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Mini Sledgehammer January 2017

This month’s Mini Sledgehammer was officially redubbed Snowhammer! And there was still a crowd of seven participants. We love our dedicated writers. :o)

Congratulations to Jeremy Da Rosa for taking home the win.

***

Prompts:
Character: A retired therapist
Action: Gaining traction
Setting: A sauna
Phrase: Tres magnifique

***

Untitled

By Jeremy Da Rosa

I need to change the light bulb. Most of Jeremy Da Rosathe bulbs in the house are fine, other than the ones in the living room and those I don’t know because we never turn them on. They might be out for all I know. Cold and out. That little spring inside could be burnt and I’d never know. We have lamps in the living room, and those blue Christmas lights.

I need to change the light bulb in the kitchen. There’s a dark spot next to the oven, and the bulb in the fixture is a chicken shit 65 watt frosted tip child’s toy. I need something radiant, like God’s eyeball. At least 120 watts.

I need to change the light bulb in the kitchen, in the fixture above the table. The bulb I’ve got now is a frosted snow cone bulb and it’s softer than a retired sports therapist’s gut. It does me no good. There’s a dark spot next to the oven, and it gets closer to the refrigerator every time I go into the kitchen.

I need help changing the light bulb in the kitchen, the one in the fixture with the gold bezel above the table. There’s a dark spot in the kitchen by the oven, and every time I open the kitchen door the slice of shadow is closer and closer to the refrigerator and I’m not sure if shadow people are real but Luke and Dan seemed really convinced about them and the last thing I want to see is a 7 ft tall shadow man waiting by the fridge when I have to pee in the middle of the night.

*

There’s a ladder on the porch. There’s snow and ice on the roads, on the steps, and on the plants in the yard. There’s no snow or ice on the porch. There’s no snow or ice on the ladder. I open the door and there’s the ladder. Silver and leaning against the wall with a smile on one of the rungs like it knows.

There’s a ladder on the porch and a squeal in the road. My neighbor’s early ‘80s Camaro is spinning one tire on the ice. Gripping and slipping and spinning and occasionally the metallic crank of the e-brake and he finally hits a bare patch of road and shoots off while I reach and step for the ladder and it’s cold and slippery like a salmon and my hand slips off its silver smile then my foot slips while my other hand grips the rail on the stairs but it’s icy too and one foot goes up and my ass goes down on the red step.

*

I need to change the light bulb in the kitchen. There’s a dark spot next to the oven and it’s reaching towards the refrigerator like some acrobat at Cirque du Soleil. Tres magnifique.

*

I need to change the light bulb in the kitchen. My rashed hand is a sauna stone but the ice on the ladder doesn’t melt and 65 watts just isn’t enough and what if it’s gone out by the time I get back inside and the shadow hand is reaching more towards the fridge.

I need to change the light bulb in the kitchen, the one in the fixture with the gold bezel above the table. There’s a dark spot next to the oven.

I need to change the light bulb in the kitchen, in the fixture above the table.

I need to change the light bulb in the kitchen.

© 2017 Jeremy Da Rosa

***

Jeremy Da Rosa is a writer and educator who lives in Portland. He was born in Salinas, California, where lettuce comes from.

Mini Sledgehammer September 2016

The first Mini Sledgehammer was in September, so I guess that makes this month our anniversary! Congratulations to Joseph Aldred for winning the anniversary Mini Sledgehammer.

***

Prompts:
Character: A guard
Action: Blowing one’s nose
Setting: A factory
Prop: A cabbage

***

Untitledjoseph-mini-sledge

by Joseph Aldred

“I hate these late nights,” Jacob said, flicking the flash light on and of a few times before setting it back on the desk.

“Yeah, well you coulda guessed there would be a few of those with this job Earl,” Izzy said not looking up from the Batman comic she had read more than her fair share of times. “Personally, I prefer not having to be around people.”

“I didn’t expect I would be swinging the grave shift every week though.” He had been looking at one of the monitors, wondering briefly what all those machines meant. He sniffed and wiped his nose with the sleeve of the marine blue jacket. “I’ll be happy when the get done with my jacket, maybe you’ll stop calling me that. What do they do here anyway?”

“Make something–I don’t care; I just make sure nobody makes off with anything.”

“Anybody ever break in or cause problems?”

“Naw–well one time, some kids were fooling around in the parking lot, drinking, smoking–just fucking around ya know.”

“What’d you do?”

She looked up over the top of the page where Batman had just socked Joker one and was in the process          of tying him up.  She laughed a harsh laugh, “I joined em, what do you think?”

“Christ, how old were they?”

“I don’t know, high school or something. I didn’t buy them the booze and they were willing to share if I let them stay. Why don’t you take a walk around and check things out? I’ll stay here and hold down the fort.”

“Mom sent sandwiches and other snacks if you want.”

“What’s on em?”

“Turkey, cheese, that spicy mustard she likes. You know, the usual–I think she even threw in some Oreos for you.” Izzy had been an eternally ongoing love affair with them and all their artery clogging goodness since middle school, like many kids.

“Ha mom, of course she would add those. You’d think I was the one with a new job, not you. Why do you let her do that stuff anyway?”

“You know, she likes to feel needed,” Jacob said sniffling his almost perpetually runny nose. He turned to leave the security office, one hand pressing the door half way open before he turned back, “two of the sandwiches had cabbage, she didn’t have any lettuce and I don’t think she marked any of them.”

“I think I’ll be okay, you said Oreo and all thoughts of food stopped there.”

“She said not to let you eat just those.” He sniffled again and pushed open the door to leave.

“And I’m sure you’ll run right home and tell her. How’s she doing anyway?”

“She’s been holding up okay, talks about you coming over sometime for dinner ya know.” He sniffed again and rubbed slowly at his nose.

“You know that’s gross, just go blow your nose already.”

“I hate the way my ear’s pop.”

“Just do it and be done with already.”

“I’ll do it after you eat one of those sandwiches and take it easy on those cookies–they’ll give you a heart attack.”

“We’ll see, go have a look around, blow your nose in peace, and I’ll sit here keeping an eye on how Mr. J is doing.”

Jacob pushed through the door, pulling a handkerchief from his back pocket as he walked, hitched up his pants and put the cotton to his nose.

© 2016 Joseph Aldred

***

Joseph Aldred lives in Vancouver, Washington. By night he is a writer, by day he is a writer only when his boss isn’t around. He loves to eat sushi with his kids and to drink the occasional bottle of cider. He works freelance creating content for the web.

Mini Sledgehammer July 2016

Congratulations to Donald on his second win!
***
Prompts:
Character: A diplomat
Action: Going viral
Setting: Before the revolution
Phrase: “Gotta catch ’em all”
***

Only the Lonely

by Donald Carson

They call me a monster. And perhaps I am. Donald_Carson

They call me a lover. And I do have my moments.

I do not think they suspect that in my large and fiery heart lies the spark of sensibility. To them, I am just a large lump. A thing to take advantage of until no more advantages remain to be taken.

They talk about leaving me. I would like to see them try! They have hurled themselves away from my massive body but they always return, like fleas flick back onto a dying dog.

They give me no credit for creating them, and perhaps they are right. Perhaps it was not I who brought them into being, but something larger than myself. Perhaps there is a God.

I doubt it.

I was lonely. I longed for a mind to share my deep, dark cavernous thoughts with. And so I fiddled and I fidgeted. I sent lighting where lightning might not have gone. I crafted and I coddled. I was quite clever, if I do say so myself. Eventually things went viral, as they say now, and I sat back to watch.

It took awhile, but I had awhile. Fire burned, and cauldron bubbled.

And forth they came.

How they have disappointed me! I thought to have companions, but instead I have a mange, that spreads across my skin, leaving death in its tracks.

And they think me a monster. Oh, I kill them casually enough, as one brushes a mosquito from one’s shoulder, or poisons ants. Gotta catch ’em all!

So I am a monster. But I am also a diplomat. I want them to one day be my equal, so I try to keep them alive, but I despair how long it will take. Or whether I will have to start over.

They are the humans I birthed in my wet womb. And I, I am the planet they call the Earth. Brooding, scheming, and always hopeful that someday I will meet my equal. Before the revolution that is intelligence spread across my surface I had given up hope.

Now, I have a tiny particle of hope. Will they someday evolve into a companion for me?

Oh, I’ve reached across the emptiness and tapped Venus on the shoulder. I’ve called out to Saturn. But apparently I am the only sentient planet in hailing range.

And while they prattle, and dissect their minuscule existences, and give themselves hugs, and take selfies, I wait.

For a friend.

© 2016 Donald Carson

***

Donald lives in Portland, where he works in digital content and user experience, which is a fancy way of saying he tries to make websites and apps more useful for businesses and their customers. He is a food addict and must eat at least 3 times a day to sustain a metabolic high. He also enjoys avoiding things he knows he should do, working on the same novel for 10 years, and tending to the needs of 2 furry animals which for some reason have taken up residence in his house.

Mini Sledgehammer May 2016

Donald has cropped up to quite a few Indigo events lately—happy hour chats, write-ins, and now Mini Sledgehammer! Thanks for being part of our community, Donald, and congratulations on winning.

***

Prompts:
Character: A delivery person
Action: Taking x-rays
Setting: An ice rink
Phrase: “Heads up”

***

The Disappearance of Bobby Gond

by Donald Carson

Everyone searched and searched, but they could not find him.Donald_Carson

If ever a 7-year-old could have been said to have vanished, it was Bobby.

His grandmother, old Muriel Gond, who was raising Bobby after his mother had left town with a pizza delivery person Muriel referred to only as “that man,” stomped all over the property, looking in old refrigerators, rusting car carcasses, and oil drums.

She pulled things off of shelves.

She clattered in the garage, in the barn, in the overhang where the big RV had been parked for ten years without moving an inch.

She yelled until she was hoarse.

And she was not alone. The entire town of Ice Rink, Idaho (pop. 837) roamed the streets shouting Bobby’s name until the glow on the horizon disappeared and it was too dark to see. Many of them abandoned the search then, but a few of the brave flashlight owners got them out, dusted them off, and continued searching across the fields, rustling through the grass like a herd of migrating elk.

Muriel worried that Bobby had never spent a night out of his bed before, and would be scared to be by himself in the dark. The matriarchs of the town comforted her as they sat up into the night, watching Fox News and waiting for their own news from the search parties.

Morning came. The sun rose, and the town rose, but no Bobby. Muriel Gond finally fell into a troubled sleep. She was a religious woman, and in a dream God came to her, pressed a cold cloth to her brow, and, in the voice of Charleton Heston, told her not to worry.

They never did find Bobby.

The search went on for several days. In the second week, it became half-hearted. In the third week, it was quarter-hearted, and so on, until there was no heart left at all.

It should be said, and here is as good a place as any, that Bobby was no ordinary boy. You only know him as a missing child, but to those who knew him, Bobby was a delight. Most young boys you can take or leave. Mostly leave. They’re noisy, smelly, and fully of questions that don’t need answering. The best you can say about 7-year-old boys is that they’ll “probably turn out OK.”

But Bobby was different. Smart, funny, and kind, he made everyone around him glad to see him show up and sorry to see him leave.

And when he disappeared from their lives so suddenly and mysteriously, the town of Ice Rink was forever more subdued after that.

Muriel took ill, with a fever, and raged and groaned and was on the verge of cursing God, but thought better of it. They needed his help to find Bobby. She grew no better, and finally the doctor took x-rays to see what was the matter. He could find nothing wrong.

But one day Muriel sprang out of bed, exclaiming that God had come to her in a dream and told her that all was accounted for. That was all she would say. But she never was quite the same after that, fading like wallpaper in the sun as the years went by.

And the years did go by. Muriel, who had been old when Bobby went missing, grew even older.

And then she died.

Muriel had been something of a hoarder, saving the possessions of her late husband Josephus X. Gond in careful stacks as though his life had been worthy of furnishing a museum.

After Bobby disappeared, she became even worse. Perhaps she thought that by saving everything that came into her life she could somehow atone for having misplaced her grandson.

When she died, the town had a lot of sorting to do. The one Goodwill was strained to the bursting point with the detritus of Muriel Gond’s home and many outbuildings.

Before he settled in Idaho, Josephus had been a cook in the Merchant Marine, and one of the things he’d brought back with him was the taxidermied corpse of an alligator perched on a rock, swatting at a stuffed kingfisher flying overhead on a wire. No one knew how Josephus had managed to get the ridiculously heavy thing from God Knows Where to his home, but he had. And it had the place of honor in the middle of the garage, where it had lain, gathering the dust of the ages, for half a century.

When it came time to take the alligator out of the place, it took seven men and a truck with a winch.

As they were dragging it into the yard, it came apart. Turns out the rock that alligator was on was hollow—who knew?

Someone yelled “heads up” at the man driving the truck and he stopped tugging.

They all gathered around the rock that had split horizontally in two, showing the hollow space within.

Where the skeleton of a young boy lay, perfectly preserved, his empty eye socket pressed against a small hole in the rock, gazing eternally at the world outside.

No one could figure out how Bobby had gotten himself into the hollow of the rock without help, nor why no one had heard him yelling when they searched.

But there he was.

What was not widely reported, and only spoken of in hushed tones among the townspeople, was that the skeleton had grown small wings—just bones now—that curled against his body as he lay.

It couldn’t be explained.

But anyhow, there is so much in this life that can’t be explained, isn’t there?

© 2016 Donald Carson

 

***

 

Donald lives in Portland, where he works in digital content and user experience, which is a fancy way of saying he tries to make websites and apps more useful for businesses and their customers. He is a food addict and must eat at least 3 times a day to sustain a metabolic high. He also enjoys avoiding things he knows he should do, working on the same novel for 10 years, and tending to the needs of 2 furry animals which for some reason have taken up residence in his house.

Mini Sledgehammer April 2016

Laurel Rogers was brand new to Sledgehammer this month, and she walked out with a newly won bottle of wine! She says, “I really loved it. Such a great event. Thanks again.” Thank YOU, Laurel!

***

This month’s prompts were:
Character: A barber
Action: Parallel parking
Setting: At a bike rack
Phrase: “You gotta remember where you are.”

***

Extinction

by Laurel RogersLaurelRogersHeadShot

The icy wind wrapped around Kay like a vicious sneer, as if the islands themselves knew how much she didn’t belong there. Not now anyway. Not in this alternate timeline she’d lived for the past five aching years.

Bill’s face was, as always, immutable, but that was preferred to the blood-red anger that had overtaken him when she pulled the car up by the bike rack in a haphazard version of parallel parking near the beach. “You still just can’t do it, can you,” he fumed.

Well, fuck him.

The old Kay would feel the sting of his words. The old Kay, who had a heart that did more than beat.

A heart that stopped feeling years before.

***

You could only find a few references to it online, always tagged as the “Puget Sound Mini Tsunami.” No one really knew much about it—almost know one ever heard of it.

But it was the lightning rod moment for Bill and Kay. An extinction-level event, as tsunamis often were. And here they were at the spot, five years and a few months later.

Because coming on the anniversary would be cliche, Kay had said.

Too fucking impossibly painful, she meant.

Time supposedly heals all wounds, but it hadn’t proved to have an effect on the abject, utter loss of an entire world. And that’s what the “mini tsunami” had been—the Great Flood, ending of everything. Just a random late spring day, the kind when families play, lovers kiss, sailboats unfurl their spinnakers and hillsides fifty miles away don’t collapse into the sea, spawning a two-foot-high relentless, powerful ripple across the sound and around Spieden Island.

And funneled—“with surgical precision,” one newscaster described it—right into the spit by Davis Head.

Where Bill and Kay were.

Watching.

Watching in utter helplessness as their three kids looked in momentary shock as the water receded to showcase the crabs and sea slime and purple clams they had, but seconds before, longed to reach under the too-deep water.

“Mom, look!” Lina hollered. “A starfish!”

It was the last thing Kay would ever hear any of her children say.

***

“You’ve gotta remember where you are,” Kay’s therapist reminded her about once a month. “And that’s a lot further than you were last month.”

Was it? Was it really? Because it felt like a treadmill. Day after day, going through the motions of a life Kay wouldn’t wish on her worst enemy.

Bill was on a treadmill too. It just wasn’t the same treadmill. And gradually Kay realized it wasn’t even pointed in the same direction.

At first, there was still some kind of connection. The inconceivable grief, combined with a zombie-like onslaught of “helpful” opinions offered by friends and family, had given them at least the shared focus of survival.

No, they weren’t wearing lifejackets, they answered a thousand times. No, it wouldn’t have occurred to them. How could we possible know if it would’ve made a difference. NO, NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD PUT LIFEJACKETS ON KIDS WADING IN ANKLE-DEEP WATER SO FUCK THE HELL OFF.

Over time, the world went on. Other children died. A mom down the street died five weeks after being diagnosed with melanoma. Bill’s grandpa died. A truck driver on I-5 fell asleep and took out a motorcyclist heading home from work.

Death was everywhere, and after a few months, Bill and Kay weren’t special. Or interesting.

Or even alive, they realized.

But no one else really noticed.

***

Kay had heard of people “growing apart” or just “not having that spark” any more. People got bored. People got lonely. People got scared as the years ticked by closer to an unknown but certain doomsday looming—age 72? 80? Maybe 100? No one knew, but it was there like a barber holding a straight-edge razor, ready to cull a few more strands from the world’s tapestry.

But only three strands mattered to Kay, and they were gone. And over time, as she looked at Bill, he seemed more and more part of the memory of those family days—days that gradually became myth and legend, rolled up in the modern cave paintings of family scrapbooks.

And just as untouchable as an extinct mammoth.

Extinct. That was what their marriage was. They realized this quietly, she and Bill. Each on their own.

Out of habit she kissed him on the mouth on his way out the door to work for the first time since their world was destroyed. But there was nothing there. For either of them.

“It’ll take time,” the counselor assured them, first together, when they tried together, and then separately.

Gradually everything was separate. First, Kay tried a few nights on the couch, knowing too well her insomnia was keeping Bill from sleeping. “One of us has to get some rest,” she said as she left their plush king-size bed.

She never came back, in word or deed.

And Bill never asked.

Extinct.

***

Coming back to San Juan Island again was Bill’s idea. It wasn’t a romantic proposition. They both knew that. They hadn’t even driven together, although they decided to meet at the Anacortes ferry terminal and go that far together to save a few bucks. Naturally that was Bill’s idea, but Kay knew, in fairness, it was best. Lawyers cost money. Tax accountants cost money. Never mind the therapy bills, the online dating fees, an increasing amount of money going out the door separately.

The papers were ready, and they both were fine. It didn’t hurt, in the same way you don’t feel a thing when they remove your leg while you’re under general anesthesia. But they weren’t macabre enough to make some grand ceremony of it on the island.

That wasn’t the point.

Even though neither ever said it, Kay knew that this trip was a simple, quiet, strangely necessary funeral. A terribly cold one, inside and out.

***

Kay shivered again as she looked out toward Pearl Island. The Davis spit was so much the same—its swath of granite gravel and pearly clams. Million-dollar yachts still bobbed at moorages out of reach of the common folk. Yet it was oddly silent, shrouded in winter’s inescapable solitude.

Kay was grateful. The island she had known and loved was seared in her memory, an endless summer where her children played happily in their eternal youth.

She looked at Bill, whose stoic face was lined with ever more wrinkles even if they weren’t caused by grins and laughter.

Suddenly he looked at her, really looked at her, as if for the first time in all these years. And then he spoke aloud the epitaph they both had written in their hearts.

“I always thought I’d grow old with you.”

Extinct.

© 2016 Laurel Rogers

***

Laurel loves to make up stories. Sometimes she even realizes they’re fiction. Other times she fashions them into website content, blogs and twisted Facebook posts about her family. One day soon, she’ll actually get her own blog going at www.theclockstruckmidlife.com.

Mini Sledgehammer March 2016

We can finally see spring between the clouds! Well, every once in a while, we can. In the meantime, Mini Sledgehammerers continue to convene for wine and writing once a month, turning out a winning story like clockwork. Congratulations to Summer on her repeat win!

***

Prompts:
Character: A Doppelganger
Action: A sneeze
Setting: A marina
Prop: Roll of 2009 minted quarters

***

Untitled

by Summer OlssonSummer-3

She sat in the bar at Gino’s, her third greyhound sweating rings onto the mahogany. Through the glass she could see the whole marina, all the drooping sailboats and staunch yachts blotting out most of the blue.

The bartender had already come by twice more and she had gently rebuffed him. Normally she would have told a guy like that to fuck off and leave her alone, but her instructions were to not draw attention to herself.  She sipped her drink with her sticky red lips, and peeled her thighs off of the vinyl barstool to uncross and re-cross her legs. She fished her phone out of her bag. She only had ten more minutes to wait before the time was up and she could leave. In the beginning she thought this was kind of sexy and interesting, but it had turned out to be really boring. She’d been here for almost two hours. She decided she could take a quick bathroom break.

As she rounded the corner under the metal finger pointing the way to the “W.C.”, she was hit from behind. What cracked against her skull was a roll of quarters, freshly minted in 2009, that had been picked up at a credit union that morning, and would be dismantled and pumped into various pinball machines later that night. She did not know or care about this as her attacker dragged her unconscious body through a service door and into an alley. Blood trickled from the back of her head, but her long red hair caught it, mixed it into a sticky clot that never touched the floor. Luckily for her she didn’t regain consciousness when her assailant dropped her behind a dumpster. Certainly he did her a favor when he shot her twice, once in the head and once in the chest, before he removed the ring finger on her right hand, which he pocketed to send to his employer later.

“Did it work? Is it over?” Eddie asked, and then immediately sneezed. His allergies were really bad today. Dana knew she should feel sorry for him, but mostly she was annoyed. She was trying to concentrate. Looking through binoculars made her feel cross-eyed and gave her a headache.  She pushed some red hair behind her ear.

“Yes. It’s over.”

“Thank god!” Eddie said, and came up behind her. He put his long arms around her, pinning her arms and forcing her to lower the binoculars. Dana relaxed against him. She breathed deeply a few times. Her shoulders lowered. For the first time in two hours, she was aware of the subtle rocking of the boat. Through the window in the hull she could see gulls swooping to nip something off of the pier.

“I’ll make some drinks,” Eddie said. He went around behind the bar and took down two highballs.

She thought about how she and Eddie could watch birds now. They could sit on a beach somewhere without a constant buzz of tension. They could walk down the street in public somewhere- somewhere else at least- without being terrified.  Eddie handed her a drink. The first sip made her eyes tear up.

Dana wasn’t going to say anything to Eddie about the near miss, but it was bugging her and she knew it would get worse. “I’m glad he sent someone else. I thought he would. But we really lucked out.”

He raised an eyebrow.  “But she looked exactly like you. From a foot away he would have been fooled.” She raised her glass toward him.

“Yes, but she ordered the wrong drink. I only drink Manhattans.”

© 2016 Summer Olsson

***

Summer Olsson is a writer, director, actor, puppeteer and costume designer. She grew up in the magical high desert of Albuquerque. She did a turn as a music writer, and later the arts editor, for the Weekly Alibi. She holds a BFA in theater from the University of New Mexico and is a graduate of Dell’ Arte International School of Physical Theatre. She lives in Portland.

Mini Sledgehammer February 2016

Congratulations to Turner for winning this month’s contest!

***

The prompts were:
Character: A Butcher
Action: Putting on a necklace
Prop: A Ladder
Phrase: “Hours of the day”

***

Untitled

by J. Turner MaslandMasland02132014

If there was any day to visit a witch in southern Louisiana, it was Fat Tuesday. If I were in Salem, Massachusetts, the day would be Halloween. But today, history was flowing. The european, catholic, creole, black, first nation, cajun spirits were dancing. I was never sure if it was for jesus christ lord and savior or papa legba, put this day was full of a little bit of both gentleman’s energies.

You see, I needed some healing to be done. And this healing wasn’t going to be done by no medical doctor, not that I could afford one as a part time butcher with no health insurance. But this matter was a bit deeper. A bit darker. I needed to be cleansed and I needed justice.

I turned off the rural highway, about 5 miles outside of Lafayette, and drove my old pickup down the back swamp road. The spanish moss and humidity was oppressive. You’d think after 53 years in the south you would get used to it. But the further outside the big city you got, the more your balls seemed to sweat.

As I rounded the corner, the small trailer came into view. It appeared on the outside to be abandoned, stained green in some parts and others were buried under the swamp’s detritus. If it wasn’t for the crone sitting on the stoop waiting for me, I might have thought I was in the wrong place. Although under all her shawls and skirts, she seemed to blend into the surroundings.

“Well, you found me alright, boy,” the crone said to me as I killed the engine and slammed my door shut.

“Yes’em. Your directions were just fine.”

“You bring what I ask you to?”

I handed her the package of brown butcher paper, along with the requisite cash. The package was filled with the innards of all sorts of animals. Thankful for my job as a butcher: it wasn’t that hard to gather gator guzzards, but I was worried they would start to turn in the heat

“Climb up that there ladder and get me down some of those mushrooms growing on the roof. And be quick. We ain’t got all the hours in the day to kill. My next customer is due at sun down.” She turned on her heel, faster than I would have imagined and seemed to vanish into the trailer.

After finishing my task, I opened the door, and jesus christ it was hotter inside the trailer than out. Not only was every window closed, but a giant gumbo pot was on the ancient stove, bubbling away. It filled the cramped space with a putrid smell. Between the heat and the stench, I thought I would be sick.

The crone was still wrapped in her shawls, her back up to me and she chopped up the sweet meats to add to the mysterious stew. As she turned to take the mushrooms, she looked into my eyes, and despite the heat I felt a chill run up my spine.

“You are hear to be cleansed, ain’t ya?”

“Yes ‘em” I gulped.

“The guilt has taken root, and it’s rotting your insides? Turning your soul back as dirt, ain’t it?”

I didn’t need to answer. She knew.

“Don’t worry, boy. What I am cooking up will take care of ya. Have a seat right there.” She gestured her knife to a chair opposite her at the kitchen table. She started singing under her breath, in some other language. It sounded part french, part indian, part alien. I don’t think I was meant to know what she was saying. As she got lost in her tasks, my eyes began to adjust to the dim light and the heavy fumes.  I looked over the table. Covered in old mason jars and wooden bowls, full of flowers and spices and mysterious botanicals gathered from the swamp. Some were full of dead things, bugs and spiders and snakes, and some, under closer look were full of live critters, squirming and flapping, desperate for freedom.

The old woman plopped down a bowl of her stew in front of me, and the steam made me sweat more. My eyes started to blur, but I did my best to stay focused. Sitting across from me, she removed her shawls and lifted a brass necklace to her chest, with large natural stones and gems strung across her ample bosom.

“Your deed has been done, you came to me for redemption and sanctuary,” she said, her voice sounding a thousand miles away. As she lowered her arms from putting on the necklace her face seemed to transform. Wrinkles melt away. Hair deepen and glisten. I wasn’t sure if the heat was making me hallucinate or if it was the fumes I was breathing

“The authorities are after you. and you know Jesus isn’t going to save your ass, no matter how much you repent. so you came to me. To work my craft. To set you free. Drink boy. And all will be made right.” Her face continued to transform, it now appeared ageless. I was afraid, but there was no turning back.

I lifted the bowl of slop to my lips and retched.  But I had no choice. I choked it down. Kept it down. The room began to spin. The last thing I remember was her voice, laughing. While my stomach felt like it was on fire, the witches voice was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard.

Her spell worked, but not in the way that I thought it would. Rather than getting busted for the murder of Roy, the son of a bitch who beat my daughter, I was arrested for possession of narcotics. Intent to distribute. In louisiana, that was a long time behind bars.

You see, I went to the witch out of fear. The rage that had overcome me when I saw what happened to my sweet Jane was unlike anything I had expected. I thought I was possessed by demons. I thought I would get away with the murder, but I could have something like that happen again.

I called the witch, looking for protection. She promised she would put me in a safe place, spiritually, physically, guaranteeing that I would never harm another persona as long as I lived. And she delivered. When I was passed out from her stew, she stashed the drugs in my truck and called the cops, who pulled me over on my way back to lafayette. I have to give it to her. She delivered.

© 2016 by J. Turner Masland

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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.