Microcosms 48

Welcome to Microcosms 48, flashionistas. (Thanks to Bill Engleson for this wonderful term.)

On this day in 1867, at Tremont Temple in Boston, Charles Dickens gives his first public reading in the United States.
This provides a tenuous link to the great man of letters. So, our elements this week are taken from his famous novels.



(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: Seamstress, setting: Second-hand Shop, and genre: Crime.

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.

  • Barrister
  • Bottle Cleaner
  • Spinster
  • Orphan
  • Seamstress
  • Murderer
  • London
  • Factory
  • Mansion
  • Second-hand Shop
  • Debtors’ Prison
  • Rooftop
  • Fairy Tale
  • Comedy
  • Crime
  • Romance
  • Poetry
  • Drama


Judging this week is Microcosms 47 Judge’s Pick, Nthato Morakabi.

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.


Cover of First Edition of "The Adventures of Oliver Twist" designed by George Cruikshank
Cover of First Edition of “The Adventures of Oliver Twist” designed by George Cruikshank
Microcosms 49
Microcosms 47

88 thoughts on “Microcosms 48

  1. Why Late Night Interviews with Murderers are NOT, Generally Speaking, a Good Idea

    “Fire away. I got nothing to hide.”

    “Okay. I will. On the record. Everything?”

    “Any dirt you get will be my own doing. You make anything up, well, that’ll be your funeral.”

    “You are a charming man, Mr. Cragg. Let’s begin. The early days. What drove you?”

    “What made me the kind of man I am? Well, you wake up one day don’t you and you know with a smug spinster teacher’s certainty that you are either going to spend your life in the gutter, snuggling up to rats and other lowlifes or you’re going to grind your teeth, knuckle down, do whatever the hell you have to do to get a leg up. And keep it up.”

    “A vivid image. You’ve done quite a lot to get where you are, Mr. Cragg?”

    “Oh, so you’re one of those squeaky clean little buggers are you who has never stepped on a crack? Never broken anybody’s back? Well, the only way I know to make your bones is to go for the jugular. If you can’t do that, what use are you?”

    “I’ve been told, sir, that you created The Murder Corporation. Would you care to comment?”

    “Look around you. 15,000 square feet. I have more rooms than the previous four generations of my family. I have it MADE. And all it took was a willingness to kill a few people, people who would eventually die anyways. I just hurried them along.”

    “That’s depraved!”

    “It’s also good business. And with very low overhead. The benefit of a home-based enterprise.”

    “Who hires you? How do they even find you?”

    “Well, my clients send the people they want terminated to my house. Just like you were sent to me.”

    “But I’m a reporter?”

    “Yes. And you have apparently ticked someone off, big time.”

    Murderer; mansion; crime
    300 words whispered in dark places

    1. Another splendid dialogue-only story, Bill. Love it. Nosy reporter’s questions leading to certain demise.

  2. Alva Holland
    300 words
    Seamstress/Second-Hand Shop/Crime

    A Double Seam

    These greys and browns may have a brighter future – reds and blues, perhaps. But not in my lifetime. My strand ends are tattered and fraying as the conclusion to my short life beckons. What of my young cousin? My single bloodline fibre. Will her life also end brutally? What evidence then that we ever existed? Two wretched girls linked by tenuous bone and sinew lines weaving through rough hems.

    I should never have told him about her. But, what can he do? He will die with me – we are destined for the same guillotine. Class aside, his blood with mine on a blade edge.

    He is not who he says. Why would he give his life, the ultimate sacrifice, for another?

    Love, perhaps.

    Threads of love I will never know. What crime is this they speak about? Love for my country? I sew cloth so it can be sold, old as new. Will anyone remember this poor peasant, thrown into the company of a learned man willing to die for his wealthy friend?

    I know, you see. His friend’s face is etched in my memory. This is not him. This man will die as Charles so that the real Charles may live out a better life, in freedom.

    A better life. The afterlife. Didn’t give it much thought until now. Will we all be equal? This educated man is comforting me as we journey to the gallows. He looks afraid, regretting his decision perhaps? I’m not afraid if my death makes a difference. My dying wish is that someone will make me matter. Is it too much to hope that someone will write my story, short as it is?

    He’s kissing me. His last act on this earth. I’m taken first. Let him be there when this is over.

    1. That’s a dark, haunting, poetic piece. I especially liked some of the thread imagery which you made work throughout the piece (some clever weaving on your part too?). Really enjoyed this piece.

    2. Love your adaptation of the Tale of Two Cities ending – one of my favourite Dickens books, the scene with Sydney Carton and the little girl in the tumbril and then at the guillotine gets me every time.

    3. So stoic and sad. The thread theme was well woven in (hehehe), and it reminded me of the three fates and the thread of life, just waiting on Atropos’ blade to snip it. Beautiful story, meaningful and poignant ending, with the last kiss.

  3. A Tear in the Fabric

    Justice Nathaniel Crike today delivered judgement upon a fallen woman, Dorothea Ladbroke, 31, of Kensington Palace Gardens, sentencing her to five years imprisonment for public exposure of a third party

    The sentence brings to an end the mystery of the shocking scourge of split seams and exposed anatomies that have afflicted the city, leading to the wrongful arrest of hundreds and terrorising the working people of this city. The judgement leaves the streets safe once more for the eyes of our children, womenfolk and those of a delicate constitution.

    Justice Crike described Ladbroke as ‘a fallen gentlewoman lulled by the siren call of anarchism’. Her defence, Mr Isaac Bancroft QC portrayed Miss Ladbroke as a woman of good repute and considerable means, estranged from her father, the banker and philanthropist, Mr Tarquin Ladbroke, after he uncovered her secret betrothal to a footman of the household, Norman Scripe, an anarchist. Mr Bancroft told the court that the liaison was revealed to her father by the elegant cut of his footman’s breeches and sure sign of his daughter’s remarkable needlework.

    Inspector Jabez Nichols of Scotland Yard told the court that he had identified the victims by the origin of their damaged garments, all bought in Pennyfeather’s Arcade, a vendor of used clothing.

    Mabel Pennyfeather, proprietor, testified that she had employed the fallen Ladbroke as a seamstress, describing her adjustments as ‘the best I’ve ever seen’. But in secret, Ladbroke was exacting her revenge on the shop’s poor customers.

    Enoch Crack, 23, a clerk from Limehouse, gave evidence of his arrest: ‘One minute,’ he said, ‘I have myself some cracking new trousers. The next, I bend to tie my laces and I feel a breeze and hear screaming. Then the coppers came.’

    Today, working men of London, fear no more as you stretch.

    300 words

    Seamstress/Second-hand shop/crime

    (And, if nothing else, I got the timing right this time … Sorry! New to this wonderful Microcosmic universe)

    1. A ‘cracking at the seams story,’ John. Well done and I add my welcome to Microcosms.
      I think you mean ‘Miss Ladbroke’ when you say ‘Miss Bancroft’ on the second line of the third paragraph? If Geoff reads this comment, he can correct it for you. Or you can post your own comment under your story asking him to correct it before the stories are sent to the judge.

      1. Thanks, Alva, both for the comment and the very good spot. Wrote that far too early in the morning. If a change were possible before judging, it would be fantastic.

      2. Thanks very much, Geoff. I’ll try to be more alert with my proof-reading. Too many characters for such a short piece.

  4. Steve Lodge
    299 words
    seamstress/second hand shop/crime

    Growing Up In London #17

    I was round at me Mums in Bethnal Green, having a cup of rosy, when me mate, Vic, comes in looking like death warmed up.

    “I feel right Tom and Dick, Vince,” he says “And I’m supposed to be taking the Ice Maiden dancing up west tonight.”

    Well, me dear old Mum butts in, doesn’t she? “You do look sick, Vic boy. I’ll get you some of me Secret Recipe.” She shuffles off to the larder.

    “It’s probably some old jollop she’s got from that second hand shop where that dodgy chemist worked. Some of his old stock got left behind after they arrested him. Vic, try not to take any of it but don’t hurt her feelings, willya?”

    “Na, na. Course not. Yeah I heard about old Arnold Thockle. Right geezer, he was. Ended up swinging for poisoning his wife, that Polly Harbottle and her sister, Pearl.”

    “Polly Harbottle Thockle? Well he didn’t do a very good job cos she’s working as a seamstress for Gladys Gorblimey above that Chinese laundry in Silvertown.”

    “Oh, she ain’t dead then?” asks Vic.

    “Wow, you must be Tom and Dick, me old mate, cos that was your stupidest question ever. So far.”

    Mum comes back with the bottle. “Here, Ma, give me the bottle” I says. “What’s in it?”

    “No one knows,” she says “It’s a Secret Recipe.”

    “Mum, it’s not a Secret Recipe,” I’m reading the label. “This jollop is called Secret Recipe cos it says here this cure-all was invented by Philippe Secret and Marcel Recipe in Calais in 1897, and looking at the state of the bottle, this may well have come from the first batch.”

    Well, me and Vic got the usual response from Mum, didn’t we? “Don’t matter. Won’t hurt you. Take some, Vic. Go on.”

  5. Murderer / London / Crime
    Word Count: 300

    Jackie’s Book

    August, 1888
    My mother was a whore. I accept this as much as the fact that the sky is blue. I snort with laughter. I live in London. The sky is almost never blue. But my mother was still a whore.

    She would always leave me to tend to my baby sisters while she teetered off into the cavernous night, hunting for love, like prey. She would return in the morning bloodied, bruised, her spirit broken.

    When my father was alive, he had made sure I went to school. I was an avid reader but now there was no money for books. I was walking home one day when I stumbled across a satchel that had probably dropped off a carriage and I was quick to snatch it and stuff it under my coat. When I got home, I lit a candle to inspect my treasures. A few coins, a handkerchief and a book dropped out. What a strange book it was, with drawings of the human body and what was inside of it. I read this book, devouring all the information I could, reading well into the night, every night.

    I don’t know when I began to obsess over what I had read. I wanted to see the jugular vein, the inner workings of the uterus. I wanted to inhale the cloying, rust-like smell of blood. I wanted to feel life slip away through my fingers, feel a pulse stop; see the light dim from the eyes in death. I packed a carving knife from the drawer in the kitchen and some twine. I wore my father’s trousers and his over coat. At the last minute I stuffed my long blonde hair under a cap and darkened my face with soot.

    No one would miss the whores in Whitechapel.

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  6. Ronel Janse van Vuuren
    225 words
    Seamstress/ Second-hand Shop/ Crime
    All That Glitters

    Emily kept her head down and squinted at the sequins she was sewing to the dress to cover a stain. Sometimes it was better to hide the unsightly with shiny things than to try and fix it. Especially when dealing with clothes that had known another life, had experiences she could only dream of.

    Another thump outside made her squirm closer to the wall. Row upon dark row of clothing that needed her attention stood between her and the door.

    When she’d applied for the job as seamstress at Second Chances, the manager had told her there was only one rule: “never witness anything, you’ll live longer”. Emily had taken it to heart. Even a cry for help won’t make her budge.

    The silver sequins were finished. She looked down at the pattern she’d sewn: a skull. Closing her eyes briefly, she hoped that the girls who usually bought the glittering items would appreciate it. She filled in the features with black sequins, matching the dress beneath.

    Glass shattered high above her head. She didn’t make a sound. Shouts could be heard outside, joined by the screeching of sirens.

    “It’s okay, Emily.”

    She looked up from the glittering glass surrounding and covering her. The manager stood outlined in the dim light coming through the high windows.

    “You don’t need to hide in the dark anymore.”

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  7. @Nthito
    298 words
    seamstress/second-hand shop/crime

    PS: I know I’m the judge but please do enjoy the entry nonetheless. I promise I won’t make myself win haha – I should be ineligible anyway.

    “Come in child.” She said from the doorway. Her raven hair, streaked purple under the hanging light, had been tied into a bun that pulled her face taut. Jade eyes gleamed with the cluster of gold hanging around her neck, watching the man hesitate on the porch of the second-hand shop simply named Thimble.

    “Thank you.” he tucked the fedora under his arm and slipped within the gloom, hands clutching and unfurling as his gaze swept around the room. Racks lined the walls and twisted across the room, pouring with various sewing machines likely seen in an antique shop. The air swam with incense and lavender over the musk of perfume she wore.

    “I’m looking for…”

    “Hush. Follow me.”

    She trailed a shawl that matched her hair. Arms raised like T-Rex claws led to limp hands adorned with jewels on arched fingers, leading the way into the establishment. They traipsed through the maze of shelves toward a table where a sewing machine sat to the side of it. Two high-back wooden chairs had been arranged across each other. The woman plunked down into one of them.

    “Sit.” She raised her eyes at him until he carefully slid in. Clasped hands rested on the table. They sat in silence while the woman stared.

    “It’s my wife!” he finally shouted, then sheepishly lowered his head, “It’s my wife.” he said softer.

    “I am well aware. That is why you came to me. For protection, yes?”

    He nodded. His adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. Eyes scanned the room nervously.

    “What is your fee?”

    Now it was her turn to rest her hands on the table, laid flat over one another,

    “No charge at all.”

    A smile edged his lips in uncertainty,

    “The body… is in the trunk of the car.”

  8. Exterminating Angel

    117 words
    Elements: murderer, second-hand shop, poetry


    Musted mounds of rags
    Lives left behind
    Tossed on a heap
    To be sorted, discarded, despoiled
    Much like my own trade
    Sifting through drifting souls
    Picking out the one

    The one
    That called to be taken

    The one

    The one mistaken
    By my intentions

    Crushed velvet beneath my fingers
    The silk of flesh stirring
    The flames of my devil’s heart
    Lace, lacing my senses
    Pulses race, racing
    To slake the thirst
    Keen, your keening cry
    A lyrical lament, a chorus
    A roar, raging in my ears
    Your fears feeding my frenzy

    And I am become the Exterminating Angel
    The Destroyer

    And your tears will not be enough
    Not enough
    Never enough
    To wash my sins away

      1. Thank you – I occasionally get all poetical (do you do Visual Verse – check it out, flash or poetry 50-500 words, I tend to write poems on that site, dip into the archives, you might see a number of names you recognise!)

      1. Thank you! And I’ll do what I did to Alva and recommend Visual Verse. First of the month flash or poetry subs 50-500 words – you have 1hr to write and submit response to picture they put up (note you don’t have to actually sub on the day, it’s just the picture changes then). I believe your writing would fit right in. Subs are usually posted a few days after their lead writers are displayed – you work rubs shoulders with the likes of Andrew Motion, Stella Duffy and a few FlashDogs!

  9. @stellieb3
    300 Words
    Seamstress/Second-hand shop/crime

    She heard the faint ring of the bell at the top of the door as she entered and almost jumped, nervous about her intentions for being here. It was a second-hand shop called the White Elephant, and she had been making her home there for the last few months, unsure of when the owner would return.
    One day she would walk in here, and someone would be waiting for her, and it would be the end of it all.
    She went slowly to the back, and grabbed herself some cookies from the pantry to eat. She sat down on the only chair in the whole backroom and picked up her work which was in front of her. She was a seamstress, and she hoped maybe this dress she was making would make the Madame happy. She needed the money so she could finally buy herself some pretty shoes. The old ones she wore had holes in the front, and her feet ached from the cold in the winter. Although she was as poor as a church mouse, she was content with her life, hoping that nothing would change very soon.
    But she was not so fortunate.
    Jenny heard the doorbell, and her heart almost stopped out of fright.
    “Hello?” She heard someone from inside the shop. She only heard footsteps approaching rapidly, and when she had stood up to ran, a man and a woman were facing her, just as shocked as she was.
    The woman had a gun in her hand, and Jenny became enormously fearful.
    “She saw us!” The man shouted, and Jenny only saw the woman pick up her gun and point it straight at Jenny.
    “Please, I won’t say anything.” Jenny begged.
    “Sorry, doll. Can’t take that chance.” She said simply as she pulled the trigger.

  10. @rhapsody2312
    297 Words
    Seamstress/Second-hand shop/Crime

    Life Sentence

    If meddling in people’s lives were a crime, I had a life sentence. After all, there were few who did as much meddling as I did.

    “Come by the shop on Thursday, Mr Wayne. Your suit will be mended by then, in plenty of time for your friend’s wedding.”

    The sweet young boy stuttered a thank you and left, the chime of the bell above the door signalling his exit. Ten minutes later, it rang again as my next customer made her nervous entrance.

    “I’m going to a wedding this weekend, Ma’am. I don’t have much to wear, times have been hard, I’m sure you know. I was hoping, perhaps you could…” She tapered off, holding out a simple dress that had seen better days. I took it, turning it this way and that, hemming and hawing as she watched me. Of course, I knew immediately what I would do with the dress, but my customers expect a bit of a fuss and I like to make them feel they’re giving me a challenge. They’re happier with the end result that way.

    “I think we can do something with this, Miss. Now, did you say you had a date for the wedding?” Her cheeks flushed ferociously as she shook her head.

    “My sister… well… no, I don’t.”

    “I see.” I saw much more, but she needn’t know that. “Your dress will be ready on Thursday. You can come and collect it from the shop then.”

    “Thank you!” The chimes hurried her out of the shop and I sat down with both the suit and the dress. I’d inherited the shop second-hand from the murdered previous owner, little realising when he’d surprised me stealing from him, that Cupid was a tailor of love, not just expensive jewelled clothing.

    1. Lovely story. Who’d want to murder him? A disgruntled spurned suitor? I like the suit and dress at the end…how will that meddling turn out?

  11. @ InquisiHedgehog
    Seamstress/ Second-hand shop/ crime
    Word Count: 257

    Seamstress Unravels

    Detective Nod inched his way through the second hand shop. He gently stepped between the different appendages. This was no ordinary second-hand shop. It was where all the toys came to be repaired. “HELLOOOO! Anyone here?” he called into the shop. All that came back was his echo and the faint noise of a sewing machine. “Where is Maria, the seamstress. She is always here?” he wondered. Detective Nod walked past the counter and slinked into the back room. Maybe she was busy sewing up a toy. As he stepped into room. He almost fell over in shock. There lying in a pool of her own stuffing was Maria. She had been killed. “Oh no, I better get out of here before the cops arrive,” thought Detective Nod. “Oh wait I am a cop.” He started to survey the scene. How had this happened? Who was the killer? Why would they want to hurt my poor little Maria? She was only a seamstress. As he looked around he saw tiny mouse prints heading away from the body. “Oh no it was the Mouse King” shrieked Detective Nod. “You called” grimaced the Mouse King. “Ahhh no…” quivered Detective Nod. “I was just clearly my throat” and he started to hack. “See?” smiled Nod apologetically and inched towards the door. “Bruno! Lars! Stop him” Before Detective Nod to get to the door two giant poodles blocked it. “Going anywhere?” glared Bruno. “Ahh, I guess not.” Said Nod as he shrunk back. This was turning out be a terrible day.

  12. @hollygeely
    242 words
    spinster, rooftop, fairy ale

    There was a man called Ronald in a kingdom of old who, sick to death of being poor, took to spreading rumours. He claimed that his daughter, the fair maid Margaret, could turn animal droppings into tasteful house ornaments. This rumour eventually reached the king, who was curious, and summoned Margaret to his court. He left her on the roof with a pile of droppings.

    “If, come morning, all of these turds have become beautiful, you shall marry my son,” said the king, “But if they are still turds, as I suspect is the case, I will have you hanged.”

    The sound of the maid’s bitter sobs woke the fairy who lived in the loft.

    “I can give you this power,” said he, “But you must give me something in return.”

    “Anything!” said the desperate maid.

    “You must promise me your first-born son.”

    Margaret had no choice but to agree.

    Morning came, and with it, a satisfied king. The barn was filled with garden gnomes that glittered with diamonds. He praised Margaret and congratulated her on her pending marriage to his son.

    “Thank you, Your Majesty, but I’m going to skip that part,” said the maid.

    She never married, and never gave birth to a son, and the fairy was unable to claim his reward. His boss was displeased that he was unable to meet that year’s baby quota, and he fired the fairy, who lived miserably ever after as an alcoholic.

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    1. Great twist on the old Rumpelstiltskin story. Not sure if your ‘fairy ale’ is intentional in the elements, Holly but it fits in quite nicely with the alcoholic ending! 🙂

  13. Ginger Biscuits and the Folds of Space Time
    A.J. Walker

    Jenny, the senior seamstress at Locket & Son, exuded the most motherly aura. Mr Sprocket, the always old accountant, was ten years her senior but still felt like she mothered him. She made cakes, lots of cakes. And her ginger biscuits were to die for. She’d distribute hugs and good advice with each tasty treat. Everybody loved her.

    It was all part of her act, Jenny was in fact a cunning genius with a needle and thread and an eye to bend time and space within the smooth lining of clothes. She was the go to seamstress for the shoplifting class. She’d create pockets within pockets within pockets and the whole would look just like any other trousers and jacket.

    When poor young George Timmins, who had the most loose of bladders, had nipped out for a call of nature from behind the counter at O’Keegan’s Second-Hand Shoppe, he had no idea that the entire shop could had been emptied in so short a time.

    In the foggy early hours of Sunday morning Mr Spill McGuigan was arrested on Back Fleet Street. It took two policemen thirty minutes to empty Spill’s booty from his coat and the contents filled an entire cell.

    It was an all too familiar act in this part of London. There had been an epidemic of shop clearances throughout the year. Rarely would anyone be caught. Even if they were, like Spill, the criminal code was strong and no-one would ever talk about their bespoke tailoring.

    The ever curious Sgt Bill McManus inspected all of the miraculous coats of many pockets and so far the only clue were the crumbs of ginger biscuits found in each of them.

    WC: 283
    seamstress/ second hand shop/ crime

    1. The ginger biscuits make this story work for me! Many a childhood memory, but I didn’t murder anyone. Promise.

  14. Sian Brighal
    300 words

    Spinster/London/Fairy tale

    The Corn Mother

    The winters had been getting harsher, more bitter, and Spring no longer leapt, but limped in after the cold had bitten and mauled the city. Some were talking of a shift in the air, of things becoming unbalanced, but most just glided from fireplace to fireplace with no care but for the price of coal and the ease of finding a Hansom.

    In the dirty alleys and dimly lit doorways, people without warm fireplaces and no money for coal did what they could against the murderous cold, mourning its victims while taking their boots and gloves. And despite tears frozen to their lids, they slept a little warmer.

    And in between fiery barrels, falsely warmed drunks and crying children, a thin man strode, his green eyes fierce. He’d pause a while, flick a gold coin in the air for someone to earn with an answer: where is the spinster who asks for sheaves?

    He’d asked so often, he feared none would earn it. But then a small voice, weak from hunger, reached his ear, and a child pointed to a house while holding out his empty hand. Paid in full they parted ways.

    Into the house he stepped, his eyes now wary for what he’d find. Down he went, as deep as stone would let, and found her in the cellar, bent and withered with age. There was a sense that she carried a great burden: even the air felt heavy and about her feet lay a multitude of moldering dollies.

    The last was in her hands, old and fragile.

    “There’s no more straw,” she croaked desperately. “She must have a home.”

    “Come, Mother,” he said. “Let’s get you some help.”

    “You have straw?”

    “Yes. Bedlam has plenty of straw.”

  15. Spinster, London, Comedy
    271 words

    What’s in a name?

    Marigold sat, nervously gripping her bag. The dating agency was her last resort. Sylvia, the woman interviewing her, tried a smile. ‘Don’t be nervous. Just a few questions and I’m sure we’ll fix you up, someone as attractive as you. So name?’
    ‘Marigold Fagin.’
    ‘Fagin? As in…’
    ‘Hmm.’ Sylvia’s frown disturbed her smooth forehead.
    Sylvia looked up, relaxing. ‘You’d never guess. Do you work?’
    ‘Yes. It’s a family business. Working with children, giving them unusual apprenticeship experiences and, er, garden design.’
    ‘Garden design?’ Sylvia’s forehead re-creased.
    ‘Fencing. Oh and security.’
    She swallowed as she glanced at Marigold, who blushed.
    ‘Where do you live?’
    ‘Limehouse. East London. We like the ambience. Well, the fog, mostly.’
    ‘The fog?’
    ‘It makes the security easier.’
    The beetled brow took on an alarming ridged quality. ‘Oh yes?’
    ‘They don’t see us coming.’
    ‘Right.’ Sylvia dabbed the perspiration away. ‘So you’ve had boyfriends I take it?’
    ‘Oh, yes, they just never stay.’
    ‘Do they say why?’
    ‘Generally, they only talk to my brother. After that they tend not to call.’
    ‘And you don’t think that can be part of the reason?’
    ‘Kevin’s ever so polite. He just takes an interest. The last one he showered around one of the building sites we secure. He didn’t turn up again, either. Kevin was surprised; he said he thought Grant showed concrete promise. Or was it promise as concrete? I do get muddled.’
    Sylvia took a moment to regain her composure. ‘Can I be honest with you, Marigold?’
    Marigold looked startled, then affronted. ‘Oh no, I really don’t think so. No that wouldn’t do. What would Kevin say?’

    1. Lovely read! Loved the flow and the way they both came at the conversation from different angles. Promise as concrete was awesome!

  16. @AvLaidlaw
    296 Words
    Elements – Seamstress / Second-Hand Shop / Crime

    The Lady Doesn’t Lie

    Yellow light from the shop windows puddled on the wet street. I pushed open the door and an old-fashioned bell clanged. It clanged again as I shut the door behind me. Second-hand clothes hung from the rails like commuters on the Northern Line, threadbare and empty inside. I caught a glimpse of myself in the full-length mirror beside the counter. Shabby enough for this place.

    “Inspector.” Elsie Smith crept out of the backroom, a black evening gown draped over her arm. I thought of a mouse, small mousy eyes half hidden by the mousy hair that hung over her face. She was the kind of person you only ever see from the corner of your eye, the kind that never make a fuss and are too easy to forget.

    “It’s about your husband.”

    “Still missing?”

    “You don’t seem concerned.”

    “He’s probably sleeping off a weekend drunk somewhere.”

    “It’s been two weeks.”

    She sat at the counter and stabbed a needle into the dress with a ferocity I didn’t expect from her brittle fingers. “Must have been some weekend.”

    “He’s often drunk?”

    “Rarely sober.”

    “Is that why you never reported him missing?”

    She stood and held the dress against herself, slowly twisting one way and then the other so the skirt swished around her ankles. “What do you think inspector?”

    “Your customer will be pleased.”

    “I’m keeping this one.” She flicked her hair back as she looked in the mirror, for a second revealing a scar and yellow bruise on her cheek. I guessed the bruise was about two weeks old.

    “It’s about time I had some fun. Perhaps you’ll take me dancing.” She smiled and her teeth were nothing like the teeth of a mouse.

    “The repairs are very good,” I said. “You can barely see them.”

    1. Excellent! A very lovely read. I like how she morphed through the story from a mouse to a… cat, maybe? I do hope she gets to go dancing. The allusion to repairs was also deft.

  17. It Would Be a Crime

    When Esther spotted the silver scissors in Dumple’s Emporium, she felt she had to have them. There was sewing and chores waiting but a quick look might satisfy. She went inside.
    Mr Dumple was asleep at his desk, behind a pile of mouldering papers. The scissors were a good length, with peacock feather patterned handles and green silk tassel. Esther fingered the sharpened blade. It would be a crime to steal them but she wanted them so badly.
    He was snoring, hands across his belly, as she slowly slid the scissors towards her pocket.
    His eyes snapped open. ‘Oh! Steal from me would you?’
    ‘Please. I’m a poor seamstress. I have to work hard since my father died …’
    He lunged towards her. He wanted his scissors back.
    She gave them to him. Straight through the heart.
    His body crashed to the floor, becoming wedged between desk and paper pile. Esther’s heart pounded. What had she done?
    Pulling the scissors from his chest, she noticed something nearby. Keys! She grabbed them and headed out of the door, locking it behind her.
    Once home, Esther rinsed the scissors and started using them. She told herself it would be a crime not to.
    All night she was haunted by Mr Dumple. She would smell the dusty shop and his rancid tobacco. She would see him in the darkness beside her bed and in the flames of the fire. The next day, every time she cut her thread with those beautiful scissors she remembered.
    After another fretful night, Esther felt she had to do something. At dawn she rose, gathered up her father’s battered umbrella, matches and the keys and crept from the house.
    He was a sleepy old man. A pipe smoker. It wouldn’t be a crime. It would be an accident.

    300 words
    Seamstress – Second-hand Shop – Crime

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    1. I loved the description of the scissors and the way they became a reason and an excuse. Snipping thread at the end of a life…tying off loose threads.

  18. The Seamstress’s Quilt


    Seamstress, Rooftop, Crime

    It was a dilapidated house she lived in. No one knew how long it has stood there. If it had seen any heydays, there were no signs remaining. All that remained of the ageing house were its grey walls and a grey haired seamstress. Something else remained and it caught every passerby’s eye. It was the colourful rooftop.
    The rooftop was covered with a colourful quilt woven with hundreds of pieces of cloth. Some faded with time but some, as new as yesterday. Not many had seen the seamstress but those who had said she looked like a witch straight out of a children’s illustrated book.
    What amused the neighborhood were the additions to the Rooftop Quilt. No one knew when she added patches of new clothes but there was a new one every week.
    “The quilt must be made from the leftover pieces of cloth she stitches for her clients.” said one lady.
    “I often hear her working on the sewing machine.” said another.
    “I can hear her sing, when she sits by the window doing needle work.” said the third.
    She mostly sings songs about death.
    “Poor lady, she is so old that all she must be doing is waiting to die.” remarked the first one.
    Just then there was a siren and a police car came to a screeching halt. They barged into the seamstress’s cottage. The gossiping ladies hung around to have a look.
    “What happened, Officer? Why are you arresting the old lady?”
    “Old Lady! She is a witch. She has killed every living person who could claim a stake in this house. Man, woman, child … she has spared none.”
    “How many has she killed you said?”
    “As many pieces of cloth sewn on the Rooftop Quilt!”

  19. Seamstress/Second-hand shop/Drama
    Word Count: 296

    Emily’s Heritage

    Emily-Rose smoothed her skirt with hands that were shaking and sweating. . If she was caught, it would be the gallows for her. She needed the dress she had made for the princess. She remembered the day she had hidden the gem in the lining of the dress and had stitched it closed, thinking she would continue working at the palace. She was let go that day. She couldn’t find a job and her small savings dwindled to nothing. She lived in a tenement building with ten other people. There was no privvy, you had to use a bucket and clean it every morning by throwing it out the window. Many a poor soul had a world of shit rain down on them. She was still staring at the delicate bone china cup when the second-hand store assistant approached.

    “May I help you?” she crooned, her greedy eyes sweeping over Emily to take in the perceived wealth.

    “Yes. I would like a ball gown. It’s for my sister, you see.”

    “Of course”, she said her head bobbing up and down like a chicken. I knew she would bring that one first. It was the most expensive. She came back, carrying the dress reverently over her arm. If only she knew how much I despised it. She led me to a dressing room and left. I quickly whipped out my scissors and began cutting away at the hem. I pocketed the gem and quickly stitched up the area I had loosened. I hurried out of the dressing room and, while Miss Chicken-head was busy, I slipped out into the road. I was unfortunate to have a bucket of waste dumped all over me, but i smiled. It was the last time I would take shit from anyone.

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  20. Elliot P. McGee

    300 words

    Seamstress / Second-Hand Shop / Crime


    Detective Holland pressed the freshly shattered boards of the door to the basement open. The owner of the establishment had given full lease to the detective to investigate the mostly abandoned space of their storerooms after portentous reports. Previously it had been home to a seamstress, the storage space given over to the old effects, decrepit machinery, and boxes upon boxes of fabrics.
    From the general state of affairs, dust hanging heavily in the air and laying thick on every surface in sight, accompanied by a mildewed scent led the detective to believe few had ventured down here in the years since the seamstress had passed and the property had fallen into disrepair after several grisly murders had been associated with it.
    The detective pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket and covered his mouth, fighting off a more familiar and ominous scent. Deigning to make his way inside the long since abandoned seamstress workspace the detective crept slowly along attempting to disturb nothing. Dim light peeked into the cramped space from the doorway behind and opaque windows set at ground level, giving only faint hints of shapes in the darker corners.
    Fresh scuff marks appeared in the thick carpet of dust, distinctly in the shape of two sets of footprints. The detective cautiously followed these and soon the footprints became one set accompanied by thick lines indicating something heavy being dragged.
    As the detective moved deeper into the recesses of the foreboding establishment the gouges in the dust became accompanied by dark and damp stains. The familiar scent hung thicker in the air here.
    Holland stepped around an ancient sewing table and was met with the sight of young miss Elcort’s body, marked with the signature of a serial killer in her naked flesh. The murders had begun again.

  21. Words: 299
    Seamstress/2nd hand shop/crime

    Selling Hope

    The shop was the final stop for clothes and shoes before they were so worn that they had to become cleaning rags or something to be burned during the long cold nights when every last bit of fuel meant another moment of life spent relatively warm.
    Gira sat back in her rickety chair at the back of the shop and stretched her aching back, regarding her own handiwork. In front of her lay a piece of linen embroidered with symbols in red, blue, and green.
    The bell above the door rang and she shouted – like every other time: “Mind you don’t go touching anything you’re not going to buy!”
    There was not the usual grumble, but just silence. Gira rose from behind the counter piled high with merchandise to see what was going on when a force pinned her back in the chair, crushing air from her lungs.
    “You make these?” A tall, lithe woman stepped from behind one of the towers of secondhand jackets and threw one of Gira’s embroidered cloths at her.
    “I do.” She tried squaring her shoulders, sitting upright, but could not. Then she saw the symbols on the woman’s clothes and her blood ran cold. “I only do it to give them some hope, you see.”
    “Hope? Yet you let them pay for these worthless charms? Claiming that they can bring back lovers or cure diseases?”
    “I sell them hope. Not charms. I never tell them that they are real charms! Mercy!”
    A flash of metal.
    A gurgle of blood.
    A body dragged into a nameless alley.
    The fake charms went into the small stove, smoking as they burned. A new pile replaced them.
    The tall woman sat down and started working on another charm. She would sell the people more than just hope.

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