Stories and photographs by Jim Hamerlinck©2009, 2010, 2011

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Role Of Desire

Stop/Go, Fremont Railroad Track, 2009

His wardrobe was ready. A light weight, brown jacket. A navy blue t-shirt. New jeans. White socks. White court shoes. He had laid it out last night in preparation for today.

He ate a good, hearty breakfast, then packed his lunch. He put a second water bottle in the bag just in case. These days could be long.

He checked his hair in the mirror and was disappointed that it didn’t have the same lift, the same sexy, disheveled look that the stylist had achieved yesterday. It looked flat. Like his old hair, only shorter. Oh, well, he thought, then got in his car and drove off.

He had gotten directions off the internet and had them printed out and memorized a week ago. Still, he wanted the sheet at his side as he drove north on I-5 to Seattle. A waft of air entering from the broken vent kept lifting and shifting the paper, forcing him to anchor the directions to the seat with his right hand.

He noticed the gas gauge needle pointing precariously close to E and was angry at himself for neglecting to fill the tank yesterday. There wasn't time now.

An unexpected delay occured near Kent, where a semi-truck had spilled some of its load, several mattresses. Traffic was diverted through one, insufferably slow moving lane for a quarter of a mile.

He had to pee very badly. He looked at the empty Starbucks cup on the floorboard but thought the better of it.

A trip which was supposed to take thiry-eight minutes was running close to an hour and ten minutes. He was thinking the worst thoughts about himself and today and what it would mean if he was late.

Every job I do the same thing!, he scolded himself, and pressed hard on the accelerator.

Finally in Seattle, he took the Mercer Street exit and followed the signs directing him to Memorial Stadium, where he found a pay lot and parked, then ran into a McDonald's to ease the tension in his bladder.

Outside the stadium two hundred or so other extras were patiently waiting in line to fill out release forms and receive their coupons for free subs and sodas. He scanned the crowd for familiar faces but found none. There was a young couple pushing twins in a double stroller. One woman had brought her dachshund along. He saw a man wearing just a bathing suit. A group of Japanese tourists were in line as well, looking at maps and taking pictures. Many others were just now arriving, like him. He hadn't missed a thing. His breathing slowed to normal. He chided himself for getting so worked up and took his place among the assembled.

“Today’s shoot will start in about an hour and forty-five minutes,” a production assistant announced into a blow horn. "You can expect to be here until about 3:00. Take a seat in the stadium around mid-field and make yourself comfortable. I’ll let you know more as information becomes available.”

He found a spot on one of the cold metal bleachers and took out a water bottle.

“That was smart to bring your own water,” said the woman next to him. “I wish I had thought of that.”

"Yes," he said, without looking at the woman.

Then, he reached in his bag for the other bottle and offered it to her. “Here,” he said. “Have this one.”

“Why, thank you!" said the woman, accepting the water. "I’m Kim. Nice to meet you.”

“I’m Rory,” he said. “Nice to meet you. Have you worked a sports related film before? I haven't.”

“Yes, I have,” she said. “It’s not too complicated. You’ll do fine. Just follow my lead,” she smiled.

“Okay. Thanks,” he said. He took a long drink from his bottle. “How do I look?”

Waiting For Opportunity, Brewery, Fremont 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Lumber Company Address, Ship Canal, 2009

Mrs. Rosalie Dawson decided to put up a fence to keep the mischief out.

She called her son, Kenneth, and asked for his help.

“Mom, I’m in Philadelphia on business for the next three weeks. Can it wait?”

“No, it can’t,” Rosalie told her only child. “You do what you have to do. I’ll build it myself.”

Last night’s trampling of her beloved flower bed was just the most recent in a string of disturbing incidents around her once quiet neighborhood. Her garbage can was routinely knocked over. Her garage door had been tagged with graffiti, someone named Jeans, as far as she could tell. She found the general tone of the teenage boys who walked in packs at night to be rude and threatening. For the first time since her husband, Grand, had died eight years ago, Rosalie felt unsafe in her home.

Grand Dawson had kept a loaded rifle under his bed for security, and Rosalie never liked it. After Grand’s funeral, Rosalie told Kenneth to take the gun out to the woods and bury it. “I’ve got my wits and Dolly to protect me,” she said. Kenneth did as he was told. And after he had tossed the last shovel full of dirt on the weapon, Dolly, Rosalie’s cantankerous Miniature Poodle, defecated on the spot. Grand and Dolly had never really gotten along.

Web, Lumber Company, Ship Canal, 2009

On Monday, Rosalie took the Metro bus to the only lumber yard in Seattle she was familiar with, the one along the ship canal that Grand always complained about. A gentleman there named Steve took her order and told her that the lumber and supplies would be delivered on Tuesday. Rosalie thanked him and asked if he would be kind enough to direct her to the bus that would take her back home. Steve accompanied her to the No. 17 stop and waited until she had safely boarded. “You be sure and call me if you have any questions,” he told Rosalie, as she waved off the driver’s offer to lower the wheelchair ramp.

On the ride home Rosalie thought of little Dolly and how she would have hated the idea of being fenced in.

“My good, sweet Dolly,” she remembered, and clutched the strap of her purse a little tighter.

Rosalie hired a neighbor man, David, to dig the holes, pour the concrete, and set the posts. David, who was developmentally delayed and unemployed, had helped Rosalie around the house before. Rosalie had paid him a little cash, but mostly David was grateful for Rosalie’s company and willingness to listen to him talk about his many obsessions. When it came time to put up the rails and fencing, though, David said he couldn’t help because he had come down with a bad cold.

Rosalie picked up the hammer and felt its great, awkward weight. Her arthritis had worsened over the past few years and simple chores like sweeping and cutting vegetables brought pain and frustration. Her eyesight was weak. She could scarcely distinguish the fingers on her hand. She couldn’t remember where she had placed the bag of nails.

"I am old and weak and I hate it," she said to herself.

She let go of the hammer and it deflected off the stack of heavy rails before landing on the dusty, hardened dirt. Rosalie kicked at the hammer, then looked up to the heavens.

“Goddamn you, Grand! Goddamn you!”

She walked back into the house and searched her purse for the receipt from the lumber company.

"Hello. This is Mrs. Rosalie Dawson. May I speak to a gentleman named Steve, please?"

Windows, Lumber Company, Ship Canal, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Face The Day, Martin

Weight, Former Felt Factory, 2009

The coversation was interrupted by the alarm clock's assault....


Martin pressed the snooze button, adjusted his pillows, and worked to regain entry into the pleasure of his dream. She wasn’t quite there anymore, though, this woman who had found him so fascinating. There was some vague impression of her lingering about, but the moment was over. He dug deep, Martin did, to bring her back, but found only frustration. Her lovely face and hair and voice had been replaced by something else, neither woman nor man, just some entity laughing at him, taunting him….


He pulled back the covers and slid his legs over the side of the bed. His feet felt swollen, hot and sore. His lower back ached. What kind of gymnastics had he performed in his sleep to warrant this kind of pain?

He reached into his pajama pocket and pulled out a decaying Kleenex. He carefully unfolded the crumpled tissue but it disintegrated in his hands.

He got up to go pee.

Martin wanted nothing more than to crawl back under those blankets and hide from the day he faced.

Martin, you see, had fallen behind at work. Templeton had arranged a meeting with him at 8:00.

Meters Under Aurora Bridge, 2009

He started his coffee, then stepped into the shower.

The soap slid from his grasp and careened and spun wildly around the tub and through his legs before finally coming to a rest atop the drain. When Martin bent down to pick it up, he slipped and smacked his skull against the towel rack. He felt the welt on his brow and winced.

Martin, naked, wet and shivering, got an ice pack from the freezer and took a seat at the kitchen table.

"Templeton is so hard to read," he thought. "What can he want?"

He got up and managed to pour himself a cup of coffee without incident, then returned to his wet chair.

"I don't want to see Templeton. I don't like him," he said to himself.

Martin touched his brow and sensed that the bruise had swelled in spite of the ice. He saw a little blood on his finger and licked it off. Then his phone rang....

“Hello, Martin?” the voice said.

“Yes?” said Martin.

“This is Templeton. I thought I’d save you the effort of coming in---”

Martin interrupted his supervisor, “Just a minute, Mr. Templeton.”

He took another drink of his coffee then set the cup and the ice pack on the counter. Then he walked to his bedroom with the phone. There, still naked and damp, he got into bed, pulled the covers up to his neck, found a comfortable position, and brought the phone to his mouth....

“I’m here, Mr. Templeton.”

99/560, Aurora Bridge, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Train By My House, 2009

The brothers sat quietly in the office, their backpacks and lunch boxes at their feet, waiting for their father to arrive.

Ben had sent a note with Devon on Tuesday informing the school's secretary that he would be picking up the boys early today, around 10:30, to attend to a family matter. This was the first time all year that the boys would be absent from school.

Last year, before Quinn had entered kindergarten, Devon had been removed from school by his father to attend to family matters on six occasions, each roughly a month apart.

Ben walked in at precisely at 10:30 and cordially thanked the secretary for having the boys ready. He was carrying a cardboard box about the size of a microwave oven, sealed expertly with packaging tape. The secretary, Miss Eisen, was new and so wouldn’t have noted that this was the same box which Ben had been holding each time he had picked up Devon for the excused absences last year.

The boys got into the waiting taxi ahead of their father. The cabbie suggested Ben put the box in the trunk, it wouldn’t be a problem, but Ben insisted on keeping the box on his lap. “This is fine,” he told the driver, “King Street Station, please.”

Pressed, Tracks By My House, 2009

At the train station Ben was told by the ticket clerk that his box would have to be placed in a storage compartment, that it was too large to carry on. Ben insisted that the box had to stay with him for it contained medical equipment necessary for dealing with his youngest son’s respiratory condition. After some deliberation, the clerk issued the three tickets to Portland and the box stayed in Ben’s arms.

On the train the boys took their comic books out of their backpacks and read. Ben, with his box, sat across from his sons and looked alternately out the window and at his watch.

Quinn looked up from his Spiderman comic, “Where are we going, Dad?”

“To Portland, Quinn.”


“Just read your comic book, Quinnie.”

“Where’s mom?” Quinn asked.

“She’s at home. She wanted to stay home,” Ben replied.

Devon knew not to ask anymore. This five hour train ride to Portland was becoming as routine to him as a trip to the grocery store. He pushed his shoulder into his little brother’s and said, “Quit asking questions for once.”

“Now, Devon,” his father reprimanded.

In Centralia, the train stopped for a brief layover and Jennifer, Ben’s nineteen year old daughter from a previous marriage and a student at the college there, was waiting for her father and the boys.

“Thank you, Jennie,” said Ben, with box in arms. The boys stood in the tiny lobby of the Centralia station and greeted their step sister with a perfunctory, “Hi.”

“Whatever,” shrugged Jennifer. She collected her bag and textbook and stepped on board the train to accompany her father, once again, on another pointless trip to Portland. Her twelfth, or fifteenth. She had lost track.

70, Train By My House, 2009

Hours later, the train pulled into the Portland station. Ben herded his family onto the city bus which would take them downtown.

When the bus neared the Wells Fargo Center, Ben shifted the box in his arms and asked Jennifer to pull the stop chord. “I know,” she said.

Ben instructed his children to sit on a bench in the boulevard park.

“Don’t talk to anyone. Don’t make eye contact with anyone. Don’t move from this bench.”

“Dad?” said Quinn.

“Not now, Quinn. Jennie, you have your cell phone with you?”

She pulled the phone out of her bag but did not look at her father.

“Good. All right. I’ll be back in five minutes.” He secured the box in his arms, walked away from his family, and entered the office tower.

Devon put his arm around Quinn’s shoulder but said nothing. Jennifer considered her two young relatives for a moment, their skinny legs dangling from the bench seat, their forlorn little boy faces, then offered them a stick of gum from her bag. The three of them sat side by side and chewed in silence. Gum had never tasted this good, this sweet. The action of the jaw and tongue and teeth and saliva working in unison was comforting and distracting.

Finally, Jennifer said, “Good, huh?”

Five minutes passed. As promised Ben returned, but without the box.

“Let’s go home," he said.

Extra Rails, Track By My House, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


10 Tons, Waterway 21, Lake Union, 2009

It was inexplicable. Insane.

It made absolutely no sense to anyone, especially herself. When she recalls the evening now, it is as if she is talking about someone else, some unstable person. A stranger.

But she did it. There are pictures, news stories, witnesses.

It was a warm Monday evening around 7:00 and she had finished grocery shopping and was driving home. At the stoplight on Stone Way she turned off the radio. It was ’Norwegian Wood.’ Why did she hate that song so much when she loved everything else by The Beatles? But she just did. The song bugged her,and so she simply shut it down. Click! Off. Gone. And that was very satisfying to her.

She wouldn’t have done that if he was in the car. She would have had to justify her dislike of the song, analyze her taste in music, defend herself for disrespecting the most influential band of the 20th Century. In fact, she would have probably just let it play on. He would’ve said it’s classic Beatles, how could she not like it? What's your problem? He would’ve laughed and grunted and rolled his eyes and they would have listened to the song without further comment.

She looked at the downtown skyline. “What is wrong with me?” she wondered.

“There is nothing wrong with me.”

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with me.”

Neck, Waterway 21, Lake Union, 2009

The light turned green and the driver behind her honked to get her out of her reverie. It startled her, and instead of continuing straight she impulsively turned right onto Northlake Way, the pock-marked access street that runs along the shore of industrial Lake Union. She pulled over onto the side of the road and turned off the engine. Her hands were sweating. She got out of the car.

And this is where her memory gets a little fuzzy.

She remembered noticing the crane towering above her and how it was reflecting the last of the day’s light, how it shimmered and bled against the sky‘s backdrop. The orange crane and the azure blue sky seemed to compete and compliment at once. She thought about how he wouldn’t see it. He wouldn’t even try to see it.

She doesn’t remember how she got past the obstacles and barricades and fences guarding the base of the crane. Or how she brought herself to begin ascending the triangulated lattice of the mast. Or how she boosted herself onto the roof of the operator’s cab. She has no recollection of crawling across the trolley of the jib, the working arm, where she ultimately ended up, suspended some 250 feet above the water.

She can’t remember the face of the firefighter who held her hand and talked so calmly to her, but does recall his name, Justin, and how he nodded and smiled when she pointed out to him how beautiful the downtown skyline looked from so high up.

She remembered how slowly her heart could beat if she allowed it. This memory she keeps to herself.

The Crane, Waterway 21, Lake Union, 2009

Friday, June 5, 2009

Thank God It's Friday

Fun Forest Duck Ride, Seattle Center, 2009

The conditions were just perfect. A Friday evening in late spring with clear skies, hardly a breeze, the temperature in the low-seventies. After last Friday’s… indiscretion… he couldn’t have asked for a more accommodating atmosphere in which to renounce his actions and reprise his apology. He didn’t expect to regain her good graces in the course of one evening, but this would be a good start, here at Seattle Center, in public, by the International Fountain on the great lawn of the urban park where they had met ten years ago.

He personally saw to filling the big tote bag with the necessary diapers, plastic bags, wipes, lotions, formula, snacks, water, rattles, teething rings, picture books, ointments, bottles, creams, salves, powders, extra clothing and towels. He got both the kids situated into their car seats, and even asked her if she wanted to drive, as if offering her a treat. She said no, why would she want to drive?

Earlier, after work, he had stopped at the Italian deli in Pike Market and bought bread and cheese and salami and olives and truffles and her very favorite Tortellini pesto salad, and finally, a bottle of 2003 Valtellina Superiore that he found for just $12.

Step Carefully At The Fun Forest, Seattle Center, 2009

She wasn’t that mad, really, and thought that she had made that clear to him. After all, he had called and told her --actually, he had asked her if it would be okay to go out for a drink with a few people from work. She readily gave her consent, though she wondered why he wasn’t rushing home from work so that she could leave the two babies in his care for just a couple of hours so that she might have a drink with her friends. But she chose not to say that.

He probably--no, he should-- have called her when he discovered that three of the people who had agreed to meet after work had bowed out at the last minute, leaving only himself and the woman from sales sitting at the bar. But he chose not to call. He chose, instead, to savor this unexpected moment with this woman because, well… because it had been a long day at work and the bar was dark and she was pretty and he loved his wife and children and would never do anything to compromise that love and nothing is wrong with having an innocent drink with a co-worker even if she happens to be really good looking. Right?

When he got home that evening he told her that he had a drink with some woman from sales because the others didn’t show and the woman was self-centered and dull and that he couldn’t wait to finish his drink and get back home to her and the babies. She said oh, that’s too bad. She wanted to ask him if the woman was attractive but didn’t because it would make her sound suspicious and jealous and paranoid and she was already so self conscious about her looks ever since the babies and why didn‘t he just cancel the drinks when he found out nobody but the woman was showing up. But she had no reason to question him this way. Right?

Barricades, Fun Forest, Seattle Center, 2009

The International Fountain was not operating and the area was roped off with yellow caution tape. Workers were spray washing the concrete surrounding the Fountain and the electric generators powering their water guns were emitting enough noise to scare off tourists, the homeless and even the seagulls and crows. Seattle Center, on the nicest evening of the year, was virtually abandoned, a ghost town. Nevertheless, they found a spot on the lawn and spread out a blanket, then gently placed the babies on their bellies. When he took the bottle of wine out of the grocery bag it occurred to him that he had forgotten to bring an opener.

“I’ll run into the Center House and see if I can find one somewhere!” he yelled, over the din of the generator.

“Oh. Forget it,” she replied, as she comforted the crying little girl on her shoulder.

“What?” he shouted.

“I said, ‘Forget it!’”

He sat back down on the blanket and looked at his wife holding their distraught daughter and patting the back of their contented son, then put the Valtellina Superiore back into the grocery bag. A man wearing a uniform and big headphones drove past them in a golf cart with a dated Seattle Center logo on its door. He nodded to the family as he passed, as if giving them his approval.

She set the girl back on the blanket next to her brother and mouthed, slowly and clearly to her husband, “Let’s. Go. Home.”

They collected their things and their children and made their way across the wet but clean sidewalks of Seattle Center toward the parking lot.

Ring Of Light, Fun Forest, Seattle Center, 2009

© Jim Hamerlinck.All Rights Reserved.

  • “There's nothing to be gained from passive observance, the simple documenting of conditions, because, at its core, it sets a bad example. Every time something is observed and not fixed, or when one has a chance to give in some way and does not, there is a lie being told, the same lie we all know by heart but which needn't be reiterated.” Dave Eggers