Sledgehammer founder Ali McCart got to host her only Mini Sledgehammer in Portland for the year this month. It’s great to be back, Portland! Thanks to Daniel Granias and J.B. Kish for coming out.
Here were the prompts, no doubt inspired by things Ali missed about Portland:
Character: A bike rider
Action: Receiving a message
Setting: During a summer storm
Prop: A guitar
Congratulations to J.B. Kish for taking home the prizes. Love the intensity in this piece!
What Comes Next?
By J.B. Kish
“A-sharp. G. Show him, Allison, show him.”
Allison, breathless and clothes sticking to her paper-like skin, repeated her mantra, riding the ten-speed up the lonely saguaro-riddled highway with strange determination. The monsoon rain was biting at her neck, the summer storm overtaking her faster than she’d thought something naturally capable. Here she was, a thirty-two year old bicyclist from Portland, Oregon, terrified for the first time in her life to be riding a saddle at three in the afternoon.
“A-sharp. G. Show him, Allison,” she barked to herself. “Show him you can do this.”
She kicked the pedals down, allowing the pendulum of momentum to suck her heels upward, then she repeated this process again and again. Soon, the rain came in horizontal sheets and slapped against the cracked pavement rhythmically. In a matter of seconds, her picturesque view of the Catalina Mountains was swallowed by gray—what was it, clouds? Fog? She focused on the road in front of her—the only three feet she could make out between eyelid-soaked blinks and bursts of air she ejected from her bottom lip in an effort to shake free her face from that unavoidable soaking.
She plucked at the guitar strings of her mind, suddenly imagining herself in front of the mirror hidden in her childhood home’s attic. She was holding her father’s guitar in her arms, wondering desperately how to play the song he’d taught her. The one that he played for her when she was afraid to go to sleep at night. Afraid of the monsters of adulthood.
“Think, Allison,” she demanded of herself. “What comes after G. Think goddamnit.”
But she couldn’t remember. The storm yawned once more, spooking her toward the center of the road. A single pair of headlights approached, blinked, and soared past. She thought to herself how close she might have come to death had she accidentally steered in front of the car just moments before.”
“A-sharp. G. Show him you can do this.”
She closed her eyes and tried to shake the thundering clamor of storm. She pumped harder and harder. Running from something she wasn’t entirely sure of. Running from the message she’d received just five days earlier. Running from those words on the voicemail.
“Goddamnit,” she cried, taking a mouthful of rain. “What comes after G?!”
“Straighten your hand, and press here.”
She imagined her father, suddenly sitting next to her, holding her hand in his own.
“It’s important you learn discipline,” he told her, his words that special mixture of warmth and emotionless-instruction that only a father can produce. “It’s important you learn, Allison. I won’t always be here to help you.” He looked at her, his expression flat in the attic mirror.
“A-sharp. G. Then what?”
“Show him Allison.”
“A-sharp. G. Then what?”
“Allison, it’s your mother. Where are you?”
“Straighten your hand. Then press hard here”
“Allison, I’ve called you five times. Don’t make me do this over voicemail.”
“No, press harder here.”
“Allison, It’s your father. The doctors say he fought so hard…”
“Show him, Allison. Show him you can remember what comes next.”
“Allison. It’s your father—”
© 2014 J.B. Kish
Originally from the Southwest, J.B. Kish moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2012. He spends his weekends in a walk-in closet turned office working on his newest novel, A Wall for Teeth and Stingers, and other works. He can be reached at email@example.com.