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Mini Sledgehammer March 2014: Blackbird Wine & Atomic Cheese

This month’s winner, A. L. Adams, used the prompts in interesting ways, and we love the twist this second-person story takes.

Character: The person no one expected
Setting: Where everything is topsy-turvy
Prop: Untied shoelaces
Phrase: Watch your step!

***

Watch your step when you go down to the boathouse. In the winter, the stairs are frosty; in the summer the top ones are mossy and the ones at the waterline are often beslimed. If you want me to escort you, Nan, I will.  I’ll hold your and and slip my arm under your elbow to support you as we climb.

The boats are closer now; the tide is higher so they make free with more of the space. The Tollycraft wears a green visor; the tugboat’s got that brick­red stripe, designed to disguise whatever rust. No, Nan; we’re not getting on them. Yes, Nan, they are “quite a sight.” The trees? We could cross the bridge to see those trees, but remember? You didn’t like that last time. Yes, Nan, the rocks are dirty but no, we can’t clean them. Those are barnacles. See how they’re so stuck­-on?

Now let’s go in the boathouse so you won’t get too cold. We’ll open the door so you can still see the boats. This door seems stuck—no, i’m creaking it open…Hey. Everything’s in disarray. The ropes are unlooped and flung like shoelaces. Our little skiff is turned halfway over, gagging on water. The other boat…Another boat? We don’t have one! But there it is, another boat, hull­up on the concrete walkway like a space invader’s pod. Wait…I know that boat. Oh, God! It’s rolling over!

Dad?

Oh, God; how long have you been here? We didn’t know your sentence was up.

What the fuck do you mean, “It’s not?” Pardon my French, Nana, but Dad. What the FUCK.

Nana—no, it’s okay Honey. This is Wallace. Yes you do. Your son.

Dad. Fuck. We never saw you, okay?

We’re just…okay okay. Nana Honey? We saw the boats and now we’re going. That’s it; very good. I’ve got your hand, Dear.

Watch your step now as we go up these stairs.

They can be slippery.

Yes. I know.

©2014 A. L. Adams

 

A. L. Adams daylights as an art spy for the Portland Mercury and Oregon ArtsWatch. She moonlights as many things, and has more than a few stories.

 

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Mini Sledgehammer February 2014: Blackbird Wine & Atomic Cheese

Congratulations to this month’s winner, Pamela Russell Bejerano!

 

Character: A Good Samaritan

Action: Seeing something that wasn’t meant to be

Setting: The eye of the storm

Phrase: Well, that was unexpected

***

Eye of the Storm

Amber stood on the edge of the park, watching all of the happy people play and sled and run around in the snow. Her plan was to stand here long enough to erase the memory from her mind. She took in the huge Doug Firs, the happy dogs wagging their tails and chasing each other, the father bouncing off his inner tube and grasping at the jacket of his daughter who slid past him, laughing. The snow softly fell amidst the chaos. She closed her eyes and listened. She could almost hear the giant, fluffy flakes that changed the world around her.

Suddenly it was there. The image, again. When you see something that wasn’t meant to be it has a way of imprinting itself so deeply onto the brain that it actually makes a new ridge and settles itself in for life. His face. His deep, brown eyes. The tears welling on the rims, quivering, as if the fall would kill them.

“What are you doing here?”

It was all she could think to say.

“I had to see you.”

The storm had passed. Or so she thought. The weathermen always talk of the eye of the storm, that moment when you believe with false hope that it’s over. That you’ve survived. But then the other half of the storm rips through. This half, the one they always claim was unexpected, is the one that breaks down the fragile barrier that you thought would hold. But it never does. And when it falls, the Good Samaritan is nowhere to be found.

A loud screech pierced her vision, sending his face shattering into a million tiny pieces. She opened her eyes, too late. The toboggan slammed into her shins and sent her knees buckling in a direction that was not human. Another sound filled her ears. She realized it was her own scream.

“Don’t move!” a voice shouted in her ear.

It was the man, the father. His daughter sat by her side, her eyes filled with horror. Moving was not an option, so Amber stayed, the snow soaking through her pants, her jacket. It seemed hours before a medical crew arrived. Faces appeared in her line of vision, then disappeared, only to reappear again. A poke stung her arm. The world went black.

Seven months, three weeks and four days. That’s how long it took her to walk again. In that time she had been confined to a wheelchair, then crutches, and finally a simple cane. It was month eight when she stepped out into the sun and walked to the park. She stopped and turned in a 360 degree circle. It was all there, right where she’d left it. The happy people, the dogs playing, the Doug Firs swaying in the wind. It was the only thing she saw.

 

©2014 Pamela Russell Bejerano

Pamela Russell Bejerano is a writer who works as a school administrator in Portland, Oregon. Pamela has published a poem and was invited to read a short story at the Cannon Beach Historical Society; this is her fourth Mini Sledgehammer win. Pam has lived abroad several times and weaves multicultural issues and the strength of women throughout her writing. She is currently working on her second novel about a young woman living in Nicaragua whose tenderly crafted life and community are shattered by an atrocity that she alone must find the strength to overcome.

Mini Sledgehammer January 2014: Blackbird Wine & Atomic Cheese

We missed you, Mini Sledgehammer! In this first contest of 2014, two Sledgehammer veterans and two people new to the contest tackled the four prompts and the clock. Congratulations to this month’s winner, J.B. Kish.

Character: A reformed omnivore

Action: Choosing bananas

Setting: The bottom of the bowl

Phrase: Oh yes, I know the Muffin Man

***

The Difference Between Snow

He reached out, choosing bananas again. He always chose bananas on colder days, when the snow had drifted up against the front of his cabin like the lip of cake frosting. Jerking his massive wooden front door open, he welcomed a sharp, cutting breeze against his cheek and shook it off. Mother winter was kissing him awake. Kisses were always their brightest in the morning. Not like sundown.

Jack Shadowsong stepped out into the high-desert sunlight and carefully peeled one of his bananas from the bottom up. He took an enormous bite, and carefully wedged the rest of his fruit lunch into his parka. The others stuck out from his belly like lumpy tentacles, giving him a queer look. He chewed complacently, staring at the fruit in his pocket. He had a long day ahead of him. Longer now since he’d become a—what did his daughter call him?—a reformed omnivore. 75 years of sugars and elk and hamburgers down at the gas station had made him sluggish and slow.

“You’re an old buffalo,” his daughter Suzy told him. “You’ll die in these mountains an old buffalo, papa. You have to start eating better.”

And so, much to his chagrin, Jack Shadowsong had banana lunches and fruit dinners, and fruit breakfast, and fruit, fruit—

“Fruit,” Jack muttered. “God I hate fruit.” He spit the rest of his banana and it disappeared into the snow at his feet. And then he was off, to the bottom of the bowl, to watch the young skiers get in fistfights with snowboards and drink until they were red in the face.

“That was Justin Jackson new hit single, ‘Oh Yes, I Know the Muffin Man,’ and you heard it first, right here on KRSMACK Radio.”

The radio DJ’s voice blared through the speakers at the base of the ski slope near the ticket booth. The line was down to the parking lot. And the children were already screaming. Jack hadn’t even made it into the lodge for coffee yet before his boss was waving him to the chair lift for a quick relief shift. That’s what he called them. “Relief shifts. The only smoke break that took forty-five minutes, Jack thought to himself. But there he was, standing in line and checking tickets and thinking to himself about the coming night.

Jack could stand for hours at a time. He didn’t mind his job. He didn’t mind standing, and pressing the button when a child fell down onto its face. He liked picking them up, brushing the snow of their noses and helping them onto the lift. He didn’t mind all the money, and the white people, and the radio DJ, or the lack of coffee. What Jack minded was the snow. What Jack minded, was the spirit of the mountains.

“You’ll die in these mountains, papa. An old stubborn buffalo,” his daughter told him. And maybe she was right. There was no fruit for stubbornness. And so maybe he would die in these mountains. Hell, Jack thought to himself. Maybe I’ll die right here in line, taking tickets and listening to radio DJs. Maybe I’ll turn into a Popsicle and they put a flashlight in my hand. But he wouldn’t leave his mountains. He wouldn’t leave mother winter.

What Jack minded was the snow. The white snow. The perfect, white reclaimed snow that they made in machines so the money would come and the music would play and the snowboarders would fight. Jack hated the snow because he couldn’t tell what of it was new and what of it was old. He couldn’t tell what mother winter had brought him and what the lawyers made with their documents and their paper and their signatures.

Jack missed the days when he was a boy, and he didn’t have to think about the people on his mountain. When snow was snow. And winter was winter. And the cold was—

“Hey asshole, are you paying attention?”

Jack’s eye’s fluttered to life and landed on the boy holding out his ticket. Jack narrowed his focus, and then his expression fell. He feigned a smile, scanned the ticket, and the boy got on the lift.

When the sun dropped down, and the temperatures reached their lowest, the mountain emptied, and Jack found himself still standing at the bottom of the bowl. Mother winters kisses were at their darkest, and there was no shaking that kind of cold. Not until he was home and in his bed. But that night, Jack decided to stay a little while longer and stand in line. With no tickets to scan and no little children to help to their feet. Jack stood in the bowl and remembered the time when he was little. When the snow was really snow and there was no reason to think other wise.

“You’ll die in these mountains, papa,” his daughter told him.  “An old stubborn buffalo.” And maybe she was right. Maybe he would.

©2014 J.B. Kish

J.B. Kish

J.B. Kish

Originally from the Southwest, J.B. Kish moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2012. He spends his weekends in a walk-in closet turned office working on his newest novel, A Wall for Teeth and Stingers, and other works. He can be reached at jbkwriting@gmail.com.

 

Mini Sledgehammer December 2013: Blackbird Wine & Atomic Cheese

It’s the time of year for thinking about, well, time. This month’s prompts speak to that. Congratulations to this month’s winner, Daniel Granias, who wrote in memory of Elissa Nelson.

Character: Timekeeper

Action: Pencil it in

Setting: Calendar sales rack

Phrase: Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana

***

Untitled

Dedicated to Elissa Nelson, beloved friend and former Mini Sledgehammer facilitator, who first introduced me to the series.

In my dreams, my father rides on the back of a whooping crane. It flies through an amber sunset, its neck undulating in a long S. Together they splash and patter in the high tide while the rhino burrows its great iron horn in the glittering sand searching for nematodes. The crane takes my father’s belt in its long beak and throws him into the dusty lavender thickets, where he rolls across their dense beds under the cattail reeds that tower eight stories high. The king of the nematodes carries an hourglass with three bulbs; one for red sand, one for yellow, and one for green. When he turns the glass, the sky turns grey and my father and I are sitting in a doctor’s office, waiting for the nematode secretary to call our name.

“Bastille! Bastille! I’ve been calling you for the past century! Where have you been? You’ve missed your bicentennial treatment again, now we must pencil you in for the next millennium, and we’re booked through Julaugustary!”

The day-by-day calendar on the desk curls its pages into lips that say, “Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana!”

With a flourish, my father throws on a lime green doctor’s coat and lifts me in its folds. He takes me to the bookshop he owned, to the corner where my mother quilted the pillows and blankets in so many shades of violet, plum, and indigo.

It is there I wake, beneath the cherry-cedar rocking chair where he’d take me in his lap and read me tales of places near and far, while I stared at the pictures of birds and mammals on the calendars we sold on the rack by the register. The pillows still smell and feel like my mother’s bosom; it was so long ago I fit in the linen nest of her apron before her cancer took hold for the year that followed, each day feeling like a month, each visitation hour like a second.

Now I’ll sort and stack the pillows, activate the register, and flip the paper clock in the window back and unlock the doors as parents and children visit our rows of pop-ups, pictures, and puppets, and I’ll assume my place in the cherry-cedar rocking chair and read the next tale to this afternoon’s visitors just as my mother and father did.

©2013 Daniel Granias

Mini Sledgehammer: May 2011

Apologies for the delay in posting this month’s winner. The three judges deliberated for a long time the night of the event–at least it was a warm and sunny evening so we could do so outside!–so I guess it only makes sense that the announcement would be the long time in coming.

***
Prompts:
Character: a woman of a certain age
Action: fleeing by bicycle
Setting: between here and there
Phrase: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but . . . ”

Congratulations to Pam Russell Bejerano, who wrote the following in 36 minutes!

***

Pam Russell Bejerano

The Bicycle

Margaret stood looking at the bicycle in the shop. It was the latest invention – the front wheel large with iron spokes, a tiny seat atop made of wood, and one small wheel behind. She had seen many photographs of them, but this was her fist glimpse in person. It was magnificent.

“May I help you, Ma’am?” Margaret turned and looked at the young boy, less than half her age. “Are you looking for a gift for your husband?”

Margaret smiled. She knew women were not allowed to ride such contraptions, but she also knew that this was hogwash. Women of a certain age, in her opinion, were young enough to be able to break such asinine rules, and old enough to enjoy doing so. How little the young knew.

“No,” she said, then quickly corrected herself. “Actually, yes. I am looking for a bicycle for my husband. But truly, you cannot convince me that these contraptions are not highly dangerous.” She shifted her parasol from one shoulder to the other, getting a better look at both the boy and the bicycle.

“No, no,” he said walking to the bicycle and wheeling it towards her. “They are truly safe. Watch,” he said, stationing the bicycle by the mounting stand. He climbed up, swung his leg over the seat, and placed his feet on the pedals. “Watch,” he said, then proceeded ever so slowly to move the bicycle down the road.

She watched him go, then watched as he turned the corner ever so carefully, and rode back to her, dismounting again at the stand. He smiled at her, as if it were the grandest achievement to have ridden such a thing between here and there, when in truth, here was there. Thoughts swimming in Margaret’s mind were of a much grander sort.

“I supposed you’re going to tell me I need to purchase the contraption to mount the thing as well?” she said, goading him.

“Of course not. It is just as easy to mount freestanding. Watch.” He moved the bicycle away from the stand, kicked out a metal rod that held the bicycle upright, and proceeded to climb up the back wheel. “See, just as easy?”

“And this?” she said, pointing to the rod.

“Watch,” he said, beaming at her. As he rode away, the stand flipped itself up.

Again, he rode to the end of the dirt road and turned slowly, then made his way back. How he would dismount was the only piece of information she was lacking. She watched carefully as he slowed the bicycle, removed one hand from the handle bar and placed it on the seat between his legs, then quickly leapt back and down to the ground.

“Simple as pie. Your husband will learn in no time.”

“Indeed,” she said. “And how much does this cost?”

“Well,” he said, gently taking her arm and leading her closer to the bicycle. “This is not your average model. These spokes, see here, how they are connected at the center? That’s the latest fashion, making the model much safer. And the pedals, see how they…”

“How much, I believe, was the question.”

The young lad stopped and looked at her. “The seat, see there? It’s fine Italian leather that…”

“My boy, if I have to ask you again, you shall lose my attentions permanently.” She stared him in the eye, unmoving.

“75 pounds, 10 shillings.”

“75 pounds? And 10 shillings?” she mocked, feigning shock. “For a contraption that will make one sweat to take it simply down the road?” she said, gesturing up the short distance of road she had traveled.

“Oh, but madam, think of all the places one could go!”

“Such as?”

“Well,” he said, rubbing his chin and staring at the giant wheel. “You could ride it as far as, let’s see…”

“Yes, just as I thought. An overpriced bundle of metal to get one no where.” She shifted her parasol off her shoulder and overhead, turned on a heel, and began to walk away, smiling. She knew she had him.

“Ma’am,” he said, running around to block her path. “Please, I assure you, this bicycle s sturdy enough, fast enough, it could take you even off to the next town.”

“And where might that be?” she said, feigning ignorance. “There?” she pointed down the road she was facing that bent some 100 yards down into the overgrowth. A back road, she also knew, that led to Sussex, some 16 miles away.

“Well, of course, though one would have to be highly skilled at the thing to be able to ride down that road.”

“Oh, well, then,” she said, turning the opposite direction to the other road that headed out of town. “This way?”

“Well, this way, certainly. I’ve ridden there myself.”

“Indeed.” She looked at him with wide eyes, as if entirely impressed with his prowess. “I’ll take it. But only if you can guarantee me my husband could reach the next town by that road,” she gestured down the shorter path, “on his first attempt.”

“Ma’am, if I may,” he said, looking at her. “Please, don’t take this wrong, but riding such a machine will take some time. If your husband wishes to go over to the next town, it may take some time to accustom himself to the thing. But once he’s done that, I assure you, he can ride as far as the edge of town if he’d so like.”

Insulted as a woman, and by her age. It was amazing how well the youth managed to do that in one fell swoop. She smiled, thoroughly enjoying herself.

“If you would, please, then. I’d like to buy that one.”

The boy turned to where her extended finger indicated. “That one?” he said, the look of surprise unhidden on his face. “But Maam, that’s our delux model. It might be better if your husband learnt first on this one, then, in time, if he still likes it, he could come back and purchase this one.”

“Are you quite through?” she said simply.

“Ma’am?”

“With your juvenile preaching. Are you quite through?”

“Uh, well, uh, yes Ma’am.”

“Good, because you’re tiring me. I want that one.” Again she pointed to the larger model still in the shop.

“Right. Well, give me a minute, please, I’ll be right back.”

“I’m sure you will.”

Unfortunately for the poor lad, by the time he was right back, she had hoisted up the folds of her skirt, mounted the cycle, and disappeared around the bend. Once out of sight and out of sound, she realized she had done it – she had fled her godforsaken life forever, and had done so in the most unexpected of ways – by bicycle.

She lifted her head to the sun, flew her feet off the pedals and out in front of her, and let out the most joyous, giddy yelp of her life.

© Pam Russell Bejerano

***

Pam Russell Bejerano is a writer who works as an educator in Portland, Oregon. Pam has published a poem and one previous Mini Sledgehammer story, and was invited to read a short story at the Cannon Beach Historical Society. Pam is currently working on a novel to be completed in 2011. You can read more of Pam’s writing on her blog.

Mini Sledgehammer: August 2010

We had a thin crowd here this month, but four of us here still had a good time writing. Congratulations to Elissa Nelson, whose story took home the prizes!

Prompts
Character: a new neighbor
Setting: locked out
Action: playing the cello
Dialogue: “busier than a one-armed paper hanger”

Julie is writing frantically, with a nine a.m. deadline in the morning, nine a.m. east coast time so this really has to get done now. It’s one of those articles you take because you need the money, and then you think So this is making a living from my writing, using my gift, my talent.

She interviewed a woman who’s started what is essentially a pyramid scheme, but the woman, Phyllis Camera, calls it entrepreneurial, and it’s for WorkingLadies.com, so it’s entrepreneurial, it’s not a pyramid scheme. If it was for Fortune, or Ms., it might be about pyramid schemes and using feminism and capitalism to prey on poor mothers who feel they should be full-time moms and have successful careers, simultaneously. She could tell them that’s not possible, but nobody’s supposed to tell them it’s not possible.

Phyllis is an older lady, and no, her last name isn’t Camera, it’s McManus, but Camera goes better with her business concept, which is about using adorable photos of children and pets to create serieses of postcards for all occasions.

Julie is trying to wax super-positive about the postcards—the story will be accompanied by a selection of images, including several of children in sweet and homemade costumes ranging from bumble bee to carrot (with the green top, of course—she had to look it up because what do you call the green top part? carrot greens of course). She’s crafting a description that includes “entrepreneurial and forward-thinking, without losing the caring vision of a loving mother, the vision which makes Mrs. Camera’s postcards endearing and universal” when the doorbell rings.

She doesn’t answer it. It’s eight p.m., she plans to stop for dinner once she finishes the rough draft—seven hundred words to go—but she can’t answer the door right now, she’s as much in her groove as she ever gets when she’s doing this kind of work, she has to stay in the groove, shallow as it is. Any little thing could bump her out, way out—

But the doorbell rings again. And then it rings again. And then a voice she doesn’t recognize yells, “Hello? Hello? Sorry if it’s not a convenient time but it’s freezing out here and I’m your neighbor, please help!”

She keeps writing. There’s other neighbors, it’s not like they live out in the country. This is Portland.

The doorbell rings again. “Please, I just need to use your phone. Nobody’s home over to the other side and they didn’t answer the door across the street and when I peeked in I saw there was just a little kid and I didn’t want to make some little kid home alone open the door for a stranger so I just came here. I know you’re home, I can see you out the side window typin’ away. Type type type. Please. Give me two minutes, let me in and I’ll use the phone and then I’ll sit quiet and wait for the key guy.”

Julie gives up. She might get more done once she opens the door than she’s getting done now.

She opens it. There is a very tall woman standing there. She adjusts her view. She realizes you open the door for a woman looking within a certain range of vision, and she had it wrong, because this woman must be over six feet.

“Hi, I’m Lydia,” says the lady. “I’m your neighbor.”

“Hi, Lydia. I know. I heard. You need to use the phone. I’m Julie and I’m on deadline and I’m way behind so please come in and use the phone but I have to keep working or I won’t get any more work from this magazine and you know how times are.”

Shit. She said too much. “Magazine! Wow! What kind of magazine! Gosh, you’re a writer. That’s great. I used to be a writer. I won first prize in the prose essay contest in ninth grade, it was in the yearbook and everything. I got a hundred dollars for writing an ad slogan once too, that was just ten words—the maximum was twelve words, did you ever know those slogans have to be so short? The slogan—it was for this dog food company, you’ve probably never heard of them, they went under pretty soon after my ad ran but not before they paid me my money—the slogan was Even Johnny loves Carnivore, the all-meat food for dogs! And there’s a picture of my son and his dog, Petey, and the caption says, Johnny and his dog, Petey, and Petey’s eating out of his bowl, and Johnny’s eating out of the can, and you can see it says Carnivore.”

Julie’s been holding the phone out since the part about the yearbook.

“Lydia, that’s fascinating, and I’d love to hear more after I finish this article. But really, right now, I’m so sorry, here’s the phone and I have to get back to work. Just let yourself out when the locksmith gets here. We’ll have to have tea sometime soon.”

“Thanks Julie. Sorry, Julie. Except I don’t drink tea, I only tried that chai stuff once and I broke out in these disgusting hives, all over my body, seriously all over my body, and the doctor said it was because chai has tea in it, and sometimes people are allergic to tea, and hives are a common reaction—“

“I’m sorry, Lydia, I HAVE TO GO WORK.” Julie doesn’t want to raise her voice but it’s a natural reaction when someone doesn’t seem to hear you.

She gets back to the article, is writing about Phyllis’s first customers and how they became her business partners, when she realizes Lydia is talking again. “He said I’d be busier than a one-armed paper hanger and I’d never heard that expression before, I thought it was something dirty, I don’t know what I thought he said, but I clocked him with the arm I always use to clock people except this time it wasn’t just my arm, it was my arm in a cast. Anyway I play the cello all the time except I couldn’t hardly at all that summer. Eventually I figured out how to move my fingers around but—“ she shakes her head.

Julie keeps writing.

“I mean, what do you do, you play the cello, it’s your artistic outlet, your calling, what do you call it, your vocation, the thing you do that’s meaningful, and are you going to let a broken arm stop you? Tom said it was too bad I didn’t break my face, but I told him if he talked like that I’d put a restraining order on him, and he said maybe that way he’d get some peace, and his nose was bleeding the whole time because I’d hit him so hard, back-handed, which isn’t such a big deal when your arm’s not in a cast.”

“Lydia, I’m going to have to ask you to wait on the porch if you can’t be quiet.”

“It’s thirty degrees!”

“I have to get my work done.”

“I wasn’t bothering you! You were still typing away!”

“Lydia. There are some magazines on the coffee table in the living room. Please, take a seat in the living room—the couch is really comfortable, or the rocker—have a seat and peruse a magazine.”

“You’re trying to get rid of me.”

Julie does not answer. She keeps writing. “Of Phyllis’s first three business partners, Helen chose to retire after she made a hundred thousand dollars, since her husband is independently wealthy and they decided to move to their summer home in Martha’s Vineyard” (is it in Martha’s Vineyard or on Martha’s Vineyard? that’s a question for the second draft, Julie)

“What the hell kind of magazines are these? You don’t have anything with people on the covers. What’s that about? Not even National Geographic! What kind of magazines do you write for? What are these magazines that just list a bunch of titles?” Lydia is up in Julie’s face.

“Lydia. I need to work.”

“Where’s your TV?”

“I don’t have a TV.”

“You don’t have a TV? Then how do you know about anything at all?”

“Please wait on the porch.”

“I’m not waiting on the goddamn porch.”

Julie doesn’t even think about it—if she thought about it she probably wouldn’t have done it. She clocks Lydia, hard, with her arm which is not in a cast, but she doesn’t back-hand her, it’s a full out fist. She doesn’t think she ever did that before. Lydia’s nose starts bleeding. Julie raises her fist again. “Get out of my house before I call the police.”

Lydia backs toward the door. She spits at Julie and turns and runs.

Julie wipes the spit off with her sleeve, and goes back to her computer.

© 2010 Elissa Nelson

Elissa Nelson is a writer and teacher, currently completing her first novel. She has published fiction and nonfiction in publications including The Sun, Slate, and Seventeen magazine, in addition to making zines since the early ’90s, and she just finished her first zine since 2006: The Hundred Most Influential Writers in My Life to Date, As Best I Can Remember and Mostly Not Including Zines #1.

Mini Sledgehammer: July 2010

This month’s Mini Sledgehammer landed between this year’s odd bouts of heat and rain, so the group took advantage of an evening outside, writing on Blackbird & Atomic‘s front patio. Check out our Facebook page to see photos. This month we also encouraged people who couldn’t make it to the event in person to participate–those stories are also on our Facebook page. We hope you’ll join us, in Portland or elsewhere, at the next Mini Sledgehammer, August 10. July’s winning writer will be one of the guest judges.

Prompts included:
a character with a unibrow and one eye
the action of using a plastic milk crate
the phrase “thanks a bunch”
the setting of behind a picture
Here’s July’s winning story!

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Behind the picture she’s just pulled down from above her dorm room bed, the wall glistens with the sickly sheen of left-behind poster tape, its residue gunky and clotted. She rolls her own frayed poster up, and stuffs it into the bright purple milk crate on the floor, nestling it inside so that it joins a stack of CDs and a pile of books she will not return to him. Let him discover their absence, when he reaches up onto the bookshelf in his faculty office, ready to pull some obscure tome down, eager to recommend it to some freshman girl who needs her horizons “expanded.” She pictures him scrambling to preserve his air of avuncular-yet-flirty cool, and utterly failing, his five-hundred-dollar words baroque and overcompensating as a one-eyed man with a unibrow. His fingers will fumble, fishing out his back-up bibliographies; he’ll pass them to the provincial newbie with a flourish. “Thanks a bunch,” she’ll breathe, before she knows better, before his own breath will enter hers, before she winds up rolling her posters, and stacking her milk crates, educated now, but utterly weary.
© 2010 Jenn Crowell
Jenn Crowell is the author of the novels Necessary Madness (Putnam, 1997) and Letting the Body Lead (Putnam Penguin, 2002). She is currently a student in the low-residency MFA program at Antioch University Los Angeles, and is at work on her third novel.