This month’s Mini Sledgehammer writing prompts celebrate Ali McCart, who returned to her Metlakatla home after a lovely extended stay in her Portland home. They each are a take on something about her. (We explain how in parentheses below.)
And congratulations to this month’s winner, Tim Fritsch, who successfully incorporated the following four prompts into what the judges deemed the most successful story of the evening.
Character: A cat herder (Ali successfully manages a variety of people on a regular basis, and over her last week in Oregon, she really added to that as she facilitated components of two conventions.)
Setting: In the doorway to a room for employees only (Ali straddles the line between her roles as leader and worker well.)
Prop: A freezer full of salmon (Knowing a lot of people who fish, Ali has one of these in both Oregon and Alaska.)
Phrase: Allow me to introduce… (Ali opened many an event during her short time in Oregon this year.)
“Ginger…she’s over in the corner acting to snide, so self assured. She knows it’s about time. I’ll let her wait.”
The old man, who wore nothing but denim and patches, ushered me into the room.
“Don’t mind them, they will all come and see you when they’re ready. When you’re ready.”
“When is ready?” I ask.
“Eh, you know, I don’t even know,” the man said.
“Which one is your favorite?” I ask after a drawn out moment of silence passes between us. He lights a cigarette before he responds. The match smoke mingles with tobacco in the air. Ginger scowls at us.
The man gestures with his free hand up towards a tall bookcase. On the shelves, untold pages contained sacred writ on the rituals and ceremonies passed down through the ages. The ‘Dingle Mouse’, the ‘Laser Chase’—he had it all. Even atop those sanctimonious shelves, two yellow eyes burst with demon’s glow as they observe me.
“Allow me to introduce Patricia. She’s as old as my grandson in college and three times as smart,” the man said, chuckling. “Hopefully she’ll like you.”
“If not?” I ask, a smirk on my lips.
“Well, let me show you a glimpse of your future if she doesn’t like you,” the man said. He pulled his sleeve up, rolling it past his elbow.
Scars crisscross up and down the man’s arm. “If she doesn’t like you now, she will after she has a taste of you.”
I swallow loudly.
The man laughs and guides me down a hallway that opened to the right. “Down here will be your quarters,” he told me. With a knowing look, he added: “Be sure to keep your door closed at all times.” We turned to the left.
“Down this way,” the man said, “is where we let them roam.” The hall opened up into a large auditorium filled with a tangle of mazes, jungle gyms, and tunnels.
“Do we ever let them outside?” I ask.
The man smiled and shook his head. “There is a whole nother branch for that. We don’t specialize in the outdoorsy types here,” he said.
We took another right turn and kept going downwards. Another left and we were down some stairs. Two swinging doors with a sign ‘Employees Only’ emblazoned atop stood beside us.
“Wait here a moment,” the old man said.
“Sure,” I say, thinking nothing of it.
He vanishes through the doors soundlessly.
A minute, two…twenty. I lose track of time and curse myself for forgetting my phone in the car, somewhere miles away.
I hear a subtle crunch. It’s the strangest sound to hear in a hallway like this one.
I can’t stand it any more. I just barely push one of the doors. I see a sliver of the room beyond.
The man is standing in a poorly lit room. He’s standing in front of a large freezer. Icy steam is pouring down around him as he lowers his head and that awful crunch noise hisses through the air towards me.
I let out a gasp—the smallest of exhalations—and the man yells, his back still turned:
“I thought I told you to wait!”
The old man drops the frozen hunk of fish from his hands…his…paws? He turns to face me. Bright yellow slits for eyes, teeth razor sharp.
“Welcome to the herd,” he hisses at me.
I don’t even have a moment to think and he’s on me.
©2013 Tim Fritsch
A new Portland transplant, grown to perfection in Michigan and shipped via South Carolina, Tim is way into writing. Young adult fiction being one of his favorite genres, he recently produced his own YA novel during his spare time in the Southeast. Up in the Northwest, he hopes to find his niche and polish up a glorious third draft while also working as a part-time baker and server. He’s a Sag/Cap with his moon in Gemini and he only sort of knows what any of that means. His spirit animal might as well be a cat, but who knows, right?