Microcosms 54

Welcome to Microcosms 54. Fridays sure do come round quickly… This week it’s Friday, 13th January, so the contest is based on a variety of people, all of whom died on the 13th day of January.

The film ‘Tombstone’ (1993) concerns Lawman Wyatt Earp (died 1929) and Doc Holliday who, while playing a Chopin nocturne, is goaded by Billy Clanton that it sounds like a tune by Stephen Foster (died 1864).

(Foster was born and died in Pennsylvania, a state established by William Penn, an affluent member of the Quakers, founded by George Fox (died 1691).)

Wyatt Earp had a brother named Virgil… The Roman poet Virgil wrote the epic poem ‘The Aeneid’, telling the legendary story of Aeneas… ‘Aeneas and the Sybil in the Underworld’ was a painting by Flemish painter Jan Brueghel the Elder (died 1625) who also painted ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’.

Monteverdi’s opera ‘L’Orfeo’ includes ‘Addio terra, addio cielo’ which was sung by Swiss tenor Max Meili at the funeral in Zurich of Dublin-born author James Joyce (died 1941).

Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison is the setting of Brendan Behan’s first play ‘The Quare Fellow’, the 1962 screen adaptation of which starred American-Irish actor Patrick McGoohan (died 2009), best known for his starring role in the cult TV series, ‘The Prisoner’.



(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: Songwriter, setting: Village, and genre: Aga Saga.

NOTE: the genre is ‘Aga Saga’. This may be just a UK thing… If you are not familiar with this genre, my dictionary defines it as ‘a popular novel in a semi-rural middle-class setting’. You can always click the SPIN button to generate another set of elements, if necessary

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.

  • Lawman
  • Songwriter
  • Quaker
  • Painter
  • Author
  • Prisoner
  • Tombstone
  • Gold Rush
  • Meeting House
  • Flanders
  • Dublin
  • Village
  • Poetry
  • Comedy
  • Crime
  • Romance
  • Aga Saga
  • Memoir


Judging this week is Microcosms 53 Judge’s Pick, Caleb Echterling.

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 prompt this week ]
Microcosms 55
Microcosms 53

26 thoughts on “Microcosms 54

  1. @ InquisiHedgehog
    Prisoner/ Meeting house/ Crime.
    Word Count: 259


    BANG. BANG. “Finally, now our little secret is safe and sound,” snarled Mrs Green as she wiped the barrel and slid the gun into the pocket of her voluminous skirt. There on the floor lay Jack Randall. He was due to be released. He had spent two years in prison for a crime he had never committed. According to his docket, he was a chicken thief, but the only chick he stole was Mrs Green. Mr Green was starting to sniff a rat and Mrs Green’s conscious was catching up with her, so she did what any poor country lady knew how to do and cried wolf. Unfortunately for Randall, he was charged with stealing and sentenced to two years in prison. But Mrs Green could not forget about the fire that Randall ignited in her belly and she would write him letters every week apologizing for her behaviour and begging for him to come back to her. When Randall did not reply, Mrs Green got more desperate. She heard he was being brought to the meeting house for his release. She snuck in to visit him. When he spat at her and told her that her number was up, she had a plan. She extinguished the flame for good. She had paid the guard a healthy sum for his silence. She had burnt all the letters, but Randall was shrewd.
    The officers went through the scene. As they took off Randall’s shoe, a note fell out. The officer opened it carefully. “It was Mrs Green with a gun”.

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  2. @Nthito
    Songwriter/Village/Aga Saga
    300 words

    The AGA

    Vanessa sneered at the aged AGA. A bulky, 3-door cooker sitting against the kitchen wall like a squalid interloper. It’s front creame-coloured door was peeling to reveal the shiny metallic interior. From the back, a pipe ran along the wall and attached to the black bent-tube boiler built into the wall.

    “Shall you fix it then?”

    The village Engineer wiped his forehead with a grimy handkerchief.

    “I’ll try my best, mam. We been doin’ more Aether-boiler jobs than steam… and this is very old.”

    “Well I ask you to do more than just try. This is an heirloom, sir, it best be fixed.”

    “Of course, mam.”

    She saw the scowl creasing his wrinkled face, smudged with soot like the lower-class civil servant he was.

    “I’ll be in the Drawing Room. Find me when it is done.”

    She whirled away in a flurry of ruffles flaring from her crinoline. Like an inverted rose, the scarlet dress flared around her hips, silk crawling up to the high-collar styled with intricate golden gears. Although the daughter of the Royal Engineer – she drew no correlation between her father and the man in her kitchen.

    “Must you always be so rude, Vanessa?” mother asked without lifting her head, seated with a cello angled away from her knees.

    “Is he not below us?”

    “Your privileged ancestry began with a man very much like him.”

    Vanessa glided across the carpeted floor and gazed out the window. The village, once further away, now loomed closer. Threatening to overtake.

    “Do we not come from a family of cabaret singers, song writers and… whatever it is you do, mother.”

    Mother raised her eyes and sighed.

    “Much like the AGA you despise so, the future catches up to us. Apart from your class, what shall you offer to it?”

    1. An interesting take on the prompts, Nthato.
      But I see you have the genre as ‘Aga Cooker‘: it should be ‘Aga Saga‘ – ‘a popular novel in a semi-rural middle-class setting’. Perhaps that’s not a genre that is well known outside the UK… I guess I shouldn’t have made it the chosen genre. 🙁

      1. Hi Geoff,

        Sorry for the late reply. I’m guessing it’s too late to change all of that? Title should have been The AGA and yes genre should have been Aga Saga sorry about that.

  3. Ronel Janse van Vuuren
    194 words
    Songwriter/ Village/ Aga Saga
    Beautiful Disaster

    The music flowed through me, making me want to grab the nearest musical instrument and start playing. Or perhaps sing. Though the last usually got me chased from the village by young mothers.

    Yeah, having dogs howl and children cry when one sings wasn’t great when one was a songwriter.

    Searching, my eyes fell on the piano in the pub.

    My fingers flew across the keys, the song taking shape, my heart soaring.

    ‘Enough, Jack! It’s time to mop the floors,’ my father said and handed me the mop and bucket.

    Reluctantly, I took the tools of my day-job as several early-morning patrons sniggered into their cups.

    I’ll show them, I thought as I mopped the old wood floor feverishly, the song in my head still strong.

    Soapy water flew everywhere as I tripped over the bucket, my mind at the chorus of my creation.

    Cheers rang out.

    ‘It’s okay, son,’ my uncle said, glaring at the patrons as he came through the door. ‘One day you’ll get the hang of it.’

    Chagrin colouring my cheeks, I knew he was right: one day I would be an awesome songwriter. Or run the family pub…

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  4. Songwriter, village, saga
    296 words
    A Mother’s Requiem 1999-2017

    Ariana pushed the child at the smuggler: ‘Take him, please.’
    ‘How much?’
    She held out the rings. He turned them, sniffing before a single nod. She enveloped the boy in her tears and hopes before bundling him in the car. She sang as the hot wind blew dust in her eyes.
    ‘I need to go, mum. I just do.’
    Ruth hugged herself, her tears falling freely on the marble counter. She nodded her understanding.
    George picked up his rucksack. He hated hurting his adoptive parents but he had to find his roots.
    ‘Is it safe? Kosovo?’
    George shrugged. ‘I’ll call.’ He picked up his guitar and left.
    They found the hidden guns. Ariana sat in the schoolyard, knowing the end would be soon. She wondered if her boy was safe, somewhere north, somewhere cold. Please make her cold and keep him warm.
    Sweat beaded his face. He’d never experienced 40 degrees. Bring back Birmingham, he muttered wryly.
    ‘Here.’ The official, Elira, was pregnant. ‘We found your family. A village in the mountains. Teachers. Muslim.’ She stopped, ‘You okay?’
    ‘Sure.’ George’s tears joined the river of sweat.
    ‘There was a mass grave.’
    The bodies were treated with contempt. No records kept. They would never be found, never remembered. No comfort, knowing they’d be mourned. The final indignity.
    Elira waited as he collected the remains. ‘What will you do?’
    He didn’t know. Him born Muslim, adopted Jew. He thought of Elira’s child; soon she would hold her baby, something taken from his mother.
    ‘She wrote songs, your mother. Maybe you can play them?’
    He scanned the scores. The language escaped him but the music held his heart lightly in its grip. ‘I’ll take her to the mountains, let her sing with the wind.’

    1. Geoff, you have ‘saga’ as the genre – please see the reply to Nthato’s entry and/or the note I’ve just added to the introduction to this week’s contest…

  5. Lawman/Tombstone/Crime
    Word count: 299

    Ghosts of Yesteryear

    The lawman stared down the barrel of his gun. Fletcher Holmes, the notorious bank robber, who had rendered the town of Tombstone broke yesterday, stared back at him a steely glint in his eye. The usually seen toothpick was hanging from the side of his mouth. He looked amused rather than afraid.

    “Sorry I scared ya,” he drawled.

    The lawman dropped his gun and grinned at Fletcher. He sat down again and poked at the embers of the fire. The smell of beans permeated the thick, cloying air and Fletcher sniffed deeply. He dropped his saddle on the ground and sat down heavily. Conner Hughes passed the beans in a steel plate to Fletcher and handed him a cup of strong brew. Nothing but the sound of solid chewing could be heard for fifteen minutes.

    “I have to be gittin’ back,” Conner said as he wiped his plate with a dirty red handkerchief.

    “Does they suspect anythin’?” Fletcher asked as he unrolled his blanket ready to turn in.

    “Naw,” Conner replied as he saddle up his horse. “ I’ll see ya in the morning and git my money. I have to wrap things up in town.”

    He rode off into the sunset and thought about his life and the hole he had dug himself into. Problem was, he couldn’t seem to stop digging. His wife thought he was barmy. All he’d tried to do was treat the woman like a racehorse, so she wouldn’t become a nag. He sighed as he rode towards Tombstone.

    Tumbleweeds rolled across his path as he rode into town. It was eerily silent. It was his town, but not. He dismounted his horse and walked around. Not a soul could be seen. The entire town was deserted. And had been for a hundred years.

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  6. elements – Seamstress, second-hand shop, crime
    300 words

    Title – The Seamstress’s Revenge

    The soldier’s eyes are hidden beneath the rim of his cap.
    He clicks his heels and salutes, a husky “Heil!” escaping his throat.
    I know why he has burst into my shop. I know he has work for me, and, even as my belly roils at the thought of completing his request, I know I cannot refuse.
    He drops a bulging sack onto the counter, knocking over a chipped teacup. In pieces, it scatters across the wooden floor.
    He doesn’t apologize.
    I thank him for the sack and watch him leave.
    Inside the scratchy burlap there are bloodstains. Shit stains. Emblems of the most heinous crimes committed against human beings.
    I finger the sleeve of a child’s pajama shirt. I won’t imagine the person who wore it. Instead, I conjure the image of tiny Oskar with his blue eyes and yellow hair, features that could keep him safe in a world that’s lost its mind.
    But none of us is safe.
    Not really.
    And it is for this reason that I empty the sack and scrub away every stain on each piece of clothing. I am an eraser, deleting all evidence of suffering from the narrative, negating lives. This is what they want from me.
    And I do it. For my Oskar.
    But, after the stains disappear, after I’ve cut and pieced material for The Reich’s reuse, I do something else.
    Something The Fuhrer did not ask of me.
    As I close hems, needles slip from my fingers, into collars.
    Unnoticeable until they scratch the necks of unsuspecting soldiers.
    The bump of a few metal buttons hidden inside a waistband may be nothing but an irritation.
    But they are my only opportunities for resistance.
    And, in a world that’s lost its mind, we do what we can to stay human.

    1. Nice to see you back here, Dana. From my Microcosms database, I see the last time you entered was in week 33 – that’s quite a while back.
      Unfortunately, you seem to have written a piece with elements that appeared in week 48 – that’s six weeks back! Maybe you forgot that we have different elements each week.
      It seems a pity to disqualify your entry, so maybe we’ll give you a free pass this time! 🙂

  7. @AvLaidlaw
    298 Words
    Elements – Songwriter / Village / Aga Saga

    England’s Dreaming

    Peter decides he’s going to chop wood for the Aga. It’s folksy, apparently. Getting back to the Earth like Dylan holed up in Woodstock.
    All his started a fortnight ago when the vicar visited us to drop hints about lemon-drizzle cake and to ask Peter if he wanted to play at the village fete since he’s a local celebrity and all. Since then Peter’s done nothing but lecture me about the traditions of English folk music and write tra-la-la songs on the acoustic. He thinks there’s a new album in it.

    “Authenticity,” he says.

    “Watch your fingers,” I say.

    He puts on a lumberjack shirt and a ridiculous trapper hat with flaps over his ears so he can’t hear me.

    Betsy lies in front of the kitchen stove and beats her tail against the flagstones when I come back in. On the worktop sits the electric mixer and the lemon and a box of fresh eggs from the neighbouring farm. “Let’s go for a walk,” I tell her.

    My new Barbour coat hangs on the back of the door. Outside Peter finally manages with a great deal of hacking to split the first log. Who are we kidding? I couldn’t bake lemon-drizzle anything. I leave the Barbour hanging and go upstairs, up the rickety ladder into the loft.

    It’s all here, boxed up in darkness. The Japanese electric that blistered his fingers when he played all night high on amphetamines in the Hackney squat. The battered suitcase I used to cart round his records to sell at punk gigs. If Pete Speed had met Dylan back then, he’d have told the old fart to piss off. I pull on my leather jacket with the anarchy symbol painted on the back.

    Me and the dog walk through the village.

  8. Tombstoned

    “Wyatt. You been mighty quiet, this evening. Anything ailing you?”

    “Well, Doc. Now that the smoke has cleared, you know, maybe I’m wondering if there mighta been another way.”

    “Hmmm. Getting a tad philosophical, eh? I can understand that. Gun smoke and blood spilling on the ground wears a man down. Clog up his hearteries, so to speak. Get him to thinking that his natural inclination to squash a rattlesnake is somehow wrong. Listen to me, Wyatt. Billy Clanton was bound to turn into a bitter little reptile like Ike and you needed to bite his head off…quick.”

    “Don’t you be biting my head off, Doc. I know Billy was jumping on the same freight train as his no account brother. But I liked the little sidewinder, and he was also my connection. That boy and his crazy clan have grown the best Tombstone Gold Maria Juana around. Cow shit cured, they say.”

    “Is that what they say? I say horseshit , Wyatt. It aint nothing but loco weed. Oh, I know you been enjoying’ the fuzzy pleasures of wastrel dreaming. If I didn’t have my wonky lungs, I might even join you. All that aside, and I say this as a professional dentist, sometimes you got to pull rotten teeth. So the rest can thrive. Just think of Billy and the McLaurys as stinking old teeth that needed yanking.”

    “Yeah, I guess. There will be a hearing. I am not looking forward to that.”

    “Well, Wyatt, it was a hell of a gun fight, but it needs something. My advice is that we give it gravitas…”


    “No, gravitas. Like, it was a great battle. Good versus Evil. And maybe we move it over to the OK Corral.”


    “Sounds more… Okay.

    “Okay, Doc. Thanks. That deserves a toke.”

    Lawman; Tombstone; Memoir Comedy
    300 bullets at least

  9. Christina Dalcher
    299 words
    Songwriter / Village / Aga Saga

    In Which Peter St. John Mathewson Reinvents Himself

    “I said, ‘We have a problem, Peter.”

    Peter St. John Mathewson, author of The Rector’s Wife Goes Shopping, looked up from his desk and met the producer’s eyes. “What now? Another rewrite? I thought filming was scheduled to start tomorrow.”

    “It is. We just need a few tweaks. A bit of, oh, I don’t know, massaging.”

    “Massaging? You want me to give the script a massage.”

    “Only a tad here and there,” Alastair said. “Perhaps start with the main character, Mrs. Perpetua Pimplewort.”

    Peter picked up a pen. “What’s the matter with her?”

    “Nothing. Nothing at all. But I’ve an idea how we could round Perpetua out. Make her more colorful, what?”

    “Tell me.”

    “Well, instead of a housewife, what if Perpetua were a songwriter? With a substance abuse problem. Along the lines of that Joplin girl.”

    “Okay.” Peter didn’t like it, but he needed this book to take off, and a television spot would do the trick. No one was buying the old stories about Range-Rover driving daughters of parsons. They wanted grit. Reality.

    “And,” Alastair continued, “I thought—and remember, this is only a concept—we might move her out of Fudgepack upon Humber.”

    “Out of the village? But that’s—”

    “A small move. A minor change.”

    Peter scribbled a note. “Where would she go?”


    “I can do that.”

    “East London.”



    Peter dropped the pen. “Absolutely not. I won’t take Perpetua out of her Fudgepack estate and slap her in Dagenham.”

    “But she’ll still be in an estate,” said Alastair. “And we’ll sweeten the deal. Shall we say another fifty thousand pounds?”

    And so it was that The Rector’s Wife Goes Shopping became Cocaine Jane Sings the Blues in Her Council Flat, and Peter St. John Mathewson’s career took a turn for the better.

  10. Painter/Dublin/Crime
    Word count: 289

    Method Art

    The light was dim as I tried to render a masterpiece on the canvas before me. The studio overlooked the seedier side of Dublin and from the dark clouds above poured torrential rain.

    He was a beautiful specimen, one that had taken me a long time to acquire. I was breathing heavily as I painted furiously. The English ivy hanging from the windows was doing nothing to alleviate my asthma symptoms. I had a copy of Gray’s Anatomy next to me, but I didn’t need it.

    Every part of this man’s body was chiseled to perfection like it had been sculpted from marble. I had to really concentrate, as it was easier to just stare mesmerized at the human form in perfection. He struggled in his glass cage, eyes wide with terror. Fear made his skin pull tightly over his muscles, and beads of sweat, like dewdrops after the rain has fallen, rolled down in rivulets. His face was the only thing that was putting me off. When I had done my “research”, he had been a rugged, good looking man with a square, strong jaw and piercing blue eyes. Now tears streamed down his cheeks. His face was red, like a cranky, tantrum-throwing toddler. I didn’t want him to be afraid of me, I wanted him to love me. But it was not to be. He seemed to become resigned to his fate suddenly, and slumped into a crouching position, like an angel who lost its wings. I picked up my paintbrush again and painted a masterpiece.

    This painting sold for millions of dollars long after my death. Many people have, over time, tried to analyse my art and the sources of my inspiration. I just laugh.

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  11. The Difficult Second Album of Judith de Warren

    300 words
    Songwriter/Village/Aga Saga

    The trouble began on the school run when Jasper de Warren piped the Wu Tang Clan through the stereo of his mother’s Jaguar. He had expected outrage but was mortified instead by the tapping of her defunct wedding band on the steering wheel and, as they pulled up to the school gates, the bobbing of her bob, the clack of her pearls to the beat. Judith de Warren, to her utmost surprise, had discovered her inner gangsta.

    With Jasper safe at school, she raided his laptop, baking a quiche for a fork buffet while rocking RZA’s Staten Island beats.

    At the Chalfont St Michael Women’s Institute that evening, she confessed her newfound passion to Hilary Kerr-Davies as they laid out their offerings for the upcoming village fete’s jam stall.

    ‘Splendid stuff, isn’t it?’ Hilary had said, grinning. ‘Milo has decks, you know’.

    When the committee asked for help to staff the fete’s youth discotheque, Hilary took the lead and volunteered the pair of them.

    Since Michael had hightailed with Consuela, their au pair, Judith had the place to herself and so it was there, to Judith’s leafy conservatory, that Hilary brought the decks while the boys were at school. They wrote lyrics, purloined their sons’ trainers, spurned pearls for gold chains, learned to drop beats and spit ill rhymes of Surrey life.

    In a storm of breakbeats they burst forth at the disco as a nascent hip hop crew, The Jam Masters. Hilary and Judith became Jam Maker J and DJ H Bomb.

    Adulation beckoned. ‘Keen to the Wa’, their anthem to the correct pronunciation of South American grains, stormed the charts.

    But the front page of ‘The Telegraph’ followed when Hilary was arrested in her greenhouse for the cultivation of intoxicating herbs.

    So began Judith’s difficult second album.

  12. Perhaps

    298 words
    Elements: Songwriter, Village, Aga Saga


    Strangled voices mutilated the lyrics Jeremy had so carefully crafted as the Kings Arms cheerfully ejected its drunken clientele onto the street. Soon, however, the inn settled into silence and, with the bar below now quiet, he was able to sink back into sleep. Jeremy’s return had not gone unnoticed but no one had recognised him. Tomorrow he would visit the old family home. Perhaps he should’ve just sold it without coming back but a sudden urge to see the place one last time had brought him here.

    He rose early, walked the quiet lane to Beresford House, paused briefly at its neighbour Marsden Cottage. A curtain twitched and he moved swiftly on. Jeremy had no desire to see Marjorie. He turned the key and stepped into the past.

    “Thought it was you.”

    The soft voice made him jump. He turned. She was old now, grey, wrinkled, shrivelled. This was the woman who had destroyed his family. He said nothing.

    “I know you don’t want to speak to me …”

    She was right. “You should leave,” he replied.

    But instead she came closer, stroked his face with her papery hand. “It’s been a long time, son.”

    He closed his eyes and he was back there. Marjorie mocking his father, telling him she was leaving him for Gordon Marsden, he and his father leaving that night, leaving his grandmother behind; once she had died the house had been locked up.

    “What have you ever given me?” he asked.

    “Your songs,” she replied. “What else could you write about?”

    She was right. His songs of love and betrayal had all been about her.

    “Why don’t you stay?” she asked. “Perhaps you could write about reconciliation and redemption.”

    He looked at her, now so old. Perhaps it was time. Perhaps …

  13. The Sponge Cake Muse Conquers Frozen Fingers
    A.J. Walker

    The snow outside was frightful or delightful depending on your point of view. Dallas was working with both. Tiffany didn’t give two hoots. She was baking; the weather was affecting the village but may as well have been on another continent.

    Tiffany sighed. Her almost imperceptible shoulders dropped. ‘What are you doing?’ she exclaimed.

    Dallas looked up. ‘It was a C then an A minor. And if you hadn’t interrupted it was going to be a D next, or F minor. I’ll have to start again to see what works.’ He patted his beloved acoustic.

    ‘That’s not what I meant dick-for-brains. I meant what are you doing playing in here? I’m cooking.’

    Dallas grinned with a green pick between his teeth. ‘What’s the big deal sis’? This kitchen is big enough for two of us. I’ve played smaller clubs.’

    Tiffany tutted, ‘I can believe that. Shouldn’t you give up already. You ain’t no Simon or Garfinkle.’

    ‘Garfuncle, moron. Anyway the boiler’s off and the house is freezin’ but for the Aga; the warmth, the snow, the smell of baking… I’m getting a song writing mood on baby!’

    ‘Jesus, Dallas. Who’s gonna listen to you singing about watching your sister baking while it’s nippy in the rest of the house? It’s hardly going to become “Bridge over Troubled Slaughter”, is it?’

    ‘Water you mad woman! Slaughter? You’re deranged.’

    ‘Whatever, the point is this is my domain when I’m cooking and your Cs and A fucking minors are doing my Victoria Sponge no favours. Just get some fingerless gloves and another hoody and play up in your room to your heart’s content.’

    Dallas admitted defeat. Still, he had the last laugh when he made the Top Ten with the “Victoria Sponge Cake Blues”. The rest, as they say, is history.

    WC: 300

    Songwriter/village/Aga Saga

  14. My Dyslexia Has Reached A New Owl
    by Steve Lodge
    299 words

    It was a dull, unfriendly morning. Grey. The type of day I had come to dread during the course of my treatment.

    I’d already taken a Cuban Volley, washed down with a glass of thermepoliander, and I was listening to Ray tell Roxanne and Beryl how, in early 1925 he had invented cabbage, after discussions with a good friend of his, who knew Wyatt Earp. If I outlive Ray, I want to make sure his tombstone reads something to the effect that he was the world’s greatest name-dropper. What a buffoon.

    All of a sudden, I began to feel unusual. Those waves of uncertainty lavished with an undertow of rustic stew, bemused and threatened to engulf me. When this happens, the best treatment is for Ray to slap me quite hard on either side of my face.

    On this occasion, however, he was busy explaining to the ladies his part in the introduction to the civilised world of gentle hugs through his adaption of an obscure English folk song which had a chorus of “Heyho a nonny a no.” His poetry left a lot to be desired, in my opinion.
    By then I had regressed and was helping dig a ditch in the mediaeval village of Misspelt, to stem the anticipated attack of Sir Basil’s marauding army. I discovered from my fellow villagers that oral hygiene had not yet been invented. If only Ray were here.

    His slapping treatment of me had been confirmed as significant, ground-breaking and thrilling by the world-renowned therapist Doktor Leimgruber of the Swiss Institute of Things. I had met the good Doktor at a jousting contest at Count Ryzard’s Castle, about twenty years ago, because I remember our meeting occurred just before the world order changed dramatically as the much-maligned Lost Omelette Empire disintegrated.

  15. @firdausp
    (275 words)

    Written Off

    “You shouldn’t be here,” she looked over the glasses perched on her nose at the handsome young man seated across from her. He looked confused, hurt and devastated all at once, if that were possible. She wasn’t the least bit perturbed though and returned her attention to the laptop in front of her.
    “You can’t do this to me,” he said in a pained voice, “how can you do this to me?”
    She took off her glasses, leaned back in her chair with a sigh. The little coffee shop was almost empty. It was the only one in this quaint village. She had wanted to get away from the city for a while and concentrate on her next book. Now here he was disturbing her peace.
    “You have good looks, I gave you money, flashy cars and a good life, but then you steered away from the path I intended for you. You got out of control. I have no other option but to—”
    “I made you famous!” He cut her off, raising his voice in protest.
    “No, I made you famous, you have it backwards,” she cut back, putting on her glasses and returning her attention to her laptop.
    “You won’t consider?”
    “Not even a little?”
    “Just go away,” she dismissed him with the wave of her hand.
    He got up to leave then said in the voice of a man nearing his doom, “At least make it spectacular.”
    Spectacular, she thought, yes she could do that, finish him off in style. Then she could concentrate on her new protagonist. The cursor on the screen blinked as she plotted his death.

  16. Goodbye, My Love
    by Stephen Shirres (@The_Red_Fleece)
    Word Count = 296

    Dust kisses my boots. The homestead is little more than a hut. Inside two voices, a man and a woman, my knock, loud and angry, startles them both. Good, I want them on edge. “Open up, Benny.”
    The woman does what I ask. I hope she is just his entertainment for the night. “Benny ain’t here.”
    “Darling, I can hear him. Send him out to play, and I’ll leave you alone.” The door closes, a discussion of whispers before he does what he is told. “Let’s go for a walk, Benny.”
    I pull him out of his hut by his forearm. I make sure I leave my mark. We walk away from his horse and mine, no need to scare them. Benny is scared enough for the four of us.
    “What are you frightened of, Benny, or should I say Mad Ben the Sheriff Killer? Least that is what your wanted poster calls you. Least they got a good likeness of you. I never look good on mine.” My laugh rolls across the desert. Benny’s attempt barely reaches the edge of his land.
    “You going to turn me in, Wild Dog?”
    “Hell no, Benny. My reward is far higher than yours.”
    “Please, Wild Dog.” He falls to his knees. His face in my shirt, crying. “I was just trying to make a living but he…he…threatened me. It was either him or me. Him or me.” Benny slows to a shot.
    “Then it should have been you.” I make sure he doesn’t start again. My six shooter echoes over the dust.

    The dusky sun winks off the rough wooden cross of an unmarked grave. Everyone knows who it belongs to. My pile of desert shrubs, without leaves or flowers adds no colour. “Goodbye, my love.”

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  17. Home From Home
    286 words
    Painter/Flanders/Romance (spin)

    It was all so flat. Endlessly flat. No hills, no horizon, just landscape stretching until it ran out. Werner turned from the window and retrieved his overcoat from the small oak wardrobe. Today he would look for her, the girl who had painted every morning sitting by the big kitchen window.
    Downstairs he handed in his key to the hunched woman behind the reception desk. ‘I will be back for dinner,’ he said, his German tongue finding its way around the softer Flemish words.
    ‘Goed zo,’ she replied.
    Outside he filled his lungs with autumnal air. He turned right and walked down the cobbled streets taking in the familiar facades of gabled houses as well as noticing new ones. Only now, years later, did he feel he could return, the guilt of other men still hanging around his neck.
    Weeks, months and years he had lived in this small town in Flanders, several hundred miles from his own. Boots stomped, bicycles clattered, children’s voices called out. Soldiers and civilians forged a careful dance, everyone trying to find a way to live, with each other as well as themselves.
    Today he walked slowly towards the house that she used to live in, his footsteps swallowed by light rainfall. The house, the window, the girl were all still there. But the house seemed smaller, the windows were framed by a different colour and the girl was no longer a girl, but a woman bouncing a plump infant on her hip. In her hand she held not a paintbrush, but a wooden spoon. As she stirred a giant pot on the hob, she glanced out of the window and saw him. She smiled briefly and then turned away again.

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