Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Issue 4 - July 13, 2011

Dear Readers,

Welcome to Issue 4 of Beguile !  We’re sorry it’s taken so long to post. The last few months have been a wild ride for many of us on the Beguile Team, and we thank you and our contributors for your patience – and loyalty.

This issue’s theme is “true story,” since you’ll find that all of the pieces and art here recount, in one way or another, a true event or feeling. 

In keeping with this, we’d like to share a part of our own true story with you: Beguile and I are featured on the blog  Pauline’s blog is an eloquent account of life after a nasty divorce.  But she also opens her writing space to other creative minds on the web, with her “Blogger Space” series.  You can click here to read the feature.  Thank you, Pauline, not only for spotlighting me and Beguile, but also for creating such a wonderful way to expose writers to new audiences.  That’s something we here at Beguile very much admire.

And now, on to Issue 4! 

Happy reading and viewing,

Alysa Salzberg, Editor-in-Chief
The Beguile Team


In this issue of Beguile:


Reading a Book on Books reminds Mathew Paust about a not-so-pleasant encounter with former Shakespeare and Co. owner George Whitman.

With “Compass Points”, Eric Ashford explores being a foreigner in a foreign land – and in a Wendy’s.

In The Tavern, author LC Neal vividly describes settings and feelings alike.

Amy McVay Abbott runs into a dog called Yappy…with her car.

Eric Ashford remembers “Forgotten Venice.


We’re honored to feature four works by photographer Sorin Vidis.  About his work and worldview, Sorin writes:

Sorin Vidis, 33 already, Photographer in his limited free time (Bucharest, Romania)

I am actually an engineer craving for free time to pursue my passion. I know it sounds like there’s no connection in between the two worlds … well, there isn’t and all this requires a lot of switching on and off in between the two brain hemispheres.  But I need that to get by. It’s my way of escaping the monotonous, corporatist, money driven grey world around me. I began taking photos seriously in 2006. I was 28 back then and I was experimenting a lot. I still am now. I was attracted to medieval cities with narrow moody streets, life frames and architecture.

I cannot say that I have a style of my own. I have very different sorts of photos in my portfolio. Maybe I’m still looking for one or maybe this is it. Street photography looks at hand to most of people but in fact it takes a lot of anticipation, social psychology and vision to really get back home with at least one good photo. By the time I got to know more I got to choose less and less worthy shots from my card.

In these days it’s really “easy” to get inspiration, as there are thousands of media channels visually screaming to every of us.  Thing is that true creativity lies within and it can only be fine tuned, modeled or trained through good books, good music and good films. I’m talking Tarkovsky, Aronovsky, Kim Ki Duk, and Bergman just to mention some of my preferred film directors. Besides that life itself, places I visit, people I meet, street scenes, inspire me the most. But only capturing the moment is not enough for me, I’m trying to achieve that “thing”, that weirdness, bizarre detail or atmosphere that makes the viewer linger upon the photo. It’s seldom I do, but it’s a beautiful quest.

If by any chance you are now wondering what is this creepy twisted guy trying to say you’re welcome to check out my blog, artlimited account or facebook page and get beguiled. Or not.

We’d like to thank all of our contributors for sharing their true stories with us. 

And now, without further ado, prepare to be beguiled!



"Standing Still"

Book on Books
by Mathew Paust

After 44 years I still don't know what it was about me George Whitman didn't like, if anything.   It might have been my haircut.  He might have thought I was a CIA agent.  I was an American on leave from the Army and Whitman's Communist convictions were causing him official problems in the mid-1960s.  The French government even shut him down for a while in 1968 accusing him of housing Communists during the May student riots in Paris, which he was.  

I met him in May 1966.  We were never introduced, but I spoke with him one time at the front desk of his bookstore.  Our conversation went something like this: "Excuse me, do you have anything by Rousseau?"  I had to repeat this once or twice, as Whitman seemed absorbed by something, either something on his desk or in his mind.  Eventually he turned his head, barely enough to look at me.  His face conveyed annoyance, if not incipient contempt.

"What did you say?" From the loaded indifference in his voice he might have been on the verge of telling me to get the hell out of his sight.  I repeated my question.  My mistake, I soon learned, was in mispronouncing "Rousseau," probably misplacing the accent or even dragging the esses to sound like zees.   He made me repeat my blunder another time or two before correcting me, his voice now curled in a sneer.  When I nodded yes, he growled no, stared hard at me a moment longer and then turned back to whatever had been occupying his attention.

What surely clinched the unfavorable impression he'd evidently already formed of me was the book I finally purchased.  It was a paperback copy of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon.   Not a bad choice for a detective novel, but, as I was to learn just the other day, Whitman has a low opinion of the genre.   Other than to take my money and put the famous Shakespeare and Co. stamp in my purchased books, he never bothered to even glance at me again on my numerous successive visits his store. 

Stationed in West Germany I'd saved up my leave time and spent it all in Paris - two or three weeks.  A friend who had just returned from the City of Light raved about the famous bookstore on the Left Bank facing Notre Dame.  It was named after the literary hangout for Lost Generation expatriots in the 1920s and '30s run by Sylvia Beach.  Her store had achieved international acclaim for publishing James Joyce's Ulysses and was personally liberated from the Nazis by Ernest Hemingway.  Whitman's successor to the legendary Beach bookstore, in a different location, had won recognition by a new generation of young literati, with luminaries such as Ginsberg, Corso, Kerouac and Ferlinghetti frequenting the place, sleeping, writing and working there occasionally and giving readings.  Whitman published Ginsberg's Howl, when no one else would touch the cutting-edge poem that became an anthem for the Beat Generation.

During his sojourn in Paris my literary Army buddy had gotten to know a young writer Whitman befriended after learning the man was sleeping under a bridge over the Seine.  The writer was now living and writing at the bookstore.  Sounded like my kind of place.  Even after the cold reception I got from Whitman, I couldn't stay away, seduced by its exotic ambience.

I have been seduced anew by Jeremy Mercer's charming memoir of the months he spent in Paris in 1999 living at Shakespeare and Co.  Mercer ended up at the bookstore after fleeing to Paris from Ottawa where he’d been a crime reporter and had seriously pissed off an ex-convict who vowed revenge.  Mercer's book, Time Was Soft There, brought back memories and dreams from my time in Paris and shed some light on the personality of George Whitman, the man I'd annoyed or worried more than four decades earlier. 

Whitman, it seems, continued throughout the years to be suspicious of Americans, considering anyone he didn't know to be a potential CIA agent.   He's a moody man and can be grumpy and hostile without warning, and he loathes detective mysteries. 

A Google search indicates Whitman is pushing 100 years of age but is still kicking, although he has turned over the Shakespeare and Co. keys to his daughter, Sylvia.   

I still have and periodically re-read the copy of Hammett's book I bought from Whitman, but I'm not certain I yet know the correct pronunciation of “Rousseau.”

As for me, you can say I'm a retired newspaper reporter.  I live with my wife, daughter, eight cats, dog and assorted warm- and cold-blooded small critters in a wooded retreat in Hampton Roads, Virginia.  My first novel, Executive Pink, a satire of presidential politics, is available in paperback and on Kindle, Nook and other ebook platforms.  A sample chapter, a YouTube reading by the author and links for online purchase of Executive Pink can be found at 

ABOUT THE ESSAY: My inspiration for the piece came in reading Mercer's wonderful book, Time Was Soft There, which swept me into a nostalgia for the Paris I remember and hadn't felt in decades.


Compass Points
by Eric Ashford

In a small town 
twenty minutes North 
of where you live 
an alien 
puts on your face

He combs your hair 
grumbling about the thinness
He eases into shoes 
you bought from the Payless Store

He is packing
leaving a rented apartment
a place overrun 
with traits and characteristics 
your personal underwear

He may have to move to Mexico 
change your name to Jesus
seek redemption
He is worried about ickiness 
leaking through this reality

Plans do not go well
That day 
you stop at a Wendy's 
You like the cheeseburger 'mini's' 
They are better than the 'Baconnater' 
which you have to crouch over 
Your fingers and lips splattered
with karmic chow

At your table 
you feel like a giant
The furnishings in Wendy's 
are one eighth smaller 
than adult size
You wonder why 
but keep chomping

The alien 
chooses this moment 
to stop by
for a chicken salad
light ranch dressing---no croutons

From behind his chair 
you watch
as he picks at his food
Last week you went to the barber 
The visual memory 
of the back of your head 
is still fresh 

A voice screams from the kitchen 
There is uproar 
a garble of foibles and peccadilloes 
are infesting the restaurant
They scamper and bleat
between the patrons legs
In the milieu
he slips away

You don't know it yet
but he has made off
with your grease-stained napkin
a document
that cannot be disposed of
until you are far South 
of your last known position

I began writing in my early middle age when my son brought home our first PC. As a dyslexic I had avoided committing myself to creative writing for fear of being misunderstood. The computer (with its spell-checker) liberated me!

I believe my learning curve has been steep since then. I studied how good poets structured their poems.  I mimicked the skills of those writers whose poems worked for me. Even so for the first decade I wrote unskillful poetry. I am prolific, I have never had much of a problem with inspiration, but there is no quick way to honing one’s craft. We just have to keep writing each day until we are proficient as well as talented. Its that 95% sweat that is the key to success.

Only in recent years have I come into my own as a poet. I am an Englishman recently immigrated to America, and Now married to an American lady in Ohio. I have had several of my poems published and am working on a definitive Chapbook prior to seeking a book publication.

ABOUT THE POEM:  I speak of the poem "Compass Points" in a recent Interview on the site Open Salon.  Please click here to find.

Basically the work concerns itself with the enigma of the concept of doppelgangers, at the same time exploring some surreal associations. The notion of ‘illegal Alien’ and Alien in its more general meaning is also woven into the work.

The poem points to a certain disassociation post-modern artist may feel with their world and art.


The Tavern
by LC Neal

It's a dump.

Off of every beaten path except the one it's on, one that has spent the last half-century beaten by the wheels of tractor trailers, pickup trucks and Harleys. There are traffic lights on this stretch, spaced miles apart. They appear as a dot in the far distance, a small round bullet hole in the velvet hood of a black Florida summer night.

The lights are there for one reason. If they weren't, all those semis and pickups and hogs wouldn't have a reason in the world to slow down - not for that animal crossing, or that tourist Sunday-driving, or that church bus transporting the faithful - and there'd be another smoking ruin on the side of that long road between nowhere and southernmost, another wreck awash in pulsing lights blue and red and hazard yellow. Another funeral. Another statistic.

You wouldn't notice the dump as anything other than a beige building that flashes past if you catch the long green of the traffic light in front of it. The intersection it sits on is not much, but a sight better than it used to be. For decades, the ugly, squat building sat alone, on the northwest corner - there's a couple of gas stations and an auto parts store on the other corners now.

Used to be, if you went in, you'd see a mirror-backed bar, long and typical, with a big expanse in front for pool tables to catch the blood spatter when a game ended badly. The bathrooms had seen crimes planned and committed. There was a sorry excuse for a kitchen in back, and a little apartment above. The apartment was inhabited by an old drunken caretaker who didn't much care, but was just handy enough to cover his rent and his bar tab. He was cited by the locals once for Walking Under the Influence.

Nobody asked too many questions about the kitchen, or what came out of it.

The barmaids were a surprising and dramatic bunch. All more than a little beautiful, and every one a lifetime of trouble for more than one man. They were like a group of rival sisters, fighting and hissing among themselves, not liking each other much but loving each other so fiercely that the whole pack would avenge any hurt done to one. They were legends, in the way of highway lore...everybody running that road knew about them, knew to gaze at them and flirt with them and fall in love with them and then get in your truck or on your bike and keep going, if you knew what was good for you.

The owner was a weathered old rooster, small and bantam and respected. All kinds of stories told in half-whispers about where he and his money came from. He had a guy, drove him everywhere in a big old Silverado with a heavy duty transmission and huge knobby tires, tinted windows...a redneck ride, but one that worked when needed. That truck was rumored to have been seen at some out of the way places; an old lime grove out by the levee that holds back the River of Grass, and next to a supposedly abandoned airstrip in the middle of Chekika preserve. Out on the old docks at Flamingo Key, the ones that were buckled and knotted like the young hand of God had used them to practice tying his shoelaces.

The owner sat at the corner of the bar damned near morning noon and night though, he and a few cronies. They were all old timers, and had a story and another to tell, if you could listen to the words under the words, and read the expressions on their weathered faces as they reminisced about the bad old days and planned the new ones - they had a bunch of pawns and rooks and knights they pushed around the chessboards in their heads. The dollar was king, but the skill to pull off the con was queen. They were hard, dangerous, murderous bastards to a man, and talked at each other in short cryptic sentences that meant nothing to a casual listener, and eyed the beauties behind the bar with jaundice and jade in their own. If you were smart, you didn't listen too close to their conversations.

The man who stood behind the bar, leaning in the doorway to the kitchen, or silhouetted in the bug-covered screened door to the side parking lot, a half-smoke hanging from his bearded lip, greasy hair hanging to his shoulders, watched. He watched everything and everybody and nobody started any unwelcome shit unless they were prepared to deal with the consequence of him. Nobody could figure his logic; he'd let a couple of yahoos get into it over a pool game, until they were pounding each other into the hospital without turning an oily hair - or he'd bumrush a harmless seeming guy having a quiet beer at the opposite end of the bar from the owner's corner. He was as unpredictable as a snake, and not averse to a little knifework. The few words he spoke were in a Dublin accent, usually to the girls behind the bar, and they did what he told them to without question. 

Out front, in the jungle hot night, there was a big wooden veranda, covered and lighted, ceiling fans warped but stirring the air enough to make it almost breathable; laying on your skin like wet wool, glazing your face and neck with a salty film fit only for a lover's tongue or a cold shower. A ridiculous hitching post became less so when some Paso Fino riders actually used it fairly often. The well lit sign on the death track out front said "Live Music," though there never seemed to be anything but the juke playing Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound or Walkin After Midnight or T-R-O-U-B-L-E. The sign also said "Bikers Welcome," and Lord knew that was true. The sign had a thick layer of limestone dust on it, caught there as it floated in the tailwind of the vehicles that didn't stop at The Tavern.

After the storm, The Tavern owner went around to all the busted up liquor and convenience stores and bought every uncompromised can or bottle of alcohol he could find, ten cents on the dollar. He begged, borrowed and stole every generator he could find, and kept the refrigeration going in the coolers behind the bar, and the ice coming out of the big old machine in the kitchen. He put the girls on double shifts, and hired a few more. He was the only game in town for months, and his clientele expanded and diversified.

He watched and nudged his barmates one night, as a girl came in alone, in shorts and carpenter's boots, a military clearance badge around her neck, her long tangled blonde hair in a half ass ponytail, her bare legs covered with paint, scratches and roofing tar, her face showing ordinary pretty overlaid by a mask of exhaustion. One of the old guys casually wandered over to her as she stood waiting for a beer and they chatted...he brought her over to the others and she told them she was at a camp close by; Marines encamped next to her, her full crew of roofers and carpenters numbering fifteen in all, sharing her trailer and one other. She somehow managed to mention that every one of her men carried a sidearm, and one was (so silly, she laughed, the look in her eye not silly at all) sleeping across the threshold of her bedroom door in case someone tried to get at her. The old men, warriors after all, admired her skill at dissemination.

One of the old timers was a builder, like her. He said, "I'll have to introduce you to my son. You two have a lot in common."

She laughed, not believing him, thinking what a nice gang of old guys...and she took her ice cold beer into the heat of the Florida night, onto the veranda, where she sat and watched the dim overhead light glint off of the engagement ring on her left hand, given to her by a someone so distant in geography and heart even then, the ring that sits in her jewelry box even now, as she types this eighteen years later...watching the dim overhead light in her bedroom glint off of the engagement ring, above the wedding band, on her left hand.

My name is LC Neal. I am the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Fictionique, and write for several other venues on a wide range of topics. I am and always will be a fiction writer at heart.

ABOUT THE STORY: This story is a favorite of mine; because it's based on the beginning of a love story I am still lucky enough to be living in. In the chaos of Hurricane Andrew's aftermath in South Florida, some truly amazing events took brought out the best, and the worst, in many people who stayed behind to try to put things back together. For more of this series, go to The Storm.



by Amy McVay Abbott

Coming home this evening I thought I hit a dog with my car. Memories of the Melrose Dairy driver backing over poor Mollie the Collie when I was ten haunted me.

“HE KILLED HER DEAD,” I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed on the front porch of our ranch home facing a dangerous state highway. And when my dad came home from work in the evening, I sobbed again.

No dogs ever lived up to the impossibly high standard of collie dogs we had as children, despite two of them being killed on the highway.

If there’s a dog heaven, Old Shep Will Be There (and Mollie and Frisky, too).

Dogs mostly don't like me.  All of my life, canines have sensed my fear and/or loathing, and gone straight for me.  Recently I was visiting a friend who convinced me to come inside and see her new black standard poodle.  She has two and they are hyper.

"Amy," she said, "They've been in obedience school.  Once you come in I will call them and they will come out and sit in front of you."

Why in God's name did I believe this?

Crotch Rocket # 1 flew out from the kitchen as soon as I walked in the door, and almost bowled me over, while her sister went at me from the other direction.  Obedience school,  my heiny!

Because of their untimely deaths and various other dog-related childhood traumas especially encounters with Ci-Ci, a neighbor's antagonistic Chihuahua, I became a cat person.

In today’s story, we will call this dog Yappy.

Yappy chases my car every day. Yappy’s size is to my beat-up eleven-year-old sedan what a mosquito is to an elephant, irritating but easy to swat away.

Every day Yappy runs out and often dashes under the car and gives that ferocious yip-yip-yip. I don’t want to hurt Yappy so I drive very, very slowly. (And that's a stress for me to actually go s l o w e r. My former District Sales Manager could pontificate on my "grandma" style of driving.)

Tonight I thought I hit him -- Yappy the dog not the District Manager -- and while I don’t adore dogs, I certainly didn’t want him hurt or worse. I looked back and all around and did not see Yappy on the road or in his yard.

After I got in our garage a few houses away, I decided that I should go back – a steep walk up a hill – and make sure Yappy was okay.

As I walked up the hill and got closer and closer to Yappy’s house, my heart sunk.

Usually the little black sentry was at full attention waiting for his next victim in his front yard.

I couldn’t see him anywhere.

Just when I reached the crest of the hill, Yappy tore out from under his front porch and made a mad dash for my rear end. While he did not catch me, he really wanted to take a bite out of my behind. I had quite a nice run down the hill. Good deeds rarely go unpunished.

Amy McVay Abbott is a writer whose column The Raven Lunatic runs in seven Indiana newspapers.  She is the author of the upcoming book The Luxury of Daydreams to be published in August 2011 by West Bow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson, and available from all major online retailers. She enjoys hearing from readers at

ABOUT THE ESSAY: I’m not a dog person, but I don’t want to see harm to anyone’s pet.  Yappy was chasing me this morning when I went to get my coffee. I guess I’m glad he’s still here to ply his trade of nipping at my tires.

Say aaaa...oh no! not that crap again !!

“Say aaaa...oh no! not that crap again !!”

Forgotten Venice
by Eric Ashford

You peek around the edge of a photograph,
crumbling canals, buoyant domes, a lambency
you can walk across.

Venice lives on, muted in a thousand museums. 
Narrow pavements, painted odors, window lights
flickering on textured canvas.

You grin,  I have just made you laugh. 
The Kodachrome is Italian-dusk 1973,
a shade that softens grains into small
aqueous blooms.

Did you deliberately allow this memory 
to be taken knowing that facts blur,
evidence gets mislaid?
Knowing perhaps that a whole city can drown
on the other side of a sunset?

On the back of the image, bleeding to invisible, 
is a telephone number.
The London area code is quaint,
only a young man on an old Triumph motorbike
could trace it now.
Even so, a lifetime later, I want to phone you-

to connect to that life all lovers have 
beyond the slow burn of nostalgia.

ABOUT THE POEM:  The inspiration is, of course, partly Venice.   A pre-flood Venice, before the city's restoration, but all the signs were there.  It is a love poem, but a faded love, sunken into yesterday. The photograph resets a scene that time has almost deleted.  Nevertheless the poet would connect now to that forgotten time if he could.