giovedì 9 maggio 2024

Art Show at the Swim Meet

 Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month is to write about a mishap involving paint. 

Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the kidlit mystery series Corgi Capers. 


Art Show at the Swim Meet

by Val Muller


Why would they leave out the senior art show during the state championship swim meet for ten-and-unders? Why? 

Why, why, why?

Alice bit her lip. No one had seen. Her body acted without her brain’s permission, and before long she had shifted the large wall panels so that the ruined artwork faced the back wall. No one would know. 

Not yet, anyway. 

What the heck was she thinking, bringing the three-year-old to a swim meet? Not only that, but letting her sit alone while Alice went up to the balcony to watch Conner race!

The artists would be mad, for sure. They would be livid. Their work had been defiled. Desecrated. Their hard work disregarded and ruined by a careless toddler. 

No one would understand, though, if they’d not been to a swim meet. The private swim clubs held meets at local high schools and colleges with pools to rent out. The events were like refugee camps, with swimmers’ families spreading out blankets, towels, and portable chairs in the cafeteria or hallway. They would camp out, and the rounders would come gather the swimmers. Then, parents would make their way into the humid pool area, elbow their way into the overcrowded bleachers to watch the brief race, then fight their way off the bleacher to return to their campsite and wait for the next race, only to do it all over again. 

And while a meet would last for hours, free time happened only in small chunks. By the time the swimmers made their way back from the pool, there was only a matter of twenty minutes or so before they had to line up to get on to their next race. 

Conner was old enough to deal with this. Alice helped him pack easy-to-eat snacks and small bits of entertainment like books or sketch pads that could fill in the random minutes. And besides, for the swimmer, just sitting and relaxing was a nice break between races. 

But for Conner’s three-year-old sister, it was a very different story. 

For a three-year-old, a half day’s swim meet was an eternity. Alice realized long ago that dragging Sally up to the bleachers was not a good idea. The crowded quarters and humid air made her cranky, and Alice spent most of the time calming the child instead of watching the swimmers. So, this time she let Sally pack a bag of art supplies to keep her busy. The first two races had gone swimmingly, and Alice created several masterpieces in her sketchpad, washable markers and colored pencils covering the pages in rainbow colors. 

But after the second race, Sally was hungry, and she didn’t want to wait. Conner had a 90-minute break between his third race and his last one, and Alice promised to get something to eat from the food truck outside—but Sally had to wait until after the third race. 

Sally did not want to do that. 

But Alice promised her ice cream and hurried to Conner’s third race. 

Fast forward to her return, discovering that Sally had wandered from the blanket and picnic chair setup and found the high school’s senior art show panels pushed into the back corner, a useless “caution” tape pulled across them. 

As if caution tape could keep out a toddler. 

Unbeknownst to Alice, Sally had packed her paints in the art bag she’d brought, and while Alice was watching Conner’s third race, Sally had gone ahead and added some finishing touches to an entire wall of senior art. 

There was “Scarecrow at Dusk,” a beautiful gouche, which Sally decided needed some giant red sunflowers and a smile drawn across the rising moon. 

The watercolor “Portrait of Strength” depicted a naked woman, which Alice clearly thought needed to be covered in a cursory blue and yellow bikini in thick, dripping paint. 

And “Spaghetti Lunch” was painted over in a rainbow, turning the lunch into something nightmarish and gaudy. 

There were others. Seven of them. Ten pieces, Sally had ruined. Sure, the paint was washable, but you couldn’t wash paint off paper, not without ruining the artwork underneath. 

Mindlessly, Alice bought an ice cream from the truck outside to keep the toddler distracted. Then she sat down at her own little campsite in the cafeteria and pondered the possibilities. She could just go home. No one would be the wiser. Well, that’s not true. In the morning, the discovery would be made, and angry high school students and teachers would call the swim team, demanding answers. There would be a witch hunt, and someone would remember seeing a three-year-old painting. 

Anyone who saw Sally remembered her. She was like an angry rainbow. The crime would be traced back to Alice within days, if not hours. That would never do. 

She could come clean now. Tell the director what happened. That would cause a panic, but at least they would be on the front end of it. 

She snuck to the back corner and ducked under the caution tape, taking one more look. The rainbow mess had gotten on the name cards, too. This particular painting, “Magic Flakes” by Jonny Rhoades, had been a study in shades of white, but the snowy scene was turned an angry palate of red and orange and yellow. Underneath the title was the word “oil” and then “$45.” 

Forty-five dollars? 

Wait, were these paintings for sale? Alice could buy them! 

All of them? 

All of them!

That’s right, she could take them with her, pin a note to the board, leave her contact information for payment…

She did the math. All the ruined paintings, all ten of them, sold for a grand total of $575. Worth it? 

A small price to pay to avoid the embarrassment to the team and her own personal embarrassment, of course. She took a piece of Sally’s sketch paper and penned a note. “I was so inspired,” she wrote, “I just had to purchase all of these. Please contact me for payment.” Then she left her contact info. 

She unpinned all ten pieces, stored them flat in Sally’s art bag, which she packed up to prevent any further impromptu artwork. She wondered if the students would be excited in the morning to learn their work had sold. Maybe this was their first sale. Maybe this would inspire them to keep going. 

A steep price to pay for encouragement, but all in all, the mistake could have been much costlier than that. 

The rounder called Conner to his last race, and Alice grabbed Sally’s hand, a sticky mess from the ice cream, and dragged her up to the bleachers overlooking the pool. Watching the race would be a battle with Sally fighting every step of the way, but it was one Alice would win. $575 was enough mistakes for one day. 


The Spot Writers—Our Members: 

Val Muller:

Catherine A. MacKenzie:

Phil Yeats:

Chiara De Giorgi:


mercoledì 1 maggio 2024

An unlikely love story

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The prompt for this cycle is “someone falls in love at a museum.”

This week’s contribution comes from Chiara De Giorgi. Chiara is an Italian author and currently lives in Berlin, Germany. She writes fiction, with a focus on children’s literature and science fiction


An unlikely love story

by Chiara De Giorgi

Created with Canva 

Night had fallen on the soon-to-be-opened Grand Museum of Antiquities, and silence finally reigned in its halls. Porters had been coming and going all day, bringing in valuable relics.

Each artifact bore a label indicating which room it should be placed in; there were Egyptian Rooms, Chinese Rooms, Roman Rooms and so on.. Some had no label at all and had been put in the storeroom, where only the lights from the emergency exit and the moonbeams filtering through the roof window split the darkness…

“Of course they would shove me into a storeroom again. Never once have I found someone smart enough to recognize me and give me the honors I deserve. Always tossed to and fro, without grace or care. And now here I am, forgotten and neglected, locked in a dark storage room next to a stinking mummy…”

“Ahem, excuse me… Are you talking about me?”

“Oh, great… The mummy talks! Aren’t you supposed to be dead?”

“And aren’t you supposed to be, like, a piece of stone?”

“Stone! Stone, it says! This is marble, if you must know.”

“I could have done without knowing it, to be honest. But okay. Marble! Yay!”

“Are you making fun of me, you cadaver wrapped in bandages under questionable hygienic conditions?”

“Look, if we are to entertain conversation, I’d rather you referred to me with my name. I am Akhethetep. I used to be a priest and I served the goddess Qebhet.”

“Really? That’s interesting… I am Ersa, a goddess too. Will you serve me?”

“Well… I don’t think that’s allowed. My goddess may get jealous if I do. Anyway, what kind of goddess are you?”

“I am the Greek goddess of dew.”

“…of what?”

“Do you have bandages in your ears, Aktepepet? I’m the goddess of dew! Dew! Tiny drops of water that can be seen on flowers and blades of grass in the early morning, when the first, pale rays of the sun come out to illuminate the world emerging from the darkness of the ni—”

“Yes, yes, I get it. And my name is Akhethetep, not Aktepepet.”

“Are you sure?”

“Quite, yes.”

“Oh, okay then. If you say so… By the way, what kind of goddess is your goddess?”

“Qebhet… She’s one of the afterlife divinities. The souls of the departed meet her while they’re awaiting judgment, and she offers them cool water.”

“A-ha. So she offered water to you, too? 'Cause you are, you know… departed.”

“That, I am. And yes, I met her. and she offered me water.”

“Did you drink it?”

“As a matter of fact, I did.”

“Why didn’t you wash your bandages instead? Just asking.”

“I guess it didn’t occur to me.”

“I can tell… They look like a health hazard. Also, unwashed bandages tend to release a certain… aroma after seven thousand years, you know.”

“I suppose you are correct.”

“What is it that you have there?”

“You mean this thing? It’s a preserved white lotus, one of my favorite fruits.”

“And where did you get it?”

“Ah, it was buried with me after I died. But I am going to offer it to you if you wish to taste it.”

“As a matter of fact, I think I wish to. At least it’s an original distraction. There’s never anything interesting to do in a storeroom.”

“We can trade stories.”

“Trade stories with a mummy?”

“Yes… Why? Do you have previous engagements?”

“I… No, and I can’t reach your lotus. Why did you have to put it so far?”

“I have limited ambulatory capacity. My apologies, my Lady. The bandages that are wrapped around me hinder my movements. Don’t you have any objects you could use to extend your reach?”

“I have no objects, I was sculpted in all my naked glory and I don’t need anything, thank you very much! I am the goddess of dew, have you already forgotten?”

“I haven’t, but I fail to understand what that has to do with anything… I’m sorry to hear you’re stark naked, you must be cold. Would you like some of my bandages?”

“For goodness' sake! I certainly don’t want to catch a disease!”

“I don’t think you would… I’ve been wrapped in these bandages for thousands of years and I never got sick. Not even once!”

“Listen, I think I wish to sleep now. Can you shut up?”

“Of course, goddess Ersa. Good night.”

“Good night.”

The sun rose and sent its rays through the roof window.

“Hekketep! Wake up”

“Yes, my Lady? And, once again, it’s Akhethetep.”

“That’s what I said. Aktepepep.”

“Akhethetep. Anyway. What can I do for you?”

“I’m bored.”

“Why don’t you go back to sleep? It’s still early.”

“Did you forget I’m the goddess of dew? I’m always up at first lights!”

“Oh, okay then. Let me tell you stories from when I was a young priest and a scribe and I lived in Egypt in its glorious times…”

One story after the other, Ersa was captivated by the exotic tales Akhethetep told her. She felt like she could see the golden sand of the desert, the lush green vegetation on the banks of the Nile, the impetuous waters of the river, the crocodiles, the camels, the exquisitely embroidered carpets…

Finally, it was dusk. Akhethetep sighed.

“That was my last story for today, my Lady. I hope you had a good time. And I hope I could ease your boredom.”

Ersa did not reply immediately.

“Are you sleeping?” the priest asked.

“No, I’m awake. Your stories were beautiful. Thank you.”

“It was a pleasure to entertain you.”

“Will you do that tomorrow, too?”

“If you wish, I will.”

“I wish! And… may I ask you something else, Akhethetep?”

The mummy laughed happily.

“My lady, you said my name right! You can ask me whatever you want.”

“Why are you so kind to me? I have been nothing but arrogant and rude since we first met.”

“Well, I suppose I am a kind person. My kindness does not depend on what others do or do not do.”


“Yes, my Lady?”

“I may be falling in love with you. Is that a problem?”

“Love is always a good thing, my Lady. Never a problem.”

“But will you also fall in love with me?”

“That would be nice, wouldn’t it? I suppose only time will tell. But I’m not going anywhere soon, and neither are you.”


“Yes, my Lady?”

“Can you smile under those bandages?”

“Hard to tell… but I can smile within myself. Can you do that?

“I am doing that right now, Akhethetep.”



The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller:

Catherine A. MacKenzie:

Phil Yeats:

Chiara De Giorgi:



giovedì 25 aprile 2024

A Surprising Encounter

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The prompt for this cycle is “someone falls in love at a museum.” Phil Yeats wrote this week’s story.

In September, 2021, he published The Souring Seas, the first volume in a precautionary tale about the hazards of ignoring human-induced climate change. The second volume, Building Houses of Cards, appeared in May 2022. He’s now published They All Come Tumbling Down, the third volume in his The Road to Environmental Armageddon trilogy. For information about these books, or his older soft-boiled mysteries, visit his website:


A Surprising Encounter

by Phil Yeats


The young man sat on a bench in the comics and graphic novels gallery of the Museum of Eclectic Contemporary Art. He was hunched over a large sketch pad on his knees and drawing furiously. Every minute or two, he’d look up at the page from a famous artist’s adult comic book that was projected on the gallery wall before returning to his sketching.

A young woman stood watching him from the only entry to the gallery. She approached him from behind and peered at his sketch. “Not here learning by copying a master’s work?” She said.

He responded by drawing a speech balloon above the second of three drawings across the top of the page. They were self-portraits of the artist at work in the museum gallery. The first drawing had him busily sketching with a female figure, obviously herself, standing in the doorway. The second had her standing right behind him. 

She watched as he filled in the speech balloon. ‘Interested in his intense, colourful style, not the content of his story.’

The third drawing was unfinished, but he sketched in the second figure, now sitting on the bench beside him, as she did just that. 

He moved down to the blank central part of the page he was working on and added two much larger head and shoulders portraits of the two of them staring at each other. He completed the portraits of the surprisingly recognizable pair of lovers in less than five minutes.

She stood and pointed toward the door. “I must see some of the other exhibits, but if you want, we could meet in the café by the lobby when the museum closes in about an hour.”

He held out a business card. It said in an elaborate script ‘Museum of Eclectic Contemporary Art’ and on the next line ‘Alberto Da Costa, Impresario’.

“My father,” he uttered after much stuttering and stammering. He turned over the card and pointed at himself before giving it to her. On it, he’d written a single word. ‘Julio’

“I’m Marie,” she replied. “See you in an hour.”

He’d returned to his sketching before she’d taken two steps.

Two hours later, Julio looked up and noticed the fading light entering the gallery from skylights in the ceiling. He’d added three more self-portraits with speech bubbles across the bottom of his first sheet, and on a second, a full-page portrait of Marie. He’d only studied her face for a few minutes, but he knew the detailed drawing had captured her essence perfectly. Julio sighed, thinking he’d never see her again, but it was for the best. Making conversation in the café would have been too painful.

He packed up his drawing equipment and closed his sketch pad and headed for the exit. In the lobby, he waved good night to Garcia, the night watchman, and approached the lefthand door, the only functional one at this hour.

Then he saw her, sitting in the almost empty café, with a pot of tea and a scone she hadn’t touched. He sat at her table and opened his sketchbook to the page he was working on when they met in the gallery. He pointed at the three drawings with speech bubbles at the bottom. The right-hand one said ‘I’m essentially non-verbal, avoiding conversation whenever I can’. The middle one said, ‘articulating words and sentences is too difficult, too frustrating, and everyone makes fun of my efforts’. The third one said, ‘so, you see, having tea can’t work out, but I appreciate you trying. Here’s a little something I made for you’.

When she looked up from the page, he handed her the portrait he’d drawn in the last hour. She smiled. “This is beautiful, and so accurate. You must let me buy you coffee or tea, whichever you prefer. You needn’t say anything, just sit there and draw, or listen to me natter. What will it be, coffee or tea?” He pointed at her teapot, and she jumped to her feet. “I’ll be back in a jiff.”

He wondered while he waited for her to return where this could be heading. She wasn’t a ravishing beauty, but pleasant looking, and obviously not an antisocial loner like him. So what was he doing making her a drawing that he really slaved over, trying to make it perfect? Any thoughts of an enduring friendship were bound to end in failure.

She returned with his tea and another scone and began nattering away about herself and never asking questions that would need a complicated answer. He managed without too much stuttering to make a few two- or three-word comments at pauses in her narrative.

They left the café and walked along a busy shopping street. When they approached a small Italian restaurant he was familiar with, he turned to her. “W-would y-you like to s-s-top here for d-dinner?”


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller:

Catherine A. MacKenzie:

Phil Yeats:

Chiara De Giorgi:


giovedì 18 aprile 2024

Night at the Art Gallery

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The prompt for this cycle is “someone falls in love at a museum”. (Does an art gallery qualify?)

Cathy’s writings are found in numerous print and online publications. She writes all genres but invariably veers toward the dark—so much so her late mother once asked, “Can’t you write anything happy?” (She can!) Check out for further information on her works.


Melvin is still alive and well—as you can fathom from this next episode...



Night at the Art Gallery

by Cathy McKenzie


“Melvin, we should go down to the Art Gallery tomorrow. I think it’s still free on the weekends.”

“Art? What do I know about art?”

Marie laughed. “Not much, Melvin. But perhaps that’s why we should go.”

“I’m busy this weekend, Marie. I told you that. Andrew wants me to help him with his basement tomorrow. And don’t we have to take Jimmy down to the Valley on Sunday?”

“Darn, I forgot about that.”

He hated the look on her face. Felt sorry for her as if he’d let her down. She’d been nattering about that dratted Art Gallery for weeks.

A lightbulb went off. “Marie, turn to Channel 10. There’s supposed to be some sort of art documentary on at nine o’clock.” He glanced at his watch. “It’s only eight fifty-two.” The last thing he wanted to do was watch an art documentary, but it was preferable to traipsing through a gallery in person.

He loved seeing her perk up. Felt vindicated.

“Yeah, okay. Might be good.” She switched the channel.

They waited...

And then it started.

He couldn’t fathom half of what the narrator was saying. All gobbly-gook to him. What the heck did any normal person know of the Renaissance period or the—

Marie jumped.

“Look at that, Mel. That van Gogh. The colours are amazing.”

He peered at the screen. A blur of yellows and blues. He prayed his eyesight wasn’t going.

He glanced at his wife.

“I see, Marie. Interesting.”

He stared intently at the TV. As intently as she stared at the TV. Heck, they were in their living room—alone. Jimmy was upstairs (or was he at a friend’s?—he could never keep track of his son; thank goodness for Marie). Whatever, they were alone in the room. She should be fixated on him—Melvin. But, nope—it was all about this Van guy. Van Morrison? Hmm...


A flash on the screen: a woman.

His breath was sucked out of him. He froze...

“Who’s that, Marie?”

“Who’s who?”

“That woman. She’s gone now, though.”

“That woman who was in the painting a bit ago?”


“That’s Mona Lisa,” Marie said. “Perhaps the best-known painting of all time.”

“And what era would that one be in?”

“Mel, shh. If you’d listen to the narrator, you would know these answers.”

“Mona? That her name? Can you scroll back? You have us on TiVo, right?

“Oh, Mel, what in the world...”

He held his breath.

Yes! TiVo. She fiddled with the remote. And—voila! There she was!

“Stop!” He gasped. “Her name is Mona?”

“Yes, that’s Mona Lisa.”

“Lisa? Weird last name.”

“I think it’s probably her middle name.” She paused. “I wonder if she does have a last name. She’s only ever been known by Mona Lisa.”

He couldn’t answer. He was enthralled. It wasn’t her beauty, for was she that beautiful? No, it was the package: long dark hair, the smug smile as if she concealed some deep dark revelation—even her eyes seemed to say “I know what you did.” What did she know? Was she married with a lover, pulling a fast one over her husband?

“Melvin, what’s wrong?”


“What’s wrong? You okay?”

“I’m fine, Marie.”

He was fine. But, even though not in a gallery, not looking at the “real thing”—though he definitely felt as if he were—he was in love.

“Can you buy reprints of these famous paintings, Marie? Reprints aren’t expensive, are they?”

“You mean prints?”

“Prints. Reprints. What’s the diff?”

Marie sighed. “Not much.”

“I think we should have one. What do you think?”

“Of Mona Lisa?”

“Mona, yes. Mona Lisa.”

“Melvin, we don’t need that in our house. No!”

Goodbye, Kailani, goodbye. “I think I’m in love,” he mumbled.

“What did you say, Mel?”

“Nothing, Marie. Nothing at all. Still think we should get a reprint, though...”



The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller:

Catherine A. MacKenzie:

Phil Yeats:

Chiara De Giorgi:



giovedì 11 aprile 2024

Puppy Love at the Folk Art Museum

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write about falling in love in a museum. Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the kidlit mystery series Corgi Capers. 

Puppy Love at the Folk Art Museum
Val Muller

It had been a year since his father died, yet Melvin still felt lost. From the outside, things were the same, but to him, life felt like a shell only. If something funny happened at work, he still thought about calling his dad on the way home. Dad was always one for—well, Dad jokes, stupid puns, and goofy misunderstandings. But as quickly as the instinct hit, so did the remembrance. 
There was no one to call on the way home. It was almost like Dad’s absence made all the humorous anecdotes lose all meaning. He found himself on this cloudy Saturday heading to the Apple Valley Folk Art Museum, a favorite of Dad’s. He had gone many times with his father, and lately he hadn’t been able to get the museum out of his mind. 
The museum was folk art, naïve art, just the kind James had loved and painted. Rose could barely believe he was gone—from breathing to buried in a matter of weeks. The whirlwind of death and paperwork and funeral and well wishes had settled, and now things were too quiet. 
Well, except for Beamer. 
Beamer was not quiet. James’s service dog, Beamer made his presence known through soft but insistent communication. James had a zillion tasks for the service animal. Rose had none, and the dog was languishing under her care. 
She was just as much a dog person as the artistic James had been an accountant. It’s true that opposites attract, but it’s not true that your opposite wants to take care of your emotional support dog after you die. If only she could find someone to take the dog. 
Melvin found the painting, the one his father loved. It was a folk art piece depicting an unidentifiable planet—it wasn’t Earth, since Earth was visible far away in the space backdrop—and dandelion seeds were floating in the air. 
Dad loved the painting because of the irony. The nuisance plant on Earth was thriving on the planet, and the painting implied that the seeds were helping to terraform it. Folk art and sci-fi, a mix Dad chuckled at. 
There was something hopeful about the idea of continuing on. Life after Earth. That sort of thing. Mel stared at the painting and sighed. Despite the familiar and hopeful message, Mel felt no closer to closure than he had for the past year. 
Behind him, something whimpered softly. It was an older woman and a dog—the dog wore a bright vest labeled “service animal.” 
“Oh, pardon us,” she said. 
Mel looked from the woman to the painting, then back to the dog. “Oh, I’m soryr,” he said. “Were you waiting for a turn at this painting?” 
The woman dismissed the idea with the wave of her hand. “Yes, but you looked so lost in thought, we wanted you to take your time.” 
The woman laughed sadly. “Me and—well, I guess me and the dog. I’m Rose. This is Beamer.” 
“Beamer,” Mel said. “Like the car.”
Rose laughed. “That’s exactly the joke. James used to tell people he always travels with his Beamer.” 
“A dad joke.” Mel smile-frowned. “My dad would’ve loved it.” 
Rose’s eyes understood immediately. “I’m sorry—when?” 
“He loved this painting.” 
Beamer whimpered and pulled toward Mel. 
“Sorry.” Rose pulled back, but Mel reached out and pet the pup. “I know it says he’s a service dog, but James stretched that certification as far as it would go. He wanted to bring this dog everywhere. Now—”
But she stopped short. Here, in front of her husband’s painting, this young man was gazing into Beamer’s eyes as lovingly as only one man had done before. 
“Hey,” Rose said. “There’s this nice little coffee shop down the street. Why don’t we—”
And they did.   

The Spot Writers—Our Members: 
Val Muller:
Catherine A. MacKenzie:
Phil Yeats:
Chiara De Giorgi:

giovedì 4 aprile 2024

Spring Ritual

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story that features a springtime ritual.

This week’s contribution comes from Chiara De Giorgi. Chiara is an Italian author and currently lives in Berlin, Germany. She writes fiction, with a focus on children’s literature and science fiction.


Spring Ritual

by Chiara De Giorgi

(An Elsa Mon story)

Image by JL G from Pixabay


Elsa Mon, the beloved paranormal romance author, was not having a good day.

She had been going out with Dr. Victor Thorn, her dentist, for a few weeks, and although she had not exactly been swept off her feet–as it usually happened to her heroines when they met the love of their life–she was having a good time. They both were, as far as she could tell. Until, one night last week, she talked about the romance she was working on. She told Victor that the love interest of her protagonist, Inés, was a dentist, and since Victor was a dentist himself–Elsa’s dentist, to be precise–he smiled sweetly at her and asked her to read an excerpt. 

“I know writers can be quite particular about not having anyone check their writings before they’re done,” he said, “but I’m so curious! Can you make an exception and let me read just a few lines, maybe?”

Flattered by his request (as a matter of fact, she had no problem having others read her writings before she was done, the truth was, no one ever asked her to), Elsa replied that she would be honored to let him read a few pages of her draft of Love is like candies but the dentist is waiting (that was a temporary title, she informed him). They left the restaurant where they just had dinner and went to Elsa’s.

Elsa opened her laptop in the living room and let Victor take a look at Inés’ story file while she went and boiled some water for tea.

When she came back carrying a tray with tea and biscuits, Victor was staring at the screen with a deep frown on his face. 

An unpleasant conversation followed, as Victor had realized how much the character of Dr. Toothpick was based on him and wasn’t sure he liked the fact that Dr. Toothpick was a green goblin with flapping ears and orange eyes. Nor did he appreciate that Dr. Toothpick’s assistant, a frog-boy named Joey Jumpey, was clearly based on his own real assistant, his sister’s step-son.  

He had left soon after, his cup of tea untouched, and Elsa had not heard from him for days. Today was the spring equinox, and she had hoped that he would go into the woods with her for her own personal spring ritual.

Elsa took the ritual very seriously; she was sure it granted her good luck for the year to come. 

Every year, at sunrise on spring equinox, she would drive to the woods that surrounded the little town where she lived, find a nice, clear spot, and played the violin until her arms were too tired to hold the bow. Her music was supposed to wake nature. She would close her eyes and imagine the trees reaching with their limbs towards the sky; the flowers shaking off the dew; the little birds stretching their wings; the squirrels, badgers, and foxes coming out of their winter dens and smelling the fresh air… all thanks to her music. 

She had never told anyone about this ritual of hers, it was a secret she had only told Victor because she wished him to be there with her, something she had never wished about anyone before. And now, she was feeling sad because she had shared this precious secret with him and he had rejected her over a fictional character. 

“And people say I am the one who can’t tell the difference between real life and fiction…” she murmured. 

She shook her head, chasing the thought of Victor away, then picked her violin case and went to the woods.

She found her spot just as the first sunrays were making their way between the tree branches, she tuned her instrument, and she started to play. 

She soon forgot everything, lost in the music and images forming in her mind of Nature awakening. Fairies joined the ritual, touched every grass blade with their tiny fingertips and turned them bright green. With her eyes closed, Elsa could hear the soft rustling of dead leaves, the faint creaking of displaced or snapped twigs, the first, shy chirps of birds who started to sing along with her violin; she could smell the damp soil, the mushrooms, the resin that dropped from the broken branches… Elsa focused. What was that smell? It was somehow familiar, but she couldn’t place it. 

She slowly opened her eyes, her hands still playing the music. In front of her, a faint ray of the first sun of March 21st shone on Victor’s face. A smile was on his face and a gentleness in his eyes.

No words were needed. She smiled back at him and kept playing. 

The chords of Elsa’s violin filled the forest, and Victor surrendered to the music. He thought that Elsa must truly be a bit magical, because suddenly his heart felt soft and light…


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller:

Catherine A. MacKenzie:

Phil Yeats:

Chiara De Giorgi:

giovedì 28 marzo 2024

More Winter than Spring

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story that features a springtime ritual. Phil Yeats wrote this week’s story.

In September, 2021, he published The Souring Seas, the first volume in a precautionary tale about the hazards of ignoring human-induced climate change. The second volume, Building Houses of Cards, appeared in May 2022. He’s now published They All Come Tumbling Down, the third volume in his The Road to Environmental Armageddon trilogy. For information about these books, or his older soft-boiled mysteries, visit his website:


More Winter than Spring

by Phil Yeats

 On the first Saturday in March, I put on my winter boots, my winter coat, my toque, and worn winter gloves that had been delegated to snow shovelling activities. I grabbed my snow shovel and my lawn rake from our mudroom and turned toward the outside door. A blast of cold winter air greeted me when I opened it.

“Seems a bit early for springtime activities,” Susan, my long-suffering wife, said as she retreated to the warmth of the kitchen.

Could be, but I began removing the piles of ice and snow that accumulated against the foundation on the north side of our house on the first weekend in March decades ago, when I was a working stiff. I’d been retired for years, but I’d maintained the tradition. More an end of winter than a beginning of spring ritual, but a longstanding one, nevertheless.

It was my time for liberating our row of hostas from their wintertime hibernation. The accumulation of snow always disappeared from everywhere else by the beginning of March, but in this one area against our foundation in the narrow canyon between our house and the neighbours, it could persist until April.

I was about halfway along the wall when I discovered the purse buried in the snow. It was a woman’s brown leather purse with a long leather strap for over-the-shoulder deployment. I freed it from its ice-bound resting place, carried it inside, dumped it in the kitchen sink, and returned to my task.

When I finished shovelling the snow and clearing the other debris on and around the dormant crowns of the hostas, I returned to the mudroom and shed my winter attire.

Inside the kitchen, I found the purse and its contents laid out on towels spread on the counter.

“I’ve solved the mystery,” Susan said from the table where she was sipping a cup of tea. She loved reading mysteries, and obviously gained some enjoyment from solving our little one. “A game the girls next door were playing. They forgot the purse, and it became covered with snow.”

“But it’s obviously a woman’s purse, not a child’s toy, and it looks to like quite an expensive one.”

“Perhaps, but it’s old and been repaired several times. Check out my other evidence. You’ll agree, the purse is a forgotten prop from a child’s game.”

I glanced at the three forlorn-looking artifacts beside the purse. “That’s it? Nothing else?”

Susan nodded. “The purse contained nothing but that child’s wallet and the paper map. And the wallet had nothing but the ownership sticker for a kid’s book.”

“A ten-by-ten-centimetre square of paper with ‘This book belongs to:’ inside a border of flowers. And in the empty space ‘Mary Sutherland’ in childish printing. Do we know who she is?”

Susan shook her head, and I shifted my gaze to the map. It was hand drawn on a piece of paper that was only slightly damaged by exposure to the elements. It had three rectangular shapes that presumably indicated houses, several lines that were probably paths, seven crudely drawn trees, and in one corner, a large X.

“I have one additional piece of evidence. I found the purse near the bottom of the snowbank. That means they lost it in early winter, but I don’t think that alters your assessment. Looks like you solved our mystery. Do you think the treasure was hidden in the corner of our lot, or one of the neighbours?”

“That,” Susan said, beaming, “would depend on where Mary Sutherland lives.”


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller:

Catherine A. MacKenzie:

Phil Yeats:

Chiara De Giorgi: