• Visit Indigo

    Sledgehammer is proudly presented by Indigo, which offers editing, design, and more to authors and publishers around the world.

    Visit us at www.indigoediting.com to learn more and to schedule a free sample edit and initial consultation.

    Indigo: editing, design,
    and more


    Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter.
  • Join Our Networks

  • Photo Gallery

    To view photos of Sledgehammers past, visit our Facebook photo albums!

    All photos property of Sledgehammer Writing Contest. Most photos copyright Doug Geisler.
  • Advertisements

Mini Sledgehammer September 2018

This month’s winner notes that he’s grateful to get to “pick up a bottle and book in exchange for a few dubious words.” Congratulations, Craig! He adds, “I should note that there were some truly terrific stories tonight.  These events provide such a great opportunity to hear some fine sentences carved out in just a few minutes by intriguing and clever people.” We’re glad you enjoy them.


Prompts:

Character: A woman executive
Action: Good will hunting
Setting: The International Space Station
Prop: An old radio


Directive 38foster

by Craig Foster

Directive 38 was nothing more than an afterthought, really. An exercise coughed up from an office outside Mission Control with a view toward figuring out how to pass ourselves off to the others, out at the farthest reaches. Presuming they hadn’t met us already, this would be a preemptive strike in terms of letting them know we’re OK. Not to be feared.

Or trifled with, though.

It was little more than a good will hunting mission, and Bobbi W called in Dr. Kuwahara to lead it. She’d been part of the training program near Enoshima, Japan. A test of whether dolphins truly were as smart or smarter than us. The jury was still out, but a few of them made it through school fairly quickly and two had already been granted PhDs. Dr. Kuwahara – a damn bottlenose, no less – had expertise in astronomical sociology and would be put to good use. Bobbi W, the first woman executive at the space agency, set the wheels in motion and arranged for Dr. Kuwahara to be transported in a tank to the launch pad in Kyrgyzstan.

It wasn’t the craziest thing that had ever happened to the good doctor. And she looked forward to presenting humans to the others as best as possible. Leave out the bits about nets and knives. Or weave a story around them that might put everyone at ease. You couldn’t count on an attack on people not also causing some collateral damage in the seas and on the savannahs.

It took a bit to get to the International Space Station, but the launch was moderately safe and the tank held its water.

The welcoming party was limited to the biologist, also from Japan. That didn’t exactly float well with Dr. Kuwahara, but she refrained from spouting too much. Told herself, it’s a flipping test, Sadako. Don’t let them stop you from heading out a bit further. So, she didn’t. Made one of those noises everyone pegged for laughter, and the biologist said something polite and encouraging to her.

They’d built a supermarine for Directive 38. A maneuverable pod filled with water and provided with just enough of the button controls Dr. Kuwahara would be familiar with from her time at the university. The communication mechanism looked like an old radio, which didn’t matter to the doctor, as she didn’t plan to talk to use it. No need to talk to anyone back at the station once she was out and about. There were three channels if she needed them, however: one that received sounds from within a few hundred thousand miles, another that allowed for communication with the station, and a third that played familiar audio from Earth. Some dolphin-speak to provide a presumed measure of comfort. A little bit from above ground, just for kicks. And a mix of French chansons, big band instrumentals, post-punk thrash, and news of the world.

A couple of astronauts joined the biologist, and after a series of checks were made Dr. Kuwahara’s tank was wheeled toward the already-filled supermarine. There was a waterlock filled with just enough liquid to allow for what the humans determined was an easy transfer from one watery home to another. They were half right. Dr. Kuwahara took a blow to the nose during the transfer, but everyone applauded and felt even better when she made that laughing noise again.

She clearly was of the proper demeanor for this mission.

 

Space isn’t empty. Not at all. In fact, it’s packed. It gets lonely because there’s too much matter out there. More than enough atoms to choke an endless supply of dolphins. But Dr. Kuwahara loved it. She turned a few times in the supermarine, staring through the two windows provided. One at the bottom of the tank, and one at what must be the front of the thing. Showing where she was heading, in any event.

She hit the radio and it played La Mer.

The good doctor went over the mission in her head. Humans: 1; Others: 0.5. Just to shw it wasn’t a completely uneven playing field. She played in her head everything she would communicate to whatever she found. Of salt and blood, buckets of fish. How to be right and proper in their eyes. When to speak and when to just watch. Mention their favorite jokes.

Say how to stay alive.

Or maybe reveal the one spot where she knew the humans were vulnerable. For kicks.

The song switched to La Vie En Rose, and this time she did laugh.

© 2018 Craig Foster


Craig Foster is an editor based in Portland, Oregon who every now and then tries to write stories. These usually revolve around oddballs and misfits, the most normal people he knows. Tahoma Literary Review, Buckman Journal, 1001, and Arq Press have published a few of these tales, which should prompt an investigation into their decision-making process. Lastly, the author would never misrepresent his physical appearance with a photo from twenty years ago. There are ethical standards to be maintained.

Advertisements

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 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 October 2017

This month’s winner says, “Thanks for keeping literature alive! I enjoyed the event. It was refreshing and novel—it gives writers a sense of community and a reason to be social.” Aw, thanks, Brad!

***

Prompts:

Character: Pilgrim
Action: Crashing
Setting: Secret Room
Phrase: “Don’t wait up.”

***

The Bus Chronicles

by Brad Baymon

Here I stand!

Upon a fast moving train
as it passes by residential buildings with
glimmers of light.

I notice 4 bystanders who look like tourists,
2 men, 2 women.
The women are conversating,
the men impassive as they stare out the window into a cool dark night.
I notice the train’s lights flicker!

The women’s dialect changes,
my body temperature rises,
I feel a strange sensation all over my body.

As I raise my head I catch the farewell of a dying sunset.

Boom! All thing converging into one.

Boom! Time becomes lost within the frames of a second.

Boom! I am everything.

Present in the secret room
I’ve just entered in the reality never found.

The pilgrim in a place conveniently hidden from eyes that envy the most.

I see a young boy lavish his girl friend with kisses,
my heart a viewer in the midst of love unfolding,
tears pool,  in the corner of my eyes.

If this is true love, life in all it’s conformities is a crime against humanity.

As the train rumbles
across paved track,  I hear the crashing of steel and iron.
Speak shall I.
Is the train going fast, I ask the tourist?
“Yes it does feel fast! ”
“But I guess if you have some place to be it doesn’t.”

Exactly, I say: That’s the theory of relativity.

As the boy’s lips pulls away from his heart’s attraction,
“I love you”, ” I love you”,  was his word,
conveyed to me by the quicksilver of the moment.

As a baby in the stroller yells: Wow!
Ooooo!

The train slows down and the conductor comes on over the loud speaker.  “Sorry we have to switch operators!”

So if you’re in a hurry and have to get home, call your loved ones and tell them don’t wait up.

© 2017 Brad Baymon

***

Brad Baymon: Resident of Beaverton, from Chicago. I’m a poet, writer of fantastic realism. Aspiring author, playwright, and director of the avant garde. I’m writing a series of fantastic realism short stories, similar to the one that won this Mini Sledgehammer. Lover of life, complex thinker, avid wanderer. And a kindred spirit immersed in the world.

Mini Sledgehammer May 2017

Sarah is a big help at Mini Sledgehammer, especially on a super-secret project we’ll be announcing in the next couple months. But this month, she’s featured not for her helpfulness but for her writing. Congratulations, Sarah!

***

Prompts:
Character: Little sister
Setting: A covered wagon
Prop: A paintbrush
Phrase: The light shines through it

***

Tolya

by Sarah Farnham

He worked patiently. He worked frantically.Sarah Farnham

He worked by light of day and by the moonlight herself.

 

He was building a time machine.

 

“Aw, you doin’ that stuff again?”

He ignored her, focusing on spreading the paint as far and as wide as he could reach.

“Hey–”

A small tug on his painter’s smock caused his eyebrows to rise.

A shake of the ladder got him to put down his brush.

 

“Yes, hermanita?”

“I tolya I don’t know what that means. And we’re not Mexican.”

He tossed his bangs out of his face irritably.

“Little sister. I use it because I like–”

“Don’t care.”

She started walking away, tiny feet pounding into the ground.

“Well, whatdya want?” He called after her.

“Dad’s dead.”

 

That’s all she spoke, and then her mouth was shut for good. She refused to talk entirely. She hadn’t lost any of her sass–just the will to propel it past her vocal cords and into the air. She became very good at pointing.

 

The funeral was hellish. His mom barely held it together. She kept on going around the funeral telling people to leave, telling them to “go eat something–go fuck someone. Funerals are horrible.”

He crept out a side door just to get some air and smoke a joint.

A small tug on his button-up made him choke.

“God, what have I told you about creeping up on me like that?”

She pointed to the overgrown fence behind the church.

“So?”

She tugged his shirt again, leading him over.

“Oh, I gotcha. Little thief, eh?”

She frowned and stomped her foot.

“Betcha no one’s using this paint anyway.”

The cans were rusted over and probably full of shit. She tapped his arm and pointed forcefully toward one can in particular.

“Yellow. Ok. I can dig it.”

He lugged the cans into his hatchback.

 

He was seven when the covered wagon appeared in the backyard. She wasn’t around yet. They had just gotten a computer, Oregon Trail was his new obsession. He played until his eyes were red and raw and “falling out of his head.” His dad built him the wagon, asking him to exercise his imagination instead of his keyboard.

 

He grew out of it eventually–by the time she came around anyway. He would still sneak down and read at night. He kept comic books in a locked toolbox under the bench seat.

When dad got sick, he sat there more and more. It was easier than watching him die in the living room; easier than holding his mother while she screamed with anger.

The canvas was rotting away. One Saturday when things were decently calm and dad was still busy living he asked his mom to borrow the station wagon. She came with him, of course–down to the hardware store where they bought a whole roll of canvas.

She held the hammer in her tiny hands while he fixed up whatever wood had melted away. She held the staple gun while he reverse peeled the fresh canvas back onto the wagon-bones. She sat and watched and asked questions, but mostly was willing to be quiet.

He worked patiently, and he worked frantically–willing himself to finish the wagon before the end. So he could have the chance to show dad just how much he meant–

“Dad’s dead.”

 

He didn’t go back to the wagon after the funeral. Months passed–in and out of school, in and out of a daze he couldn’t shake. Nothing seemed to be real. Nothing felt right.

Their mom was drunk inside, yelling at their aunt. He couldn’t listen to her blame him anymore.

He walked to the back of the house, grabbing his setup and handling the brushes, making sure they were still pliable and clean.

She followed him, way past her bedtime–silently, like a tiny ghost.

We’re both ghosts, now–he thought.

He put an electric lamp inside, for her. He left one outside, for him.

 

He went at the covered wagon like Jackson Pollack must have attacked his canvases, like Yves Klein must have felt when he invented Blue all over again. His mind was inflamed, his hand was moving faster than light, hotter than fire–

He felt a tug.

“Not now.”

A stronger tug, now–his brush slipped.

“Goddamnit, Ash–what do you want?”

She looked up at the canvas, hand on his arm, willing him to see what she saw.

“Don’t paint anymore.” He took a careful breath, not wanting to disturb the spell of speech.

“The light shines through it.”

 

They fell asleep in front of the wagon that night, watching moths dance around the wildly painted figures of their childhoods.

© 2017 by Sarah Farnham

***

Sarah Farnham is a freelance writer living in Portland. She likes odd habits and new words.

 

Mini Sledgehammer February 2017

We had a very special Mini Sledgehammer this month, because it fell on Valentine’s Day. What better way to celebrate than with a glass of wine and some great stories?

We mixed up the prompt style a bit this month. Here’s what the judges came up with:
The velvet glove
Hysteria Drive
Blonde’s Heart of Glass
Umbrella

Congrats to J. Turner Masland for winning! Here’s how he incorporated the prompts.

***

Umbrella

by J. Turner Masland

Much like witchcraft, fighting fascism is an ancient tradition that will always find a place in modern times. Instructions are rarely documented, occasionally transcribed, and most commonly passed through the generations orally. There are periods of times when our activities feel almost mainstream, and other times it is necessary for us to go underground. Today, we are in a time of transition. We are shaking off the cobwebs, coming out of the shadow, and hitting the street.masland

That said, it’s still not safe to live out loud. Persecution can come from anywhere, at any time, swiftly and strongly. Our resistance must be nimble and most importantly creative. Like a tropical hurricane, members of the revolution are drawn together like charged atmospheric particles, rain down chaos and disruption and then disappear like a strong wind. We are unpredictable. We are dangerous. We are necessary for the survival of the planet.

A successful action will appear serendipitous to the public eye, but often take weeks of tactical planning. Our plans cannot be documented. In the age of electronic transfer of information, meeting in person is still less dangerous than snapchat. The key is to find a location to meet someplace public and innocuous yet a where we will go unnoticed. Members of the Velvet Glove have a long history of meeting in libraries. Much like revolutionaries, at first glance libraries appear serene but in reality are quite subversive.

I love that the local university is located on Hysteria Drive. It adds an element of feminism to its location. I walk in and pull out my earbuds, Blonde’s Heart of Glass is replaced by the dull murmur of a library at the start of finals week.

I arrive two hours early. It’s important that I blend in. I must look like a college student. I wander the stacks, pulling copies of Foucault. His original writing, critiques, analysis. I pull down bell hooks. And just for fun, some Alison Bechdel. No matter what city or state I am in, I know I will find my friends in the library.

I find an open table in a corner of the quiet floor and read. Even with an authority regime undermining American Democracy, there is always time to read.

I must have fallen asleep, as I am shaken awake by a soft hand.

“Excuse me, have you lost your umbrella?” says a soft voice.

The word umbrella jolts me awake. It’s the password of the Velvet Glove. Used to pass messages between members of various cells. For our protection, it best not to know every member of the organization. But usually, it’s used when you’re expecting a communique from another group. Hear it out of context instantly makes me paranoid. I don’t recognize this petite woman. I notice her name badge and I realize that she is a reference librarian here.

“Excuse me?” I ask.

“Your umbrella. I noticed you don’t have it with you today.”

Her eyes are sharp. There is a bead of sweat at her hairline.

“You’re right, I didn’t expect it to rain.”

“Oh dear,” she says “In the pacific northwest you really shouldn’t leave home without one. I have an extra in my office, why don’t you come and see if it will meet your needs.”

Much like a sex worker, a revolutionary must decide in a heartbeat if they can trust a stranger or not. I decide to trust the librarian.

“Ok,” I start to gather my books. I realize I am sweating, too.

“Please leave the books here, I really need to get you an umbrella. Follow me, my office is just one floor down.

For such a small woman, she moves quickly. Like a shark, she glides between tables. It’s almost like she is trying to lose me. The path through the stacks she takes me on feels like a path through the labyrinth.

I glance at my watch. I was supposed to meet my fellow operatives right now. I glance back at my table, hoping they will wait for me.

As I glance back, we pass two police officers. My heartbeat is in my throat. Cops in the library are never a good sign.

“Follow me through the staff entrance. Don’t stop moving.”

As she leads me to the door behind the circulation desk, I look out the big glass windows and see three young men sitting on the ground, hands behind their backs, with six officers standing over them in a menacing manner. One of the young men is sobbing. The other two have blank expressions on their faces. And, that’s when I realize, I’ve been saved by the librarian.

© 2017 J. Turner Masland

***

J. Turner Masland is a librarian, currently working at Portland State University as the Access Services Assistant Manager. Originally from new Hampshire, he has lived in Portland since 2006. When not in the library, he enjoys hiking, swimming, trips to the coast, and working on his writing. You can learn more about him at masland.weebly.com or follow him on twitter @deweysnotdead.

Mini Sledgehammer October 2016

J. Turner Masland is back with another prize-worthy story. Thanks to all who came out this week, and congratulations, Turner!

Prompts:
Character: A mechanic
Action: Listening to Bruce Springsteen on NPR on Fresh Air
Location: Church
Phrase: “It’s just locker room talk”

 

***

Sanctuary

by J. Turner Masland

The sun danced down through the sugar maple tree leaves already yellowing on an October afternoon and now seemed to be saturated with the late afternoon light.

Jerry was walking up his five mile driveway, which wound through some backwood hills. He was walking back from the mainroad and his mailbox. Checking the post was how he justified his afternoon walks to his family: but in reality they were his afternoon devotions, his ritual to commune with the spirit. He replaced life with an institution with this mountain acreage, which has been his sanctuary for many decades now.

jtmlogo
His greasy hands carried a few bills and some seed catalogs. Toby the golden retriever raced ahead, on the scent of some woodland creature. He hitched up his sagging jeans and shuffled some pebbles out of his way. The cool mountain air and the breeze through the tree boughs brought him peace.

He crested a hill and rounded a corner and paused to take in the sight before him. Some cleared land, a full two acres of gardens, his garage, and an ancient farmhouse. His home: his pride and joy. Today it looked glorious bathed in the afternoon light with the trees in the distance just starting to turn. He left life as a minister, too fed up with the hypocrisies of the church and the faced paced speed of modern life, to start his life as a mountain man. His children at the time were just toddlers and loved their new life of homeschool and exploring the woods. But after years of hard work and farm chores, their enthusiasm vanished and they all ran away as soon as they could. His sweet wife, Gertrude, though, has stood by his side through tough winters and bountiful harvests.

As he approached the house, he could hear Terry Gross’ voice float across the homestead. Gertie insisted on the radio, one of the few connections to the modern world. It reassured her, while they lived their life off the grid, to have an umbilical cord of radio waves to know that the rest of humanity hadn’t totally imploded.

Jerry threw the mail down on the porch, let Toby into the kitchen, and made his way to the garage. He rolled up his sleeves, and started tinkering with the motor of his ford pickup. With a little ingenuity and a few old manuals, he managed to keep the old piece of shit running.

“How was your walk, hun?” He heard Gertie approach the garage.

“Just fine, my darling. Who is Terry talking to today?”

“Oh, she is interviewing that Bruce Springsteen. Can you imagine? Seventy-five years old and just released another album. This one protesting Trump’s second term. He called it ‘Locker Room Talk.’ Silly business, if you ask me.”

“Silly, maybe. If Bruce ain’t careful, he gonna wind up under one of Chris Christie’s secret tribunals. God damn, how did this shit get so fucked up….”

“I know, Jerry, I know. Any word from the kids…?”

Jerry looked up from the motor and shook his head. Gertie knows not to get her hopes up, but she just can’t help it.

Starting before the 2016 election, when things started to get real ugly, Jerry and Gertie began their preparations. Stockpiling seeds. Teaching themselves how to install solar panels. Expanding their root cellars. Talking about getting some horses and donkeys to help with plowing the fields.

When the unthinkable happened, and Trump took advantage of the missing Supreme Court Justice to weasel his way into office through a contested election, they gave up on all electronic communication. Their kids thought they had finally lost it. They indulged their parents’ letter writing at first, but turned down their invitations to return to the farm. Soon the letters just stopped.

But Gertie and Jerry knew: the increased oil drilling, the alliance with Russia, the centralization of power, the mass deportations, the increased militarization, the occupation of latin america were all signs of the end of times. Jerry may no longer be a minister, but he was still expecting the four horseman to appear any day now.

“Come on, hun,” Gertie prodded Jerry, “The sun tea is done brewing and I have a new batch of mint balm for your shoulder…”

Jerry wiped his greasy hands on the back of his jeans and followed his wife to the house. The smell of smoke from the woodstove put some worries out his mind, for the moment.

Jerry and Gertie spent the afternoon on the porch. He was helping her ball up skeins of wool, and Terry Gross’ voice lulled him to sleep.

“Jerry…. Jerry…” Gertie shook him awake.

“What, dear, what is it?”

“Listen,” She said.

He looked out over the field, now blazed with pink and reds as the sun set behind the hills.

“Gertie, all I hear are the evening swallows chirping in the trees. It’s a mighty peaceful sound.”

“Exactly, Jerry. The radio went silent.”

“You check the batteries?”

“We’ve been using the solar one and it was fully charged.”

Grunting, he got up and got the emergency radio down from the cupboard. He cranked it three, four, five time. Static. He walked over to the other radio, moved the dial up and down. Static. The radio has been on constantly, for years. Radio silence could only mean one thing…

Gertties eyes pierced him. “It’s time, Jerry. It’s happening.”

“I think you’re right, hun…. Let’s get out the guns. Pray to the lord we aren’t going to need them. And pray to the lord our children fiend their way back to us.”

© 2016 J. Turner Masland

***

J. Turner Masland is a librarian, currently working at Portland State University as the Access Services Assistant Manager. Originally from new Hampshire, he has lived in Portland since 2006. When not in the library, he enjoys hiking, swimming, trips to the coast, and working on his writing. You can learn more about him at masland.weebly.com or follow him on twitter @deweysnotdead.