Now. When we look at the photo, we hear a Beatles song. We think of adventures, of soulmates and sunny days.
You guys? You guys see murder, mayhem, dragons and hipsters.
We love you. You are really, really great.
Here are this week’s winners.
RUNNER-UP: Chrissie Cuthbertson
Hunting and Gathering in the 21st Century
The bait trap sinks off the end of the jetty, falling through the dark water to the bottom of Hiidentakanen. We tie the rope to the mooring ring. Artic loons dive for the little fish that are also our quarry. One goes down and then the other, and the lonely cry of the first to emerge floats on the lake like a soft mist.
We lift the bait trap two hours later to find it empty. We sink it again to leave it overnight.
Next morning, we leave the camp to lift the bait trap and again find it empty.
How silly we were to think we could find our own food like early Homininae; pick bilberries, forage leaves, grub starchy burdock from the earth, bake fish in charcoal.
Down the bait trap goes again.
Two days pass, and we forget the bait trap lying on the floor of the lake. At night we remember. We rise and walk through the white night. The water is still, but for fish catching insects.
Now the bait trap feels heavy at the end of its rope. Hand over hand the bait trap is lifted, the water dripping through the trap as we haul it onto the grooved boards of the jetty.
Inside, we find a drowned otter, its hands gripping the wire mesh, its fur wet and tufted like a teenage boy on the way to meet his girlfriend, its eyes empty and its bloodied teeth dreadful in its wild animal face.
WINNER: Liz Falkingham
It was his hands that first caught my eye. Strong fingers with squared-off nails; the way the tendons of his wrist ran taut to the curve of his thumb. Impossible not to imagine those hands on me, not to wish for it, though I had a husband at home who would break in two to know it.
No fool like an old fool, that’s what they say. Nothing changes in your head – it’s the trappings that wear thin, a body worn and pulled out of shape by babies and biscuits. Young men are so beautiful, their skin strapped tight across smooth-carved muscles. He was so beautiful.
So when he asked ‘You wanna come see the crocs in the river?’ I said yes, and there was that old butterflies sensation, pinging back across the years. Nothing changes.
He shouldn’t have laughed. I never could stand feeling stupid. He asked for $20, said it was the rate for a guided river walk. My face gave me away.
‘What? You thought I’d do you a freebie?’ The sun was sinking behind his shoulder, the planes of his face gilded red gold. Then the mocking smile. ‘Oh – you thought I’d do you, full stop.’ Laughter threaded with disgust.
I just wanted to get away. Maybe I pushed past harder than I should. That laugh.
His hand was the last thing I saw, as he fell back into the water. Reaching for me at last, from the teeth-filled embrace of the river.
Congratulations, Chrissie and Liz! And well done everyone for being brilliant.
See you next week!