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And the Portland Finalists Are…

After a week of voting, readers have elected Portland’s top three stories:

1. “One Stone Stands Out” by Lani Jo Leigh
2. “Dead Air” by Ignatius and Myrna
3. “In Passing” by Alan Dubinsky

Sledgehammer Seattle, you better get ready! The top three stories from each city will compete for the grand prize package.

Congratulations, Portland finalists!

Dead Air

2009 story submission by “Ignatius and Myrna” (Josh Gross and Carly Nairn)

No matter how many electricians were called in to address the problem, the lights had flickered in the news writer’s pit at CWBC for more than twenty years. People joked that it was the ghost of the former nightly news anchor Reed Bancroft, who was every bit as dedicated to the network in death as he was in life.

“Copy for Bancroft!” they’d shout out ceremoniously when the lights flickered near deadline. A white sheet with eyeholes that was hung on the makeup room wall had been there for so long that it had eventually been framed.

And though none of the trained skeptics that worked in the newsroom actually believed the building was haunted, they kept the folklore alive as a form of reverence for a man who’d practically built the Country-Wide Broadcasting Corporation, winning more Peabody’s than the rest of the network combined. His reporting on the Korean War was a standard part of broadcast journalism curricula at universities across the country, and many claimed that his steady reassurance had helped steer the nation through the turbulence of the sixties. They never spoke of his decline into alcoholism and senility, or his claims that the network and the news in general were under attack from evil spirits and that he and he alone could do anything to stop it, only that he had eventually had died of a heart attack at his desk one night while preparing copy for the evening’s broadcast, a dedicated newsman to the bitter end.
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One Stone Stands Out

2009 story submission by Lani Jo Leigh

Three o’clock on this Memorial Day afternoon, I’m having a beer in the Queen of Hearts. It’s a neighborhood bar across the street from the community center where Eugene and I used to go swimming three or four times a week. One time I even got him to take a yoga class with me, but since he was the only male in the class, he swore he’d never do it again. To be truthful, I used to think this bar was a strip club, and it’s certainly not the kind of place I would normally frequent, but today is my Red Letter Day so anything is possible for me.

I climb on one of the high stools to order. The bartender rambles off the usual list of American piss, but it would be a disservice to Eugene to drink anything like that. He used to make his own home brew, and many’s the time I’d come home from a day of teaching and the whole house would reek of hops and malt. Every Memorial Day, instead of fighting crowds at the shore, Eugene always liked to stay home and brew up a big batch of beer to have ready in time for July 4th and the BluesFest. I keep shaking my head until the bartender suggests Ten Barrel. He says it’s a new micro-brew out of Bend, an I.P.A. Sounds fine, I say. I’ll give it a shot. No, I don’t need a glass, I’ll sip it from the bottle.
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In Passing

2009 story submission by “Smarmy of One” (Alan Dubinsky)

The alarm chirps at 6:00am. Jack, the boy, the man, the stuck-in-between casualty of pubescence, gropes with a blind hand. He keeps his face buried in the pillow for as long as possible before lifting his head to silence the clock. The red “6:04” taunts him from the nightstand, the altar of slumber, the snooze bar just an inch or so beyond the tips of his fingers as they rest on the wooden surface. Jack slams his hand down on the off switch, and the chirping ceases. His eyes adjust to the dim dawn seeping into his room, gray light finding cracks in the blinds and leaking in thin streams like water through a failing dike, no little Dutch boy to plug the holes. He blinks, stretches. He feels around under his bed for the box, pulls it out—a beat shoebox with a rubber band wrapped around the lid. Jack sits up and turns on the brass lamp next to the alarm clock. He blinks for a moment as the reds and purples burn away from his retinas; his hand still rests on the lamp, a parting gift from his mother.

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