Here are our third place winners – The Road Block, by Aidee Ladnier, and the cover (provided in draft version with stock art) from CE Kilgore:
The Road Block
I remembered the little man from my childhood, a fairy manikin peeking at me through the branches of the backyard azalea bush. Here at the dirt crossroad, a mile from the new county highway, he stood again.
The stink of tar smothered the air as several yards away my men paved over the gravel that had stung the engine blocks and spiderwebbed the windshields of my kin for a generation.
“What’s my name?” He punctuated the demand with a stomp of his tiny foot.
“I don’t know…Rumpelstiltskin?”
He laughed, and my cheeks heated. Caught in a fairytale as old as time, I clenched my fists, soft womanly hands I’d tried to toughen with hard work and callouses until the skin built up around the fingers, thick and unfeeling.
“No, child. Tell me and I’ll give you your heart’s desire.”
“What I want is to build a road through here without you sabotaging the equipment every night. We nearly lost a man on Tuesday when the grader blade flipped up and into the operator cab.”
“Twas bad luck.”
I seethed. His words echoed the mutterings of my crew, superstitious mumblings about having a woman foreman that lacerated me down to my core. But I couldn’t walk off the job. I needed the insurance. I’d need it more after I wheedled that slip of paper from the therapist.
“A road isn’t what you want.” The little man dropped his voice to a whisper. It was as soft as the breeze that blew in the arm holes of my work shirt, unable to cool my chest because of the binder cinching me tight.
“What is thy name.”
My name? The girl’s name my parents gave me or…the real one.
“Patrick. My name is Patrick.”
“Granted.” The fairy vanished.