Editor’s Note: This time we had a clear first place winner and a tie for second place. As a result there’s no third place winner, though there is an honorable mention.
Thanks to each of you who shared your work with us. We’re happy to read a new version in a future contest.We’d love to hear from you again. Please let us know how your career is going.
NOTE: This is the one section that is only changed once a quarter. Our Latest/Current Contest is Flash Fiction. Take a look and please consider submitting.
The Granny Nanny
By Carol Beltrand
My phone rang straight away. Surprisingly, it was a private secretary rather than a parent on the line. Perhaps my accent put her in mind of Mary Poppins because she offered me the position on the spot. The job paid exceptionally well and started immediately.
“Ah, how many children…”
She interrupted my question with a nervous laugh, saying “Great! See you in an hour!”
It was all a bit rushed but decided to give it a go anyway, never imagining what awaited me.
Let me explain. I don’t have children. Motherhood wasn’t my cup of tea: all nappies, emotional entanglements, passing on of one’s faults. Unfortunately, not being a mother necessarily disqualified me from being a grandmother.
My solution: I placed an advert. “Work Wanted, Granny Nanny.” I fancied enjoying the perks of grannyhood – reading bedtime stories, receiving sticky kisses and soft hugs – without the usual mother/child complications.
I arrived promptly; my eyes widened as a uniformed doorman ushered me to a private lift. My reflection in the mirrored elevator caused my spirits to drop; I wasn’t dressed for looking after privileged children in elegant surroundings. Mind you, I’m not dowdy. I simply dress for comfort. Even my pockets, filled with sweeties for the little ones, drooped a bit.
When the elevator opened, I was greeted by a smartly dressed secretary pressing a cellphone tightly to her ear. She half-whispered, “She’s here!” into the phone, then slipped it into her pocket, smiling.
“Welcome, Irene! Follow me, please. I’ll introduce you to her now.” She led me down a hallway, high heels click-clicking along the marble floor.
“The salary suggested I’d be in charge of more than one?”
She ignored my question. “I’m afraid she may not be happy about the arrangement.”
“They seldom are,” I replied, trying to sound experienced.
The view of Central Park from the two-story living room windows was so distracting I missed seeing the tall, slender woman dressed in lavender chiffon standing nearby. Then she turned toward us.
“Irene, this is Dame.”
Her face suggested that in her day she’d been cute, rather than beautiful. It also suggested she was at least eighty years old.
“You aren’t needed,” Dame said, with a toss of her perfectly coiffed head.
“You prefer looking after your granddaughter alone?” I ventured, ignoring her ill-mannered declaration.
Dame pursed her lips, smearing her bright lipstick. “What do you mean? I don’t have grandchildren. My meddlesome lawyer thinks I need a minder. If I did, a handsome young man might do. Certainly not a plain, middle-aged woman. Go!” She waved me away with a bejeweled hand.
That explained everything; they’d misinterpreted my advert. I couldn’t wait to leave.
Oddly, Dame moved closer. I had to tip my head back slightly to meet her defiant stare. “I was five-eleven,” she boasted, “I’m shorter now, but I can still dance.” She flashed a ballet slipper from beneath her chiffon hem. I gave her a tepid smile.
The frustrated secretary escorted me out. I paused to admire the dozens of photographs of Hollywood celebrities of the ‘40s and ‘50s adorning the hallway. I recognized the actors but not the chorus girls, young women posed arm-in-arm, plumed headdresses held high, smiles dancing across their faces. Everyone looked delightfully chummy. I felt a presence over my shoulder. Dame had followed.
“That’s me in the chorus, second from the left.” She leaned in, pointing to a photograph. “And that’s me with my late husband, next to Fred Astaire. I danced with Astaire once. His co-star was late for rehearsal. He said I moved divinely.”
Suddenly, like a little girl showing off for her mum, Dame raised up on tiptoe and twirled. The secretary froze. Dame faltered. I rushed forward, arms outthrust, catching and guiding her upright. Holding her was like hugging a feather.
“What a lovely dip.”
My compliment worked; Dame’s dignity remained intact. We linked arms and returned to the living room, settling side by side on a plush sofa.
“Sweetie?” I asked, reaching into my pocket.
“Oh, I adored these as a child.” She’d forgotten having rudely dismissed me. “I’ll ring for tea, if you’re in no rush.”
The salary was exceptional, the penthouse was luxurious, and despite her protests, Dame clearly needed a minder. She was irksome, but not intolerable. I reconsidered the position.
“Tea would be lovely,” I replied.
“Gin or vodka?”
I smiled. This was getting fun.
“Gin, if it’s no bother. Tell me, why do they call you Dame?”
Carol Beltrand’s work has appeared in Sagewoman and New City Neighbors Magazines. She’s written novels, short stories, to-do lists, travel logs and journals. Having spent the past several years devoted to writing long form fiction, she pivoted. This is her first Flash Fiction Contest.
Second Place Tie:
By Andreea Sepi
He didn’t mind waiting. In fact, that was the best part. He was there for the wait.
He did have qualms about impaling the worms, though. That much was true. He’d run the hook through them with great care. Then, with a grand yet mechanical gesture, he’d unleash his reel, let the nylon fly gracefully through the air, lower the lure into the water and wait. He’d settle into his small foldable chair, hunched shoulders, hat pushed back, and wait. Once in a while, he’d rub the bristles on his neck or the stubble on his face. And while waiting, he’d take a deep breath, then another.
Some people hate fishing, he thought. They get competitive about it. And then they can’t stand the wait. But that’s where they get it all wrong. You set a target, a goal, and pretty soon it takes over. Fishing is precisely about taking it as it comes. And if it doesn’t – come, that is – just have yourself a few quiet hours staring at the water. Life on mute, the way he liked it. No fish ever came out nagging. Fish don’t have panicky voices. They can’t plead, ‘Marry me, I’m pregnant!’
The line tautened. There was something at the other end. Something alive.
He tightened his grip. Sweat beads appeared on his forehead. What now? he thought. Should he haul it out of the water and kill it? He needed to bring something home to the missus, justify the hobby. Otherwise, she’d be on his case for weeks, he’d never hear the end of it. Oh yeah, he needed this one.
He yanked the rod. The fish fought back. A feisty one. Full of ambition. Full of hope, full of the energy of youth. Youth, what was that like again? He tried to remember.
Maybe he’d just let it play around in the water a little longer with that hook in its mouth; give it the illusion it was still free. Give it a chance to free itself. Magnificent silent creature.
Truth was, he did throw most of them back in. The ones he kept he never watched. He hated to see them suffocate, gasping for air. They reminded him too much of himself. Too much of the hook he’d bitten into: a family, kids, the responsibility of it all. If they’d bitten too deep and were too damaged, he’d keep them, whack them over the head with a plank, put them out of their misery. And then he’d take them home and make them into food. If not, he’d release them back, with a lesson learned. Not his fault, his position in the food chain. Not his fault. Life is what it is.
Can fish learn?…
He could, but by now it was too late. He had his early weekend mornings out of the house, all by himself, that was all. He’d tell everybody he was going away to catch some fish. But he knew he wasn’t there for the catching. He was there for the musty smell, the open air, the water teeming with promise, the solitude. He was there for the wait.
The wait. That suspended moment when anything might still happen. Man, fish, earth, water…
Cells, the lot of them. Molecules. Life feeding upon itself, he thought, and reeled it in.
Andreea Sepi is a writer, translator and traveler based in southern Bavaria. She was raised in Romania behind the iron curtain, has lived in the United States and has a BA English from the University of London. Her work has been published in The Write Launch, Liternet, Contributors, Dilema Veche and Spiegel International.
Also Second Place:
By John Adinolfi
Tonjou’s earliest memory was the sound of heavy boots crashing through the underbrush as his father hustled him away from the village. The invasive noise was imprinted on his mind.
Now, as Tonjou hid behind the massive baobab tree, his sensitive ears picked up that same sound carried on the evening breeze. His father had guarded the treasure then. Today, it was his turn. It would be very valuable to these men, but Tonjou vowed to not give up the prize easily.
The color of the sky was changing quickly from deep blue to streaked orange and purple. Within minutes the jungle would be blanketed in blackness. Even the thousands of stars flickering above would not offer enough light through the dense foliage. Tonjou knew the searchers would not find him tonight. They would set up camp and begin the pursuit again at dawn.
Traveling by night was dangerous, and Tonjou was drowsy. He didn’t fear most of the animals he might encounter. He could scare them off easily. But the big cats? They could be a problem since he travelled alone. It didn’t matter. He had to put as much distance as possible between himself and those in chase.
Tonjou watched as the campfires began to banish the darkness. He looked southward, knowing that would keep him downwind. As he turned to flee, a sudden terrifying thought stopped him. Although he might survive another day, they would eventually catch up. And just as they had killed his father, they would kill him. Dying was not what chilled him. How long after he was dead before they came for his son?
The question gave Tonjou a steely resolve. He needed to end this cycle now. He ticked off the advantages he would have in a confrontation. He was big and strong, a warrior. This was his home and he knew it well. The surrounding darkness would give him cover. Those in the campsite would be asleep soon. There would probably be a single sentinel. And, Tonjou carried a fearsome weapon.
Circling back, he cautiously approached the camp. As he had hoped, only one man stood watch. Tonjou let out no sound. There would be time enough for a war cry if he succeeded.
He stifled the surprised gasp of the guard with a single blow. The naturally peaceful Tonjou felt a blood lust rising within. He smashed into the nearest tent, slashing the sleeping men from side to side. Their screams would awaken the rest. No more time for finesse. Just raw, brutal strength and purpose. As the remaining men scrambled to shoulder their rifles, Tonjou moved quickly – hacking, hammering, overpowering – until none were left.
There would be no treasure taken tonight. And the account of the massacre would deter any who thought to try again.
Feeling the blood drip from his huge tusks, Tonjou lifted his trunk to trumpet a mighty roar.
John Adinolfi has been telling tall tales since kindergarten. This dubious skill eventually led to a successful career in marketing. Now he has come full circle, as he considers creating marketing campaigns to have been the perfect training ground for writing fiction.
Honorable Mention & Worth Noting:
By Cassandra Hussey