• Visit Indigo

    Sledgehammer is proudly presented by Indigo, which offers editing, design, and more to authors and publishers around the world.

    Visit us at www.indigoediting.com to learn more and to schedule a free sample edit and initial consultation.

    Indigo: editing, design,
    and more


    Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter.
  • Join Our Networks

  • Photo Gallery

    To view photos of Sledgehammers past, visit our Facebook photo albums!

    All photos property of Sledgehammer Writing Contest. Most photos copyright Doug Geisler.
  • Advertisements

Mini Sledgehammer September 2016

The first Mini Sledgehammer was in September, so I guess that makes this month our anniversary! Congratulations to Joseph Aldred for winning the anniversary Mini Sledgehammer.

***

Prompts:
Character: A guard
Action: Blowing one’s nose
Setting: A factory
Prop: A cabbage

***

Untitledjoseph-mini-sledge

by Joseph Aldred

“I hate these late nights,” Jacob said, flicking the flash light on and of a few times before setting it back on the desk.

“Yeah, well you coulda guessed there would be a few of those with this job Earl,” Izzy said not looking up from the Batman comic she had read more than her fair share of times. “Personally, I prefer not having to be around people.”

“I didn’t expect I would be swinging the grave shift every week though.” He had been looking at one of the monitors, wondering briefly what all those machines meant. He sniffed and wiped his nose with the sleeve of the marine blue jacket. “I’ll be happy when the get done with my jacket, maybe you’ll stop calling me that. What do they do here anyway?”

“Make something–I don’t care; I just make sure nobody makes off with anything.”

“Anybody ever break in or cause problems?”

“Naw–well one time, some kids were fooling around in the parking lot, drinking, smoking–just fucking around ya know.”

“What’d you do?”

She looked up over the top of the page where Batman had just socked Joker one and was in the process          of tying him up.  She laughed a harsh laugh, “I joined em, what do you think?”

“Christ, how old were they?”

“I don’t know, high school or something. I didn’t buy them the booze and they were willing to share if I let them stay. Why don’t you take a walk around and check things out? I’ll stay here and hold down the fort.”

“Mom sent sandwiches and other snacks if you want.”

“What’s on em?”

“Turkey, cheese, that spicy mustard she likes. You know, the usual–I think she even threw in some Oreos for you.” Izzy had been an eternally ongoing love affair with them and all their artery clogging goodness since middle school, like many kids.

“Ha mom, of course she would add those. You’d think I was the one with a new job, not you. Why do you let her do that stuff anyway?”

“You know, she likes to feel needed,” Jacob said sniffling his almost perpetually runny nose. He turned to leave the security office, one hand pressing the door half way open before he turned back, “two of the sandwiches had cabbage, she didn’t have any lettuce and I don’t think she marked any of them.”

“I think I’ll be okay, you said Oreo and all thoughts of food stopped there.”

“She said not to let you eat just those.” He sniffled again and pushed open the door to leave.

“And I’m sure you’ll run right home and tell her. How’s she doing anyway?”

“She’s been holding up okay, talks about you coming over sometime for dinner ya know.” He sniffed again and rubbed slowly at his nose.

“You know that’s gross, just go blow your nose already.”

“I hate the way my ear’s pop.”

“Just do it and be done with already.”

“I’ll do it after you eat one of those sandwiches and take it easy on those cookies–they’ll give you a heart attack.”

“We’ll see, go have a look around, blow your nose in peace, and I’ll sit here keeping an eye on how Mr. J is doing.”

Jacob pushed through the door, pulling a handkerchief from his back pocket as he walked, hitched up his pants and put the cotton to his nose.

© 2016 Joseph Aldred

***

Joseph Aldred lives in Vancouver, Washington. By night he is a writer, by day he is a writer only when his boss isn’t around. He loves to eat sushi with his kids and to drink the occasional bottle of cider. He works freelance creating content for the web.

Advertisements

Mini Sledgehammer July 2016

Congratulations to Donald on his second win!
***
Prompts:
Character: A diplomat
Action: Going viral
Setting: Before the revolution
Phrase: “Gotta catch ’em all”
***

Only the Lonely

by Donald Carson

They call me a monster. And perhaps I am. Donald_Carson

They call me a lover. And I do have my moments.

I do not think they suspect that in my large and fiery heart lies the spark of sensibility. To them, I am just a large lump. A thing to take advantage of until no more advantages remain to be taken.

They talk about leaving me. I would like to see them try! They have hurled themselves away from my massive body but they always return, like fleas flick back onto a dying dog.

They give me no credit for creating them, and perhaps they are right. Perhaps it was not I who brought them into being, but something larger than myself. Perhaps there is a God.

I doubt it.

I was lonely. I longed for a mind to share my deep, dark cavernous thoughts with. And so I fiddled and I fidgeted. I sent lighting where lightning might not have gone. I crafted and I coddled. I was quite clever, if I do say so myself. Eventually things went viral, as they say now, and I sat back to watch.

It took awhile, but I had awhile. Fire burned, and cauldron bubbled.

And forth they came.

How they have disappointed me! I thought to have companions, but instead I have a mange, that spreads across my skin, leaving death in its tracks.

And they think me a monster. Oh, I kill them casually enough, as one brushes a mosquito from one’s shoulder, or poisons ants. Gotta catch ’em all!

So I am a monster. But I am also a diplomat. I want them to one day be my equal, so I try to keep them alive, but I despair how long it will take. Or whether I will have to start over.

They are the humans I birthed in my wet womb. And I, I am the planet they call the Earth. Brooding, scheming, and always hopeful that someday I will meet my equal. Before the revolution that is intelligence spread across my surface I had given up hope.

Now, I have a tiny particle of hope. Will they someday evolve into a companion for me?

Oh, I’ve reached across the emptiness and tapped Venus on the shoulder. I’ve called out to Saturn. But apparently I am the only sentient planet in hailing range.

And while they prattle, and dissect their minuscule existences, and give themselves hugs, and take selfies, I wait.

For a friend.

© 2016 Donald Carson

***

Donald lives in Portland, where he works in digital content and user experience, which is a fancy way of saying he tries to make websites and apps more useful for businesses and their customers. He is a food addict and must eat at least 3 times a day to sustain a metabolic high. He also enjoys avoiding things he knows he should do, working on the same novel for 10 years, and tending to the needs of 2 furry animals which for some reason have taken up residence in his house.

Mini Sledgehammer May 2016

Donald has cropped up to quite a few Indigo events lately—happy hour chats, write-ins, and now Mini Sledgehammer! Thanks for being part of our community, Donald, and congratulations on winning.

***

Prompts:
Character: A delivery person
Action: Taking x-rays
Setting: An ice rink
Phrase: “Heads up”

***

The Disappearance of Bobby Gond

by Donald Carson

Everyone searched and searched, but they could not find him.Donald_Carson

If ever a 7-year-old could have been said to have vanished, it was Bobby.

His grandmother, old Muriel Gond, who was raising Bobby after his mother had left town with a pizza delivery person Muriel referred to only as “that man,” stomped all over the property, looking in old refrigerators, rusting car carcasses, and oil drums.

She pulled things off of shelves.

She clattered in the garage, in the barn, in the overhang where the big RV had been parked for ten years without moving an inch.

She yelled until she was hoarse.

And she was not alone. The entire town of Ice Rink, Idaho (pop. 837) roamed the streets shouting Bobby’s name until the glow on the horizon disappeared and it was too dark to see. Many of them abandoned the search then, but a few of the brave flashlight owners got them out, dusted them off, and continued searching across the fields, rustling through the grass like a herd of migrating elk.

Muriel worried that Bobby had never spent a night out of his bed before, and would be scared to be by himself in the dark. The matriarchs of the town comforted her as they sat up into the night, watching Fox News and waiting for their own news from the search parties.

Morning came. The sun rose, and the town rose, but no Bobby. Muriel Gond finally fell into a troubled sleep. She was a religious woman, and in a dream God came to her, pressed a cold cloth to her brow, and, in the voice of Charleton Heston, told her not to worry.

They never did find Bobby.

The search went on for several days. In the second week, it became half-hearted. In the third week, it was quarter-hearted, and so on, until there was no heart left at all.

It should be said, and here is as good a place as any, that Bobby was no ordinary boy. You only know him as a missing child, but to those who knew him, Bobby was a delight. Most young boys you can take or leave. Mostly leave. They’re noisy, smelly, and fully of questions that don’t need answering. The best you can say about 7-year-old boys is that they’ll “probably turn out OK.”

But Bobby was different. Smart, funny, and kind, he made everyone around him glad to see him show up and sorry to see him leave.

And when he disappeared from their lives so suddenly and mysteriously, the town of Ice Rink was forever more subdued after that.

Muriel took ill, with a fever, and raged and groaned and was on the verge of cursing God, but thought better of it. They needed his help to find Bobby. She grew no better, and finally the doctor took x-rays to see what was the matter. He could find nothing wrong.

But one day Muriel sprang out of bed, exclaiming that God had come to her in a dream and told her that all was accounted for. That was all she would say. But she never was quite the same after that, fading like wallpaper in the sun as the years went by.

And the years did go by. Muriel, who had been old when Bobby went missing, grew even older.

And then she died.

Muriel had been something of a hoarder, saving the possessions of her late husband Josephus X. Gond in careful stacks as though his life had been worthy of furnishing a museum.

After Bobby disappeared, she became even worse. Perhaps she thought that by saving everything that came into her life she could somehow atone for having misplaced her grandson.

When she died, the town had a lot of sorting to do. The one Goodwill was strained to the bursting point with the detritus of Muriel Gond’s home and many outbuildings.

Before he settled in Idaho, Josephus had been a cook in the Merchant Marine, and one of the things he’d brought back with him was the taxidermied corpse of an alligator perched on a rock, swatting at a stuffed kingfisher flying overhead on a wire. No one knew how Josephus had managed to get the ridiculously heavy thing from God Knows Where to his home, but he had. And it had the place of honor in the middle of the garage, where it had lain, gathering the dust of the ages, for half a century.

When it came time to take the alligator out of the place, it took seven men and a truck with a winch.

As they were dragging it into the yard, it came apart. Turns out the rock that alligator was on was hollow—who knew?

Someone yelled “heads up” at the man driving the truck and he stopped tugging.

They all gathered around the rock that had split horizontally in two, showing the hollow space within.

Where the skeleton of a young boy lay, perfectly preserved, his empty eye socket pressed against a small hole in the rock, gazing eternally at the world outside.

No one could figure out how Bobby had gotten himself into the hollow of the rock without help, nor why no one had heard him yelling when they searched.

But there he was.

What was not widely reported, and only spoken of in hushed tones among the townspeople, was that the skeleton had grown small wings—just bones now—that curled against his body as he lay.

It couldn’t be explained.

But anyhow, there is so much in this life that can’t be explained, isn’t there?

© 2016 Donald Carson

 

***

 

Donald lives in Portland, where he works in digital content and user experience, which is a fancy way of saying he tries to make websites and apps more useful for businesses and their customers. He is a food addict and must eat at least 3 times a day to sustain a metabolic high. He also enjoys avoiding things he knows he should do, working on the same novel for 10 years, and tending to the needs of 2 furry animals which for some reason have taken up residence in his house.

Mini Sledgehammer April 2016

Laurel Rogers was brand new to Sledgehammer this month, and she walked out with a newly won bottle of wine! She says, “I really loved it. Such a great event. Thanks again.” Thank YOU, Laurel!

***

This month’s prompts were:
Character: A barber
Action: Parallel parking
Setting: At a bike rack
Phrase: “You gotta remember where you are.”

***

Extinction

by Laurel RogersLaurelRogersHeadShot

The icy wind wrapped around Kay like a vicious sneer, as if the islands themselves knew how much she didn’t belong there. Not now anyway. Not in this alternate timeline she’d lived for the past five aching years.

Bill’s face was, as always, immutable, but that was preferred to the blood-red anger that had overtaken him when she pulled the car up by the bike rack in a haphazard version of parallel parking near the beach. “You still just can’t do it, can you,” he fumed.

Well, fuck him.

The old Kay would feel the sting of his words. The old Kay, who had a heart that did more than beat.

A heart that stopped feeling years before.

***

You could only find a few references to it online, always tagged as the “Puget Sound Mini Tsunami.” No one really knew much about it—almost know one ever heard of it.

But it was the lightning rod moment for Bill and Kay. An extinction-level event, as tsunamis often were. And here they were at the spot, five years and a few months later.

Because coming on the anniversary would be cliche, Kay had said.

Too fucking impossibly painful, she meant.

Time supposedly heals all wounds, but it hadn’t proved to have an effect on the abject, utter loss of an entire world. And that’s what the “mini tsunami” had been—the Great Flood, ending of everything. Just a random late spring day, the kind when families play, lovers kiss, sailboats unfurl their spinnakers and hillsides fifty miles away don’t collapse into the sea, spawning a two-foot-high relentless, powerful ripple across the sound and around Spieden Island.

And funneled—“with surgical precision,” one newscaster described it—right into the spit by Davis Head.

Where Bill and Kay were.

Watching.

Watching in utter helplessness as their three kids looked in momentary shock as the water receded to showcase the crabs and sea slime and purple clams they had, but seconds before, longed to reach under the too-deep water.

“Mom, look!” Lina hollered. “A starfish!”

It was the last thing Kay would ever hear any of her children say.

***

“You’ve gotta remember where you are,” Kay’s therapist reminded her about once a month. “And that’s a lot further than you were last month.”

Was it? Was it really? Because it felt like a treadmill. Day after day, going through the motions of a life Kay wouldn’t wish on her worst enemy.

Bill was on a treadmill too. It just wasn’t the same treadmill. And gradually Kay realized it wasn’t even pointed in the same direction.

At first, there was still some kind of connection. The inconceivable grief, combined with a zombie-like onslaught of “helpful” opinions offered by friends and family, had given them at least the shared focus of survival.

No, they weren’t wearing lifejackets, they answered a thousand times. No, it wouldn’t have occurred to them. How could we possible know if it would’ve made a difference. NO, NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD PUT LIFEJACKETS ON KIDS WADING IN ANKLE-DEEP WATER SO FUCK THE HELL OFF.

Over time, the world went on. Other children died. A mom down the street died five weeks after being diagnosed with melanoma. Bill’s grandpa died. A truck driver on I-5 fell asleep and took out a motorcyclist heading home from work.

Death was everywhere, and after a few months, Bill and Kay weren’t special. Or interesting.

Or even alive, they realized.

But no one else really noticed.

***

Kay had heard of people “growing apart” or just “not having that spark” any more. People got bored. People got lonely. People got scared as the years ticked by closer to an unknown but certain doomsday looming—age 72? 80? Maybe 100? No one knew, but it was there like a barber holding a straight-edge razor, ready to cull a few more strands from the world’s tapestry.

But only three strands mattered to Kay, and they were gone. And over time, as she looked at Bill, he seemed more and more part of the memory of those family days—days that gradually became myth and legend, rolled up in the modern cave paintings of family scrapbooks.

And just as untouchable as an extinct mammoth.

Extinct. That was what their marriage was. They realized this quietly, she and Bill. Each on their own.

Out of habit she kissed him on the mouth on his way out the door to work for the first time since their world was destroyed. But there was nothing there. For either of them.

“It’ll take time,” the counselor assured them, first together, when they tried together, and then separately.

Gradually everything was separate. First, Kay tried a few nights on the couch, knowing too well her insomnia was keeping Bill from sleeping. “One of us has to get some rest,” she said as she left their plush king-size bed.

She never came back, in word or deed.

And Bill never asked.

Extinct.

***

Coming back to San Juan Island again was Bill’s idea. It wasn’t a romantic proposition. They both knew that. They hadn’t even driven together, although they decided to meet at the Anacortes ferry terminal and go that far together to save a few bucks. Naturally that was Bill’s idea, but Kay knew, in fairness, it was best. Lawyers cost money. Tax accountants cost money. Never mind the therapy bills, the online dating fees, an increasing amount of money going out the door separately.

The papers were ready, and they both were fine. It didn’t hurt, in the same way you don’t feel a thing when they remove your leg while you’re under general anesthesia. But they weren’t macabre enough to make some grand ceremony of it on the island.

That wasn’t the point.

Even though neither ever said it, Kay knew that this trip was a simple, quiet, strangely necessary funeral. A terribly cold one, inside and out.

***

Kay shivered again as she looked out toward Pearl Island. The Davis spit was so much the same—its swath of granite gravel and pearly clams. Million-dollar yachts still bobbed at moorages out of reach of the common folk. Yet it was oddly silent, shrouded in winter’s inescapable solitude.

Kay was grateful. The island she had known and loved was seared in her memory, an endless summer where her children played happily in their eternal youth.

She looked at Bill, whose stoic face was lined with ever more wrinkles even if they weren’t caused by grins and laughter.

Suddenly he looked at her, really looked at her, as if for the first time in all these years. And then he spoke aloud the epitaph they both had written in their hearts.

“I always thought I’d grow old with you.”

Extinct.

© 2016 Laurel Rogers

***

Laurel loves to make up stories. Sometimes she even realizes they’re fiction. Other times she fashions them into website content, blogs and twisted Facebook posts about her family. One day soon, she’ll actually get her own blog going at www.theclockstruckmidlife.com.

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 August 2015

We’re excited to announce that Kris Lovesey, frequent Mini Sledgehammerer, won this month!

Prompts:
Character: A journalist
Action: Popping a bottle of champagne
Setting: Stairs
Phrase: “I’ve seen weirder fish than that.”

***

Bretta & Gretta

by Kris Lovesey

Bretta arrived the morning earlier, at six thirty. She came on the first train from Berlin. Gretta hadn’t seen Bretta since she left for school eight years ago.

Two days ago, a spring storm blew over the towns spire. It had been standing for three-hundred seventeen years without any repairs, until it crashed to the ground- killing a known vagrant. No one in the town cared much for the vagrant and it was an annoyance for the clergy involved, to plan a burial they knew they were obligated to do- but wouldn’t receive a penny for.

Bretta came because she was a field journalist for a Berlin archeological publication, specializing in early Christianity.

The fallen spire cracked wide open revealing carvings in a rare early Germanic script. The whole spire would end up in Berlin, to be picked over ad nauseum. Bretta took the photos and wrote the story which would spark great interest in this spire- from this tiny town.

But we shall digress. And digressions end up in taverns, with the vagrants who didn’t get squashed by the tower. They were figuring out who Thomas (the squashed one) owed what, and if there was a way to settle his debts without him.

Bretta and Gretta were also in the tavern catching up. Of the vagrants Gregor was the most drunk. He just sold Thomas a cart, which he had burnt to a cinder pile before receiving the second half of the money for it. And, he noisily demanded the rest of the bunch to at least pay his tab for the night, as he had obviously lost much more than the rest of them at the hands of God squashing Thomas.

Gretta showed disdain for the men but Bretta assured her the down-and-out men of Berlin were much worse.

“I’ve seen weirder fish than that.” Were her exact words.
“Well, I don’t put up with their shit.” Gretta tensed up.

The bar lady popped the ladies a bottle of champagne. The cork hit Gregor square in the temple. Causing him to drop his beer. His foot slipped off the glass, sending him through a small cloth curtain door. Everyone in the in the tavern turned- hearing Gregor fall down into the cellar. Where a fifty farthing piece actually lodged itself under his shoulder blade.

Gregor awoke the next morning a beetle, and the rest is Kafka’s Metamorphisis.

Gretta did it. Killed them both. They definitely deserved it. They had done many terrible things. And it was time the world learnt the secrets in the spire.

© 2015 Kris Lovesey

***

Kris Lovesey is bloody sick of the status quo. Threatens to walk to Canada. Snores. Is trying to get Box Truck Press off theIMG_20150512_160208 ground. Cant quite get around to making the most amazing cat coloring book known to mankind- seriously, aliens will come down to steal it, y’all just wait and see. Kris is fifteen feet tall, 2000 pounds of furry and kindness. Works for kisses on the cheek, chocolate, marijuana, and little pieces of paper with dead people on it. If you’re bored, he doesn’t care about you, but instead will recommend you read one of the many awesome books in the universe (or one by Box Truck Press). Box Truck Press doesn’t have a Box Truck yet, but watch out cause we are saving up those pieces of paper with dead people on them. #boxtruckpress on twitter. Kris demands you have awesome days, awesome sex, and if you miss an awesome sunset- just try and catch the next one. They happen at almost the same time each day, just to keep us all on our toes. Kris cares about you deeply.

Mini Sledgehammer May 2015

Congratulations to Elizabeth Grace Martin, a new Sledgehammerer who wrote a winning story on her first try!

***

Character: Ice cream vendor
Action: Recycling
Setting: In the rain
Prop: Smoke

***

Burnt Ice Cream

by Elizabeth Grace Martin

Maven got a rush from the flick of the lighter. The burn of the cigarette down her lungs felt like the appropriate amount of unhealthy. Fuck healthy. She liked smoke and ice cream. She even dyed her hair to add a swirl of gray to damage her streak of brunette.

After being recycled in the foster care system, she fated herself into a runaway. That’s when the gray came—a nod to the wisdom she decided she was due—not the wisdom she’s earned.

The smoke came before the streets. Fire was home. Maven didn’t much like the term “arsonist.” She preferred creator. She burned ugly away. It gave her control over something—at least that’s what her therapist claimed. Fuck him.

She didn’t see him more than once. Maven didn’t see anyone more than once. Judgment stays at bay when you don’t let people know you. Only she needed to know her.

So she hopped trains and claimed the title explorer. She slept in barns with livestock and thought herself a farmer. She was neither. Maven was a homeless runaway, but a good marketer. But even runaways need a break; even runaways need an identity.

The train Maven was currently riding stopped for fuel or to load or unload. Fuck if she knew. But the day was bright, sweat grouped at the bottom of her spine.

“Ice cream,” she said to no one. No one was her favorite audience. The jump from the train car to the red rocks below sent a shock up her legs—the kind that reminds you you’re still alive. Pain, fleeting but passionate.

Maven lit her first cigarette of the day and walked along the tracks until the town came into view. She’d never been to Arizona before, but it felt like every other place. She lit another cigarette as soon as she stomped her first one out on the metal track.

The tracks went straight and she curved to the left. The siren song of the ice cream truck was calling her. It sounded like home.

On the first main street she crossed, she pick-pocketed an empty-faced stranger. The siren was getting closer.

“Banana split,” Maven called to the ice cream vendor.

A man with naturally gray hair and newsboy cap popped his head out of the freezer and into her view.

“Hi there, Miss. How are you?”

“Banana split,” Maven repeated, ignoring the vendor’s inquiry.

“Talkative aren’t you?”

“Not to strangers.”

“How do you ‘pect to make friends?”

“What?” her attitude was showing through. This was already the longest conversation Maven had had in months. “Fuck man, you got a banana split or not?”

“Fresh out. Fudgicle?”

“Whatever.”

“It’s on the house,” he said, eyeing Maven’s unwashed hair and wrinkled clothes.

“Take care.”

She wanted to be snotty. She wanted to ruin him with words. But Maven bit her tongue and accepted the Fudgicle before it melted under the Arizona sun.

She nodded at him. He smiled, toothy. It was the best he was going to get from a runaway punk and they both knew it. Maven couldn’t shake the interaction. No one is nice to her. She gives no one a reason to. She felt uneasy about it. She followed the ice cream vendor that day, touring the city in his shadows.

When the sun dunked into the night, he parked the truck and Maven kept watching it. She flicked her lighter in front of her. Up and down, the flame teased her, called her like the siren song of ice cream trucks.

She answered.

The fire started to burn slowly. Deliberately. The tires melted into puddles and the ice cream would soon do the same. She watched the damage long enough to feel satisfied. The smoke pillowed the sky into more darkness and she walked away, without remorse, into the rain.

The fire won again.

©  2015 By: Elizabeth Grace Martin

***

Elizabeth can often be found talking to her dog like he’s a real human boy, being inspired byzane kiss 2 TED Talks, and creating an ever-growing travel wish list. Her newest dream is to live in a tiny house mansion. Her longest dream is to be a best-selling author. She’s working on one of those at: www.elizabethgracemartin.com.