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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.