The Iron Writer Challenge #48
2013 Iron Writer Winter Solstice Challenge #12
The Voyager Spacecraft
A Female MMA Fighter
Needle and Thread
A 10′ long, 12″ diameter PVC pipe
Thread the Needle
“You know, Kathryn, most fighters hire people to stitch them up.”
Kathryn rolls her eyes as she glares down at the needle and thread in her hands. It’s hard enough for a person with normal-sized hands to thread needles, but for a woman with large hands, the difficulty, predictably, spikes. Add in the myriad callouses that are easily explain–Kathryn’s padded, fingerless fight gloves lay on the table next to the thread’s spool–and a normally frustrating task becomes immeasurably so.
“You’re funny, Steph.”
“Okay, well if you’re not practicing to stitch yourself up after having your face pounded into mush, what ARE you doing?”
Kathryn scoffs, the guttural noise vibrating her throat.
“So that’s it then.”
“If you must know, I am trying to increase my hand control.”
“By threading a needle?”
Kathryn turns to Stephanie, turning the glare to her roommate. Her ferocity convinces Stephanie to concede, hands raised in surrender. Kathryn growls and looks back down. “It’s a mental exercise my trainer’s making me do.”
Stephanie casts her gaze over to the corner of their shared apartment, where a ten-foot length of PVC pipe sits next to several shorter bits, soil planters stuffed two and three wide inside the intact piece.
“Is this like when Jordan made you build your own hydroponic garden in some plumbing?”
Kathryn laughs. “Kind of, except this one makes sense. He said I have a lot of power but no control.” (He’s right, Stephanie mutters under her breath.) “If I can make my hands go where I want them to, I can be a force to be reckoned with.”
“Huh. That actually does sound plausible. How long has he given you?”
“My next fight’s in two months.”
“Well how’s it coming?”
Kathryn responds by holding up her hands. Despite having rough, thick skin, she has managed to draw blood. Stephanie shakes her head.
“If you manage it before society collapses, we should make a new golden disc and put you on it.”
Kathryn looks up at her, brow furrowed in confusion. “Golden disc?”
Stephanie shakes her head, laughing. “Sorry, that reference was a bit highbrow for you.”
Kathryn just scoffs again, turning back to the task at hand.
“Okay, Kathryn, how did you do?”
Kathryn shows Jordan a hoop holding taut a blood-stained canvas of horror. If Stephanie sent out a Voyager with it on board, aliens would surely avoid Earth. Her trainer frowns.
“Well hopefully your handiwork in the cage will be better. Let’s get to work.”
“She doesn’t stand a chance, does she?”
Jordan and Stephanie watch as Kathryn circles the cage with a woman named Hiroko. Kathryn is several inches taller, but her increased reach isn’t helping so far, as Kathryn’s punches sail wide, giving Hiroko an opening to pummel her stomach. Kathryn has the strength to shove Hiroko away, but her shoulders are starting to sag.
Jordan cups his mouth. “Thread the needle!”
Hiroko sets herself to bob and weave, but finds Kathryn’s fist with her jaw, and she collapses in a messy heap. Kathryn grins, and Jordan turns to Stephanie.
“I think we should call NASA.”
Corrie glanced at the dingy mirror across a small, dimly light room. The swelling had reduced her right eye to a slit. Her bottom lip was split open and it hurt when she spoke. A once flawless nose was clearly broken. Long strands of sweat-soaked hair were matted firmly onto bruised cheeks. Along her forehead a crooked line formed where the doctor had deftly used needle and thread to close a 2” gash.
She was, to be kind, a mess. The only reason, in fact, she knew she was looking at herself was because every time she moved, the reflection winced too.
They’d come for her soon enough, she knew. And when they did she’d answer all of their questions, but for now she was alone on a time-worn bench with nothing but strange fluorescent light shadows and her memories.
When she closed her eyes, the pungent aroma of hamburger grease and spent Marlboros came flooding back.
“… yeah and I wanted to work for NASA on the Voyager project.”
“This is different,” Corrie shot back.
“No it ain’t!” her father countered while wiping the remains of Sloppy Joe from of his mouth. “We do the things we’re supposed to do. That’s life, and that means girls don’t go around doing jujumi.”
“Jujitsu. I want to learn Brazilian Jujitsu.”
“Whatever. All I wanted was to become an engineer. How’d that turn out?”
Her cheeks flushed and her voice grew loud. “The fact that you regret dropping out of college doesn’t give you the right to try and make everyone around you as miserable as you!”
Corrie knew her words stung.
Her father shoved the table away with such anger that the salt shaker and an overflown ashtray landed half-way into the living room. “You don’t know the first thing about regret! You just keep on runnin’ your mouth, though…”
Nearly every fiber in her body screamed, “Quit!” In the farthest corner of her mind, however, that tiny voice repeated softly, “That’s just what he’d want you to do.” So, despite the pain in her legs and the torn blisters on her palms, she went back to work.
The 12” PVC pipe was filled to the brim with concrete, and at 10’ long it was nearly twice as tall as Corrie. This made the cylinder as ungainly and awkward as it was heavy.
The goal was to flip it four times – her record was, like today, three. That would change. It had to change; she’d walked away from everything for this. This was all she had.
She cleared her mind, slowed her breath, grabbed the pipe and exploded toward the sky…
A sharp rap on the door brought Corrie back from the past.
“This is for you,” the porter said, trying not to stare at her face.
She took the envelope.
The young man paused, “Can I ask a question?”
“What makes someone like you want to do this MMA thing?”
She opened the envelope and immediately recognized the handwriting.
I was wrong. You’ve found your Voyager.
“Oh, in the end I guess I’m just a Daddy’s Girl.”
Out of Sight
K. A. DaVur
The needle stabbed into my finger. I hissed and stuck it in my mouth; I couldn’t get blood on my silks. Once, it wouldn’t have mattered. Once, I had dozens, covered with the logos of my sponsors, fighting for placement across my ass. Not anymore.
Finally, the rip was mended; I slid the silks over my hips. I pulled off my shirt, an ancient, no-color shred of cotton that reeked of sweat, and wiggled into my sports bra, lifting my tits with one hand while I shrugged and rolled the fabric into place. Someone had set the air conditioning to Arctic Blast and I was covered in goosebumps. I checked my reflection in the mirror. Shit, my boobs were crooked. I reached and tried to get them evened out. As I did, the slightly sagging letters beneath bucked and twisted. “Voyager.”
That name had been Coach’s greatest gift. Wiry, lightning fast, and fiercely smart, Coach was obsessed with astronomy. He taught me as much about the stars as he did about fighting, had even kept a telescope in the gym. One night, while we iced my legs, he told me about the vessel.
“That’s you, Kid,” he’d said. “Small, tough, outta sight.” The name had stuck and, for a while, I was indeed on a seemingly infinite trajectory. Five-star hotels, my name on marquis. Best of all, an enormous list of KO’s, feeling the sweet spot on another fighter’s jaw, arm bars, guillotines.
I heard that the Voyager is still out there. Yet, somehow, here I am, in the piss-scented bathroom of the local National Guard armory. I’m just glad that Coach is dead. The door to the bathroom creaked, and the kid who made up my pathetic excuse for a crew slid in. I’d met him at the local gym one day, showed him a few things, he’d followed me like a puppy ever since. He was a good kid, still thought of me as amazing, though he looked about twelve, complete with a crop of whiteheads spread across his forehead.
“Voyager, it’s time,” he said. I was always “Voyager” to him, even when we were fucking. We walked down the hall and I could hear my song playing. It was the Mars Theme, sounding tinny and lame out of whatever was serving as a sound system.
My opponent was waiting in the octagon, a cheap affair rigged out of chicken wire and PVC pipe. Still, the crowd chanted her name and her eyes flashed. The bell rang and I attacked, sweeping with my right leg. She didn’t expect this; she fell to the ground. I followed, trying desperately to take the mount. God, she was quick, slithered through my legs and managed to land an elbow strike on her way to her feet. I could feel the blood begin to flow. I staggered to my feet only to be met with a series of hooks and jabs that forced me backwards into the cage. Still, I fought on, and made it, after what seemed like an eternity, to the bell. The pimple-faced kid waited in my corner, holding out my water. I shook him off. The bell rang again and then her fist was on my jaw, finding that sweet spot and I was on my back.
Out of sight.
For the Rest of Us
Jenna ripped her gloves off and threw them in her locker. Rage rippled close to the surface and not the healthy, just-been-training-like-a-beast kind. She changed quickly, forgetting her usual routine in an effort to escape the torment of another song. It didn’t matter that Felicia had the voice of an angel or that the other MMA fighters could sing in perfect chorus. Jenna hated every word and it simply wasn’t worth the hysteria that would surely ensue if she were to protest.
“You’d better get that stitched up.” Kat appeared in front of her, blocking the door to salvation and nodding to the gash on Jenna’s arm.
“I’ve got a needle and thread at home, no big.” Jenna grunted and shoved past. The thought of stitching herself up was no picnic, it never was. But it was still better than another ridiculous song about decorating trees or silver bells or whatever they opted to sing about next. Jenna shoved the door open and shivered almost immediately as the bitter cold struck her half bare skin. She hurriedly pulled her wool coat on, ran to her F150 and leapt into the cab. Ozzy blasted from the speakers and swept away the echoes of the carolers from hell. Jenna sneered at the twinkling lights lining the gym’s façade and had fleeting thoughts of running over the plastic manger scene at the entrance. She was truly sick of this holiday and it was only mid December. Jenna swallowed back bile and stole a glance over her shoulder, just to be sure her cargo remained safely in the back. It seemed to be rolling slightly side to side but the PVC pipes were present and accounted for. Jenna smiled to herself and pressed the gas pedal a bit harder. Stitching her arm would have to wait, she had plans.
Noah was standing in the front lawn when Jenna pulled up, hands on his hips and silvery hair blowing in the chill breeze. His eyes were slits and she knew she was last to arrive. Jenna flicked the engine off and leapt out of the truck. “Don’t even say it old man.”
He laughed. The warm, rich laugh of a man who’d lived a long life and accomplished much of what he set out to. Noah’s arms had lost some of their strength over the years but his embrace was still as welcoming as when she was a child. “Did you get the PVC pipe?”
“Of course.” Jenna nodded toward the truck, “I thought the poles were supposed to be aluminum?”
“Technicalities. We’ll paint them silver.” Noah winked at her. “My Voyager made it into interstellar space the other day.”
“I saw that.” Jenna was proud of her stepfather’s work on the spacecraft, proud to have been raised by him. Voyager was just one of his many projects and he kept tabs on them all. They both did.
“Happy Festivus, Jen.” Noah smiled down at her. “It’s time for the feats of strength!”