Microcosms 65

Hello and welcome to MC65. Yes, here we are at the end of the first quarter of Year Two of Microcosms! Time moves on so swiftly – it’s already British Summer Time in the UK, and the five hour difference between here and New York has been restored. But rest assured: whatever time of year it is, you will always have 24 hours to craft a coruscating masterpiece of flash fiction for us. Let’s not waste another second!

I thought about basing this week’s contest on the most momentous event in the UK this week: the delivery, on 29th March, of the letter from our Prime Minister, Theresa May, to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, triggering Article 50 – the formal process of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, popularly known as Brexit.

Instead, I went with the fact that today, 31st March, is the anniversary of the death in 1981 of poet, author and playwright, Enid Bagnold, best known for the 1935 novel ‘National Velvet’ – filmed in 1944, and featuring a 12-year-old Elizabeth Taylor in her first starring role.

During WWI, Bagnold became a nurse, but wrote critically of hospital administration, and was dismissed. She acted as a driver for the rest of the war years.

In 1920, she married Sir Roderick Jones, chairman of Reuters. They had a house in Rottingdean, near Brighton, which had previously been home to the pre-Raphaelite artist, Sir Edward Burne-Jones. The garden there was the inspiration for her play ‘The Chalk Garden’ (1955).

Enid Bagnold’s great-granddaughter, Samantha Cameron, is the wife of Britain’s former Conservative PM, David Cameron. He had backed the call for the June 2016 EU referendum, the result of which led to Brexit… and the triggering of Article 50!

Geoff

 

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

 

Our contest this week begins with THREE things: character, setting and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are – character: Driver, setting: Racecourse, and genre: Tragedy.


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 inspires you.

 

*** HEY! Remember to include which THREE elements you’re using AND a title for your entry. ***


  • Nurse
  • Driver
  • Horse Rider
  • Disturbed Teenager
  • Artist
  • Prime Minister
  • Field Hospital
  • WWI France
  • Racecourse
  • Country House
  • Sussex Village
  • Brussels
  • Tragedy
  • Crime
  • Romance
  • Horror
  • Memoir
  • Comedy

Spin!


Judging this week is Microcosms 64 Judge’s Pick, Firdaus Parvez.

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

*** If you are new to Microcosms, remember to check out the full submission guidelines. ***

All being well, results will be posted on Monday.

Optional photo prompt:

Mickey Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor in ‘National Velvet’ (1944)

Microcosms 66
Microcosms 64
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49 comments for “Microcosms 65

  1. 31 March 2017 at 1:22 am

    Artist; World War 1 France; Tragi-Comedy
    300 murals
    @billmelaterplea
    http://www.engleson.ca

    W (arts) and All

    Clem Zinger felt fierce artistic urges while still in the womb. His first effort, a series of murals that captured birth from the fetuses perspective, was completed by the time he was six. Womb to Breathe impressed grade one teacher Yvette D’Andre. She encouraged Clem’s vision and became a mentor.

    Sadly, Clem’s parents, Zeke and Anastasia Zinger were crushed to death when the statue of Confederate General Beauregard Blessington toppled over during the 1908 Fourth of July celebrations in Louisville.

    Though a subsequent inquiry determined that faulty marble had been used, the final report, borrowing from the words of Leonardo da Vinci, said, “Life, much like art, is never finished, only abandoned.”

    This brought little comfort to both the Zinger clan and Anastasia’s extended family, the Bolts.

    Making the best of a tragic, albeit artistic, accident, one with no appreciable compensation, Clem went to live with paternal grandparents, Abe and Maude Zinger in Atlanta.

    Heartbroken at the poignant turn of events in Clem’s life, Yvette returned to Reims, France.

    By 1914, Clem was a strapping young American artist. Adolescent and artistic urges rumbled through his body. More importantly, he and Yvette had engaged in a lengthy correspondence. Though several of years his senior, and mindful if somewhat careless with propriety, distance and camaraderie led Yvette and Clem down a classic road to euphoria.

    Then came WW 1.

    And the bombardment of Reims.

    “I will come to you,” Clem wrote.

    “NO, I will come to you.” Yvette wrote back.

    “One of us must come to the other,” Clem replied.

    Yvette did not write back.

    “I must find her, grandfather,” Clem told Abe. “And paint this awful war.”

    Clem set sail on a tramp steamer in December 1914.

    It sunk two-hours short of Marseille.

    Somewhat optimistically, family lore proclaims Clem swam ashore.

    8+

    • Alva Holland
      31 March 2017 at 12:56 pm

      A love story with a zing! Excellent tale, Bill.

      0

    • 31 March 2017 at 3:32 pm

      So much story packed into the word limit. Excellent story as always.

      0

      • 31 March 2017 at 4:07 pm

        Delightful sense of humor here

        0

  2. Alva Holland
    31 March 2017 at 1:25 am

    Alva Holland
    @Alva1206
    300 words
    Prime Minister/Brussels/Comedy

    Dear John/Johann/Juan/Hans/Jean/Jens

    ‘Tsk, tsk, what on earth were you thinking, Mrs. M?’

    ‘That’s Tusk, not Tsk, darling. For a relationship manager, you’re dreadful with names. Now, help me with this letter, will you?’

    ‘If it’s not about finance, I can’t help much.’

    ‘But it’s all about finance, Philip. It couldn’t be more about finance.’

    ‘Really? Looks like a Dear John letter to me. Here, let me have a look. ‘Dear Donald.’ Well that’s unfortunate right there for a start. DT – Donald Tusk, wouldn’t want to send your letter to the wrong DT now would you? Although come to think about it, breaking off THAT relationship would probably be more in your best interests, but who am I to say – I’m only a relationship manager.’

    ‘Philip! If you’re not going to be helpful, I’d appreciate if you would keep your counsel.’

    ‘Oh, you can be sure I’m keeping my counsel. It’s costing me a fortune to protect my interests while you, supposedly on behalf of the nation, are protecting yours. Counsel fees are killing me. Ok for you, darling – you have sixty million taxpayers footing your bill. I must make my numbers add up or my numbers don’t add up and I get fired. See the difference? No, I didn’t think so.

    So, back to the letter. Not as easy as you thought it would be, is it? Didn’t you campaign to stay? When did the shift in stance occur? No wonder you’re finding this letter difficult. It’s going against all you campaigned for and yet you must appear to be loyal and true to your constituents and country. Oh, I don’t envy you, Mrs. M. I’m going to work!’

    ‘But, Philip. I can’t write this on my own.’

    ‘Darling, you can and you will, both write it and be on your own.’

    7+

    • Nic
      31 March 2017 at 12:54 pm

      A lovely constructed story. I loved it.

      0

    • 31 March 2017 at 3:36 pm

      Great to see humour in Brexit process regardless of viewpoint. (I’m a Leaver and it’s saddened me to see the poison from both sides at times in the press.)

      0

      • 31 March 2017 at 4:11 pm

        Love politics and fiction!

        0

  3. Stephen John Lodge
    31 March 2017 at 2:46 am

    Circle Of Death
    by Steve Lodge
    @steveweave71
    284 words
    Driver/Sussex Village/Tragedy

    Celestine Sprout was an impatient go-getter, tired of her humdrum life. She needed money for a project she was sure would be a winner. Her inheritance would provide the money so she rather unkindly slipped her frail, elderly Mum, Nellie Pickering, a triple dose of tablets to speed up the process.

    Then she went home, made herself a coffee in the kitchen and then fiercely berated her lazy and partially stupid husband, Giuseppe. He did nothing but drain her funds, had saddled her with a ridiculous surname and was rubbish in bed. All this in one sentence was too much for Giuseppe. He snapped and stabbed her with a carving knife, right there in the kitchen, with gusto, perhaps just a little too much gusto. He dragged her body under the stairs. He’d bury her in the garden later. He’d cut himself on the knife in the act, a nasty, jagged gash. So he went to the hospital A & E in the town nearest to their home in the quaint Sussex village of Sheep Willow.

    His visit coincided with an unstable patient, Ron Bread, running amok and generally rampaging through the hospital armed with two hypodermic needles. He stabbed Giuseppe fatally in the heart before running out of the hospital, across the car park, straight into the road, where he was hit by a chemists van, driven by Paul Harder, killing Mr Bread instantly.

    Paul was unable to get the van back under control and it careered off the road and down a bridge escarpment, where it exploded. Paul was killed outright. He had been on his way to deliver medicine to the last patient on his route that day, Mrs Nellie Pickering.

    6+

    • Alva Holland
      31 March 2017 at 1:02 pm

      A series of tragedies within a tiny flash tale. Artistry, Steve!

      0

    • 31 March 2017 at 3:39 pm

      Got it made as an undertaker in that village then. Hilarious chain of events.

      0

    • 31 March 2017 at 4:28 pm

      Ok… my noob is showing. THIS is my pick for awesome campfire story, but I also enjoyed the other one…

      0

    • 31 March 2017 at 6:19 pm

      Too funny

      0

    • 1 April 2017 at 1:43 pm

      Very Altmanesque…delightful. And with a wonderful moral…if you are planning a murder, just hold off and see what happens.

      0

  4. 31 March 2017 at 3:01 am

    PROMPT WORDS: Artist / Racecourse / Comedy

    TITLE: AT ANY COST

    “Dahhling, I’m here to see my wonderful Pooksie Pie before the race,” Cordelia Swanson, owner, artist, and bane of my life, swept towards me with her Pekinese firmly tucked under her arm. She trailed scarves and cigarette smoke in her wake. Pooksie Pie rolled an eyeball in her direction and skittered away. My groom swore ferociously. Cordelia thrust her dog into my arms as she passed. I watched her fuss over Pooksie Pie, twitching his braids, straightening his bridle, wiping his eyes and generally annoying him. Some horses enjoy the attention, but not Pooksie. He was one of those beasts who viewed the whole thing as an annoyance. He flicked his ears irritably and stamped his foot. I drew the line when he humped his back and turned his hindquarters.

    “That’s enough Cordelia, let’s leave him to the jockey.” I drew her away from Pooksie and returned the grumpy Peke to her arms. The dog saw his chance and leaped to freedom. He dashed across the paddock nimbly dodging both equine and human feet leaving chaos in his wake. Curses coiled like smoke as men tried to soothe agitated horses.

    “Winky Dinky!” cried Cordelia as she ran after him. I just watched, amusement twitching at the corners of my mouth.
    When Cordelia tripped and fell at the feet of my rival, frightening his horse into dumping his jockey on top of her, I could no longer contain my smile. I had to turn away so no-one would see.

    “Is she … ?” I asked.

    “They are having some difficulty, sir,” said my groom, struggling not to laugh. Cordelia and the jockey had become inextricably tangled – his spurs had caught in her dress and there he sat astride her while she wailed about Winky Dinky. “I think you planned this, sir.”

    L. MEADOW
    http://twitter.com/meadow337

    4+

    • Alva Holland
      31 March 2017 at 12:58 pm

      Giggled my way through this! Well done with this comical tale.

      1+

    • Nic
      31 March 2017 at 12:59 pm

      This is a lovely phrase: “Curses coiled like smoke” . The imagery was great in this story. Brought a smile to my face.

      2+

    • 31 March 2017 at 1:37 pm

      I forgot the number of words – it is exactly 300 words on the dot.

      0

    • 31 March 2017 at 3:42 pm

      Great fun.

      1+

    • 31 March 2017 at 4:25 pm

      This would make a great campfire story!

      1+

  5. Sian Brighal
    31 March 2017 at 9:53 am

    Sian Brighal
    @sian_ink
    298 words
    Driver/Field Hospital/Tragedy

    Just One More Chapter

    Samantha (via ECN)
    [notify@Europacomms.interplanet]
    4th rotation: 1 hour: 22: minutes (Earth Time Standard: 23:22)
    Date sent (Earth Standard): 31.03.2117
    Subject: No Subject

    [Corrupted file: text translation/read only]

    Hi Dad,

    I know you’re angry with me for staying when the other pilots evacuated; I couldn’t leave the patients. I can’t let them die alone. They need someone human holding their hands.

    The raids are getting more intense, and I want you to know, I never joined to spite your faith in ‘big planet government’.

    (laughing)

    …even now I’m trying to get you to understand. But it doesn’t matter. The war is well under way and there will be a definitive outcome one way or—another raid! I love you, Da—

    (Shouting. Indistinct noises. Explosions. Screams)

    [Recording interrupted: 23:37]

    [Recording resumed: 02:17]

    I’m sorry to inform you, sir, but your daughter has passed away. A section of bulkhead had—we tried to lift it, but all effort proved unsuccessful.

    I was with her until the end, holding her hand. There was absolutely no pain.

    Your daughter is—

    (Muffled sounds. Whining. Cough)

    She was one of the best pilots, flying us to safety between the field hospital and neutral space around Ceres. It must have hurt not being allowed to fly us out, being soldiers for planetary unification: the enemy.

    It doesn’t matter now. The last transport ship has left, and there’s a few of us left from both sides…brothers at the last before life-supports fails. She was reading to us: The Happy Foreigner. Her favourite. I’ve requested that it be returned to you, sir.

    A few of us have gathered to keep warm, and they want to find out how it ends. I’ll read until she returns to fly us out of here for the last time.

    [Transmission ends: 03:52]

    3+

    • Sian Brighal
      31 March 2017 at 11:40 am

      Hello…I’m not sure why, but a bit of text didn’t copy and paste. After ‘Samantha (via ECN)’ there should be : … it sets the location, otherwise I would have left it. Could you add it in for me please!

      0

      • Sian Brighal
        31 March 2017 at 11:41 am

        Oh! It didn’t do it again! Argghhh…. try this then:

        0

        • Sian Brighal
          31 March 2017 at 11:43 am

          Why!? ….okay. Again…. without the greater than and less than symbols. notify@Europacomms.interplanet

          0

          • Sian Brighal
            31 March 2017 at 11:44 am

            Ohh….I see why now. D’oh!

            1+

          • Alva Holland
            31 March 2017 at 11:49 am

            Nevertheless, she persisted! Great story, Sian. Love the amendment attempts!

            1+

          • Sian Brighal
            31 March 2017 at 11:58 am

            Thanks, Alva 🙂 Yeah, my amendment attempts could have have ended up longer than the flashfiction entry. I am useless, but will know for next time 🙂

            0

    • 31 March 2017 at 3:47 pm

      Great story, loved the different take on the war setting.

      0

      • 31 March 2017 at 4:23 pm

        I appreciated the devices you used here- the transmissions. I don’t expect it in flash fiction, but it works well and certainly moves the plot along.

        0

  6. 31 March 2017 at 10:26 am

    Kelly Griffiths @GriffithsKL
    disturbed teenager/Brussels/memoir
    293 words

    Metamorphosis
    The little boy. I never considered him a target until the day of the falcon. That’s what I called it anyway: the day of the falcon. See, I pass this kid every day on my way to school, but on this day a peregrine falcon had landed on his head. I expected the bird to flee, but both just stood there like time was a DVD, paused.

    I’d gladly trade my acne for those majestic black and white striped feathers and steel-blue crest. My life for the falcon’s, stuck fast as I was between desk and chair and subjected to what was essentially a manufacturing line. We were tubes. They bent us, punctured us, riveted their ideas into us, never gingerly, never tried to coax anything in. No. Teachers slammed their convictions into us with a press brake and slid us on to the next grade. My life was not my own.

    A peregrine falcon soared above. Or sat upon a toddler’s wayward tresses. Whichever. Still, he sat.

    Like he owned the boy. No one bothered to shew him off. The boy, of course, could do nothing. I thought, if that bird could get away with it, so could I, right? Yes, the more I considered it, the more certain I became.

    I began to see myself anew. Above. The. Law.

    The boy. Three years old. I could take him. I could get away with it. Just like the peregrine falcon with a mouse.

    The boy never blinked. He never spoke. No one would hear.

    I felt the serrated blade of my hacksaw. With my mind I felt it.

    His days were numbered, this brazen pissing boy of bronze. If a peregrine could abuse him as a perch, he wasn’t beyond my reach.

    3+

    • Alva Holland
      31 March 2017 at 1:00 pm

      Oh, this is very clever! Well done, Kelly. I love it. Fab surprise ending.

      0

    • 31 March 2017 at 3:49 pm

      A disturbing story with a genius twist.

      0

  7. Nic
    31 March 2017 at 11:31 am

    Nurse/Field Hospital/ Tragedy
    Word Count: 282
    @InquisiHedgehog

    A day in the field

    My name is Florence. My mother always knew I would be a nurse, she just never thought I would go to the front line. I have been at the field hospital for six months. Blood. Maimed body parts. Mental fatigue. These were what I witnessed every day. But I worked and saw to everyone. Some I grow fond of, others I wished the enemy would have done a better job on. But this was my calling and attended to it with love each day.

    One day, I was going through my routine when a Corporal stormed my hospital and headed under the desk.
    “Corporal. What is the matter?”
    “The enemy. They are here”.
    “What? In our camp?” I shrieked. My worst nightmare realised.
    “No. But not long off.”
    I gathered my bandages and quickly ensured everyone was comfortable and then joined the Corporal.
    “Corporal. Are you sure the enemy are near?” I whispered.
    “Yes” he hissed. “I heard it on the radio”. He said this as he raised his empty hand to his ear.
    “Yes Sergeant. I understand. We will remain here until you give us the order”.
    I looked at him. He had been effected.
    The enemy really weren’t near. It was just in his mind. I crawled out from under the desk and dusted off my dress.
    “Where are you going? The enemy are here. Didn’t you hear the sergeant?” he pleaded with me to stay.
    “NO! It is just in your head”
    “No, it is not. I heard them and saw them”.
    I whipped around and walked out. My dress tore as he gripped it. But it was too late I was looking down the barrel of a gun.

    3+

  8. 31 March 2017 at 11:32 am

    Michael Emerson
    (no twitter as yet)
    (Title) “Winning Streak”
    Word Count : 299
    (prompt) Driver/ Racecourse/ Tragedy

    The tragedy that fell upon the hapless Edward was unusually horrid. Driver of the famous jockey Alfred; a scallywag and scoundrel. Edward had suffered his fair share of tragedy over the years, a former wannabe jockey himself, mostly in the form of awkward conversations with various authorities. Mostly because of Alfred.

    But on day of the All Champs Cup, the race of the year, the crowning glory of every jockeys career, Alfred was passed out drunk in Edwards car. Edward rushed to the stables to find someone, anyone. Using Alfred’s identification had seemed like a grand idea until the moment that the owners found him crossing the yard. With phrases like “Oh jolly good that we found you!” and “Be a dear and hurry up”, several grooms got him into a set of silks faster than fast. They must have thought him drunk, the more he said he wasn’t Alfred the more knowing looks and “Indeed sir?”’s there were. Before long Edward was mounted up and at the starting line.

    However there was a reason he was a driver and not a jockey, a fearful allergy to horses! Already a sneeze was tickling the tip of his nose, before long great big sneezes were going to start racking his body uncontrollably. Just as the gates opened up, the first sneeze hit, eyes streaming, snot dribbling, Edward was away.

    Startled by the sounds, Winning Streak ran the race of his life, quickly overtaking the competition. Cheers roared from the stands as the finish line drew closer. Until the final sneeze, the biggest one yet, hit poor Edward just three paces before the finish line sweeping him out of the saddle. Winning Streak won, however as per the rules, the jockey must accompany the horse across the finishing line.

    3+

    • 31 March 2017 at 3:54 pm

      Ha, ha. Poor man. To finally achieve his ambition and then have it snatched away in such an unfortunate manner.

      1+

  9. 31 March 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Jeremiah’s Birthday

    299 words
    Elements: disturbed teenager, Sussex village, horror

    @el_Stevie

    His meds had worn off and Josh could only watch helplessly as his hand defied him yet again, ripping at old wounds so he bled anew. The moon averted its gaze from his shame; instead tactfully washing over the silent Weald, Burwash slumbering below, blind, deaf and dumb. Just like Jeremiah Pardon. Even at this distance Josh could see the old man sitting on his porch, his chair rocking back and forth, creaking out an iron rhythm, creating an invisible chain between them. He could swear Jeremiah was looking straight at him. Was he really blind? Suddenly he needed to know. Josh walked back, along the dead lane, into the dead village, past shrouded families coffined by night, drawn by the magnet of Jeremiah.

    “Like nails on a board, isn’t it?” whispered a voice in his ear.

    He jumped. Could’ve sworn it was Jeremiah but the man still sat in his chair, rocking.

    “Like nails in your flesh.” This time on his other side.

    “Like nails in your soul.” And finally Jeremiah stood in front of him – even as he still rocked in his chair. “Nails,” he repeated, as Josh tried to turn, to retreat but the chains pulled harder, pulled him closer, until he could see nothing but the ever-widening mouth as it turned from a sneer, to a grin, to a hungry void, snuffing him out like a candle, muffling his screams to a whisper.

    The village continued to sleep as the youth turned his deadman’s shoes back towards the hill. Tomorrow it would wake to the annual tragedy that refused to go away. At the same time it would celebrate the longevity of one of its oldest inhabitants, Jeremiah Pardon.

    Jeremiah patted his stomach contentedly. Thought of the birthday cake his neighbours would bring him.

    2+

    • 31 March 2017 at 4:19 pm

      Super creepy, reminiscent of Stephen King.

      1+

    • Alva Holland
      1 April 2017 at 5:34 am

      Delightfully macabre, Steph!

      1+

  10. 31 March 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Nurse/WW1 France/Tragedy

    Word count: 297

    Pretty in Pink

    I open my eyes. I see pink mist. It’s so beautiful, like glossy pearls drifting down. I cannot hear anything but the sound of my own heart inside of me. I sit up and look around, bewildered by what I see.

    I always wanted an exciting life, so when the call came for nurses in WW1, I almost ran to the recruiting office. My life so far, had been one of sedentary wine drinking and cheese eating. We had a farm in France and the sun kissed us with all her blessings. How bored I was. How ungrateful. If I had known what the war would take from me, I would never have left the sanctuary of my bliss. One trunk was all I could manage on the train, and even so, the Matron eyed me with sharp distaste for my flamboyance. I stared back defiantly, thinking that there was no need to look like a frump while tending to the injured.

    I befriended Ghislaine, a girl from Brussels who showed me around. I marveled at the well-stocked hospital where I was to work. At first all we did was patch up minor bumps and bruises and my arrogance grew. Until the 22nd of August 1914, that is, when 27000 French soldiers were killed at the Battle of Charleroi. Hundreds of wounded soldiers were brought into our hospital. When we ran out of beds we laid them out on the floor like meat puzzles waiting to be put back together. My back ached from carrying bodies out all day. Even miracles seemed minor.

    I blink. The hospital I have worked in for the last two years is gone. Today I have lost my patients, my friends and my job in an explosion that has rocked my world.

    5+

    • 31 March 2017 at 4:21 pm

      “Meat puzzles” …incredible image.

      1+

  11. 31 March 2017 at 5:20 pm

    @stellakateT
    Nurse / Field Hospital / Crime
    (271 words)

    It Takes Two

    She’d been an army nurse for exactly a week. She’d assumed she’d be sent to one of the British hospitals with Army wards. The one in the West Midlands would have been ideal. Great transport links, lots of nightclubs and a future husband looming on the horizon. She sounded like the blurb on a poorly managed job site. She’d been at St Agatha’s for seven years post training and hated every moment but this was worse. She’d swapped Hades for Hell. Would it be a crime to tell them she was pregnant? Or should she wait a few weeks providing she managed to dodge a sniper or failed to get dysentery.

    It was the sand, the heat, the flies. She hated her commanding officer. Snooty Cow! Alright she didn’t talk like her with a plum in her mouth and she wasn’t educated in the Home Counties but she could still take orders even unpleasant ones like grab the vac bag and go under the wire. Basic training was terrible but not as bad as this. She’d seen bodies, parts of bodies, men in anguish, women too. If she stayed much longer she’d get to enjoy all this stress and then what?

    She hoped the Nursing Council wouldn’t get wind of this but she couldn’t get pregnant by herself. Surely it wasn’t a crime. Insemination first then take her grandmother’s old herbal cure when she got decommissioned or whatever they called it. She’d tell everyone it was a one night stand at her leaving do. She had no regrets. It would look good on her Curriculum Vitae serving for Queen and Country.

    1+

  12. 31 March 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Twitter: @fatimat91
    Word count: 253
    Elements: Character-Driver, Setting-Racecourse, Genre-Tragedy

    Title: ALL AROUND THE TOWN

    The woman sat next to me in the back seat of the bus stacked between a handsome young man and a bag of rice. She carried a baby on her lap and had a filled shopping bag by her feet. The heat in the bus was unbearable as we waited for the driver to settle with the park conductor. It did not matter to him that we were parked under the hot December sun.
    I looked at the young man to my right and saw he was reading “Winner: My Racing Life by Tony McCoy”. I smiled and turned only to see the woman had been watching him too. We both rolled our eyes in sync;
    “Who reads a book inside a bus in this heat?”
    We drove off soon after and the woman shouted to the driver; Stop me at Newton o. It was the only way to get heard above the loud music playing.
    When we got to Newton junction, she shouted again; I will stop here. She got off and hailed a tricycle calling for passengers to Gwa. Thank God o sister she said; getting keke^ to my place from here is very difficult. She got in the tricycle with her baby.
    Stop madam I shouted. You have forgotten your bag.
    Oh thank you sister she said getting out of the tricycle. She ran to collect the bag.
    For a moment we all froze.
    The tricycle driver had sped off with her baby.

    ^keke: A common term for tricycles in Nigeria

    1+

  13. 31 March 2017 at 7:43 pm

    Dust of War
    by Stephen Shirres (@The_Red_Fleece)
    A 282 story of a crime in a Field Hospital with an Artist

    The charcoal scratches away the surface of the rough paper. Yet somehow it leaves the line I want. One of many, building to a whole.
    Snap!
    The charcoal splits in two. A stubby piece between my fingers, the rest shatters on the earthy ground. Another minor detail in the theatre of war. My picture is finished anyway. Curves of muscles. Soft yet harden features. Tim’s words on the other side no more than a shadow. Memory colours his eyes: the deepest, brightest blue. The bit I noticed first, loved first, loved last.
    “John.” The Doc stops at the end of my bed. As always his good nature is clear to see. Despite the morning chorus of gunfire he greets everyone with good humour, not the dark jokes of the front. “I’ve got good news for you. We are shipping you home. You’ll be back by Christmas.”
    Tim’s favourite phrase even as summer become winter became summer again. The places we would go when we got home, the things we would do. Punting in Cambridge was always high on the list. He was my war.
    “What are you looking at?” The Doc reaches for my picture. I crunch it to a ball and drop into the charcoal dust.
    “Nothing, Doc. Just the start of a letter home. I’ll need to write a new one now.” I hope my smile is enough to usher him away. To ignore the black words of threat on the other side of my picture. Tim’s words and what he was going to tell my family. They are in the mud and barbed wire of the battlefield now, with Tim and bullet I put in his back.

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