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Mini Sledgehammer January 2015

What a great night! We had a bout a dozen writers come out for the first Mini Sledgehammer of the year. Congratulations to Jeremy Da Rosa!Sledgehammer 1.15

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Character: SIRI
Action: Exercising
Setting: January, 1915
Prop: Salt

***

Milk Starring Sean Penn

by Jeremy Da Rosa

It was the largest glass of milk I had ever seen. I’m no stranger to milk (I’ve got most varieties memorized), but this was the biggest glass I’d seen. 32oz at least. Next to it the sugar shaker on the table made the sugar shaker look like a salt shaker.

The waitress brought me a straw, which was kind but unnecessary.
“I’m pretty good with milk,” I said.

“Siri,” I asked, “What is the Guinness World Record for largest quantity of milk drank in one sitting?”

Siri didn’t know. I stood up in the brown diner. There was a belt of square windows strung around its waist and a fence of bushes between the windows and the street. A marathon was breathing heavily by, and I was convicted about my lack of exercise. I returned to my milk.

A search through the bowels of the internet revealed the milk drinking record was two cows past a full herd: a man named Samuel Scott Walker held the record with 2.5 gallons of whole milk drank in one sitting. The asterisk next to the stat showed a sitting was considered 45 minutes.

This was beyond me–no matter how much I loved the thick, natural soy-based alternatives. I needed to train, and to train, I needed to talk to the best.

Samuel Scott Walker, according to classmates.com, was born on Jan. 30, 1915, in Tillamook, Oregon, which made sense–where else would the world’s best milk drinker be born other than the producer of the nation’s best dairy products?
But 1915, that’s one hundred years ago! The odds that this proud man still walked among us were thinner that a glass of nonfat.

© 2015 Jeremy Da Rosa

***

Jeremy Da RosaJeremy Da Rosa is a writer and educator who lives in Portland. He was born in Salinas, California, where lettuce comes from.

Mini Sledgehammer December 2014

Prompts:
Character: The woman with the beehive hairdo
Action: Snapping a photo
Setting: The docks
Prop: A DVD box set of Murder She Wrote

***

Untitled

by Julia Himmelstein

Author’s Note: Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

There wasn’t much that Tim was scared of that night. He had done the deed already, and was just looking for the proper place to dispose of the weapon. He drove far away from the rink, north along the edge of the Willamette River. He strolled along the docks, hardly minding the debris: a condom wrapper, some soggy pink insulation, and Murder she Wrote DVD’s strewn along the edge of the water. He walked along, absentmindedly swinging the bat from side to side, and thought about his fiancé.

She never expected for Tim to be the man in her life. That is to say, she never expected to stay with him. In the scenarios of the future that she had built in her mind, they would be together 3, 4 months tops, and he would slide into the ether as she became well known, a national champion, an Olympic star. By the time she was on the magazine covers, Tim would be nowhere nearby.

They met at a local bar, she with her off-the-shoulder shirt and loud-mouthed friends, snapping photos and making it clear to anyone nearby that she was having the time of her life. He spent most of the evening in a dark corner, playing darts and casually stealing glances. She noticed, of course.  She didn’t acknowledge him, but slid her number over on a cocktail napkin after last call, like she had seen in the movies once. A week later, he called.

He was tall and strong, and had a way of making her feel safe. Feminine was never a word she used to describe herself, but when she was snuggled up in Tim’s large bear-like arms, she felt exactly that. Like she could float away, and it was his embrace that would hold her down.

Skating was something she had always done. Since she was a young girl, it was the only thing she truly loved. There was something about the way she felt when she was spinning athletically through the air: lutzes, sow cows, axels. Everything else- the gliding, the crossovers, the spins- they were all just in-between, time-fillers before the rush of the next awesome move.

She couldn’t pick the moment when they became a team. She was staunchly independent, always had been. And yet, Tim always seemed to be there. His cheeks flushed just as hard as hers when she nailed her first triple lutz. After a while, she let herself believe that he would really be there for her.

Tim picked up his pace, and walked to the edge of the dock. This is for you, Julie, he thought. He threw the bat as far as he could, and watched it splash into the water. He was a good man.

Francine’s coach was almost witness to the crime. She was outside the rink, warming up the car for Francine. Her beehive hairdo made it impossible for her to put on a hat, and she shivered in the wet cold evening. She couldn’t wait to get home and snuggle up with her box set of Murder She Wrote DVD’s. And yet, Francine didn’t come out. She waited ten minutes at least before walking back in, and immediately heard the screams. Francine would never skate again.

© 2014 Julia Himmelstein

Mini Sledgehammer November 2014

What better way to spend a fall evening than sipping wine and writing? 1381101_52402725

Thanks to everyone who came out for this month’s Mini Sledgehammer, and congratulations to Joshua Force for taking home the prizes!

Prompts:
Character: A candidate
Action: To legalize
Setting: An empty office
Phrase: After the war

***

Untitled

By Joshua Force

after the warning shot got pushed past us in the form of a opinion poll we probably should have thought twice about renting the extra office space. even 16 feet square is too much when your budget shrivels up on lack of fund raising and funds on lack of faith as the the general public prematurely picks their pony and that other pony gets stronger. that can feel about it – watching as your chances are lapped. lapped out as if a giant tongue absorbed a long line of sugar cubes and the sweetness that could have been yours. was the polling firm reputable I wondered staring at a wall of pre-paid posters quilting over the wall in perfect repetition and image – broken only in their haphazard overlapping as though the enormous long wall they blanketed had shrunk them piling as tiles onto one another. “Yes on 7” “es on 7” “Yes on “ “s on 7” and occasionally an upside down one too. somehow so garishly fitting or is it unfitting that our amateur public image mimicked an ugly wall that needed care and received rushed neglect. gah! is there a way out of this useless box? trapped in the mirrored failure of assailed idea, riding the grumpy gallop towards a finish line you’d rather avoid completely if front of a crowd that hates you or at best is disengaged from the possibility of you. you an idea. you an intangible candidate. the potential of a sparkling fix. the dwindling futures of our indigenous proposal a pre-lost race. out come the opinion polls and you’re lapped up like a pool of water. you’re lapped up until the trough is dry withering dry. and there I was in the middle of the fight and yet entirely after the war. all the thrashing and kicking and pushing would have to be ceremonial now. I’d need more runs around my precincts with a volunteering flyers and flyer-ers still clutching the paper like the hope could still win with the barest chance the power of the ghostly candidate was hidden beneath even our own ability to see. sweeping away the other debris from the porch stairs and the door handles and perches created around mailboxes in a vaporous wave of portended defeat as even the lapping occurred still trapped in useless motions of fumbling in the worst pantomime looking in the mouths of the grandstand voters in their glowing homesteads and revival farmhouses with saccharine pleading to be the crop. to spur on the candidate. the animal the One chance this generation to make legal the question of 7. it is after all legal elsewhere with winning results for not only those who bet on it but also and actually everyone. we can all win legalize horse racing in Clindale county! a yes vote send revenue to the schools! the failing schools!!! it’s an exhaustion now because the polls came out and the polls are too far ahead and now there is no way we can catch up to the polls. our candidate is a fading apparition a non-animal who will be blown away like acrid smoke.

© 2014 Joshua Force

Mini Sledgehammer October 2014: “Uncles and Buicks”

Thank you to Daniel and John, who continue to host the Portland Mini Sledgehammers at Blackbird Wine. This month’s winner was Kris Lovesey–congratulations!

Prompts:
Character: The recently departed
Action: Riding Bikes
Setting: By the train tracks
Prop: Pillow case

***

Uncles and Buicks

By Kris Lovesey Kris Lovesey smile shot

Biking across Jacksonville is a great excuse to look like shit.  Shirt starched with sweat.  I look like shit- I smell like a rainbow of balls feet, farts and pits—And I feel great.

If I rode in the beautifully temp. regulated car with my parents I would smell like coffee and stress but I would much rather smell like shit- and acrid eye burning garlic asparagus piss.

It suits me.  It’s my cologne.  My toilet water.  Drier sheets- moth balls.

My uncle was a weird one.  I remember snippets of him laced through my childhood.  He was/is much older than my dad.  He joined the Airforce- got out and flew for Arab families who bought him Rolexes.  He had scattered divorces and kids who don’t speak with the rest of the family.

I remember the gun in his bedside table drawer in Sarasota.  In St. Augustine we visited him in a house trailer.  My brother and I were coaxed outside to collect pine cones.  We were promised a quarter each.

My aunt told me, she was drunk on vodka, he would drown cat babies instead of spaying them.
We were on our way to Sam’s Club.  She pointed to a railway bridge and said he would take the whole litter stuffed in a Goodwill Pillow case- a couple of zip ties, a brick and- out the Buick window.

Our family moved around and these sporadic encounters with family formed all my impressions of the South.

I arrive at church late.  The preacher is going on and on about:  Our Recently Departed.

My uncle Bobby.  They guy lived more in my dreams than in my life… but he’s family and that’s how  my family functions.

-seperate
-Christmas Cards
-Birthday Phone Calls
-The Thanks Giving tradition of fruit cake making- that only lasted for three years.

I was so proud of myself for knowing pine cones were not in fact alligator eggs.  But Hey-
What the fuck did a California boy know about alligators.
They live in Florida- it takes a 45 shot in a quarter sized spot behind their skull to kill one.
You have to pick up their eggs and burn them before they hatch.
You have to kill the kittens.

We are in the dirty South.
This is where I’m from.

This is what I keep on leaving behind me like a dead uncle Bobby.

© 2014 Kris Lovesey

***

Born to a father from South Carolina and a mother from a dairy farm in England.  Growing up around the nicest people and being spoiled on the world’s best chocolates and sweets did as much for Kris’s deep optimism as growing up in divided Germany helped to form a quirky outlook on life.  Kris’s story begins as an American Air force brat surrounded by giant military trucks and transporters, fleets of F-16s and other jets, and the calm German village.

After moving around a lot and finishing an arts degree at Bowling Green State University Kris continued moving with stays in: New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, as well as Southern California, Florida, and the Pacific North West.  Portland is where this author currently resides  while writing fiction and non-fiction.  Kris floats between cultures, countries, and scattered friends and family- seemingly sucking nectar to feed and indulge the curiosity driving this boheme-cosmopolitan.

Lightheartedness is seen in everything Kris.  The fictional stories weave our world with colorful threads- beautiful and crass.  Narratives drag us all the places one never knows to look for on a map or in our imaginations.  The characters will remind you of fantastic qualities of man which surround us.  Non-fiction works by Kris are brash “how to” get what you want out of life guides.  These deal with traveling and living abroad and the advantages and hurdles.  The life experiences salt and pepper and offer a new pair of glasses to view the world.

Kris draws literary inspiration from the wonderful worlds of Roald Dahl and Haruki Murakami, and peacefulness/spiritual tones of Hermann Hesse and Patrick Suskind.  This makes a down to earth and honest author who is a pleasure to read.  Pick up Kris’s books right now and meet the characters and real life people to lighten up your day.

Mini Sledgehammer September 2014: “The Vacation of a Lifetime”

Thanks to everyone who came out for 36 minutes of writing competition in September! Congratulations to winner Kent Nightingale.

Prompts
Character: An imposter
Action: The moon
Setting: Starting over
Phrase: “Don’t tell me…”

***

The Vacation of a Lifetime

by Kent Nightingale

“Don’t ever tell me this wasn’t exciting enough for you, Dale.”

“Okay, Chuck, I’ll try to keep that in mind. Honestly I thought there would be more mountains and caves in this place. It’s kind of like Kansas.”

“Well shit, I don’t know what to tell you. Next time we’ll buy tickets to Jupiter. I hear the weather there keeps one guessing.”

Flights to the general public had gone on sale in 2024, but it was another ten years before Chuck could afford two tickets to the moon, wealthy as he was. He was a practical guy in that sense. Always shopping for a bargain. He’d have bought a one-way ticket if it were more cost effective. Funny thing is, even in a far out place like the Earth’s only natural satellite, a tourist is a tourist. They began their days swimming in the hotel pool, gazing out the impressive walls of glass into the blackness of space.

After breakfast, a menu of UFO cakes and Marshan juice, they waited in the terminal for their daily tour. A vehicle not so different than a minivan, with enormous treaded tires, set forth on highway L62. Traffic was a bit thick getting out of Portland, the moon’s largest city, but once they got on the open road, the perspective was impressive indeed.

“You know,” said Chuck, “for years I’ve had the notion that I’ve wanted the chance to start over. I really feel this trip might be a turning point for me, now that my divorce is over with.”

“It is” Dale replied. “It really is.” This meant a great deal to Chuck, as there were few people on Earth, or elsewhere for that matter, that knew him as well as Dale.

Though English was the official language of the moon, few of the service staff were fluent, so the men reached for their headsets, to receive the audio portion of their tour.

“Ahead you will see King’s Crater, a place any man could call home. Inside it’s underground bunker are all the essentials a human requires to live in health and harmony. Most individuals find themselves well-adjusted within a month.”

Chuck removed his headphones and grabbed Dale by the arm. Inside his heart an alarm was sounding.

“I would have told you if I could,” Dale whispered. “I couldn’t come to live here by myself, with not a friend in the world.”

Chuck only stared ahead, his face devoid of any expression.

© 2014 Kent Nightingale

***

profile_pic_2013Kent is a musician, songwriter, and outdoor enthusiast from Portland, Oregon.

Mini Sledgehammer August 2014: Blackbird Wine & Atomic Cheese

While the judges were mulling over the big Sledgehammer stories, we held a Mini Sledgehammer in Portland. Thanks to everyone who showed up!

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Prompts:
Character: The warden
Action: Peeling back
Setting: Train car
Phrase: “Do that again and I will…”

Congratulations to Daniel Granias, who took the prizes, not for the first time!

***

It hadn’t struck us that it was illegal per se to live in a train yard. When we first arrived we’d set up camp in an open freighter that had been retired from the coal lines from Union Pacific. We had nothing more than our matching denim frame packs that we’d been issued by the foster center in Colorado. Charlie, my little sister, and I had hitchhiked our way to the northwest after the Colorado wildfires had smoked us out of our center. It had been a week before we’d seen any trace of life in the yards, and when it did, it was in the form of an old, saggy bloodhound, jowels sweeping the gravel, having traced our soot footprints to our car.

“Shhhh—shhhh—shhh…. Easy there fella,” I said. The hound first glanced at me, swooped its head back to the south, then returned its drooping eyes to Charlie, and let out a “wooo-rooo-ruugh” kind of grumble.

“Shut up!” Charlie whisper-yelled, “Do that again and I’ll tie your ears to your tail!” Not a fan of this proposition, the bloodhound lifted its nose to the sky and let out a warbling bellow of a howl.

“Who’s ‘ayre, Buckeye?” came a sharp beckon from behind the line of tracked cars south of our camper.

At that we ran, sending a combination of coal dust clouds and gravel confetti at the dog and warden, who presented himself in hot pursuit, clad in olive security uniform and mirrored aviator sunglasses.

Dodging and weaving between cars, tracks, and gates, Charlie and I headed for the station, where we could get lost in the everyday traffic of passengers and pedestrians. But before we could get through the last stretch, Charlie tripped over a set of tracks and cried out. I had been leading, and y the time I heard her cry I was at least forty yards ahead. Peeling back, the bloodhound was making as fast a gain on my 8 year old sisters as I, and it was only a second before he made to pounce that I was able to grab her and throw her over my shoulder as I made way for the station.

After bursting through the door, we ran into the lobby, only to run straight into a team of officers meeting in the lobby.
“Where do you kids think you’re going?” One asked.

“We don’t know, sir.” I said, confessionally.

A second guard took a close look at the label on Charlie’s tattered frame pack, and mentioned, “You kids from Boulder?”

How did he know?

“Yeah I was stationed there not too long ago, my wife knew them folks that ran that youth center. We can get you back home there if y’like.”

By that time the original warden had entered the group.

“you left this behind.” And he handed my pack.

© 2014 Daniel Granias

Mini Sledgehammer June 2014: Blackbird Wine & Atomic Cheese

Sledgehammer founder Ali McCart got to host her only Mini Sledgehammer in Portland for the year this month. It’s great to be back, Portland! Thanks to Daniel Granias and J.B. Kish for coming out.

Here were the prompts, no doubt inspired by things Ali missed about Portland:

Character: A bike rider
Action: Receiving a message
Setting: During a summer storm
Prop: A guitar

Congratulations to J.B. Kish for taking home the prizes. Love the intensity in this piece!

***

What Comes Next?

By J.B. Kish
“A-sharp. G. Show him, Allison, show him.”

Allison, breathless and clothes sticking to her paper-like skin, repeated her mantra, riding the ten-speed up the lonely saguaro-riddled highway with strange determination. The monsoon rain was biting at her neck, the summer storm overtaking her faster than she’d thought something naturally capable. Here she was, a thirty-two year old bicyclist from Portland, Oregon, terrified for the first time in her life to be riding a saddle at three in the afternoon.

“A-sharp. G. Show him, Allison,” she barked to herself. “Show him you can do this.”

She kicked the pedals down, allowing the pendulum of momentum to suck her heels upward, then she repeated this process again and again. Soon, the rain came in horizontal sheets and slapped against the cracked pavement rhythmically. In a matter of seconds, her picturesque view of the Catalina Mountains was swallowed by gray—what was it, clouds? Fog? She focused on the road in front of her—the only three feet she could make out between eyelid-soaked blinks and bursts of air she ejected from her bottom lip in an effort to shake free her face from that unavoidable soaking.

“A-sharp. G.”

She plucked at the guitar strings of her mind, suddenly imagining herself in front of the mirror hidden in her childhood home’s attic. She was holding her father’s guitar in her arms, wondering desperately how to play the song he’d taught her. The one that he played for her when she was afraid to go to sleep at night. Afraid of the monsters of adulthood.

“Think, Allison,” she demanded of herself. “What comes after G. Think goddamnit.”

But she couldn’t remember. The storm yawned once more, spooking her toward the center of the road. A single pair of headlights approached, blinked, and soared past. She thought to herself how close she might have come to death had she accidentally steered in front of the car just moments before.”

“A-sharp. G. Show him you can do this.”

She closed her eyes and tried to shake the thundering clamor of storm. She pumped harder and harder. Running from something she wasn’t entirely sure of. Running from the message she’d received just five days earlier. Running from those words on the voicemail.

“Goddamnit,” she cried, taking a mouthful of rain. “What comes after G?!”

“Straighten your hand, and press here.”

She imagined her father, suddenly sitting next to her, holding her hand in his own.

“It’s important you learn discipline,” he told her, his words that special mixture of warmth and emotionless-instruction that only a father can produce. “It’s important you learn, Allison. I won’t always be here to help you.” He looked at her, his expression flat in the attic mirror.

“A-sharp. G. Then what?”

“Show him Allison.”

“A-sharp. G. Then what?”

“Allison, it’s your mother. Where are you?”

“Straighten your hand. Then press hard here”

“Allison, I’ve called you five times. Don’t make me do this over voicemail.”

“No, press harder here.”

“Allison, It’s your father. The doctors say he fought so hard…”

“Show him, Allison. Show him you can remember what comes next.”

“Allison. It’s your father—”

© 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.