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Mini Sledgehammer March 2016

We can finally see spring between the clouds! Well, every once in a while, we can. In the meantime, Mini Sledgehammerers continue to convene for wine and writing once a month, turning out a winning story like clockwork. Congratulations to Summer on her repeat win!

***

Prompts:
Character: A Doppelganger
Action: A sneeze
Setting: A marina
Prop: Roll of 2009 minted quarters

***

Untitled

by Summer OlssonSummer-3

She sat in the bar at Gino’s, her third greyhound sweating rings onto the mahogany. Through the glass she could see the whole marina, all the drooping sailboats and staunch yachts blotting out most of the blue.

The bartender had already come by twice more and she had gently rebuffed him. Normally she would have told a guy like that to fuck off and leave her alone, but her instructions were to not draw attention to herself.  She sipped her drink with her sticky red lips, and peeled her thighs off of the vinyl barstool to uncross and re-cross her legs. She fished her phone out of her bag. She only had ten more minutes to wait before the time was up and she could leave. In the beginning she thought this was kind of sexy and interesting, but it had turned out to be really boring. She’d been here for almost two hours. She decided she could take a quick bathroom break.

As she rounded the corner under the metal finger pointing the way to the “W.C.”, she was hit from behind. What cracked against her skull was a roll of quarters, freshly minted in 2009, that had been picked up at a credit union that morning, and would be dismantled and pumped into various pinball machines later that night. She did not know or care about this as her attacker dragged her unconscious body through a service door and into an alley. Blood trickled from the back of her head, but her long red hair caught it, mixed it into a sticky clot that never touched the floor. Luckily for her she didn’t regain consciousness when her assailant dropped her behind a dumpster. Certainly he did her a favor when he shot her twice, once in the head and once in the chest, before he removed the ring finger on her right hand, which he pocketed to send to his employer later.

“Did it work? Is it over?” Eddie asked, and then immediately sneezed. His allergies were really bad today. Dana knew she should feel sorry for him, but mostly she was annoyed. She was trying to concentrate. Looking through binoculars made her feel cross-eyed and gave her a headache.  She pushed some red hair behind her ear.

“Yes. It’s over.”

“Thank god!” Eddie said, and came up behind her. He put his long arms around her, pinning her arms and forcing her to lower the binoculars. Dana relaxed against him. She breathed deeply a few times. Her shoulders lowered. For the first time in two hours, she was aware of the subtle rocking of the boat. Through the window in the hull she could see gulls swooping to nip something off of the pier.

“I’ll make some drinks,” Eddie said. He went around behind the bar and took down two highballs.

She thought about how she and Eddie could watch birds now. They could sit on a beach somewhere without a constant buzz of tension. They could walk down the street in public somewhere- somewhere else at least- without being terrified.  Eddie handed her a drink. The first sip made her eyes tear up.

Dana wasn’t going to say anything to Eddie about the near miss, but it was bugging her and she knew it would get worse. “I’m glad he sent someone else. I thought he would. But we really lucked out.”

He raised an eyebrow.  “But she looked exactly like you. From a foot away he would have been fooled.” She raised her glass toward him.

“Yes, but she ordered the wrong drink. I only drink Manhattans.”

© 2016 Summer Olsson

***

Summer Olsson is a writer, director, actor, puppeteer and costume designer. She grew up in the magical high desert of Albuquerque. She did a turn as a music writer, and later the arts editor, for the Weekly Alibi. She holds a BFA in theater from the University of New Mexico and is a graduate of Dell’ Arte International School of Physical Theatre. She lives in Portland.

Mini Sledgehammer April 2015

Julia Himmelstein is back with another amazing story!

***

Character: The cowgirl
Action: Watching British television
Setting: the factory
Prop: A milk jug

***

Untitled

by Julia Himmelstein

It had been a while since the cowgirl had been around. He had been watching for her, shyly, spending lapses of evenings by the kitchen sink, washing the same four dishes, while peering out the window. It wasn’t really her looks that got to him, just the fact that she was so incredibly out of place. The first time, he had wondered if this was a mistaken Halloween costume, a drunken party guest in the wrong part of town. Their eyes had met as he sat on his front stoop, tongue-tied. The fringes on her leather vest rustled in the light breeze, and she made a funny clicking noise with her boots, as though commanding an invisible horse.  Long after she was gone, he thought he could hear the click-clack of her boots on the pavement.

They saw each other every few nights after that, she always wearing gingham and leather, and he always staring, dumbfounded. “Just say something to her, man,” he muttered to himself, channeling one of his high school buddies that surely would have had the balls to talk to her, and probably say something incredibly rude. But those friends were long gone, off to work in the factories that made pointless gadgets for white folks. It was just him now, him and his four dishes and the cat Theo. He couldn’t remember the last time he had talked to a human, let alone see one in real life. He used to have video chats with his sister, but that was before the internet cut out. Now when he wanted to see people he popped in one of the British Television discs that he had found in a closet when he first moved in.

He found himself dreaming about her at night. In his dreams, she was close enough that he could see her freckles, and smell her breath. It smelled funny, like something old. Sometimes she would even smile.

He hadn’t always been such a loner. He too, had tried the factory life, first for a manufacturer of milk jugs and then for a tech company. He grew listless and bored, and had enough near misses with large machinery that he was let go. With a sigh, he moved to the empty country, finding an abandoned trailer on a field to call home.

The cowgirl usually walked past around dusk. There was something about the way she looked, like a hungry child, that made him feel protective and tentative at the same time. She always went the same direction, and always looked at him, brief and hard, before leaving.

He started to worry when he hadn’t seen her in a week. He wondered if she had met someone that actually spoke to her. Maybe she even found a horse. Did she have a home, or a family? What did her voice sound like?

He awoke late one night to hear the click-clack of her boots. As if in a dream, he walked through the dark trailer and stepped outside into the moonlight, knowing she would be there. She stared at him with her usual look. “I’ve been waiting for you,” he said.

© Julia Himmelstein

***

IMG_0808Julia Himmelstein lives in Portland, Oregon, where she teaches, smiles, listens, and wonders. She delights in hugs from friends, children’s smiles, and fresh baked cookies (or any food, really).

Mini Sledgehammer March 2015

Congratulations to Denise Coderre, whose story earned her a free book and  bottle of wine!

***

Character: The person next to you
Action: Hail Mary
Setting: Somewhere in cyberspace
Prop: Mask

***

Nature Trip

by Denise Coderre

“Hey man, where are we?”

“I don’t know about you, but I think I’m somewhere in cyberspace. How big a dose did you say this was?”

“I didn’t, and I’m gonna keep it that way. You doin’ okay?”

“Yeah, thanks. I’m glad we’re here together. It’s a real chance to get to know you on a different level – without the masks we sometimes wear. I’ve known you all your life, mi hijo, but really, how well do we know each other?”

“I know what you mean. All my life, I’m the person next to you, living, playing and eating with you, sometimes crying with you, laughing with you…I think I know you pretty well. But who knows? How about you tell me about yourself? I’ll see if you get it right.”

“Hah! What is this? I don’t see any confessional boxes around, even if I were Catholic.”

“Don’t worry. It’s not as if I’m going to assign you any Hail Marys – even if I were a priest.

“This is supposed to be a beautiful experience. I think the best way we get to know each other, or rather, keep knowing each other, is just to be ourselves. Completely in the moment. There aren’t any roles we need to play. The roles are all in the past. Now, we’re just two people.”

“Yes, two peoples. And lots of bugs! Man, cyber bugs are huge! What if they eat us, and no one finds us for two years, and then we’re just a pile of bones?”

“Hello…take off the mask. You’re using bugs as an excuse to not talk about what’s important.”

“But this is me. I’m not a great philosopher. I’m just a weirdo who enjoys the minutiae, the bugs, the dirt. Look at the dirt! It’s red. Did I ever tell you about the science teacher who told me about the meaning of red dirt? It means were here. We got to where we’re going. We’ve arrived!”

“And there’s no place else I’d rather be than right here next to you. I sure do love you, whoever you are. I may not know you, but I know I love you. Thanks for being here with me.”

“Thanks for asking me. I love you too, more than you’ll ever know.”

© 2015 Denise Coderre

***

DeniseDenise Coderre, originally from California, is a born-again Oregonian since 1990. She is an attorney specializing in retirement plans, insurance and related tax laws. In her spare time, she enjoys playing fierce Scrabble competitions against her fiancé, quiet evenings watching Dr. John McWhorter lectures on DVD, and studying foreign languages to mingle with locals around the world. She cherishes her good fortune to experience first-hand the enduring, ever-evolving mother-son bond.

Mini Sledgehammer February 2015

Another great turnout! Thanks for the support, 2015 writers!

***SH Feb 2015

Character: The least respected person
Action: Acting
Setting: The farm
Prop: Chandelier

***

The Old Chandelier

by Alyssa Shelton

I

Some of his first memories were just twinklings; iridescent, tiny movements of light dancing off of and with one another to some music that couldn’t actually be heard.

He often wondered if his mother had left the bassinet in the foyer with the fore thinking that he would be entertained by the subtle moving shadows cast on the wall by the chandelier in the entryway of their rundown old house.

More likely, however, was that she simply set him down as quickly as she could after returning home from whatever monotonous chore or errand she’d just stumbled through.

He also wondered if those bits of light had played any role in his growing desire to become the world’s greatest actor.

He could see it all so clearly: the common farm boy turned movie star! How he would wow and dazzle, shock and surprise on the golden screen. Finally, the other boys would envy him and wish they had been kinder all those years in school. “Look at him now!” they would say as he moved weightlessly across the stages of Hollywood and Broadway. The girls would regret mocking him and sending him those humiliating fake love letters, not that he had wanted them anyway…

“Eugene! Get your sorry ass downstairs and get to herding, sonofa…”

He was ripped from yet another daydream, forced back to the pathetic reality of life on a sheep farm. While he craved glamour, production, and scripts he was drowning in wool, shit, and dust.

He made his way toward the dilapidated staircase, running his hands along the cracked and fading wallpaper with fat baby angels sitting atop yellowed clouds. His mother called them cherubs, and his father asked her why the hell she couldn’t just call them what they were: fat baby angels.

As he began to descend down the steps, he paused midway to admire the one remnant of a once impressive and sprawling plantation; his great grandfather’s chandelier. Eugene was always taken by its out of place elegance, and his mind began to wander again as it was wont to do…

“Why don’t you just take your drunk ass out of this here house and let us be!”

Slap!

The memories always ended with that terrible sound that they’d all grown so accustomed to.

“Damnit Eugene, quit starin’ at that damned light and get outside!” He quickly ran down the stairs and out to the pasture.

II

Once his work was done, he retreated to the old barn. Here he could be himself: the famed Gene! The most highly sought after actor in the whole country. And from such humble beginnings!

Not long now and his neighbor and friend, Johnny, would join him in the barn. Together they would continue writing and rehearsing their next play, The Farmer’s Wife, the coming-of-age tale of a misunderstood gal on her way to Hollywood. They could both identify.

Johnny came and they wrote, laughed, argued and fucked. They just got to thinking it might be time to call it a night when the barn door slammed open and Eugene’s father burst inside, looking horrified but not surprised.

The next sequence of events would remain a blur to all who tried to recall it. Johnny took off out the back of the barn naked.

Boom. Boom. Two shotgun shots that hit nothing but the balmy summer air. In the meantime, Eugene’s father had caught him by the back of the neck and began to drag him toward the house.

Nearly at the doorstep, Eugene broke free by throwing a wild punch in his father’s face. He made it just into the foyer as another boom! canceled out all other sounds.

As he crumpled to the floor amidst his mother’s and sister’s screams, his mind wandered back to those early twinkling memories. As the blood left his body and his breathing slowed, he once again watched the lights dance along the ceiling and the walls.

© 2015 Alyssa Shelton

***

Alyssa

Alyssa Shelton co-owns a branding and web design agency called Roger That in Portland, OR. When she’s not copywriting for her clients you can find her attempting recipes that never turn out quite right.

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

***

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

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