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The 2016 Flash Fiction Contest winner is Kate Garklavs!

Kate G headshotLeesa Cross-Smith has finished deliberating, and she has selected Kate Garklavs‘s “In Memoriam: Lot 69097″ as the 2016 Flash Fiction Contest winner.

Kate Garklavs lives and works in Portland, OR. Her work has previously appeared in Ohio Edit, Juked, Matchbook, and Tammy, among other places. She earned her MFA at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and she’s currently a reader for the Portland Review.

This year’s finalists are Thomas Duncan, Melissa Goode, Jillian Jackson, Ingrid Jendrzejewski, Meghan Phillips, and Tessa Yang. Here’s what Leesa had to say about Kate Garklavs’s winning story:

The language of this story is surprising and so, so pretty. ‘piquant as the night breeze to ocean-damp skin’ and ‘the copier’s light shuttled back and forth beneath the lowered lid, gold spilling out in warm flashes.’ ‘My heartbeat slowed to match the thrum, click, return of the copier.’ I loved reading this story, but even more than that, I loved rereading this story. It’s funny and sweet and pretty much everything I look for in my flash fiction. Nostalgia and romance, a bit of ridiculousness, a whole lot of heart.”

—Leesa Cross-Smith, contest judge and author of Every Kiss a War

Kate’s winning piece will be published on The Conium Review Online Compendium, and it will be made into a limited-run micro-chapbook for distribution at the 2017 AWP Conference in Washington, DC. She will receive a $300 prize and a copy of the judge’s latest book.

There were tons of amazing submissions, and we can’t wait to see what you’ll send us next year. The general submission queue opens on January 1st. Additionally, we’ll be announcing the 2017 Flash Fiction Contest judge shortly. Sign 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

Call for Submissions: Flash Fiction

The Conium Review Online Compendium seeks fiction 1,000 words or fewer. October 1st, 2015 deadline. No reading fee. We gravitate toward innovative stories that take risks. Do something different with your characters. Bend or break grammatical rules. Get weird with it.

Full guidelines are available here.

If you’re thinking about submitting, we encourage you to read some previously published pieces first. Get a sense of our editorial style. Make sure you’re work is a good fit.

Thanks for reading, writing, submitting, and supporting small press publishers.

QR Cards at AWP

Stop by The Conium Review‘s AWP table (#2025) tomorrow for freebies like John Englehardt’s micro-chapbook, or flash fiction postcards of “The Pale Investigator” and “Marty of Karbala.” We’re excited for these physical objects (naturally, you can also buy our latest print edition at AWP), but we wanted to represent authors published on our website too. So how d0 we bring these virtual pieces to our booth? QR codes! You know, those things you can scan with your smartphone.

We have a bunch of cards at our booth with different codes on the back. Every single flash fiction from our website is represented by one of these QR codes! Pick up a card, scan the back, read a story. Or take it with you and scan it later. Pick one from blindly the pile, and it’s like story roulette.

QR Pics

Call for submissions: flash fiction

The Conium Review Online Compendium seeks flash fiction submissions. The current reading period runs from April 1st to June 1st, 2015. We want stories under 1,000 words that take risks. We publish plenty of paragraphed prose, but we like seeing oddball forms too: fiction written as lists, chat logs, bank statements, court transcripts, or whatever else you cook up.

Full submission guidelines are available here.

To get a better sense of what we’re looking for, take a look at some of our recently posted stories.