“I opened the email and almost cried. Unbelievable! And perfect timing. My husband had just undergone cancer surgery. I needed a pick-me-up! With tears blurring, I found my way to my beloved and told him the news. “Congratulations,” he said as he closed his eyes for another long nap.”
Such is how proud Robin Densmore Fuson reacted to the news her story, Smell the Prey, was chosen among the Top Ten finalists in the flash fiction category of our ‘Three-Word Headline’ Wild Atlantic Writing Awards.
“To be selected out of hundreds of entries is amazing,” she added. “It sure got my blood pumping.”
Robin, in her early 60s with seventeen grandchildren, is a native of Colorado and now lives in Sugarmill Woods, Florida with her husband Jimmy and their Belgian Malinois, Kenzi.
With a passion for writing, Robin self-published her first book, a children’s novel entitled Rosita Valdez and the Giant Sea Turtle in 2012, the first in a three-book series. Her award-winning novella, The Dress Shop, was published by Forget Me Not Romances, an imprint of Winged Publications in 2017. Two of her books, The Encounter and Restoration, were finalists in the 2020 Selah Awards and her latest release was third in the Tapestry Awards. Robin has also posted over one hundred children’s stories on her blog.
Aside from Smell the Prey, written through the mind of a snake, five flash fiction stories by Robin have been winners or finalists in various contests.
In describing the origins of her story for the Wild Atlantic Writing Awards (WAWA), she said, “Our home in Florida backs on to a forest. One day, sitting in my hot tub, I gazed out at the woods and thought how nice it would be to put a bright red bench under one of the gnarly oak trees. My imagination carried me to worrying. What if sitting there, a snake slithered near my head. I couldn’t wait to put to paper the story swirling in my brain. My fingers flew as I zipped the story onto my computer screen. It came in just over the word limit and I clipped and reworded it, shrinking it to fit.”
Smell the Prey
By Robin Densmore Fuson
I’m an ancient one. Well, at least my species is. Since time began, we’ve dominated the forest and jungle. We are sly, fierce, and feared.
Before the sun crested the horizon, I caught my breakfast. Of course, the rodent didn’t hear or sense my movements. The strike came like lightning on a clear day.
Satisfied, I rested on a rock in the sun and thought over my next moves—the hunt—outsmarting and outmaneuvering.
Most creatures dread us—four or five times our size are easy to take down. One bite and wait. The venom works its magic.
Sunbathing over, I slither to my favorite tree in a park where humans play. I love to watch the antics of the two-legged species. I ascend the trunk to the branch above the bench. I’ve learned to conform, just so, to hide behind the branch and peek out to watch. My skin blends into the bark and my scales hold me in place.
A slight breeze rustles the leaves overhead. Splendid. Smaller humans run and laugh. Their voices are charming in their way. I’m a bit jealous. Our vocabulary is limited to one sound.
A human male and female approach the bench under my perch.
Yes. Come closer. Good. The comfy seat awaits.
I smell them. Excitement mounts. To keep quiet, I pull my forked tongue back inside.
They get comfortable right under me. Soon, I will make my move. Humans are the hardest ones to overcome. They shy away easily even though they are not normal prey. They stay away from our habitat. Occasionally we occupy the same locations but typically, we keep our distance from them as they do from us. If threatened we will attack.
I choose humans. I love the smell of fear and adrenaline.
The male speaks to her and moves away leaving her alone, or so they think. Perfect. Now is my chance. I move my muscled body slowly and make no noise. Closer and closer. At the ideal angle, I lift away while my back end hangs on. I’ve gotten extremely confident at long-distance suspension.
The female watches the man capture prey from the vendor.
My eyes focus on her slender neck. The pulse beats to a hypnotic rhythm. An impulse to take a nibble is hard to ignore. I pass her shoulder and curve around to gaze into her face while my tongue wiggles and my voice threatens. “Hiss.”
Those beautiful eyes grow wide. Her mouth gapes.
The scream is impressive.
I pull back fast and zip into the upper reaches to hide. Other humans rush to her aid and I laugh. I did it again. I made the human scream and run and gesture.
Brave males poke and shake limbs but I will not be found. Some ask if it was only her imagination.
Contented, I smile and taste the air searching for my evening meal.
My fun with the humans is over… for now.
You can now enter the fifth ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ (WAWA) competition on the theme of TIME.
As with all our competitions, there are two separate categories:
flash fiction and creative nonfiction.
Deadline for submissions: Thursday, March 31st, 2022.
Fascination for butterflies and her enduring love for one particular one born disabled created the context for Cynthia Neale’s story, My Friend Crumpy, a Top Ten finalist in a creative non-fiction category of the ‘Three-Word Headline’ WAWA competition.
For over twenty years, Cynthia has kept a nature journal recording butterflies in her backyard in New Hampshire. Then she decided to rear her own.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, I ordered monarch larvae and fed them copious amounts of milkweed,” she explained. “I watched in holy awe as they grew, created their chrysalises and emerged into magical beings. All anyone really needs to know about life can be found in the life of a butterfly.”
Speaking about Crumpy she said, “When he was born, he couldn't fly to find a mate and see the world, but I figured out ways he could fly - low to the ground, from flower to flower. We’d whirl around the yard together, him clutching my hand. I talked to him, sang to him and felt a close kinship, especially on the day before he died when he flew high in the sky before landing in the grass. Like most writers, I've flown low and sometimes high only to fall to the ground. Crumpy renewed me, helping me gather the nectar of life and continue writing regardless of my woes. I’m delighted my dear, deceased monarch friend is being celebrated. Even in death, he clings like hope to my heart.”
Cynthia, who grew up in Finger Lakes, New York, is the author of several books including The Irish Dresser, A Story of Hope during The Great Hunger (An Gorta Mor, 1845-1850); Hope in New York City, The Continuing Story of The Irish Dresser; Norah: The Making of an Irish-American Woman in 19th-Century New York; and The Irish Milliner.
With a BA in Literature from Vermont College, Cynthia also writes plays, screenplays and short stories, and has completed, Catharine, Queen of the Tumbling Waters, a novel about a Native American woman, set during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. She has even written a book and essays about desserts, Pavlova in a Hat Box, Sweet Memories & Desserts.
A lover of dancing, reading, painting, hiking and kayaking, she said, “the Wild Atlantic Writing Awards appealed to me as I've traveled many times to Ireland and feel it still calls out to me.”
My Friend Crumpy
I gently cup your fluttering being in my hands and remember first kisses sweet and delicate. I hold you longer than I should, opening my fingers slightly so you can breathe, not wanting you to leave. Memories of my unborn baby touching the soul of me. Memories of passion erupting like a giant moon flower, too tender and secret for the sun. I widen my fingers for more air and remember dancing. From heart to tummy to feet, there are memories of wings.
I open my hands so you can fly to Sky Mother who is swathed in a blue robe. You don’t reach her arms and tumble down beside me. Are you not ready to fly? I scoop you into my hands and feel your longing, and my own.
I place you in the cage with a Mason jar full of nectar-filled flowers and you nestle into a fragrant Buddleja bloom. It is then I note your left wing is slightly crumpled and your thorax favors that wing and isn’t straight. You’re a male monarch with two distinct black marks on your wings and when you cling to the side of the cage and practice folding and unfolding your dark orange wings, I am smitten. For two weeks, after your brothers and sisters leave, it’s just you and me.
We frolic together on these halcyon days. I tell you that you can fly and your polka dotted head moves side to side, answering no. Your tiny feet grasp my finger and tighten on my skin, fearful and eager. We move around the yard, me waving my arm up and down, your wings opening and shutting. You want this! I want this! How long has it been? The pandemic cloisters me from clasping hands in waltz and reels, hips tightening against the world. I favor my left, too, Crumpy. You drink deeply the nectar from the flowers I place you on, your magical proboscis unfurling. One day, I set you on a large white hydrangea bloom and you mistake it for a cloud and lift your wings in anticipation, pirouette, and land on my chest. You crawl up to my shoulder and sit dazed. I whisper again that you can fly. I can, too, Crumpy. And then I feel the breath of your wings on my neck and you are gone. High over the fence, as high as other butterflies fly.
When I find you sitting in the grass, I lift you up and your feet cling to my shoulder. I’m proud of you, Crumpy. You turn your head to my cheek and uncurl your proboscis. My first butterfly kiss.
Later, I find you on the bottom of the cage, your wings spread out majestically in death. I see no crumple…only beauty. My right atrium flutters in sorrow.
The next day, in an antique store and thinking about you, I find a silk monarch butterfly cape. Is this a gift from you, Crumpy?