Microcosms 25

Welcome back, all. In honour of our resident gourmet Sal Page who so kindly came up with last week’s competition, this week’s post centres on the role food plays in our lives – it feeds the body, provides a focus for families, welcomes the newcomer, instils guilt for eating the wrong thing or too much, comforts us when life is tough, birthed The Great British Bake Off, MasterChef and other TV programmes. In fact our lives would be very empty (not to say non-existent) without the sustenance it provides both mentally and physically.

Fun Fact: Food also set me firmly on the path of horror writing. The Last Supper was my very first horror story and also my very first published story (featuring in KnightWatch Press’ The Last Diner). My little restaurant featured some of the most disgusting meals to be found in the world and gave the specially chosen diners their come-uppance. And just to show you that the meals I wrote about do exist, check out the videos below, but be warned, they are a bit gross!

I hope that all of you find food to be as inspiring as I did, I can’t wait to see what you cook up between you.


As usual, our contest will begin with three things: character, setting, and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are character: Cleaner, setting: Kebab Van, and genre: sci-fi.

Feel free to write a story using those or spin a new set of your own. Be sure to include which three elements you’re using.

  • Waiter
  • Baker
  • Environmental Health Worker
  • Food Critic
  • Celebrity Chef
  • Cleaner
  • Homeless Person
  • Dieter
  • Cafe
  • Soup Kitchen
  • Picnic
  • Barbecue
  • Restaurant
  • Pub
  • Motorway Services
  • Chip Shop
  • Kebab Van
  • horror
  • adventure
  • sci-fi
  • steam punk
  • mystery
  • fantasy
  • romance
  • drama
  • comedy
  • poem

Judging this week is one of last week’s Community Picks A.J. Walker

All submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length. You have until midnight, New York time to submit.

Microcosms 26
Microcosms 24

33 thoughts on “Microcosms 25

  1. Down and Out for the Count

    “No, I don’t want to, Cap. Whyyyyy me?”

    I try to weep.

    The bloody tear faucet fails to gush.

    “Oh, I don’t know, Chumley. Maybe because I’m the assignment editor. That’s what I do. Assign assignments. And then edit the results.”

    “Then why do I bother writing fancy food columns about chichi restaurants that people with money might actually go to? Remember…now pay attention, Cap…the right hand of criticism and the left hand of gourmet dining experiences are in bed together spanking the epicurean monkey…so to speak…”

    It had been a one-way conversation.

    Cap had had a brainstorm.

    “You’re right,” he had said. “DINING WITH CHUMLEY is all about letting your public know where the good eats are. This time, however, you’re going to humour me. I want you to do a socially relevant piece. A feature, Chum. Soup kitchens are a fact of life. More are popping up all the time. Hell, some of our finest eateries even devote time and money at Christmas and Thanksgiving feeding…you know…people without money, or homes…”

    “You mean The Poor, Cap? Is that so hard to say?”

    “Don’t be a wisenheimer, Chumley! Yeah, the poor. See, I can say it.”

    He had me. Once I started with smartass shots at the boss, I knew I was on a losing treadmill to the doghouse.

    “Most of the time, Chum, the poor, the folks who get their two or three squares a day at soup kitchens, are eating whatever is being served up. It’s probably all good. I want to tell our readership what the poor are surviving on. So get down to the Dockside Mission. Sample the goods. Make the rounds. For a full week, Chum.”

    In my racket, you do what you’re told.

    In for a penny; in for a pound of gruel.

    300 meals on the prowl
    Food critic; soup kitchen; comedy

      1. You deserved that caffeine, Bill – working on another great tale into the small hours of the morning.
        [ So did I: I was up all night watching the results of the UK EU Referendum come in… 🙂 ]

    1. Sometimes you have to get back in touch with reality and bring the great and the good back down to earth, even if they are a food critic. Loved the line ‘the right hand of criticism and the left hand of gourmet dining experiences are in bed together spanking the epicurean monkey’.

  2. The Brexit results were playing in the background and I so wanted to incorporate this incredible event into the story. Ah, well, another time, another more suitable prompt.

  3. The Cake-That-Wasn’t-A-Cake

    Ade was pretending to be weeding. The plump, glossy-haired lady seemed familiar. He’d seen her on TV. Priscilla something-or-other. She looked lovely in her stripy apron, serving up delicious food.
    ‘Can’t work like this. I’m sick of looking at that … thing.’
    Priscilla lifted her arms and shoved the three tiers of white icing and pink flowers. It toppled and fell, the top tier rolling in Ade’s direction.
    ‘Hey Priscilla! We were going to be professional?’
    ‘Sod you, Mark.’
    ‘Today, I’m your producer …’
    ‘No! You … ‘ Priscilla pointed one wobbling finger at him ‘ … are my cheating-bastard-soon-to-be-ex-husband.’
    A shaking Priscilla straightened her apron and smoothed her hair. Ade thought she glanced over at him. He recalled Dad saying ‘You look beautiful when you’re angry’ and Mum hating it.
    ‘We’ve enough footage with the monstrosity. Let’s shoot the other and go for a drink.’
    Priscilla pulled a cloth from the second cake. ‘How about this?’
    Ade gasped.
    ‘The bottom layer is fifteen month aged cheddar, then a Chicken and Ham pie …’
    She pointed to each layer going up the cake-that-wasn’t-a-cake. Ade couldn’t help gawping.
    ‘Cheshire cheese next, a pork pie and, finally, a British cheese like Camembert, though we think it’s better.’
    The cake-that-wasn’t-a-cake was decorated with leaves, grape bunches and tiny Union Jacks. Ade thought of the hastily-made ham sandwich in his rucksack.
    Priscilla grabbed the Camembert, wedging it into her apron pocket. Then she actually spoke to him. ‘Bring that pork pie, will you?’
    Ade picked the pie up, staggering a little before placing it in his wheelbarrow.
    Priscilla grinned. ‘So … where’s the most secluded spot in this garden?’
    Laughing, she held up a bottle of Champagne. ‘Had enough of work. Fancy a picnic?’
    Ade grabbed the wheelbarrow’s handles.
    ‘This way, mi’lady.’

    300 words
    Celebrity chef – Picnic – Romance

    Report user
    1. You certainly packed a lot of comestibles into this one, Sal. Lovely, little vignette.
      [ Is the question mark at the end of ‘We were going to be professional?’ a typo, or is it meant to indicate the odious, ubiquitous rising intonation? 🙁 ]

      1. Thanks. Intentional. Cut from ‘Do you remember we said we were going to be professional?’ (Probably just him who said it but he’s reminding her of this …)

      1. All I can say is I am a product of my genes! (family in East End from 1800s back to late 1500s, northern & southern non-conformists, independent yeomen, farmers, puritans, blacksmiths, disreputable ale house keepers, Quakers, excommunicated Catholics, Vikings, Plantaganets, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, Danish, Swedish, Norse, Russian …)

      2. I saw one on Twitter recently but can’t locate it now otherwise I’d RT it for you. A google search found some though. Spectacular. Much better than all that sugary-floweriness.

  4. @GeoffHolme
    Word Count: 300
    Homeless Person / Chip Shop / Comedy

    Fry Day The Thirteenth

    “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”

    Father O’Malley had detected the aroma of stale chip fat before the darkened cubicle’s curtain had opened. I Believe I Can Fry embroidered on the stained apron confirmed it was Seamus.

    “It’s been three months since me last confession.”

    Father O’Malley remembered he’d clashed with Seamus when the troubled young man had bought the mobile chip shop. He’d called it Cod Almighty, and on the menu, extra large fish appeared as The Piece of Cod That Passeth All Understanding. Even rebranding the van Frying Nemo had had small children crying…

    “Go ahead, my son.”

    “Every night for nearly a fortnight, a totally stocious tinker has come by as I’m closing for the night, and had some craic at my expense. Last night, he was completely ossified. He waved his can of Special Brew at me and said, ‘Come here, son. Tell me this ‘n’ no more. Would you be havin’ any chips left, at all?’ I told him I had, and he said, ‘Serves you right for making so many, ya eejit!’, then he roared with laughter. This gobshite had me up to ninety, so I took down me Da’s shotgun and gave him both barrels.”

    There was a long silence as the priest searched for the right response. “You know, Seamus, anything you tell me here is confidential. I can’t disclose it to the Gardai, but I implore you to pray to God for absolution.”

    “Oh, I already have, Father. And you needn’t worry… I’m handing myself in at the local Garda station as soon as I leave here.”

    “I’m relieved to hear that, Seamus.”

    “Yeah, Father. The chipper van has been sold too. I’ve fried me last fish. So it’s true what they say: confession really is good for the sole.”

  5. The Perils of Not Listening

    Elements: environmental health worker, barbecue, taking liberties with horror

    299 words


    Nigel studied the meat carefully. “Are you sure you defrosted it properly?”

    “’Course I did,” said Boris. “Trouble with you is you bring your work home with you.”

    “Well you can’t be too careful,” said Nigel, glancing at the glowering clouds above.

    “We could always set it up inside,” suggested Boris.

    “And kill ourselves with the fumes? Nah. Better out than in,” said Nigel.

    “Might get struck by lightning though,” said Dave gloomily.

    Nigel ignored him, headed determinedly outside. He was going to have his barbecue come what may.

    The doorbell rang. It was the rest of the party. First in was Reverend Jeremy clutching a bottle of red wine. Then came George from next door with his dodgy budget beer. Gordon had brought shortbread. Last to arrive were Michael and Ian.

    All joined Nigel outside and soon the smell of singed meat began to fill the air.

    “It’s still bloody,” said Nigel, poking a knife into the corpse. “Barbecue’s not hot enough.”

    “Don’t worry about that,” said Gordon waving a petrol can.

    “Um, I don’t think you should do that,” said George, backing away.

    “Want to put it to a vote?” mocked Gordon.

    “Why not?” laughed Boris.

    Hands went up, it was a pretty even split. Gordon wasted no time and poured the petrol onto the flames.

    Tracy and Rob heard the screams even though they lived at the other end of the road. “Sounds like they’ve gone and done it this time,” said Tracy. “I did warn them.”

    “Yeah. But since when did any of that lot ever listen to us?” asked Rob as they got in their car. “Leave ‘em to it, I say.”

    They drove off, turning up the radio as they passed, the words to Burning Down The House floating out into the neighbourhood.

    1. Oh, this is so-o clever, Steph! I was half-way through it, puzzling over all the names, when the penny dropped… Re-reading it revealed other hidden gems. Great job, incorporating all these topical characters on this seismic day. And finishing it off with Talking Heads? Props to you, O great one!

      1. Thank you! Just had to do something after today, especially to show how politicians on both sides manipulate us all whereas if they’d listened to genuine concerns in the first place (years ago) we would never have been in this position. If I had felt listened to, valued, of importance and my views had been represented to the EU and they had listened perhaps I might not have voted the way I did. The ‘little people’ have voices and they should be heard (and respected).

  6. Through His Stomach

    It hadn’t rained for a week.

    You could see it in the air; The Haze was palpable. A washed-out orange hue coloured the busy street.

    Dacks walked up to the window of his favourite client.

    “Dacks! My good friend!” Lena’s voice, always warm and welcoming over the hum of the street. “You are my absolute favourite person today. You fix my system, I fix yours!”

    She gestured towards her bounty of sliced meats and fillings, now hermetically sealed in a microcarbon sheet – a failsafe that had triggered once The Haze overwhelmed the van’s filtration systems.

    “You, my darling Lena, just made yourself a deal.”

    He got to work diagnosing the faulty filter, pointedly ignoring his rumbling tummy. Lena’s simple kebab van was a hidden gem in this ebullient city, overpowered by garish storefronts promising the biggest, freshest, newest dining experiences money could buy.

    He popped open the primary diffuser and immediately started wheezing.

    “Fucksake, Lena,” he coughed, “when’d you last do a dump?” He sat back as his vest activated, blasting purified air up across his face.

    “I’m so sorry, Dacks,” she said, her voice suddenly small. “The van’s getting old. Regular maintenance isn’t keeping up anymore. I… I’m not sure how much longer I can keep her open.”

    Dacks looked up, alarmed. He saw the tiredness etched in her face, matching the tiredness etched in her van.

    “Not on my watch,” he muttered, pulling a Scrubber out of his bag.

    “Dacks, no!” Lena protested. “There’s no way I can afford that treatment!”

    He grinned as he activated the unit, sending out a swarm of robots to clean the air at a molecular level. As the failsafe retracted, his mouth started watering.

    “Consider it on the house,” he replied.


    289 words

    Cleaner; Kebab Van; Sci-Fi

    1. Thanks Geoff H! Been re-reading some Neal Stephenson lately so was in the zone for this one.

      (Sorry if this doesn’t reply directly to your comment – I’m on my phone and it just doesn’t seem to like comment threads here…)

  7. Frngg and the Pan Galactic Fart
    @geofflepard: kebab van, cleaner, sci-fi: 298 words
    Fnrgg, a Xenoplast, second class from Arturo-Maxitus was a galactic mind-cleaner. His job had some compensations: free travel; two dozen education credits to be cashed in this or his next ten lives; four levels of health care, including three full body reconstructions, a generous number of resuscitations and two full ‘return from death’ entitlements, not involving self-harm or experimental sex. Best of all inter-sentient species sex was allowed if accompanied by appropriate on-planet narcotic analgesia.
    Fnrgg hoped his secondment to Earth meant promotion, but things hadn’t been altogether smooth.
    His induction, involving wiping the minds of a group of Star gazing Mormons who stumbled upon the real Santa Claus during a mountain retreat had been satisfactory, if you ignored the loss of one of his thirteen penises through frostbite.
    It was his posting to the US presidential campaign that caused most difficulties. Numerous off planet journalists had been licensed to report on the outcome, for the sociological and anthropological reasons as much as the comedy potential but the inevitability of the reporters’ craft being spotted meant a lot of work for the cleaners.
    This meant special feeding; Xenoplasts couldn’t stomach local food. The secure feeding station, devised, Frngg felt certain, by a moron, was an anonymous kebab van; so anonymous that during a vigil in Plankton, Philadelphia, Frngg confused vans, mistook a chicken-tofu kebab for his usual sodium-silicate pattie and washed it down with warm Tango rather than nutrient rich Pizzle-Mix.
    The resulting intestinal explosion had far reaching ramifications: Frngg required a full reconstruction and both of his allotted return from death entitlements; fifteen states were covered in toxic waste; and one National fast food outlet tried to market a ‘Bomb Kebab’ but it never caught on because, as one critic had it, it was done ‘without relish’.

  8. Street Meat

    “Oi! Chicken.” Shruk!

    “Oi! Lamb.” Shruk!

    “Oi! Beef.” Shruk!

    The line moved fast. Each customer queued up, shouted their order and slid their credit cards through the payment slot. Five minutes later the Tyson.2’s arm thrust out of the autocart service window with the kebobs ready for each patron. It was efficient, perfect and most importantly: cheap. All of the food carts had followed the restaurant automation trend that had in turn followed the robotics revolution over the last decade after Farage’s Folley.

    The one piece that couldn’t be automated was trash. Legally. Sanitation careers were one of the government’s preserved job types saved for people to make their career. Winston stood outside of the autocart waiting for customers to throw their skewers and napkins onto the ground. Even though the trash bin was five meters away, customers preferred to discard their debris on the pavement. The emergence of mass-sloth was another unexpected consequence of a fully automated society.

    “Oi!, Chicken.” Shruk!

    Winston twisted his spine. The vertebrae popped. His back ached every day from bending over for the trash. Despite the misery of his job, he kept at it. One day he would afford his own Tyson.2. Never on his trashman’s wage, but through a bigger plot he’d been hatching since he’d the Department of Livelihoods been assigned to serve the autocart.

    “Oi! Lamb.” Shruk!

    Like he had every day for the last month, Winston feigned dropping one of the skewers so it rolled under the cart. Once under, he’d stab the break line just once. At the end of his shift he’d lay down, out of sight of the driving system’s cameras, and hope for a mistake. Maybe today he’d have his legs run over. Maybe today he’d earn his workers comp and a better future.

    298 words
    cleaner/kebob van/sci-fi

Leave a Reply

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.