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Story Archive

In this tab you’ll find stories galore!

They’re archived in reverse chronological order, so golden-sledgehammerthe first ones you’ll see are the most recent Mini Sledgehammer winners. As you dive deeper, you’ll see even more Mini Sledgehammer winners, going as far back as 2009, as well as stories submitted for consideration to the big Sledgehammer 36-Hour Writing Contests between 2008 and 2015. You can also use the category links in the sidebar and the search box above to help you find that particular author or story you’re looking for.

We’re proud to have published these writers, and we hope you enjoy reading their stories! Feel free to leave comments with words of praise, and of course, if you feel so inspired, we hope you’ll come to our monthly event in Portland to share your own stories.

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Mini Sledgehammer July 2018

We’ve had some shy writers recently who didn’t want to share their stories on the website, but we’re back with a new one this month! Congratulations to Desiree Granzow for winning the prize, and thanks for sharing your story for others to read.


Prompts:
Character: A witch
Action: Floating on a river
Setting: At an allergist’s office
Phrase: “Summertime and the livin’ is easy”

UntitledDesiree SH 2

by Desiree Granzow

The walls are sterile, a bare photograph of a river hangs on one side opposite a door and a glass window looking into the receptionist’s cubicle. The chairs are a stiff brown leather with white coffee tables of magazines perfectly placed in the corners. Those around me are sniffling, red eyed and somber. If I didn’t know any better I would think I am seeing the aftermath of a viewing of the movie the Notebook. I keep my hands to my lap, tumbling my thumbs back and forth over each other. I hear the faint music in the background, the lyrics “summertime and the livin’ is easy” ring through the air. I think of the irony in front of me.

“Greg Hopkins,” I hear the female receptionist’s voice. She doesn’t even look up.

I stand and make my way to the door. The allergist’s office always makes my stomach queasy. I am escorted back into her office and am preparing myself for the transition. Doctors are not my thing. The door opens and I lose my footing. What was once an examining room, complete with medical posters, cotton swabs and all things sanitary is now a display of what I can only describe as wild hippy decor, with hammock style chairs, a myriad of colors, gems, stones and oils among other items.

“Welcome Greg,” a soothing voice greets me.

She is seated on the floor, legs crossed, a long dress draping loosely around her. Her nearly violet eyes catch mine. My brow furrows in confusion while my body sighs with relief.

“My name is Dr. Desmone. I will be seeing you today,” she informs me as she gestures for me to join her.

My jaw relaxes as I realize no questions can come out that will make any sense right now. I walk over and make my way to the ground. She reaches out, sticking her thumb to my forehead as I jerk back.

“Relax,” she says, her violet eyes again finding mine. She is mesmerizing. Her hand touches my arm as she leans in and pushes her thumb into the center of my forehead. I feel warm. A wave of calm washes over me and my eyes close. When I wake she is still sitting in front of me, but I can tell many hours have gone as the sunlight passing through the window is no longer mid-day but near sunset.

“What did you do to me?” I say moving to stand. “What sort of hippy nonsense is this?” My limbs feel more at ease than they have in years. I notice I can breathe with a clarity I never knew I could have again.

“I didn’t do anything to you,” she says in the same calm voice. My arms cross as I back away further, my body almost feels as if it has a new spring to it.

“Are you some kind of witch or something?” I look around. My pulse is steady, my body calm, but I am mad, right? I should be mad. This woman just put some sort of spell on me.

“You’re floating on a river,” her voice almost sings the words.

“What?”

“On a river,” she says as she moves both hands in a wavy motion. I have backed away and am now standing at the door. My head feels so clear, but this room . . . she . . . is making me feel crazy.

“No, I just wanted to get my allergy shot. I have really bad allergies, ugly bad in fact . . .”

“I know,” she interrupts me. “But you are floating on a river.” I

I shake my head and turn. The doorknob is the only normal thing in the room. I turn it and step out. The bright fluorescent hall light blares into my face. I can see the receptionist, the same waiting room. I start walking toward her, but then something nags at me. I turn back and walk back toward the door. I turn the knob slowly and peer in. The examining room stares back at me. I slam the door and run out. She has to be a witch, or this has to be a hallucination. What is happening? The receptionist tries to call after me but I bolt for the door. My feet feel lighter than normal.

It has been six weeks since this happened. I have told many people about it, but no one believes me. I have suddenly been running six miles a day, waking up full of energy and new life. I am writing about this because I am worried that something was done to me, but what I don’t know. There have been twenty reported “incidents” in rivers near me in the past two months. I will not go near one. Where was I floating?

© 2018 Desiree Granzow


Desiree Granzow has been writing her entire life, but has only recently decided to share her words with the world. She is currently in the process of writing her first fantasy book series, but also enjoys creating non-fiction, poetry and fiction short stories. She is a mermaid at heart with the mind of a sociologist, a dreamer and a realist wrapped into one. She aspires to share her whimsical worlds with many readers in the near future.

Mini Sledgehammer April 2018

This month’s winner had some really nice things to say, among them, “I really love these events and am honored to have had my story selected.” Thanks, Craig! We really love putting them on and are proud to feature your story.

Prompts:
Character: An explorer
Action: Finding a new job
Setting: A laundromat
Prop: A dark mood


Participant foster photo

by Craig Foster

There are two kinds of people in this world and the tourist was neither. Not yet. He’d settled on an idea for a big finish: run his one good credit card to the maximum while moving through a set of cities to the north, where his people were from. Although, again, he was not yet a person. Once he’d maxed out the card he’d call it quits by slipping quietly into the sea, trying not to make waves. Leaving nothing behind.

Didn’t want to be a bother.

It’s not that the tourist was in a dark mood. He just had certain notions. Had made a career of effecting bad ideas for good people and now felt he owed himself the same courtesy. It was his best bad idea for ages and the tourist couldn’t help being a little excited about it.

Since he wanted to end in the sea he made a calculation of how far his credit would take him, and for how long. He conjured an option of eating at expensive restaurants and staying at the most overpriced hotels. The tourist would travel directly to the seaside quickly. He’d heard you learn less the more you travel. It would be a good test of this theory, although he wouldn’t reveal his findings.

Another option was predictably the opposite of the first. And he took comfort in being predictable. Namely, the tourist would go on the cheap and live on the street, eat out of dumpsters. It would become a long trip unless he died as a result of that lifestyle, which would be very disappointing for him and probably lead to a cleanup for others, investigation of some sort, and short mention in a local paper.

The tourist lived at the extremes. You had to give that to him, if nothing else.

He picked what he thought was an auspicious day. August 8, 1988. 8/8/88. A series of standing-up infinity symbols. The tourist cracked himself up on rare occasions. Day One saw him at the laundromat, washing his mother’s clothes for her one last time. He liked the smell of the place. Reminded him of the time he’d singed his arm hair as a kid, waving both arms over a stove burner per a bet he’d made with his cat.

His mother asked if he was OK with her having a new job while he was away. She’d considered becoming a singing florist so that she could do two of her most favorite things – aggravating passersby and making a real stink.

The tourist said no. He couldn’t support bad behavior or novel concepts. His mother said, “Well, go off and be The Explorer then. Look around.” The tourist didn’t like being referred to as an explorer. He thought participant might be enough.

Maybe too enough.

He said goodbye and stepped into the limo he’d hired to take him to the seaside, opened a bottle of something that looked expensive, and considered charging an over-the-top tip for the driver. Some amount that would make her uncomfortable. Get mentioned far too often during fancy dinner parties she’d be able to throw for years.

Some hours later, as the water moved over and into him, the tourist thought, “I wonder if I turned off the gas at Mom’s. Did I lock the door?” His lungs filled and he remembered that she’d asked him to buy stamps. He noticed a light-green plastic bottle floating on the surface and felt some part of him being drawn into it. “This is what they’ll remember me for,” he thought, then realized such a possibility was counter to his plan.

He tried to cry but the salt water wouldn’t let him.

At the last second he realized he might be a person, and the bottle took him in.

©2018 Craig Foster


Craig Foster is an editor based in Portland, Oregon who has had stories and art published in Box and The Newer York, spouted commentary on a variety of perceived societal missteps via an odd folio called The Door Is A Jar, and created the online architecture/design magazine Peer. These ventures no longer exist, and he realizes the claims therefore beggar belief. Thankfully, he is not a proud man.

Mini Sledgehammer March 2018

Character: An irate commuter
Action: Rollerblading
Setting: In a plum orchard
Phrase: “Are you sure you really want to do that?”


The Plum

 

by Sara Kachelman
 Sara K
The plum overtook the entire orchard. When it grew larger than a water tower, it rolled and sat its ass on i-5. The commuters tried to go around it until one brave woman plowed right through. Are you sure you really want to do that? Cried a chorus of carpoolers. I am late, she said. She turned her wipers on high. The pulp sprayed everywhere. The juice caused a flash flood that washed away two whole lanes. The sweet nectar plugged the throats of the naysayers, the tailgaters, the ones who told this woman not to try. And all the haters died.

When the woman had cleared a path and disappeared, children flocked to the giant plum to latch onto its flesh and suck like barnacles. The plum was closed to thru traffic.

Everyone had to walk. Intrepid rollerbladers tried and failed to coast down the wet red tongue of the giant plum, scattering pulp in their wake.

But by late afternoon the plum got soft. The heat of the sun sealed its interior like a rotten pink sarcophagus, rendering it too toxic to enter. The city of Portland was filled with the smell of burning sugar.

By nightfall the top of the plum had collapsed, launching a spray of dead yellow fruit flesh across the Willamette Valley.

The survivors gathered together. No one had plum insurance. With gas masks they hunted for the plum farmer. They found him deep inside the plum pit, curled up asleep.

They were so exhausted when they got there they curled up with him and cried.

©2018 Sara Kachelman

Sara Kachelman has published fiction in DIAGRAM, Fanzine, and New South. She lives in Portland, OR.

Mini Sledgehammer February 2018

We had a great crowd this month!

Prompts:
Character: An old man
Action: To electrify
Setting: In a recording studio
Prop: A heart-shaped box


Ron the ManEversmann SH photo

by Bobby Eversmann

Ron has two hearts. Ron is strong now. Ron used to leak cheese-colored spit from his lips. Now Ron’s blood runs strong like black-red ox blood. Ron’s other heart he keeps in a box inside of a box shaped like a heart, a real heart, a box made for a heart, an actual human beating heart, the box on top of his pillow. The one he doesn’t sleep on. The other side of Ron’s big lovely queen. Ron dreams dreams where he holds his heart in his hands, electrifies it with plier-wires, wires into his car, car wires, wires he pulled out of his radio with his bare hands, his hands wrapped deadly in copper wires, his wired hands holding his butterfly beating heart, running high beating with his car engine running. AC/DC, AC/DC, Ron loves AC/DC, rock and roll and swift communication. See Ron. See Ron love. See Ron’s heart beat like ten thousand hot wings of the eagles of freedom. Wow! Ron. See Ron hold his heart in his hands, kiss his own heart, wink. Hi Ron! What a heart Ron! What a heart Ron’s got, what a love, what a love for the world, what a big heart, how gracious is Ron, loves every boy and girl. Ron’s new heart is a little girl’s heart. Three AM Ron nuzzles his heart, his own nose in his own artery. Smells like me, says Ron. Smells like I used to smell. Smells like an old can of beets, like an old cat, like world famous stilton. His lips mixed with his flesh bloody heart, cold red, lush, velvet wet his heart, kisses his own heart, his old heart. Ron’s new heart is a little girl’s heart. A little girl who could have been a doctor! A teacher! But most of all could have been a singer, that girl had a voice. That girl sang like dribbled gold, a desperate grabbing voice that girl, and then that live wire left alone at the pool, the downed one nobody noticed. The little girl—Ron’s not privy to the name—put her feet on it, stepped on it, stepped onto the wire, an eel, an electric eel, and—zap—died. There at the pool. Swam all day at the pool. Climbed out of the pool. Died. And now she lives on in Ron. She could have been a singer. And now she lives on in Ron’s home recording studio, Ron, the podcaster, Ron, Wolf-man Ron coming to you live from Fresno, California, this week we’ve got a great show for you folks, this week we’re dialing up old loves, old flames, old trophies. This week we’re in love. I’m in love with you. And you’re in love with me. Listeners, oh faithful listeners, let me hold you in this little girl’s heart while I kiss my own heart to sleep. Ron the Faithful. Ron the Bold. Ron of Oak Meadow Lane. Ron, what a man, what a man, what a man with a mighty young heart.

© 2018 Bobby Eversmann


Bobby is an editor for the IPRC’s 1001 Journal and the national bookseller journal, Deep Overstock. He works at Powell’s Books and has published in Portland Review, Fiction Southwest, SUSAN/The Journal and fog machine. He runs Late Night Pomes.

Mini Sledgehammer January 2018

Ali, our founder and webmistress, was surprised to get this month’s winning story and find that it is by someone she knew in college! Great to hear from you again, Linsey! Love the magical implications in this flash piece.


Character: Traveler
Action: Planning for the future
Setting: A rock garden
Phrase: “Why is there a knot at the end?”


UntitledSquinty selfy

by Linsey Schmidt

Miss Abernathy of SE Green and Clover was 103. On a good day, she was convinced she didn’t look a day over 70, on a bad no more than 85. The neighbors on either side did not know any of this however, to them she was just the little old lady that moved in three years ago to rehab the 70s ranch house. One or two might point out that neither her rock or herb gardens matched the exterior, but she kept the lot up and always paid her HOAs, so she was doing better than most. Sarah, her closest neighbor, was the first to welcome her to the neighborhood, and the only one to bring her consistent joy.

Jeff, the oldest of Sarah’s children ran up to the table, stopping in a skid of gravel. “Did you bring me anything, Miss Abbie?”

“Does a sweet count?” She pushed the plate between him and his brother. Jeff grabbed a twist with an elaborate scroll end.

“Why does it have a knot at the end?” He asked, pulling immediately at the folds.

“For endings and beginnings,” she murmured, but her attention strayed to Sarah’s younger son, so much quieter than his older brother. Tim had grown pale in the time she’d been away, and leaned hard into his mother. Sarah brushed a hand along her son’s head, leaving a streak of sweat in his hair.

“Feeling okay, baby?” she asked only to lunge forward to grab Jeff before grabbed a handful of cookies from the tray. “Don’t ruin your dinner.”

“A cookie won’t hurt you,” Miss Abbie told Tim in a whisper. “Try the one with the sprinkles.”

“it’s got green stuff.”

“Just a few minutes and hours to see you into the future,” She told him. Thyme was a magical herb when used correctly. She was just worried she wouldn’t get enough into him to last out the week.

© 2018 Linsey Schmidt


Linsey likes to write a lot – mostly emails for the corporate world, but fictional stories (short and long form) sometimes make their way in too. She is thankful for opportunities like the mini-Sledgehammer to write outside her ordinary.

Mini Sledgehammer November 2017

Mini Sledgehammerers say the nicest things. This month’s winner says, “Thank you so much for offering this event!  Everyone is so supportive and creative. You’ve got a good thing going here.” We’re glad you’re part of it, Dana, and congratulations on your win!
***

Character: An angry jogger
Action: Delivering a package
Setting: Airport
Prop: Stuffing

***

Testing

by Dana StepletonDana

I scheduled the test between two mundane errands. That way I could pretend that it was just like any other boring day, as if nothing of note had really happened.

“What did you do today?” Someone might ask.

“Oh you know, went to the grocery store and the dry cleaners. Oh, and I went in for my test, too.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” they would reply, before continuing to talk about their own day, which is what they wanted to do in the first place.

So I went to the grocery store, and even though I realized that the items I bought from the frozen section would have appreciated a different order of operations, I continued straight on to the testing center. Any change to the plan at this point would throw off my feigned coolness and irrevocably upset the hypothetical conversations I had scripted in my head.

The scene did feel a bit prophetic. “What was it like, when you found out?” My future offspring would probably ask.

“It was one of those perfect Autumn days, where the leaves are every color from plum red to lemon yellow and when you step into them they crunch. It felt like a spotlight was on my every movement.” I became aware that while the leaves were probably perfect for crunching, I had not actually crunched any. To keep my future self honest, I stepped out of my path to step down into a pile that had accumulated against the brick wall that hemmed in the sidewalk.

“Watch where you’re going!” yelled a voice from behind me. I turned to see a jogger, covered in a sheen of sweat and gesturing with righteous indignation. He skirted around my impulsive path with an exaggerated parkour-like movement.

“And then, some asshole jogger got all bent out of shape and basically ran me over,” I told my hypothetical children, while simultaneously apologizing to the man. After a second, I erased this addendum from the story. Better to leave it as a prophetic fall day. The scent in the air of things to come, that sort of thing.

When I entered the actual testing center, my future conversation fell away in the face of a small mountain of paperwork to complete. I claimed a clipboard and a pen that had a spoon taped on to the top, and began to fill out my relevant details. The last sheet was a sky blue, and it had a dotted line across the middle. Just below the line was written, “For Medical Provider Only.” It was followed by a series of “choose one of the following” questions involving incomprehensible acronyms, and at the very bottom, a simple Yes/No statement:

Epigenetic material viable for life-extending protocol (LEP): YES   /     NO

I flipped the pen over and drew silent circles around the “YES” with the spoon, around and around again. I noticed the person next to me noticing me, gave a quick smile in their general direction without making eye contact, and then put the pen/spoon down. Without my silent prayer to keep me occupied, I looked around the waiting room.

It felt more like the seating area at an airport than a medical clinic. There were no crying and snot covered children, no high schoolers absorbed in their phones while trying not to think about turning their head and coughing for their required sports physical. There were only quiet, not quite middle aged men and women like me, waiting as impassively as businessmen and women wait for their commuter flight. And this room served the same purpose as an airport, really. We were gathered here, hoping to start a great journey. Only, not all of us would be allowed on the plane. The biggest overbooking fuck up in history, I thought to myself.

Eventually I was called to the back and had my blood drawn. I sat alone for about five minutes while they processed the sample, and then I was ushered into the counseling room. This was a conversation I had not rehearsed to myself. I found myself wishing I had given that “YES” a few more circles with the spoon, just for good luck.

A women with a prepackaged compassionate look greeted me at the door of the room. She ran through some platitudes, and then paused. “Irene,” she said, “I’m so sorry, but your results came back negative. You are not a qualified candidate for the LEP. As you know, this decision is made based on the quality of your epigenetic material, which would determine if the procedures would have a positive outcome. Now, I now this can be a shock. But with other medical interventions, you likely have another,” she flipped through my chart, “eighty of ninety years of quality life.”

Later I placed the melted ice cream and ruined Stouffers stuffing in the freezer like I was delivering a package to my future self. Maybe she would care about the risk of food borne illness, the wrongness of the texture in her mouth. For now I couldn’t even ask her.

© 2017 Dana Stepleton

***

Dana recently got out of the Army and is now traveling the country in her camper van as a full time vagabond. She spends her time writing, hiking, observing the locals, and keeping her existential angst tamped firmly down.