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The Spot Writers – “The Shoes” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month is to write a story based on these two pictures, two pairs of shoes that I actually found within a couple of hours of each other (although the second pair I discovered in a parking lot). Strangely, on a trip to Europe a week later, I ran across another pair of men’s shoes and about a week after our return home, I found a discarded pair of high-end men’s flip flops on the same street I had found the dress shoes. Odd?

In our stories, our characters must encounter these two “sightings”—integrated into the story as we see fit!

Today’s post comes from me, Cathy MacKenzie. Check out the youth anthology, OUT OF THE CAVE, recently published under my imprint, MacKenzie Publishing. Available on Amazon and Smashwords. Just in time for Halloween!


The Shoes

A pair of men’s dress shoes suddenly appeared out of nowhere in the faint early morning light, almost knocking Carmen to the pavement. Why were shoes laying on the road? She inspected them without bending over, afraid to get too close, noticing the polished sheen and their just-so placement as if someone had stood in them before mysteriously having been spirited away. She glanced to the awakening sky and immediately chuckled at the idiocy of her movement as if a man—or even a woman—could be lifted out of footwear without a struggle. But who would have purposely left them by the road? And why?

She shook her head, the mystery too difficult for her to solve and, perhaps, better left as a curiosity. She scurried past the shoes and continued her jog until she halted like a galloping horse suddenly reaching a cliff’s edge.

Another pair?

More mesmerized than scared, she stared at the grungy brown lace-up shoes until shock turned to fright. She’d seen the occasional pair of sneakers dangling by laces from overhead wires but had never stumbled upon one shoe let alone two pairs within minutes.

The second pair lay haphazardly in the middle of the road as if someone had thrown them, like those sneakers tossed across overhead wires. If she believed the owner of the first pair had met a pleasant fate, the owner of these had suffered, for it was clear, at least in her mind, that a struggle had ensued. The shoes were old and haggard like elderly individuals given up on life, with dirt-encrusted soles, frayed laces, and worn insoles.

Had this pair been purposely discarded? Or had the owner been involved in a motor vehicle incident? She examined the pavement, looking for blood or other signs of an accident but saw nothing unusual.

Despite the sweat she had worked up while running and the warmth of the July morning, she shivered and rubbed her upper arms. Despite her dry throat, she swallowed. She forced herself to avert her eyes from the discovery: only a discarded pair of shoes; nothing untoward.

Shrugging, she turned and headed for home. Should she take a different route so she wouldn’t encounter the first pair again? No, she’d simply cross the road and run on the opposite side. She glanced one last time at the dress shoes before sprinting across the road. She jogged in place. Should she view the dress shoes one last time?

And then she had a thought: the impeccable shoes would be perfect for her husband, whose birthday neared. She could scrounge for a shoe box. He’d never know they weren’t new. Besides, rain was forecasted for later that day. At the very least, even if she changed her mind about gifting them, she should save them from the elements. Who knew, too, whether the owner, if still alive, might post a lost notice on the community bulletin board at Lakeside Grocery.

Her mind made up, she flew down the deserted street. Workers didn’t make their trek through her subdivision until around 6:45 a.m., precisely why she rose before the sun. She enjoyed the peace and quiet before the bustle of the day.

But where were the shoes? Had she missed them? No, there they were! She jogged toward them and stopped.

What! Socks?

She scanned the street. Dead. She hadn’t passed anyone, and no cars had driven by. Where were the shoes? How had socks taken their place?

The socks were a perfect match for the missing shoes: men’s dress socks. And they stood stiffly as if the wearer were invisible; she swore she discerned toes beneath the socks. Or had he just been magically spirited out of them and the socks hadn’t yet collapsed?

And did one big toe just wiggle?

Certain her eyes played tricks on her, she closed them, conjuring various scenarios. Reacting before thinking, she raced back to the older shoes, stopping when she reached them.

Except the shoes weren’t there; in their stead lay a crumpled pair of socks. And the slight breeze wafted their odour to her nostrils.

Where were these shoes? She questioned and answered at the same time: gone the way of the dress shoes.


But how? And why?

Obviously the discoveries had meaning. But what? Shoes hanging on wires meant something, she had heard, but wasn’t certain what. Good luck? Bad luck? She didn’t want to know, believing mysteries were just that: mysteries. And once solved, they weren’t mysteries any longer, and what fun would that be?

She raced toward home, picturing the dress socks at attention on the side of the road. She giggled. How silly they appeared; extremely silly.

But heck. They were new—at least they’d looked new. If Hubby couldn’t have a pair of shoes for his birthday, he could have a pair of socks. She returned to the area, not sure what to expect. Would something else have taken their place?

Still there. She picked up the right sock, which immediately went limp and soft. Warm, too, between her thumb and forefinger, as if the foot had just vacated. The other remained upright without its twin, and at her touch, it too collapsed. She rolled them into a ball, flipping the ribbed edge over the bulk like her mother had taught her.

She snickered. “How foolish.” Unlike the shoes, Hubby would know the socks weren’t new.


The Spot Writers–our members:

RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Tom Robson: https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com/


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The Spot Writers – “No Trolleys, Just Tramcars” by Tom Robson

Welcome to the Spot Writers’ weekly flash fiction post. This month’s prompt is “trolley car,” and today’s post comes from Tom Robson. Check out his book, Written While I Still Remember, available on Amazon  and   Smashwords


No Trolleys, Just Tramcars

I spent my early years in the English industrial city where I was born. Once I was too large for the pram and after I responded to encouragements to walk rather than be pushed up Leeds hills in the pushchair, the tram became one means of getting around the city. The others of my first nine years were walking or riding my trike, firmly connected to my mother’s grip with an old trouser belt of my absent father. The family car was a war and many years away.

The city trams, like the later trolleys, were powered from overhead lines connected high above the main streets. Unlike trolleys, tram car routes were defined by steel tracks set in parallel rows on the main streets they shared with the sparse traffic of the thirties and early forties. The trams might well have been the smoothest vehicles in the city. The tramlines were often set in cobblestone streets

I have four childhood memories of trams. The first and worst was the return trip from the free dental clinic where I had a number of ‘first’ teeth extracted with the help of chloroform. On the return trip the side effect of chloroform and the trauma of tooth pulling, for which I was inadequately forewarned, caused me to project blood-flecked vomit on the tramseat, floor and crowded passengers.

We got off the tram two stops early and my mother carried her evil-smelling seven year old, up the steep Harehills Lane to grandma’s.

Prior to this, accompanied again by my mother, I took tram rides to St Jame’s Infirmary where I was subjected to exercise intended to stretch my neck. I was recovering from surgery to forestall torticollis, which if untreated led to the abominably descriptive condition of ‘Wryneck’. I hated the physiotherapy. Getting on the tram to the hospital turned me in to a whiner, impossible to placate for the trip there and the therapy. At home, my mother had to lift me by the head to repeat the unnatural exercises every day for over a year. And you think ‘tough love’ is a recent phenomenon?

By the time I was eight I was allowed to go with my friends,on Sundays, to Roundhay Park. It was at least a mile walk away, across the Soldier’s Field, to the back entrance at the top of Hill Sixty. At the park we could climb trees (if the wardens weren’t around), roll down the hill and paddle in either of two lakes, one of which fed water to the outdoor swimming baths to which we were occasionally treated. It was a full day of childhood freedom, enjoyment and exploration.

Occasionally, grandma would give me the penny fare to take the tram to the park. My friend Tim, one of seven kids in the family across the back ginnel, also got tram fare from my gran. Grown ups thought we would walk there and, in an exhausted state, take the tram home. Eight and ten year old boys did not get tired, given the opportunity of let’s-pretend games and freedom in a seven hundred acre park for a day. We wanted to get there so we took the quick way – by tram.

One bright and promising Sunday, as soon as I completed my choirboy duties at St. Wilfred’ and Tim had attended mass, we pocketed grandma’s penny and ran down the hill to Roundhay Road to take the tram to the park.

The park tram-stop was about 100 yards past the main gate.This was 1944 and there were very few cars on the roads in that era. It was safe to jump off the rapidely decelerating tramcar opposite the park gates. Tim had been taught the safe way to do this by his older brothers. He faced the way the tram was going and stepped off, running. I followed his advice to look behind and make sure no cars were there. None were there, so I stepped off in the logical-to-me-way, facing back to the gates we were headed for.

The bloody scraped knees and elbows added to the forlorn figure sat crying in the middle of the wide street. Damage was superficial and was quickly evaluated by the park gate warden and tram conductor, who admonished me with “ Tha daft bugger! Divn tha know that tha faces t’way ‘trams going if tha wants to jump off?” Once sat on the kerb, some lady gave me a cone from Granelli’s ice cream truck. I shared it with Tim.

Tim and the warden took me to the first aid station in the park. Ten year old Tim was given the responsibility of getting me home. We walked. Nobody asked if we had tram fare. That final steep climb up Harehills Lane, aggravated every bruise and scrape I’d got in my tumble from the tram. I told mum and gran I’d fallen off a swing in the park. Tim backed up the lie.

My father had lost his job shortly after his successful apprenticeship finished and just as the great depression climaxed. He worked where he could and eventually got a steady job as a Leeds City Tramcar driver, not too long after I was born.

If we were lucky, mum and I might catch his tram on the way into the city centre or to one of innumerable hospital appointments. It was all a matter of chance.

I must have been almost three when I had to have surgery and spend the accustomed week of recovery in hospital. I couldn’t understand what was happening. Why did my mother spend so little time with me? I had no understanding of the severe restrictions on visiting hours . They were both short and infrequent. I was in my cot surrounded by about twenty other beds in a men’s surgical ward. The hurses had to remain formal, though I wondered how they could resist my crying and histrionics as my mother and, sometimes, my father left after afternoon and evening visits.

My mother carried me to the tram stop when I was sent home.We didn’t take the first tram that came. The conductor told us, “Vera! Fred’s on the one reet behind. He’ll want to see t’ bairn.”

As the next tram slid to a stop, the driver, My father pulled repeatedly on the cord that rang the alert bell. Clang! Clang! Clang! His conductor explained to the other passengers, as his driver got off to hug his son and wife. My mother was given the seat closest to the driver while I sat up, proud and once again interested in life after recovery.

Soon after my father changed uniform from Leeds City Transport employee to soldier as the war loomed. I was almost as proud of this new uniform.

But my feelings never exceeded those on that day when my father, the tram driver, took me home from the dreaded hospital.


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

RC Bonitz: http://www.rcbonitz.com

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Tom Robson: https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com


Have you read The Spot Writers’ new book? Check out the just-released Remy’s Choice, a novella based on a story we wrote a while back. It’s available at Amazon  for only $1.99 e-book and $5.99 print.

Remy, just out of a relationship gone wrong, meets handsome Jeremy, the boy next door. Jeremy exudes an air of mystery, and he seems to be everything she’s looking for. While Remy allows herself to indulge in the idea of love at first site, she realizes she’s the girl next door according to her boss, Dr. Samuel Kendrick.


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The Spot Writers – “Bye, Little One” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week’s prompt is “trolley,” and today’s post comes to us from Cathy MacKenzie. Check out the youth horror anthology, OUT OF THE CAVE, recently published under her imprint, MacKenzie Publishing. Available on Amazon and Smashwords


Bye, Little One

Phoebe watched the departing trolley from which a small hand appeared. “Bye, little one,” she mumbled, waving back.

She scanned the area before sauntering back to her car, sinking into the driver’s seat of her 1988 Honda Civic, relieved yet mildly upset she’d gotten away with the deed. Wasn’t anyone watching for unsavory characters or strange incidents? One was supposed to be on guard these days, what with the world going batshit crazy with terrorists and muggers and rapists.

Was she too sure of herself? She was still in the parking lot and not yet out of the thicket—or whatever that phrase was. The trolley would return within minutes, and if she didn’t soon leave, she’d be stuck. Suddenly feeling like a criminal, she turned the key and backed onto Devonport Road. She stepped on the gas a little too hard and screeched around the corner, where she pulled to the curb.

She pictured his face: her little boy, four-year-old Andrew, who wore a perpetual grin revealing gleaming white teeth. Everyone smiled back at him, but no one could shine like he did. Even at her lowest, he caused her to smile. Her stomach somersaulted as if she were on one end of a teeter-totter with a crazy person on the other. And then it was as if she’d swallowed a bucket of feathers that tickled her insides.

Except it wasn’t in fun.

Her body hurt. Her insides ached. There was no way to prevent the pain and no remedy to alleviate it. “Calm down,” she muttered. Everything would turn out okay. Someone would find him and he’d be placed into foster care and a good family would adopt him. She was certain of that, wasn’t she? She had to be. She couldn’t keep going if she thought he’d be abused or neglected. If she did, she’d be forced to return. She had time; the trolley travelled fifteen minutes around the open field. Most parents accompanied their children, at least the younger ones.

But Andrew would be fine.


The trolley rocks side-to-side. Andrew stares out the window, watching trees roll by. Though the sun brightly shines, he shivers sitting alone on the open bench. Most of the other seats are occupied.

“Just a short trip,” his mother said. “Have fun.” He stuck his head out and waved, and she waved back. And then the trolley took off, full of excited kids.

Why didn’t his mother accompany him? Every screaming kid but him is seated with an adult. He blocks his ears. His head throbs.

“Only a few minutes,” she said. “A break for me. A short ride for you. It’ll be fun.”

“But, Mommy, can’t you come?”

“No, dear, just for kids. I’ll wait here.”

And she waited while he craned his head until she grew smaller and smaller and then disappeared as if she had abandoned him. But she wouldn’t do that.

He rubs his eyes, wanting the ride to be over. Someone behind jostles the seatback. He holds his breath, restraining himself from turning. Instead, he eyes the open field and the swings and the life-size wooden choo-choo train that he had played in. His eyes water. Minutes pass slowly. “Only a few minutes,” his mother said. But how much is a few? Even at four going on five, Andrew knows a few can mean whatever one wants it to mean. Three or four? Ten? Maybe ten, but not twenty. Twenty’s too many for a few. Twenty is a lot.

Tiring of green grass and the path ahead, he more carefully examines his surroundings. Mothers clench children’s hands as if scared they’ll jump over the sides or be snatched by the boogeyman. But no, the boogeyman doesn’t appear during the day.

He peers around a mother and a tall child in front of him. The trolley driver converses with three children sitting directly behind the driver, but Andrew is too far away to hear their words. And then, one of the kids bounces up from his seat and the driver takes his hands off the steering wheel to hoist the boy onto his lap. Andrew suppresses a scream. How come the driver didn’t pick him?


Phoebe pulled to the curb though voices rumbled, “Keep going. Leave.” She rubbed her throbbing temples. “You leave,” she moaned. “Go. Leave.”

But the voices persisted.

She stepped out of the car and fell to the ground. The pavement scratched her knees and drew blood. Blood scared Andrew. Whenever he had a bleeding cut, he thought death was imminent. He’d cry and point to the red, tears cascading down his cheeks. She’d comfort him the best she could, but at night, after seeing blood during the day, he’d suffer nightmares. “It’s the boogeyman coming to take me away.” “No, it’s not. There’s no such thing as the boogeyman.” “Yes, there is, Mama. I see him in the middle of the night.” His tears would stop for a few minutes before restarting. By the time  Phoebe had settled him, her chest would be soaked.

She brushed her arm across her cheeks and stood, thankful she was alone. It would be embarrassing to be seen weak. That’s why she had to let him go. The voices were right. He needed stronger parents—a mother and a father—to lead him on the right path. Andrew had never asked about his father—or any father—but he hadn’t started school. When he did, questions would come too fast, and she wouldn’t be strong enough to handle them.

But could she desert him? Leave him to be raised by strangers?

Her eyes flashed. She frowned. What had she been thinking? Forgetting about the car, she raced back to the playground. The trolley should be about done. She wouldn’t be too late, would she? No matter if she were. Andrew was her son, and she had suffered an accident. Her bleeding knees proved it. She had every reason to be late.

She slowed when the trolley whistled. “All aboard,” the fake conductor shouted, and her heart thumped when a new set of kids and mothers boarded. She slipped behind a large oak. Where was Andrew? “Andrew,” she screamed. Andrew. The words echoed. No….

The voices returned. “Go. He’s in better hands.

“No,” she muttered. And then in the distance she saw him, led away by a heavyset woman, his slight frame shrinking with every step.  Phoebe ran, chasing them down the dirt path. She stopped and glanced around; no one had seen her running like a madwoman.

The woman and the boy disappeared into the building, and the door closed behind them.


When one door closes, another opens flashed through her. God was telling her everything was okay. A new door for Andrew and a new door for her; both would be open, both opening to new beginnings, new lives, new opportunities. But as much as she knew that to be true, she needed Andrew. She couldn’t exist alone. She headed toward the office.

“No, go back. Go away. He’s better off without you.” The voices returned at the most inopportune moments, but she always obeyed in the end.

“Bye, Andrew.” She waved, turned in the opposite direction, and ran, needing to get as far away as possible.

She stopped and turned. The door opened. She held her breath. But the figure exiting wasn’t Andrew.

The voices didn’t return again until she entered her studio apartment. “You did the right thing. Now go.”

She jammed clothing into a bag. She didn’t have much. Andrew didn’t have much either, but she didn’t need to take his clothing and toys. She’d obtain new items once she found another child.

She smiled, a great big grin that lit up her face.


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

RC Bonitz: http://www.rcbonitz.com

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Tom Robson: https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com


Have you read The Spot Writers’ first book? Check out the just-released Remy’s Choice, a novella based on a story we wrote a while back. It’s available at Amazon for only $1.99 e-book and $5.99 print.

Remy, just out of a relationship gone wrong, meets handsome Jeremy, the boy next door. Jeremy exudes an air of mystery, and he seems to be everything she’s looking for. While Remy allows herself to indulge in the idea of love at first site, she realizes she’s the girl next door according to her boss, Dr. Samuel Kendrick.




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The Spot Writers – “Riding a Memory” by RC Bonitz

Welcome to the Spot Writers. Today’s contribution comes from RC Bonitz, author of DANGEROUS DECISIONS and his latest novel, ONLY EMMA. The prompt for this month is “Trolley Car.”


by RC Bonitz

Hands still resting on the steering wheel, he sat there staring out the windshield. He heard it before he saw it, the distinctive clack clack of iron wheels on the joints of iron rails, the ding ding of its bell as it approached the terminal. What brought him here again he did not know, but this was becoming a habit. Paul liked old steam trains and trolley cars, but at a time like this? He wondered what Helen would say. He smiled. She’d understand, she always had.

Stepping from the driver’s seat as the trolley car came to a stop, he headed into the museum to buy a ride ticket. The gray haired woman at the ticket window smiled at him as she took his money. She was getting to know him after all of his appearances during the last two weeks.

“You should sign on as a volunteer. You could ride for free,” she said.

“I might just do that,” he said, but of course he didn’t mean it. Obligations and schedules he didn’t need. What he needed was a place of peace when the pain hit him. This was a memory album, happy times with Helen and the children, Sophie giggling, Stevie running around the museum and jabbering at the motormen on the rides.

“Your friend is out there somewhere with her children.”

He blinked in surprise. His friend?

The woman noted his confusion. “That young woman who rides with you sometimes?”

He stared at her blank-faced, unaware of his expression.

She hesitated, then went on. “I’m sorry. I thought you knew each other.”

He shook his head, all the while trying to recall the woman she was referring to. Someone who rode the trolley with him? Was he so into himself he’d never noticed others who frequented the trolley too? Helen would admonish him for that. She would have. She’d always worried about him. He gave the ticket agent a smile and strode outside to the trolley, his steps just a tad uncertain. That young woman?

He saw her then, just boarding the trolley, shepherding two little boys ahead of her. The agent had been right; he’d seen the woman before. The kids too, but he hadn’t paid any attention to them either. The boys were about the ages Sophie and Steve were when it happened. Last month. Tears threatened and he brushed his eyes with his hand. Damn, why did that agent have to bring them to his attention? The trolley cars had been his place of peace, of forgetting for a moment. Now he’d forever see these kids and be reminded.

He slowed his pace and waited until the mother and kids were safely aboard the trolley, then got on himself. They were sitting in the front. He took a seat in the back. Two elderly men were the only other passengers and they chatted happily in the middle of the car. The motorman collected tickets and took his position at the front of the car. He faced them all with a grin, his hand on the controls.

“Everybody ready? Here we go,” he said and the trolley surged forward.

Paul stared out the window, trying to ignore the happy chatter coming from the front of the car. Suddenly he realized one of the little boys had broken away from his mother and was tearing pell-mell towards the open doors at back of the car.

“Brian,” the mother screamed, “Stop! Come back here!”

Paul moved without thought. He reached out and snagged the little guy as he tried to run past him.

“Whoa there, where do you think you’re going?”

The mother ran toward him, the other child in her arms, the two of them staggering from side to side in the rickety trolley.

“Oh, thank you so much,” she said as she reached Paul.

“You need another pair of hands with these little guys,” he said feeling strangely light hearted.

“I don’t have that luxury anymore.”

He studied her then. Dark hair down to her shoulders, she’d been attractive once. No makeup, now she looked gray and drawn, tired and in pain.

His heart lurched at the thought that hit him, an assumption based on the look of her and his own devastating experience. “I’m sorry,” he murmured.

She gave him a look of puzzlement, then studied his face carefully. “Nothing to be sorry about. We’re better off without the jerk.”

“Oh. I thought…”

“We’re probably better off, but I have my moments.” She smiled ruefully.

He nodded, somehow vaguely disappointed. “Would you like me to hang on to this little guy for the rest of the ride?”

She grabbed Brian by the arm and slid into the seat in front of Paul. “No thanks. I’ve got them both now. We’re under control.”



The Spot Writers–our members:

RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Tom Robson: https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com/

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The Spot Writers – “Drinks with Dialogue” by Tom Robson

Welcome to the Spot Writers. Today’s belated contribution comes from Tom Robson, author of  WRITTEN WHILE I STILL REMEMBER  and many short stories. The prompt was “the no-phone restaurant.”


Drinks with Dialogue

She was still talking, unaware that I had stopped fifteen yards behind her on the busy boardwalk. I turned to count the group we’d just passed, resting on the bench or BBQ picnic table or simply leaning against the stout horizontal beam that separated the walkway from the harbor waters some ten feet below.

“What are you looking at now?” was the question that interrupted my counting. My wife had backtracked to join me.

“Nineteen.” I replied and I pointed to the group who were oblivious to the attention I was paying them. I was no more than four paces away and Barb urged me to keep my voice down.

“No need!” I responded.  “Eighteen of their minds are lost to texting, talking or whatever on their devices. I bet the phone of the one there,the one in the front smoking, has died. Look at her! She’s begging her friend to let her use her phone. And that’s the only face to face communication among all nineteen. And Ms Smoker’s friend is ignoring her plea.”

“So why stop to poke your nose into their business? Let’s go. They are beginning to notice your staring. And I’m sure some can hear you.”

“Not a chance! They’re all “Phone deaf!”

“You and your obsession with people addicted to devices. Give it up!You’ll never change the trend.”

“Trend? Trend? You had it right when you used the word ‘addicted’. It’s a way of life. There’s more than three generations that can’t exist without a device immediately available to them. They are lost and incomplete without them.”

My wife had heard it all before. With a “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!’ she turned to continue our Saturday afternoon walk along the waterfront boardwalk. I dutifully rushed to catch up with her.” Let’s stop for a drink.” I urged. That bar they’re outside is new. Let’s have a drink in there. I like the notices by the door. Can you read them?”

“You know I can’t! So, tell me, what do they say?”

Unable to hide the delight in my voice, I read all the messages  displayed. “Abandon your device all ye who enter here. Cell free suds! Mouth to mouth conversation available. Talk to me!  Listen to someone!”

“Do you think I’m going to drink in a place that agrees with your technological extremes? If it’s banning cell phones, tablets, lap tops and any devices, it won’t last the month.” Barb was already inching away.

Before I could persuade her to accompany me in support of a business that was trying to discourage i-phone dependence, the door from the “Talkers Tavern” flew open and an angry young woman, clutching her cellphone, was ejected by a large doorman.

“You can’t fricking do this!” She loudly protested as he blocked her efforts to rejoin her friends inside. “I have my frickin rights! Look at all of them over there!” And she pointed at the nineteen who had earlier captured my attention.” Eighteen of them were still attending to their device communication, oblivious to the disturbance the reject was creating.

“Those people left quietly when they chose to use their phones!” responded the doorman.

Right on cue, two of the city’s finest, the bicycle mounted patrol policing the busy boardwalk, emerged from a gathering crowd. While one tried to calm down the irate woman, the other questioned the doorman.

I strained to hear what both said to the still angry woman, after they had heard both sides of the dispute. The woman was not going to win her argument. But one constable agreed to accompany her back in so she could gather her friends. But he insisted on taking her phone from her until they came back out. She argued, but relented.

The doorman prevented any bystanders from following the pair into the ‘Talkers’ Tavern.’ The remaining cycle cop requested that the gathering gawkers move on. A crowd was gathering and it was changing from curious to questioning  and could become hostile.

My wife knew she had to get me away from taking sides in a no-win situation. She took my hand and said “ You can buy me a glass of red on Murphy’s terrace. On the way back to the car we’ll have to go past the ‘Talkers’ Tavern’ and we can see if it’s still in business! I have a feeling it’s not going to last long.”

Police sirens came closer and we watched as the blue lights turned from Water Street into the car park adjacent to the ‘Talkers’ Tavern’.

I knew my wife was right yet again. Murphy’s it would be!


The Spot Writers are:-

RC Bonitz         rcbonitz.com

Val Muller          http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. Mackenzie     https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter

Tom Robson     https://robsonswriting.wordpress.com/




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The Spot Writers – “No. Phone. Restaurant.” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week’s prompt is “no phone restaurant,” and the post comes to us from Val Muller, author of The Scarred Letter, a tale of bullying, secrets, and sticking to the truth no matter the consequences. You can learn more at www.ValMuller.com.


No. Phone. Restaurant. 😦

By Val Muller


The texts were flying in almost faster than Sammie could process them.

Rachel: They’re gonna send me to FL for the summer.

Amy: Why FL?

Rachel: To live w my Gma

Amy: The churchy one?

Rachel: YES!

Rachel had finally done it. She’d told her parents about Rob, and they were freaking out beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Sammie barely noticed the glowing sign advertising The Seafood Shack as the sedan slowed—but darn it! Why were they so close to the restaurant already? The electronic drama unfolding in her hand was much more engaging. As Sammie’s mom pulled into the parking lot, Sammie jumped in on the conversation:

Sammie: What good will Florida do?

Rachel: Gma will keep me away from Rob 😦

Rachel: And send me 2 church

Amy: They can’t own you.

Rachel: No

Rachel: But they’ll cut me off if I don’t obey

Sammie: Cut you off?

Rachel: Car insurance, tuition for next year, stuff…

Sammie: Sucks.

Rachel: Said guys in their 20s are off limits.

Rachel: Ive never seen em so pissed.

Amy: What does Rob think?

Rachel: That’s the thing. He wants to break up.

Rachel: Or.

Amy: Or what?

Rachel: Or me move in with him.

Amy: What!

Sammie: What!

Amy: Dude!

Amy: What about college, tho?

Sammie: And if you live with him?

Rachel: Mom n dad would literally disown me.

Rachel: Not sure how long I’ll be here.

Amy: What u mean?

Sammie: What? Where?

Rachel: My parents r looking for me.

Amy: R U running away?

Sammie: Where R U?

Rachel: I’m hiding in the woods can u get me?

Sammie looked up. Her mother was eyeing her from the front seat, her eyebrow cross. “We’re here, Sammie, in case you didn’t notice.” She cut the engine, and the doors clicked to unlock.

Sammie forced a smile.

“Be nice, Sammie. Be polite to your grandmother. We talked about this, remember? No phones in the restaurant.”

“For my birthday,” Grandma said. She turned around from the passenger seat, and the excitement in her face melted when she saw Sammie’s phone. “Oh,” she sighed.

“Sammie.” Mom sighed, too. Like mother, like daughter.

“I know we talked about it,” Sammie said, “but I think I may have to pick up Rach. See, she—”

But Grandma chimed in. “In my day, we respected the people we were with. We didn’t have cell phones constantly distracting us. It’s just plain disrespectful. I don’t know what the world is coming to…”

Sammie risked a glance at her phone. She looked back up quickly. “Sorry, Grandma.”

She turned to put her phone away but couldn’t help looking down. The texts were flying in again, already scrolling off of the screen.

Rachel: And when they find me, they will take my phone.

Rachel: I’ll srsly never see u guys again!

Amy: I don’t have a car

Amy: Sammie, can u get her?

Rachel: I’m scared.

Rachel: They’re gonna take my pHone.

Rachel: They said no contacting anyone over the summer while at Gma’s

Rachel: Seclusion.

Amy: OMG, that’s like…

Amy: They’re gonna get ur Gma to brainwash you!

Amy: You’ll become all churchy like her.

Amy: You’ll marry a preacher’s son or something

Sammie looked up. Two generations of angry eyes glared at her from the front of the car. Mom’s lips moved in slow motion. “Turn. The. Phone. Off.”

Sammie glanced down just long enough to type three words.

Sammie: No. Phone. Restaurant.

Then she powered down her phone even as a barrage of texts came flying in. She exited the car and joined her mother and grandmother. Then she trudged on to Grandma’s birthday dinner sequestered from the teenage drama unfolding in the electronic ether of her now-dormant 4G network.

It would be a long evening.

* * *

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

RC Bonitz: http://www.rcbonitz.com

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Tom Robson: https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com


Have you read The Spot Writers’ first book? Check out the just-released Remy’s Choice, a novella based on a story we wrote a while back. It’s available at Amazon  for only $1.99 e-book and $5.99 print.  Remy, just out of a relationship gone wrong, meets handsome Jeremy, the boy next door. Jeremy exudes an air of mystery, and he seems to be everything she’s looking for. While Remy allows herself to indulge in the idea of love at first site, she realizes she’s the girl next door according to her boss, Dr. Samuel Kendrick.

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The Spot Writers – “No Phone Restaurant” by RC Bonitz

Welcome to the Spot Writers. Today’s contribution comes from RC Bonitz, author of DANGEROUS DECISIONS and the recently released ONLY EMMA. The prompt for this month is “No Phone Restaurant.”



Annie stared down at the blank screen on her smart phone. Of all the bloody times for the battery to die. She’d read only part of the text before it faded from view. Something about him enjoying their conversation at Pippa’s party last night and would she like to meet him for lunch. But where- she didn’t catch that.

Scott, his last name was Hansen wasn’t it? The sweetest guy with the biggest smile she’d ever seen. She’d been talking to Pippa when he appeared out of the blue and introduced himself and that was it. They must have talked for two hours. She looked around, searching for a pay phone, then remembered the name of the silly restaurant, the No Phone House. She wasn’t even supposed to be looking at her cell phone. She sighed. What did it matter. She didn’t know Scott’s number anyway.

Annie glanced at her watch. 12:28. She’d already eaten and it was probably too late to meet him. The best thing was to get home and charge her phone and read his message carefully. She downed the last of her coffee, touched a napkin to her lips, and pushed back her chair.

“Hey, where you going?”

Annie turned to see one handsome hunk of man beside her table. Blonde, tanned, muscles everywhere, and that great big smile from the night before. She gasped and cried, “Scott, hi.”, her voice way too shrill and shaky.

“Had your lunch already?”

“Um, yes, but I could manage a cup of soup or a salad.”

He pulled up a chair and sat down. “I texted you but you didn’t answer.”

“My phone died.”

He grinned. “Lucky thing I picked this restaurant then.”

“This was where you wanted to meet?”

“You betcha. I figured I’d stop by, just in case.”


He reached out and gently touched her arm. “I’m damn glad I did.”


The Spot Writers- our members

 RC Bonitz


 Val Muller


 Catherine A. MacKenzie


Tom Robson







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The Spot Writers – “Window Gazing” by Tom Robson

Once again the prompt, “ what do you see from your window” gives this writer the easy option of describing personal experiences. However he also includes a view from his ‘mind’s eye’ inspired by distant memories of Paris and LeMarais.

Tom Robson is the author of a patchwork memoir, “Written While I Still Remember.” He also has had various short stories published and is struggling with a romantic novel because he hates rewriting, even when it is essential.

Window Gazing.

It was already in my mind’s eye. I imagined the view from our third floor apartment overlooking the Rue des Rosiers in the LeMarais district of Paris. If I had to meet the challenge of describing the view from a window I would wait for our week’s celebration, in June, at the apartment in Paris.

My imagination was stimulated by a friend’s description of that street, a canyon betwixt ancient, tall buildings, some dating back almost 500 years, with store fronts, business entrances, cafes and those impressive doors offering access to courtyards where you would discover very little, unless you had the keys or the codes to the apartments behind the doors.

LeMarais was, traditionally, an enclave in which the jewish population, expelled from old Paris, had settled. At the time of that Jewish expulsion, LeMarais was outside the city. Opposite our apartment I was told I would see the ultra orthodox jews heading into and collecting outside two of Paris’ s oldest synagogues.

There are three falafel restaurants within paces of our courtyard entrance. I imagined other coffee shops and patios where the flamboyant gay crowd contrasted with the black-clad Jewish congregation, for LeMarais was an area taken over by these multi-lingual, multi-racial challengers to tradition and sexuality; couples who brought dimensions perhaps not as freely displayed elsewhere in this city. Not surprisingly there are also many boutique fashion houses.

Through the windows of my mind I picture a joyous and ultra-tolerant assembly, in motion from early morning until the small hours of the next. It moves, yet its fixtures remain, ignoring the threats of violence already perpetrated on gays elsewhere in this city of romance and disinhibition. I imagine the spontaneity of the flamboyant and hoped for the tolerance, despite the inabilty to comprehend, of some extremists.

Buried deep within this street scene that is reminiscent of a painting by Michel delaCroix, is the fear. Jews, mixed races and homosexuals inhabit the cobblestones of Rue des Rosiers. Three groups, plus summer tourists, offer targets of maximum international potential. But this fear cannot emerge to shatter the idyllic picture my mind imagines before I even set foot there.

Alas, the picture I envisage remains unconfirmed by the planned visit. The trip to celebrate a significant milestone on life’s journey, as well as a wedding anniversary, was sabotaged by varicose veins and a card game.

Varicose veins can be kept in bounds with knee-length compression socks. To force these constricting tubes over the toes and heels when you are tall and leftover middle-age spread already limits you, requires the flexibility of a contortionist and the ability to stay wound up like a pretzel for the lengthy time period required for adjustment. Neither are features of eighty year old bodies. Something has to give and, in my case, it was the lower back, a mere week before a Paris trip, planned and gifted by my wife.

‘Time and sensible behavior will heal.’ I told myself. Physiotherapeutic intervention was a wifely suggestion that I dared not ignore. Two days before departure it looked as if I would be able to tolerate five hours and then another four, curled up in an Icelandair plane seat and, on arrival, be capable of walking the streets of gay Paris. So confident was I, after a mobile, spasm free Tuesday, I opted to go for my regular three hour, Tuesday evening game of Duplicate Bridge. ‘Surely, the practice at sitting, then regularly rising from those chairs to move to another table, will prove how far I have come on the road to recovery?’ I argued.

As my wife has frequently reminded me since the event, the opposite occurred. Back spasms, the inability to walk upright, difficulty in walking at all and the need for help in sitting or rising, led to cancellation of our vacation.

Barb threatened to go by herself, and might have done so had I not presented such a picture of forlorn helplessness that could not be left to suffer alone, but would pay for his sins for the seven days for which the trip was scheduled. Seven days of tender nursing was tinged with more than a soupcon of guilt tripping.

About this hour, late on a wet Thursday afternoon, we would have been touching down on our return flight from Paris. My recovery is too late but is such that, for the first time in almost two weeks I feel comfortable enough to spend more than ten minutes at the keyboard to describe the view through the window by my desk.

This is our fourth summer wondering if the unkempt bank, with its mixture of planted shrubs and thriving undergrowth should have been thinned and controlled. Four refusals to interfere have left natural ferns and grasses, Coldsfoot blossoms, small poplars and two or three immature maple trees which make it a truly Canadian bank. Two yellow birches struggle to survive, their tops having been trimmed lest they fall. Two globe cedars have erupted. Hostas have thrived and spread on the upslope,after their threats to take over controlled flower beds in the front, led to their capture and disposal behind the four by four beams that limit the bank’s encroachment. In one grassy corner atop the bank, wild strawberries can be picked. At one end of the city-property-wide steep slope is a white flowering mystery shrub, matched at the opposite end by yellow flowered ground cover. Variegated Euonymous have been allowed to spread. Box yew bushes threaten to grow tall. Mother mature has encouraged the cultivated to exist with the native flora. Front and centre, needing to be trimmed back each Fall, lest they overflow onto the narrow strip of lawn that separates the private deck from the twenty foot slope, are a red and a purple Azalea. They shine through the multi-shaded greenery that gardeners’ neglect has created.

This cosmopolitan display earns its freedom from week-whacker, trimmer chain-saw and other controlling human afflictions by offering, from June to October, a beauteous curtain between us and the eight foot wall that separates us from our uphill, neighbor out back.To the right of our natural camouflage is a neighbor’s grass and weed slope, awkward to mow. On the other side is some expensive cement and stone terracing, ugly and underused, with spaces for shrubs and color, never planted. I wonder if my neighbors are jealous of our unkempt, minimal maintenance, summer spectacular bank?

In mid August, we will abandon our natural but aesthetically pleasing back property to the care of a new owner. He is a younger, fit looking man. Unless he is captivated by the beauty and variety of the summer display from the kitchen nook windows, he may be tempted to thin out, weed, denude, replant and modify natures summer mixture of secondary growth interspersed with surviving bounty from past visits to garden nurseries.

I hope our succesor doesn’t spoil the view. But, more than that, I hope I get back to Paris to confirm my imaginary window gazing on rue des Rosiers.

The Spot Writers are:-

R.C. Bonitz. rcbonitz.com

Val Muller htt://www.valmuller.co/blog/

Catherine A. Mackenzie .


Tom Robson https:/robsonswriting.wordpress.com/

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The Spot Writers – “reflection” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt was to look out the window and write about what was out there.

Today’s post comes to us from Cathy MacKenzie. Through her nanoscopic publishing company MacKenzie Publishing (nanoscopic is a thousand times smaller than microscopic, but, hey, everyone knows smaller is better, to steal a phrase from a fellow writer), will be presenting her first anthology, OUT OF THE CAVE, 21 tales for youth 13+, by 21 authors. The book will be available on August 1, 2016, from Amazon, in print and e-book, as well as at other venues.



tap tap tap

face looks back at me

tap tap tap

I turn


she turns


fingers slender

tap tap

fingers stubby

tap tap

face stares

hoary, haggard

face moves

bright, blissful

tap tap

tap tap

she taps

I tap

shadow on the lens

behind the frame

weary and worn

tap tap

you sigh

I sigh

a life done, gone

tap tap tap


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

RC Bonitz: www.rcbonitz.com

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Tom Robson: https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com


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The Spot Writers – “Death in the Family,” by Tom Robson

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The title of this piece is the prompt for this month and comes from Tom Robson, author of Written While I Still Remember, a Patchwork Memoir.


Death in the Family.

There is an irony in this prompt which requires me to publish a story, on line, on the occasion of my eightieth birthday. Achieving this milestone brings the reminder that death looms large. Yet I am the exception that proves the rule that the males on either side of my family tree don’t last too long in this life. Both grandfathers just made it to seventy. My father’s body succumbed, before he reached sixty, to the long term effects of wartime malaria and breathing in noxious substances working at an oil refinery. Uncles passed long before their spouses, while  many of the females lasted well into their eighties and even ninety. Perhaps I have inherited a preponderance of their genes.

More irony. At birth I was not expected to emerge without damage. Birthday minus one, through to delivery I had refused to somersault, seeming determined to be born feet first. In 1936, even at the prestigious St James Infirmary in Leeds, extended breech births to first time mothers were risky. Perhaps the fifteen minutes of fame that fate entitles us to, were the first minutes of my life when the medics saw that I was alive and apparently undamaged. My mother often told me that I cheated death when I was born.

I was never allowed to deal with death and loss as a child, teen and young adult. In consequence, funerals were alien experiences and occasions to be avoided.The first funeral I attended was my fathers, when I was 34, married and with a family of my own. My children did not attend their grandfather’s funeral.

To put this avoidance in perspective, I grew up in wartime Britain. Every day, death was in the news. Two uncles were taken. Conversation around their deaths excluded myself and my young cousins. But all three of us heard our grandfather’s ale-stimulated opinions of the U-boat attacks, the navy that refused to stop for survivors and the blame that could be attached to Churchill almost as much as Hitler. But he did not argue about our evacuation to the countryside after another son was killed in an air raid, before he even enlisted in the army.

After the war, there was a polio outbreak  where we lived. It took the lives of a few children but there was no gathering of schoolmates at the burial service. Fear  of contagion was more powerful than the need to grieve during  that particular summer vacation.

In my early years of teaching my best friend was killed in a car accident. I should have read the eulogy I prepared but I could not bring myself to attend the service and face friends and students at the school where we both taught.

The surprising consequence was that my stumbling excuse that I couldn’t deal with the ending to his life, was understood by many of our friends and colleagues. My generation of Brits kept ‘a stiff upper lip” but often it was because we avoided confronting death. Many understood. We were discouraged from being in the presence of its aftermath. We did not intimately know death. We did not confront it. We did not talk about it.

I was sixteen when my father’s mother was eighty. In her declining years she would spend time living with which ever of her children agreed to take care of her. She would live with one until it was agreed that another wanted her or felt guilty enough to take a turn. My father was her youngest and I was the youngest of her many grandchildren. We had been close in the war years when my mother and I spent time living with and helping her.

That winter of 1952-3 she came to the warmer south of England to live with us. I gave up my bedroom to sleep on a cot in the “front’ room; that vestige of Edwardian lifestyle which was only used when people who had to be impressed came to visit. This teenager quickly spoiled its pristine appearance.

We had our Christmas dinner at my nearby aunt and uncle’s house. In the evening we were joined by various family friends. My aunt and her mother were avid card players. The preferred game was Partner Whist. Aunt Mabel organized sixteen or twenty of her guest into two person, teams to compete for the 1952 Christmas Cup.I partnered my grandmother. This delighted both of us.

I am not sure whether we won because we were the only sober couple, the only pair who treated the game seriously or whether my aunt cooked the results. My grandmother was almost delirious, still talking about how well we had played as we took her home and persuaded her that it was way past her bedtime.

On Boxing Day morning, we let grandma sleep in. My uncle arrived on his bike about 11:00am. He was making his Boxing Day round of visits to friends and relatives, enjoying a drink at each stop. He would be sleeping at one of his visits when he could be persuaded that he was no longer capable of riding his bike to the next ‘pit stop’

As he arrived we could hear my grandmother moving around and I was eventually asked to tap on her door and tell her “Bert is here!”

I did this and when there was no reply I opened the door, assuming my hard-of-hearing grandma missed my too gentle knock.

Grandma was in an untidy heap on the floor, her dead body reflected in the mirror on the wardrobe door.

I cried for help in a voice strangled by sobs. My father came and ushered me out of the room, calling on my mother to look after me and for Bert to help him.

After the doctor visited and signed the document certifying that she had suffered a fatal heart attack, the undertaker had been called and my uncle sent home to comfort his wife, daughter of the deceased, I had to be attended to.

To this day I do not understand why I was removed from the presence of my grandmother and why I was left alone and unwelcome at her funeral. I vaguely recall a statement from one of my parents that “it was better if I stayed away. It was not…” ;and the rest of the reasoning has gone but it was something like”funerals are no  place for children!”

I was sixteen. I was trying to believe that I was no longer a child. I had spent many days and nights, of the six years my father was away at war, at his mother’s home in northern Leeds, where she would be taken, by train, to be buried. I did not realize then that I needed to say goodbye. I only knew I was sad and I wanted to be there.

Instead, one of the many calls that Boxing Day afternoon, on our new-to-us gadget, the telephone, was to my friend Pete’s mother, asking if I could stay with them for a few days. Less than four hours after her death I was delivered to the Appletons, sat down at their late lunch of Christmas left-overs and given my choice of playing pieces for the evening game of Monopoly.

There had been a death in the family. Someone I loved dearly had passed away. Why was I not invited to say goodbye?

My grandmother left a reminder. I love to play cards. The only thing I do left-handed is deal cards. The only thing my father did cack-handed was to deal cards. My right handed grandmother, who taught both of us to play, also dealt left handed. I’ve been reminded of grandma many times in the sixty five years since she left, when asked, “Why are you dealing  left handed?”

* * *

The Spot Writers – our members are:-

RC Bonitz:         rcbonitz.com

Val Muller:                   http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A MacKenzie      https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Tom Robson     https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com/



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