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TJ Fuller wins the 2017 Flash Fiction Contest!

Rebecca Schiff has selected TJ Fuller‘s “Slim Fit” as the winner of the 2017 Flash Fiction Contest! The contest finalists were Carla Diaz, Ingrid Jendrzejewski, LaTanya McQueenDerek Updegraff, and Francine Witte.

TJ Fuller writes and teaches in Portland, Oregon. His work has also appeared in Jellyfish Review, Pacifica Literary Review, and Hobart.

Here’s what the judge, Rebecca Schiff, had to say about the TJ Fuller’s winning flash:

 

“From the first sentence, ‘Slim Fit’ brings us into its strange, funny world. The author trusts that the movement of language and his delight in its premise will become the reader’s delight. It does. I’m thrilled to declare TJ Fuller the winner of The Conium Review 2017 Flash Fiction contest and I hope you enjoy his story as much as I did.”

—Rebecca Schiff, author of The Bed Moved

TJ’s winning story will be published digitally at The Conium Review Online Compendium. The piece will also be designed and printed as a limited-run broadside or micro-chapbook for distribution at conferences or other literary events. TJ will also receive a $300 prize for his story and a copy of Rebecca Schiff’s book.

Thanks to all who submitted to this year’s contest. We hope you’ll consider sending work to our annual Innovative Short Fiction Contest, or through our general submission queueSign up for our newsletter to stay informed about these calls for submissions and news from The Conium Review and Conium Press.

 

“Rescue and Conquer,” by Jan Stinchcomb

Wolf Howling

I serve beer down at the Rescue and Conquer. Woodsmen and wolves come to us in droves. It’s odd to see them getting along, nuzzling and stroking each other, sitting at the same tables, filling the tavern with their laughter. Paying for drinks.

It’s as if they were never enemies.

I’m standing at the counter waiting for a tray and arranging my cleavage when Cassandra touches my shoulder. “Come on. You’ve got a wolf in Room 7.”

I know who this is. At least I’ll have a break from serving.

Room 7 is cool and dark, lavish in red silk. An enormous silver wolf is lying on the bed, pointing his gaping wound right at me. “Again?” I ask, faking surprise.

“You know it, my sweet.”

“You must be addicted.”

“And you should remember that the customer is always right. Now stitch me up.” He taps me with his heavy tail as he orders me around. I know he paid three pieces of gold for this. It’s flattering to be his regular maid.

The sewing kit is sterilized and ready for use. I choose a long, sharp needle and our best silver thread. “Do you want to talk about it?” I ask. Sometimes they want to talk, and other times they go into a kind of trance that won’t let women in. They’re so damn proud of their wounds.

“I’d rather hear you talk about it, my dear.”

That is the one thing I did not want to hear. Now I wonder if he paid double. I take a deep breath and will myself to be interested in this very old story. “Let me see,” I begin. “She was young and blond.”

“Raven-haired.”

“Yes, a brunette. And all alone.”

“With her mother—no, her grandmother.”

“Indeed. Twice the female flesh. You could not resist. Did you talk to her this time?”

“I get tired of talking to them. I shouldn’t have to ask for what I need.”

All at once I hate this wolf. I tie a knot in the thread and wonder if I can get out of this, or somehow get through it quickly. “Of course not. You should not have to ask. She should read your mind.”

“Watch it, pretty maid. I can request someone else, you know.”

I almost call his bluff. I have my favorites too. There’s one woodsman I truly connect with. I know he loves me. We could leave this tavern and move into our own pretty cottage.

But we never do. Something stops us every time.

“All right, my vicious one. You didn’t talk to her. You didn’t want to know what was in her basket, or where she was going. Let’s say, for instance, that she was already safe inside her grandmother’s cottage, at night. They were sewing together by the light of a single candle or perhaps they were in bed already. The girl was dark-haired and as docile as a frightened doe. Hers was a life of perfect obedience.”

“Give her some spirit!”

“And she had fire inside.”

“That’s more like it.” The big silver wolf purrs like an enormous cat. His breathing grows faster and faster. He is at his most vulnerable.

(Cassandra always says that now would be the time to kill one of them if you’re ever going to do it.)

I drive the needle into his flesh—that first piercing sensation makes even the biggest of them wince—and begin stitching. “You knocked down the front door. The two women screamed, clutching each other. Their fear was so great it could have killed them. The sweet girl offered herself as a sacrifice to save her grandmother. She dropped her gown and gave you all her red, wet parts. You consumed her whole. Still, you were not satisfied. You took her grandmother, too, in one enormous gulp.”

The wolf’s breath is moist and warm and smells of death. It wraps around me as I stitch. He grins and nods.

“And then, in the moments before your own demise, you did a funny thing. You baked yourself some little cakes in their kitchen even though you were full. It’s your own special way of completing the kill, so that you can taste a bit of their life. Then you stretched out by the fire.”

The wolf wraps his arms around me as I complete the final stitches, but I stop him: “That, sir, will cost you extra. Besides, I need to finish the story. The woodsman burst inside, ax-proud and ready for victory. He split your belly with the blade before you could blink. The girl and her grandmother emerged unscathed. And you were defeated, gushing red, split open.”

The wolf is healed, save for the stitches on his belly. He gets up on all fours and howls so that the windows shake. I take a step back. The merchant on duty opens the door and points a rifle at the restored beast.

On his way to the back door the wolf stops and turns. He comes close and whispers in my ear, “You’re a good girl, Sally. How did you know about the baking?”

My face burns. The merchant pokes the wolf with the rifle. “Get out, you.”

Back at the counter I ask Cassandra why we put up with his type. She raises one eyebrow at me. “How is he any different from your fair-weather woodsman?”

“He’s completely different. He’s violent, for starters.”

“But do either of them really do anything for you? Be honest now. Besides, where else would you work? What other safe place pays room and board?”

I have no answer. Then I remember the baking fetish. That kind of detail can make a girl feel powerful, and I want to brag about it to Cassandra. I reach for her arm but she is already gone.

Another tray is waiting for me.

About the Author:

Jan Stinchcomb’s short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Strange Little Girls, A cappella Zoo, Happily Never After, Bohemia, Rose Red Review, Luna Station Quarterly, The Red Penny Papers, and PANK (online), among other places. She reviews fairy tale-inspired works for Luna Station Quarterly. Her novella, Find the Girl, is now available from Main Street Rag. She lives in Southern California with her husband and daughters. You can find her at www.janstinchcomb.com.

Special Note:

This story was a finalist in The Conium Review‘s 2015 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Laura Ellen Joyce.

Image Credit: © doublebubble_rus / Dollar Photo Club

Our 2016 Flash Fiction Contest judge is Leesa Cross-Smith

Last year’s flash contest was judged by Laura Ellen Joyce, and she chose Caitlin Scarano as the winner. We’re looking forward to unveiling the micro-chap for Caitlin Scarano’s winning story, “Pitcher of Cream,” at the upcoming AWP Conference in Los Angeles.

Leesa Cross-Smith headshot 2 (683x1024)So we don’t want to completely steal Caitlin’s glory here, but we’ve be aching to tell you that Leesa Cross-Smith will be the 2016 Flash Fiction Contest judge!

Leesa is the author of Every Kiss a War, and she’s co-editor of WhiskeyPaper. Her work has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Little Fiction, Hobart, NANO FictionMonkeybicycle, JukedWord Riot, Sundog Lit, The Rumpus, and tons of other places. Check out Leesa’s website for more information on her work.

The Conium Review 2016 Flash Fiction Contest is open for submissions from October 1st to December 1st. The winner receives $300, online publication, publication as a broadside or micro-chap, and a copy of the judge’s book. Full guidelines are already available here.

We’re glad to have Leesa Cross-Smith as the judge, and we hope you’ll submit some fantastic flash to this contest. If you want to stay informed about this and other opportunities at The Conium Review, you can sign up for our e-mail newsletter here (we don’t spam you; just one e-mail per month with an easy unsubscribe link at the bottom).

Congrats to Our Best Small Fictions 2016 Nominees

Best Small Fictions coverLast week, we mailed off our nominees for the Queen’s Ferry Press anthology, Best Small Fiction 2016. We’re proud to officially announce our selections. There were so many good stories to choose from. Congratulations to the five nominees:

About the Nominees:

Caitlin Scarano is a poet in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee PhD creative writing program. She was a finalist for the 2014 Best of the Net Anthology and the winner of the 2015 Indiana Review Poetry Prize, judged by Eduardo Corral. She has two poetry chapbooks. This winter, she will be an artist in residence at the Hinge Arts Residency program in Fergus Falls and the Artsmith’s 2016 Artist Residency on Orcas Island.

Tamara K. Walker dreams of irrealities among typewriter ribbons, stuffed animals and duct tape flower barrettes. She resides near Boulder, Colorado with her wife/life partner and blogs irregularly about writing and literature at http://tamarakwalker.wordpress.com. She may also be found online at http://about.me/tamara.kwalker. Her writing has previously appeared or is forthcoming in The Cafe Irreal, A cappella Zoo, Melusine, Apocrypha and Abstractions, Gay Flash Fiction, Identity Theory, a handful of poetry zines, and several themed print anthologies published by Kind of a Hurricane Press.

Ingrid Jendrzejewski studied creative writing and English literature at the University of Evansville before going on to study physics at the University of Cambridge. She has soft spots for go, cryptic crosswords, and the python programming language, but these days spends most of her time trying to keep up with a delightfully energetic toddler. Once in a very great while, she adds a tiny something to www.ingridj.com and tweets at @LunchOnTuesday.

Sarah Mitchell-Jackson is a novelist and a short story writer. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in The Critical Pass Review and Really System. Her debut novel, Ashes, will be out this year published by Blue Moon Publishers. You can read more of her work at www.smitchjack.wordpress.com.

John Englehardt’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Sycamore Review, The Stranger, Monkeybicycle, The Monarch Review, and Furlough Magazine. He won the 2014 Wabash Prize in Fiction, as well as The Stranger‘s A&P fiction contest. He’s a recent graduate of University of Arkansas’ MFA program, and now lives and works in Seattle.