Thank you so much to everyone who submitted a piece to the 3rd Annual Bloomsday Fiction Contest! The judges had a hard time deciding who would make the top 3 as so much talent was submitted.
We are excited to announce our top 3 winners!
Third Place– Signs on A White Field, Martin Phipps
“Oh, God. Oh, baby.”
“Quickly! Say it!”
“Non serviam! Agenbite of inwit! Introibo ad altare Dei!”
“Me sits there with his augur’s rod of ash! In borrowed sandals! By day beside a livid sea, unbeheld! In violet night walking beneath a reign of uncouth stars!”
“Call me Molly! Molly!”
“Molly! Am I better than Poldy? And Blazes?”
” Yes! Yes! My breasts all perfume! Oh Stephen, yesssss!”
Shortly after which, calmer, in midJune sunshine that turned her left breast, peeking from the sheets, the colour of Sandycove beach on Bloomsday, she exhaled sleepily, “Now that’s how we should celebrate it every year.”
A pretty scatter of freckles like stars reigned over her pale breast, collarbone, and the face that now squinted at him in the light, her expression no longer livid and uncouth but her usual one, with sly wit twinkling in her eyes. Something smart-assed forever on the tip of her tongue, waiting to be said. God, he was lucky.
“Year after year,” he nodded.
Instantly she went from pleased dreaminess to something like annoyance. “Well. If you’re lucky.” Bounding out of bed, briskly re-dressing. A glance over a shoulder at him, ambiguous-eyed, grinning. “Don’t go counting those chickens.”
“No?” Women were harder to read than Ulysses, but this girl was Finnegans Wake.
Walking downtown later, bound for The Martello Tower, where they planned to toast the day with some Hoynes, she mystified him again by pulling his arm away from her waist and announcing, right on the doorstep of the place, that Keith would join them.
“From my semiotics seminar.”
“Oh. Dude with the GT3.”
“And beachfront condo. And web-design company. And wife.” She ruffled his hair like he was twelve. “Relax, tragic undergraduate.”
He tried. The smug, 30ish personage claiming ownership with his big, outstretched arms of the most of the booth they slid into didn’t immediately inspire loathing. It took a minute. “I’ll go order,” he muttered. “Hard Rain’s good.” This got nods, so he escaped to the bar, where he covertly watched in the mirror as they talked in his absence – intimately, all smiles. He hurried back with three bottles but somehow managed, passing them around, to knock one over. Keith caught it.
“Whoa,” He chuckled, “your Hard Rain was A-Gonna Fall.”
“He got the Nobel,” he snorted, without explaining the reference, leaning close to his classmate. “Joyce didn’t. Or Proust, Kafka.”
” I know,” she lamented, touching his shoulder, and then shot her boyfriend an annoyed look. “Dylan, get it?”
Whereupon Keith launched into some doctoral-candidate shoptalk, and after token glances his way, they excluded him. He drank. Beers later, he found himself thinking of Stephen Daedalus, brooding over Sandycove’s indecipherable reality, then, inspired, scribbling sudden words, signs on a white field, as he called them. Like the freckles on her pallor. A text he couldn’t decode.
Walking back, beneath the stars, she kissed him, laughing. “Don’t pout!”
“I wish I could read you!”
“Let’s go home and try.”
Second Place – Abide Strange Tidings, Jordan Kovacs
You should not have raised your home here, this low plain, for the sea swells in unpredictable patterns, rushing to flatten the grasses into marshland. The gurgle of pipes – your cistern climbs, overflows, to rot your bedroom in an afternoon. So you lay awake through stormy nights, blanket clutched to nose, paralysis rising with rain.
Collect ash in old grain-alcohol barrels. Chart the procession of the moon. Under night, before your restless vigil over the flood, kneel at the foot of your bed and pray for the sea, curse the sea, then crawl into shallow sheets. None can suppress the tide.
Not all bear the low lands as you must. Up the lane a miller lies on a rise beneath his wooden windmill. The miller eats warm breads in rain storms. The floods always touch his crops last. He is a great entertainer –a philosopher, some say, others, philanderer. You have only heard. Solitary stands his tower above the expanse, for it is a poor place – prices to grind grains rise every season; the miller grows fatter.
Late August, and no flood comes. The sky, bright and still. Where is the flood? Not a passing bird rustles in response. The windmill shudders under a barest breeze. Your shovel bites silt, a grainy litany rippling through the summer haze. This ditch can never hold all the sea. Spent, lay down your spade.
The sensation strikes like a lumber axe – silence. The creak of the windmill, omnipresent, now mute. No wind. No movement. The silence on the low plain descends so heavily a mole two leagues away stops producing milk and her litter starves quietly. Enter your home. One trunk – pack everything.
The sun does not move in the sky for three days in the silence. House bare, harness a cart with all objects around your waist and tread uphill, to the mill. No warmth escapes the sun, though brightness sears your eyes to a squint, focused on that mill. One careful step at a time, so not to disturb the quiet, which is now imperative, strain up the hill. Bear the weight, the tremble in your calves, all without a murmur.
It seems, for days, you do not move a mote under the stagnate sun. From chest cavity to groin, your body shrinks hollow. Salt-split lips a grim line, climb to the evasive horizon – the Miller. The Miller knows – has wine, food, song to remedy. The Miller will answer. Suddenly, you arrive beneath the broad shade of fan blades. Unharnessed, stagger to the door, already open to you. In the entrance, frail hands shaking, inhale to bark – a greeting, a threat, to beg, weep. A demand? A joke? Heart panicked, a gust catches in your chest, spins you around to the road – see yourself. In small steps, climbing the hill, heavy cart buckled over thin waist. No warmth from the sun, squinting to the peak. The tower ever distant, you do not dare disturb the silence.
First Place – They Sinned Against the Light, Dania Tomlinson
Auntie Molly’s idea of getting some fresh air is smoking cigarettes in the parked car by the lake. The silver willow branches slither against the surface. Dede can’t help but imagine the fabled lake monster out there in the depths of the bottomless lake. During the day, with the motorboats and water-skiers, and the lake slick with tanning oil and rainbows of gasoline, it is easy to forget. But here, at night, the monster is inescapable.
— Your mom saw it once, Molly says, flicking her cigarette. Looked her right in the eye.
— Was she afraid?
— Nearly drowned from fright. Couldn’t hear well out her left ear after that.
The red cherry of Molly’s cigarette swallows the darkness inside the car. It is the only light. Outside fruit bats scallop the moonless sky.
— They say it knows the dark matter of your heart. Can smell sin on you.
Dede’s skin prickles. She sees something in the lake, snaking towards the shore. This morning Dede had whispered into her pillow that she wished her mother would finally just kill herself like she kept threatening to.
— It’s not her fault, you know.
Dede can feel Molly’s eyes heavy on her now. If she turns to face her aunt, she will burst into tears. If she opens her mouth to speak, she will burst into tears. They bubble bright and hot at the insides of her eyes. She bursts.
— Awe, honey. Molly reaches for Dede’s shoulder. It’s just history, you know? Mom had it too.
Darkness in her head. All us women get a slice.
Dede is sure she can see the lake monster now, out past the dock. It spirals in water flecked with unraveling stars. Molly isn’t a crier, and Dede can tell she is uncomfortable with her tears. Molly stubs her cigarette and flicks it outside. She extends her arm into the night.
— It’s warm tonight
She snatches her hand back.
— Did you hear that?
Dede’s eyes remain on the water, the lake monster swirls the night sky.
— That was a bat, Dede says. I could hear its siren. That’s how they see, you know. With their voices. They don’t even need light.
There is a splash and Dede knows it is the lake monster, growing impatient.
— Me and your mom used to go skinny-dipping here when we were your age.
Dede pulls her knees into her chest to still her galloping heart. Molly is already out of the car, stepping out of her shorts. She throws her shirt at the windshield. Her skin gleams in the darkness. As Molly walks along the dock it looks as though she is stepping out into a black abyss.
— Come on, Dede. What are you afraid of?
Dede opens the car door. Her bare feet take her along the dirt to the wharf. They stand at the edge. Molly takes her hand. Together, they jump.