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Mini Sledgehammer June 2012: Blackbird Wine & Atomic Cheese

This month marked the return of some of last year’s regulars. It was great to see you again, Pam and Barry! Man Price stole the prizes with a very interesting writing technique. Read all the way to his bio to see what it was.

Character: Clothing tailor
Action: Checking the time
Setting: On an island
Prop: A pinwheel


The Pinwheel

by Man Price

Despite the perfect weather, Federico had been in a terrible funk the last few weeks.  He wandered the island, cursing his fate for being marooned.  Alone.  How had his once wonderful life been reduced to a cliched and monotonous bad joke?

But since he’d come across the tiny pinwheel on the beach yesterday, he’d been remembering home.  Home: the world beyond this island.  The last number of years he had made it is goal not to think of home.  He had convinced himself that the secret to surviving life on a beautiful sun-drenched island–well yes, marooned–was to forget his old life and embrace what he had.

Now, with the pinwheel, somehow a spigot was dripping out cool drops of his past.  Federico pooled these drops of the old world in a place in his mind and swam.  Since he’d found the pinwheel, he had had bad days, even terrible days.  But he had also had a few pleasant days as well.

Federico walked through the jungle canopy and stepped out on to the open beach which served as his home.

Federico squatted down, until his butt dropped to the beach.  Sand slipped down into his ragged shorts, such as they were.  He could not help but smile at himself at the indignity: a world-renowned tailor, a man who’s signature style formed the apex of elegance and simplicity, in an ill-fitting pair of ragged shorts and a dirty shirt.

Using his toes, he borrowed his feet into the sand.  His legs formed an arch and he wrapped his arms down and underneath his legs, clasping each elbow with the opposite hand, and sighed a long, vacant sigh.  It was not a sigh of despair, really, but neither was it a sigh of contentment.  The pinwheel was by his side, held erect by the little mound of sand he had built for it.  Federico took measure of the sun as it sank like yesterday’s party balloon toward the vast and absolute horizontal of the sea.  How many times a day did he check the time in this way, he wondered.  What did time matter?

Federico sat like this for a long time.  What else was pressing after all?  Late in the day, the trade winds slipped in, softly at first.  The pinwheel began to turn slowly.  As Federico stared out over the surf, the pinwheel grew more and more animated, evermore agitated, until it was spinning furiously in the breeze that washed off Federico’s knees.

Federico’s anxiety spun in the opposite direction, from the dread and chaos of the day, slowly, evenly, and slower and slower, until the activity of his brain, and with it his fears, slowly warbled around one or two more times and stopped.

© 2012 Manchester Barry Price


A note from the author on his writing technique: Once, as I remember it, a Mini-sledgehammer writer crammed all four prompts into her opening sentence.  It was like Champagne! For this story, after Ali had said “Go!” and the clock was ticking, only then did I hatch the idea of not using the prompts until the very end.  I thought it would be fun to have the listeners wondering, “Where are the prompts?  He forgot to use the prompts!” I began writing the ending first, starting with “Federico squatted down, until his butt dropped to the beach.”  Accepting that the island was implied, I got the four prompts into two paragraphs.  It then took another two paragraphs to reach the end.  With half my time gone, I then went to the top to write the beginning. 


Man Price admits that he’s beat the odds with a 2011 Mini Sledgehammer, a “Readers Write” in The Sun, and a poem in the book, Pay Attention: A River of Stones.  He’s manically polishing a “Readers Write” piece about snow for a July 1st deadline.  Man’s been wrestling with seven potentially memorable and moving short stories for fifteen months and has been rejected by Ploughshares and Glimmer Train.


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