Congratulations to the winners of the NOWW Flash Fiction Contest.
Please enjoy the First Place winner, Jennie Hissa and her story, Bug Bath.
The Bug Bath
by Jennie Hissa
Dirty hands, bare feet, rosy cheeks, I was a child of the mud and sky. Fences, rock walls, boarders, and boundaries didn’t exist; they were just one more object to climb, like the swaying crab-apple tree, the rusted tin roof of the back shed, or the wooded composted heap. My parents would release me into the yard after breakfast, an inexorable hurricane. I roamed.
Of all my adventures, my favourite exploration was that of a strange old tub stuck in the middle of the yard, slowly sinking, consumed by earth and time. At night, I would lie awake thinking of the multitudinous crawly creatures that would stray unwittingly over the smooth porcelain sides, falling off the edge of the world as they knew it. And in the mornings, my sister and I would tumble out the back door, a flurry of small padding feet across the deck, in a race to throw ourselves upon the grass and peer over the ledge, to stare down in wonder upon the microcosm below. I was the goddess of them all, those centipedes, grasshoppers, ants, and aphids – and they were my subjects. The beetles were best, with a hidden rainbow to be discovered along the contours of their shiny shells when you held them up to the light. “Eat that one, I dare you” I would say to my wide-eyed little sister, her mouth already smeared with dirt. Our grubby hands were Titans released from the blue abyss above. They scurried.
But one day, as we continued to chronicle our assortment of creatures, a matted brown nose shot up from the grassy plug hole and shockingly sharp teeth gnashed at the ants migrating up the tub’s slanted walls. We leapt from the tub with a shriek and the creature retreated into darkness. When it did not reappear, I told my sister to take a stick and jam it into the hole, to draw the trespasser out, but the hole was too deep to reach and it stuck. We filled the breach to the roots. It was a shrew, mom told us that night at the dinner table, and we should leave it alone. We waited weeks for it to return, our fingers curled tentatively around the overgrown edges along the tub. We darned not enter. But it never came back. Slowly, the long grass staked its claim, pushing its way through the ever-growing web of ceramic cracks, moisture pooled along the rutted foundation, and the acrid waters became a sea of decomposing insect carcasses. Meanwhile, overhead, we watched the stagnant little world be swallowed whole. We mourned.
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