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Eastern Oregon Word Round-Up Flash Sledgehammer 36-Word Writing Contest

Congratulations, Kristen Blanton, winner of a one-hour consultation with an Indigo editor!

Incorporating the prompt exhibit, Kristen wrote this piece of flash fiction (a week before :

Imagine an exhibit where people want to be, with lots of gadgets and tables to see. Sounds like the fun you’ll have at Wordstock, without me.

©2013 Kristen Blanton

Wordstock Flash Sledgehammer 36-Word Writing Contest, Part 2

There is usually only one winner of our Mini and Flash Sledgehammers, but our judges were so taken with another entry to the Wordstock Flash Sledgehammer that we decided to award a second place to Kaitee Steiert. She’ll receive 15% off an Indigo service. Congratulations, Kaitee!

Incorporating the prompt free-for-all, Kaitee wrote this piece of flash fiction:

It starts perfect. A smile, a free-for-all with the air. Next: pain, eating dirt, that stubborn horse wondering why the hell I did something like that. She won’t be broken after all.

©2013 Kaitee Steiert

Wordstock Flash Sledgehammer 36-Word Writing Contest, Part 1

Congratulations, Eric Butler, winner of a one-hour consultation with an Indigo editor!

Incorporating the prompt free-for-all, Eric wrote this piece of flash fiction:

The meeting adjourned, the doors opened, the free-for-all began. I moved a moment too late, and found myself shut out. Their conversations were walls against me; how strange to have no audience in a crowded room.

©2013 Eric Butler

Mini Sledgehammer: January 2012: St. Johns Booksellers

This month’s Mini Sledge at St. Johns Booksellers was a blast! Eight writers came out, and they even brought a couple bottles of wine. Congratulations to Lisa Galloway for winning the judge’s favor.

***

Prompts:
Character: Cake decorator
Action: Washing feet
Setting: Childcare center
Prop: Strong scented candle

***

Jesus Comes Around

by Lisa Galloway

The gift smelled like cinnamon buns, so to unwrap a Yankee candle was not a surprise. My family is from the Midwest, if I haven’t mentioned it. I rewrapped the candle and brought it home to my housemate telling her it was from my parents for her. They did not buy her a present in actuality, but I felt bad, because she’d spent Christmas alone.

Well, not completely alone, she’d decorated ginger bread houses with brats at Kindercare and after got so wasted that she burnt her Stouffer’s lasagna in the oven. At least watching kids quells her need to make her own babies. Her boyfriend was with his brother’s family. She was not invited. She says it is because they are not married, but I doubt they know about her.

I should mention that he wears a 2 inch by 4 inch crucifix around his fat tattooed neck, and he hates me because I’m queer. Queer like short hair and all my friends are gluten-free vegetarians that change their names. He’s never said as much, but I gather by his tacky, Catholic icons. Not just the necklace but the god-awful tattoos. That and he never speaks to me. In fact, he stops talking when I enter the room or the door.

Her job before Kindercare was as a cake decorator, but she was too high most days to keep the iced piping even and straight. She smokes a lot more pot now that Jesus comes around. I’m not kidding. His name really is Jesus. Oh and in case you hadn’t guessed, he needs a green card. Well, yes, a medical marijuana card would probably help too, but I mean he’s not legal.

She loved the candle. I knew she would. She desperately wants to be suburban, live in one of those half-tan siding, half-tan brick, 2-car garage houses. Jesus is the first boyfriend that she’s had since high school. She’s 32. After she un-wrapped the candle, he picked up the glass jar with his fat kid-like fingers and took a big whiff. He smiled at me, lit it, and then nodded.

My housemate and I get along fine, but we have nothing in common except for eating junk food like dehydrated shrimp and pork rinds and watching Criminal Minds. I said my friends were vegetarian, but I am not. And yes, my real name is Lisa.

The last fight that I overheard between them was this summer. She’d worn flip flops all day. I think it was the 4th of July. They’d been to that abhorrence at the waterfront, and basically her feet were dusty and caked with dirt. He’d told her that she couldn’t come to her own goddamned bed without washing them. She was drunk on $6 solo cups of beer, and she wasn’t moving. Laziness was one of her hallmark characteristics. So, he ended up washing them with a washcloth on the end of the bed. I thought it was tender in a fucked up way, like he was saving her from herself.

© 2012 Lisa Galloway

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Lisa Galloway graduated from Pacific University’s MFA in writing program in 2007. She’s a Pushcart Nominee and author of the book of poetry Liminal: A Life of Cleavage. A NW transplant, Lisa grew up in Indiana where she was adopted into a family with Southern Baptist roots, she contends that the Bible Belt still leaves welts.

Mini Sledgehammer: November 2011, St. Johns Booksellers

This month, we featured Leanne and Andy Baldwin, winners of the 2011 Sledgehammer Team category, as they read their story, “No Apocalypse in the Rose City.” Well done!

The prompts for the subsequent writing contest were a lot of fun:

Prompts:
action: getting a tattoo
setting: in the kitchen of an ethnic restaurant
prop: an old, dirty shoelace

Leanne stole the spotlight when the shoelace showed up in…well, you’ll have to read the story to find out. Congrats on another win, Leanne!

***

I, Moon

by Leanne D. Baldwin

***

“We have to talk,” Cynthia said as she burst into the kitchen. The aromas of oregano, basil, and garlic swirled in the steamy air.
“Oh, I’m glad you’re here,” Cosmo said, stirring a steaming pot. “A full moon or an eye?”

Cynthia frowned as the cook stared at her expectantly. “What do you mean, a full moon or an eye? What could you possibly be talking about?”

Cosmo addressed her as though talking to a particularly dim-witted child. “Which one do you think I should get?” When Cynthia turned up her hands in frustrated confusion, he clarified, “My tattoo. Should I get a full moon or an eye?”

“That’s stupid! Who gets a tattoo of the letter ‘I’?”

Rolling his eyes, Cosmo snorted. “No! I mean, like an eyeball. You know, staring mysteriously.”

Cynthia sighed. “Why do you ask me shit like this? I hate tattoos, I hate giving advice, and I’m not even all that fond of you.”

She realized that she should have cut off the spoken list at the second item and merely thought the third. Her father always said that this was one of her flaws where people-skills were concerned. It was why he was reluctant to retire and let her take over the restaurant. “Delvecchio’s has always been a place where we treat each other like family.”

Cynthia thought that quite a few families spoke to each other the way she tended to speak, but she kept that to herself. In this economy, she needed to do whatever it took to convince Dad she could run this place.

She started over. “Look, I came in to tell you that—”

“No,” Cosmo said, lifting a lid and tasting something.

“No what?”

“No. You don’t get to shut me down, belittle my concerns, and expect me to listen to yours.”

“This is a business, Cosmo. I’m managing the business, and I need to—”

“Your needs. Your needs! What about what I need?”

“You don’t need my advice on a tattoo choice,” Cynthia said.

“Your dad would help me,” Cosmo told her.

“Fine,” Cynthia said. “The eye. Get the eye.”

“You sure? ‘Cause I was kinda leanin’ toward the full moon.”

“Then get that. A full moon it is. Listen, I just came to tell you that a customer…” She frowned. “Wait. Isn’t a full moon just a circle?”

“Well, duh,” Cosmo said, lifting a pot of pasta from the stove and draining it. “The moon is round.”

“Yeah, but…” She shook her head. “Whatever. Great choice. Anyway, a customer just told me she found a dirty shoelace in her linguine.”

“Yeah?” Cosmo waited, as thought there should be more to the story.

“Yeah. So I need you to make up a new meal for her, dump out all the linguine, and make more. This time, hold the shoestring.”

“Hold it? Like, in my hand?” Cosmo seemed perplexed.

Taking a deep breath, Cynthia put her hand to her forehead. “Yes, Cosmo. Hold it in your hand, drop it into the trash, wash your hands, and make a new batch of linguine.”

Cosmo started taking notes on the scarred message board on the wall by the kitchen phone. “Hand… trash… wash…”

“And you know,” Cynthia said loudly, “definitely get the full moon. It suits you. You know why? Because it will look like a zero. A big, fat, zero!”

Storming out of the kitchen, Cynthia pondered her future. At this rate, she’d never be getting the restaurant. Maybe she should just finish that degree in social work.

© 2011 Leanne D. Baldwin

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Leanne D. Baldwin is a freelance journalist, blogger, and novelist based in Portland, Oregon. She has written everything from fiction, humorous verse, and news features to screenplays, political commentary, and television ad copy – not in that order, and not all at the same time.

She and her son, Andy Baldwin, won the team category of the 2011 Sledgehammer 36-Hour Writing contest. She also recently placed seventh in the finals of NYC Midnight’s 8th Annual Screenwriter’s Challenge 2011, which isn’t bad considering she was learning how to write screenplays as she went along.

Leanne’s currently working on her first novel. Her fiction is mostly contemporary fantasy, because there’s no use pretending that her mind works like a normal person’s.

Mini Sledgehammer: November 2011, Blackbird Wine

The days have turned blustery, and the beautiful leaves have begun to fall, but that didn’t keep writers away this month. We started the evening off with a reading by Dora Raymaker, 2011 Sledgehammer winner of the Individual category. Then we announced the prompts and had at it!

Prompts:
character: someone with a quirky phobia
Action: affixing reflectors
Setting: next to a broken-down car
Phrase: I’m torn

The prizes went to Elissa Nelson for the following story, though she graciously shared her entry to that Saturday’s workshops at Indigo with another player. Such generosity!

***

Untitled

by Elissa Nelson

***

“Eating foods out of cans is dangerous,” the woman tells him. “I see you’ve got your cans there. Six of them. That’s not good.”

“I’ve got my beans, my fruits, three kinds of veggies, and that potted meat I love so much. No carbs—it’s a well balanced meal, isn’t it?”

“Fruit cocktail?”

“I like the fruit cocktail the best. You get em all, you don’t have to pick. Maraschino cherries too. Good stuff.”

“That dye—it’s toxic.”

“Toxic. You drive that car around. That’s toxic.”

“True, true.”

“Course I’d drive a car too, I’m not too good for that, only mine’s broken down. There it is right there.” He points. “So I can still sleep in it, but she doesn’t really go places these days. Unless you push her. I’m not much for that. I just leave her be.”

“I see you have reflectors on her.”

“That was Pearl did that. She scavenges all that kind of stuff, came over one day for dinner—black beans, peaches in heavy syrup, creamed corn, these fancy red peppers, and those little onions? And I had some Spam, but she didn’t want any. So she came over for dinner and brought the reflectors along. Susie—that’s the car—Susie had just broken down and a couple guys helped me haul her off to the side there, but Pearl said it’d be better if people could see her, if she reflected light when people drove by. So now she does.”

They’re quiet for a moment. The guy eats, the woman stands there, not sure what she’s doing. At least that’s what it looks like to the guy. He finally asks her: “What’re you thinking?”

“I’m torn,” she says.

That’s all she says. He waits for her to say more but she doesn’t.

“Torn about what?” he asks finally. He doesn’t really care—if she’s not going to eat, he’d just as soon that she gets out of there and lets him eat. Eat and have his evening. Sit by the fire, smoke his pipe. It’s old-fashioned, but he still doesn’t like to smoke around a lady. And she’s a lady. At first he thought she was one of those social worker types, or just a do-gooder—she’s got the nice clothes on, her hair done, no clipboard but she might’ve left it in her car, a late model Mercedes, not one of the real fancy ones but it’s still a Mercedes.

“I guess I might as well just tell you,” she says finally, about ten minutes later. Maybe not really ten minutes, but it’s a while.

“Tell me what?” he says, when she doesn’t tell him.

“It’s about Ed.”

“I don’t care anything about Ed. What do you know about Ed? What’s he got to do with you?”

“I’m his—he’s my brother-in-law.”

“He married your sister? Must be, because you couldn’t’ve married his brother. He hasn’t got one, far as I know. If he did, he’d be lots younger, because he never did as long as I knew Sally Jane.”

“He married my sister. Married Lydia three years ago.”

“Three years? Has it been that long?”

“Says he hasn’t seen you in ten years.”

“Nah, he’s lying about that. Ten years. Last time I saw him was—shit, ninety-eight, it must’ve been, and what’s this, twenty eleven. Okay. That’s fourteen years. God damn. Pardon my language.”

He’s really on his best behavior.

He’s not what she was expecting at all, either. Okay, he lives in his car and he eats out of cans he cooks on an open fire. But he’s so nice to her.

“What did Ed tell you about me?”

She shrugs.

“Told ya I was a crotchety old asshole, didn’t he?”

She shrugs again.

“I am. There’s other bits to me, but I am a crotchety old asshole. I was a hell of a dad to him, that’s for sure. How’s Sally Jane?”

She shrugs again. She sure isn’t about to tell this guy what she thinks of Sally Jane, who now regularly comes to all family gatherings, not having any family except Ed.

“How’s your sister since she married him? Changed much?”

She wasn’t expecting that question either. What was she expecting? She thought either she wouldn’t find him here, or he’d be here and drunk, maybe passed out. He might be drunk now, but he’s coherent. Cogent, even. A decent guy. She likes Ed, she’s liked his stories about his drunk of a dad. Is that wrong to say she’s liked them? She has. He wants you to like his stories. And there’s a lot of affection in the way he talks about his dad.

He hasn’t sneezed yet, though. The way Ed tells it, his dad is all about the sneezes. That must be why he hasn’t chased her away yet, though—she doesn’t make him sneeze. That was a sad story Ed told about his dad. “I went to visit him once, this was a while back, and showed up with a bag of food for him. Cans mostly. I know what he likes. He took it. And we were sitting by his fire. Then he starts sneezing. And he says, ‘Sorry, son, got these allergies. Allergic to people. Different amounts of being allergic—I can put up with about as much of Pearl as I ever could, and the sneezing’s just a good excuse to get her out of here—but man, went to the grocery store last week, waiting in line to cash in my cans, and the lady behind me was wearing some kind of hippie perfume, I started sneezing so hard I had to get out of there and go back the next day.’” She remembers that she and Ed and Lydia sat around for a while guessing what the “hippie perfume” was. Sandlewood? Patchouli? One of those oil blends you buy at the co-op that’s called, like, “Peaceful Mist”? But she also remembers Ed saying that was the last time he saw his dad. They had a good conversation for a while, then he started sneezing “all hard and dramatic,” Ed said, “and I just never went back. Only so much of that a guy can take. Bad enough he was a drunk and a bum but allergic to me? Fuck it.” And Ed didn’t talk that way.

“Guess I’m not allergic to you,” he says to her.

She tries to look like she doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

“Ed told you anything about me, he must’ve told you I’m allergic to people.”

She’s still sort of trying to look like she doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but she also knows it’s no good. She shrugs and nods, like maybe Ed’s mentioned it, but he hasn’t said much, hasn’t told the whole story. Which he hasn’t. He doesn’t know the whole story. Doesn’t know the past thirteen years worth.

It’s like he can read her mind. “It’s just gotten worse and worse since Ed stopped coming around. Gotten so mostly Pearl’s the only one I can be around at all. Gotta be careful going to the store… bought one of those masks to cover my nose and mouth, it was just getting to where I kept having to run away in the middle of an errand or whatever.”

She’s still standing there.

“Want to sit down?” he offers. “We could make some coffee—or you want some hot cocoa? I got some of that mix in the trunk, it’s the really good kind. Don’t got milk, though it’d probably keep, it’s cold enough.”

“Tea?” she asks.

“Only kind I like is peppermint,” he says, a little sheepishly. “But yeah, you want peppermint?”

“Perfect,” she says, and it is.

So she sits down next to the fire with him.

© 2011 Elissa Nelson

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Elissa Nelson lives in Portland, Oregon. She teaches high school English, which she loves, and is currently finishing a novel (which she also loves, but she’ll be glad to be done with it). She has recently produced two issues of a very small zine: The Hundred Most Influential Writers in My Life to Date, As Best I Can Remember and Mostly Not Including Zines.