The real and imaginative adventures of Dennis Spielman

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Dog-Sitting Cerberus - art by Chia Yee Liow at Design Pickle

Dog-Sitting Cerberus

With business to attend on another planet, Hades hires Sally to dog-sit his giant three-headed dog, Cerberus.


Sally wiped her brow with her arm and sighed from having just finished her mopping duties at The Creamatory of Screams. She put the mop in the grungy, yellow plastic bucket and pressed on the level, ringing out the last of the dirt.

Behind the cash register next to the ice cream station, her co-worker, Mark, counted the money. Mark took his time, making sure none of the bills were stuck together, every coin was there, credit card totals matched up, and everything was ready for the next day. Sally had learned not to interrupt because she didn’t want him to start over. She would have to wait to use one of her favorite closing puns like, “How in Hell did we do?” or “Everything good in Hell?” The puns about being in Hell, Michigan made Mark groan or roll his eyes every time, which was part of Sally’s fun. She often forgot that he was sixteen like her. 

As far as tiny towns went, Sally enjoyed living in Hell. She knew all of the locals and the tourists were fun. As she pushed the mop bucket back to its station, a tornado of flames erupted in the store. Mark screamed, knocking over the cash drawer as he ducked behind the counter while Sally stood unfazed.

From the flames, a tall, slender man stepped out. He pinched out a lingering ember of fire on his dark, almost black, purple suit with red pinstripes. He inspected his reflection from the ice cream cabinet, about to adjust his hair, but realized he had taken a form where his hair consisted of a blue flame. He stroked a finger along his grizzled movie star beard with crimson red skin.

“Hiya, Mr. H!” Sally greeted.

Mark stood up, picking up the fallen cash and ignoring their guest. Hades turned to Mark, snapped his fingers, and like magic, all of the money flew back to the register in perfect order.

“Your balance is correct, by the way,” Hades said to Mark as he walked up to Sally. “Sally, I have some business on another planet to deal with, and I need you to dog-sit Cerberus for me while I’m away.”

“Oh, wow,” Sally said. “Well, as you may know, Mr. H, I’m a good dog-sitting, but you’re talking about Cerberus. That’s way out of my qualifications.”

“Isn’t Cerberus like a giant-three dog?” Mark said, recalling what he knew about Greek mythology. “Can’t he handle himself?”

“Just because you’re a badass doesn’t mean you can’t use someone watching over you,” Hades said. “Cerberus just needs someone to play with for a bit while I’m gone. It will be easy for you. Just take him for a walk.”

“Well, if you think I can handle it.”

“Excellent. You start now.”

“Hey, wait!” Mark shouted. “We still need to close up.”

Hades snapped his fingers, and from a flame portal, a brand new XBOX gaming console landed in Mark’s arms.

Mark sat the compensation down. “Have fun dog-sitting!”

Hades twilled his wrist in the air, swirling Sally and himself in a ring of fire that warped them to the Grand Library in Earth’s Underworld. The ornate green walls always made Sally think of the Statue of Liberty. The library held several floors of well-organized books, curious artifacts, and eclectic works of art. Many dogs of every breed popped out from around the brightly lit library upon Hades’ return. With tails wagging, they welcomed them. Sally got down on her knees to pet the smaller dogs while Hades gave casual head scratches to some larger dogs.

With the dogs greeted, Hades whistled. “Cerberus! You have company.”

From around a corner, a black dog the size and strength of a tank popped his three heads out. The dog walked over gently as not to cause any books to shake off the shelves. Cerberus’ middle head licked Hades’ head, temporarily putting out the blue flame hair. Hades laughed and rubbed underneath the dog’s chin.

“You be a good boy for Sally,” Hades said in a warm but stern tone. “She’s going to keep you company for a few hours while I repair things.” 

Cerberus barked in acknowledgment.

Hades turned to Sally. “I’ll send someone to relieve you in a few hours. Make sure he doesn’t eat anyone he isn’t supposed to eat.”

In his flames, Hades vanished, leaving Sally hanging with questions.

Sally looked up at Cerberus into his large, red eyes. “So, do you want to go for a walkies?”

Cerberus barked and lowed his heads.

“I am I supposed to ride you?”

Cerberus wagged his tail.

Sally shrugged. “Okay, I guess I’m going to ride Cerberus.”

With the helping nudges of the other heads, Sally got up on Cerberus. The moment she got into position, Cerberus ran, causing some books to fall off the shelves. She gripped the red collar like she was holding on to the bar of a wild rollercoaster as they raced out of the library, bursting through a large double swigging wooden door and out into a cave.

It took a moment, but Sally acclimated herself to the ride. Several ghostly white transparent butterflies the size of her head crossed their path. Cerberus changed course and chased after the butterflies until they faded away. Sally laughed and petted the center head. Cerberus continued walking along a glowing green river. Sally took in the sights of the luminous green crystals and plants adoring the dusty red cave. The place smelled like an underground forest to Sally, which she wasn’t expecting, but appreciated.

As they continued down the river, Sally could no longer see the library. She was a bit concerned but also figured Cerberus knew the way back. A gentle harp melody snuck into her ears, bringing a feeling of sadness as she listened to the song.

“Where is that music coming from?” Sally said. Cerberus barked. “Can you find that sound?”

Cerberus run in the direction of the sound. As the music got louder, the cave got darker and smaller until they came to a pair of bronze doors. While the doors were huge compared to Sally, they were only the size of one of Cerberus’ heads. Cerberus pawed at the door and whimpered.

“I’ll go check it out,” Sally offered. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.”

Cerberus lowered his heads, and Sally slid off. With a big push, she opened the door to a dome-like room. The glowing blue flames from the torches revealed piles and piles of musical instruments. Some she recognized, but many she didn’t. Sally stepped deeper into the room, and the music stopped.

“A visitor?” a voice called out, echoing in the room.

“I’m sorry,” Sally apologized as she searched for the person. “I was just following a beautiful song.”

“You have nothing to apologize for, Sally,” the voice replied.

“You know my name?”

“Of course. I know everything about you, including your future.”

“You do? Where are you?”

“In the center. I’m the giant four-string harp.”

Sally found the golden harp. It was three times her size. As the harp played, each one of its strings lit up as a different color. Sally’s jaw dropped in awe of its splendor. 

“I would love if you played with me,” the harp invited. “It would set me free with joy.”

Meanwhile, at the Underworld of the Green Planet, an animated skeleton of a lion that stood upright on his two feet gave Hades an update on rebuilding efforts.

“The rollercoaster is almost complete,” the skeleton lion explained over a 3D holographic map of the Underworld. “We’re still missing one of the carts for it.”

“I have someone retrieving that as well as the other items left on the surface,” Hades answered.

“Good. Once we get everything, it will be like this place never crashed on the surface.”

Twirling around in her green dress, Persephone skipped up to Hades. She rested her head on his shoulder like she was his second head.

“Is the rollercoaster fixed yet?” Persephone asked.

“We’re still putting it back together,” the lion skeleton answered.

“Sad,” Persephone said as she slumped away.

“Persephone,” Hades spoke with a gentle tone. “Would you kindly head to Earth and watch over the Underworld there? I have Sally dog-sitting Cerberus while we’re here.”

Persephone jumped into the air and started clapping. “That’s wonderful! I’m so excited to hear Apollo’s music again finally. It’s been so, so long.”

Hades laughed. “What are you talking about, Persephone? We have him locked away when he went mad after the Atlanteans left Earth.”

Persephone slouched to stop. “Oh. I thought you were finally letting him free.”

“No…Why would you think that?”

“Don’t you remember his prophecy?”

“Apollo was constantly spatting doomsday prophecies. That’s why we tricked him into transforming into a harp and locked him up.”

“I remember the one he said to you and bothers after you chained him up. It was so beautiful the way he sang it.” To the tune of a children’s melody, Persephone danced and sang, “The ice cream girl from Hell touched by the end-timers will set me free.”

The flame of Hades hair mellowed. “Oh, heavens.”

Sally approached the harp without any hesitation. She plucked a sting, filling the entire room with its note. The harp shimmered brighter and brighter, forcing Sally to shield her eyes with her arm until the light subdued. With the light gone, she saw in place of the harp a man with radiant golden skin. He shook his head, causing his long, curly brown hair to dip down to his knees.

Hades kicked down the door. Sally flinched to the sound of the door crashing into the instruments.

“Apollo!” Hades said with his fists clenched. 

“Uncle Hades,” Apollo greeted with warmth. “It’s so good to see you!”

“Wait, what’s going on?” Sally interrupted.

“Sally, go to Cerberus,” Hades said.

“Why?” Sally said. “This is Apollo. What’s he doing here?”

“I became overwhelmed with visions of the future,” Apollo explained as he walked toward Hades. “Then, Dionysus got me drunk, while Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades here locked me away here.”

“You were ranting non-stop about the destruction of a universe, someone collecting demigods, and I can’t remember what other nonsense,” Hades said, getting in front of Apollo. “You also became insistent on making sure those doomsdays would happen.”

“Not that they needed my guidance,” Apollo scoffed. “According to my original calculations, shouldn’t the universe have cracked?”

“It did, but it was resolved and turned out to be no big deal,” Hades said.

“Okay, time-out! Time-out,” Sally shouted like she was babysitting some fighting siblings.

Both Hades and Apollo looked at Sally.

Sally pointed at the ground. “Sit. Both of you.”

Hades crossed his arms. “I’m not going to sit.”

Apollo smirked. “I didn’t need to look into the future to see that coming.”

“Look,” Sally started, “I don’t know what happened back then, but Apollo hasn’t been ranting about the future since I’ve been here.”

“That is true,” Hades mumbled.

“Without as many followers believing in me, I suppose my powers have weakened over the years,” Apollo said. 

Sally put her hands on her hips. “Well, it sounds like you all just need to talk it out now. Just don’t resort to locking people up or having their liver pecked out or whatever you all did in the past.”

Apollo sighed. “I guess I didn’t leave you many options back then.”

“Oh, Zeus had many options for dealing with you back then, but this one seemed the least sadistic.”

Apollo laughed. “How is my father nowadays?”

“He’s still an ass, but he’s matured.”

“I guess I should pay him a visit.”

“You should. I do know Persephone wants to see you again.”

“Oh really? Maybe I can join you for game night?”

“Haha, no. I still remember what you cheat you are.”

“Surely you got some games I can’t cheat,”

As the two walked out of the room, Sally picked up a neon purple electric guitar. She pretended to play it as she walked back to Cerberus.


Dog-Sitting Cerberus - art by Chia Yee Liow at Design Pickle

This short story was inspired by the following writing prompt: “As you may know, Mr. H, I have had a good experience as a professional dog sitter but clearly this is a task too monumental to take on. I mean this is Cerberus we’re talking about!”

When I saw this prompt, I pictured Sally from #TwinCities. This story takes place after their original meeting, so if you enjoy this adventure, be such to check out the first one.

Thank you to Chia Yee Liow at Design Pickle for bringing this scene to life. The butterflies Chia drew I incorporated into the story.

Thank you for reading this story!

Profile: Jay Martin

Jay Martin - provided photo

Improving Comfort and Lives in Prosthetics

Written by me for the Oklahoma Venture Forum.

During Jay Martin’s early days of his clinical work in prosthetics, he learned his patients’ functional abilities were limited not as much by their amputation as by the lack of technology available in the field. With his love of inventing, Martin saw an opportunity to advance the field of prosthetics to provide more comfort, more functional abilities, and quality of life back to amputees.

“We think of prosthetics as being a very high-tech field, there are some great advancements have been made in recent years, artificial intelligence and new control systems and robotic devices, but prosthetics, in my opinion, has really been a very stagnant field, and it’s very much in its infancy still,” said Jay Martin, founder of Martin Bionics. “I’d argue the vast majority of amputees, quality of life with prosthetics is but a shadow of what it could or should be if technology were further along.”

While Martin believes features like better control systems and better sensors are significant, the greater good revolves around socket comfort. The socket is the part of the prosthetic that the body interfaces with, and Martin compares conventional sockets to feeling like wooden clogs.

As Martin set out to improve the quality of life aspects in the prosthetics field, he got an opportunity to work with NASA on three different exoskeleton programs. One was an Iron Man suit for special ops SEAL Team Six, another was a fabric-based exoskeleton, and the third was an exoskeleton for astronauts.

“With all three programs, they were all very challenging in their own regards,” said Martin. “We created kind of what became the foundation for what we have now as the socket-less socket technology, which is our main product line. And really what I developed was I developed an understanding and awareness of how to connect man and machine with compliant, dynamic materials in a way that would achieve maximum comfort, but also maximum control and stability within the device.”

Compared to conventional prosthetics, the technology at Martin Bionics more modular. Their modular sub-components can be assembled with simple hand tools to fit and match the user. Martin said this bypass much of the fabrication processes needed to make conventional prosthetics, allowing them to fit their sockets faster, more efficiently, and effectively.

“We have a new generation of technology that we’re working on right now that expedites that process even further,” said Martin. “We’re already leaps and bounds faster than conventional fitting methods to achieve and can achieve greater results, but where we’re going is making it just faster and more efficient.”

One of Martin’s main goals for the company is an outreach program to serve patients in developing nations who don’t have access to prosthetics. Martin explained the problem is threefold. Most parts of the world don’t have a trained clinician who has years of experience fitting a hard piece of plastic to the human body. They also don’t have the tools or resources, or lab equipment to fabricate a conventional prosthetic. Lastly, they don’t have the funding to support buying the components.

“Our technology overcomes all three of those,” said Martin. “The hard cost of making our technology is very scalable. We can train a layperson anywhere in the world to fit our prosthetic technology and to provide a long-lasting, comfortable prosthetic, and we only need simple hand tools. We don’t need expensive fabrication lab equipment. Missionaries will backpack into villages and fit our socket technology on amputees in real-time with simple hand tools and have amazing results.”

Jay Martin will be speaking at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. Martin said he is excited to share with the community some of what’s unfolding for them at Martin Bionics. Be sure to register for the online ZOOM event to learn more about turning around a business, asking your questions, and networking with entrepreneurs in Oklahoma.

Momentum 2021 at MAINSITE - photo by Dennis Spielman

Momentum 2021

Over the course of a week, I worked with the Norman Arts Council and the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition on this series of interviews about Momentum 2021. Momentum is a yearly exhibition of under-30 artists throughout all of Oklahoma. It’s one of my favorite yearly events to attend. For these videos, we interviewed the curators and three spotlight artists.

Pablo Barrera (Wixáritari) was Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center’s inaugural Curatorial Fellow and has recently been named Associate Curator. He is OVAC’s Guest Curator for Momentum 2021. Kristin Gentry is an Owasso-based professional visual artist in the areas of relief and monotype printmaking, painting, jewelry and photography. She is OVAC’s Emerging Curator for Momentum 2021. In this video, Pablo and Kristin share insight into their curatorial process.

Marium Rana (Tahlequah, OK) is a Pakistani-American ink and aqueous media artist. She enjoys working on paper for its versatility and ephemeral quality. Her contributions to the Momentum show are three double-sided scrolls that are suspended from the ceiling. These works are collectively known as “Awaiting Arrival”. These works reflect home as a place, period of time, and memory.

Andrea Duran-Cason (Norman, OK) is an interdisciplinary artist. She has spent most of her educational and professional career in the arts, winning numerous awards and achievements along the way. She earned her BFA from The University of Oklahoma with a focus on painting and printmaking and the human form. In 2018 she received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts where she shifted focus to installation, performance and relational aesthetics. Andrea currently works as a designer and screen printer for Massive Graphics and 2D Foundations Instructor at The University of Oklahoma.

Amber L. DuBoise-Shepherd (Shawnee, OK) depicts contemporary Native American narratives based on her family heritage of Navajo, Sac & Fox, and Prairie Band Potawatomi. Her mixed media pieces and oil paintings reference an illustrative quality. She has an Associates of Art from Seminole State College and completed her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Spring 2016 at Oklahoma State University.


Learn more about OVAC and Momentum at www.MomentumOklahoma.org.

You Have 2 Unread Prophecies - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

You Have 2 Unread Prophecies

After getting off the San Francisco trolly, a young woman receives a notification on her phone about two unread prophecies. When the first one comes true, her curiosity compiles her to investigate the second one, despite its danger. 


Claudia could not think of a single previous instance of when she took the San Francisco trolly with practically no other riders. It was just her and another woman with red hair like herself the whole ride home. It was nice at first, but as no one else boarded, the entire trip began to feel like a bad omen. Where is everyone? Is there a big event going on? Did something terrible happen? She could feel the whole trolly getting wider and bigger with each passing moment while the other passenger was jamming out to tunes on her headphones.

When Claudia’s stop finally arrived, she bolted out, nearly tripping on the steps on her way out. She could feel her face light up on fire with embarrassment, but the driver didn’t seem to notice as they said nothing and carried forward.

“What was that all about, Claudia?” she said to herself. “Come on, now.”

Claudia spent her first minute of freedom letting the world resize back to normal. She focused on her breathing and then listened to the sounds of the city. Feeling composed, it dawned on her that she hadn’t looked at her phone since leaving the coffee shop. She pulled it out from her laptop bag.

On the phone was a notification: “You have two unread prophecies.”

Claudia re-read the notification three times to make sure her eyes weren’t deceiving her. She thought it might’ve been something from one of her games getting her attention, but none of those had anything to do with prophecies. She tapped the banner, which brought her to her text messages.

The first message warned: “Watch out for the firebird.”

Claudia scratched her head. “There’s no such thing as a firebird.”

Curious, she scrolled down to the following message, which warned, “A woman in a black dress with a matching briefcase and a pink scarf will get off the next bus. A man in a brown suit and a brown briefcase will follow her and kill her.”

“That’s specifically odd,” Claudia said as she put her phone back in her bag. She then corrected herself. “Or oddly specific, but totally fake still.”

As she snapped her bag close, a pair of car headlights blasted her eyes. She looked up to a red convertible with a flaming bird painted on it swerve in her direction on the sidewalk. She leaped out of the way, avoiding the car. It continued to weave down the hill and around a corner.

“Idiot,” she grumbled. She paused, remembering the warning. “But there was a firebird on it.”

Claudia pulled out her phone again and re-read the second message. Consumed with curiosity, she decided to cross the street, placing her opposite of the bus stop, and waited.

She scrolled through her Instagram feed, catching up with news from her favorite local businesses and friends. There weren’t any major or terrible events she saw that would’ve warranted the trolley’s lack of people. I guess I didn’t miss out on anything, she thought. While scrolling, she kept an eye out for the bus after every few posts. The sun was almost gone, and the night was starting to take over.

She wasn’t sure what she would do if the message was true. She figured if she followed the woman, the man wouldn’t make a move on her with someone else present.

Safety in numbers, she remembered her parents drilling in her head.

As Claudia read a post about the Museum of Ice Cream, the bus approached the stop. She kept her phone out, pretending to be on it as the bus let out passengers. When the bus drove away, it revealed an Asian woman in a black dress with a pink scarf, holding a black briefcase as she walked up a flight of steps with a Caucasian man in a brown suit and briefcase following her. 

Claudia’s jaw dropped. “Well, fuck.”

Claudia looked both ways before jogging across the street, following the two up the stairs. The unassuming and easily missed concrete staircase provided a passage to the Ashbury Heights neighborhood and also provided some scenic views of the city. The woman continued up the street, walking along the sidewalk with the man not too far behind and Claudia not far behind him either. She caught strong gusts of the man’s tobacco and oak scented cologne that almost made her gag. She thought for a moment that her reaction would’ve drawn too much attention, but both strangers marched forward like they were eager to get home after a long day.

They walked past a dozen houses to a turn in the road, revealing the tiny thousand square-foot park, Mount Olympus. Claudia remembered one of her friends telling her this place was once considered the city’s geographical center. With a name like Mount Olympus, her first and only visited shattered Claudia’s grandiose expectations with disappointment. There was just an empty pedestal for a lost statue, and any views of the city were obstructed by trees and condominiums. Nothing had changed since her last visit with the expectation of maybe that there were even fewer viewing spots of the city.

Claudia kept back as the woman walked up the stairs to the top by the pedestal and waited. The man joined her.

“Cats are dangerous creatures,” the woman said to the man.

“Not as dangerous as birds,” the man replied. 

“You have the item?” the woman asked.

The man tapped on his briefcase. “I thought it would only be fitting to sell The Ring of Olympus here.”

The two exchanged briefcases. While the woman looked inside the briefcase given to her, the man reached inside the side of his jacket.

Thinking she saw a holster for a gun, she shouted, “He has a gun!”

The woman looked up at the man and immediately swung the briefcase at his face, knocking him out. As he hit the ground, a gun slid across the concrete. The woman walked over and kicked the weapon even more out of reach.

The woman looked down at Claudia. “Thanks for the warning. Are you okay?”

“I feel like I should be asking you that,” Claudia replied as she revealed herself.

The woman laughed as she walked down the stairs. “It’s my job to protect people.”

The woman extended her hand out. Claudia studied the friendly gesture for a moment before shaking her hand. The woman’s silver bracelet flashed a calm, blue light, rendering Claudia unconscious. The woman grabbed and gently laid Claudia down. She seized Claudia’s phone and tapped the screen with her bracelet, unlocking it. She went straight to the messages, finding the prophecies.

The woman held two fingers on her bracelet and spoke into it, “Hey, I got a situation of another innocent human getting one of those ‘prophecies’ to our operations. We really need to figure out who is sending these messages to people.”

From the balcony of a condominium across from the park, the redhead woman on the trolly with Claudia earlier spun and danced with a gigantic grin plastered across her face. She paused, leaning on the steel balcony rail as she watched backup arrive for the agent. Her grin grew even wider.

“Looks like you hit a nerve, Veritas,” she praised herself as she spun around to her freestanding door.

Veritas opened the fiery-orange door, revealing the aftermath of the first prophecy text message she sent to a person in Hoquiam, Washington. She closed and opened the door, rewatching the scene of her prophecy text in Augusta, Maine. She closed and opened her door several times, rewatching the endings of all of her escapades. She took a long look at the one in Atlanta, Georgia. When she closed the door, her smile snapped straight.

Veritas pulled out a tablet from the air. “I think it’s time to conclude this quest and force those secret keepers to reveal their truth.”


You Have 2 Unread Prophecies - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

For this short story, I wanted to expand on the mystery of, “You have 1 unread prophecy.” No prompt inspiration this time. I chose to write about San Francisco because I was thinking about Oklahoma City’s streetcars and then thought about the trolly system there. I looked around Google maps, learning about Mount Olympus, and thought that would be an interesting focal point.

For this story, I wanted to show the same thing happening to another person, but when I finished the first draft, I felt like it was basically an alternative version with nothing new. I thought it over and decided to use this story to reveal the person behind the prophecy message: the end-timer, Veritas. As I hinted in the story, Veritas is obsessed with the truth. She never tells a lie and believes the universe’s lies and secrets brought its downfall. 

The ending does set up for a third and final text prophecy story. I don’t have any ideas for it yet, but it will involve three unread prophecies. 😉

Ed Ruscha Learning Gallery

I worked with Oklahoma Contemporary to create this video to promote their learning gallery. Get an interactive look at the Oklahoma roots of contemporary art icon Ed Ruscha in the Learning Gallery at Oklahoma Contemporary.

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