Tag Archives: short fiction

The Spot Writers – “Can COVID-19 Solve the Climate Crisis?” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to find 5 words in a news article that jump out at you. Write a story using those words.

I picked these words, climate change, CO2 emissions, coronavirus, pandemic, and isolation from a news report commenting on the impact of the current pandemic on carbon emissions. I imagined a conversation between several of the graduate students in the climate change novel I’m working on when they were in high school. My novel begins in 2027, and this story takes place in the spring of 2020 at the height of the coronavirus lockdown.

For information on The Road to Environmental Armageddon, my climate change novel in the making for many years, visit my website (https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com) and read the posts in the Road to Environmental Armageddon category.


“Can COVID-19 Solve the Climate Crisis?” by Phil Yeats

The conversation happened via email chat. It was more like an argument than a normal discussion, but this wasn’t a normal time, and we weren’t normal teenagers. We were the four most dedicated members of our school’s environment club and trying to keep things going by meeting online. School was closed and the coronavirus pandemic had everyone in forced isolation.

A newspaper article about decreases in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the pandemic-generating a slowdown in the global economy triggered the discussion.

“That proves the climate change crisis is false, perpetuated by guilt-ridden liberals looking for reasons for self-flagellation and pleasure denial,” John wrote.

I stared at my computer screen, and I’m sure, the others did too. John’s big words and bizarre right-wing intellectual concepts came from reading conservative blogs. Not sites catering to yahoos, but ones favoured by climate change deniers who wanted to give the impression they thought about the problem.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.

“That Draconian solutions aren’t necessary,” John responded. I imagined him assuming one of the threatening poses he often used to reinforce his arguments. “If a natural event like the coronavirus outbreak lowers CO2 emissions by twenty percent and generates pledges for a low carbon path to recovery, it’s not an insurmountable problem.”

“GARBAGE,” I typed. “You suggesting worldwide responses haven’t been Draconian, and anyway, twenty percent is a number some extremist pulled out of the air. It will be like the economic downturn in 2008—emissions will decrease for a few months and bounce up bigger than ever in the next year.”

“Come on Dan, these chats are no fun if you two get into arguments,” Madison said. She was as passionate about the environment as anyone, but hated confrontations. She spent more time defusing arguments, usually ones between John and me, than expressing her ideas. Those attempts at peacemaking often involved touchy-feely stuff to calm John down, but that couldn’t happen when we were stuck in our various houses staring at our computer screens.

Emily, as usual, had the last word. She was our most cerebral member, fascinated by mathematics, and destined to attend some prestigious university on a monster scholarship. “Scientists and engineers have known how to curb carbon dioxide increases for years. It’s not the ability to act, it’s the will. Individuals and their governments, lack the will to act.”


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/


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The Spot Writers – “Hatless” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write about someone who always wears the same hat for some secret and/or mysterious reason.

Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers kidlit mystery series. Find out more at www.corgicapers.com.


“Hatless” by Val Muller

I hate the cold. Absolutely hate it. Nome, Alaska? Not exactly tropical. You’re not allowed to complain about the cold until you’ve wintered in Alaska.

What I wouldn’t give to get out of here.

Sitting here in my car, heat blasting, I wonder: Am I really going to leave? I’ve got a security deposit, but it’s kind of like chewing off your arm in desperation, right? Just leave that and run. Heck, the landlord deserves that bonus. Never going to find a new tenant in the middle of this Ice Age.

But part of me thinks I’m crazy for doing this. A plane ticket and two suitcases. And that’s it. Just fly somewhere tropical and start over.


But crazier than moving to the coldest town I could find as soon as I came of age?

I pull my hat lower and grab the door handle. I could just as easily walk back into my apartment. Status quo is easiest. And the cost of leaving this ice prison is a high one. Even though I hate the cold, there’s something about your own bed, your own clothes. Am I really just going to leave it all?

I pull the hat away just for a moment and cringe as I look in the rearview mirror. This is what everyone will see. This will be their first impression—everyone’s first impression—for all eternity. I’m not sure which is worse, the ones that try to ignore the scar but just end up staring at it, or the ones who ask about it outright. You’re not allowed to complain about fitting in until you’ve lived with this kind of atrocity etched into your face by your own father.

But 30 hit hard. On the way to work, glancing in the mirror, I wondered: am I really going to wear this hat forever? Am I really prepared to hide from this scar for the rest of my life? To the extent that I will remain in self-inflicted exile? For what? To wait for death?


And then I saw it on TV. A commercial for a cruise line. Those palm trees, the warmth of the sun on those bronzed bodies. What I wouldn’t give to live there. I think once I knew what warm sunlight felt on the skin. It’s like a nearly-forgotten dream.

But they don’t wear winter hats in the tropics. Everyone I meet will ask me about the scar. And then I’ll have to get into it: the alcohol, the abuse, the countless foster homes, the point of life being simply to survive. And then I’ll endure the pity, the embarrassment for having asked.

I cut the engine and pull the hat back on. Jingle the keys. Take a step toward my apartment. And then a demonic gust comes out of the north and chills my soul. So I hurry back to the car, turn on the engine, and gun it toward the airport.


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].

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Writer Wednesdays – Drew Lankford

Today, I interview Drew Lankford.

Drew at Pa Bunks 2 (2)

Drew lives in Murfreesboro, TN, with his three beautiful children and sometimes beautiful cat. He has published four books of poetry: For You, Limitless, Lollipops, and Fluffy Socks. He has also published widely in journals such as Skive, 34th Parallel, and Living with Loss.  Unclear of its tone or direction, he is currently hard at work on his fifth collection of poetry.  Most of his encouragement as a writer comes from his friends at the writing workshop that meets weekly at the local library. Besides writing, Drew loves listening to music, going on long walks, and playing with his children in the backyard.

Q.  How long do you write daily?

I write between 2-3 hours daily depending on how well things are going. If the writing gets tense and seems to be going nowhere, I go for a long walk.

Q.  What is your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment is graduating from Austin Peay State University with an MA in English Creative Writing. That was tough study, and I’m proud to have made it through.

Q.  What is your major emphasis now?

Right now, I’m working on writing. Besides caring for my children, it’s all about writing. Nothing will get written on its own.

Q.  What are you currently reading?

I am reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin. Her writing looks so simple it’s amazing. She’s one of the best, ever. Besides Austin, I’ve started re-reading some of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Q.  What is your favorite book?

I’ve got to go with two here: The Call of the Wild and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Q.  Which contemporary authors are you reading now?

Billy Collins is one of the coolest authors we have with us today. His imagination is incredible. Also, I enjoy reading the playful and lighthearted M.C. Beaton mystery books.

Q.  What are your goals?

One goal is to have ten collections of poetry finished by the time I’m fifty. That sounds like a good number to me. Also, I’d like to try writing something off the grid: a collection of essays, humorous tales from the classroom, things like that.

Q.  What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m working hard on the fifth collection of poetry. If it makes sense, the collection is lifting off a bit–its shiny head in the wind–and I want to keep it down, but I know I can’t restrain it. I’ve got to let go and see where it leads. That’s what I’m working on.

Q. What do you hope to get from writing?

I always want to learn more about myself and others. I love to see how far we’ve come and the possibilities of the future.

Q.  If you could tell your younger self something about writing what would it be?

I would tell my younger self that writing is like life. There are unpleasant times and there are pleasurable times, and the trick to the whole thing is to stay at it, no matter what.

Q.  What did you want to be when you were a child?

When I was a child I wanted to be a Major League baseball player. I made it to high school, not bad, considering.

Q.  What do you do for a full time job?

At this time, I’m between jobs and that gives me time to write. Trust me, I’m taking advantage of the time.

Q.  What are your feelings about ethics used in writing about historical figures?

Accurate history must be based in truth or it becomes fiction. If the author is honest and tells us if his or her work is based in fact or fantasy, that would ease much tension.

Q.  Where can we find your work?


or through any normal online locations.


C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].



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The Spot Writers – “Perfect People” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. April’s prompt is based on a Stephen Hawking quote: “The universe does not allow perfection.”

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s one-woman publishing company, MacKenzie Publishing, has published two anthologies: OUT OF THE CAVE and TWO EYES OPEN, two collections of short stories by authors around the world, to read during the day…or at night, as long as two eyes are open. Not “horrific horror”…more like intrigue, mystery, thriller. Simply good reads.

TWO EYES OPEN: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1927529301/

OUT OF THE CAVE (milder stories for 13+): https://www.amazon.com/Out-Cave-stories-Cassandra-Williams/dp/1927529298/


Perry, a writer friend, used to read my work. He lived down the street and popped in whenever he had writer’s block. Seemed he had writer’s block more often than not. Did he have ulterior motives, something more than curiosity at a fellow writer’s writings? He was a dear friend, so close he could have been my husband, but I was happily married to the perfect guy in the perfect marriage, so I didn’t need Perry.

Perfection, right? Or was it a matter of perception?

Perry had fawned praise upon my writing in the past, given me 5-star reviews, sometimes 4 stars. Once in a while, he’d tell me a story was crap, comments I took in stride, for I’m a writer, and writers must have thick skins. And sometimes my stories were crap!

Praise is nice, when it’s warranted. I’ve always asked for honesty.

He was a self-proclaimed editor, too, and edited my work in the past. Edited miserably. I’ve found numerous errors and inconsistencies in stories he previously said were perfect. But I never said anything, not wanting to rile him up, for I was certain he’d be upset I caught things he’d missed. But that was okay. They were my stories, and he edited out of the goodness of his heart. You get what you pay for, right?


So perfect little me never said anything.

“Let me read a book of your short stories,” he said one day.

“Yeah, okay,” I said. “I’m working on a book now, in fact.”

I was happy someone wanted to read works that might be hidden from the public forever. “But be honest,” I said. “I want honesty.”

“You’ll get it.”

I emailed my book of twenty-two stories to him.

A few days later, he sent me his two-page critique. Two stories were trash (crap!), despite the fact both had been previously published in publications, which meant others had enjoyed them. Four stories were 5-star; eight were 4-star, seven were 3-star, and one was a 2-star.

I didn’t totally agree the two stories were trash, but I deleted them from the file. I had another I could add to the book that I would send for his quick review.

He told me what was wrong with the non-5-star stories. All opinion, of course. I was a tad upset with his comments on the 2-star story, which I thought was one of my perfect stories, but after sleeping on it, I realized he was right. The ending didn’t make sense, and neither did happenings beforehand that resulted in the ending. I revised it “to perfection” and thanked him profusely for his perception. Perfect perception, to be honest.

According to him, several of the 4-star stories could be 5-star stories if I did “this” or “that.” I reread each one, his comments forefront in my mind. I concluded I liked most of them as they were. They would turn into different stories had I revamped them. In one story, the main character would be an evil person had I followed his wishes, which was totally not the gist of my story.  I didn’t even understand his comments as they pertained to a couple of other stories. It was as if he hadn’t read them carefully enough.

I incorporated most of his other suggestions, the mistakes and inconsistencies, which would up the level of the 3-star stories (according to him).

I hadn’t realized Perry was God until I emailed him, advising him of my changes and non-changes. I gave explanations. I perfectly profusely thanked him.

They were my stories, after all, and the author is ultimately responsible for her stories. It’s the writer’s prerogative to accept or reject an editor’s changes and suggestions. Not to mention, in this case, that he was a friend; he wasn’t a paid editor. Besides, every reader has different likes and dislikes, different opinions. No story is perfect to each person.

I’m not perfect, but I am a perfectionist. I agonize over each word choice, check each comma, double-check each spelling. Despite that, my stories will never be perfect.

He lambasted me in a reply email because I hadn’t “obeyed” him one hundred percent. I was stunned! Umm, gee, I had incorporated the majority of his changes, even deleting two stories! Who was he? Perfect Perry? Yup, apparently so.  His opinion obviously ruled.

Who was Perry to say this story needed “that” or that story needed “this”?

Yes, all you writers and editors: I realize a writer is so close to her own work that she can’t see the forest for the trees. (And yes, I know clichés are a no-no. I’m trying to make a point, and sometimes a cliché, an already established statement, brings out the point better than a made-up phrase.)

As I said, I was shocked at his reaction. I politely emailed back. I explained my reasoning. Aren’t I entitled to my opinion? Opinions are opinions, are they not? And who’s to say his opinion tops another individual’s? I also didn’t realize I had to accept his every comment/change.

I expected him to apologize for his abruptness. He could be having a bad day. I’ve lashed out in the past, later regretting words said in anger from an unrelated incident. In fact, he recently lambasted me and seconds later apologized.

But there were no apologies. (Perfect people don’t apologize. What need do they have for apologies?)

He replied again. And again. Both times telling me where to go, telling me to f***off (stopping a smidgen short of using that exact phrase), something along the lines of: “You’re so perfect, carry on. You don’t need me! You need someone to spout praise when it isn’t warranted. Try to sell your books to a universe that yearns for perfection. I’m done.”

I was more than shocked; more than pissed. He didn’t deserve the satisfaction of a further reply. He’s perfect, remember? Nothing I can say will satisfy him (not that I need to satisfy him). I even said I was sorry in my first email. I was sorry? For what?

I wanted to ask: Is your opinion perfect? Are you Perry Perfect? Is that your middle name or your last?

I wanted to say: A little politeness would go along with your so-called perfection. And you’re not a full-fledged editor; you’re a writer, as I am.

I hadn’t realized he expected me to take his every word as gospel. I never expected his offer to read my stories would hurt our friendship—end it, actually. I miss his unexpected visits. I miss his conversation. He had an opinion on everything. Had run-ins with others, too, now that I look back, due to his self-claimed perfectionism, but this was my first battle with him. I should feel special it hadn’t happened before.

Anyhow, life proceeds—for perfect people and for us peons, the non-perfect humans. Perfect Perry has moved on, to a more perfect neighbourhood. To more perfect people, I guess. I’ll be around. He knows where to find me, but those pigheaded perfect people live in their own perfect glass bubbles.

Ironically, the last story I emailed him, the one to substitute the two I had trashed, was titled “Perfect People.”

I’m still a lowly writer, trying to find readers. And who knows, Perfect Perry may be right about my stories. The universe will reveal that in good time. But even the universe must allow differing opinions. Even Stephen Hawking would agree, wouldn’t he?

Perry: I hope you’re happy in your perfect world.

Stephen Hawking: The universe may not allow perfection, but certain people living here think they’re entitled to it. It’s an entitled world now, you know.

RIP Stephen Hawking. RIP.


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Millicent Hughes: https://www.danburyonfire.com/



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Twenty-four Minutes?

I’m okay with rejections of my writing. I have a thick skin (most times), and I’ve received numerous rejections.

It’s wonderful to receive a timely rejection because you can move on. You can trash your story, revamp it, or resubmit it to another publication.

I’ve never trashed a story (I’m too vain for that.) After a rejection, I’ve mostly resubmitted it elsewhere. Looking back, I should have revamped instead of resubmitted.

A couple of years ago I wrote a short story. I wasn’t happy with it, so I let it sit. I pulled it out the other day and revamped it. Totally revamped it. It’s now a horror story instead of a mish-mash of useless words (okay, it wasn’t quite THAT bad!).

I had found the perfect market for that story and spent the last three days rewriting it. I was SO happy with it when finished. It was the perfect submission for this particular publication.

I sent it off today at 4:12 p.m.

I expected to hear back within a couple of months—or more—but at 4:36 I received a reply.

My heart thumped with thankfulness. My head exploded with excitement. My wallet (imaginary, of course) bulged with bills. I had a sale! The publication liked my work so much they had to immediately reply for fear I might sell it elsewhere.

My stomach sank. My ego evaporated. My wallet weakened.

No sale!

A rejection!


I was stunned beyond belief. Within twenty-four (24!) minutes I’d received a rejection?

This unknown person from this prestigious publication had crushed my ego within thirty minutes. That’s the fastest rejection I’ve ever received for anything!

Who receives a rejection within thirty minutes?

My first thought, of course, was that my story was so horrendously horrible that this individual had to get rid of it immediately. My second thought, which didn’t come to me right away, was perhaps this publication was on the ball.

People today want instant gratification. No one wants to wait.

Sure, it’s great—wonderfully amazing—to receive a timely rejection so one’s work isn’t tied up unnecessarily. That writing is then set free: free to submit elsewhere.

But still. Twenty-four minutes? That’s gotta be a record in anyone’s resume.

Twenty-four minutes? I’m still stunned.


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The Spot Writers – “Dino Express” by Dorothy Colinco

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week’s post comes to us from Dorothy Colinco.

This month’s prompt: These objects should appear in your story: a train, a pink post-it note, and keys. One of your characters must be an animator. One of your characters (it doesn’t have to be the animator), must share a name with a famous public figure, and this coincidence must come up in the story.

Dino Express by Dorothy Colinco

He stared at the preliminary sketches of the scaly cartoon dinosaur, one that admittedly looked too scary for a children’s show. As he transferred those images onto a digital sketch pad, he mused, not for the first or last time, how his name had once again dictated his path in life. Though the actor Jeff Goldblum starred in many films, the one most people remember is Jurassic Park, as they liked to remind him, Jeff Goldblum, the not-actor.

“This is my friend, Jeff. Jeff Goldblum, actually. Not the actor, obviously. Ha ha.”

“Let me introduce you to Jeff Goldblum. The one who wasn’t in Jurassic Park.”

He had to give them credit for finding different ways to use the same idea multiple times, kind of like the folks at the cough syrup companies, who created lots of different coughs and offered the same syrup, marketed as different blends, to treat them.

He thought about how strange it was that while he was so aware of the other Jeff’s existence, the actor had no idea about this Jeff, let alone how their lives were intertwined.

On this particular occasion, Jeff the animator for the producer Imaginext, gave the creative team, who had yet to live up to their name, a great idea. It was decided that since Jeff Goldblum shared a name with an actor on Jurassic Park, what better for him to illustrate than the very prehistoric subjects of the film? But the show couldn’t just be about now extinct dominators of the Mesozoic Era, it also had to feature locomotives. The creative idiots had looked at one graph indicating that trains were back “in” with the tots these days, so they decided to kill two birds, descendants of prehistoric reptiles, with one animated stone. Thus, Dino Express was born, and it was up to not-actor Jeff to bring it to digital life.

How was he going to pull this off? Dinosaurs didn’t exactly bring to mind inventions of the Industrial Revolution.

He needed a break. Some coffee, maybe a croissant. He usually didn’t let those flaky pastries around his sketches – grease stains were his mortal enemy – but he deserved one with chocolate oozing out as a bonus. He scanned his cluttered desk for his phone and keys. Sketches covered every square inch of the table, dotted here and there by fluorescent green and pink Post-Its where he left himself notes and comments. “Teeth are too pointed” and “no – Mickey Mouse” they said. He found his keys, and he noticed the way the metal glinted right below a stegosaurus’s neck. He slowly lowered himself onto his chair with the weight of a new idea. Once again, his name inserted itself into the narrative.

Later, he pitched the idea with the new sketches fueled by coffee and a splendid chocolate croissant.

“So,” the most creative of the creative team said, “the dinosaurs… BECOME trains?”

“Yes,” said Jeff Goldblum, “precisely.”

“But the two are separated by millions of years!” said another very creative person, as though it was Jeff’s idea to pair terrible lizzards with 19th Century transportation in the first place.

“Life,” he said, with a contemplative pause, “finds a way.”


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco. http://www.dorothycolinco.com

CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/

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The Spot Writers – “Courage” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week’s post comes to us from Val Muller. Check out her brand-new release: The Girl Who Flew Away is a coming of age tale of a freshman prone to keeping secrets. Follow this link to receive a free four-chapter preview + 35% off coupon!

This month’s prompt: These objects should appear in your story: a train, a pink post-it note, and keys. One of your characters must be an animator. One of your characters (it doesn’t have to be the animator), must share a name with a famous public figure, and this coincidence must come up in the story.


Courage (by Val Muller)

As soon as he came through the door, he made for the chair in the corner. “The lighting here is best,” he said. He spoke with as much purpose as he walked. As soon as he opened his satchel, I could smell his charcoals, his erasers. He smelled like an artist.

Of course he did. Meagan only knows artists. It’s like she’s a lightning rod for creative types. How she came to know a world-class animator is a story best left for a soap opera. That’s how her life goes. Ex-husband of a college roommate, but not as simple as that. Meagan was part of the reason he’s an ex. Cheated with him. And with her. That’s Meagan for you.

Not like boring old me. There I was, taking a sick day off work and letting Christopher Lloyd play hooky from school so that he could do gymnastics on the living room floor for a famous animator, who hoped to become lead animator on some new film that apparently featured a kindergartener gymnast. It was the most exciting thing that would ever happen to us.

“Christopher!” I called. Christopher was still upstairs. I turned back to my guest. “Can I get you a drink, Mr.—”

“No,” he said. “And call me Mike.” He looked down at his art supplies, and the sun from the window danced in his perfectly-sculpted hair. Bed head, accented with the perfect amount of stubble. Rustic and artsy. Not like clean-shaven James, who looked as vanilla as a member of the military every day of the week.

I smiled. “Mike. Christopher’s a little shy, but he’ll warm up to you.”

“Christopher Martin Lloyd,” I called up the stairs.

“Coming,” came a muffled reply.

“Christopher Lloyd, huh?” Mike asked, laughing.

I smiled. “We could barely resist. Maybe we’re raising a future mad scientist. Doc Brown was always a favorite character of mine.”

Mike flashed a smile. “Mad scientists are fun to animate.” He flipped open his sketchpad, and charcoal raced across the page. Before long, he’d drawn a mad scientist that looked like Doc Brown.

“That’s amazing,” I said. I tried to remember whether I’d ever been that passionate about, or talented at, my job. Or any job. Ever. I began to understand why Meagan had chosen him for an affair.

“Christopher!” I called a bit too loudly. The poor boy was already descending the steps. “Oh, there you are. Chris, this is Mr. Mike. He’s going to draw some sketches of you while you go through your gymnastics routine.”

Christopher turned to Mike. “Am I gonna be in a movie?”

Mike shrugged. “Hope so. If they choose my drawings, then the things I draw today will be used to create a character—” The man was already at work on a fresh page, sketching Christopher. He perfectly captured my son’s shy, strong demeanor.

I watched the tendons in his arm work like magic, rippling and tensing and helping his fingers dance around the charcoal as he made my son look more like my son than he did in real life. I brushed away goosebumps and tried to breathe. I glanced into the kitchen. “Looks like you left your toy trains out again,” I lied. “I’ll go put them away. In the meantime, do your warmup for Mr. Mike.” I flashed a smile. “Maybe you’ll be in a movie, Chris.”

I didn’t wait for a response. I hurried into the kitchen and then through to the living room, where I dug through Christopher’s toy chest and pretended to put away the trains. On the wall, a picture of me, James, and baby Chris looked down at me. Why did James’ eyes make me feel guilty? He knew about the appointment today. Heck, he was prouder of Christopher’s gymnastics than I was. Why did I feel guilty?

I could hardly deny it. I’d never done anything glorious like have an affair. And never with a renowned artist. But based on his past with Meagan, Mike was fairly open to possibilities, right?

My body moved without my permission. I barely recognized my feet as they padded into the kitchen. I barely knew my fingers as they grabbed a pink sticky note from the kitchen desk and picked up a purple pen.

Megan told me that—

No, that was stupid. I crossed it out. Pulled off the sticky note.

I thought maybe—

What am I, in middle school?

My fingers smiled and danced as they decided to write on a fresh note:

James works late on Thursdays, and Christopher is away at practice.

Blushing, I pulled off the note and stuffed it in my pocket. My hands might be able to write it for me, but I’d never work up the courage to give him the note. I stood in the kitchen for an eternity, watching him complete sketch after sketch of my boy. His eyes lit up as he discovered the best of my son. He filled up two entire sketchbooks with Christopher’s essence. He was like a father discovering his newborn son for the first time.

I stayed frozen in the kitchen, just watching like the passive person I’d become. I stayed as he flipped through the pictures with Chris. I stayed as he got up to leave. Chris led him to the front door, and I watched him clutch the two sketchbooks like precious relics. But my eyes travelled to the chair in the corner. He was about to forget his satchel. I hurried to grab it for him, and once again my fingers worked without my consent. They were too afraid to reach for the sticky note, but they swiped my keys on their way past the counter. And as they retrieved his satchel, they tossed the keys inside it. And then, while Chris was taking one last glance at the drawings, they even threw in the sticky note. One of those items, at least, would force a return trip.

“Oh, my satchel!” Mike said, looking up at me. “I would have missed that!”

He took two steps toward me—he was still a lifetime away—but I panicked. I did the only thing I could think to do. I upended the satchel, and the world exploded in a blur of charcoal and pastels, pencils and kneaded erasers. And of course, a set of keys and a sticky note.

All manner of art supplies cascaded down on the kitchen floor. Christopher giggled.

“I’m so sorry,” I lied as I bent down to snatch the keys and note. In an instant, he was there next to me, picking up his supplies. He smelled like an artist.

I stuffed the sticky note back into my pocket and put my keys on the counter while I watched him put away the rest of his supplies. Before he left, he pulled off one of the sketches: Christopher jumping in the air with his fist out like Superman. I tacked it up on the refrigerator, a testament to the most exciting day of our lives, and to the day my courage failed.


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco. www.dorothycolinco.com

CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/

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The Spot Writers – “Reaching” by Dorothy Colinco

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to use the following five words in a writing: marble, TV, evil, butcher, couch.

This week’s post comes from Dorothy Colinco, a new member of the Spot Writers. Visit her new blog for flash fiction, short stories, and book-related news. Stay tuned for a Holiday Gift Guide that will be shared in early December!


She recognized a backhanded compliment when she heard one. As hard as Ms. Wang tried to couch her criticism in her fake, cloying, positive, growth-mindset crap, Vivienne detected the undercurrent of disapproval in the written comments on her essay.

“Insightful comment – why do you think the author made this stylistic choice? I’d be interested in your interpretation.”

Which basically translated to: “You didn’t explain this enough, and it’s clear you know nothing about analysis; otherwise, you would’ve expressed it here. Nice try, genius.”

Vivienne looked up at Ms. Wang, who was standing in front of the room, leaning on her desk in a pose that was supposed to emit an air of ease and nonchalance but only made her muffin top more pronounced. Her eyes flitted down at Ms. Wang tights. Her outfits, on the surface, were well put together, but Vivienne knew to look for the short white dog hairs. When she saw those tiny flecks of imperfection sticking out of the “hip” teacher’s tights, a slight grin of satisfaction spread over her mouth. She glanced up and found Ms. Wang smiling at her with eager eyes, that stupid look that was supposed to be encouraging and warm. Vivienne returned the look with a smile that flashed her porcelain teeth, but her eyes remained as cold and hard as marble.

Wang. Fang. Bang. Hang. Dang, girl! Sang. Tang. Yin and Yang. Vivienne butchered her name a hundred times before the bell rang. RANG. The whole time, Ms. Wang walked around the room, spouting something about themes in the book they just read, but Vivienne didn’t hear a word, as if Ms. Wang was a muted TV, a mere backdrop to Vivienne’s thoughts.

As everyone stood to pack up and leave, Vivienne glanced at the essay, splotches of green in the margins, green instead of red to promote conversation rather than criticism, another one of Ms. Wang’s positivity gimmicks. Vivienne didn’t think green was any more positive than red. If anything, green symbolized evil.

She was about to cram the stapled pages into her backpack, but at the last moment, she decided to leave it on her desk – a silent protest. A “positive” protest against cold criticism in the form of rhetorical questions disguised as conversation starters.

She rushed past her brownnoser classmates who were all wishing Ms. Wang a great weekend. She hoped Ms. Wang would notice that she left without a word.


After the students had all left, Ms. Wang took a deep sigh of contentment. What a great class. The lesson was a huge success. The pacing was perfect. The kids were so invested in the warmup writing assignment. She reflected on the day as she went around the room aligning chairs with the tiles on the floor. She would stop by the guidance office today to check in on a student who had been absent for two days now.

She came across an essay that was left on a desk. It was Vivienne’s. Ms. Wang smiled at the thought of the bright girl, a promising writer. Hers had been the most insightful essay in not just this class but the whole grade. She recalled Vivienne during class today. Deep in thought, nodding her head along with the discussion of themes in a literary work. That was a student who got it – who understood that literature was about more than just enjoying or not enjoying a book. She saw the lightbulb go off in Vivienne’s head when she told the class today, “Literature holds a mirror up to humanity and reflects back to us who we really are.”

Those were the moments she lived for. Vivienne would want this masterpiece back. Ms. Wang tucked the essay into a folder on her desk, but not before clutching it to chest. It was a physical manifestation of her hard work and dedication. Everyone knew that teachers weren’t paid well, at least not in dollars. But they were paid in moments like this, moments that reminded them of their meaningful work. The dreaded first year hadn’t been bad at all so far. She was doing it. She was reaching these kids.


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco. http://www.dorothycolinco.com

CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.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 – “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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