Ok, after much deliberation and discussion, judges Joe McGee, M-E Girard and R.L. Saunders decided the following people have won the Flash Fiction contest posted here two weeks ago.
First place goes to T.P. Jagger
Runner up is Phil Dwyer.
T.P. Jagger has won a first page manuscript critique and Phil Dwyer has won a query critique.
Please email me privately (linda dot p dot epstein at gmail dot com) by May 31st to claim your prizes.
Originally, Joe McGee wrote the following, and then we’ll see how our winners finished the saga…
“Honey, it’s a boy,” said Helga. “I’m so happy, I could raid a village,” Wolfgang said. “Good, because we need milk.” *** “Are you serious?” said Helga. “Completely serious.” “I don’t believe you,” she said. “I’m serious,” said Wolfgang, “I drank all the milk…and ate their cows.” *** “Wolfgang?” “Busy!” He planted his axe in the giant’s foot. “That’s no excuse,” said Helga. “No excuse? I’m fighting a giant!” “And I’m nursing a baby.” “But-“ “Milk. Now,” said Helga, slamming the shutters closed. *** “So…” said the giant. He looked down at the axe in his foot. “Here we are.”“ Here. We. Are,” said Wolfgang. He smiled up at the massive creature. “Don’t suppose you’d like to help me with my axe? It appears to be stuck.” “In my foot,” said the giant. Wolfgang nodded. “Yep.” “Not particularly,” the giant said. “I’d much rather squash you.” “Understandable.”As finished by 1st place winner T.P. Jagger… “But…” “But what?” asked Wolfgang. The giant smiled, revealing teeth the size of large sheep. “I have a proposition for you.” Wolfgang scratched at his beard. “Prop-a-huh?” “Proposition. A proposal. A plan. An offer.” “Um…of course. And what might your…prop-a-thingy be?” The giant bent down and pinched the sides of Wolfgang’s head between one huge hairy thumb and a forefinger. “I don’t pop your head like a boil, and you fetch milk for my baby too.” Now, Wolfgang didn’t care all that much for the giant’s prop-a-whatever-it-was. But as his helmet crumpled under the giant’s ever-tightening, two-fingered grip, he decided he might not be in a favorable negotiating position. “Sure. Milk. Your baby,” he said. “No problem.” The giant released Wolfgang’s head, and Wolfgang staggered a moment, his ears ringing. He then thought as quickly as a Viking could who had nearly had his head popped. He pointed to the giant’s foot. “Of course, I’ll need my axe. ”The giant frowned and squinted at Wolfgang. “What does an axe have to do with milk?” “Good question, my friend,” Wolfgang replied. He leaned casually against the stone wall surrounding his longhouse. “I don’t suppose it’s necessary. I mean…my baby will be fine.” He shrugged. “Though I’d hate to risk a giant baby drinking uncut milk.” The giant’s frown deepened.Wolfgang cupped his chin in his hand and tapped a finger against his nose. “I don’t suppose the scarring would be permanent….” “Scarring?” “Never mind,” Wolfgang said. He turned toward the road. “I’ll just—”“ Wait!” The giant yanked the axe from his foot and thrust it toward Wolfgang. “Take it. No uncut milk!” “You’re sure?” Wolfgang asked. “If it’s too much trouble, I—” “Take. It.” Wolfgang sighed. “Okay, if you insist.” He plucked the axe from the giant’s fingers. “But you also know I’ll need ear hair, right?” The giant tugged at his ear. “I don’t—” “You’d let cut milk be hairless?” “But—” “Why I never…” Wolfgang gaped at the giant and shook his head. “In all my years of milk delivery, I—” “Here!” cried the giant. The ground trembled as he flopped onto the road, his head thumping down beside Wolfgang. Dust billowed into the air. The giant cocked his head so Wolfgang could peer into his ear. “Take.” Hair sprung from the giant’s ear like the quills of a frightened porcupine. Globs of reddish-orange earwax clung to the hair, and puss oozed from underneath a scab the size of a well-fed badger.Wolfgang hefted his axe. “Ear hair removal can hurt.” The giant pounded his fist on the ground, toppling three nearby saplings and causing one side of Wolfgang’s longhouse to sag. “I. Want. Cut. Hairy. Milk.” “Fine, fine,” said Wolfgang. “No need to worry. Just wanted to warn you. But if it feels like I’m ramming my axe through your brain, please don’t—” “HAIRY MILK!” Wolfgang needed no further invitation. He charged, plunging his axe into the giant’s ear.The giant bellowed, his whole body quivering. But he didn’t raise his head from the road. “HAIRY! MILK!” “Almost have it,” Wolfgang said. He charged again, his axe bursting through the eardrum and gouging into the giant’s brain.The giant shuddered once. Twice. Then lay still.Wolfgang laughed and tugged out his axe, using his sleeve to wipe clumps of brain and blood and earwax from its blade. “Hairy milk…,” he muttered. “Stupid giant.” Suddenly, something smashed against the back of Wolfgang’s helmet, knocking him to the ground. He rolled onto his back and looked up. “Milk,” Helga said, dropping a wooden bucket at Wolfgang’s feet. She crinkled her nose and sniffed then hoisted her own axe onto her shoulder. Little Sven gazed down from his sling on Helga’s back. “And if you darken my doorway without bathing, you’ll be footless.” Wolfgang heaved himself up from the road and sighed. He hated bathing. And then as finished by runner-up Phil Dwyer… The giant stared at his foot. “See, this is what I hate about the Iron age. This wouldn’t have happened back in the stone age.”
“That’s progress,” Wolfgang said, wrestling with the axe. “Can’t hold technology back.”
“Oddly, I’m struggling to view the burial of your axe in my bunion as in any way progressive. If I wasn’t a strict vegetarian I’d have you half chewed by now.”
“Vegetarian?” Wolfgang sat, anchored both feet against the giant’s boot, and put all his weight on the haft of the axe. “That must be inconvenient in a hunter gatherer milieu.” The axe gave a little. Wolfgang worked the handle back and forward vigorously. “Is it an ethical choice?”
“It’s the blessed flavour. Can’t stomach Viking. Too rancid. Must be all the raping and pillaging. Gharsh! Careful with that axe you perishing savage. You’ll have my toe off.”
The giant leaned forward and picked Wolfgang up between his forefinger and thumb.
“Don’t suppose you’d accept an apology? If I’d known you were vegetarian I’d never have cleaved you.”
“I don’t mind that. I’ve been cleaved before. You lot are obsessed with it. Can’t walk a half-mile round here without some hot-head sticking something sharp into you. What I objects to is your attitude. You think we’re all thick as planks.”
Wolfgang shrugged. “You have to admit, your educational standards aren’t high.”
“How would you know? You’re illiterate ain’t you? Can’t even count higher than two.”
“That’s a common misconception. Actually, we have a highly developed runic alphabet, and a sophisticated measuring system that embraces abstract phenomena like the empty set.”
The giant laid Wolfgang on the ground, gently placed his good foot over him, and leaned over to pick the loosened axe from his other foot.
“Now then. Shall we resume? This time without the cleaving.”
He lifted his foot. “Oh dear,” he said. He poked a forefinger into the mud, searching for the submerged Viking. Finding a leg, he gently pulled him free, and laid him in his palm.
“Ere you. Giant. What you done with my Wolfgang?” said Helga.
“Seems like I’ve squished him,” he said. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be. He was useless. Always prattling on about narrative and normative social theories. Wanted to be a professor, bloody fool. Won’t be a university around here for another 500 years at least. I should’ve listened to mother. She told me not to marry a foreigner. ‘Nothing good’ll come of mixing good Viking blood with Goth’, she said.”
“What do you want me to do with him?” the giant said.
“Eat him if you like. Can’t waste good protein. Not in a subsistence-mode society like ours.”
“I can’t eat him. I’m a vegetarian.”
“Give him ‘ere then. I’ll eat him.”
The giant laid Wolfgang’s body on the ground at Helga’s feet.
“I didn’t know Vikings were cannibals.”
“We’re not, but I’ll make an exception in Wolfgang’s case. You don’t happen to have any milk about you, do you?”
“Not on me, no.”
“Only it’s the baby see?”
The giant squatted on his haunches and leaned close to the infant Helga was nursing in her arms. A smile spread over his face. “They’re sweet when they’re little ain’t they?”
Helga took a backward step and turned her back to the giant, shielding the baby. “No they ain’t. They’re just as sour as the grown-ups.”
“Aww, I didn’t mean that. I’ve been a veggie hundreds of years now. I’m not turning carnivore for a morsel like that. I just meant he’s cute. Anyway, you can’t feed him cow’s milk. Their little bellies can’t take it.”
“No. Nor any meat, eggs or cheese.”
There was a moment’s silence between them while they both contemplated the sleeping child.”
“What you going to call him?” The giant reached out and chucked the child under its chin with the very tip of his little finger.
“Vegan,” Helga answered.