First Place | Flash Fiction Writing Contest

56th New Millennium Award for Flash Fiction

Gretta Trafficante of Detroit, Michigan for “The Curse of Calloused Feet”

Trafficante will receive $1,000 and publication both online and in print.


The Curse of Calloused Feet

Gretta Trafficante


There was a woman who, whether through willpower or a prenatural sense for her lot in life, knew she would only give birth to daughters. Every time a daughter was born, the town — whether for fear of such womanly conviction, or for the usual reasons, or both — called the child a curse. 

The more daughters were born, the more the town despised them. And the more the town despised them, the more powerful the daughters became, for they had received the favor of the fates. In due time, the daughters would grow so mighty as to become gods. They would have the faith of many women, and would have the freedom to create themselves, and would never know nor care for their town’s proposed designs. This is common enough.

Their divinity may have been gifted by the fates, but it was their mother who had marched through valleys and climbed up cliffs and swam beneath rivers to find where the fates dwelled, early on in the pregnancy of her third daughter, after seeing the contempt on her neighbors’ faces and the uselessness of such fearful souls. She stood before the fates and shouted for them. She had a strong voice, a voice that summoned one to respond like earthquakes summoned caverns to crumble. 

The fates turned to her, and set their eye upon her. The mother then made a deal: after her sixth daughter was born and grown, in exchange for the many years of their attention, the mother agreed to take the place of one of the fates, who had been seeking rest for a long, long time. 

So the daughters became gods, and their mother, one of the fates. 

And because they had a sense of humor, the daughters called themselves the Six Curses. 



The first daughter was the Curse of Full Things. She spent her time in wine glasses and the darkest thunderstorms and delightfully fat stomachs and thighs. She whispered often to writers; she loved their stories, but more than that she loved how her breath made her scribes’ skin shiver when she spoke. 



The second daughter was the Curse of Garden Tools. She was any rusted shovel or earth-kissed feet; she was any love that made gardens flourish or new life grow. The witches would call upon her to splinter the hands of any townsfolk who scorned the midwives, their friends and sisters and lovers. The midwives called upon her to mend the sacred tools of the witches, their friends and sisters and lovers.



The third daughter was the Curse of Curses. She was praised by sailors’ mouths; in particular, she liked kissing pirates with something to prove. She aided those seeking vengeance, and protected those who had already rued a day.

Few knew, but in her free time, disguised by sunlight and a good cloak, she was also the Curse of Bitter. She held spoons up to unsteady mouths, helping such truths go down smoothly. 



The fourth daughter was the Curse of Wearing Hair How You Like. She was the Curse of Pomegranates, Lavender, the Moon, and Other Imagery. She was the Curse of Blood Like Clockwork Or Maybe Like Tectonic Shifts. 

She knew her sisters had simpler names, more straightforward ways of understanding themselves. But she liked her own complexity, liked being a project of infinite interpretations. And she treasured how her followers offered up their own understandings, folded them into her like the kneading of dough to be baked. 

She added Curse of Unbaked Loaves to her list. 



The fifth daughter’s curse is best conveyed in bird song, which cannot be easily translated. Try to imagine two mourning doves duetting in the mid-afternoon. 

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll call her the Curse of Not Speech. 

She was very busy, as expected. She played bells with wind for porch dwellers; she coaxed pans to sizzle in alert for cooks; she pushed rivers over cliffs so they would roar for children on the banks below. 

She dedicated herself especially to looks between women: looks like mirror reflections, looks that could span pages of poor translations, looks right before lips first touch and looks that fill many years after. 



The sixth daughter is known as the Curse of Six, which in this case also means the Curse of Ends.      

She is arguably the most misunderstood of her sisters. People fear she lurks in old age and Tower cards and certain words repeated thrice. But this is not the whole truth: she does not lurk, and she is not so constrained. You’ve also met her if you’ve ever looked at the horizon, or the sky, or the ground. You’ve met her in that split second when you open your eyes from a dream, or after you count as high as you can, or as you read the space between one word and the next. 

In short, she meets you, everywhere. She’d considered calling herself the Curse of Crossed Paths, to make this aspect of herself more clear. Or maybe the Curse of How Things Come Together. Perhaps she would consort with her sister, the Fourth Curse / the Curse of Wearing Hair How You Like / the Curse of Unbaked Loaves on how to embrace a name.

Naturally, she is very close with her sisters. As the youngest, they see themselves in her. She sees herself in them, too. 



The mother was quite content with how things had turned out so far. She was glad her daughters had found their ways, and she was glad to be on her own path. She enjoyed the fates, enjoyed being one, enjoyed the entanglement of string and story and women’s ways of knowing. Still, though it was a long way off, she was one to always savor the question: where might I go next?

If she had called herself a Curse, she felt she would be the Curse of Calloused Feet. 





Gretta Trafficante (they/them) is a recent graduate of Columbia University, where they were a recipient of the Brownstein Writing Prize. You can find more of Gretta’s creative work in Maudlin House, Quarto Magazine, and Blacklist Journal.

The Curse of Calloused Feet © 2023 Gretta Trafficante 
• • • Thanks for Reading • • •
Sharing your thoughts, expressing gratitude, offering a sincere congratulations, all within seconds of finishing a story? What an opportunity! We encourage you to share a few honest, heartfelt words in the comment section below. Thanks again, we’re glad you’re here.

4 thoughts on “”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top