Seattle in Shorts by Mercia McMahon - Read Online
Seattle in Shorts
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A novel about dealing with the shadows of the past in 21st century Seattle. Martine Brown, a Seattle ex-pat, leaves London after a bereavement-related mental health breakdown to move to Poulsbo, Washington State. First she will spend November 2013 in Seattle, where she plans to re-visit old haunts, in the hope of recovering her mental strength. That plan goes awry, but she finds help from new (and renewed) friendships. Each chapter is a Day in the Month of Martine. As an interlude to each chapter there is a talking head short story from a member of one of Seattle's minority communities talking about the past or present suffering of another Seattle minority community. There is a particular focus on the Japanese American, Native American, and LGBT communities.

Additional Information The novel was inspired by the 2012 commemorations in Seattle of both the 50th anniversary of the World's Fair and the 70th anniversary of Japanese Internment. A particular influence was the iconic internment photograph of Fumiko Hayashida holding her daughter while she waited to be taken by ferry to Seattle from Bainbridge Island and onto a concentration camp. There is a strong rock music theme with The 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide, the AIDS-related death of Freddie Mercury, and the London and Seattle lives of Jimi Hendrix featuring prominently in Martine's storyline. Chief Seattle of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes is also a key reference point in a novel about the city named after him.

Published: MMMporium on
ISBN: 9781910354018
List price: $0.99
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Table of Contents

Seattle in Shorts


October 31

Torah, Torah, Torah

November 1

Mentally Ourselves Alone

November 2

Young Waste

November 3

Distant Memories

November 4

Old Man

November 5

Inside Outsider

November 6

Among the Waters

November 7

Missing the Boat

November 8

There But For Women

November 9

A Rhapsody for Freddie

November 10

Just In Case

November 11

Access All Areas

November 12

Lonely Hearts

November 13

I Am Chinese

November 14

Work and Play

November 15

Conspiracy of Silence

November 16

Fencing Off

November 17

Among the Living

November 18

Life Goes On

November 19


November 20

Hiding Your Heritage

November 21

Moving On

November 22

Secular Views

November 23


November 24

Blind, Deaf and Stupid

November 25

Inside Perspectives

November 26


November 27

Time Slips

November 28

Marriage Unequal

November 29

Among the Dead

November 30

About the Author

Cover Design


Seattle in Shorts

By Mercia McMahon

Copyright 2014 Mercia McMahon

Published by MMMporium

All rights reserved

In memory of Fumiko Hayashida (1911-2014)

The woman in the photograph

October 31

How did it ever come to this? On my way home to Seattle, no not Seattle, to little Poulsbo. Sitting here at London Heathrow Airport and giving up living the dream life in the fast lane. Back to Seattle for one month, because London to Poulsbo is too big a step in one go. One month in Seattle to revisit my past in the hope of re-engaging with the stronger and more determined Martine Brown who left that city in 2008. I left it for one of the great cities of the world to make up for not going to college in New York. That dream move to London became a nightmare when my bank job was lost with so many others in 2009. But then I landed a dream job managing staff in a West End theatre. So how did I go from the dream to the scream? Why did I end up being the one who was late? Me who was the one monitoring timekeeping? Many of the younger employees were too focused on wanting to tread the boards—a dream I exchanged long ago for a business career. So how was I the one to lose focus? How come I’m going to live in Poulsbo, which is nearly a thousand times smaller than London? 2013 is unlucky for some.

May I sit down here?


I was only asking as there are no free tables.

Oh no, please sit down. I meant I hadn’t heard you properly. I was lost in thought.

When travelling your own thought is the only good place to get lost. Name’s Brett. So what are you drinking?

No thanks, this beer’s quite enough for me. My name’s Martine.

I think we’ve been divided by a common language again. I was asking what that beer is, although I would happily buy you another in thanks for giving me a seat.

You’re welcome and sorry for another misunderstanding, but being divided by a common language doesn’t work as I’m as American as you sound. This is a Greenwich beer, but I don’t need another one. Until this morning I lived in Greenwich. This beer is the final piece of nostalgia before I return to my homeland.

I didn’t pick up the accent—where exactly in the States?

Seattle. I’m returning there briefly before settling elsewhere in Washington State.

Lovely city. I hail from New York; been there my whole life, but despite my lack of nostalgia I’ll order one of these Greenwich beers. After all New York has a Greenwich too, even if not as famous as the London one.

If my life had worked out differently I would’ve moved to New York for college, but my mother needed my help to care for an ailing father. So I went to the University of Washington and missed out on Broadway. To make up for that miss I’ve booked into an apartment on Seattle’s Broadway, but in this case it’s the New York version that’s more famous.

Never heard of a Seattle Broadway, but then I’ve only been there for conferences. Did you come to London so that the West End could replace Broadway?

Not quite. I came to work for a bank, but lost my job in the recession, before landing a dream post as a West End theatre manager.

Sounds wonderful so why did you leave the job—visa problems?

No, the job left me. Health problems led to me losing it. Now I’m going to lick my wounds in the house I inherited from my mother, whose health problems killed her.

That’s a lot of sad news packed into one answer.

I have packed a lot of sadness into these five years in London.

Sorry to hear that. I’d like to know more if it’s not too personal.

Not too personal, but too close to my departure time. I need to go to my gate.

Take my card and look me up if you ever make it to New York.

Okay, nice talking to you.


She left the bar, dropped the card onto the nearest table, and went shopping as her departure gate was unlikely to be announced for quite some time. After fetching some magazines for the flight she noticed her gate displayed on the departure board. The gate’s name used to make her smile, but on this occasion her eyes welled up with tears.

This is all Brett’s fault. Normally I smile at being at Gate C64, the name of the computer my father gave me as a child. Just a games machine, but it inspired my fascination with Europe in the days before I helped Seattle rule the computer world. Today I’m crying because it was my father’s computer, the man who lies behind so much of where I’ve got to in life. He inspired me with the will to succeed and I accepted the responsibility of being his only child, although he really wanted a son. That meant letting him live dreams through me, but just as I was to head east to New York he fell gravely ill so I stayed in Seattle. Although he died two years later I remained in Seattle for a further decade. During that time I was driven to succeed in the memory of a driven father. There’s now nothing left of my success—the C64 computer is in storage awaiting shipping to Poulsbo and I feel as old and useless as that machine. Yet the tears were not for me, but for my father. A man whose final months were devoid of his daughter’s love, because I so resented his illness that took away my opportunity to live in New York. It also took away his strength of character that I so admired. So maybe I’m crying about my life and how I wasted my last months with him. I threw myself into studies and treated the family home as little more that a bed and breakfast. Yet he would’ve been proud of all I achieved up until three years ago when I took the theatre job. He would’ve regarded that as putting a hobby before a proper career. The reality is I sulked at him for his last eighteen months because of his illness. Yet if he’d stayed healthy and I spent too much time going to Broadway shows he would’ve sulked at me. We didn’t see eye to eye, but my eyes still well up when I think of how much I miss him, more so now that mom is gone too. They’re both gone, but my life must go on, even if it means going to Poulsbo.

She headed for the nearest restroom to correct the make-up damage from those tears and promised herself once again to give up eye-liner. Afterwards she walked towards Gate C64 with the usual dread of the long wait at the gate. At least flying out at Halloween meant few children to annoy her, although there was the risk of a trick or treat from any who were there.

At long last she was able to settle into her airplane seat. As usual she had chosen an aisle seat near the toilets in the hope that no-one else would want to sit. Her heart sank when she saw the huge smile flashed by the woman seated in the window seat.

Oh no, I bet she wants to be my best female friend for the next nine hours.

Hi, the unwanted friend said, I hope you don’t mind being beside the toilets. There was a man sitting in the seat between us and he asked to move. Apparently there are plenty of seats. So if you want to go too you could ask a steward.

Are you trying to get rid of me before I’ve sat down?

Definitely not, I think that we could get along really great now that we’re not going to have a man coming between us, so to speak. And speaking of speaking, I detect a Seattle accent there, are you heading home?

Sighing inwardly at the thought of nine hours of this inane chatter Martine sat down, fiddled with the seatbelt and switched into customer service mode, Yes, I’m from Seattle and going home, but I have just finished living in London for five years. Martine’s the name.

I’m Roisin, proud to be Irish and proud to be a Seattleite. You have a French name—was your family originally from Canada?

No, both sides of the family claim that they arrived on the boat with the Pilgrims and for them Thanksgiving was the holiest of holy days. They moved from Boston and called their only child after a character from a novel, because it sounded like Martin, my maternal grandfather.

My family were Bostonians too, but a later vintage, fleeing the Irish Famine. We didn’t take Thanksgiving too seriously; after all we had to save our energies and pennies for St Patrick’s Day. Thanksgiving seemed too tied into the English and my family doesn’t lose much love over England.

Thanksgiving nowadays is for everyone, it’s part of the great melting pot, we’re all Americans now.

I should warn you I teach modern American history at Seattle University and specialize in the interaction of differing communities. There never was a melting pot—more of an Irish stew.

An Irish stew? Isn’t that a bit biased?

Well, any sort of stew or soup you don’t pulverize so that you can’t see what the original ingredients were. In a traditional Irish stew you still have everything clearly visible in the broth and that’s what we’ve always had in America. The melting pot was a myth that its supporters never wanted put into practice. They certainly never wanted the Irish melted into the brew. And as for Thanksgiving, just ask the Native Americans. They commemorate that date as the National Day of Mourning.

Never heard of it. Is it widely known?

Probably not unless you’re active in Native American politics, but there’s an event on early that day in Seattle. Look it up on the internet.

Maybe I will. I should add that I don’t rate Thanksgiving myself. Not for any political reasons, just because my parents were a little over-the-top.

Are they still in Seattle?

I’m afraid they both died, my father in 1993 and my mother in 2012, but I’d rather not talk about it.

Sorry for mentioning it. Anyway I have to apologize I cannot talk much as I’ve an article to work on. So I’m afraid I won’t be good company once the fasten seatbelt lights are switched off.

No problem, I’ve some sleep to catch up on. I’m no longer attuned to Pacific Standard Time and better get some rest.

Martine managed some sleep on the plane, which was useful as she had a heavy travel schedule once arriving at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. She was spending Halloween in a tourist hotel near Seattle’s well-known landmark, the Space Needle. Then she would travel the following day to the Broadway apartment in Capitol Hill. The journey involved catching the Light Railway from the airport to the Seattle’s Downtown district and then the monorail from there to the Space Needle. Everything went to plan until her tears began to flow again in the monorail. Thankfully it was almost entirely empty as most people were too busy with Halloween to indulge in a trip on a relic of the 1962 World’s Fair.

Oh, father, you were so attentive on that first trip. You pointed out the sights of Seattle while holding me firmly to the seat, because I was worried about rocking the train and making it fall to the ground. Why were you able to show interest in a five year old, but lost the skill as I got older? And where, mom, were you? I don’t even have you pictured in that memory of my first monorail trip, yet I know you were there. Were you performing your dutiful and subservient wife and mother act—staring with admiration at your husband, who for once was taking on some parental duties? Or maybe you had struck up a conversation with a member of staff or fellow passenger. How it used to annoy me that you wanted to talk to adults, but not engage with the inane chatter of your own daughter. Of course, now that I’m approaching my 40th birthday I understand the need for adult company. Yet you could’ve paid a little more attention to me; even father managed it on occasions. The memories of that monorail trip just remind me of an unhappy childhood that was a prelude to a worse adolescence, so why am I crying? Probably because mom isn’t alive to begrudgingly visit and inwardly groan at her inane chatter. Or maybe I’m just in a heightened state of emotion, because I’m back in Seattle, reliving my childhood rather than forging ahead with London life.

As she descended the stairs from the elevated monorail down to the Seattle Center Martine was brought back to those childhood memories when she overheard a mother telling a young child, Look, you are right underneath the Space Needle.

Once I was that child, being told what a wondrous thing the Space Needle was, with its long legs leading up to a Fifties image of what an invading alien spacecraft would look like. The difference being that instead of aliens coming down from the flying saucer to take over the earth, eager tourists and parents with young children voluntarily go up into the flying saucer so that they can look down on the city below. Assuming there is no fog, in which case a passing airline pilot would see a flying saucer hovering over a blanket of fluffy cloud. But if you’re not a tourist or photographer the Space Needle quickly loses its appeal. It’s not the real Seattle—it’s for tourists and five-year-olds and their parents. Tomorrow I take my one month apartment in Capitol Hill, which is the real Seattle that the tourists seldom see