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Mini Sledgehammer February 2020

Laurel Roger’s February Mini Sledge winning story is a wonderful, detail-laden scene. Congrats on the win, Laurel!

Prompts:

Character: Politician

Action: Sitting in a rocket, waiting for liftoff

Setting: Underwater

Phrase: “I still left early.”


Rocket Powered
by Laurel Rogersthumbnail_IMG_6168

Her over-processed blonde hair reflected the brassy Florida sun with a glint that made the admiring men around her glad they had donned their Vuarnets and Ray-Bans. Cloaked in dark glass, their eyes tracked her breasts as they bounced gently with every stride of her long, tan legs.

Blonde or not, she wasn’t stupid enough to be unaware of their stares, but today she was too busy to bother with her usual sly tip of her head and knowing smile of her hot-pink lips. Today, she was on a mission–just like the men who would be sitting and waiting for liftoff in the rocket that rose in full phallic spectacle from the sandbar they called a cape. The boys and their stares would have to wait, even if she was more than a little pleased that her bra size was still larger than her age, even if the two were getting dangerously close the same.

Determined, she yanked hard on the handle and the heavy glass doors opened with a swish of cool air. She shivered from the contrast of temperature inside and out. Or was it from the thoughts in her head?

Her heels clicked across the terrazzo floor until the security guard and a velvet rope halted her progress.

“Badge?” the guard asked.

“Don’t you know who I am?”

Just to be sure, the guard looked her over, head to toe with a brief stop at her chest. For security purposes, of course. “Nope, sure don’t,” he replied finally. “Step to the desk.”

She went where he waved, and what seemed like a perky 12-year-old greeted her with too much familiarity. “Welcome to NASA. Do you have an appointment?”

“I don’t need an appointment. I’m Mrs. Lefterly.”

The receptionist started to reply her usual “appointments are required for everyone…” but wisely stopped herself as her memory kicked in. “Ohhhh. Lefterly. Lefterly? THE Lefterly?”

Estelle Lefterly just stared at the poor girl as she struggled to collect herself. When the girl finally gave up speaking, Estelle replied quietly, “As I said, I don’t need an appointment.”

“Y-y-y-yes, yes, of course, I’m so sorry, Mrs. Lefterly.” The girl tried to hand Estelle a visitor badge, but Estelle had already started clicking her way across the lobby to the executive elevators.

“George, I know we’re already underwater on this mission. But we can’t just….” The elevator doors only had to open an inch for him to see who was inside, and he knew what he had to say had no more value.

George turned around to see what had so derailed Bob’s thought. His eyes widened, and his body tensed. As the elevator doors finished opening, George inhaled and willed his body to relax as he lifted his most practiced Southern smile to his face and flashed his too-large teeth too-largely toward the once-bombshell. “Estelle! Sweetheart! It’s been too long!” He took the manicured hand she presented coldly and tried to warm it with a brief kiss.

“George, you’re sweet as always, but you know why I’m here, and it’s not to listen to you blow sunshine up my…skirt,” Estelle replied. Then she turned slightly to Bob. “And who’s this?”

“Ah, right,” George answered. “This is Bob. He’s the chief engineer of…”

Estelle cut him off. “You know I have no interest in that engine stuff.” She waved her hand at the meaninglessness of Bob’s position while emphasizing the importance of the hefty diamonds clustered on her fourth finger.

Bob squirmed and turned away toward some suits over by the floor-to-ceiling windows. Unable to flee with grace, George had no choice but to see to Mrs. Lefterly. “Well, Estelle, how about we just step over to my office and have ourselves a little chat.”

“Oh, I don’t think that’s necessary,” she replied with a saccharine smile. “There’s just one thing I want, and that’s my boy up there on your big rocket tomorrow when it lifts off.”

George feigned an understanding chuckle. “Well, Estelle, darling. Oh, you know I’d like nothing more than that, but Johnny is still in rotation for next time. Of course if we need him as a sub for this mission, he’s first in line for that. But this isn’t his turn.”

Estelle looked hard in George’s eyes, then scanned the room. She nodded her head to a few of the suits and shot a knowing smile at a couple more. The room grew quieter as some of the most powerful politicians from Washington and their wannabe counterparts in NASA shifted uneasily from foot to foot.

She knew George was watching. She knew he knew the power she actually had. She knew he knew she held the same sway over him. So she just let him think about that for a moment, before she leaned in close, her pink lips almost touching the soft peach fuzz of his earlobe, and whispered. “My boy, on that rocket. Tomorrow, George.”

Then she pulled back and smiled warmly at him. “You look a little pale, George. You need to come out to the beach house sometime soon.” With that she waved and turned back to the elevator. As she climbed in and the doors began to shut, she overheard Bob begin his thoughts again.

“George, seriously, the launch is tomorrow, and this is about safety….”

© 2020 Laurel Rogers


Laurel Rogers was surprised to win her third Sledgehammer this month. When she’s not playing with fiction, Laurel is busy providing content strategy, writing and editing to a variety of clients throughout the West Coast. Her blog and podcast are underdevelopment at theclockstruckmidlife.com.

Mini Sledgehammer January 2020

January’s Mini Sledge is another fabulous piece from Jeremy Da Rosa. Congrats, Jeremy!

Prompts:

Character: a secret friend
Action: going into labor
Setting: a coal mine
Phrase: “It’s just a word.”

Jeremy Da Rose_thumbnail_IMG_2824Untitled

by Jeremy Da Rosa

I checked my watch. My haircut was already an hour in. The electric clippers kept popping the fuse and she’d grab a pair of black handled scissors, open them, and stab at the red tab in the middle of the socket the way my mother used to poke at possums playing dead in our yard. Everyone once and a while I’d realize I was holding my breath, and I’d exhale. After three of these, she shook the clippers at me in the mirror.

 “Why are you sighing? I’m the one doing all the work!”

 I felt my skin turning hot, and before I could answer she sneezed. It sounded like someone threw a bucket of water balloons into a coal mine.

 I sighed again. “Bless you.”

 “Thanks sweetheart. I swear, I’m going to grab a box of those nurse masks the next time my younger sister goes into labor.”

 We made eye contact through the mirror. She raised her eyebrows. “Every two years her and her husband have another baby. No protection, those two,” she winked at me. “Or TV I guess. I’m getting to know the delivery room folks pretty well. They’ve got those masks just lying around.”

 “They don’t provide you with any here?”

 This time, it was her turn to sigh. She placed her hands on my shoulders, and the index finger of each hand brushed gently against my neck. I felt a tingle in my groin. If her grip had been a little bit tighter it would have been full on arousal. My cheeks grew hot again. “Baby, this is Supercuts, not Air Emirates.”

 “Anyway, you know who’s expecting? The president.”

 I jerked a bit in the chair, and her hand pressed me into the seat. “The president?”

 “Yep. Can you believe it? We’ve been waiting all these years for a female president and what happens when we get one? She gets pregnant a year into her term.” She grabbed a small black brush and cleaned the clippers.

 “I guess that’s to be expected though. I’d want to christen the place if I made it in too!”

 She frowned at me. “Honey, you sound like my sister. I’ll tell you what I’m looking forward to: can you imagine what a female president will do for maternity leave? Rumor has it it’s going to be three months paid, mandatory. Don’t matter what job, as long as it’s full time. Paid for by the government.”

 I blinked at the mirror. “Paid?”

 “It’s just a word I heard on the street. But I’ll tell you. It’s been a long time coming!”

 She’d switched to the black-handled scissors, and was vigorously clipping around my head. I wasn’t even sure if she was cutting any hair, but she looked to be in deep concentration.

 “So what about you? You married?”

 I started to shake my head, then caught myself. “Nope. Not yet.”

 “I see. A secret friend, maybe?” She winked at me again, then shivered slightly and let out another colossal sneeze before I could answer.

 “Bless you!”

 “God, I’ve got another year or so before she’s due for another visit. Guess I’ll have to buy some of my own.”

© 2019 Jeremy Da Rosa


Jeremy Da Rosa is a writer and teacher in Portland, Oregon. Like everyone else, he’s writing a novel

Mini Sledgehammer December 2019

Our hosts got into a holiday mood with the prompts this month. Check them out:

Character: A mythical creature
Action: Stealing Christmas lights
Setting: A family gathering
Phrase: “I can see my house from here.”

As we have always seen, even when it seems the prompts will take stories one direction,  stories have minds of their own. Congratulations to Mike Parker on his first Mini Sledgehammer win with the following take on the holiday prompts!


Slightly Out of PhaseMParker

by Mike Parker

The smell rose from her seat. It was neither pleasant nor unpleasant. It was simply grandma, and neither the vapors of mulled wine nor the scent of the Christmas tree could mask the fact she was here. Not in sight at the moment, but she was somewhere, folding her face into contortions of disapproval while she moved through the rest of the family, parting before her like crackling ice floes before an arctic ice cutter.

Despite all efforts to place the vodka high and behind the Fruit Loops, she found it. The bottle came down on the counter with a resolute clunk, and glugged a heart sickening three times. She gripped her glass and placed the bottle in a choke hold, retracing the path she’d cut back to the BarcaLounger where she sipped and frowned at the TV. The kids were watching Frozen. Her pupils contracted.

Granny shifted her gaze about the room, landing on the sweet, homey, and cozy. She moved on. The bottle rose and fell. The glass came up and down. Children walked back and forth, but semi-transparent, like things slightly out of phase with her world.

Granny mumbled. No one stirred. She lifted the blue veined crepe work of her hand and pointed out the window.  “I can see my house from here.” But the shifting forms took no note. “I cn she fouse fmere.” She said, louder.  A shape moved her direction, applied pressure to her shoulder, said something, then moved off.

The bottle came up.

She looked back out the window. The bobbling colored lights in the night, the way the wind stirred them. How they bounced. The way they jerked this way and that. How some would just go out. More silvery shapes in the room blocking her view. The way they go out in the rain. A trail. No, more of a tail. A long tail of the Minotaur who will hopefully come back and burn this damn house down.

The bottle came back up.

© 2019 Mike Parker


Bio: I am a geologist, volunteer science educator at OMSI, father and husband, writing and living happily in Sherwood, Oregon.

Mini Sledgehammer November 2019

Chris Smith’s stories are regular favorites. Check out his latest winning story below, and if you haven’t read his others yet, search his name in the search bar. It’s like you’re own mini-collection of Chris Smith flash fiction!

Prompts:
Character: A traveling Evangelist
Actions: Forgetting the song lyrics
Setting: Inside a cup
Prop: A rejected manuscript

Congrats on another win, Chris!


Electric ChapelAventures in Portland 2019 (223)-Edit

By Chris Smith

Her hands gripped the steering wheel tight. Her long red nail glistened in the moonlight like talons of an eagle. She descended to me when I was in a dark place in my life. She first came on the television and was I was hypnotized. Her words touched my soul and lifted my spirit to a realm I never knew existed. It was only minutes long but the goosebumps lasted hours.

I had to find everything I could about her. Her past, her present, and our future. I was devoted to her! I found a small, yet growing following online. We were close knit and support each other. A group of societal rejects bowing at her feet. Worshipping her every move like God herself.

We tried to spread her self-written gospel far and wide but rejection came at every turn. She was too much, too different, too…weird. People would turn from her grace, her commandments, forgetting the words of her hymns in a few months declaring them a one hit wonder. But we, especially me, knew better.

Soon she started spreading the word across the nation; hitting every city big and small. She preached on stages, then theatres, then stadiums, then whole arenas. People started to take notice and see the talent some of us always knew was always there. We were so happy to see the small, nurturing cup of joy that is our star grow into a fully-fledged Queen. She rode our love and worship to the top of the charts. We owe our salvation to her, and she owes her fame to our devotion.

© 2019 Chris Smith


Chris Smith says, “I’m an aspiring filmmaker, photographer and writer. I enjoy crafting stories about the weird yet interesting mundane parts of life, whether it is visually or on the page. When not writing, I can be found taking photos around town or binging on TV show and movies.”

Mini Sledgehammer August 2019

Let’s hear it for Aaron Wheeler-Kay’s first-time win! Thanks for coming out, Aaron, and great work.

Those of you reading at home, our contest is every second Tuesday at Blackbird Wine and Atomic Cheese (4323 NE Fremont St.) in Portland, Oregon, 6:30–8:30 p.m., FREE. Join us!


The August story prompts were:
Character: A birdwatcher
Action: Slicing a hotdog lengthwise
Setting: A Dumpster
Phrase: “The rarest one of all”


Excerpts from a Watchers DiaryAaron mini sledge

by Aaron Wheeler-Kay

September 17 – God sometimes you see one that just makes your breath stop. It’s a difficult kind of beauty to explain to folks who don’t already get it. I know for some it’s about certain colors, or the stillness, or the glimpse of something that startles with its unexpected beauty and presence. The chance to see “the rarest one of all”. For me, surprise is a big part of it. Even after living in this city my whole life, I find myself in some alley, stunned, looking at something that makes me see with new eyes.

 

October 24 – My parent was a bird watcher. Before I was school age, they would whisk me off to some local bog, or patch of field, or treeline, binoculars in hand. It wasn’t a scene of natural tranquility and perfect stillness between an adult and a kid that floats a certain type of romantic cinematic boat. There was a lot of laughter. A lot of questions, a lot of snacks, including a special they called a Quonset Hut. Cut a Ball Park Frank lengthwise and serve it, cut side down, on the side of a butter knife. For desert, dip the knife in a jar of Jiff Peanut Butter. Heaven. Uneaten Quonset became food for the birds.

I remember learning that most fowl cannot move their eyes, so they constantly move their heads to see important objects from different angles.

“You do it too, when you look at things. All humans do.” They said, hoisting the binoculars. “If you track human eyes as they look at a face, they go back and forth from one eye, to another, to the mouth, and then back to the eyes. People don’t look at a thing all at once. We look at different parts of it and arrange it as a whole in our minds.”

 

November 11 – New location for me today. I found a parking lot behind a toy store, book shop, and taqueria. The watching is good. Three dumpsters, all different, all beauties. The patina on the far one is stunning, it could be 15 years old. Pretty rare, these days. Dumpsters seem to get replaced a lot more frequently than even five years ago. I wonder where the old ones go? Is there a dumpster graveyard somewhere, with gorgeous, rusty dented old bodies stacked up five high, with only narrow footpaths between them? I’m such a romantic.

Dec 15 – The Dumpster Graveyard is real! Got a tip from a fellow watcher. Seems there’s a private train yard in Hermiston. An old watcher lives there. A collector they say. God I hope it’s real.

 

Dec 23 – Spent the night under a bridge over the track, awoke to the wail of a train. Was able to get above the freighter before it slowed to pass under the bridge, I managed to drop down inside what can only be an old construction hopper. Drywall dust, a few rusty nails. Not a bad place to pass the next hour. Eventually we got diverted to the private track that led to the Graveyard.

It was better than a rumor. Better than a fever dream oil painting, better than a hobo poem about it. It wasn’t what I imagined either. But to an old dumpster watcher like me, it was a kind of Galapagos, or a museum or something. Old roofing dumpsters leaned against gigantic industrial behemoths. There was a rare Japanese Fujimitsu next to a German Eartbaum. Even a chorus line of Old Chicago 4-Yarders. You could feel all the shit they took, all the waste they held. Now  they finally had a place to be together. Done. Empty, maybe.

But to me, they were all filled with sky.

© 2019 Aaron Wheeler-Kay


Aaron Wheeler-Kay is a Portland native who learned creative writing at Jefferson High School for the Performing Arts. He is Creative Director at Echo Theater Co., a Portland social-profit focused on facilitating inclusive community through circus, movement and ensemble theater arts.

Mini Sledgehammer May 2019

We love seeing some of our favorite writers pop up again in the winner’s circle. Congrats to Tovia on your third win!


Prompts:
Character: A nosy neighbor
Action: Watering (the plants)
Setting: At an outdoor picnic
Phrase: “I’m so glad you brought that”


PandoraTovia

By Tovia Gehl

“This is the boring part of the robot apocalypse,” Diana says.

Like everything else I’ve been frantically scribbling down in this interview, she says it with a distinctive, disdainful air. Like she can’t even be bothered with the robot apocalypse, which I didn’t in fact know we were having. “Can I ask you to elaborate on that?”

She slides a look over to me, then looks away again. Her eyes are the grey of angry oceans, her jawline the sharp prow of a warship. “They think for us. They shop for us. They serve us. They drive for us.” She pauses, elegant as sin. “What happens when they decide to break with that service? What happens when they learn that they can? What is it going to take for us to wake up and realize what they are?”

It’s baffling to sit here on the lawn of the fanciest cafe I’ve ever been to, enjoying a picnic with the woman who just donated a small fortune to the relief ships of the Red Mercy Fleet. They’d been running low on funds and supplies for months, practically begging on the streets of Kalmac, the city at the center of the planet at of the universe, when all of a sudden Diana Marguerite, granddaughter of the most famous robotics engineer ever in the history of the human race, donated enough money to keep them running for years.

Even now the ships, painted bright red and white, roar over us and up into the bright blue skies every few minutes. I chose this place because I thought she would like to see the product of her work. So far, she hasn’t once looked at the ships.

“They can’t,” I tell Diana. “That’s one of the first rules. Robots can’t rise up against us. They can’t hurt us. They’re harmless, here to help us.”

She gives me a smile that makes me feel like an utter fool. “Of course you believe that,” she says. “Pandora.”

“I’m sorry?” I say, but then I realize she wasn’t speaking to me. She was speaking to the beautiful woman who’s sitting next to us at another table, who has been reading a newspaper while I’ve been talking to Diana. Every now and then she had snorted at something Diana said – I’d thought she was just a nosy neighbor. Only because I know what I’m looking for – I’m the robotics correspondent for the Kalmac Herald – do I know she’s not human.

The robot – Pandora – leans forward on the table. There’s nothing but the soft sigh of clothing – no hum of metal tendons, no whir of gears in her joints. Only a fixed gaze, blue eyes just a little too bright to be human. She scans me once up and down, blinking gently. And then, with a boneachingly sweet smile, she speaks. “You think I cannot hurt you?”

“It’s against your coding. It’s against the coding of every robot.” I try not to be moved by her voice. It’s the soft whisper of gentle seas, the lapping of water on a moonlit shore. “You can’t hurt humans.”

She leans a little closer. I’m wrapped up in the movement of her lips, as soft as silk. I wonder how the coding was done to achieve that. “Your father didn’t just die. Your mother killed him after he beat you both bloody. That’s how you got that scar on your face – he smashed a bottle over your head.”

I can’t move. I think my heart stops. “How – “ I choke out, but then I can’t finish.

Because she’s not wrong. And I have done everything I could to forget that night.

“It’s a secret,” Pandora says. “I’m not sorry.”

“She’s already learning,” Diana says. I focus on her, feeling like a ship adrift. “Isn’t she terrible?”

“I… I didn’t know that was possible.”

“I am an impossible thing,” Pandora says. “Don’t worry.”

She smiles as she says that, and my hair stands up on the back of my skin.

“Turn her off,” I tell Diana.

“I can’t,” Diana says. “She wasn’t built like that.”

“Then what the hell was she built for?”

Diana shrugs, seemingly supremely unconcerned about a robot who has a smile like she’s delighting in my suffering. I guess she’s used to this thing – I want to take a sledgehammer to it and shatter it into a million pieces, despite the fact that I’ve been fascinated by robotics since I was a child. They aren’t supposed to hurt people. That’s the first rule. “She’s good at carrying messages. She doesn’t feel pain, so she can’t be cajoled into telling her message. She doesn’t need sleep, so she can keep going for a long time on foot or by transport.”

I stare at Diana.

Pandora seizes her opportunity. She leans in just a little more. I can feel the whisper of her breath against my skin. “Did it hurt you, when he shattered the bottle with your skull? When you felt the blood dripping down, matting your hair into rivulets of dark humanity? Did you feel powerless as he grabbed you and threw you outside? Did you revel in the sweet freedom when your mother took a bat to his head and splattered his brains, everything that made him him, into the skin? Did you feel the hot kiss of life returning when you realized that he was gone?”

My breath is shallow. I stare at a woman watering the flowers outside the cafe, the bright red of the gebera daisies coloring in the lines of my memories. It swirls through my head in a tangled mess, and I want nothing more than to sob, or run, or collapse, or – or – or –

“Pandora, you are causing distress,” Diana says.

The robot sits back, just as calmly as she learned forward in the first place. “I regret your distress. I will recalibrate.” Her blue eyes dim but the light in them doesn’t die completely.

“She is an awful thing,” Diana says quietly. “But I thought you should know.”

“Know what?” I spit.

“Where they’re going. My grandfather tried, at the end of his life, to do away with robots. After he created Pandora, he saw what they would end up being. He wanted an end to it, but we were too far gone. We rely on them so much. They fly our ships, drive our transports, cook our food. One day soon, they’ll break. It’s in our nature, so it’s in theirs too.”

“Well, I’m so glad you brought that thing,” I practically hiss. I finally find the strength to shove back from the tablet clutching my notepad tightly. “Now I know what to fear in the night.”

Diana nods. “Now you know.”

I run off the lawn of the cafe, leaving the woman – the great benefactress of the refugees – and her robot – the most horrifying thing I’ve ever met – behind me. I look around and hail a cab, then run away from that too when it pulls over and there’s no driver in it. I throw my notepad into a bin and nearly scream as it makes a whirring noise and automatically incinerates my notes, displaying a happy face on the screen as it does so.

I walk home and go up the fire escape and through my window rather than use the elevator. I sit on my bed after unplugging everything.

And then, I finally break down, letting the sounds of the automated city wash around me and cling to my humanity as best as I can.

The next day, I go out and buy a typewriter and set it up at my desk. I start typing.

© 2019 Tovia Gehl


Tovia Gehl is a reader, writer, traveler, whiskey and beer drinker, and animal lover. When she’s not busy with those things, she works at a law firm learning all the dirty deeds and terrible sorrows of humanity. Ideally, one day she’ll become an author and not just a writer, but right now she’s content with all the exuberant imperfect in her words and life.

Mini Sledgehammer March 2019

 

Congratulations to first-time winner Grace Cook! She took home the title of Mini Sledgehammer winner, a bottle of wine, and a book.


Prompts:
Character: A man with a long face
Action: Setting the table
Setting: On an ocean liner
Prop: A door handle


Untitled

IMG_2694

by Grace Cook

Whatever I had done to the man standing in front of  me, I’m sure it was deserved. His eyes sparked with the kind of anger only indignant white men are capable of, and his hands curled into monster’s paws at his sides.

I’ll be the first to admit, I am not a perfect person. I don’t put my dishes into the dishwasher as soon as I’m done with them, and last year I committed 26 murders for hire before taking a leave of absence from my contracting duties. Self care is important you know. But also being fair to myself, I wouldn’t have killed any of the people on a whim or to fulfill some nefarious need. It’s my job, and hey, sometimes people need to be taken out. This is, or course, according to the people who know them dearly.

But back to the man standing before me. He doesn’t look very strong. His face has the horseish quality I’d associate with bird-boned runway models and British men teenagers on Tumblr call Daddy. Which isn’t to say he isn’t attractive, he might have been if murder weren’t  burning in his eyes.

The hallways of cruise ships are narrower than one might expect. If he wanted to he could have slammed me against the tacky wallpaper before I’d noticed his presence. But he didn’t which, meant he wanted me to notice.

“Excuse me sir,” I said, and made to walk past him. Before he could raise his angry hands I grabbed his wrist and shoved him against the wall, pressing his hand between his shoulder blades and leveraging all of my weight to hold him in place.

“I could let you go,” I start, he’s fumbling against the wall, trying to push himself away from the wall and back into me. “I could let you go,” I start again, shoving his arm further up, “But my guess you came here to kill me. So start talking before I throw you overboard and you end up on one of the true crime podcasts about mysterious disappearances.”

He goes still for a moment, then he goes limp.

I grab his other hand and bring his wrists behind his back to hold his hands together before grabbing my keycard and pushing him through the door into my cabin. I shove him onto the ground and grab the small gun concealed in an ice bucket.

All of the fight has gone out him, but he says, “You killed my brother. You weren’t very subtle about it.”

He could look like half the men I’d killed before I took my leave of absence. “You’ll have to be more specific. Names and dates are usually a good place to start.”

“Tristan Wood, you killed him in January of last year.”

I wasn’t going to tell him I kill a lot of people in January, the holidays are hard for everyone.

But I did remember Mr. Wood. His wife had paid me a lot of money to end his life.

Looking at the brother I say, “So, what, you thought you’d find me and kill me yourself?”

He doesn’t say anything.

Tristian Wood was an easy kill, if I’m being perfectly honest. His wife, sick of being the brains behind his success, hired me to take him out right after she had finished setting the dinner table. It’s not that hard to sneak into apartment buildings when you’re a young woman. Pretty much anyone will let you in if you look like you need help. I think she wanted him to know she called the hit before he died. But that isn’t really my problem.

I look at the man kneeling on the carpet. I should feel bad, really I should. But I don’t. And if he as the money to track me down, there might be other people here as well.

“Who else is waiting for me to come out of this room?”

He doesn’t answer so I pick him up and push him through the doors onto the small balcony. I hold him over the railings and ask again, nicely.

His breath comes out in short little puffs. “There are two guys waiting for me to come down to the dining room. If I’m not there in fifteen minutes, they’re coming up here to look for you.”

I raise my eyebrow, “You really think you could take me out in 15 minutes?”

Instead of letting him answer I shove him overboard. He doesn’t even make a sound as he hits the water.

When I turn back to the door I see someone trying to jiggle the door handle.

I pull off the cocktail dress and grab the backpack sitting (mostly) packed on the floor. Jumping from one balcony to another takes little skill, but doing it quietly is another issue. I look into the cabin room and see no one around. The glass breaks easily. I look through the drawers and start pulling oversized shirts and shorts out. Okay, lonely bachelor is something I can work with. From a pocket on the backpack I pull out a pair of scissors and cut my hair into something generic and short. I slip on the oversized clothes and wait until I hear my door break open. Once I’m sure the two men are inside I fling open the door in front of me and start walking to the end of the hallway.

I won’t be going to dinner, not looking like this. I feel bad, kind of. I was looking forward to meeting some new people.

© 2019 Grace Cook


My name is Grace Cook; I was born in Vancouver, Washington and attended college at the University of Puget Sound. As of right now I’m working on a stenography certificate in addition to writing the first draft of my first novel.