Microcosms 53

Another Friday, another year… Welcome to Microcosms 53, the first post of 2017. Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all had a great festive period. To extend my break, Stephen Shirres kindly volunteered to be guest host this week. Over to you, Stephen:

 Happy New Year, Microcosms-ers. In an attempt to be surprising, we are starting the year with a contest based around New Year’s Resolutions. This is your chance to turn all those well-intentioned thoughts into something useful – a flash fiction tale we can all enjoy.



(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, resolution and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are – character: Online Dater, resolution: Lose Weight, and genre: Romance.

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.

  • Gym Newbie
  • Spendthrift
  • Writer
  • Workaholic
  • Smoker
  • Online Dater
  • Lose Weight
  • Spend Less
  • Write a Book
  • Have More Family Time
  • Quit Smoking
  • Fall in Love
  • Sci-Fi
  • Comedy
  • Crime
  • Romance
  • Memoir
  • Thriller


Microcosms 50 Judge’s Pick Firdaus Parvez is unable to judge this week. So yours truly will be judging.

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.


No photo to inspire you this week. To continue Stephen’s surprising theme, just imagine a wall calendar, focused on 01-JAN…


Microcosms 54
Microcosms 50

33 thoughts on “Microcosms 53

  1. Alva Holland
    300 words
    Smoker/Have More Family Time/Crime

    No Smoke Without… Trouble

    Dad’s creeping out the back door again. I know, Dad.

    He tries but 37 years of a habit is tough to break. I know this even though I’ve only been here for ten of those years. Ma says since I came along, he’s been banished to outside.

    I remember.

    I was probably four or so, nose pressed against the patio glass, watching him pace up and down with what looked like a white stick stuck in his mouth. I thought he was keeping the dog company. Both pacing the patio with sticks in their mouths, but Dad’s little white stick shrank as he paced and then he threw the end of it on the ground and crushed it. Even at four-years-old I couldn’t see the point. I tried it with a twig but it didn’t work for me and the taste stayed for days.

    Fred circled and ran and fetched but his stick always stayed the same size until it disappeared over the hedge or up into the branches if Dad threw it too high. Then Fred and Dad got new sticks and the routine repeated.

    It’s a New Year – January 4th. Dad’s been suffering for three days. There he goes, slinking out the door. He skulks into the shadows, making sure Fred is safely inside. I won’t tell, Dad.

    Shouts and screams from next door. Doors slam. Sensor lights flash in the garden. Within minutes, sirens. Blue strobes over the hedge. Dad’s still outside. I run to Ma and warn her. I hope she won’t be cross with Dad – he tries.

    The policeman’s shiny buttons glow in the lights of the front door wreath. ‘Reports of an intruder next door, ma’am. Stay inside and keep your doors and windows locked.’

    I could tell them it’s Dad but I don’t.

    1. Hi Geoff,
      Can you add an ‘s’ to the second ‘mouth’ on the second line of the paragraph commencing ‘I was probably four or so…’

      1. Thanks, Nic! For reading and commenting. Great to have Microcosms Fiction back. I’ve missed it.

  2. Twittering On – Louise Mangos

    Writer / Writing a Book / Romance
    253 words

    It’s been one year. We met online in January, haggling for one of my colleague’s new titles in a free giveaway on Twitter. I fell in love with your humorous syntax and the split metaphors delivered from your 140 characters.

    You said you liked the premise of my second novel but scorned the title. I said I’d let you read it when I’d finished. You said ‘Girl’ has been done to death. 2016 should be the year of the ‘Woman’. I said I would make it my resolution.

    By December you’d read my book. In reality and in the figurative sense. You said the protagonist should die earlier in the narrative. I said it would ruin the suspense. You said the decisions she made were annoying. I said everyone has their flaws. You said there must be at least one thing the reader likes about a lead character. I said many book lovers are happy to immerse themselves in a life more flawed than their own. You said it made you want to throw the manuscript across the room. I said the heroine’s death should therefore have been more satisfying. You said by then you didn’t care about her any more. I said perhaps her death should be more violent. You said I needed to go back to basics. I said what do you mean? You said I should make her personality more complex.

    140 characters, each esoteric individually, but making sense as a whole.

    I said my protagonist was based on you.

    1. Great to see you back here, Louise. Oh how I love this exchange! Year of the ‘Woman’ indeed. Wonderful story.

  3. What A Way To Go
    by Steve Lodge
    298 words
    Writer/write a book/memoir

    I worked for an entertainments magazine and was thrilled when my editor, Jen Amiss, told me she needed someone to do an interview with the legendary dancer/ballerina, Carrie Favour.

    This woman was amazing. She was the youngest and the oldest dancer to kick her legs high at the famous Parisian revue showpiece, The Folies Bergerac. Fifty years separated the two events, between which, of course, she had trained and become one of the foremost ballerinas of all time, performing with such greats as the Russians Leonid Muntian and Boris Vassiliev, to whom she was romantically linked briefly, and the bronzed, dashing Englishman, Roland Butter.

    Ms Favour and I got on so well at the interview and two weeks later, she called me and told me she wanted me to ghost-write her memoirs. She was very insistent, though I felt I may be too inexperienced a writer for the memoirs of a legend.

    Many was the rainy afternoon we sat in her condo at Plaintiffs Bluff. She would regale me with intoxicating stories from her glamorous life. I imagined all the hard work, dedication, the love, the laughter, music, dance and passion that filled the days of this diminutive superstar.

    During this time, and she was then 68, she seduced me. This episode didn’t appear in the final draft.

    At age 73 she could still perform the splits. It was in that position that they found her one bleak December morning in early July. It was almost as if she knew it would be her swansong. Her last splits. She was wearing a pink tutu, white tights. Her hair was in a tight bun and her face was heavily made up, including the tell-tale overuse of lipstick. There was something both poignant and slightly grotesque about the whole scene.

  4. In Memory Of …

    Writer, Quit Smoking, Memoir
    296 words

    I long for her touch. Her long slender fingers slid through my sides, devouring pleasure in my smoothness. The touch was always different according to her moods. Writers are moody people. They almost live the characters they write about. She is one hell of a writer. She fiddled with me all through her writing process. She emptied me when she had deadlines.
    I could guess what she was writing from the way she held me. When her touch was light and relaxed it was time for romance; when her grip was tight she was in a murderous mood and when I felt a shiver down my body to my small hinges – it was time for erotica.
    I was her toy while she waited outside publishers offices.
    That day as she fiddled with me waiting outside a door, I knew we were in the wrong place. It was a clinic.
    That night she broke my heart. She just dumped me in the middle of nowhere. Actually this nowhere is her trunk with all sorts of clutter. I am pushed and shoved inside this dark wooden box but all this causes scratches on my body. My relation with her reminds me of a song I heard when I lay besides her laptop as she caressed me with her hands –
    “I used to be your love,
    And now I am your, used to be
    Outsider … that’s me.”
    Some guy called Cliff Richards sung it. Was she giving me a hint by playing this song again and again?
    Alas, it is too late to ponder. She has quit smoking and I her favourite cigarette case, lies in this dark alley of her trunk spin the words of My Love Story with a Writer!

    Report user
    1. I loved trying to work out what this was! Some gorgeous descriptions here, Vibha. ‘She emptied me when she had deadlines’ – love that.

  5. A Smoker’s Death
    Smoker, Quit Smoking, Comedy
    @geofflepard 299 words

    Jason was dead. Bloody typical he thought. He’d given up sugar, cut back on fried food, been to the gym, dusted off his pension plan, spent an hour quality time with Chloe when she stung him for some vodka and told him she had herpes, or was that the other way round?, complimented Maggie on her hair. In terms of resolutions he’d pretty much nailed it.
    He floated above the bench, outside the Duck where the smokers huddled and listened to the police take statements. The forensic people began to do unpleasant things to his body. One said, ‘Looks like he’s been hit with a blunt object.’
    Jason waved at the novelty ashtray. No one noticed. Maybe they couldn’t see him, but how could they miss it?
    When would he be allowed to go? All this hanging about. Surely, he wasn’t going to have to witness what happened to his body? Or did you follow your own corpse until, what? Burial? Cremation? Oh God, what if they did an autopsy? No way could he watch that. Or the smell. Did he still have a sense of smell?
    Policeman A began to talk to Naomi, she of the first blow. ‘Look on her cheek, plod,’ Jason screamed. ‘That’s my blood.’ Next to them, Harvey wiped his hands on the seat of his pants. ‘You’ll not hide it, sonny,’ Jason shouted, fruitlessly. Nope, they couldn’t hear either.
    He floated higher. They’d get them eventually. But, honestly it was his own fault. Joining a bunch of smokers on the 2nd of January and boasting about all your own resolution successes when it was patently clear they had already failed in theirs. Justifiable homicide really, you smart arse. He dived at the remains of his beer, wondering if he could still taste it.

  6. Ronel Janse van Vuuren
    296 words
    Online Dater/ Lose Weight/ Romance
    Ephemeral Resolutions

    Michelle watched her reflection. This was the year that she was going to get married: online dating will work this time around. She just needed to lose a little weight. Or perhaps a lot.

    She grimaced at the muffin top peeking out over her jeans. The Festive Season hadn’t done her any favours.

    Her laptop dinged. A guy – too good-looking to be real – wanted to meet for coffee.

    ‘Today?’ she gasped.

    Michelle turned back to the mirror. Gulping, she stared at her too large stomach, her too flabby arms and the wrinkles forming around her eyes from all the glaring.

    Shaking her head furiously, she turned back to her laptop. Mr Gorgeous had been flirting for a while now. And asking her out on dates. Maybe…

    The automatic doors closed with a loud swoosh behind her. Pulling at the hem of her tunic-style blouse, she made her way to where booths lined the wall.

    ‘I’m glad you could make it.’

    She nearly passed out. Mr Gorgeous looked just like his profile picture.

    ‘I’ve been trying to meet up with you again since we met at Stephanie’s wedding…’

    ‘Wait? What?’

    She didn’t have many memories of her best friend’s wedding – falling off those ridiculous shoes she had to wear really did a number on her.

    ‘Yeah, finally I decided to just go where I know I’ll find you: online.’

    Michelle blushed. Memories of him finally waved at her from where she’d pulled a veil over them. She’d tripped when she saw him at Stephanie’s wedding and had dived head-first into the fountain.

    ‘Perhaps we should sit? I’ve heard a lot about you. Good things!’ he added when she stayed standing.

    Nodding, she sat down.

    The waitress immediately materialised.

    ‘Cheesecake for me. Michelle?’

    Grinning, she ordered one too.

    Report user
    1. It started with a grimace and ended with a grin. Doesn’t get much better than that! Well done, Ronel. Super story.

  7. I often wonder how much social media sites are condusive to the truth. I mean, how much do we know about each other really? People post outdated pictures of themselves, pretend to be successful and wealthy and can act entirely outside of their own personalities. At almost forty years old, the dating pool has become a little scarce. It’s more of a puddle now.

    Last year, my bestie suggested that I online date, just for fun. Mr. Always Right was Mr. Seriously Wrong. Mr. Moocher came along and my money left with him shortly after. Mr Gym freak took one look at me and ran off. Oh, I didn’t tell you, I could stand to lose a few pounds.

    So I’ve decided that I will do the resolutions thing this year. I resolve to like myself better. I resolve to not worry about the extra flabiness that comes with age. I resolve to eat ice-cream once in a while, with gusto. I resolve to rescue more cats and buy that rocking chair that I always wanted. I resolve to do all this because I choose to. My boyfriend thinks I’m awesome just as I am. I met him at a weight watchers group. He stood next to me and asked if I liked ice-cream. We left together and never went back. That is the story of how love came to my little puddle.

    Online Dater/Losing weight/Romance
    Word Count: Under 300

    1. Great story, Angelique, resonating with me on so many levels but first and foremost because of the ice-cream! Splendid tale and your ending is brilliant.

  8. Night School: Butt Ugly 101 (The introduction)

    “Welcome to Butt Ugly 101. My name is James and I am a smoker. More than that, I am a man who LOVES smoking. LOVES it, you hear. More than life itself. Hmmm. I know that sounds a bit strange, to say you love the thing that could kill you. Will kill you. Bukowski said it best. “Find what you love and let it kill you. ‘Course, I don’t want to die. But smoking has me by the throat and throttles me daily.

    I am getting ahead of myself. I know that. Let me tell you my thinking and what I am offering this Night School Course. BUTT UGLY 101.
    Most smokers I believe are perched on a sharp blade pressing into their…cheeky seating apparatus. In our heads, we know that tobacco and smoke and carcinogens are poisoning our bodies. But also in our soft mushy heads we also know the satisfying pleasure of that moment when we light up and the smoke is drawn in and gives us sweet repose.

    Some can overwhelm the urge. Many have. But I have tried every method known to modern man. The GUM. Oh, I loved that nicotine gum. I was an early practitioner. I chewed it with abandon. And then, in my basement, where I hid packets of smokes, I would puff and chew, chew and puff. I was a wreck. A SATISFIED wreck, mid you but a wreck nevertheless.

    I tried that system where you wrote down every smoking urge, noted what you were doing, what you planned to do next. Good God Almighty. I was a mess.

    So, here I am. And here you are. We…are a lost generation, caught between knowing what’s good for us and what isn’t. Night School students, I need support. Are you with me?”

    Smoker; quit smoking; faux comedy
    300 puffs later

  9. Write What You Know

    246 words
    Elements: writer, quit smoking, crime


    Her hands twitched, not for the pen but the missing cigarette … and the page remained frustratingly blank. May needed something to distract her.

    The precinct was grey, like her mood which wasn’t improved by the small huddles furtively puffing outside office doorways. She inhaled discretely as she walked by. They paid her no attention, too focussed on their self-inflicted suffering—how she envied them.

    Slowly the crowds thinned as she found herself in the lower precinct. Charity shops and pawnbrokers proliferated. It was overwhelmingly uninspirational. This was to have been the setting for her story, somewhere where her hero was confronted with the consequences of his hidden criminal past. The thought lifted her mood and she started to walk the path she had mapped out for him, the storyline slowly forming in her head; although, if truth be told, it was a mere rehash of an earlier version.

    Down the alley now, seeing it anew, playing out the moment when her MC boasted of what he had done for her—his companion, his partner, the love of his life. Out into the park on the edge of the city. She sent them on a romantic walk across nearby fields. Turned day into night with a gentle moon, a soft breeze. Now they were on the small bridge, gazing into the river below. The current was flowing fast, fast enough to take a body miles away. Write about what you know they said. Her mood lifted.

  10. A New World Awaits You
    254 words
    gym newbie/lose weight/sci-fi

    This is the year, Olivia thought. “A new year, a new you,” the ad for the new gymn promised. The place was called Fun World, and the cheerful sign proclaimed, “A new world awaits you–what are you waiting for?”

    Yes, it had been years–one husband, two jobs and three children–since Olivia had gone to a gym, or taken an exercise class with other women, each determined to transform herself, to achieve some personal goal.

    Olivia’s goal was simple. She wanted to lose the weight of the world that felt like a stone on her shoulders.

    “We can help help you with that,” the smiling coach assured her. “You can swim in blue Caribbean waters under a coudless sky. You can dance at Stonehenge or climb the steps of Machu Pichu. What would you like to do?”

    Fun World didn’t need exercise equipment. In the open space, Olivia watched groups of women wearing huge dark glasses, each moving in her own virtual world. They looked like aliens from one of the video games her husband Albert was so fond of. He shot at them for hours on the sofa with the kids.

    “Is the experience real?” Olivia asked.

    “As real as you like,” the girl said. “Sand between your toes and all that.” She laughed. Even her ponytail was perky. Olivia smiled agreeably.

    With the glasses, Olivia could choose her own scenario. She swam in the seas of Europa. She climbed the mountains of Mars. She danced for joy on the moon.

  11. Caleb Echterling
    290 words
    Online Dater/Spend Less/Comedy

    One Simple, Easy to Follow Rule for Dating That May or May Not Actually Work

    “Another horrible date last night,” Edgar said. He stirred Splenda into hot water, and cooled the concoction with a slow stream of air. “TotallyRandomDating.com is the worst.”

    “What did you do?” Francine asked. Whipped cream tickled her nose as she sipped from a double shot triple chocolate-mocha Frappachino.

    “The Church of a Vengeful God had a free showing of The Muppets Burn in Eternal Damnation for Their Sinful Ways after a two hour seminar encouraging us to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. At least, I assume they did. My date screamed ‘Fire!’ and ran off in the confusion.”

    Francine’s tongue took a lap around her lips to wipe up stray bits of sweet, creamy goodness. “Sounds like you’ve violating the U.N. Convention Against Torture. You are allowed to spend money on dates, you know.”

    Edgar added more Splenda to his water and stirred like he was unstopping the commode. “But my New Year’s resolution is to spend less money. I have to start somewhere.”

    “As a woman, let me lay this out for you. Spending money on a date signals that you are interested in her. And that you are successful.”

    Edgar caressed the two junctions where his upper and lower lips met. “Successful, you say? That gives me an idea.”

    The next Friday night, an Uber car screeched to a stop on a residential street. “Be right back.” Edgar left the car running. The slamming door muffled the passengers’ howls of complaint. Edgar held the passenger door open for a woman in a green cocktail dress and slid across the hood à la Luke Duke. “Multitasking. One of the seven habits of highly successful people,” he said. “Dating and earning money at the same time.”

  12. “Heads or Tails”
    by Josh Bertetta
    Smoker/Lose Weight/Sci-Fi
    299 Words

    “Psst. Hey, hey there,” called the thing in the grey overcoat from the stoop.
    Raining cats and dogs, I, with only one hat, didn’t take the bait and kept my heads down.
    It clambered over the railing and I could tell by the slick scraping behind me it walked on tentacles.
    “Dude, hey man. You should try this shit. It’ll take your head for quite the spin. First hits on me.”
    “No man, I don’t smoke.”
    The sensible part of me said to keep on going, not to stop. The other side of me—the one that always got me into trouble—laughed at me and quipped, “Come on, you can quit again tomorrow.”
    How many times had I said that? A hundred? A thousand?
    One more’s no big deal. Who knows? Could be fun. Sounds fun.
    No, no. I want to get healthy this year. Maybe even lose some weight.
    “Come on. You don’t know what you’re missing.”
    Hear that? What do I always say?
    No regrets.
    That’s right, no regrets.
    Shut up and let him be will you? He’s trying to make positive changes in his life.
    I wanted to clamp my hands over my ears, but I only had half as many as I’d need.
    Keep going, keep walking. Don’t pay attention to either one of them. I looked at my other half and said, “You’re stupid.”
    Then the other half said to the other, “You’re nothing but dead weight.”
    I turned round, said okay, and took a big delicious hit.
    And God-damn, blow me down! Shit was tight.
    I smile now when I look in the mirror. I lost that weight.
    I feel better than ever. Look damn good too.
    Though I sometimes miss my sensible side, it’s nice to have just one head again.

  13. Swipe Right
    300 words
    Online Dater/resolution: Lose Weight/Romance

    I can’t bring myself to swipe right. Each guy looks cute in their own way, but I’m not looking for a new boyfriend, I’m looking for a replacement. I can’t help but compare them to him, the lying, cheating, bastard. They don’t have his smirk, his chiselled chin, his spiky hair that requires vast tubs of hair gel.

    That one looks sweet. I hate sweet. Swipe left.

    That one has a photograph of him with a great dane. Why not just get a horse and be done with it? Swipe left.

    That one doesn’t have a shirt on. I don’t even know what half of those muscles are! He’d leave me in a week. Swipe left.

    I should have started my new years resolution sooner. If only I’d lost a little more weight, got skinnier, toner, tighter, maybe he wouldn’t have slept with her. What a cliche, his damn secretary. I thought that only happened in the movies. It’s not fair, she’s 10 years younger, gravity hasn’t had as much time to assault her as it has to me. She’s annoyingly perky, and I don’t mean upbeat. I can picture the two of them together…

    I’m spiralling again, I can feel myself reaching for the ice cream. I don’t have anymore tears left, I think I might cry white wine. Why didn’t I see this coming? He was hesitant, distant, always working late or going on long business trips. I can see so clearly now. I should have dumped him ages ago, I’m better than this. They deserve each other.

    My new years resolution was to lose 20lbs, but here we are only 1 week in and I’ve already lost 180lbs of dead weight. Take that weight watchers! Now pass the ice cream. I’m going to find Mr. Swipe Right.

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