05 August 2018

new fiction: The Far Away Smell of Water

Credit: NOAA Climate Program Office,
NABOS 2006 Expedition.
On the television, fishermen were pulling pots of pink and orange crab like giant spiders onto the decks of ships that rolled and bucked over white-crested waves. 
"Looks scary," the security guard said. His mouth was round and pink, his face clean-shaven. He wore a blue uniform shirt with gold insignia but had no holster on his belt. 
"Sca-ry." The guard said the word slowly, as if that would help. 
Jake shrugged. He wondered what the guard thought was more frightening—being in charge of security without a gun or having a deaf kid in his waiting room. 
The guard fiddled with the television remote until he got the captions to work on the screen. 
"Thank you," Jake signed.
The guard signed back. "You're welcome."
Jake couldn't hide his surprise, heat rising to this face as he considered his misjudgments. "You are cool," he signed. The guard gave him a thumbs up.
The crab ships fished in a place called the Bering Sea. At night, the sea was black and foamy and the fishermen pulled their enormous pots from the deep water. In the daylight, the water was the color of blue metal. Swells exploded like fireworks over the bows. One ship sailed further north than any of the others until there was ice all around in jagged, flat blocks, and the fishermen were able to step off the deck and walk on the floating ice in the middle of the sea.
Jake was waiting for the Crab Count to see which crew had caught the most crab, when his mother returned with a handful of paperwork and a set of keys. "We're going," she signed.
      ~ excerpt from "The Far Away Smell of Water" by Sherri H. Hoffman

I've worked on this piece off and on for a number of years, so I am thrilled for its first-publication home to be in this journal. Hawai'i Review has been a source of inspiring writing for me over the years.

The story itself—like so many of my stories—came about as the result of several real-world circumstances. The first was a fire, involving a semi-truck and a mattress. The second was that there was a period of time in my life when I had a large group of deaf friends, who tried to each me how to sign. The third was/is my ongoing nerdy love for Discovery Channel's documentary, Deadliest Catch. I've been a fan since Season One, back when there were no sponsor ads for each show segment. I adore the series—all of it. Perhaps on another day, I'll dedicate an entire post to its virtues.

In the meantime, these three "happenstancial" circumstances somehow crossed in front of me, and my writer-brain put them together to make a story. Sometimes, that's how it works.

Read the full story in Hawai'i Review 88. The print issue is available now at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. The online issue will be available soon at hawaiireview.org.

I loved the smell of ocean water. Salt always smells like memory. 
                   ~ from "What You Pawn I Will Redeem" by Sherman Alexie

30 April 2018

no restrictions

I was asked this week what my choice would be if I could teach anything, and I am thinking about baseball. Perhaps because I visited one of my brothers last weekend, and he took me to Baltimore to see my first Orioles game. Perhaps because I simply love baseball.

The potentials are intriguing.

What's your favorite sports novel?

Reading the Game: Baseball

The Art of Fielding
The Brothers K
The Natural
The Great American Novel
Shoeless Joe
Baseball's Best Short Stories
The Might Have Been
Bang the Drum Slowly
Pafko at the Wall
The Golem's Mighty Swing
The Southpaw
Baseball: a Literary Anthology
The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.
The Summer Game
The Celebrant
Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series
Two Pioneers How Hank Greenberg and Jackie Robinson Transformed Baseball--and America
The Lords of the Realm
The Empire Strikes Out: How Baseball Sold U.S. Foreign Policy and Promoted the American Way Abroad

Sherri Hoffman's favorite books »

"In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened."

 ~ Vin Scully
          Announcing Kirk Gibson's pinch-hit, walk-off home run
          in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

22 October 2017

16 random facts: the shortest stories redux

16. I love the rain, which happens at home throughout the year. In Wisconsin, the rains come mostly late summer-early fall, and then again in spring, mixed with snow. In Rwanda, there are downpour rains off and on in January, which is the end of the rainy season, and on the west shore of the Big Island of Hawai'i, the winter rains can be seen coming from a long way out across the ocean most mornings, and they pass over to leave behind the smell of plants and trees and wet stone.

15. Baking is like prayer in that its ritual grounds me and brings me comfort. I rarely use a recipe anymore unless it's something new. My favorite pie is huckleberry.

14. I learned to play the violin in 4th grade and came to love the used violin my parents purchased for me though I was never very good at playing. The violin disappeared from my parents' house after I wasn't living there—somewhere between moves or spring cleanings—along with my first pair of skis and the saddle I rode with throughout my Junior Posse years. I always hoped those three things ended up in the same place.

13. My only notable vice is good coffee despite the cost of imported small-batch beans or how many times my doctor recommends cutting caffeine. Decaf is for posers.

12. Most movies I watch in the theater are either action-dramas with big explosions and complicated fight scenes or sci-fi with elaborate special effects. Ellen Ripley remains my all-time favorite movie character, followed by John McClane and Wolverine.

11. Graduate school is not the hardest thing I've ever done, but it's up there in the top 20. Or at very least, the top 50.

10. My favorite vegetables are green beans. Second is butternut squash.

9. I learned to play baseball from my dad when I was a kid, and the first pro game I went to was an Angels game in California after we'd moved back to the states. I was probably 11. That year, our family also went to Disneyland, Sea World, Knott's Berry Farm, the San Diego Zoo, and the Hollywood Wax Museum, which contributes perhaps to my ongoing questions about American culture.

8. If I could take up another instrument, it would be the cello.

7. I've had textbook aura migraines since I was about 10 years old, which have increased in frequency over the years to as many as 2-3 per week. I've tried all kinds of remedies, prescribed or not, with varying success. I've also read that migraines become less frequent for women post-menopause, which may be the only medical condition I know of that can be ignored until eventually it goes away.

6. Watching Kirk Gibson's home run to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series makes me cry. Every time.

5. Spending Thanksgiving in Virginia with my cousin and his family has become a cherished holiday tradition for me over the last five years. Plus I get to try out all my latest baking recipes on them, and to date, no one has complained.

4. I love being able to tell people about all five of my daughters.

3. I used to sew most of my own clothes—everything except blue jeans—out of necessity but also because the work of sewing helps me think. Once when two of my daughters were toddlers, I made some fancy ruffled dresses for them out of bedsheets, and the most common question I got about those dresses was where I bought them. Strangely, I could never quite remember.

2. It always amuses me when people ask my husband how he could let me go off to school without him. The second question they ask—also amusing—is how he manages by himself.

1. I have successfully climbed a glaciated peak in the Pacific Northwest, which makes me eligible to become a Mazama, although I've never gotten around to turning in the paperwork. That day, the summit seemed like the top of the world. The horizons seemed to fall away on all sides under the chromatic blues of high altitude. Also, it was covered with ladybugs.

What you are thinking, what shape your mind is in, is what makes the biggest difference of all.  ~ Willie Mays