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

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Happens Every Day

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Infield, Ross Park, Fremont, 2009


He called her in the middle of the morning, knowing she would not be able to answer. He left a message.

When she got in from work that evening she listened to her messages, as she always did, and was surprised to hear his voice. “Hey, Babe….”

He had convinced himself that this was the best way. The best way for both of them. The easiest way. The cleanest way.

When he began, “I should probably tell you this face to face….,” she thought he was going to apologize for the insensitive comments he had made about her dress the other evening and was momentarily pleased.

He had reasoned that this kind of thing happens to people every day, all over the world, and will happen again tomorrow and the next day and the next. It happens. It’s just life. She’ll understand. She understands me, how I think, he reasoned. So he called her at ten thirty when that revelation was fresh and certain.

She listened to his message, then pressed nine to save it. The other messages concerned a hair appointment, a meet up with a friend, and something about remembering to vote for the progressive candidate, and were listened to and saved, as well. She immediately called him, got his voicemail, and hung up.

He said he thought that by being quiet--brooding, she called it-- he had made his feelings clear to her the last time they had been with each other. He thought that she knew him well enough to sense that he was unhappy and that it wouldn't serve either of them to pretend otherwise. There was no need to hash things over and make a big display. They were too dignified for that. They were a dignified couple.

She had seen this coming, anticipated the moment, but still felt she deserved to express some outrage and hurt, and to have him...sense it, he would say. He owed her that. They had invested a lot of themselves in this relationship. This moment was big and demanded a gesture worthy of its significance. She searched for the proper response, but it eluded her. She could call her best friend. Her mom, maybe. Or her over-protective little brother. She could drive to his place and pound on his door. Or she could sit here and cry. She could bring on tears easily, and it would be right to cry.

He ended his message with, “I love you,” then hung up. He felt relieved that it was over, that he was a free man and that he had spared her from the drama and the anguish which she did not deserve. He called his friend to see if he wanted to play tennis that afternoon.

She replayed his message. When the mechanized woman prompted her to save or delete, she pressed seven and he was gone. She went to the refrigerator and took out the six pack of beer which he had left from the other night and put it on the counter. She opened a can and took a swig, and as she expected, it tasted like his breath. It tasted good. She took another drink, then poured the remainder in the sink. Glug. Glug. Glug. Glug. The foam and the sizzle.


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Left Field Foul Line, Ross Park, Fremont, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

It's A Fine Line

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Latch, Mottman Building, Pioneer Square, 2009




An overnight security guard stepped into the dim light of the alley and found Johnson fiddling with a lock.

“What are you doing, sir?” he asked.

The guard startled Johnson, but he kept on with his business, undeterred by the interruption.

“I said, what are you doing, sir?”

“What I’m doing is none of your business,” Johnson said. “Now leave, would you?”

“Sir, you’re attempting to unlock this door,” said the guard.

“So you know what I’m doing,” Johnson remarked. “Then why did you ask me?”

“Sir. Step away from the door, please.”

Johnson inserted the correct key and unlocked the door. “Finally,” he sighed, and entered the building.

“Sir, put your hands on your head!” shouted the security guard as he followed Johnson in.

But Johnson ignored the order and kept moving. The inside of the building was dark save for the soft glow cast by the EXIT signs on either side of the foyer. Johnson bumped his leg against the armrest of a couch as he tried to maneuver his way through the blackness. “Owww!” he cried, and grabbed his knee. “Where’s the elevator!?”

“To your immediate left, sir, but I’ve asked you to put your hands on your head.”

Johnson was in pain, his leg badly bruised. He eased himself onto the couch. “Turn on your flashlight and point it toward the elevator,” Johnson demanded. “Or better yet, just turn on the lights.”

“I'm not sure where...Sir, I have the authority to---”

“The authority to what?” snapped Johnson. “I need some ice.”

The guard tried detaching the flashlight from his utility belt, but fumbled in the darkness. “I can have you arrested for breaking and entering,” he said, then sent the flashlight flying to the floor when he inadvertently cracked the plastic clip which had secured it in place. The impact caused the batteries to dislodge from the unit and they could be heard rolling along the marble tiles.

“What was that?” asked Johnson.

“My flashlight, sir” said the guard. “Do you see it? “

“I can’t even see you,” said Johnson. “How do you expect me to see your flashlight?”

“Sir, I can’t lose that flashlight. It was just issued yesterday.”

“Run across the street and get me some ice and I’ll stay here and look for your flashlight, okay, uh….what‘s your name?”

“Mike,“ answered the security guard.

A police cruiser roared by, temporarily illuminating the foyer in brilliant incandescence. The guard caught a glimpse of Johnson, incapacitated on the couch. He slowly backed his way toward the EXIT sign. “Sir, you’ve broken the law here. This is criminal trespassing.”

"I'll find your flashlight, Mike," said Johnson. “Now get me some ice. Quick.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll be right back.”

Mike bought a bag of ice at the mini-mart across the street and hastily returned. He stood in the doorway and peered helplessly into the dark foyer, his forehead streaked with sweat. He held the ice in his outstretched arms as if offering salvation.

“Sir?...Sir?...Sir?”



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Bolt, Mottman Building, Pioneer Square, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Aerodynamic

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Aurora Bridge Span, 2009




"What in God’s name are you doing?” Margaret asked her husband.

Wallace was in the bedroom getting ready for a bike ride with his friend, Tim.

“What does it look like I’m doing?” he deadpanned.

Tim had suggested to Wallace during their last ride that he might want to buy a pair of biking shorts like his. Tim wore black, skin-tight shorts made of lycra. Tim had claimed that the shorts offered better support than a jock strap and that they kept the sweat off of his body and that they were more efficient, more “aerodynamic,” he said, than the cotton gym shorts Wallace wore when they rode.

“Well. I don’t like it,” professed Margaret. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Wallace could not understand his wife’s displeasure. After all, it was she who badgered him into getting off the couch in the first place. She was the one who told him he was out of shape, that she didn’t want to be a widow before her time. So after several weeks of finding excuses to avoid the inevitable, Wallace finally acquiesced and bought a bike. He committed to an exercise program he had read about in a magazine and was following through. He found exercise to be difficult, but invigorating. Tim, a young paralegal at his firm, had invited him on a ride one afternoon and a friendship blossomed.

“Tim says these are the best. What’s the problem?”

Wallace was sixty-two years old and heavy set. The shorts were extra-large, his typical size, but they were not easy to get into.

“Oh, Tim! Tim is almost thirty years younger than you and is shaped like a toothpick. You look ridiculous.”

Wallace got up off the edge of the bed and stood, topless, before his wife. “See. They fit nicely.”

Margaret glared at her husband. “I suppose you’ll want this.” She reached into the laundry basket she was holding and tossed him his old SuperSonics t-shirt.

“No, I won’t need that,” Wallace said. “I’m wearing this.”

Wallace held up a zippered, polyester mesh jersey that was vibrant with swirling color and unabashedly adorned with corporate logos ranging from soda to candy bars to automobile manufacturers. "What's with all these ads?" Margaret wondered. "They're not ads. They're sponsors," explained Wallace. "Sponsors? For what?" said Margaret. "For the team," Wallace replied. "Tim's team."

“I bet that top breathes better than your Sonics shirt, doesn’t it?” Margaret asked, rhetorically.

“Tim says the elastic hem keeps it from billowing in the wind.”

“It’s more…aerodynamic… than the Sonics shirt?” Margaret suggested.

“Yes,” replied Wallace, as he struggled to get his new jersey zipped.

“Here...let me help you,” said Margaret. She got the zipper to work then stepped back to assess her husband's brazen new look.

"Well...the cars will see you, at least," she said. "Be careful out there, Wally."

“I will, Hon,” said Wallace. “See you later, then.”

He sauntered out of the house, his bike shoes clicking like dog claws against the hardwood floor.




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Burke-Gilman Trail, Under The Aurora Bridge, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mentirosos

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Plate And Fresh Tar, Along The Duwamish River, 2009



He slid the pizza in then sat down to watch some tv. In twenty-five to twenty-seven minutes his meal would be ready.

With a cold beer in one hand and the remote in the other, he began drinking and clicking.

There was a baseball game. Click. A sitcom from his youth. Click. The weather. Click. A home makeover. Click. Entertainment news. Click. A cartoon. Click. Jesus. Click. Click. Click. Click.

The cat hopped onto his lap and licked the back of his hand. “Just a minute, Honey,” he told her. "I'll feed you in a minute." He finished his beer and kept clicking.

He settled on a documentary about World War II fighter planes and decided to have another beer.

He sat and drank and watched the grainy black and white footage. He closed his eyes and listened to the drone of the fighter plane engines and the narrator's assured, comforting voice. He opened his eyes, blinked, then returned to his place of peace where there was no work or talk or responsibility. Just follow the planes. Follow the planes. Follow the planes.

Soon, the bottle rolled from his hand and fell harmlessly to the carpeted floor.

Then, the remote....



“No hice nada malo!!” cried the actress. He woke to the smell of burning cheese.

He singed his hands removing the smouldering pizza from the oven, impulsively throwing the pie on the counter where it slid until it hit a bag of cookies. White smoke had permeated the studio apartment. He coughed and his eyes teared as he struggled to turn the stubborn window crank.

The smoke alarm from the hallway outside his door began beeping now. An actor confessed, “Nunca he amado a ustedes.”

Within a minute, the apartment building's manager, a retired woman named Terri, was banging on his door and screaming, “Are you okay!? Are you all right?!”

“I’m fine, yeah! Everything’s good,” he yelled back. “Thank you!”

“Are you sure!?” Terri hollered.

He walked to the door and opened it a crack, concealing the hazy cloud of his studio from Terri, who was holding her trembling chihuahua, Lovely.

“It’s okay,” he assured her. “It was just my pizza. It‘s under control.”

“Didn’t your alarm go off?” Terri asked.

He said nothing at first, then, “Yes. Yes it did.”

"You put in that battery I gave you, right?"

He looked at her through his swollen, red eyes, seeking absolution. He nodded his head somewhere between yes and no.

“I think you’re a liar,” Terri said, and held his stare. Neither of them blinked or said a word for several long seconds.

Then, as music swelled over the closing credits of the tv drama, she finally broke the stalemate. “Let’s go, Lovely.”

He returned to find Honey on the counter, scratching at the pizza, which had cooled and hardened like molten lava.

“I’m not a liar, am I, Honey?” he said, and opened the cabinet where he kept her food.



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Harborview Medical Center, First Hill, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Saturday Morning

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Hinge, My Backdoor, 2009



He set the novel down in his lap to look at the butterfly which had landed on the lavender plant. It turns out it was just a moth. He was slightly disappointed. Nevertheless, he followed the erratic flight of the moth for the next few seconds until it lost interest in the lavender and flew around the corner of the house to embark on other moth business.

He took a drink of coffee and carefully placed the cup back on the parched, brown grass of his backyard and resumed reading.

Across the street, a landscape crew had finished the weekly maintenance of his neighbor’s pristine yard. Before they left, though, one of the workers put on a pair of headphones and started up a leaf blower. He roamed the pavement with an impressive single-mindedness, a man on a mission. The gas powered blower emitted a deafening roar as it dispersed grass clippings and clouds of dust from one spot to another.

It was too noisy for anyone to read or do much else, so he set the book on the lounge chair and went inside to pee and refill his coffee.



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Meter, My Backyard, 2009


He returned to his chair and book, refreshed.

He flipped through some pages, trying to remember where he had left off. He thought it was somewhere near the middle of Chapter 3. He picked a page at random and began reading. The passage was not familiar but he decided to go on anyway.

A woman walked by pushing a stroller. He watched and waited for her to make eye contact and smile, but she passed him without notice.

He read a sentence, then stopped and closed his eyes for a moment. He could fall asleep if he let himself.

He started over, reading the same sentence.

And again.

But the words on the page did not--would not--register.

He turned to the last page in the book, p. 547.

"I can’t read this,” he finally admitted.

But he was dedicated to completing the book because his wife had suggested it to him and said he would love it and he didn’t want to disappoint her.

It bothered him that he couldn’t get through a page--hell, a sentence-- without having his mind drift elsewhere. He wondered if it was not the book, but rather his own inability to focus that was the problem. “I can watch a sitcom or a football game from beginning to end without any trouble,” he pondered. “Why can't I finish this damn book?”

He took another drink, but the coffee was now tepid.

He watched a jet fly by, heading east, to China maybe.

Then he put the book on the ground next to his chair, and very slowly and deliberately poured the remains of his cup onto its opened pages. He watched the brown streams deface the text then converge in the crevasse of the book’s spine, before filtering out onto the thirsty lawn.



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Retired Mailbox, My Backyard, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Vernon Munsley

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Officer Under The Viaduct, 2009


He entered and everyone stopped talking.

He sat in his usual chair near the back of the conference room, then adjusted his tie and cuff links. He removed a folded piece of paper from his pants pocket, cleared his throat, then finally looked up to the podium where the Sargeant was waiting for a cue from his most veteran officer.

“Uh…Ladies and gentlemen,” the Sargeant began, “before today’s briefing, Officer Munsley would like to, uh, come up and, uh, say a few words. So, uh, if you’ll give him your attention, please. Officer Munsley?….”

Vernon Musley stood almost six and a half feet tall with broad shoulders and a barrel chest, his burgeoning mid-section held in check by a belt pulled to its very limit. Despite his girth and a piece of bullet lodged in one leg, he could still out run most officers half his age. He walked toward the front of the room with the deliberateness of a man who knew exactly what he was going to do. But the fact is, inside he was trembling.

Vernon had never spoken formally to a group of people in his life. He was a man of few words, just like his father, who taught Vernon the value of conducting himself with humility and grace. On the street, Vernon’s mere presence, his calm, confident countenance, was as effective and potent as all talk, swagger and bravado, which served his inherent shyness well. His brief conversations were limited to the people he met on his beat, victims and perpetrators, store owners, distraught wives, the drunks, and the like. With fellow officers he was professional and courteous and succinct.

Some of the younger cops mistook Vernon's reserve for arrogance, but those who knew him best--the three partners he had over the course of his career: Sam, Johnny and Russ--would tell you that Vernon was a stalwart cop, tough, reliable, thoughtful and fair. If he seemed unapproachable at times, well, he probably had good reason. “The tax payers are gettin’ their money’s worth outta you, Vernon,” Sam had told him one day.

Vernon was, as always, meticulously groomed as he stood before his comrades. His reddish-gray hair was cut short and neat. His nails were trimmed and clean. His chin was as whiskerless as the day he was born. The pride with which he wore his freshly pressed uniform and carried his pistol was evident. Not a thing was out of place. The only aspect of Vernon Munsley that was altered at this moment was his state of mind.

He pulled a pair of reading glasses out of his chest pocket, then unfolded the paper.

“I, uh…I…I just wanted to say….”

He looked over at his Sargeant for guidance, but the officer had nothing for Vernon.

“I…I, uh…I’m going to need you all to be very patient with me, here….”

The room was his, if only he could summon the courage to say what he needed to say.

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Secured, Alaskan Way Viaduct, 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