Microcosms 47

Welcome to Microcosms 47.

On this day in 1952, Agatha Christie’s murder-mystery play The Mousetrap opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London. It ran there until Saturday, 23 March 1974 then immediately transferred to the larger St Martin’s Theatre, next door, where it reopened on Monday, 25 March thus keeping its “initial run” status. It is the longest continually-running play in history. If you haven’t seen it, I don’t want to spoil it for it for you, but the person who did it was… a-aarghh!!



(If you have an idea for a future contest and would like to be guest host, please contact me.)


Our contest begins with three things: character, setting and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are – character: Grandson, setting: Guesthouse, and genre: Memoir.

Write a story using those OR feel free to click on the “Spin!” button, and the slot machine will come up with a new set – you can keep clicking until you have a set of elements that inspire you. Be sure to include which three elements you’re using.

  • Actor
  • Grandson
  • Guest
  • Spiv
  • Detective
  • Newsreader
  • Guesthouse
  • Winter
  • Hamlet
  • Theatre
  • West End
  • Snowdrift
  • Memoir
  • Comedy
  • Crime
  • Romance
  • Science Fiction
  • Drama


Judging this week is Microcosms 46 Judge’s Pick, Bill Engleson.

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

(If you are new to Microcosms, check out the full submission guidelines.)

All being well, results will be posted on Monday.


If you like, you may use this image to inspire you – purely optional.


Blue Plaque, St Martin's Theatre, London (Lisa CC BY-SA 2.0)
Blue Plaque, St Martin’s Theatre, London
(Lisa CC BY-SA 2.0)

Microcosms 48
Microcosms 46

75 thoughts on “Microcosms 47

  1. Steve Lodge
    296 words

    In Search Of Octavius

    I met a man from Samarkand,
    Along the road of Silk,
    He sold me some unusual cheese,
    Made from an old goat’s milk.

    That was my last epic journey, I suppose. The massive temperature swings I encountered brought on frostbite and gout and now I walk with a limp… daffodil in my jacket… potato. I humour myself these days trying to write my memoirs, armed only with a heavily chewed pencil, some recycled paper and a failing memory.

    A few months ago, I had sought more of the interesting cheese I mentioned earlier. I diligently traced the source with the help of the newly-formed Cheese Police. I discovered that this cheese, “Octavius” by name, was the work of the monks at St Xavier Monastery deep in the alluring, obsidian mountains of Transylvania.

    I cabled my contact in Eastern Europe, my grandson, Silas Bonfire, asking him to acquire by purchase some supplies of this delightful cheese on my behalf and for my consumption and for me to eat.

    Silas, bless him, has long experience in Eastern Europe. Although he’s based in a small guesthouse/office near the Austrian border town of Von Trapp, he spends most of his time in Hungary on a mobile horse, teaching yodelling for beginners. He told me once that in Austria he had climbed every mountain. I only met his wife, Yvonne, on one occasion. She was a woefully emaciated vampire with an allergy to blood but she did make a very palatable Eggs Benedict.

    It was some weeks in those days before I received any news from Silas and when I did, he confirmed he had made contact with Father Savus at the monastery, but there was no more cheese on account of the old goat dying in a freak goating accident.

    1. It’s always such a joy to read your stories, Steve. An amazing turn of phrase, wonderful malapropisms (as Christina said when she was judging) and I can depend on a laugh or a giggle with each one. This cheese tale is one of your best.

    2. Christina Dalcher
      300 words

      Get up When You Can’t

      “Let me at her, dammit. Just once, let me take a shot.”

      Grandpa Jack had gone from bad to worse in the time it took me to drive out to his retirement home, a rambling bungalow of dark rooms advertised as the Golden Guest House, but what Jack called the Gilded Grave. “Not even whitewash can hide the scars of this dump,” he often said, usually accompanied by another proclamation of “I swear they imported my nurses from 1972 East Germany.”

      I’d never argued with him on either point.

      On that grim and sodden Sunday, Jack lay in bed, a boxing glove on each hand, air-sparring and ranting about the smear of puréed food on his tray. The pre-masticated meals were the latest in a series of life-prolonging measures that, ironically, made the houseful of golden guests want to die all the sooner.

      “Send her in. I’m ready.” Jack punched the space over his head.

      “Who?” I asked.

      “That lady doctor. The one who swapped my lunch for baby pap.”

      “You’re gonna hit her?”

      “No, I’m gonna take her out jitterbugging.” Another quick feint with the left, followed by a hard right.

      While I wondered what to say, Dr. Rand came in, more Miss America than Berlin swim team.

      “And how are we today?” she asked.

      I mouthed “jitterbug” at him, signing the a-okay with circled fingers behind the doctor’s back.

      “Can’t jitterbug anymore,” Jack said. “Can’t do nothing but lie here.”


      By next Sunday, Jack was gone. An embarrassed Dr. Rand said she should never have let him lead her into those star kicks on dance night. I laughed. Jack had been a lousy boxer—all heart and zero fight, no Dempsey—but he had a little of the old champion in him after all.

  2. Spiv/Guesthouse/Crime
    Word Count: 300
    The Road to Eternal Love

    Detective Derrick Blain walks through the great hall of the guesthouse. His thunderous footsteps sound his arrival to the chief, who looks up at him with a scowl.
    “What have we got, chief?” Derrick grins impudently at him because he can.
    “Not sure,” he grunts, inspecting a spot on the floor.
    Already bored, Derrick sweeps his finger along the mantelpiece and comes away dusty. ”Strange,” he muses, the house is usually clean. He looks over the police report and sighs.
    “I shouldn’t have been called,” he says, exasperated. “I’m homicide. Not missing persons.”

    His eye catches the hall as he storms past the door and sees the most beautiful woman alive. After all this time he still sucks in his breath and tries to calm his wild beating heart. He walks over to one of the policemen standing to the side as he softly asks what’s going on. Before the policeman can answer, handcuffs are snapped around those delicate, slender wrists. She has been accused of killing her parlourmaid who was carrying on with a spiv visiting here.

    “Ridiculous,” he thinks as he moves towards her. “I’ll take charge now.” The sergeant looks surprised but lets him take her. He squeezes her hand as he leads her out and she smiles weakly at him. She has been through a lot. He will not allow anyone else to hurt her. They climb into the car in silence. He is angry as he drives away from the mayhem and doesn’t notice his acceleration. She screams as he veers off the road and crashes into the lake. As they drift down, another car is illuminated with the bodies of a parlourmaid and a spiv.

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    1. Ah, how the simplest of tales can become complicated webs of deceit and death. Wonderful story, Angelique.

  3. Alva Holland
    298 words

    Trap ‘n’ Me

    Saw the boy and the bulge in his pocket before he flipped the gate latch. Knew I could depend on him to bring me fifth without getting caught.

    ‘Howya, Paw?’

    ‘Fine, Trap, but I’ll be finer after swallowing what you brought.’

    ‘Nearly got caught, Paw. Ma saw me leavin’ – wanted to know where I was goin’. She’d skin me if she knew.’

    ‘Good lad, Trap, good lad.’

    The whisky went down a treat while the boy fiddled with a screen he’d pulled from his other pocket. No knowin’ what kids will pull from their pockets these days. Can’t keep up. Couldn’t keep up with his Ma once she reached her teens. Nothin’ her Mama and me could do to keep her in. On her own, she was. She named the boy Trevor. Couldn’t be ‘aving that. Trap it was from day one. The lad’s different. He’ll go places.

    Needs to go places to make somethin’ of ‘imself, not end up like his old Paw, livin’ in a place with cats in the hall, strangers passin’ the door every minute and not a moment’s peace. Tasteless grub, noises from up and down, sharin’ bathroom crap. No tellin’ what they’re all at. Whole place smells of cabbage and cat piss.

    ‘What’s that, Trap? Oh, yea, sure, I gotcha – off you go then. Thursday ok? You’re a good ‘un, boy. Nah, don’t bother sayin’ nuttin’ – she’d only come ‘round, quizzin’ me. Just be sure to bring me fifth – thank the Lord your Ma’s a boozer. Don’t get in no trouble for me, boy.’

    Saw the lad leave. Gotta get to Thursday. I’ll be watchin’ for his lopin’ gait, lookin’ only for the bulge in his pocket.

    Someone’s rappin’ on me door.

    ‘What? No, I never left me room. What’s ‘appened?’

  4. @stellieb3
    298 Words

    I looked out onto the field in front of me from the porch, and I could feel the sun drying up my tears on my cheeks. I rubbed my fingertips against the bent pages of his memoir, the one he decided to write the day he was diagnosed with cancer. I could feel his heart that was poured out on those pages beating and wishing for opportunities to reappear after he had passed them by.
    I saw her coming towards me, map in her right hand, and a box of chocolates in the other. I stood up difficultly due to the arthritis setting in within each and every joint in my body. I tried to walk towards the end of the porch, and waited for her to come near enough for the hug I had longed to give her since I started reading my grandson’s thoughts on this beautiful young woman.
    “Hallo, Alia. I am glad you found the guesthouse even though it is in the middle of nowhere.” I said to her, attempting a smile. She also attempted one, and she came in for that hug I was hinting for.
    “I came as soon as I heard. I am so sorry for your loss,” she said to me, her own tears forming. I nodded simply.
    “He left you this. He always said he wished he could fix what he did to you and Anna. He had stopped drinking when he got the diagnosis, but he never scraped up the courage to fix things with you, and it is his biggest regret.” I saw how my words moved her, and she only took the book out of my hands slowly.
    “Life is too short to waste on hatred and bitterness. I wish I was here at the end.”

  5. Laura Besley
    176 words

    Nine Faces

    ‘Is that your family?’ Mr Bridge asks me.
    Guests always ask. ‘Yes,’ I say, lifting the gold-framed photo off the mantelpiece. Nine faces smile out at me.

    The winter Bob’s old Volvo skidded on a patch of black ice, leaving me husbandless and penniless after years of bad investments, I turned my parents’ old farmhouse into a guesthouse and have made a decent enough living from it since.

    That was also the year Cassie, my youngest, was pregnant. Sick as a dog, she was. After three girls of my own and four granddaughters, I was convinced this one was a boy. I bought blue outfits and knitted matching cardigans. ‘Ma,’ Cassie said, ‘don’t jinx it.’ But she was laughing and I knew that she felt it too.

    Guilt comes in many guises and has long made its home in this decrepit place. Today it rests on the silk threads of the spider web I can’t quite reach in the top right-hand corner of the living room.

    I replace the photo frame. Nine smiling faces. All female.

      1. Thank you, Alva. Really enjoyed writing this and the story came to me almost immediately after I’d read the prompts. Thanks for inviting me to join.

  6. Broadcast
    300 words
    Newscaster, Snowdrift, Romance

    “Good e…e…evening South Africa. I am T…Thandiswa Nkomo, and th…th…this is Live News. It has…s…s been q…q…quite an eventful year, h…h…ere in the u…usually sunny southern hemisphere, with po…po…political debacles, br…broadcast agency fiascoes, water cr…crises, and presidential skirmishes…s…s. However, if y…y…y…you look be…hind me, at the cas…cascading snow that has c…c…completely encompassed most of the Johannesburg CBD, you…you will realise that this weather ph…ph…phenomenon overshadows a…anything that 2016 has brought.”

    “T…t…traffic has come to a co…complete standstill and drivers ha…have evacuated their vehicles in the f…f…fear of being trapped under the biggest s…snowstorm to ever hit Joburg. What is u…u…usually a bustling metropolis, pe…ppered by street vendors, pedestrians from all wa…walks of life, and the ever present b….blaring of taxi horns, has become a de…desolate, icy wasteland.”
    “I c…can’t do… this.”

    “Ahem. Evening folks, you watching at home along with us here at the Live News studios, are witnessing a brave young lady and an exceptional camera crew, who are trapped at the corner of Marshall and Mooi Street. Thandiswa Nkomo is…
    “Is she back? Can she – she will? Okay.”
    “We return to Thandiswa and crew…”

    “We do not know how long this snowstorm will continue for. Emergency services are unable to get through the piles of snow that have blocked every road into and out of Joburg. We’ve managed to get some heating but I can tell from the crew that it won’t last long. This may be… our final broadcast.”


    “My name is Thandiswa Nkomo. Twenty four years old. My crew consists of Pieter Kroukamp, camera man and Ian Markus, technician. It has been a great honour to serve you as part of Live News.”


    “To our families and loved ones…”


    “To Lesedi Musi, my fiancee…”

    “I can’t…”

    *End of broadcast.

  7. @ InquisiHedgehog

    Word Count:299

    The Abominable Snowman

    Snow was pelting against the wall of the inn as Sarah got ready to settle in for the night. Hot Coffee. Check. Marshmallows. Check. Soppy read. Check. Sarah sank into the voluminous armchair in front of the hearth. The fire was crackling and she was ready to enjoy a relaxing night in. As she slipped on her reading glasses, she heard a creak. “Oh, it’s probably the wind in the rafters. This house is over a 100 years old.” She went back to reading her book. BANG BANG. Sarah leaped from her chair.
    Who could it be? she wondered.
    She grabbed the poker and sidled up to the door.
    “Who is there?”
    “Hi. My name is Sebastian. Please open up. It’s freezing out here”.
    “Oh come on. You are an inn. I need a room. Please open up.”
    Sarah pulled the door open and stuck out the poker at him. He had deep blue eyes and his brown tousled hair had caramel streaks in it. He had a red bomber jacket on with jeans that hugged the curves of his well-sculpted bum. Sarah slammed the door shut and locked it.
    “Hey, aren’t you going to let me in?” screamed Sebastian as he pushed against the door with the last ounce of energy in him.
    “No, I remember you, you scoundrel”.
    “What do you mean? Please let me in I am becoming a snowman out here,” pleaded Sebastian.
    “No! Next time you two-time a woman you might remember where she lives”. Sarah moved back to the armchair and continued to read her book. Sebastian leaned against the door and then saw the name. Oh no! This was her inn. He remembered the heartache he had caused. This light was attached to a train and he had no hope.

  8. @RicoLamoureux

    Grandson/West End/Memoir

    Word Count: 300

    A Natural Calling

    I arrived in London two days before Thanksgiving 1952, not feeling sentimental about my American holiday, as nine had passed since the last one I had partaken in back home. The first absence had been the only hard one, a fifteen-year-old fighting Nazis for his country, my six foot frame allowing early enlistment.

    But upon taking that first life I knew I had made the right decision in following my gut, that primitive instinct to kill or be killed making me feel more alive than ever before. And so for those last two years of the war I felt the rush of life by taking it from others.

    But then all of a sudden it stopped, my country giving me a pat on the back and expecting me to just turn it off.

    For the next seven years I was lost, roaming the European continent before arriving in London, my decision to go down one street and not another leading me to The Ambassador Theatre, a dazzling young lady persuading me to buy a ticket to the opening night of The Mousetrap.

    As I watched the murder mystery unfold the answers to my own dilemma began to unravel, realizing, as the characters gathered in the guesthouse to piece together the clues, what had to be done.

    That night I became what the world calls a serial killer, what I call a natural calling. Starting with the dazzling young beauty outside, I strangled, I slashed, taking the last breaths of countless as I deeply inhaled each one.

    Every now and then my great grandson comes by. He enjoys my stories, and now that he’s at the same age I was when I first took life, I can see in his eyes…

    He’s gonna be like his ol’ grandpa.


  9. @AvLaidlaw
    290 Words
    Elements – Actor / Guesthouse / Memoir

    His Cary Grant Was Perfect

    Richard and I often stayed at The Laurels, a boarding house in one of those seaside towns desperately clinging on the greasepaint glamour of their glory days. The place was full of other actors, practising their lines, the damp stained walls reverberating with other people’s words.

    We had a high old time there. Richard put on an American accent to pick up girls. We had to sneak them past the landlady, but she was as old and vain as her home town, and I’d distract her with something from Romeo and Juliette, while Richard slipped the girls up the back stairwell. It wasn’t a problem for me. I’ve played opposite Juliettes who won’t see forty again, let alone fourteen.

    We drank gin from coffee mugs and seduced the girls with tales from Hollywood, largely culled from the gossip magazines. The girls fluttered their fake eyelashes. We promised a word with an agent in Beverly Hills. Not really a lie. We merely anticipated the truth. In our minds, those endless pantomimes and Mousetraps were a mere stepping stone to the fame and fortune of the movies. America would be our new-found land. We dressed up in dinner jackets from the second-hand shop and practised acceptance speeches in front of the mirror.

    I’d just secured a small part in a television advertisement for hair dye when I heard they’d pulled Richard from the sea. It was an accident, I’m sure to this day. Richard never did anything so serious in his life. He had no relatives or other friends, so the police asked me to identify the body. When I saw him lying pale and sightless like a wax dummy in the morgue, for the first time I understood who we really are.

  10. Guesthouse, grandson, memoir

    Always breakfast

    @geofflepard 280 words

    Adele pulled the curtains. ‘Morning, colonel. Lovely day for a walk?’ She moved quickly to the bed, straightening the sheets. He didn’t like his bed to remain unmade. ‘I’ll have your eggs ready soon. Just need to find Mrs Fishwick’s teeth. Again.’
    Adele liked the colonel. Never said much first thing. Unlike Mrs Fishwick who did nothing but moan. She paused, pulling back her shoulders before knocking. ‘Morning, Mrs F. Where did you have the little terrors last?’ A bony finger pointed at the side of the bed. Adele rummaged in the gap. ‘Here you go. Just pop them in and I’ll have poached eggs ready in ten minutes.’ She stood back admiring Mrs Fishwick’s approximation of a grin. ‘Lovely.’
    Downstairs, Adele steadied herself. Her grandson’s room was by the kitchen, making it easier to help him. She needed all her strength. Even after ten years, entering his room and seeing again the disfigurement from the crash took her breath. ‘Morning, Charles. Sunny today. The colonel is off on a walk. Maybe you’d like to sit outside for a bit.’ He never talked much, not first thing. Typical teenager. ‘Your mum was the same. She…’ Adele couldn’t continue. Thinking about Susan, burnt in the crash that injured Charles, was still too painful.
    She sat in the kitchen, remembering the day they’d brought the boy back. Lifeless he was. She made him comfortable and closed the front door. Everything stopped that day. Not that the colonel and Mrs Fishwick understood. They still expected her to make his bed and find her teeth. That’s all she did now. Made the bed and found the teeth and made Charles comfortable. It was enough.

  11. Grandson/Guesthouse/Memoir
    Word count: 300
    The Summer of Change

    When I was just knee high to a cricket, I remember visiting my grandfather’s guesthouse. I stayed there for a whole summer. My father was a skiv, and he had left one morning to buy cigars. He never came back. My mother tried to keep up with the payments of the house but the bills just kept adding up. She eventually took me and came back to her father’s house, tail between her legs. I would find out later that she had married my father against her “Papa’s” wishes and he had disowned her there and then. When she brought me to the house, she begged him to take me in and she asked if she could work for him as a housekeeper. He agreed reluctantly and put her to work as assistant to the housekeeper, Mrs. Lang. And all summer long she worked until she died of the flu.

    I was devastated, but not as much as my grandfather. He was a proud man, but he loved my mother with all his heart and it shattered when she died. I became his world then, the two of us connected by the woman we both loved.

    He threw lavish parties on the estate and I recall one that took place that fateful summer. I was supposed to be in bed but it was so noisy downstairs that I had to see what was going on. I had never been to a party. I peeked with Teddy, from the top of the stairs, and what a sight met my eyes. Soft candlelight glowing from the chandeliers cast a romantic haze over the room and champagne glasses twinkled like stars. I noticed a lady looking at me. Miss Margarita Cansino, soon to be Miss Rita Hayworth, winked at me and kept mum.

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  12. grandson/guesthouse/memoir
    wordcount: 299

    It was only appropriate his guestroom held trains. Hundreds of them. In specially-built shelves, they lined the walls, floor to ceiling, a miniature world spread out over the whole breadth of the room. Sitting on the ancient couch put us at eye level with the train table. Craning our heads 90 degrees allowed a view of the TV. It never occurred to me to question the expediency of such a set-up.

    Grandpop’s trains were center stage, the best guests.

    To my sister and me, the train world was not fragile, not expensive, not the offspring of faithful labor, love and vision. Despots see their kingdoms the way we kids viewed Grandpop’s guestroom: how can we best exploit this for our pleasure? The three tracks of varying sizes begged to be raced upon. Everyone knows, if you run a train too fast around a bend, it jumps the track. But racing grandchildren don’t care a wit.

    “Never, ever push the lever hard over,” Grandpop would wag a stern finger. Hard over was the first thing we’d do when he left our sides.

    Grandpop, whose ears were trained to hear the sound of a model train wreck, the clack and crunch of precious engine hitting the miniature buildings, the table, the metal tracks… he’d come trundling in before the train had even finished crashing.

    “Gald dern it,” he’d grumble in phlegmy despair. And wedging into the tight space between table and bay window, he’d gingerly, lovingly right the engine, holding it like a woman, fitting it back onto the tracks. I’d gaze in horror at the deep cracks in his thick fingertips, filled in with the blackness of years and labor. I didn’t understand how skin could get carved out like that: like a lake basin in drought.

    Now I know.

    1. Welcome to Microcosms, Kelly!
      I liked this tale of the very recognisable traits of children with regard to possessions they long to play with, even though they are precious to a grown-up: ‘…he’d gingerly, lovingly right the engine, holding it like a woman…’ The description of Grandpop’s fingertips after a lifetime of manual work is wonderfully done. Good job! 🙂

      [ The setting prompt was ‘Guesthouse’ (I amended that), but ‘guestroom’ was an reasonable interpretation of this.]

  13. Grandfather Fisherman
    296 words
    Grandson / Guesthouse / Memoir

    Grandfather had left me his diary.

    I am ashamed to say that, foolishly young as I was, I did not appreciate the gift. My parents had been given money, and I wanted money, because I had become obsessed with buying a car. I wanted to impress Mary-Beth.

    Mary-Beth was the prettiest girl in town. Ben and Jesse were also smitten and the three of us competed for her affection. I worked a part-time job and spent my money trying to win her. She seemed indifferent to me, and to the others.

    When Grandfather died, my mother forced me to sit in on the reading of the will. She scolded me and told me to respect my elders.

    I considered throwing the diary in the trash. It was of no use to me. I rubbed one hand over the soft leather and wondered if I could sell it. I flipped to the first page with the intention of tearing out the lined pages.

    The title on the first page stopped me.

    The Life and Memories of Jonathan Masterson;
    As Written by his True Identity, The Fisherman

    Grandfather was the worst serial killer the country had ever known.

    I had always believed, as my mother had told me, that her father was a traveling salesman. He returned with wonderful trinkets from all corners of the country. Now I realized that he hadn’t bought them in souvenir shops; he’d stolen them from his victims.

    Grandfather’s memoirs were a tidy chronological list of his victims, in gruesome detail. Once I began I could not stop reading. I learned how he tricked people, young and old, into traveling home with him; he would lure them into his guest house and murder them with fishing wire.

    Suddenly, Mary-Beth was no longer important.

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    1. Ooh, this is a chilling one, Holly. Prettiest girl in town couldn’t compete with a serial killer. Aaargh!

    2. Nice to see you back, Holly – have you been distracted by NaNoWriMo too?
      Great story – unrequited love leads you to become a serial killer… (That was certainly true in my case. 😉 )
      (There used to be a programme on BBC Radio 4 called “The Masterson Inheritance” but it was a improvised comedy series, nowhere near as dark as this.)
      [ Your chosen elements stopped at ‘Grandson’. I added ‘Guesthouse’ and ‘Memoir’; I hope this is correct.]

  14. Time to Talk

    Elements: grandson, guesthouse, memoir
    283 words


    The view from the window was exactly the same – the perfectly-tended garden, the curve of the harbour and its congregation of boats, the broad open sea, wild and untameable. All was as before. Inside though, much had changed. The bedroom had been modernised, its old lady fussiness replaced with the latest Scandinavian chic, the lounge similarly made over. The clean, clinical lines created a sense of emptiness, its landscape mirroring the state of his own mind. It had been a long time since Ryan had come here with his brother George and their Granddad. A respite from the secrets forced upon the boys.

    Ryan left the B&B and headed for the clifftop. This was somewhere he had never walked before. But George had. This was where George had left him without warning.

    Ryan gazed down at the rocks below. He stepped closer to the edge, felt the wind tug and pull at him with impatience, urging him to spread his wings. Gulls screeched his name, joining their voice to the ocean’s urging. He pulled out his phone – a message from Julie about the office party, another from Dan about the football match. He deleted the messages, deleted his contacts. He couldn’t talk to them. Couldn’t talk to anyone. It was too much. The weight of his torment unbearable.

    The soft down of a feather caressed his cheek. He felt its lightness in his hand. The desire to float free of all expectation, all burden became overwhelming. He had never been able to talk to anyone except his brother. And now his brother’s voice could be heard amongst the gulls. He took a step forward. It was time for them to talk.

      1. Thank you. Almost didn’t write tonight – found out an ex-colleague who is also my daughter’s pastoral year leader (her school is my old work place) took his own life last night. In the end decided to write and my #vss365/Samaritan references is linked to this. A horrible thing to happen at any time but at this time of year, terrible. I cannot comprehend the dark place you must be in that leads you on this path.

      2. What a horrible thing. Such a huge shock for family and friends. News like this either knocks the writing stuffing right out of us, or it stimulates a need to do something – anything, and sometimes that’s to write, to at least attempt to understand the pain that led to the decision. Sending hugs, Steph.

    1. Thanks for taking time away from your busy NaNoWriMo schedule to join us, Steph.
      Such an amazing piece for you to write at this sad time: full of beautiful, descriptive and evocative phrases. And you left us to ponder what ‘ …the secrets forced upon the boys’ might have been. Masterful.

      1. Thank you – have had a few days off from Nano once I hit 50000 – had some long/difficult days at school. Just got back to it and then hit by sad news yesterday. That sort of thing makes everything trivial. What is even worse is seeing the mental state of some of the kids at school and then wondering what path their lives are going to take. Hopefully not as in this story.

  15. The Standing Room

    The theater had the smell of an old book. And if you quickly flashed through all the curtain openings and closings over the 50+ years, it would seem like a great novel was being flipped through by an endless readership of eager theater goers. There was a security to the old velvet curtains and the seat that creaked in aisle 3. There was security in the imagination. Always a place to hide and always a place to reveal, with hidden passages written under the old floorboards leading to dressing rooms and prop departments. The worn ropes in the wings that led to scaffolding above. The imagination was intricate and had a storied past. When he retired, it was as if a page had been torn from the treasured antique volume.

    It would be his final performance. No one knew of his diagnosis. And he would keep it that way. To be an actor meant to inhabit the skin of another and to bring them to life, and this had always been his cure for life’s direct assault. The crowd and the approval had always kept his heart turning.

    He applied his make-up in the art deco mirror. And the years looked back at him as if trying to remember their lines, age playing on his face; the right word at the right time. A bright young actress blew him a kiss through the dressing room door that was ajar, her hair flowing with a cocky nonchalance.

    He loved to listen to the voices just before the lights dimmed. The hush of people backstage getting ready like parents Christmas morning.

    Then the silence.

    You could hear a pin drop.

    Sound of curtains pulled apart.


    Split second when everything you’ve ever done condenses into a moment.

    And then the story unfurled.

    (300 words)

  16. The Fisherwoman
    by Stephen Shirres (@The_Red_Fleece)
    A tale of 279 words inspired by the elements Spiv, Theatre and Memoir. Hope you enjoy.

    To this day, I could not tell you if the Fisherwoman could fish. Her nickname was nothing to do with aquatic life, but everything to do with her catchphrase. At every meeting, every deal, every offer of help she always said the same thing, “What’s the catch?”
    That day Hartman, the man who faced her fish hook, smiled a smile worth a billion dollars and simply held out his empty hands. “Nothing, my dear lady. Absolutely, positively, emphatically nothing.”
    “There is always a catch, especially from a spiv in such colourful clothing.” She made colourful sound like a swear word.
    “Thank you for the compliment, my dear lady,” he said with a wink. “But I can positively, absolutely, emphatically promise you there is no catch.”
    “See Sam,” our chairman Bob reminded us his favourite colour is green. “Let’s put this to a vote, shall we? Everyone who thinks we should accept Mr Hartman’s kind offer to fix the Victorian frontage of the theatre raise their hands.”
    Everyone but The Fisherwoman and me did as Bob instructed. There was no point in asking who opposed.
    “Excellent. Emphatically, positively, absolutely excellent.” Hartman’s joy was as bright as his clothing. Too bright for our little theatre. “The work will absolutely start this week – once your cheque clears.”
    Bob must have paid in cash as the giant, yellow machines rolled into town the next day, shaking the dust from the windows. Their scoops tore down the Victorian frontage with all the subtlety of a toddler. What replaced it was worse. I’m not too much of a man to admit I cried as the Fisherwoman’s catch fell at my feet.

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  17. @firdausp
    (296 words)


    Hercule Poirot always reminded me of my grandfather who we affectionately called Papa. I had looked through all the old family albums. He was always dressed immaculately in a well-tailored suit. His shirt starched and crisp. A thin moustache and an air of authority. His balding head quite egg-shaped. But now, since he’d joined the Congress party, he only wore ‘khadi’, a hand-woven cotton. A kurta that fell to his knees and a crisp pyjama. But he always wore his shiny black Oxford shoes. That, he never gave up.
    I remember the first and last time he visited me at my boarding school. We had an overnight exeat. He had booked the government ‘Dak Bungalow’ because he was a member of the Legislative assembly, a well-established politician. The bungalow was a leftover of the British Raj, with fine British architecture.
    Papa sat on the large sofa in the drawing room, with a couple of servants hovering, ready for any request. A few sycophants had made their way into the room, requesting favours. He was never short of those. I stood at the window that opened onto the front yard. I watched his two bodyguards smoking ‘beedis’ and cracking jokes.
    Papa called me over muddling my name with my brother’s.
    “My spectacles are on the side table, get them.”
    I rushed to his room and brought them to him.
    “My pen is in the top drawer,” he said.
    I rushed back and got it for him.
    “There’s a dairy under my pillow,” he said without looking up.
    “Papa, tell me all you need and I’ll get it,” I suggested.
    “I know you’ll forget, so get them one by one,” he said and waited for me to do his bidding.
    I think I made twelve rounds that day.


    1. Great job, Firdaus. It really conjures up the essence of Papa, making it feel like a true memoir. (Though ‘egg-shaped’ as a description of a balding head makes me wonder whether you mean the round or the pointed end! 😉 )
      [ I corrected ‘Hercules’, and also ‘well-tailored’, ‘egg-shaped’, ‘hand-woven’ and ‘well-established’ (reducing your word count to 296). You might want to check out compound adjectives (www.grammar.cl/english/compound-adjectives.htm). 🙂 ]

      1. You’re a gem! Geoff. Thanks so much. Haha needed that compound word reminder. Thank you for that too. 🙂

      2. Such colourful imagery here in the descriptions of Papa’s clothing and surroundings, Firdaus.
        Did you mean ‘diary’ under the pillow?

      3. Haha I did I did. It’s diary! Omg dairy would be quite impossible. Thank you for reading and commenting and pointing out that blunder. 🙂
        Geoff I need your help. How did you not spot that?!! 🙂

  18. Caleb Echterling
    Actor/guesthouse/science fiction
    257 words

    The Sordid Truth Behind Alien Invasions

    The battle fleet danced in close orbit around Saturn. Star cruisers charged their ion cannons for the invasion of Earth. Inside the flagship cruiser, cheeseburger-shaped life forms filled the war room. Top military brass, adorned with lettuce and tomatoes, sat around a shimmering, blue conference table. Low-ranking personnel, plain except for a brush of mayo, tried to look busy.

    A plasma monitor dropped from the ceiling, and the room went quiet. A double cheeseburger with pickles, bacon and special sauce filled the screen. “Greetings, Strike Force Sol. I’m afraid there has been a change in plans. We have reviewed the video footage sent by the infiltration droid K8-O K li(n). As you know, we inserted the droid K8-O into the situation that would yield the best intelligence about Earth’s military vulnerabilities, namely as an out of work actor living in a B-list celebrity’s guesthouse.”

    “Excuse me, Your Excellency, but shouldn’t that be “actor”, with mock quotes?”

    “Yes, well, the droid did land several plum roles in adult films. So the extra cost to make it anatomically correct was money well spent. Which is a roundabout way of saying that we’re calling off the invasion of Earth.”

    The war room erupted into shouts and screams. Flapping appendages jettisoned ketchup and mustard. “Calm down,” the double cheeseburger said. “We made a killing selling the footage to the Galactic Inquirer. Seems there’s this thing called an OJ Trial that they can’t get enough of. Your new mission is to protect Earth so we can keep the cash rolling in.”

    1. Amusing take on the prompts, Caleb. Thanks for the heads-up about the ‘friendly’ aliens – I will no longer visit fast-food outlets to destroy them. 😀
      [ I amended ‘low-ranking’ – see my comment on Firdaus’ entry]

  19. John Herbert
    300 words

    It is with both affection and amusement that I recall my despicable grandson Humphrey’s part in the greatest triumph of my career, my justly lauded Lear.

    I had, it will shock you to recall, been originally passed over for the part and had to understudy the odious Dicky Pilkington while playing Gloucester. I had, therefore, to endure nightly removal of my eyeballs while we toured the production, howling my way around the country until I was hoarse and feared I might not last the run.

    I was wounded by the notices that Dicky had received and which he regaled me with over dinner each night after the performance. The press had, as the tour ran on, perplexingly, become ever more enamoured of the man.

    It was in Whitstable, where Humphrey, recently rusticated from Harrow for some wickedness with his bedder, had found refuge as a waiter at Malloy’s Oyster House . The dear naughty boy had come to see me perform at the woeful playhouse there and met me when I staggered from the stage door, rendered finally silent by weeks of screaming. Dicky swanned by, beckoning me to join him over oysters and Guinness.

    ‘Leave him to me, Gramps,’ muttered the wicked boy and disappeared to his work while I staggered back to the ghastly guesthouse where we lodged.

    I awoke from my fitful slumber to the sound of wretching and, come morning, news of dear Dicky’s collapse and illness.

    With the aid of a good posset, I opened, to rave reviews at The Aldwych that Monday as Lear. On opening night, when I returned to my dressing room, there sat dear Humphrey, a champagne flute in hand and a bouquet for me.

    ‘Even a bad oyster,’ he said to me with a wink, ‘can produce a pearl, eh Gramps?’

    1. Welcome to Microcosms, John!
      This was a really well-written piece, capturing the tone of the florid self-importance of the old-school actor, and a great take on the prompt elements. Fine debut.
      [ You did, however, choose an incorrect homophone. ‘Wretch’ is a noun; ‘retch’ is the verb meaning ‘to strain as if to vomit’. 😉 ]
      Unfortunately, you didn’t take on board the fact that Microcosms is a Friday flash fiction contest. I know that Friday is a movable feast when viewed in global time-zones; that is why we stick to the period from 00:00 to 23:59 New York time (EST) for entries. So, sadly, your entry arrived too late for consideration by this week’s judge.
      We hope you won’t be discouraged by this false start, and that you will be back to line up for the Microcosms 24-hour Race this coming Friday. 😉

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