Many thanks to the 450 international writers who entered this contest—and we extend our deepest gratitude to Judge Abigail Favale for offering her time and expertise to choose the top three prizewinners.
First Prize: Erin O’Loughlin, Brother Fox
Second Prize: Susan James, Home for the Holidays
Third Prize: Anne Anthony, Bathroom Break
Judge: Dr. Abigail Favale
FIRST PRIZE: Brother Fox by Erin O’Loughlin
Judge’s Comments: This piece does everything a flash fiction piece should do. A benign yet beguiling beginning, zooming out to reveal a potential tragedy unfolding in real time. I read it with a slow-dawning dread that climaxes at just the right moment, the moment of the “flash.”
By Erin O’Loughlin
Imagine the fox, the only spark of color in this bright landscape. All that endless powder white, broken only by a flash of red—there—then gone again. There is more life than you know, under all these layers and layers of snow.
Imagine how he cocks his head listening (the skill is not unique to the male of the species—vixens do it also). You can see he is straining his senses, listening for the soft scrabble under the snow. Then, ears high in the air, he dives headfirst into the snow, body flailing awkwardly as the front paws find purchase under all that cold white. And he will come back up with a limp little mouse in his jaws. So far this might be an acute sense of hearing, an expert dancer’s timing. But the strange thing is that nine times out of ten, a fox that dives to the north will catch his prey. A fox that leaps and dives to the south will lose it. Somehow a fox’s body is aligned to the magnetic north. In tune with it. If his quarry lies that way, the hunt will be good. An innate geo-location, gift of the wintry gods that govern small creatures. (more…)