Apologies all for the lateness of the post. Many thanks to our judge for Microcosms 27 Bill Engleson, here are his final judgements:
Here in lotus land (I know, I know, there are so many lotus lands, but I am referencing MINE; The West Coast of British Columbia,) it’s been wet for days. Not flood wet, yet. But wet enough so that those of us who have been alive for a long time are occasionally seen, noses pressed against damp window panes, tearfully crying away, “When’s it gonna stop?”
Actually, I may be the only one whimpering away. Most British Columbians are hearty souls.
Rain on the West Coast is the least of the world’s problems. The despair that has overwhelmed the States these past few days weighs heavy. And elsewhere, well, an enduring despair.
As I may have said when I judged Microcosms 13, there are always plenty of excellent choices at a Microcosms meal. Number 27 had its fair share of grave moments but occasionally rose from the depths of well-dug skullduggery to give us a casebook of tales about birth and death and the whole damn thing.
Real life is full of heartache. Literature is close behind.
Favorite / Favourite Lines
“In this world nothing’s certain, except death… and taxis.” Geoff Holme
“An end to the blood feud that leaves our streets stinking of slaughter.” A.V. Laidlaw
“In spite of so many dead around, it seemed lively.” Vibha Lohani
“The creature latched on, sending blood and milk snaking down her breast. Emptying her. Draining her. Killing her.” Steph Ellis
“Well clearly we’re not short of hot water so how about you find some towels?” Geoff Lepard
“Even my brother, who is way too young to think about getting married to anyone, wanted to walk down the aisle with Mr. Tibbles, our brown tabby cat.” Voima Oy
“I’ll be joining you soon, my love,” she whispered, leaving a leathery kiss on his cheek.” Meg Kovalik
“The mausoleum sat like a brooding old man against the backdrop of a star studded sky.” Firdaus Pardez
“Mr. Caldicott lies supine – unmoving, unresponsive – in a top-of-the-range coffin.” Geoff Holme
“He darted over to her and traced the line up. Past his mother and father then up two more generations.” Brady Koch
Geoff Holme – Death Cab for QT
I enjoyed the epic quality of this rendering. We travel in time at warp (or warped) speed and enjoy every blessed moment. Of course, the whole point, I believe, is the last line. “In this world nothing’s certain, except death… and taxis.” Could anything be funnier, or truer?
Voima Oy – Blue Wedding
As a retired Marriage Commissioner, with a mere fifty weddings under my slightly expanded belt, I would have given my eye-teeth to hitch a human and a cat. There may have been some legal impediments to such a union but really how can mere man-made laws keep “Mr. Tibbles” from experiencing the penultimate joy of matrimonial deadlock?
Blue Wedding asked some trenchant questions…and almost answered them.
Vibha Lohani – New Job
I have been retired from the workplace for decades. Not bragging; just stating an inescapable fact. Another fact I can recall; starting a new job and feeling awkward about it. Strange people; new tasks. Anyways, I never had to face the arduous relocation John was forced to endure. Still, mechanization, the elimination of jobs in favour of new technologies, jobs like blacksmith and gravedigger, all replaced by an unavoidable rush into the future…well, New Job struck a note of familiarity. Well done.
Meg Kovalik – Just the way you look tonight
Though I got a little misdirected towards the end of this tale (my fault, entirely, as I creak frequently and am somewhat rickety) I so enjoyed the interplay between Corbin and Mae. That generational dialogue was, for me the principal element of the story. There is both the humour of Corbin’s inconsiderate comments and Mae’s wobbly wisdom and, as well, the sadness of their failure to connect the years. Like many others, I imagine, I was burdened with some of Corbin’s dismissiveness. Likely, Mae’s “confusion” is also waiting for me somewhere down the fog.
And now, without further ado, I present to you the winners of Microcosms 27.
(insert drumroll here)
Geoff Holme – Death Cab for QT
Gravedigger / Wake / Drama
Quentin Turnbull’s mobile had rung: the midwife at St Nick’s. “Donna’s in the birthing pool.”
Pressing the accelerator, he feels a maelstrom of emotions: anxiety, elation… relief, escaping Colin’s fortieth birthday party.
Quentin regretted promising he’d go, but he never broke his word. It had been more like a wake, the venue a mausoleum dedicated to the death of his marriage. He kept raking over stories of how wonderful their wedding day had been. Forty? Jeez, he was living in the past like a hundred-year-old! Even the stand-up he’d hired got less laughs than a gravedigger. Valerie was better off without Colin, even if Quentin’s affair with her had now run its course.
Deep in thought, he runs a red light and is sideswiped by a bus… Next thing he knows, he’s watching the fire brigade, wondering why they’re cutting off his car’s roof. A black mini-cab pulls up.
“This isn’t the way to the hospital.”
“Don’t worry, sir. I’ll get you to your destination.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Not many do. They hear about being drawn to bright lights, but this is the 21st century.”
“I have to get to the maternity ward!”
“Too late. Your new-born baby son is already bonding with his mother. She calls him Alexander. She’s devastated by your death, but doesn’t grieve long. Walter, the funeral director she chooses, consoles her… they’re married within a year. Alexander has a happy childhood, unaware of his real father. Finding out as a teenager, he goes off the rails… overdoses on heroin. Donna blames herself… seeks solace in booze… succumbs to cirrhosis. Walter’s world collapses; he fixes a hose to a hearse.”
“All this happens because I broke my promise to Bella that I’d definitely be there?”
“In this world nothing’s certain, except death… and taxis.”
A.V. Laidlaw – Confession
teenagers (two) / wedding / [tragic] romance.
The candles are guttering, flickering. Soon they will be extinguished and so will I. This is the confession of Laurence, once a man of God.
The boy, Romeo. I knew him. Headstrong and wilful with passions as quick as his rapier. And Juliet. So beautiful. I am an old man now, my beard is white, but I see her still standing before me, her skin white and soft like the petals of the lily.
They wanted to be married.
No, I said.
But then, yes. Montague and Capulet wed. Unthinkable. But perhaps… An end to the blood feud that leaves our streets stinking of slaughter… Unthinkable. But perhaps my duty was as a Friar, a man of God, to find peace. My well-thumbed Bible tells me love will conquer Death. So then, yes.
I married them in secret, in my Friar’s cell, surrounded by candles flickering and reflecting in their eyes. They held hands. They kissed. Montague and Capulet wed. An end to the vendetta. Surely this is God’s work, I thought. Truly, I am Holy. The blessed spirit lives within me.
But a love born in secrecy only knows the shadows. It has no feeling for the sun, for the breath of the breeze on a spring morning. It is jealous and treacherous.
A letter gone astray.
It is not for us to determine God’s will. Wishing it to be so does not make it so. I am no man of God and they are not lovers, for what love may be found in the dust of the tomb?
The candles flicker a last time. They are going out.
May Jesus have mercy on my soul.
Voima Oy – Blue Wedding
I don’t know what to think about this. I mean, I’m not against weddings, but really. I think this is going too far.
Let me explain. It all started when my Uncle Phil announced he and his long-time partner Kevin were getting married. “That’s right,” he said. “It’s legal now, so we’re going to make it official.”
Everyone was overjoyed. My mom and dad decided it was a good time to renew their vows, too.
Then, my great-Aunt Marissa popped the question to her sometimes boyfriend, Marvin. “It’s time we settled down,” she said. “Twenty years is long enough to be sure of our feelings.” Both teachers, they invited all their students.
My grandma decided to get in the spirit and remarry the ghost of grandpa. “Death should not part us, ‘ she said.
No one wanted to die alone.
Even my brother, who is way too young to think about getting married to anyone, wanted to walk down the aisle with Mr. Tibbles, our brown tabby cat.
“You can’t do that,” I said.
“Don’t be so negative,” my dad said. He of all of them should have had some sense. But no, he was just as giddy as everyone else.
‘You can take our pictures,” my mom said.
I think I’ll marry my phone.
Geoff Lepard – The Spawn of Satan
Some tales transcend themselves. And me. In the late sixties I had a crush on Mia Farrow. After watching Rosemary’s Baby, I knew it was hopeless. She was lost to the devil. This was before Woody, of course. And her marriage to Frank was going to hell in a handbasket around that same time. And anyways, truth be told, it was her mother, Maureen O’Sullivan who had won my heart as I trooped through the backlot jungle of 1950’s television. Look, what I am trying to say, and I am not trying to herald any maudlin thoughts, but I really liked Geoff’s character, Mildred. Milly (May I call you Milly?) is a delight. A bit of a snark, downright business-like and not one to suffer fools gladly (alas, only madly), she just flies off the page like a midwifery rocket. I could see a movie, maybe starring Ruth Gordon…if she were still with us. Or the great Thelma Ritter. Another great character actress lost to time. Okay, I’m showing my age. The Spawn of Satan is a hoot and garners my judgement as the best of a very bright bunch.
horror, midwife, fortieth birthday
With heavy heart Mildred knocked. The party sounds surprised her, but she plastered on a professional smile when Ned Joy threw open the door. ‘Milly. Thank God.’
‘How are they?’
Ned’s face managed to convey excitement, anxiety and bemusement.
‘I’d better see them. Upstairs?’
Ned didn’t reply. He led the way past an open door where people wearing fox masks danced while a topless man beat a large drum.
‘The twins will come of age tomorrow. We’re celebrating their end of forty day.’
Mildred looked surprised. ‘You’re having a party while they give birth?’
Need shrugged. ‘It’s one of his funny ways.’
Ned pointed at the basement and left Mildred.
Mildred stepped inside. ‘Halloooo’.
The reply was deep and sonorous. ‘HELL AWAITS YOU.’
‘It will, young man if you don’t stop this nonsense. Are you one of the fathers?’ When Mildred met the twins their claim to have conceived at the same time surprised her. When they said it was the same father she thought them delusional. She wasn’t surprised when he never showed at antenatal classes.
‘I AM THE FATHER.’
We have a right one here, she thought. As she descended the steps – there were more than she imagined – the temperature rose and the smell of burning and sulphur grew. She turned a corner and stopped. It was Hell. The two twins writhed while an extraordinary looking character like Lucifer stood over them. Even at a distance Mildred could see they were both on the verge of giving birth. Mildred, who had helped two winners of Big Brother and one TOWIE star give birth wasn’t going to be fazed by a Devil held his gaze. ‘Well clearly we’re not short of hot water so how about you find some towels?’
Congratulations again, Geoff. As the Judge’s Pick, you are invited to judge the next round of Microcosms. Please let me know if you are interested!