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Mini Sledgehammer February 2012: St. Johns Booksellers

Although the competition was not fierce this month at the St. Johns Mini Sledgehammer, the winning story was! Director Ali McCart played. Even if she had been eligible to win, she wouldn’t have–Judge and St. Johns Booksellers Owner Nena Rawdah vetoed Ali’s story for doing harm to a book in it. Well, we’re all on the books’ side aren’t we?

Congratulations to Jack Mahaffy for taking home prizes on his first visit to the contest. The story was definitely a winner, no matter how many writers competed.


Character: Miser
Action: Stumbling up some stairs
Prop: A big, heave, ornate book
Phrase: “Haters can pound sand!”


Dog Arms

by Jack Mahaffy

There was a man who had dogs for arms.  There was a dog coming out of his left shoulder, and one from his right.  They were both hounds: blood, wolf.  Wolf was his right arm.  This is how he was born.

It was difficult for the man to do some things, but others came easy.  He could hold onto something for a long time.  He could never let go of something.  The man was rarely cold.  As a boy, he unwrapped box after box of vests.

It was hard for the man growing up.  But not for the reasons you would think.  Here’s why.  Here’s some of the reasons.  Please sit.  Please stay.  Do those two things for a while and quietly no as not to wake the dogs.

There is a whimper, a kind of whimper.  Here’s what I want you to understand: for must people it is on the inside only.  Not for the man.  This is a type of whimper that you have probably long since learned by now to keep coiled.  But the man’s arms bristle.  The long lips at the end of each mouth split where your wrist is.  Look down.  Lay down.  Look down to where your hands are.  He has wet teeth for where your fingers are.

The man loved libraries.  Have I mentioned that?  I’m sorry.  Would you like something to drink?  Some tea?  Don’t mind Blood if she yips—she’s just dreaming.

When he was a boy the man would go to the library after school.  The town had two, even though one would have done just fine.  It was a small town.  The man would go to the first one, the old one, to that one only.

There was trouble in grade school once, in the library once, when he was a boy and the dogs were just pups.  The library was old and didn’t hide it.  There were marble stairs with the sound always and unexpected of different types of heels stumbling up the stairs.  There were terminals, sure, and movies in all the modern formats, but the library kept its relics, showcased its older eras.  It’s okay to be proud of what you are.

The man would go there.  He would go into the room with the relics.  Have you seen it?  It’s flanked by two built-in pillars with inscribed pediments, there’s a maroon rope strung across the entry with a sign hung where the sag of it was at its deepest.  It’s a nice place.  Tea by itself is suitable, I hope?  I have a few cookies, to be honest—hermit cookies—but they were baked for me after my son’s funeral.  They’re delicious and I don’t have the recipe.  Forgive me if I’m a miser about such things.

So.  The library.  The room.  The boy would crawl under the rope.  There was a book there he loved.  A big and heavy and ornate book.  It could stand his hands.  He could hold onto it.

His arms would scamper under the rope.  What happened once, when they were pups, was that Blood and Wolf both skittered, growled, pissed on the marble.  A boy from school saw him—an older boy.  He laughed and pointed at the piss dripping from where your armpits are.

The boys arms barked.  Lunged.  The older boy cried out.  The boy who would become the man smiled or grunted or was ashamed, probably.  He may have thought I’m sorry or come back or haters can pound sand.

Listen.  Thanks for coming.  For staying.  Will you fetch the kettle for me?  It aches to get up anymore these days.

© 2012 Jack Mahaffy


Jack Mahaffy, who lives in Oregon, has a wife and a child and dogs.


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