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Mini Sledgehammer October 2012: Blackbird Wine & Atomic Cheese

Kristin arrived by bicycle at 7:02 p.m., but returning Mini Sledgehammer friends had the evening under control: They were happily dividing up responsibility to come up with the writing prompts. Thanks, all! In addition to the regulars, a couple of new faces joined the group this time–very cool. And every Tuesday is now all-day happy hour at Blackbird! What a treat for us, since we’re there every second Tuesday.

Congratulations to Amy Seaholt!

Prompts:
Character: The Other
Action: Makin’ it or breakin’ it
Setting: Home sweet home
Phrase: the kindness of strangers

***

Pinpoint

by Amy Seaholt

I like to ignore The Other. She irritates me to no end. It wasn’t always that way.

Back in the day, when we were trying to make it or break it in Hollywood, we were a team. Inseparable. The glorious Gibson sisters. Our star was just a pinpoint in that bright LA sky, but we were determined to make it shine brighter. The Other was the talker, but I had the voice. She talked her way into getting us the audition with Mr. Crosby. I never knew exactly how she did it but I had my suspicions; her behind closed doors and a feather in her lipstick line. When we got the gig, it was me Mr. Crosby was looking at. My voice made it happen. The Other called him Bing.

We were photographed in matching scarves and brown bobs curling around our jaws, squeezed lovingly into a convertible owned by one mogul or another. It lasted like as long as the flash of the bulb that caught us.

Mr. Crosby got us one last job on the Luxe Radio Theater hour. But radio wasn’t a ticket to the big time. We came away no brighter than we were before.

No matter how much The Other tried to work her magic, in her hot pants and kitten heels, it wasn’t good enough to catch more than a glance from those moguls. I knew the problem, of course. She was too pushy, too forward. It made her unappealing and easily used. Her voice wasn’t as clear as they wanted and I was tied to her, as sisters are. I wanted nothing to do with it.

“I think it’s time we moved on,” I told her one day. She stubbed out her cigarette and said, “Where do you think we should go?”

“I don’t mean we.”

She halted, water half-way to her lips. “Yes you do,” she said, eyes locked on mine. “We work together.”

“Maybe it’s time we stopped.”

“Maybe it’s time you appreciated all I have done for you,” her eyes narrow and venom filled now. “All of the times I have taken you along for the Goddamn ride because you’re blood.” It wasn’t the reaction I had anticipated.

“Maybe we should go to Daddy’s place in Tahoe. The casinos are taking off there,” I said.

We moved to our home sweet, faux log cabin home that fall. Suffered through the snowy winter while our bodies tried to acclimating to the altitude and the remote life. By the spring we had a show at Harrah’s lounge, and The Other took bits of Harrah’s home after hours. Decorating her bedroom with a red fabric covered reading lamp and supplying our kitchen with institutional white plates. It was her way of adjusting to the life that is now ours. Trying to keep hold of the dream we never achieved.

“Don’t take that stuff, we’ll get fired,” I said as she pulled another table setting out of her purse.

“The maitre d’ gave it to me,” she insisted.

“He did not.”

“I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers,” she said

“You have not.”

When I picked up my paycheck yesterday, there was a note that my boss, head of entertainment, wanted to speak with me.

I went into his dark office and shut the door behind me. “Is there a problem?” I asked.

“It’s about your sister,” he said.

“We’re not a team. I barely know what she does each day.” I said, separating myself from her again, stepping forward and shrugging a shoulder out of my wrap.

(c) Amy Seaholt 2012

Amy Seaholt is a realtor by day and a writer by night. Sometimes that day/night thing gets mixed up. She is participating in the Attic Institute’s Atheneum program as a fiction fellow, focusing on her first novel. You can find her here: www.awkwardlaugh.com. Or here: www.amyseaholt.com. She lives in Northeast Portland with her husband and two young children.

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Mini Sledgehammer: January 2012, Blackbird Wine & Atomic Cheese

This month’s Mini Sledgehammer added a new twist: write for thirty-six minutes in a wine shop with forty-plus wine tasters chattering around you! While it wasn’t an ideal setting, our brave writers powered through. Thanks to everyone who came out, and congratulations to winner Amy Seaholt.

***

Prompts:
Character: A writer
Action: Moving in
Setting: A vet’s office
Phrase: “Out of nowhere came…”

***

Simon, Ariel, and the Cat

by Amy Seaholt

When Ariel moved in with Simon she expected that he would be an eccentric roommate. He was a freelance writer, working on his second novel.

He paid for his little house with the advance from his first book. Not long after he closed on the house and got his keys he realized that the royalty checks weren’t as big as he imagined they would be. He decided to get a roommate.

Being a bit disorganized, combined with his focus on writing rather than living, he didn’t manage to unpack until Ariel decided to agree to live in his extra bedroom. Actually, she took the master bedroom. A caveat of living with him was that she was allowed to assume the largest bedroom and the adjoining bathroom. A princess needed her privacy, you know. And she was willing to pay a little extra for the privilege.

So Ariel’s moving day was Sam’s moving day. She unpacked quickly and efficiently, knowing that she would need to put her prickling feet up later. Some days the pins-and-needles were bad. Today they were worse.

When she finally took a moment to lay back on her freshly made bed with the seafoam green duvet, she closed her eyes and hummed a little tune she knew from her childhood. She started to think of her father and the song trailed off.

“Don’t stop,” Simon said from the doorway. “You have a beautiful voice.”

Ariel smiled and touched the base of her throat, but didn’t continue singing.

“Do you need any help unpacking?” Simon asked.

“I’m done,” Ariel said in her prim, high pitched voice. She swung her legs, both at once, off the bed. “Do you need any help?”

“Uh, I don’t – well, sure,” Simon said.

They unpacked the kitchen together, starting by throwing away all the pizza boxes and takeout containers that had accumulated over the past several weeks.

Ariel had been right about his eccentricism. Simon only owned a few plates, all mismatched. He enthusiastically told her about each of their stories as she put them in the cupboard. All told it took over an hour to clean up the kitchen and put away four plates.

They had moved on to the pans, pots and griddles in a large box in the middle of the room.

“Do you actually use these?” Ariel asked him.

“I love to cook, when I’m not writing,” Simon said. “You?”

“I never really had to cook for myself.”

“Oh,” Simon said, not really knowing what to make of that comment. “What do you like to do when you’re not,” Simon paused there, because he didn’t know what Ariel actually did. “Uh, in your free time.”

“I used to like to sing, but I don’t really any more. And I like to swim.”

“Oh, that’s good,” said Simon. “I’m not really into working out. Why don’t you sing anymore?”

“I used to sing with my sisters,” Ariel said, “It’s not actually much fun without them. And Eric got sick of it after a while.”

“That’s your ex?” Simon asked. He and Ariel had met through a mutual friend and had only met once before becoming roommates. They didn’t know a lot about each other.

“Yes,” Ariel said. “He turned out to be…not what I imagined.”

“I was married once, too,” Simon said. “She was a bitch.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Ariel said. She turned prim again, uncomfortable with revealing her background. Out of nowhere came a cat that leapt up on the counter and stared at Ariel. “What’s that?” she said, startled. She was staring at the black and white cat, sitting on the counter.

“That’s Princess, my cat,” Simon said.

Ariel glared at the cat, who was still staring at Ariel, switching her tail back and forth, back and forth. The cat batted Simon’s arm away when he came toward her.

He held his arm and drew in a breath. “Damn! She is usually really sweet,” Simon said. She hissed at Ariel. “I’ve only ever seen her attack a goldfish. I don’t know what’s going on.”

A few minutes later, as they were waiting with the cat in the vet’s office, Simon said, “I don’t see why you had to hit her with a pan!”

“I’m sorry,” Ariel said, hoping she wouldn’t have to find a new place to live. “Cat’s just really freak me out.”

She peered down at the cat in the box on Simon’s lap.

© 2012 Amy Seaholt

***

Amy Seaholt is a realtor by day and a writer by night. She is learning that if you actually want to get published, you have to let people read your work. You can read a little of hers here: www.awkwardlaugh.com. She lives in Northeast Portland with her husband and two young children.

Mini Sledgehammer: June 2011

If you’ve ever thought the judges have an easy job choosing these winning stories, you’re very wrong. Three of us debated for a very long time this month–so many of the stories were incredible! We finally decided on Amy Seaholt‘s story, and it was thrilling to watch her reaction. It was as if she’d won a game show!

Thanks so much to everyone for coming out. We hope to see you next month, and the month after, and of course at the main event in September.

***

Prompts:
Character: A water park attendant
Action: Adjusting a telescope
Setting: An eerily empty freeway
Phrase: “You’re never going to believe this.”

***

Untitled

By Amy Seaholt

Justin’s shift ended at 7 p.m., though Raging Waters stayed open until 9. His dad said it was called that because the waters were raging with bacteria. Justin always chuckled at this, not because it was funny, as his Pop thought, but because it came from a man who only cared to shower once every few days and who Justin knew didn’t properly wash his hands after using the toilet.

Justin was far too old to be attracted to any of the high school kids who would flip their ponytails or snap their gum at him in an unpracticed attempt at flirting. They seemed to think that the job held some glamour. Or maybe they were just looking for free admission to the park.

Anyone his own age thought that it was a menial position and that he was incapable of impressing any girls with it. He knew this was true, so he didn’t tell anyone he knew at the State college about it. He even took pains to wash the chlorine smell from him as completely as he could before going to classes.

When Susan, his biology lab partner during summer term, got close to him to do a fetal pig dissection, he felt sure that she wouldn’t smell the chlorine over the formaldehyde. She had a good nose.

“Do you lifeguard?” She had asked.

“Yes, part time,” he replied, not wanting to go into more detail.

Where?

He pretended not to hear, he was so focused on the pig.

“Where do you lifeguard?” she asked again.

“Oh, just a place.” He was trying to be vague.

She narrowed his eyes at him. “Why are you avoiding the question. Do you work at Raging waters or something?”

He gave a slight nod.

“I used to love that place! I went about ten times every summer as soon as my parents would let me go by myself.”

Shhh! We’re going to get behind what everyone else is doing. He said. It was the first time he really noticed her long, smooth brown hair, wide eyes, her long neck. She was cute.

“I think it’s cute.” She said. “I just work at Starbucks. Boring.”

It was the cute comment, and that he was thinking the same of her at the same time, that gave him the courage to ask her out.

“You’re never going to believe this, me being a professional water park attendant slash biologist, but I know a cool place where you can see billions of stars. You have to get out of the city, though. You want to come with me sometime?”

Her eyes crinkled up when she smiled.

So after Justin’s shift ended at 7 he took a long shower to get rid of the chlorine smell and the stray bacteria that his father would suspect was there, and he picked up Susan for the drive up 99, then 70.

They spoke about high school for a while, and he explained that he had taken Dr. Greene’s astronomy class during the previous semester and had really gotten into it. Now he liked to take time-lapse photos of the stars. He was a little worried, revealing this to her, but she listened intently and the conversation was so easy that time passed quickly. Before he knew it he was pulling over.

“You can’t stop here, it’s the middle of the highway!” She had another one of her grins that pinched the edges of her brown eyes.

“Don’t worry. Nobody comes this way this time of night.”

He got out the tripod and telescope and began to set it up. “What do you want to see first. Saturn? The Orion nebula?”

“Yes. Any of that.” She said genially.

The more time he spent with her the more relaxed he felt. It was going really well.

“Okay, he said. Come down here and take a look.” He indicated to the telescope.

She bent her head to the eyepiece. Can you see it ok? He asked. She said it was a bit blurry. As he adjusted the focus he inhaled the fragrance of her curtain of hair. His heart beat a little faster and he wondered if he should kiss her. His palms began to sweat and he could feel himself getting red.

At that moment, headlights, coming fast, swept around the bend. His nerves already on edge, he failed to warn her, verbally, to move out of the way. Instead, he yanked the telescope up and pulled her arm to direct her to the edge of the road. Except that he did it too quickly, out of order, and slammed the telescope sight into her beautiful brown eye, tumbling her to the side of the road.

She was holding her eye, lying on the side of the highway, he was hovering over her, as the intruding car came to a stop to see if all was all right.

© 2011 Amy Seaholt

***

Amy Seaholt is a realtor by day and a writer by night. She is learning that if you actually want to get published, you have to let people read your work. You can read a little of hers here: http://brandofcrazy.blogspot.com/. She lives in Northeast Portland with her husband and two young children.