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Mini Sledgehammer February 2013: Blackbird Wine & Atomic Cheese

Thanks for another great Mini Sledgehammer, all. Congratulations to the February winner, Daniel Granias! We hope to see you at Mini Sledgehammer again.

Character: Hostile talking animal

Action: Going to happy hour

Setting: Underneath and underpass

Prop: Child’s toy

***

Untitled

by Daniel Granias

“I told you that wasn’t a good idea, Chuck.”

“What was I supposed to do? Let them arrest me?”

“You’re not worth the handcuffs it’d take.”

Chuck sent a heel into the underbelly of Roy, the mange-ridden Labrador, hard enough to throw the hostile hound on his side.

“Shut up, fleabag.”

The pair began to gather the damp and torn remnants of clothing and blankets that were strewn in the muddy gutter, wrapping the green camping tarp over the bundle and dragging it out of the rain beneath the convergence of Eisenhower Expressway and the Dan Ryan.

Less than a year ago, Chuck had in fact been worth more than just a pair of handcuffs—millions more. And Chuck hadn’t always been Chuck; he was formerly Charles T. Greyson, co-owner of Greyson Motor Industries Unlimited. That was before his brother Julius signed the company over to a corporate account that specialized in the electronic digitization of transmissions, a move that left Charles defending a backless, diesel-guzzling freight line, and therefore forced to withdraw all shareholding. This left him with nothing, and his insurance coverage was invalidated after his wife of six years who provided the plan revealed her intention to leave Charles for Julius since they met at the Golden Nugget happy hour two years ago.

But now Charles was Chuck, and Chuck was on the move.

“I should’ve left you with Meredith, Roy.”

“That bitch? I’d’ve rather eaten shit.”

“You already do.”

“Fuck off, you sorry excuse of a bum.”

Just as the ragged team slugged their way up to the narrowest part of the ramp, a doll tumbled out of Chuck’s tarp. It rolled down the moss and mildew scattered concrete and stuck in a mud bank at the bottom. Its eyes stared up at Chuck in the single yellow glare of the streetlight.

“Why’d you take that from Audrey?”

“She can survive. Her mom can provide her with everything now.”

“But why that? She never played with it anyway.”

“It was the first thing I bought for her. I doubt she even remembers it.”

“She remembers you.”

“I’d rather she didn’t.”

“She’s better off.”

© Daniel Granias 2013

Mini Sledgehammer January 2013: Blackbird Wine & Atomic Cheese

Elissa Nelson, a long-time Sledgehammer friend, has upped her friendliness by offering to lead Mini Sledgehammer for the next handful of months–tonight was her first in this role. Thanks, Elissa!

Can you guess what, from the winning story below, Elissa’s prompts were? [Insert theme music to Get to Know Your Facilitator, an exciting new game from the producers of Wheel of Fortune!]

***

January

by Kerrie Farris

The crows crowded in at her feet, squabbling in rough voices over the cold, half-eaten calzone Grace had dropped a moment before. Some of them stood away from the fray, beady eyes trained on her, grumbling and squawking as if their lack of dinner was her fault.

When two birds each grabbed a scrap of crust and flew straight in to her face, she abandoned the damp cement bench in front of the library and set off in search of somewhere with fewer feathered ruffians.

Shivering in a gust of wind that nearly took her hat off, Grace skirted a wispy-haired woman in a wheel chair, a wispy-haired palm-sized dog tucked into a fold of the dingy Pendleton jacket draping her hunched shoulders. “I walked those streets, my dear, and there was only half an hour I was ever happy,” the woman said to a space well to the left of Grace.

She passed a park, with trees but no grass, where two girls sat on another damp bench, delicately twining each other’s hair into spirals, then roughing it up toward the roots with their fingertips. A quick way to turn shiny, soft hair into dreadlocks. Pulling hair in reverse.

Grace left the park behind her. A few silky-feathered crows ahead of her scrattered over, of all things, a pair of ethereal blue panties. Grace lost her footing at the curb, the toe of her boot jutting too boldly into space. She went down, on her hands and knees and chin, onto the damp pavement as the furious crows shredded the panties, strands of soft, shiny elastic breaking as they were pulled the normal way, the harder way, and wondered if she might not have spent a happier half hour at the library. Even in January, the place was warm.

(c) Kerrie Farris 2013

Kerrie Farris lives in Portland and watches the crows when she ought to be working.

“Birdsong” by Kerrie Farris

Character: Police station clerk
Action: Tightening a knot
Setting: A meeting for a subversive group
Prop: Decorative songbirds made from vinyl records

***

Birdsong

 by Kerrie Farris

“Reilly, what are you doing?” Her mother called through the thin wall between Reilly’s bedroom and the living room.

“Homework, Mom.”

“Ok. Don’t leave the house. I’m going to lay down for awhile.” Her voice was a tired warble.

“Alright. Is there anything to eat?”

“You can microwave yourself a TV dinner. That’s what I’m going to do, later.”

Continue reading

Mini Sledgehammer: December 2011, Blackbird Wine & Atomic Cheese

Indigo’s Susan DeFreitas hosted this month’s Mini Sledgehammer at Blackbird, and Kerrie Farris earned the prize package. Congratulations, Kerrie!

The prompts were:

Character: An out-of-work sign painter
Setting: Walmart
Prop: A pair of jumper cables
Phrase: “The meaning of life…”

***

Untitled

by Kerrie Farris

***

Chris had been hanging around Walmart for at least an hour, waiting for Jill. It was the only place in town after 11, besides the bars, which he was still too young to go to. By the time he was old enough to go, Chris thought, he’d be out of this shitty little town.

Jill was late. Very late. Getting later all the time. They’d been seeing each other for three months, and Chris wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about her. When she laughed, she was bright and beautiful, and Chris felt good reflecting that light.

An hour and a quarter. An hour and a half. Chris bought a pack of cigarettes, going through the same quiet check stand and quiet girl he had when he got to the store and bought two sodas. He realized halfway through the transaction that he must’ve set Jill’s soda down somewhere as he wandered through the fluorescent catacombs of electronics and sporting goods. He lunged for another Cherry Coke and thanked it down on the belt before the cashier had finished ringing him up. She looked at it for a moment with her colorless eyes, then smiled, revealing crooked teeth.

Chris stuffed the soda in his pocket and walked out the electric doors. He rounded the corner of the building, the pack of cigarettes smacking into his palm as he went. He shivered and shuddered and wondered when the hell Jill was going to get there as he lit a cigarette. It was clamped between his teeth, but he nearly swallowed it when he heard a voice call “Hey!”

A man with shaggy gray hair was calling and waving from beside a parked car. Chris looked behind him – no one there. The man was definitely calling to him.

Chris didn’t recognize the guy. It was a small town, and he had lived there too long and knew nearly everyone. Still, he walked over to the man.

“Hey, buddy, you got any jumper cables? My car won’t start.”

Chris shook his head. He’d walked to the store. Since he’d graduated, he walked often at night. Sometimes to the 24-hour Walmart, sometimes nowhere.

“Well, hell.” The guy said.

Chris didn’t know how to help, but he didn’t just want to walk away. He was about to offer his cell phone, but the things in the backseat of the car caught his eye and instead he asked “What’s all that?”

“Oh, that’s my painting gear.”

Chris was puzzled. The debris in the backseat did not include an easel, and this guy didn’t look like a Rembrandt, or even have the crazy-panache of a Van Gogh. But then, neither do I, Chris thought.

“Painting…?” Chris echoed.

“Yeah.” The creases between the man’s eyes melted as he shifted his gaze from the open hood of the car to the jumble of pots and brushes and towels and hoses in the backseat. “I paint windows. You ever see those storefronts, at Christmastime, with Sanna Clause and snowflakes and angels and shit like that? I paint that stuff. Sometimes anyway. It’s getting harder because there are hardly any Main Streets left. Just these big ugly hummers now.” He pointed at the looming, spotlit store. “Yeah, hardly any little shops with windows that need something pretty for the holidays…sometimes I wonder a little bit what the meaning of it all is, if there’s nothing little left.”

Chris pictured the guy, traveling from town to town, leaving little bits of art in his wake, Chris wondered if he could get a gig like that.

Chris turned at the sound of another “Hey!” It was Jill. He smiled at the man, who grinned and nodded with a faraway look.

He jogged over to Jill.

“Chris, I’m late.”

“Yeah, I know.” He smiled at her, waiting for her laugh.

“No, Chris, I’m late. I’m pregnant.”

© 2011 Kerrie Farris

***

Kerrie Farris is currently working on her first novel, which was supposed to have been done by now. She lives in Northwest Portland with her fiancé and two cats. She enjoys reading, rain, conversation, and waffles.