No Phone Restaurant

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


No. Phone. Restaurant.😦

By Val Muller


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

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

Amy: Why FL?

Rachel: To live w my Gma

Amy: The churchy one?

Rachel: YES!

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

Sammie: What good will Florida do?

Rachel: Gma will keep me away from Rob😦

Rachel: And send me 2 church

Amy: They can’t own you.

Rachel: No

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

Sammie: Cut you off?

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

Sammie: Sucks.

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

Rachel: Ive never seen em so pissed.

Amy: What does Rob think?

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

Rachel: Or.

Amy: Or what?

Rachel: Or me move in with him.

Amy: What!

Sammie: What!

Amy: Dude!

Amy: What about college, tho?

Sammie: And if you live with him?

Rachel: Mom n dad would literally disown me.

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

Amy: What u mean?

Sammie: What? Where?

Rachel: My parents r looking for me.

Amy: R U running away?

Sammie: Where R U?

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

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

Sammie forced a smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy: I don’t have a car

Amy: Sammie, can u get her?

Rachel: I’m scared.

Rachel: They’re gonna take my pHone.

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

Rachel: Seclusion.

Amy: OMG, that’s like…

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

Amy: You’ll become all churchy like her.

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

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

Sammie glanced down just long enough to type three words.

Sammie: No. Phone. Restaurant.

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

It would be a long evening.

* * *

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

RC Bonitz:

Val Muller:

Catherine A. MacKenzie:

Tom Robson:


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

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Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt was to look out the window and write about what was out there. Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the horror novel Faulkner’s Apprentice (Kindle edition just $2.99).

Author’s Note: This is a tale I wrote one dark and stormy day. Not too far from my town, a tornado touched down—and this in a part of the country that doesn’t usually see such storms. I was lucky to be on the “outskirts,” but as I sat revising this post, my husband called to let me know he’d be late: a major tree had gone down on the narrow road leading to our house, and he had to drive all the way back into town to pick up a different route home.


By Val Muller


It was a dark and stormy day,

The kind with rainclouds that won’t go away,

When the sky can’t decide when it wants to weep,

So the humidity lingers and inches and creeps

Until the mist reaches critical mass

And the thunder booms and strikes at last.


On such a day, I started to write,

A nearing deadline was my plight.

The corgis trembled there on the floor

And glanced warily at the kitchen door.

They scooted and inched onto my feet

And trembled more as it started to sleet.


The baby, too, could sense something wrong;

She clung and clung to her frazzled mom.

I peeked outside to see what was pounding

On roof and patio—‘twas hail resounding!

I called my spouse, I called my mom

And in my voice was some alarm.

My mom said, “Hail? Inside—go!

You can be safe—sounds like a tornado!”

So to the basement I went with the dogs

And the baby still clinging fast to my arms.


I managed then to bring the laptop

(since it had its battery backup).

I set it up upon a tray

To do some work despite the stormy day.

I started typing my story out

When the dogs jumped after a thunder clout.

Onto the couch they came with me

(Two dogs and a baby—what could the trouble be?)

The three of them sat, vying for attention,

The storm-neutralizing touch of mother’s affection.

The dogs crawled closer on my lap

And baby clung higher on shoulders so that

My arms no longer could reach the keys,

So we listened instead to the blustery breeze.


It stayed quite still, given the stormy conditions,

But my mom was right—I’m glad I listened.

Not far from us a tornado touched down,

Causing a path of destruction along the ground.

But inside my basement lair I was secure

With the storm raging, locked outside of my door.


The dogs still trembled, jumping like fleas

While baby took solace in pounding the keys

And watching the characters jump on the screen.

It was my nightmare; it was her dream.

She managed to choose a particular keystroke

And giggled and cooed like she’d made a joke.

I turned to the screen to see all windows closing,

And I hadn’t saved my story, I thought with foreboding.

And sure enough, Word had shut down.

The baby was smiling, but I wore a frown.

With deadline approaching, it was getting too late.

What in the world, now, could I write?


So after the storm, when the dogs calmed a bit

And the baby had ceased her giggly laptop fit,

And the dogs were cuddled down for a nap,

As was the baby (we’re all thankful for that!),

I powered on the laptop and reopened the screen

And thought of the storm and dark tales like Halloween.

But nothing was more troubling to my writerly mind

Than the horrifying tale one could only find

In a household run by two dogs and a baby

Whose antics make mom laugh but also drive her crazy.

So I penned then a tale of horror and woe,

Of a creative story the world will never know,

For it was deleted by chubby baby fingers,

Though its miasma in my house still sort of lingers.

Instead, I give you this tale of strife

And a tiny little slice of my life.


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

RC Bonitz:

Val Muller:

Catherine A. MacKenzie:

Tom Robson:


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Welcome to the Spot Writers. Today’s contribution comes from RC Bonitz, author of DANGEROUS DECISIONS and the recently released ONLY EMMA. The prompt for this month is to write about the first thing you see when looking out your window.


ONLY EMMA by RC Bonitz

ONLY EMMA is out now. I hope you enjoy it. RC Bonitz




The tennis courts across the street from my home offer an endless stream of stories. Incomplete stories I grant you. I’m only seeing people in a brief interval of their lives, but you’d be amazed at how revealing those hours can be. Today for example there’s a pretty young woman playing with a guy I can only assume is her boyfriend. I hope he’s not her husband.

Obnoxious individual he is, yelling at her, hitting hard smashes she can’t handle and swearing when she doesn’t return them. He drives the tennis ball right at her body too. Is this a friendly tennis match or a war? I’d like to go over there and smack them both upside the head and say “What do you think you’re doing?”

Yes, the woman too. Why does she put up with his obscene behavior? If there is any kind of a relationship between them this is no way to nurture it.

Maybe I’ll trot over there and do it. They’re too young to waste their lives living this way. I can warn them of the depth of love they’re crushing, of the heartache these moments will develop if they continue to behave this way.

On the other hand, maybe she’s just met the bum and has already decided this is their first and last date. Perhaps they’re just having a lover’s quarrel and are acting it out on the tennis court. It’s none of my business anyway. Would they thank me for my meddling advice? Very likely not.

This is my story, sitting on my front porch and musing about people I don’t know, wondering about their lives. The musing keeps me occupied you see. I can’t get around much anymore.



The Spot Writers- our members


RC Bonitz


Val Muller


Catherine A. MacKenzie


Tom Robson






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Welcome to the Spot Writers. Today’s contribution comes from RC Bonitz, author of DANGEROUS DECISIONS and the soon to be released ONLY EMMA. The topic for this month is “death in the family”.


Dangerous Decisions by RC Bonitz





ONLY EMMA  is coming soon. I hope you enjoy it. RC Bonitz







You really could call it that, a death in the family, though in the household might be the more accurate term. I mean, who would call a cockroach a member of their family? Even if she were highly literate and a prolific writer. You think I’m wacko? Well, think what you like, Eloise not only could write rings around most humans; she was a direct descendant of Archie of “Archie and Mehitabel” fame.  Probably twenty-five generations removed but who’s counting.

I found her this morning, sprawled out on the G key of my computer. It was probably one too many concussions that did her in. I don’t know how Archie died all those years ago, but he used to jump headfirst onto the keys of Don Marquis’ (sp?) old fashioned typewriter which I’m sure delivered a heavy duty bump compared to the softer touch of a modern keyboard.

Eloise didn’t have a cat to hang out with the way her ancestor did, though I’m not sure anymore just what role Mehitabel played in Archie’s life. Eloise had a partner of her own kind, Sam his name was, until he missed his footing boarding an Amtrak train one day with Eloise. She wrote an eloquent obituary for him that night instead of her usual scathing review of the reality TV show they had attended the recording of that day in New York.

She didn’t think much of our reality TV. Broadway shows, yes, she loved most of the ones she saw. Once or twice though she was spotted by a human as she perched on the back of a seat in the balcony and that just ruined the mood for her. Luckily the women who noticed her just screamed and she was able to slip down into crevices and hide.

Unfortunately, she never figured out how to print her essays and stories and I never thought to do so either, so from now on I’ll have only memories of her writing. Who knows though, perhaps one of her children will follow in her footsteps as she followed Archie’s example and I’ll get a second chance to preserve some unique writing. For now though it’s farewell Eloise.



The Spot Writers- our members


RC Bonitz


Val Muller


Catherine A. MacKenzie


Tom Robson






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Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “People Watching,” and today’s tale comes to you from Val Muller, author of The Scarred Letter. In this young adult reboot of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s original, Heather Primm is adept at people watching—so adept that her entire existence is threatened.

One Hundred and Two

By Val Muller

“The fever’s back,” she said, nudging her husband in bed.

His mouth hung open, a snore escaping. How could he sleep at a time like this? Why didn’t he have a sensor, too, one that set alarms off each time the baby tossed or turned? The kid’s fever had woken her out of a deep sleep, even though the child was breathing peacefully.

“Did you hear me?” she asked.

His eyes popped open. “Wha—?”

“Her fever. It’s 101.8.”

“Okay.” He started to turn back over, but something in her face must have stopped him. He sat more upright instead. “So the fever is 101.8…”

“So what are we supposed to do?”

He shrugged. “I’ve never had a baby before.”

She rolled her eyes and hoped he could see it in the darkness. “I haven’t, either.”

“So why would I know what to do when you wouldn’t?”

She sighed, allowing her huff to disturb the night. The baby stirred in her arms.

“Give her Tylenol,” he said.

“I did.”

“Good, then. That’s what the doctor said to do if she ever has a fever…” He slid down into the bed and pulled the cover over himself. Before long, he was snoring again. Had he even awoken fully? Would he remember the conversation in the morning? What was it about guys—hard-wired to sleep through emergencies?

She propped herself up against the pillow, cradling the baby in her lap. She pressed the button on the forehead thermometer. 101.5. Maybe it was coming down. The doctor had said 102 was the temperature of concern. But was 101.5 close enough? Should she go to the hospital? What if she went, and they sent her home? And then her new baby would be exposed to a whole host of germs from the ER. And then what?

Then again, what if she didn’t go? And the fever got worse and worse. And got to 105, even. Could a baby even live at 105? What if she fell asleep and woke up, and the baby’s fever had risen, even with the Tylenol? What kind of a mother would allow that to happen?

She broke out in a sweat. It was 2 a.m. Emergency walk-in hours at the pediatrician started at 7:30. It would be an eternity.

* * *

She stood in line in the hallway, waiting for the pediatrician’s door to open. In front of her sat a mother with twin boys, each dancing around in the hallway. They didn’t look too sick. The mother was scrolling through her phone.

Behind the first woman stood another, a mother of a toddler boy. He was seated at her feet, playing Plants versus Zombies on her ipad. Really? Video games? The boy coughed, and the crinkling and crackling in his lungs sent the blood racing through her veins. How could his mother let him play a video game when his lungs sounded like an earthquake?

Behind her, a tired looking girl and her mother shuffled up. The mother sat down, cross-legged. The girl rested her head in mom’s lap.

“First timer?” the mother asked.

She nodded.

The mother glanced at the baby in the carrier. “Your baby looks fine.”

“How do you know?”

“I’ve been through it once.”

She allowed herself a deep breath, and she turned to the other mothers, whose blood pressures all seemed half of hers.

“But her fever is—”

“It’s not about the number. You’ll know. Trust your gut, and you’ll know if something’s wrong. If something were truly wrong, you wouldn’t be here. You’d have gone to the ER hours ago.”

She turned a moment longer to people watch. These mothers were not concerned. They were patiently waiting for the office door to open.

And now, so was she.


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

RC Bonitz:

Val Muller:

Catherine A. MacKenzie:

Tom Robson:


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Welcome to the Spot Writers. Today’s contribution comes from RC Bonitz, author of DANGEROUS DECISIONS and A BLANKET FOR HER HEART. The topic for this month is people watching.

Dangerous Decisions by RC Bonitz

DANGEROUS DECISIONS is available now. I hope you enjoy it. RC Bonitz



People Watching?

The park bustled with activity, children loud and boisterous, old folks walking slowly on the paved paths, soccer games in the fields. Mark loved to spend his lunch times in the midst of all that pleasant, happy energy. The sky was almost clear of clouds, blue as blue could be, and he turned his face to the sun, relishing the warmth that soaked into his skin.


An elderly man with a walker shuffled toward him and he greeted the fellow with his usual friendly “hello.” The man ignored him and continued on his way. The rebuff bothered Mark not on bit. Some people were simply made that way, grouchy, shy, or uncomfortable speaking to a stranger. Untroubled by such encounters, Mark never ceased to greet strangers, always hoping for a more positive response.


A woman sat on a bench, listlessly tossing bites of bread to very active pigeons scrabbling for the treats. She looked to be his age or thereabouts, no more than thirty-five or forty, but there seemed to be no energy in her movements.

“Hi. Those pigeons look hungry,” Mark said.

She looked up at him, a defeated expression on her face. “They like to eat.”

He nodded and smiled. “Do you come here a lot? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before.”

She shook her head. “Who are you?”

“Mark Thomson. And you?”

“It doesn’t matter,” she muttered.

He frowned. He liked to chat up people that he met, but this woman didn’t look promising. He tried another track. “Do you come here to people watch?”

She quirked an eyebrow at him. “Do you?”

He grinned. “I’m a people greeter. A simple “hi” can brighten up a person’s day.”

She gave him a half smile. “You like doing that then.”

“You’d be surprised at how many friends I’ve made that way.”

She let the smile blossom and crossed her hands in her lap, nervously twisting and untwisting the fingers. “That’s nice.”

“How about you? Can I buy you a cup of coffee?”

Color rose in her cheeks. “You’re hitting on me?”

“Not at all. You just seem like you could use a friend right now.”

She stared at him, her expression softening as she did. “Just coffee?”

“Just coffee.”

“Meg, that’s my name. And thank you.”

He offered her his arm as she rose from the bench. “My pleasure.”


The Spot Writers- our members


RC Bonitz


Val Muller


Catherine A. MacKenzie


Tom Robson






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Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month simply: spring flowers. This tale takes a darker twist on that theme and comes to you from Val Muller, author of the YA reboot The Scarred Letter—fighting for the truth in a world that lives a lie.


The Lavender Peony

By Val Muller


Maude Stevenson hated parent-teacher conferences. It seemed teachers wanted to meet about everything these days. She dreaded the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month—conference afternoons, when the teachers cleared satanic little slots in their schedules to call in parents to address the misbehaviors of their children. Not to mention the need for two afternoons of daycare.

The sitter had cancelled, so Rose would just have to come along. “What’s this about, Rose?” Maude asked her daughter.

Rose sat in the back seat, mixing a concoction in a paper cup. She’d been playing in the back yard since school let out, and Maude allowed her to take along the concoction of ground leaves she’d made. “I don’t know, Mommy.” Rose shrugged and then looked out the window, her second-grade mind already distracted by spring’s burgeoning flowers.

“Did you hit someone? Say something rude? Did you forget your homework or cheat on a test?”

Rose shook her head. “I don’t know what this is about, Mommy. I try to be a good girl.”

Maude sighed and pulled into the school parking lot. The clock on the dashboard blinked 2:43. The meeting was for 2:50. Somehow Mrs. Spencer had the conferences timed to the minute like that. 2:50 exactly.

As she got out of her car seat, Rose asked her mother, “Do I have time to pick a peony from the school garden?”

“Are you allowed to pick peonies from the school garden?” Maude asked.

Rose shrugged. “No one will miss just one flower.”

Maude looked at the clock. What else were they going to do for the next seven minutes? “Alright,” she sighed.

Inside, Maude knocked on Mrs. Spencer’s door. A smile greeted her. “Just two minutes,” Mrs. Spencer announced from behind her desk.

Maude looked at her watch. 2:48. Really, now! Maude craned her neck to peek into the classroom. It was empty, otherwise. Rose was busy playing with her peony, which now sat in the paper cup, chanting to the flower. To be a kid again—and be able to lose all sense of time to imagination. Her mind too tired to entertain itself, Maude checked out the artwork lining the hallway. The children had been given a coloring page with spring flowers. Some of them also featured animals—frogs, deer, chicks, bunnies.

“Honey, where’s yours?” Maude asked.

Rose shrugged. “Mrs. Spencer didn’t want to hang it up, I guess.”

Maude didn’t have time to respond. Mrs. Spencer called her in. Inside, the woman sat behind her large desk. She motioned to two chairs on the opposite side. Each chair was meant for a second-grader. Rose sat, her legs comfortably resting on the floor. Maude sat, her knees angled up awkwardly. Her hands hung nearly to the floor.

Mrs. Spencer seemed not to notice.

“I’ve called you in,” she said, without further introduction, “because of some concerns I had for Rose’s flower story.”

“Her flower story?” Maude asked.

Mrs. Spencer kept that same smile. It had all the semblances of caring and warmth, though it was missing those qualities in actuality. The teacher’s eyes reflected that same mannequin-like quality. Maude shivered. “You must have seen them in the hallway. I hung all the appropriate stories out there.” She held up a blank sheet. It contained the outline of a rose garden with an owl perched overhead. She flipped it over. A series of blank lines graced the back side.

“The children were to color the picture and then write a narrative about what is happening in the picture.”

“A narrative?”

Mrs. Spencer smirked. “You know—a story. Some children wrote about a gardener. Others wrote about helping animals or saving the environment by planting more greenery—you know, to offset carbon footprints. All stellar examples of stories.”

“And I take it my Rose’s story was a less than stellar example?”

The teacher’s smile faded. “Mrs. Stevenson, I had to hold myself back from contacting School Counselling about this little tale.” She opened her desk drawer and slapped a sheet of paper onto the desk. On the bottom corner was drawn a red frowny face.

“What on earth could Rose have written about that got you so upset?” Maude asked. She looked at her daughter, and Rose offered a knowing smile. Maude raised an eyebrow.

“This story of hers—The Lavender Peony—is about a flower that—” She glanced toward the door and then lowered her voice—“kills people.”

Maude bit her tongue to keep from laughing. “Just a child’s imagination, I’m sure.”

“Mrs. Stevenson, the level of detail is alarming. She’s got potions in here—lists of ingredients I’d never heard of. I had to Google some of these. Wolfsbane and hemlock. It’s witchcraft, I tell you. There’s got to be somewhere she learned of all this. In the story, the main character makes a potion and spreads it on a flower, and the flower has to thus obey commands. And the main character instructs the flower to kill people. There are three murders in this story, Mrs. Stevenson. Three. Little Rose over there could be the next school shooter if we don’t watch out.”

Maude felt the humor drain from her face. “Mrs. Spencer, I’m sorry that my daughter’s story offended you, but to compare a little girl with a vivid imagination—to compare that to a school shooter is beyond asinine. It’s insulting! What should we do, call the Inquisition, and then the police? Or should we just send her to a shrink? Are flowers now considered a weapon? You know, Mrs. Spencer, I thought long and hard about whether to homeschool Rose, as I did last year, and now I’m beginning to regret my decision to send her to public school. I’d like to talk to your principal.”

The panic registered on Mrs. Spencer’s face immediately. “Let’s not be hasty here, Mrs. Stevenson. Perhaps there was just a misunderstanding.”

Maude allowed her eyes to travel deliberately from the paper on the desk to the hallway. Knowingly, Mrs. Spencer nodded, took four pieces of tape from her desk, and shuffled out to the hallway. Maude stayed seated and watched her hang Rose’s flower story prominently above the rest.

Then she turned to her daughter. “I told you, Rose, not to let out the secret recipes.”

Rose shrugged. “I’m sorry, Mommy. I thought she’d think it fictional.”

Maude shook her head. “You never know who you can trust, Rose. This better be the last time.”

Rose puckered her lips, holding up the peony. “Shall I?”

Maude nodded. Rose stood slowly and placed the peony in the center of Mrs. Spencer’s desk, bits of the leafy concoction clinging to it.


The lavender flower caught the light from the classroom window as Mrs. Spencer watched her two guests exit the room. It was only after they left that she noticed the flower sitting there rather audaciously—as if it had its own personality—a peace offering from a little girl that nonetheless sent shivers down the teacher’s spine long after its pedals had withered and the offending Rose had been promoted to the third grade.


The Spot Writers–our members:

 RC Bonitz:

Val Muller:

Catherine A. MacKenzie:

Tom Robson:



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