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Mini Sledgehammer June 2015

Big congratulations to J. Turner Masland, for whom this is his first time seeing his fiction published! We proud to post your work.


Character: A drummer
Action: Tipping a waiter
Setting: A cemetery
Prop: A cellar door



by J. Turner Masland

I can never tell if the flirtation from a food service worker is because they find me attractive or if they just want a big tip. Either way, I love the attention.

It was June and I was two weeks into to a new city. Feeling lonely and a little lost, my evenings were spent seeking human contact. Anything from eye contact to everlasting friendship. Especially after my arduous days in a sterile and soul crushing call center, dealing with customer complaints all day, I needed a little real life face to face interaction.

All the stools at the bar in the restaurant around the corner from my dingy sublet are fully occupied, so I grab a table. Which I don’t mind, but it makes it harder to chat with my fellow patrons.

“Hi. My name is Tony and I will be taking care of you tonight. What can I get you, handsome?” The waiter looks down over his pad with a twinkle in his eye. I start to sweat. Usually I only get attention from men when I am four or five whiskeys in at the trashy gay bar downtown. I feel that electric charge that hits the pit of my stomach and zaps my groin that comes with flirty with a really cute guy.

“Whisky ginger.”

“Coming right up.”

With each drink comes more eye contact, more sly smiles, a few probing questions. All from him. Again, I can’t tell if he wants the tip or he wants… the tip. But I am hungry for his attention. And with each drink I get bolder. And happier. And warmer

Soon it’s approaching midnight.

“Well, handsome, my shift is over. Can I cash you out?”

“Of course,” I reply, “only if I get your number.”

“Better yet,” He says ”why don’t you join me for a walk. I always need to unwind after my shifts. And it’s a full moon. Perfect for a late night stroll”

Fuck. Yes. I smile and nod

It’s one of those magical summer nights. Cool breeze in the air, but the sun’s warmth from earlier is radiating off the concrete. The moon is bright and the stars seem to dance.

We wander through the neighborhood. I tell him about my move and my job and I stop when I start to mention my loneliness. He listens and nods.

Soon we hear drumming. Which feels odd. Mostly because we are approaching the lone pine cemetery.

I look to my handsome waiter “Drumming?” I ask

It’s June and a full moon in Portland” he says, “I am surprised this is the first drum circle we’ve stumbled across.”

We enter the cemetery. The gravestones seem to flow fluorescent in the moonlight. I expected there is be a fire. Most nocturnal drum circles I experienced back east were always around a camp fire.

But not this one. a few dozen drummers were around an angelic statue. The marble figure looked up to the sky, as if it was beseeching a higher power. The rhythm was steady. I couldn’t tell if wa rehearsed or improved. But it was animalistic. Along with the drummers were a few dancers, with dark fabric over their arms, looking like bat wings.

Time was lost. I don’t know if we stood there for five minutes or five hundred. That electricity in my stomach was replaced by the beats of the drummers. The dancers turned from bats to angels to birds. The swirled and flew and floated. They stars started to spin and the moon pulsed with the rhythm of the drummers.

Through the chaos, I locked eyes with one drummer. A light seemed to emanate from him and his gaze felt inviting. As if he wanted me to join his collective. As if I was brought here, to this grave yard for that purpose. And for a brief moment I wanted to.

But then Tony’s warm breath was on the back of my neck as he whispered into my ear. I couldn’t hear what he said over the drummer. But feeling my handsome waiter face so close to my own sent that zap of electricity back through my body overpowering the rhythm of the drummers.

Tony’s hand slipped into mine and he led me away into the night.

Had I know that I would be found dead, head cracked open and thrown through a cellar door into the basement of an abandoned building. I would have stayed there. At the drum circle. Taking the drummer’s invitation and joining the dancers. Using my feet, my hands, my body to contribute to the rhythm.   Had I known, I would have never taken that handsome waiters hand.

©  2015 J. Turner Masland


Masland02132014J. Turner Masland is a librarian, currently working at Portland State University as the Access Services Assistant Manager. Originally from new Hampshire, he has lived in Portland since 2006. When not in the library, he enjoys hiking, swimming, trips to the coast and working on his writing. You can learn more about him at masland.weebly.com or follow him on twitter @deweysnotdead.


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