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Contests & Winners!

Updated: Aug 6

July 2020 Flash Fiction Contest!




The winner the FLASH FICTION Contest, Cash Prize, and Pushcart Nomination is:

Calvin Claudio!


Irish Setter

by Calvin Claudio


The Irish Setter I didn’t notice it before, the scar on his back. Natural that I wouldn’t have. Last night my eyes were too busy pressed into the tautness of his bedsheets, and his body was heavy and distracting. A wet stone against my own. Now it is quiet and his scar is striking. It’s beautiful really, a shark tooth crater dead-centered on a brown freckled boulder.


This happens to me a lot. I can’t sleep after having sex with strangers, so I find myself examining the intricacies of bodies: the bluest birthmark or a fresh zit surfacing like a white worm from rosy earth. I hear a soft pining. It turns out, I’m not the only one awake.


The trick to getting out of bed without waking your one-night stand is in your breath. Lots of yoga has taught me this. I inhale and exhale my way off the mattress and slink to the floor.


His dog cries at the foot of the bed. She’s an ancient Irish setter, but her chestnut coat has retained over the years and tonight shines like a campfire under an omniscient moon. It’s raining, and her cry loses its way against the drumming of the downpour on the galvanized steel of the window AC unit. His Irish setter looks at me, and I see that she is dying.


---


Earlier, we’re at Prospect Park, and the lawn is alive, breathing with its own pair of lungs. Well-intentioned, What-To-Expect moms cart around toddlers they naively dream are younger versions of themselves. Wealthy white hipsters sunbathe in vintage-style bikinis. Finance bros (Q-trained in from Manhattan) toss a frisbee like they own the air. I ask to pet the Irish setter.


“She’s my old lady,” he says to me.


I don’t have to look up to know that he’s smiling when he says this, that he’s full of love.


I know right away, I will sleep with this man.


---


The middle of the night, my vision dyed an inky plum. It’s clear the Irish setter won’t make it through the night. She shows no interest in me as I stroke her fur. Her eyes bulge. Her breath is shallow, her ribs pronounced and motionless like fossils.


“I am here now,” I whisper.


I contemplate waking him but decide against it. It may not be the right thing to do, but it feels kindest to let him sleep. I want to weep, but the tears don’t come. Instead, I lie down beside the dog, make myself into a semicolon, and let her rest against my warmth.


---


Earlier, he is kind to me. He peels off my clothes layer by layer: a black T-shirt, pilled grey linen pants, neat Calvin Klein briefs. His lips are curious for my skin. He apologizes for his sweat.


After, he buys us Thai food. I laugh, a deep inescapable laugh, when he struggles with the chopsticks. He laughs too. The briny, caramel flavor of the oyster sauce savors on my tongue.

---


I have drifted asleep when his Irish setter dies. The absence of her tired whine startles me awake.


The setter’s body wilts in the shadows, as if the moon has absorbed the honeyed hues from her fur.


I don’t really know what to do with the sadness I feel. The sight of the pathetic dead dog brings a sickening burn to my saliva, so I climb back into his bed. My arms wrap tightly around his waist, and I thumb the scar on his back. I put my lips to the scar and imagine myself sucking the sorrow of his next morning out of his body and into mine. I can feel in his shape a loneliness he doesn’t yet know is there.


When he wakes up and discovers his dog is dead, he has no trouble crying. I offer to drive him to the vet. He thanks me for the gesture but asks me to leave instead, so I pack my belongings and hug him goodbye.


---


Earlier, last night before we fall asleep, he strokes my chest. The graze of his fingertips makes me feel safe and wanted. The Irish setter nestles herself at the foot of the bed and closes her eyes.


He asks me if the sex was good. I tell him it was. He asks me how long I’ve lived in the city, where I grew up, where I went to school, if I am happy at my job, and what my friends are like.


He asks me what I am looking for.



Calvin Claudio



Microfiction Winner:

Sitting at the Beach, Drinking Beer--Considering Dante’s Inferno: Canto 4 Limbo, the Innocent Souls

by Stuart Gunter

195 words

There dwelt a race, who slow their eyes around

Majestically mov'd, and in their port

Bore eminent authority; they spake

Seldom, but all their words were tuneful sweet.


It is hot. And I am cold and jittery. I run to the beach. Start a fire, crack a beer out of a half-cold sixer of PBR. The fire lights fast, breeze blows smoke and sparks into my face, reminding me of old camp days and something about dead rabbits. I don’t know. The day is waning into dark. The waves crash and retreat in a rhythmic dance. The silence between the crashes is like a balm. Aren’t all poets and philosophers concerned with the chthonic? And why old Socrates, whose asking did not asking bring? Even I, in my ignorance, use his method. But for what? Who knows the secrets of the stars, or the mystery of the skies? Sitting and talking, talking and sitting--where does that get us? And writing. Philosophizing doesn’t put food on the table. Not in my house, anyway. But the sky is dark red. And strangely beautiful.


Microfiction Winner:


Confident Woman

by Nadia Price

365 words



I read something the other day, an article- and am not just saying that because I don’t believe that you will trust my thoughts alone- I did actually read it. It was called ’22 Things that Confident Women Don’t Do,’ or some other dismissive thing like that. I read it all the way through, and I am not entirely sure about how I feel about it. Normally, I would say that I am a pretty confident person. I think others would say that too.


Apparently, we are not supposed to “gossip,” or “doubt” ourselves, or ever “follow trends.” Though, I am sure that I do. I moan on the phone, on my way home, about my boss’ son nearly every other day. He tricks the girls, who answer phones, into thinking he’s the way to the top. And I pay for two subscriptions that mail me clothes, because I never know what to wear.

No matter what, we aren’t supposed to “people please, compromise, or hide our feelings” either. But I tell my boss what she wants to hear, and I stay late, even though I’d rather go home. And I’ve never hinted, not even once, that I think her son is a heartbreaking slut who leverages his power for sex. Or that I’d rather wear the 4-inch stilettos - I got in the mail- on the wrong feet all day, than listen to his bullshit by the water cooler.


And even more, we aren’t supposed to “see defeat, have regrets, or need a personal trainer.” Here again, it would appear that I’m in trouble. I know when I’m wrong, when I’ve lost, and when I’ve gone too far. I know that participation trophies aren’t first prize, and I’ve told some lies, and you can bet that I’ve regretted it after. And the idea of not needing Jenna at Retro, well, that actually makes me laugh.


Lastly, we’re not supposed to “listen blindly,” and that’s the one, I suppose, I can get behind. Because I won’t listen, not to this list, that says that I don’t fit. I break all the rules; I guess I’m not who I’m supposed to be, but I am a confident woman.



#GettingCreative Instagram Challenge Winner:

@Krystenlindsay




# GettingCreative Instagram Challenge Runner-up:

@Shabaaztanveer





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