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Mini Sledgehammer February 2017

We had a very special Mini Sledgehammer this month, because it fell on Valentine’s Day. What better way to celebrate than with a glass of wine and some great stories?

We mixed up the prompt style a bit this month. Here’s what the judges came up with:
The velvet glove
Hysteria Drive
Blonde’s Heart of Glass
Umbrella

Congrats to J. Turner Masland for winning! Here’s how he incorporated the prompts.

***

Umbrella

by J. Turner Masland

Much like witchcraft, fighting fascism is an ancient tradition that will always find a place in modern times. Instructions are rarely documented, occasionally transcribed, and most commonly passed through the generations orally. There are periods of times when our activities feel almost mainstream, and other times it is necessary for us to go underground. Today, we are in a time of transition. We are shaking off the cobwebs, coming out of the shadow, and hitting the street.masland

That said, it’s still not safe to live out loud. Persecution can come from anywhere, at any time, swiftly and strongly. Our resistance must be nimble and most importantly creative. Like a tropical hurricane, members of the revolution are drawn together like charged atmospheric particles, rain down chaos and disruption and then disappear like a strong wind. We are unpredictable. We are dangerous. We are necessary for the survival of the planet.

A successful action will appear serendipitous to the public eye, but often take weeks of tactical planning. Our plans cannot be documented. In the age of electronic transfer of information, meeting in person is still less dangerous than snapchat. The key is to find a location to meet someplace public and innocuous yet a where we will go unnoticed. Members of the Velvet Glove have a long history of meeting in libraries. Much like revolutionaries, at first glance libraries appear serene but in reality are quite subversive.

I love that the local university is located on Hysteria Drive. It adds an element of feminism to its location. I walk in and pull out my earbuds, Blonde’s Heart of Glass is replaced by the dull murmur of a library at the start of finals week.

I arrive two hours early. It’s important that I blend in. I must look like a college student. I wander the stacks, pulling copies of Foucault. His original writing, critiques, analysis. I pull down bell hooks. And just for fun, some Alison Bechdel. No matter what city or state I am in, I know I will find my friends in the library.

I find an open table in a corner of the quiet floor and read. Even with an authority regime undermining American Democracy, there is always time to read.

I must have fallen asleep, as I am shaken awake by a soft hand.

“Excuse me, have you lost your umbrella?” says a soft voice.

The word umbrella jolts me awake. It’s the password of the Velvet Glove. Used to pass messages between members of various cells. For our protection, it best not to know every member of the organization. But usually, it’s used when you’re expecting a communique from another group. Hear it out of context instantly makes me paranoid. I don’t recognize this petite woman. I notice her name badge and I realize that she is a reference librarian here.

“Excuse me?” I ask.

“Your umbrella. I noticed you don’t have it with you today.”

Her eyes are sharp. There is a bead of sweat at her hairline.

“You’re right, I didn’t expect it to rain.”

“Oh dear,” she says “In the pacific northwest you really shouldn’t leave home without one. I have an extra in my office, why don’t you come and see if it will meet your needs.”

Much like a sex worker, a revolutionary must decide in a heartbeat if they can trust a stranger or not. I decide to trust the librarian.

“Ok,” I start to gather my books. I realize I am sweating, too.

“Please leave the books here, I really need to get you an umbrella. Follow me, my office is just one floor down.

For such a small woman, she moves quickly. Like a shark, she glides between tables. It’s almost like she is trying to lose me. The path through the stacks she takes me on feels like a path through the labyrinth.

I glance at my watch. I was supposed to meet my fellow operatives right now. I glance back at my table, hoping they will wait for me.

As I glance back, we pass two police officers. My heartbeat is in my throat. Cops in the library are never a good sign.

“Follow me through the staff entrance. Don’t stop moving.”

As she leads me to the door behind the circulation desk, I look out the big glass windows and see three young men sitting on the ground, hands behind their backs, with six officers standing over them in a menacing manner. One of the young men is sobbing. The other two have blank expressions on their faces. And, that’s when I realize, I’ve been saved by the librarian.

© 2017 J. Turner Masland

***

J. 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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