Madness in their Hearts ◊ Part III

Catch up on part 1 and part 2 of “Madness in their Hearts”


oncey remembered his frustration and desire to ignite upheaval, some kind of conflict that would bestow to the town a taste of his indignation. His opportunity had arrived, he thought, a means to find the perfect outrage had been delivered to him right there in Finger Alley. He squatted into Otis’ eye level, and played tentatively with some of the debris on the pavement. Something in the back of his mind begged to walk away, but a red flicker danced from his chest into his throat and spoke for him, “What about me?”

Otis started a kind of chant in a sing-songy voice, “Son, you don’t hafta live so rough, I’m gonna fix you up a mojo, oh Lord, so you can strut yo’ stuff. Tell you ennything you wanna know, ennything that makes you go.”

“What I gotta do?”

“Fust you gots ta show me Mr. Lincoln. Fie-dollah bill gits you started.”

Poncey dug out his thin wallet and found a crumpled bill. He held it toward Otis, who pushed both palms out before him and said, “Nossuh! Don’ be foldin’ dat bill back to yo’self! Dat bill comin’ my way. Fold it out tow’ahd me. Da’s right. Da’s de way.” Distant, acrid smoke, harsh and choking, wafted into the alley from an unknown source suffering its final throes.

Confused, Poncey looked at the bill and held it back out with the ends pointed toward Otis. The old man’s face brightened as he took the money, muttering under his breath, “Well, looky here, jar.” He inspected it back and front, then folded it carefully toward himself and tucked it deep within his shoe.

“What’s you wanna know? How to win yo’ wife? Dream up some lott’ry numbas?”

“I want to do somethin’. There’s somethin’ inside me I’ve gotta do, or it’ll bust me wide open. I’ve just got to know what I’ve gotta do.”

“You at odds wid de worl’, boy.”

“That’s it. The world isn’t the place I want it to be.”

“You gotta bend de worl’ to yo’ will. You gotta use de conjure to bend de worl’, but you gotta go t’rough de pow’rs. Hoodoo will bend nature to yo’ will. It’ll bend de angels and God Hisself to work things yo’ way. You gotta get you a mojo.”

“I want it. I’ve gotta find out what I can do against the world.”

“Gotta give me sump’m purs’nal fust, son. I gotta have sump’m from you to charm up a mojo fer you.”

Poncey tried to think of something he had on him that he was willing to give up. None of his clothing could be considered expendable. His pants pockets came up empty. His hands explored deep within his jacket pockets and found an old matchbook, a wrinkled receipt and a Buddy Poppy – nothing particularly personal. Then he discovered a small, hard disk, and produced a button with some tortured thread dangling from its holes. He recognized it as coming from one of his jacket cuffs, never missed after long years out of service. “This do?”

“Dat’s fine, jus’ fine. Jus’ what we need ta c’nect you an’ de pow’rs. To bend de angels, we gotta go to de source,” and Otis pulled out a pocket New Testament. “Dis got de Psalms in ’er, jus’ what we needs to bend de angels yo’ way.” He opened the little book, and, using a stub of pencil tucked inside his shapeless fedora, wrote something that Poncey couldn’t make out on the page. The alley’s shadows had closed in on them, but Otis’ face seemed to emit an eerie glow. He began to sing again, “You sprinkled hot foot powda’, hmmm hmmm, all aroun’ my do’h … hmmm hmmm … dere’s a hellhoun’ on my trail, hellhoun’ on my trail …” Poncey felt a creeping sensation along his spine, and tried to blink his eyes clear. The odor of that morning came back to him, but somehow twisted and swirled into something more pungent, and sickening sweet.

Bender stood and turned to face the west, where the sun sank behind the trees and the rail yards lay beyond town, and read, “ ‘He shall give ’is angels charge concernin’ thee, an’ in dere han’s dey shall bear thee up, les’ at any time thou dash thy foot agains’ a stone.’ Ol’ hot foot powda, do thy biddin’! Dash thy foots! Do thy work, hot foot powda! Seek out Ransom Muldoon an’ do thy work! Dash ’is foots ’gains’ de worl’!”

Bender turned to Poncey and finally made eye contact. “Ha ha! You curse yo’ own pappy! Fine’ly I get my revenge, an’ curse dat ol’ man t’rough his own son!Haaa!”

Poncey stood there, stunned and silent, and he could feel his eyes gaping. “What are you talkin’ about?” he croaked.

“Ever since he got me fired, I been wantin’ my revenge. Years an’ years a waitin’, an’ fine’ly hoodoo has its way! Dat’s fer gettin’ me fired! Dat’s fer snoopin’ ’roun’ an’ findin’ me drunk! He got no ’count to repawt me to de boss! Evah-body drinkin’! ‘Why you doin’ me this-a way,’ I says, an’ he say ‘Git yo ass outa dese yahds,’ he says. I don’t fo’get! All dese years I don’t fo’get! Now I get you back, Rance Muldoon! Dat’s fer stickin’ yo’ nose where she don’ b’long! Hot foot powda burn, burn!

“Oh, you smah’t boy, you an’ yo’ starin’ at me! I sprinkle de hot foot powda all ovah yo’ po’ch dis mawnin’. How come you t’ink you ta come ’roun’ to dis alley? Hot foot powda do it! Now I cast its mojo on ol’ Ransom! Bad mojo gonna fall on ’im, bad mojo! De angels bend ’gains’ ’im, all de worl’ bend ’gains’ ’im now! ’Cause a you, boy, ’cause a you an’ yo’ desires! Hoodoo do it, hoodoo do it! Hee hee!” The old man danced a wobbly jig, gleeful even in its lunacy.

“You!” Poncey’s shock gave way to rage. A righteous outrage exploded within him, against himself, the incredible foolishness of being caught up in such a charade, and against Bender. “You old fool! You stupid old goat! You’re nothin’ but a lyin’ old idiot! You’re a thief and a crook and a liar!” he screamed at the silhouette that Bender had become. Poncey burst from the alley with no thought of retrieving his money, and Bender’s laughter cackled behind, “Oh, you kin run. But de conjure, she always come in threes.”

Poncey’s arms punched wildly at the air as he half-ran down Main Street. How could he be so stupid, so gullible? He growled and screamed as he shook his fist at himself, at God, at the world. The street lights gleamed half-heartedly in the early evening, and a killdeer’s lonesome cry tore at the dusk from her fleeting retreat. Now Poncey knew for sure he would burst at the seams, if he could not vent his frustrations somehow. A black intent led him by the roiling within his chest, drawn into an unknown deep. The heart in him beat like the marching of an oncoming army, bent upon pillage. Hatred for everything within his grasp, and for that unknown essence persistent in eluding him, set him like flint to exact mayhem upon this town and upon this night.

Then he got his idea, what he had waited for all through his troubled day. He would rest until dark had fully fallen, until the townsfolk had turned in and slipped away senseless to life itself. Then he’d draw them out again in awful amazement.

A sensation of calm and even goodwill came over Poncey with the settling of his mission. He sauntered along the city streets and felt a kinship with the stark branches of trees darkly cast against the sky, pointing heavenward with accusing fingers. Skullbone had taken on the silence of winter, with only glimmers of warmth peeking from windows, hidden deep within solitary homes, only the ghosts of the hearths within escaping through chimneys. Poncey zipped his jacket all the way to his chin, and his hunched back bore witness to the chill, but also to his resolve to finish the task he had set. With slow assurance his feet walked his route, until at length crossing a line of railroad tracks.

With no moon nor streetlights to compete, the stars shone against the night with brilliant precision. Poncey measured his steps upon the ties as he followed the track. He knew no trains ran this time of night, but still he entertained thoughts of facing down an onrushing locomotive. Humming quietly, he laid his plan out in his mind, working out details, anticipating complications. Soon he was coming up on the rail yards – there he would seek out the same sublime fulfillment that his father had enjoyed for decades.

Poncey stealthily moved from trees to outbuildings to signals, careful to hide from the small night crew. He worked his meandering way to the lot for discarded boxcars, and as he went acquired a collection of greasy rags and small scraps of wood. In the back of the lot he eased open the door of a tool shed and sneaked inside. He settled upon the frozen ground, and leaning against a wall, he waited, as the minutes stretched beyond their limits, bringing along the full depths of the night.

A sudden jump, and he awoke. How much time has passed? he thought. He’d set his heart on midnight, and now he didn’t know what time it was. No matter. Nothing could stop him now from delivering his wrath upon the world’s injustice. He carefully stuck his head out the door and saw only stillness in the yard.

Poncey crept underneath the first boxcar at the furthest reaches of the lot. He jammed the old rags and kindling into the gaps between the car’s steel carriage and wooden floor. One, two – finally the third vaguely damp match struck, and he set a little yellow flame to the rags, dangling as if from a giant Molotov cocktail. For a moment Poncey merely gazed, facing the growing reality of his will, then ran in a crouch from the car. He withdrew into remote shadows, able to watch the fire take hold and grow; but still he could not be seen within the darkness.

For some ten minutes the car sat without event, only wisps of intermittent smoke seeping through the doors. Then with a belch flames shot out of a vent in the roof. Within seconds the parched car erupted into a glaring blaze, leaping dozens of feet overhead, grand as leviathan breaking from the sea. Sparks flew upward like heavenly bodies scattered into a spiraling primordial creation, and Poncey looked upon his work.

The blaze had quickly arrested the attention of the night crew. Together they strained to move other boxcars out of harm’s way, and ordered each other about aimlessly with much yelling and gesturing. One phoned Constable Crapo, who in turn stirred up Skullbone’s volunteer fire brigade, but by the time firefighters arrived the car was fully aflame. Along with them came a crowd, those who could be roused from their cozy houses, and the billowing inferno grew into the biggest show to hit town all year. Poncey had finally acquired the food his soul hungered for, and he stood mesmerized.

A voice from the murky dark startled him. “Anybody look inside that thing?” Mack stood close behind Poncey.

“What? I don’t know. Why?”

“Well, sometimes Otis spends the night inside those things. To keep warm.”

Poncey’s eyes returned to blankly stare at the angry fire, roaring like a crazed animal, and his face burned hot. Flames whipped and writhed, dancing skyward in insane prayer to God, demanding answer. The oily smoke raged against the crisp air, only to disintegrate into the blackness of the night, and the flickering light revealed a new confusion and realization in Poncey’s expression. Fears and ambitions tangled together in his mind until he no longer knew what to desire, what there was in the world – good or ill, or that born of whatever twisted conspiracy is struck between the two – worth the price of his heart. The self-absorbed furies within him, and the willful satisfaction he’d finally achieved, sank into a slow panic of guilt and terror – his terrible designs came to something, and they came to nothing, the madness of sin. Abruptly he turned to Mack, “I gotta go.”

With that Poncey ran home, and looked in on his father, blissfully asleep.

* * * * *

Craig Davis has written three novels and a new collection of short stories, “A Time for Poncey.” Born and bred in Memphis – the land of Elvis and pork bbq, although neither ever did him any good – he worked for 20 years in newspapers as a columnist, designer, artist and cartoonist. He is father to two grown daughters and owns a dog that refuses to grow up.

His submissions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Exposure № 083: Hide

Photographer Lindsey Kemp brings us two untitled photos from her series “Hide.” Both of these evocative images deal with what Kemp calls “one’s desire to find comfort beneath the veil of their own body and evading social connections by doing so.”

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Lindsey Kemp is an emerging photographically-based artist from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She obtained her BFA with a major in photography at OCAD University in 2012 in Toronto. Her work explores the magical, the ethereal, the scientific, and the spiritual within the mundane. Her current works in progress explore of sociological phenomenons, psychological disorders while satirically commenting and paying homage to old science fiction films. Lindsey is the editor of Eye Am Alive; a contemporary photography blog and soon-to-be quarterly publication.  She can be contacted at, and more of her work can be found at

Her submissions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Madness in their Hearts ◊ Part II

Read part 1 of “Madness in their Hearts” here.


hat’s buggin’ you, sugarpie?”

“He’s ticked,” Mack offered.

“I didn’t even tell you about Otis yet,” Poncey groused. “I nearly broke a leg tripping over him this morning. Took his beauty rest in my front yard last night.”

“Asleep with his jar?”

“That’s right. Cuddlin’ with it like a wife.”

“It’s like he’s married to drinkin’,” said Mack. “It’s like that’s his job.”

“That’s just what I said,” Poncey grunted. “It’s the thing that keeps him goin’, an’ it’ll keep him goin’, right up until it lays him in his grave. Otis knows exactly what he’s about every day and every night.”

“But not ’zactly where he’ll be sleepin’.”

“A bed’s a bed, even if it’s a flower bed,” winked Mavis through a haze of cigarette smoke, and poured coffee.

Poncey gruffly returned to the subject at hand: “How come Otis wastes his life an’ comes out so fat an’ happy? Why does he get to be happy? He pours out his whole life into that jar of his, an’ he’s not sorry about it one bit. He’s happy with just havin’ nothin’, an’ I can’t catch a break no matter how hard I try.”

“How hard you been tryin’?”

“Shut up. You got no room to talk, squirreled away on rooftops all day long! I got important stuff to do, an’ if I don’t get to soon, I’m gonna snap!”

“I got great things to do, too, honeypot. I serve up the best pie in the territory!” Mavis chimed in with an enticing smile.

“Yeah, right!” Poncey made a point of not asking for any. “An’ what do you get paid for it? A couple bucks? I’m serious – I got great things in me, an’ I’m gonna be paid for it, an’ paid well. If nobody else gets it, if they’re too stupid to see, then it’s their tough luck. If they’re not payin’, they’re getting’ nothin’ good from me!”

“So it ain’t worth doin’ if you ain’t paid a lot?” Mavis planted a fist on her hip.

“Damn straight.”

“Otis don’t get paid. He just does his thing for the love of it,” Mack noted.

“That’s right. It’s offensive, to me an’ to everyone. An’ if I can’t do what I want an’ get appreciated, then I feel like I’m gonna hafta offend everyone!”

“Might hafta do that for free, like Otis,” Mack said.

“If you wanna get paid so bad, whyn’t you get a job at the rail yard, sweet pea?” Mavis turned back to her own work. “Bet your dad could fix you up.”

“Oh, no!” Poncey laughed in ridicule. “That may be good enough for him, but not me! Pap may be happy stuck in that daily grind, but it’s not for me! I need more than pushing around a giant toy train to attain my potential.”

“Well, you seem to have it all figured out ’cept for what’s buggin’ you an’ how to fix it an’ what to do after that,” Mavis blew a hard stream of smoke.

“I figure it out, don’t you worry.”

“You be sure to tell me, baby cakes.”

“I’ll do that.”

“Ain’t you gonna buy anything?”

“I’ll have eggs an’ toast,” Mack said.

“Comin’ right up, honeychile. I sure ’preciate you buyin’ my toast. I’ll hafta charge you extra, ’cause it’s the best toast in the land.”

Mack snickered at that, and Poncey turned his back to the prattling. Mavis continued.

“Yessir, folks come from miles aroun’ to get my toast. An’ it’s no wonder, what with all the skill that goes into makin’ it. Best toast anywhere. Funny thing ’bout folks, sugar, is some of ’em like their toast light, an’ others like it dark, an’ some even likes it medium. It takes a worl’ a’ skill to get toast jus’ right. An’ then butter – whooee! No tellin’ what kinda butter an’ stuff folks like on their toast. Jelly an’ jam an marmalade – we ain’t got marmalade! Some of ’em even take it plain! Plain an’ dry as dust. Why is that, Mack? What is it ’bout folks make ’em all like their toast differ’nt?”

“I don’t know nothin’ ’bout that. If you wanna know, you just wait for Poncey, he’ll tell you ’ventually.”

“What do you mean by that?” Poncey wheeled around to face Mack.

“You’re always goin’ off gettin’ learned up ’bout stuff nobody with a sane thought would ever care ’bout.”

“Oh, you’re funny. You callin’ me insane?”

“Folks’re bound to do what they’ll do, sane or not. Maybe ever’body got a  li’l’ madness in their hearts, all of ’em. You, me, Otis. You been talkin’ ’bout blowin’ up ever since this mornin’.”

“Wow, you’re a real poet, a philosopher. You don’t know anything ’bout it – an’ your yappin’s ’bout to set me off.”

“Don’t you blow up in here,” Mavis said. “Place is mess enough as it is.”

“Oh, you’re a riot too. A couple comedians.”

Other customers toyed lazily with their cold breakfasts and stared at Poncey, and Mavis’ mood changed. “Ain’t you gonna order anything?”

“I’ll have water,” Poncey sneered. “And a napkin.”

“Water don’t cut it, hon, long as you’re takin’ up space on my stool. Or is that your vengeance on the world? ’Cause if it is, I’m not sure the world noticed.”

Poncey knew for sure now that Mavis was mocking him. He thought so before, but now he was sure. “You think I’m all talk, don’t you? You think the best I can do is cheat you out of a glass of water? Well, I’ll show you!” He spun out of his seat and strode to the door. Mack called after him, “C’mon, don’t go ’way mad!” “You just watch, I’ll show you,” Poncey barked, and wrestled again with the knob. The spastic bell provided a soundtrack to his struggles. The Diner burst into laughter, and he considered kicking the glass out of the door. Finally the latch gave way, and he spilled outside, Mack’s plaintive voice echoing after him, “C’mon Poncey!”

Judas had gotten his rope so tangled, he looked like he’d tried to hang himself upon the bent parking meter. Poncey cursed as he tried to untie the whimpering dog, who in turn pulled nervously at the leash to make the job harder. Mavis and Mack, all of them, Poncey thought, they all took him for a fool. Well, he’d show them. He’d have the last laugh, and whatever he decided to do would shock them, and disgust them all, and they’d never stop talking about it. He just had to think of what it would be. Just had to think, to think, and get this damn dog untied. Poncey broke into yanking on the leash uncontrollably until it snapped in two, and Judas headed for the hills. Poncey stood there watching dumbfounded until the dog disappeared around a corner, dragging half a rope, then gave chase. A motorcycle engine blared somewhere well beyond the buildings of downtown Skullbone but still echoing off their façades.

Poncey rounded the building and stood scanning the gravel streets laid before him. The sun had taken the frozen crunch out of the dormant grass breaking up the pavement. Poncey hung his hands upon his waist and strained his senses for any clue to Judas’ trail. A bark might have come from the area of Finger Alley, he thought, and he made a beeline toward the mostly forgotten passage splitting the line of old brick structures. “Judas!” he screamed as he ran into the dark, narrow lane, splashing through potholes that never dried out, until he felt his feet not keeping up with his body. The cobble stones caught him harshly, giving no quarter to his chest and elbows as he crashed. Moaning, he rolled over and looked back where he’d come from; he saw a ragged pair of trouser legs leading to shoes resting upon their heels, toes pointing skyward.

“I know who you ah. You dat Poncey Muldoon – ol’ Ransom Muldoon’s boy.” It was Otis Bender, lying half-in and half-out of a hidden doorway. With him was his jar.

“You! This is the second time I’ve run into you today!” Poncey growled, rubbing his wounded knees.

“Dere’ll be a third time, too, boy. Always come in threes.”

“You need to watch out, stop leavin’ your legs lyin’ around everywhere. My dog come through here?”


Poncey waited for more, but after an awkward moment, clearly there was no more to say. He gingerly rose to his feet to go after Judas again.

“I known yo’ pappy for long time.”

“Well, that’s good. Don’t think he ever mentioned you.” He craned his neck, wondering which direction might be best.

“Yep, known him well. He put me here.”

Poncey looked back at Otis. “In the alley?”

“Dis jar my home. All I got in de worl’. Only frien’ fo years an’ years now.” He’d clearly been communing with his friend all day.

Poncey decided that finding Judas was a lost cause, but he was still only too happy to use the mutt as an excuse to break away from this conversation.

“You sure you didn’t see my dog?”

“Din’t say I din’t see ’im. See ever’thing. Dat fat woman inside de smoke, seen her. Seen dat boy settin’ like a bird in de sky.”

All this sounded to Poncey like no more than a crazy man babbling. He thought Otis could say anything in his condition and sound like he believed it. “If you saw my dog, tell me which way he went.”

“You don’t care ’bout no dog. Runnin’ away all de time – dog ain’t no good frien’ like dis here jar. Dog home by now, anyhow. I know yo’ home.”

“Yeah, I know, I saw you there this mornin’.”

“Know how to get there. I can get to yo’ door ennytime I want. Under yo winda.”

Otis began to make Poncey’s skin crawl, and he wondered how many nights the drunk had spent lolling outside his apartment building. He shuddered a bit and edged away.

“Look, I’ve gotta go. I’ve got somethin’ to do.”

“Yo’ sho’ do, boy. Got sump’m impo’tant on yo’ mind.”

“How do you know?” Poncey felt a weird cloak drawing over him, binding his arms, but he couldn’t seem to tear away.

“Hoodoo man, boy,” Otis never looked at him. “Don’t you know? Yo mama come from N’Ahlins – she know all ’bout conjure. Hoodoo man from way back.”

“What’re you talkin’ about?”

“Hoodoo strong, boy. Hoodoo tell you what you wanna know. Hoodoo p’tect yo’ health, make you rich. Healthy, wealthy an’ wise. All you needs is de words, an’ sump’m special.” He threw Poncey a glazed-over wink, never really looking, only addressing him in a sideways manner.

“It got you where you are today?” Poncey was skeptical.

“Yessir! Hoodoo done p’tected ol’ Otis all his life. Hoodoo an’ Rance Muldoon – ol’ skinny-ass Rance Muldoon. Knowed him down at de yahds. One day he tryin’ to close a boxcar latch, an’ it stuck. He doin’ chin-ups on dat latch, tryin’ to get it down. Hoo-hee! Evah-body laughin’ at dat! Too skinny to even move dat latch. He still at de yahds, an’ here I sit.” Poncey tried to read Otis’ face, but could not pull back the mask of shadows and drink. “Ol’ hoodoo take care a’ me! You lucky you made it all dis time widout de hoodoo. It go all de way back – ol’ witch of Endor, she know hoodoo. Ol’ Balaam, he know – he know de rootwork. God hisself de greatest hoodoo man of all! Ever’thing His hoodoo, an’ ever’thing dat happen fit inside His hoodoo. He give it to Moses, an’ Moses write it down. You know Moses’ five Bible books, but I bet you don’ know books six an’ seb’m! Hoodoo books, straight from Moses hisself! Even ol’ Nando Jones know ’bout dem! Use ta carry ’em in his sto’, right here in Skullbone. Even Skullbone a hoodoo name – pow’ful hoodoo name.”

The throaty bay of a coonhound rang from over the horizon. Otis’ eyes were cloudy, the whites not much lighter than the deep brown irises. Poncey still massaged his injured elbows, and thought maybe he should have read his Bible more closely. He didn’t know anything about what Otis spoke of, and he didn’t have time now to study up. “How’s it work?” he asked.

“All kindsa ways hoodoo work,” Otis rubbed his gnarled fingers together. “You kin make you up some charms, or a doll, an’ set it under a plant – rootwork. Den you start dreamin’ lucky, or dreamin’ de truth. Ennything you wanna know, you kin fine it out wit yo’ rootwork. ’Cept ’nless someone move it. Work best wit numba’s, lucky numba’s for you. Or you kin draw what’choo want – if kin you draw – draw out what’choo want an’ hide it away somewheres by moonlight. You gotta say de charm, dough, say de charm over de right herbs, or it ain’t gonna come to nuttin’.”

Poncey fell into rapt listening, even as his educated mind fought to argue.

“Bes’ way is ta git sump’m special, sump’m purs’nal from a individule. Could be a piece a’ clothin’, or some hair, but best of all is sump’m liquid. Sump’m from the body itself – like maybe blood. You want sump’m, ol’ Otis can git it, but you gotta give up sump’m.”

Poncey kind of grunted at this, and Otis continued.

“You got sump’m to make water in? That’s the bes’ an’ most easiest way to go. I ain’t got nuttin’ here but my jar, an’ can’t have you pissin’ in her. Jar’s my bes’ frien’. But if’n you got sump’m to hold water, dat’s a good way. You make yo’self a honey jar spell. You got sump’m?”

Poncey searched himself in a useless way to indicate he didn’t.

“Well, dat’s okay, we don’ hafta have it. But dat would be bes’. We kin fine sump’m on you dat’ll work jus’ fine. One time I use a single hair from a feller, girl brought it in from his comb, an’ afore you know it they’s married. ’Nudder time, nuttin’ but a paper towel a man dries ’is hands wid’. Brotha wan’ed de juju put on ’im, take away ’is job, an’ picks de paper towel outen de garbage. Sho’ ’nuff, he gone from dat job in a week. Hoodoo, you don’ mess ’round wid it.”

The concluding part of “Madness in their Hearts” is coming up later this week

* * * * *

Craig Davis has written three novels and a new collection of short stories, “A Time for Poncey.” Born and bred in Memphis – the land of Elvis and pork bbq, although neither ever did him any good – he worked for 20 years in newspapers as a columnist, designer, artist and cartoonist. He is father to two grown daughters and owns a dog that refuses to grow up.

His submissions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Exposure № 082: If I were Alice

Photographer Naama Sarid takes inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in this portrait:

“If I were Alice, I would never have chased after that rabbit. Down to that cavity in the ground where reality was lost”: The photo is one from a series that I’m doing about the story of Alice in Wonderland.
Model: Viviana Bovino, Actriz.
Camera: Pentax, 35mm 400iso BW

* * * * *

Naama Sarid-Maleta’ is an architect. She began an intense career as a documentary and conceptual photographer in Madrid (2008) and has contributed to magazines and publications in Europe and Israel. She has participated in numerous exhibitions in Ukraine, Spain and Israel. Her sustained challenge as an artist is the desire to “build dreams” in visual codes. She had developed a scheme of work based on the interaction of enforcement procedures and the organizations of architecture and a conceptual result more expressionistic and plastic in its nature. Her husband is also an architect and photographer from Cuba, and they work as a team with multidisciplinary projections.

Her other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Madness in their Hearts ◊ Part I


he long night stretched out its dark fingers, a voracious spectre taking hold of the struggling daylight. A distant train whistled its triune call through the blackness. The days had dwindled to their shortest span, and glistening frost in the mornings did little to gladden the gray. The crisp fragrance of chill air sharpened all the townsfolk’s senses. Poncey sighed, and he could see his breath in his apartment.

Poncey glared at the ceiling. He had little reason to crawl out from under his covers. No job called him, and no prospects encouraged him to care. So he vented his silent rage upon the ceiling. He recalled a time as a small boy when he lay on his back in his bed, admiring a toy ring upon his finger, a trinket he’d won at the state fair. Then the ceiling had interrupted his bliss by dropping a piece of grit into his eye, as if giving notice that he should never expect to be happy. Poncey looked away.

The new day stared at him like a blank piece of paper. At that moment Poncey knew where he was; once he stepped out of bed, he wouldn’t know. A broad day promising only distracted ambitions mocked him already. He lurched to his side and yanked the covers up over his shoulder. He hated lying there awake, but he hated more the idea of getting up with nowhere to go and nothing to do. Nobody cared if he slept or awoke; nobody required or even desired his time and presence. He listened to the clock in the living room mark the quarter hour with its cheap electronic chime. This day offered no more direction for him than a map of the ocean floor.

Mavis knew where she’d be that day, Poncey thought, toiling away at the Diner as usual. Ol’ man Ryan and Snodgrass, and Jip the barber, busied themselves in their stores as well, as did an army of people with jobs at all the little businesses lining Main Street. Poncey knew too where his father was, at the rail yards, as he had been every day since he was sixteen. Each morning at five he arrived there for a full days’ work, sometimes even when he was supposed to be off. Almost half his day was done already. But he’d probably stay late – listening to the musical clank of the couplings, watching the rails bend under the weight of the behemoth locomotives then rising again as if nothing had happened – hanging out with both workers and loiterers in the yard for discarded box cars. His love for the railroad would keep him happily engaged till the day’s cold dusk crept into his bones. Poncey even knew where Mack would be, tucked somewhere inside a sanctuary, a refuge never even noticed by most everyone else. Poncey longed for work, or inspiration, or something that would end his wandering, and he lay in a bed of bitter frustration at the injustice of his forced leisure.

At length he could no longer deny the day, and angrily swung his feet over the edge of the grimy mattress. Both landed squarely on Judas’ tail, faithfully lounging on the floor, and the dog’s piercing squeal shocked Poncey’s attention into surprising clarity. Judas whipped around and snapped at his ankles, and in a panic wet the floor – it seemed like the thing to do – even as Poncey rolled clumsily back and to the side, then finally off the bed altogether. Judas skittered away from his tumbling hulk, and Poncey lay like a beached whale next to the puddle. Judas whined, scratching at the front door with a pensive look. Poncey thought if he didn’t do something quick to lance this futile infection, he would bust.

He thrust open the door of his apartment building, and Judas dragged him out by the leash. Poncey stumbled down the steps and nearly tripped over a pair of legs splayed across the walk, toes pointed skyward. The ragged trousers barely clung to the man’s waistline, a rotund belly rising proudly between his belt and stained shirt. A threadbare jacket gathered under his arms, and a wrinkled tie finished off the ensemble, leading Poncey’s eyes to the bedraggled face of Otis Bender, the town’s most consistent drinker, lying halfway beneath the hedge. His nose bore a tinge of frost. Somewhat cradled in one arm was his jar, just a swallow of clear liquid still rolling slightly in its gentle curve, rocked by each torpid breath. Otis was never seen without his jar, usually more empty than not. A yeasty alcohol smell had Judas dancing away, whimpering at his restraint, and Poncey’s brain felt like it had been hit by a rum muffin. He gazed upon the rumpled man, nestled comfortably on the scrabbly grass, serene upon the brick he used as a pillow.

Even Otis has a place to go, Poncey thought. He’s got an early start at his job, too, he thought, and wondered if Otis had lain down in the shrubbery at the same time his father had gone to the rail yards, as though they were changing shifts. Poncey wondered where Otis got the money for his ’shine, and where he got the ’shine in the first place. Supply always meets demand, even in a dry county, he thought; there needs to be some demand for me. Poncey’s disgust arose in his throat – I need something so bad it’s killing me, I’ve got to have something – and he thought about giving Bender a swift kick just for spite. A siren wailed urgently from the direction of the highway.

I hate this town, Poncey thought, and he was sure nobody had ever hated his own town more than he hated Skullbone. He dragged Judas past every tree and hydrant as he bulled his way down Main Street. A fierce focus burned from his eyes, as if hoping to find something in front of him despite looking at nothing. An image of one of his father’s beloved steam locomotives, glowing red with heat, entered his head and worked its way down into his legs and tenacious stride. He almost didn’t hear the voice from the heavens.

“What’s buggin’ you?”

Poncey stopped like he’d walked into a wall and blankly stared ahead. His mouth hung open for a moment as he wondered how foolish he might look if he asked the voice something.

“Just what’s buggin’ you down there, Poncey?”

“Who’s that?” he ventured. The familiar tones sounded too country-fried for evil, but the TV evangelists always talked about Satan’s deceitful ways, and that made Poncey nervous. That’s all he needed today, a demonic trick. It crossed his mind that he might be going crazy. But seeing Judas gratefully sniff around the weeds at the foot of a stop sign comforted him with its reality. Perhaps he was about to receive an intervention. Poncey shaded his eyes against the sun and scanned the sky for the voice’s source. He could not deny his disappointment when he spotted a faded pair of red sneakers peaking over the edge of the nearest building, an abandoned general store.

Nando Jones was a Jewish merchant who had built a little retail empire over the decades with the cheapest junk he could find. Originally Chaim Liebovitz, in the days of Jim Crow he catered to the black community in Memphis because nobody else would, and chose a professional name his customers could pronounce and remember. Nando’s business plan bore no real fondness for his patrons, but allowed that their cash was the same color as anyone’s. He learned that community’s unique desires and needs, and made a small fortune providing for them. Nando Jones Sundries grew so successful that the old man built stores in select small towns all around West Tennessee. Though his inventory was the worst money could buy, he wanted his stores to project class, so they all featured a garish Victorian-style sign propped upon the roof, adorned with pronounced cornices and gracefully curving flourishes. Unfortunately, in Skullbone the store had floundered, and by now the building had stood vacant for decades, too large for any other business to fill. The sign still proudly declared the original owner, and within one of the decorations – lilting like a huge wood shaving – the stringy body of Mack MacLenoly lay wedged, like a supine gargoyle. He had claimed squatter’s rights to the building as one of his bizarre hideaways.

“What’re you doin’ up there?”

“Watchin’ you. You’re draggin’ Judas aroun’ like he’s one a’ them stuffed dogs.”

“I wish he was stuffed.”

“Well, better to pull aroun’ a dead dog than gettin’ chased by a lion, I guess. What’s eatin’ at you?”

“Come go to the Diner with me.”

Mack slid down a gutter spout. Together they sauntered the last few blocks to the Diner as Poncey vented his frustration. After twisting Judas’ leash around an expired parking meter, Poncey struggled with the Diner’s door for a moment before getting it open, and scowled at the merry jingling as the bell announced them.

“Sorry, sweetie. Been meanin’ to get that latch fixed,” Mavis Davis said from behind the counter.

“Only in Skullbone would you find a doorknob like that,” Poncey snarled, mounting his stool.

Part 2 of 3 of “Madness in their Hearts” is coming up later this week.

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Craig Davis has written three novels and a new collection of short stories, “A Time for Poncey.” Born and bred in Memphis – the land of Elvis and pork bbq, although neither ever did him any good – he worked for 20 years in newspapers as a columnist, designer, artist and cartoonist. He is father to two grown daughters and owns a dog that refuses to grow up.

His submissions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Dr. Hurley’s Digest: Vol. II, Week 10

Check out what you missed
in this week’s digest: poetry, photography, and art from contributors old and new.





This week, we have serialised short fiction and more, so stay tuned!

Impression № 050: Dormilón

Artist Miguel Almagro shares a little about his inspiration for “Dormilon”:

The list of artists that I admire would be endless, but I have my particular pantheon! In order of when they first appeared in my life and the kind of impact they had: Jack Kirby, Herge, Moebius, Richard Corben and Robert Crumb, to name a few. Some of my pictures are part of a larger project, but most are just improvisations or little ideas.

See more of his art at

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Miguel Almagro is an amateur artist living and working in Barcelona. He works in many media, but recently has begun focusing on using markers and digital drawing. He blogs here and his flickr is here. His posts at Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Spools of Thread

ow many
spinning turns will
it take to mark the times you
let words slip out of your mouth


you had a chance to soften

……their blow?

How many spools of thread
will it take for everyone to
stop saying:  I told you so.

How many colors of silken string
does it take to wrap up the soft
words you whispered so low no
one heard them, not even the

How many times did you
think, how many times,
did you,


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Gisele Vincent-Page lives in Canada and is the author of Strolling Down Heaven’s Gate, a compilation of prose and poetry relating to her 28 years of living with HIV. She has received the Poet of the Week  award on two occasions on Super Poetry Highway. Her poems have been published in Mused; Bella online; Poetry Soup; all things girl, Fanstory;; Author’s Den; received the Poet of the Month award from The Writing Forum.  The Body HIV/AIDs Newsletter has also published one of her poems. She has written blogs for the websiteA Girl Like Me (AGLM).

Her contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Her previous contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Exposure № 081: Camouflage

Alexandria Daniels captures the golden hour in this mysterious image.

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Alexandria Daniels is a 22 year old amateur photographer from Los Angeles, California. In the summer of 2011, she returned to analog photography after a few years of shooting in digital. You can find more work on her blog and Flickr. Her posts at Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Exposure № 080: Super Symmetry

Artist & designer Michael Jantzen shares a series of his “light forms”, in response to photographer Dennis Smith‘s work previously posted at Snake-Oil Cure.

Michael tells us:

Most of my art involves the reinvention of the built environment. Many of my other photo collages are made from images of models of my architectural and sculptural proposals. I take these images and alter them in the computer in order to create new forms that are based on the original images.

 In a similar way, I photograph lights at night with my point and shoot camera while moving the camera fast enough to alter the light patterns into abstract shapes.

I then put these images into the computer and in most case double the original image in such a way that it can be reconstructed into a new image.

In this way I am actually constructing with the light, and therefore refer to the images as LIGHT FORMS.

You can see more in Michael’s Super Symmetry series here.

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Michael Jantzen is an internationally known artist/designer whose work has been featured in hundreds of articles in books, magazines, and newspapers from around the world. His work has also been presented on various TV and radio programs, and in many galleries. He has been exhibited at the National Building Museum, the Canadian Center for Architecture, the Union of Russian Architects, the Harvard School of Design and Architecture, and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Most of what he does merges art, architecture, technology, and sustainable design into one unique experience. Whether he is creating a public sculpture that generates solar electricity for the community in which it is built, or re-thinking ways in which we might design the house of the future, groundbreaking innovation is always Michael’s goal. Michael has a BS degree from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, and a MFA degree from Washington University in St. Louis.

His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.