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Mini Sledgehammer October 2019

This month’s Mini Sledge brought out a supernatural flash fiction piece from Jacin Harter. Congratulations on your first win, Jacin!

The prompts were:
Character: A psychic
Action: Hitting the brakes
Setting: Beside an old tree
Phrase: “That’s incomplete.”


Beyond Belief

By Jacin HarterJacin

This was the last straw…  Weeks of forensics had led nowhere, but the frustration had not driven Sgt. Troutbottom mad enough to resort to supernatural bollocks.  Every promising clue had turned into a dead end, with Chief Inspector Pillows insisting his psychic premonitions would guide them to the answer.

Sgt. Troutbottom stood by a withering, old oak whose naked limbs cast clawing shadows over the latest victim.  He peered at the corpse without stooping.  This was simple: a hit and run, driver didn’t hit the brakes in time, no witnesses this far out in the sticks so he drove off.  Open and shut.

He could hear Pillows shouting at the other officer, ‘This evidence log is incomplete!  I want all these metal filings listed by length and weight.  Nothing near the body is inconsequential.  Am I clear?!’Clear as a cracked crystal ball, Sgt. Troutbottom thought.  The inspector’s current hypothesis: an extraterrestrial made of intangible psychic energy (which only he could detect) had descended upon this lonesome pasture to study cattle from the inside out.  The metal filings, along with an assortment of bottle caps and rusted nails, were among an assortment of ‘psychic instruments’ used by the alien in its dissection study.

Sgt. Troutbottom peered again at the dead cow.  ‘Waste of fucking time.  Waste of good beef.’

© 2019 Jacin Harter


Creativity is like a tiger on a string – hardly captured and just a few frightful fuffs away from devouring Jacin Harter whole. For the past six years this Jacin and this tiger have been sighted in Portland, OR, randomly strutting through radio theatres, travel videos, vasectomy parties, and dog buses.  Exactly who is leading whom is ambiguous indeed, and one is advised to take caution when approaching either.

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.

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.

Mini Sledgehammer August 2016

Melinda McCamant has been promising to return for a Mini Sledge for four years, and this was the month. Not only that, but she won it too! Great to see you again, Melinda, and congratulations.

***

Prompts:
Character: A reluctant volunteer
Action: Signing a contract
Setting: A housing development
Phrase: You’re not from around here, are you?

***

Baltic Avenue

by Melinda McCamant Melinda

Just a pretty girl from Baltic Avenue: I was awed, intimidated even, by his swagger, the way his teeth glittered when he talked, his bright hotels on Boardwalk.

“You’re not from around here are you?” He whispered in my ear and I could feel the heat of his breath penetrate my brain, the bulge of brightly colored bills in his hand, a rainbow of promises.

And so I rolled the dice and we moved on, a jalopy and a top hat travelling the same path but seeing different sights.

He gambled, built hotel after hotel on credit and lies, not just Boardwalk but the railroads— even the lights and the water were his.

He had everything but Baltic Avenue. Baltic Avenue, a shadowy street lined with tiny green houses, was mine. Every time he came back around he came back to Baltic Avenue, wooing me, promising the Atlantic’s waves, promising a moon plucked and pitted from the sky.

I was tired and his light was so bright, but the moment I signed, the moment I said ‘I do’, I knew I was just another pawn—a player in his game of rainbow money and plastic hotels.

But I still had Baltic Avenue, the scent of earth in our garden after a rain, the rumble of trains in a distant rail yard, the red bite of fruit, and my mother’s kisses before she died.

It’s a funny thing to get what you think you want: the last piece of cake, a diamond, a rich man, and realize that the getting was the good part, that the journey around the board was what made the game worthwhile. Not the houses, or hotels, or rainbow money. And not the glittery man who blows hot air but deflates at a touch and cannot read anything but his own name.

I was his dutiful wife; his get out of jail free card, his reluctant volunteer hostess, his volunteer whore.

At least I still have Baltic Avenue and one more roll of the dice.

©  2016 Melinda McCamant

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Melinda McCamant: reader, writer, photographer, recipe developer, food stylist. Sometimes there is  travel, trails, friends, and wine.
www.melindamccamant.com
www.recipefiction.com