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Stumped in Stumptown

2008 submission by Amy Minato

“Oh my God she’s been mauled!” shrieked one of many gawkers gathered around the tiger’s pen at Portland Zoo blocking Detective Sauvie St. John’s view of the crime scene. “What kind of sicko would do something like that?” St. John, disguised in a chipmunk costume, sidled through the crowd, her petite stature simultaneously a great advantage in her profession and a pain in the whatsit.

The female body, twisted at impossible angles, had been chewed and tossed away by the big cat like a Barbie left on a porch step. Zoo officials shooed the crowd away, the tiger lounged in a shady corner, eyebrowed Sauvie and licked his striped jowls. “See if you can pull this off.” his look implied.

But Sauvie couldn’t officially work on this case. Already notorious for ‘blundering’ the sledgehammered scooter job, she would have to concede this one to her nemesis and the cause of her recent demise – the squat and patronizing Inspector Fremont Morrison. If he hadn’t dissed me to Willamette Week, she thought, I’d have had that hummer owner in jail by now.

A guard hoisted the body over his shoulder and headed back into the concrete rock cave. A woman crossed her heart with a rosary. Her friend slapped her. “Helen, it’s only a mannequin for chrissake.”

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All Girl Summer Fun

2008 submission by “Portland Fiction Project” (Jeremy Benjamin, Alice Clark, Matt Corum, Doug Dean, Heather Nordeen, Turquoise Benjamin, and Jacob Aiello)

Who could remember when it last snowed? The township employed just one plow-truck, a battered ‘72 GMC with flaked brown and white paint. It had only been used to scrape sand and dirt from the shoulder of Main Street. But early that morning, it was deputized to ply itself against the coming tide of white. The snow winning, the town looked as it had before, long before, cut-off from the world by an endless stretch of prairie.

Here, somewhere under this snow, sat Sushi Ichiban, a small establishment run by the widow Wu and her daughter Ruth. The restaurant, in a former life, had been a small hardware store and was wired accordingly–tracks of florescent light did little to enhance the mood, simply illuminated. A checkered vinyl floor alternating creamy yellow and navy blue was cracked and pulled back at the seams. And the door was rigged to ding when opened, a vestigial design feature that seemed odd, considering that once the door was opened, you couldn’t help but see the widow Wu, and she you.

The restaurant had no tables and chairs, but a counter with bar stools. The stools were lined up in a straight line facing the prep area and Mrs. Wu head-on. You could not remove yourself to a corner to face a date or establish a private conversation. Instead, everyone was in conversation with Mrs. Wu, who, for her part, did not speak much; her English was poor. When customers asked questions, Mrs. Wu would smile and lean toward her daughter, or simply point to items pictured on the menu. Mrs. Wu was too busy listening to answer. Her mind was too busy to learn the necessary words.

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