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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



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 December 2014

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



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