Thanks to all of you who celebrated the birthday of Burt Bacharach by submitting a story to Round 71. We had a reasonable total of 14 entries this week – plus one late, ‘just-for-fun’ entry from me.
Please keep returning to Microcosms, and retweet / spread the word about this contest among your followers and friends.
Don’t forget that Microcosms exists primarily to provide a platform for the flash fiction community to hone their skills, and secondarily to give entrants a chance of receiving an accolade from that week’s judge. We also have the vote button for anyone – not just fellow entrants – to register their favourite/favorite(s) and thus establish a Community Pick.
Remember, you can reply with a comment to any and all of the entries AT ANY TIME: It’s good to have feedback.
Many thanks to Sian Brighal for judging MC 71. Here’s what she had to say:
An interesting shift in prompts for this round, and it has yielded, again, superb entries. I wish I could have selected whole meaty chunks of story to have as a favourite line. The writing styles are so varied and the themes so wide-ranging: a true lucky dip for me, where I was a winner every time. Thank you for your wonderful stories.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Bill Engleson – “Eugene’s just a hog whose time has come. Pa says you butcher one ya love, the rest’ll be as easy as pie.”
This line leapt out whilst reading as being portentous. Is this the Liberty Valance who was later shot? Did hog butcherin’ set him off on his path in life?
Carin Marais – I ignored the blood at his temple.
Such a small sentence, yet it said so much.
Anne Chowdhury – Looking up at the sky, she realizes it’s the sky that’s crying, not her.
I really liked this image, as though the very world sympathised.
Steve Lodge – And yet Wolfgang continues to interest collectors years after he passed away, sadly choking on a lowly tenderleaf.
What an excellent last line! Wraps up the story so nicely…and ironically.
Angelique Pacheco – I tried to stem the flicker of suspicion but it burst into flame and spread like wildfire.
Wonderful imagery regarding the destructive power of doubt, dread and mistrust.
AJ Aguilar-van der Merwe – Like I didn’t know he was a weak swimmer
Twists the story’s direction towards a deadly intent: made my scalp tingle.
Jeff Messick – Perhaps I should have spent some of my ill-gotten gains over the years, on important stuff, like the bed I didn’t quite fit in.
This line got me. All that work, skill, luck on his side, and he hadn’t had the chance to enjoy it. Almost as though Murphy was punishing him for not making good on the help he’d granted. Tied in with the last line, this was emotive.
Danny Beusch – I cut out the story and put it under my pillow. That evening, I slept more soundly than I had for years.
Oh, these two together! Such vindictiveness. Again, the sentiment of the story changed — a slap in the face — and made you view it with different eyes.
Angelique Pacheco – A little French girl twirls in front of the television. The screen flashes, as the rhythmic tap-tap of Gene Kelly’s shoes speak a language in Morse code that she can understand. She can’t say “Hello,” or “How do you do?” but she can sing, word for word, “I’m singing in the rain…”
The whole story! Such a wonderful image. I’m reading a lot into this: can the girl not speak English, is she autistic, painfully shy or traumatised? Either way, the idea of communicating through dance and song is beautiful.
Fatima Okhuosami – The flesh feast is begun!
So difficult to find one single favourite line in this. They were all loaded with all kinds of discomforting hints of suffering and looming horror. This last line just opened the door to what was going on: gave me images of happy flicking tails and eager paws.
Steph Ellis – For many years the hand had marked the passage of time in this manner, fingers trailing the white powder of mildew in never-ending rotation, dragging fear and despair in its wake.
Wish I could pick more than one favourite line. This line helped clinch the length of the entombment, the sense of decay and the despair.
Carlos Orozco – His only consolation was that, maybe, in the final hours, his son would commit him to the dark spot beyond the reach of memory, and the end would obliterate any disappointment the father could cause.
Such a powerful sentence, especially in view of the title.
KM Zafari – New York is lovely this time of year.
So difficult to pick one line. This one was stunning in the way it elevates the narrator into a realm beyond his current regrets and dilemma and focuses him back on the life and times he had.
Dave James Ashton – Briefly, I calculate the effectiveness of reverting to a clinical, impersonal tone and rattling off a list of her achievements as is the approved format for interacting with the few remaining humans in their last moments.
Elegantly fills in the blanks of the story. Its formality was startling against the accent and casual tone of the previous paragraphs.
Honourable / Honorable Mention
Angelique Pacheco – Speakable Muse
This was such a powerful image packed into such a very short story. It was wonderfully complete, yet begged questions. Ultimately, it was full of potential and joy in the power of communicating in whatever manner is available, with the tender notion that someone somewhere will be able to understand.
Steph Ellis – The Hand
This reminded me of Poe. I loved the flowing descriptions—‘calligraphy of age’—and the imagery. The language was wonderfully effusive, inspiring a deep sense of despair and interminable longing, and then the last line, which promises something so much more. It was a delight to read.
Steve Lodge – Dollar On The Shore, Castles On Sand
The writing flowed superbly, carrying me along through the bizarre world of art. I liked the imagery and the little nuggets thrown in to surprise ‘now and zen’, and sleepwalking through a voyage of discovery: lovely use of phrase. It’s a rather madcap stroll in a light-hearted, yet also quite subtly-focused and clinical way, as though the narrator himself cannot fathom the wonders and absurdities of art and artists, but has dedicated his life to analysing it. Does he seek some sense in those lost paintings and beermats?
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 71.
(insert drumroll here)
Angelique Pacheco – The Fools of April
The April Fools; Tragedy
“Happy April Fool’s Day! Sorry I lied.”
My jaw dropped, my heart turned into ice and the world tilted off its axis. “What? No. It can’t be,” I thought. Because if it was, I had just destroyed the life I had built for myself.
Greg had started acting strangely about three months ago. There were the lies about having to work late. I tried to stem the flicker of suspicion but it burst into flame and spread like wildfire. I phoned his office almost obsessively trying to hold onto what was slipping through my fingers. He became secretive about his phone and wouldn’t even go to bed without it. There were phone calls at all hours and he claimed that they were work related. Who was he kidding? I knew better. He was having an affair.
In order to protect my heart, I began shifting the gears in my head regarding my relationship. I guess it’s easier when you have nothing left to fight for. A man at the gym invited me out for coffee, and I accepted. Three hours later, I lay in his arms in a motel room, sated, yet empty. Funny, I can’t even remember his name now. I’m not sure if he ever mentioned it.
We are on the beach. I stare at a table in front of me decorated with flowers. A violinist stands to one side. It is sunset. The exact proposal scenario I wrote in my diary when I was just ten years old. But instead of joy, I feel dread. This is when he tells me he lied. He goes down on one knee and asks me to marry him.
Tears spill down my face as I tell him what I have done. It is now time for his jaw to drop.
KM Zafari – Once in Your Life
I read this one many times, and it’s such a simple and honest examination of a man’s regrets and his inability to make amends; it’s almost a gentle scold and optimistic push for the reader. I especially liked the sentiment regarding his wife’s inability to understand why another woman’s name was on his lips at the end. The writing is excellent, guiding your thinking gently, and offering support to your conclusions and sympathies. I think the last two lines are superb. No haunting recriminations at the very end, just the end and the thought of how beautiful it was down there for him, and how it will continue to be so for those he leaves behind. That last line had me reaching for the tissues. Wonderful story: thank you.
Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do); Drama/Memoir
They say your entire life flashes in front of you just before you die, but that’s not true. There simply isn’t time.
The mind is brilliant, though. What it does, as its final gift to you for being human, is distill, into a painfully few, precious moments, that which is most important to you.
Some people think of themselves; I feel sorry for them. Many think of their children or their grandchildren.
I thought of Caroline.
It surprises me that she would come to mind up here, in the vast quiet of space. But it’s her face I think of when the spark first ignites.
I have time to remember two things.
The first time we met. She had a beautiful smile. We were swept up by the romanticism of New York in the fall and our mutual love of coffee. She had dreams of becoming a dancer; my sights were always set on the skies.
The last time I saw her. Tears streaming down her face as she opened the car door, and left without another word. My family had big plans for me; she was only a barista.
They will herald me a hero, but that’s not true. I’m just a man, a man who made an even bigger mistake than the one that ultimately took my life.
I have so many amends to make, but there simply isn’t time. Caroline will never know how I felt, that I harbored such regrets. My children will never hear my apologies for always being gone. And my wife will never know why, in my final moments, I whispered another woman’s name.
I try to look past the heat and fury of the incoming explosion and focus on the boroughs, visible far below.
New York is lovely this time of year.
Congratulations, KM. After 71 rounds, it’s about time you had a win… On the other hand, since this is your first entry that was not ‘just for fun’, you have a 100% success rate! 😀
As this week’s Judge’s Pick… yadda yadda; I think you know the drill. As you are hosting next week, I’ll let you decide whether you want to take on the extra task of judging Microcosms 72, or delegate it to someone else.