Thank you to all who, in Microcosms 40, submitted their take on one of the favourite/favorite lines from the previous 13 weeks of the contest. A huge leap in the number of entries this week; does this mean that people prefer the freedom allowed by not having the slot machine of elements? It would be good to know. If you have an opinion, please leave a comment below.
Please keep returning to Microcosms, and retweet / spread the word about this contest among your followers and friends.
Don’t forget that Microcosms exists primarily to provide a platform for the flash fiction community to hone their skills, and secondarily to give entrants a chance of receiving an accolade from that week’s judge. We also have the vote button for anyone, not just fellow entrants, to register their favourite/favorite(s) and thus establish a Community Pick.
Remember, you can reply with a comment to any and all of the entries AT ANY TIME: It’s good to have feedback.
I stepped up to the plate to judge MC 40. Here’s what I thought:
First of all, a very big apology for the late-itude of the Results Post for MC 40, due to a perfect storm of other commitments, large number of entries, feeling under the weather, laptop problems, internet connection problems… I know how you sit by your web access devices, longing for the word that the results are in.
(There was a phantom results post which was due to my creating an interim post to work on, and forgetting that I had scheduled it for release yesterday… This has been deleted, and replaced with this one.)
Thank you to Steph Ellis for stripping the entries of identifying details and forwarding them to me in order to judge blind.
This contest seems to have sparked ideas in a lot of flash fictioneers’ heads – 20 entries this week! Lots of stories using a range of prompts – 9 out of the 13 offered (excluding Stella’s offering which used all 13 prompts in one story – adding only two other lines which made choosing a favourite line from it a piece of cake…)
I thought that there must have been a lot of new entrants, but I discovered, after judging, that a lot of lapsed regulars had found their way back, which is wonderful to see.
Great work, everyone. Now, on with the judging.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Alva Holland – It is one of those nights when his listening ear is the only thing that soothes my soul.
Steve Lodge – Buns will be provided by Toothless Jack Bakeries…
Nthato Morakabi – A luminous flare against a harmonic galaxy.
Dave James Ashton – The lid on the casket creaked open, knocking the bloom from a rose.
Sian Brighal – …crippled by a life that is too empty of love and too full of alcohol…
A J Walker – Doesn’t matter for the story, but I think it was a BLT and a packet of cheese and onion.
Nicola Tapson – I don’t need to be looked after. I am a captain in the South African police.
Geoff Le Pard – So I grabbed a cyborg-sister boil-in-a-bag on the way home.
Holly Geely – “You need to stop crying, dear. The recipe only calls for a pinch of salt,” said the Chef.
Alex Brightsmith – Cherren smiled a smile like the sun rising on Sal-Sattaran…
Sal Page – Did they think being on television made you deaf?
WolfRich93 – If ever a place had ‘Keep The **** Out’ written all over it, even metaphorically, this was it.
Steph Ellis – …heavenly protection against the chaos of history.
Stella Turner – It had snowed heavily that day but now the sky was clear and a full moon illuminated the ghostly scene.
Daisy Warwick – …all hell had broken out when the ice machine had broken – leaving the mobster wannabes with bourbon that was warm and ‘rockless’.
Marie McKay – Rounded, pregnant words of an entire people distilled through you.
Richard Edenfield – Mrs. Worthington smiled and the mirror smiled, as well.
Bill Engleson – For someone who has no visitors, who lives only inside his head, he is a remarkably happy guy.
Voima Oy – Nina Crane remembered the lobby, hushed voices of grown-ups talking about the weather and loans.
Firdaus – Dusk swoops down rather quickly during Autumn. Before I know it, it’s pitch dark.
Most Original Genre (AmDram Press Release):
Steve Lodge – Bunfight At Medicine Creek
A J Walker – Funny Thing Happened The Other Day
The Geoff Holme Memorial Award for Over-the-Top Use of Prompts:
Stella Turner – untitled
Most Educational Title:
Richard Edenfield – Tohu-Bohu
New one on me!
Honorable / Honourable Mentions
Geoff Le Pard – Baking Baby
Ingenious take on the prompt with the author being brave enough to rework the wording in line with rules given in the contest preamble. I loved the idea of a ‘cyborg-sister boil-in-a-bag’ and that her tetchy teenage character wasn’t what either Martine or Gordon were hoping for.
The fact that Martine has to squint at the small print of the instructions on the packet resonated with me: even with my reading specs, I struggle with this!
Sal Page – Just Heating Up
Great stuff. I imagine that a celebrity chef might not fancy getting the wok out after a work-out in the TV studio.
I can also relate to the supermarket side of the story because I used to work in a flagship branch of Tesco. Word would get round the staff if a TV star or celeb had been spotted. An Olympic champion athlete lived nearby. I always wanted to sidle up to her and say “Keep your eyes open – someone said that Sally Gunnell is in the store!”, but I never had the nerve.
Daisy Warwick – ‘Luca Brasi’
This was fun – an excellent take on a prompt that initially seems, at least to me, quite challenging. To set the story around a Godfather Appreciation Convention, with the attendees disgruntled by the venue running out of something as banal as cheese nibbles and venting their spleen by turning to social media was well-judged bathos.
The fact that no restocking was possible by the lateness of the hour had me imaging that it was 3:00 in the morning and that the ‘Luca Brasi’ character would be turning to Twitter and firing off a series of angry tweets… or am I thinking of someone else?
Bill Engleson – Sally Scott’s Stories of Working Men and Women: Butch Halliday – Personal Care Attendant
I have to admit that, although I was judging blind, the title alone here telegraphed that it probably emanated from Canada; a read of the story confirmed my notions about who the author might be. You seem to be building up a body of work for your own themed anthology, Bill. If they all stay at this high standard, I’ll be first in line for a copy!
The revelation of Harry’s ‘trick’ had me laughing out loud. But, since my wife and I were once the main carers and only visitors of an elderly female friend with dementia in a home such as this, I immediately felt sad for Harry’s situation, and admiration for Butch’s ability to see past the repetitive actions of a ‘client’ to the human being and to treat that person with dignity. A story that is funny and thought-provoking. Excellent work, Bill.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 40.
(insert drumroll here)
Sal Page – Just Heating up
You’re either cooking or you’re just heating up.
Priscilla dashed in, grabbing a trolley. She kept her head down. Shopping was hard now her career was taking off. A shrill voice made her jump.
‘It is. It’s her. I told you.’
Did they think being on television made you deaf? Priscilla glanced over. A mother and daughter. She pasted a smile on her face. They were fans. They paid her wages. She had to respond.
‘You’re her aren’t you?’
‘We never miss your show.’
‘Yeah, we love you.’
‘Mum, we should get some kale if Priscilla is.’
Priscilla smiled ‘Very good for you. Fibre. Vitamin C.’
She patted the bag of kale in her trolley, hoping they wouldn’t spot the Chocolate Fudge Cake beneath.
‘Isn’t she good?’
‘All from scratch.’
Priscilla felt sure they were thinking she couldn’t eat healthy all the time. They had magazines in their trolley, the sort that featured paparazzi photos of Priscilla on the beach or in the gym. She lived in fear of being found out. She cringed, remembering the man who spotted her Chicken Jalfrezi with Pilau Rice for one. He glared scornfully, muttering ‘Oh Priscilla! You’re either cooking or you’re just heating up.’
‘Excuse me. Fish counter next. Lobster tonight. A romantic meal for my hubby and I.’
Priscilla laughed to herself as she pushed her trolley away. She sounded like TV Priscilla, the one with the husband.
It was extremely trying being a celebrity chef. She used to enjoy shopping. It was the price you paid for being ‘the hottest chef in town’, as her agent called her. She couldn’t wait to get home, knowing about the Go On Treat Yourself Macaroni Cheese with Smoky Bacon Bits under the three-for-two bags of tangerines. Some nights, you needed something she could just shove in the oven.
Microcosms 40 Judge’s Pick
Alex Brightsmith – Chances
I love the clever way the prompt line gradually builds with each paragraph, presenting each time a different take on the situation that the MC finds herself in. The other worldly / fantasy aspect to the story is intimated with a couple of subtle references. The fact that the ending is left up to the reader’s imagination is spot on. Wonderful story-telling.
She was surrounded by large men, with large guns. None of them were smiling
She was surrounded.
That was bad. As an unlicensed trader Cherren’s liberty depended on always – always – having somewhere to run. Usually she had a partner to help her in that, but he was dead, and she had to live. The first day without him had been intoxicating, her senses on fire, but she knew she should have quit as soon as she had enough put by. Too late now. It was the fifth day and finally, fatally, she had slipped.
She was surrounded by large men.
That was less bad. Large men could be clumsy, and her stock was light. There was a chance she could slip between them and be lost in the crowd, but it was a chance she didn’t like to take. Large men could be deceptive. Harl had been a large man, and had moved like a dancer. That was a memory that didn’t help.
She was surrounded by large men, with large guns.
And that put the tin lid on any plans for flight. They were the Consul’s men, and wouldn’t be shy of shooting into the crowd; their guns only stunned, and any innocent bystander they caught would wake up to handsome compensation. What Cherren would wake up to was as unhelpful a thought as the memory of Harl at her side.
She was surrounded by large men, with large guns. None of them were smiling.
At last, a sliver of hope. There were squads who would have shown delight to have her at their mercy, and squads on a bounty promise who would have been quietly pleased. This squad was only bored, and for bored men a little entertainment paid large.
Cherren smiled a smile like the sun rising on Sal-Sattaran and said
“Hey, boys. I have just the thing for you…”
Congratulations, Alex. As the Judge’s Pick, you are invited to judge the next round of Microcosms. Please let me know whether or not you are interested!