found me this morning.

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

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

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.



by Nicole E. Hirschi

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Authors page for Nicole’s bio.



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



July 28, 2011

Spot 001: Darkness Before Light


by Bill Lapham

Otwon had heard stories about a light stick you could hold in your hand and shine on the ground to find your way in the dark, but he had never seen one. The stories were told by the old one in the tribe when Otwon was young. He wished he had one now.
Otwon was one of the hunters in his tribe, a tracker, a scout. He ranged far ahead of his hunting pack. He worked alone, traveling light, eating little, drinking only what little water he found in pools on the ground. The skin on his feet was as hard as the dry ground he strode upon.
On nights like this, Otwon worked in complete darkness. Clouds covered the sky and the sun had set behind him miles back. He only sensed the direction of his prey’s movement. Something inside him bordering on hope kept him from becoming the prey himself.
Otwon could defend himself, he had a weapon. It was a long shaft of hard wood shaved to points on both ends. He had killed with it, but had only barely escaped with his life in the fights. He preferred to attack the exhausted animal after surrounding it with his hunting friends who would catch up in due time.
When dawn painted the morning sky rose, Otwon slowed his pace. He didn’t want to approach too close, too soon. He crouched in the long grass, held his spear at the ready, and waited for help.

Bill Lapham is a retired submarine sailor and current MFA student at Goddard College in Vermont. Find his blog and the conclusion to this story, here.



by Grey Johnson

If is dark enough
you can imagine anything, and
I have done it.
The sheets became the twisted fabric of someone’s clothes.
That was where
a face drew close enough for me to feel its breath in a murmur,
or it snapped absent altogether,
if that was what I needed.
The room I was in was no longer a room.
It left me feeling the blackness of the sky
with the stars gone dark in dreams of their own,
my body a minor planet
wandering blissfully random,
outside my own orbit.

I live a life that, from the outside, is small and quite conventional. Writing is a way of looking at something more, and lately, there seems to be a lot of that.



by Sandra Davies

Those etchings, the first time for months that she’d been moved to express something in visual terms.
She had feared that to even try would end in failure, something else to add to the failure of her marriage, had been mired for too many weeks in a black – no not black, nothing so dramatic as black, more a muddy, dreary grey state of mind. But that morning she’d been woken by a dawn-daft blackbird heralding a clean-slate day and her mind, her fingers had tingled with the urgent need to set down, in strong black lines on white, all that had been surging in her head since he’d left.
She recalled the half-dozen square aluminium plates stacked in her studio, rehearsed the process of degreasing, bevelling, backing with parcel tape, and the careful application of resistant etching grounds, hard for a crisp quality of line, soft for tonal variation.
She thought of the bath for the poisonous-looking turquoise saline copper sulphate solution, of the bubbling, red scum thereby produced, set beside a second bath of water to pause the process before checking depth of etch with the hinged, and wonderfully-named linen-tester.
The plates were where she would make her marks, draw out her pain … after etching would come inking, firm intaglio application of glossy Lamp Black ink, then wiping with rag, polishing with shiny Izal tissue and then through the press, the anticipation of that first pulled print on dampened and torn-to-size Somerset Satin paper.

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



by Paul de Denus

The moon was full, glazed, the size of the world. He watched it eye him through the transom in his living room. A lover’s moon or the dead’s marker? he pondered. The latter he was sure. What was the moon after all but a lifeless, airless place. An ancient pebble drifting down the dark void.
The living room lit a deathly blue. Ice cold breaths smoked out his mouth in ghastly white plumes. He stretched his withered legs, curled long fingers around the armrest of his recliner. He squeezed nails into it, the leather splitting under his grip. Blood iced through his veins, surging hotter as he let the dark overtake him. He stared into the moon’s disfigured face. After dark, there is hope for light, he mused. Light entertainment perhaps and chuckled at the thought. Dark and light. Life and death; his awakening to another. I am the dark of the moon, he said out loud and he almost screamed.
There was a segment of cloud crossing the moon now, blue gray in shading, moving and boiling like a spider’s nest. The cloud looked like Jesus, the face hung deathly white, a ragged beard tormented the chin. His eyes narrowed. The winds swirled. The taxi would arrive soon. There were dinner plans tonight. He would insist the cabbie join him. The jesus face changed. The beard dipped like a tornado funnel, a pointed devil’s beard. A grin cut his face.

I write because my golf game sucks. Writing for me is a moment to moment thing, an itch that needs scratching, a hairball regurgitated after which there’s such a relief. I’m a graphic artist in the real world.



by Brian Michael Barbeito

The sun set far too early and you could look out at five fifteen and see that it was getting dark. If you looked out again at five thirty, it may as well have been the witching hour, because night had taken everything for itself. A group called out from the forest, and taunted Francis. Coming up the path, he saw a grinning deviant of a man aiming a rifle at him from a window. The other thing Jacob noticed was a large tree that looked over the end of the ravine. A boy had hanged himself from this tree just before Christmas. People left flowers in the summer months. But now, with the snow covering everything, the tree stood barren and with no hint of sentiment. It was as if the tree was saying that it had taken life and was strong, and would live to kill again. When Francis arrived home, immediately he rushed to the back window and peered out. Then he turned around and tried to breathe. Upstairs he finally fell into slumber, but in the middle night was awoken by a presence. The spectre tried to speak, but there was no volume. Francis then passed out and into sleep once more. Hours later the morning sun had taken away the ghosts of the night. The brightness splashed on the bricks that were brown and black and red. Birdsong sounded and the clouds waited tidily, like curt and sure boats in a calm sky water.

Brian Michael Barbeito writes short fiction. His work has appeared at Glossolalia, Exclusive Conclave of Delights Magazine, Lunatics Folly, and Mudjob. He resides in Ontario, Canada.



by Robert Crisman

A stick of a woman limps into a room for the refugees back from the tier below hell where neon makes black absolute.
She wears a rumpled black skirt, torn black hose, a ragged black topcoat, scuffed, broke-down shoes, also black. They look as if they’ve been fished from a barrel and left out to dry on a sidewalk.
On her head, a black hat, a crown worn for years in a kingdom of cripples.
Is she 30 or 50 years old?
Why isn’t she dead?
Death: an end to all pain.
Her life: a long dose of pain.
All she has left are starved echoes of dreams.
Dreams of her reign as the Queen who ruled where the skin is not prison.
A chimera really, but born of a hunger that points toward the light.
Starved echoes of dreams, under corpses time left in its wake, yet feeding her courage now as she sits in the room. She left death on the doorstep outside and staggered on in as death begged her to stay.
She no longer dreams of uncaring comfort and ease.
There are only the echoes, a Queen’s rasping breath under rubble, still seeking light.

The woman’s name is Roanne. Robert Crisman knew her back when they both chased the bag in downtown Seattle. Crisman got out of the dope life intact, and brought a bit of Roanne along with him.



by Sam Raddon

This resonates with the cords of life in so many ways. To me, the darkness can seem brief once past it, but while living through it, seem infinite. The light on the other hand, seems to pass us by so quickly that its often forgotten, or seems like a short reprise for what we have been suffering. The post spero lucem is usually internal. Our mind crying out for the unfairness of how the world seems to be treating us when in reality we are beating ourselves up for what we think shouldn’t be our problems. Envious of other’s lives, and coveting what we believe others have without realizing that they too may be in the darkest pit of their lives we tell ourselves that eventually, after darkness we may see the light. Some can be vocal about their problems while others internalize it, but the truth is, we judge ourselves based on what we think others have and we don’t.
I’ll be honest and say that I need to take a good long look in the mirror and figure out what I can be doing better with the crap that the “good lord” is dishing out to me, but I won’t deny that I’ll also be blaming life for events I think are unfairly being dished out onto my own plate.
This probably isn’t making a lick of sense, but either way, I think darkness is a nightmare created by our own minds to allow us to believe we see or might see the light – that or we wish to have others see the good in us (even if its minimal) and therefore we give ourselves hope to see the good in others.

Sam Raddon is a High School English teacher who enjoys basking in the warm Florida sun while trying to inspire himself and students alike.



by Michael D. Brown

We went to a club on Long Island, not Sayville; I don’t remember the name of the place, back in the day, when we used to do that kind of thing—follow friends to any bar we had never danced at. We’d drink far too many beers, inhale amyl-nitrate by the pint, it seemed, and shirts would come off. If we lost them, we’d snatch somebody’s wet, crumpled clothing despite being a different color, if we could still see. We’d wear something strange home, have sloppy sex and wake up the next day with a hangover, feeling altogether like different people.
On this night, four or five of us; I don’t remember if Marvin was with us, went outside to share a joint, and walked off the road into the pitch black woods. I couldn’t see my hand when I held it up in front of me. It was that dark. The only thing visible was the tiny orange spot at the end of the joint being passed around.
When we came to a clearing, we stood quietly under a canopy of stars, pinpricks of light in the velvet blackness, yet we still could not see each other’s faces. When the roach was spent, one of you must have swallowed it, and there was nothing but eternity, the soft sound of breathing, and the awareness of us, which had to be taken on faith. I would have stayed there forever had I not been so cold in my sweat-soaked tee-shirt.

MDJB is the caretaker for this site, an annex of MuDJoB, and would love more than anything to be preparing for the next HoW, right here, right now, but will wait (impatiently) to be with his friends in the flesh next summer.



by Elliot Cox

“Whatchoo mean I got no right to complain? – HUNH! – I’m down this mine, same as you, hoss. Hmph. – HUNH!”

“Sheeee-it, Colin – HUNH! – you know just as good as me – HUNH! – that you better off outside this shaft than me, son. – HUNH! – You walk up to the man and he see you as a man. – HUNH! – I walk up to him and he don’t see nothin’ – HUNH! – but some black face – HUNH! – that ain’t good for nothin’ – HUNH! – other’n – HUNH! – movin’ this coal out to make him rich.”

Colin put his pick over his shoulder. “The man don’t see me no different’n he sees you, Phil. When we walk out this shaft, every face is blacker’n the last. Ain’t nothin’ but black down here.”

Phil said, “Foreman comin’!”

“Better keep that hammer swingin’ boy! West Virginia ain’t built on rest!”

Colin looked at Phil and said, “Hmph – HUNH! – You say I ain’t got no right to complain – HUNH!”

“That black on your face’ll wash right off, son – HUNH! – Mine don’t. – HUNH! – My kids cain’t wash their’n off, neither – HUNH! – They go to the comp’ny store, they scrip ain’t no good – HUNH! – You say your scrip ain’t good for more’n twenty cent on the dollar – HUNH! – Mine ain’t good for no cent on the dollar – HUNH! – You ever rock your cryin’ babies to sleep cause water was all what was in they bellies? – HUNH! – Me an you, heh – HUNH! – me an you the same down here, friend – HUNH! – but up top, we ain’t nothin’ alike.”

Elliott Cox is a father, son, aircraft mechanic, college student, writer, and musician. Not always in that order, and never all at the same time. Elliott writes in both of his spare minutes, but never without the help of his friends.Some of Elliott’s work can be found at MuDJoB, 6S, and T10.