Microcosms 75

Hello, you lovely people. Ready for another flash fiction workout? You’ve come to the right place – Microcosms 75.

09-JUN has seen many notable events over the years. Here are just a few:

  • 1667 – Second Anglo-Dutch War: The Raid on the Medway by the Dutch fleet begins, leading to the worst ever defeat of the Royal Navy.
  • 1856 – Five hundred Mormons leave Iowa City, Iowa for the Mormon Trail.
  • 1928 – Charles Kingsford Smith completes the first trans-Pacific flight in a Fokker Trimotor monoplane, the Southern Cross.
  • 1930 – Chicago Tribune reporter, Jake Lingle, is killed at the Illinois Central train station, allegedly over a $100,000 gambling debt owed to Al Capone.
  • 1958 – Queen Elizabeth II officially opens London’s Gatwick Airport. 
  • 1968 – U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson declares a national day of mourning after Senator Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan in the kitchen of The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles



(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: Reporter, setting: Airport, and genre: Memoir.

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 ***


  • Naval Commander
  • Mormon
  • Aviator
  • Reporter
  • Monarch
  • Senator
  • River
  • Salt Lake Valley
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Railway Station
  • Airport
  • Kitchen
  • Crime
  • Romance
  • Fantasy
  • Comedy
  • Memoir
  • Horror


Judging this week is Microcosms 74 Judge’s Pick, Alva Holland.

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.

Microcosms 76
Microcosms 74

33 thoughts on “Microcosms 75


    We play a round of paper-scissors-stone to see who goes into room 204.

    This morning, I lose. I smile as I take the tray with one hand, knock softly and enter. It’s scrambled eggs for breakfast. Harry’s favourite. I place the tray next to the bed, and throw open the curtains.

    ‘Another stunner, Harry,’ I say.

    Harry has his good days, reciting his memoirs. He talks about hope as though it is a tangible object. Something he can grasp, like the lines around his life raft in the Pacific Ocean, even when bullets strafed the water around him.

    The doctor arrives, delivering Harry’s fate on a plastic clipboard. The doctor shakes his head as he removes the cool disc of his stethoscope from Harry’s chest. I press the oxygen mask firmly onto Harry’s face when he hears the news. He says the respiratory rales sound like the 1812 Overture. Bilateral. Cannons on the battleships of both lungs. Threads of asbestos have woven their way into the soft tissue of Harry’s alveolar walls. A new enemy is breaching his defences. He is no longer in control. No longer that Naval Commander of old.

    The doctor leaves, and an inward haul of air signals serenity in Harry’s fragile body. Calm before the next offensive.
    As I push the breakfast tray on its pivot across Harry’s midriff, I feel his bony hand snake up my skirt. He flutters his papery fingers on my thigh. I step away and give him the usual look: Head on one side, lips pressed together, holding back a smile.

    ‘Nah-ah,’ I say.

    His laugh is a laboured coarse rattle from deep within his drowning lungs.

    Always the hope.

    I fear not even death will quench Harry’s libido.

  2. Words: 300
    Used: Reporter, Airport, Memoir


    A Father’s Kiss

    Flight MN101 from Cape Town to OR Tambo in Johannesburg landed 30 minutes late. Neil pulled himself from the cramped chair and dragged himself and his laptop bag down the carpeted corridor towards the luggage collection point. He wasn’t sure how many times his suitcase had passed him before he grabbed the handle. The cold plastic brought him back to the present. The din of the airport rushed into him, crushing his chest.

    Behind the glass doors, families, friends and taxi drivers waited. Some more patient than others, a few holding gifts for family who most likely came to visit from their new homes overseas. He swallowed. Today only a taxi driver would be waiting for him. And he would not cry in front of these strangers.

    Neil scanned the row of taxi drivers until he spotted his name on a placard. Feet stuck in molasses, he dragged himself past the families sharing kisses, handshakes, and greetings in a cacophony of languages.

    His father still kissed him hello even though he was in his twenties, greeting him with a hand filled with balloons. He didn’t think he’d miss it so much, but his father always reminded him that his work as a reporter was fraught with danger. Seeing his son safe and whole over Christmas and Easter was a godsend, he always said.

    He held out his hand to his taxi driver.
    “I’m Neil.” He tried to smile, but it didn’t work. Tears started streaming. “They killed my father. Robbery.”
    The driver nodded knowingly, took his suitcase, offered a tissue. There was nothing else to do.
    “It wasn’t even important enough for the newspaper to cover.” New tears.
    “My brother as well.” The driver’s eyes turned red.
    Everyone knew about the faceless, nameless ‘they’ – and no one was left untouched.

    1. Really like the expressions you used in this, building up that mounting despair and the lethargy associated with grief.

  3. One Simple Question
    Jeff Messick
    Reporter, Airport, Memoir
    293 words

    He crushed out the fifth cigarette, and watched the plane pull away from the terminal. The Gulfstream jet began to move away, the pilots inside already working everything necessary to get their flight on its way.
    He lit another cigarette, pausing a moment to look at it and planning to quit, again. The Vice President was probably comfortably seated, a drink in hand and the visions of an upcoming election dancing in his mind.
    A career in journalism, over, because of one simple question. The man took a deep drag of the cigarette and held it in, trying to obtain as much out of the cloud as he could, before sending it wafting across the tarmac.
    The question hadn’t even been his. The question had come from somewhere way up above him. He asked questions and followed leads to build a narrative to the facts. One simple question was delivered to him and he asked it. His integrity was called into question and those that wanted the question asked, threw him under the bus.
    The Gulfstream rocketed down the runway and lifted effortlessly into the evening air. He watched it until it vanished into the gathering darkness in the east.
    One question had ruined a man and his career. One question had halted a campaign. One question asked by him, from somewhere else. He prided his career on facts and truth, and his one simple question was neither, but his job had depended on it.
    He turned for his car and the pamphlet the Veep had given him. It was time to tell the truth and ask one more, simple question, of an entirely different group of people. He felt lighter. He would be a journalist again.

    Report user
  4. Mormon/Reporter; Railway Station in Iowa City; Comedy of Errors
    300 ways to get to Utah

    Westward Holy Moly Rollers – An Extract from the Unpublished Diary of Mortimer J. Drumpf, June and July, 1856

    I was, perhaps, not the right person for Mr. James Sheahan of The Chicago Times to send to cover the expedition scheduled to leave Iowa City on June 9.

    I had originally been hired as a printer’s apprentice, and had little experience in writing stories for public consumption. Sadly, I proved somewhat awkward in my spelling ability, and Newt Parsons, the print master under whom I served, suggested to Mr. Sheahan that I might serve the world of journalism in some capacity other then lithography.

    Humbled, I attended Mr. Sheahan’s office on May 19th, certain that my time in the Fourth Estate was crashing to an end. Instead he proposed an adventure.

    “You’ve heard of the Saints, Mortimer?” Sheahan enquired.

    I replied, “I was raised in a God-fearing home, Sir,” though that was less than accurate.

    My response suddenly seemed to be incorrect, as he began to tearfully guffaw and choke that I was concerned his demise might be imminent.

    “No, lad. Mormons. MORMONS.”

    And it transpired that I did have some modest familiarity with the sect, having a cousin who, briefly living in Carthage, had fallen under the messianic spell of Smith the martyr.

    “Good.” And he explained that a contingent of foreigners were set to leave Iowa City in slightly more than a fortnight and he wanted me to travel by train to Iowa City and accompany the “damn fools as far as they got.”

    “And send me copy, lad. The unvarnished truth.”

    Train travel to Iowa City was dreary.

    I arrived the morning of June 8th.

    The expedition was in disarray.

    I presented myself to the leader, one Captain Willy.

    “Write what you will. We need healthy young cart pullers.”

    I had expected Covfefe Wagons.

    On July 15, we began the first tortuous leg to Council Bluffs.

    1. Really appreciate the use of language to reflect the time: very enjoyable. Wonderful story, complete yet also wanting more.

    2. Sian Brighal left this comment on Bill Engleson’s submission:

      Really appreciate the use of language to reflect the time: very enjoyable. Wonderful story, complete yet also wanting more.

  5. @steveweave71
    300 words

    Small Axe, Tall Tree

    The Republic Of Belzon had deported me for exhibiting dandruff. I felt they were scratching around for an excuse. My passport was stamped “Proszputi.” I was hustled onto a plane to the neighbouring country, Hamnesia, after being slapped around a bit. As a top reporter, I laugh these things off (except when they really hurt!!). A tooth I was fond of became loose.

    The flight landed at Luther Glockenspiel Airport in Haemmelvik, the Hamnesian capital, and I was taken into a room and there were Jobby Dobbs and his brother, Squalid. We’d been mates for years, in London and Belzon.

    Jobby was a man of action. He didn’t speak much and when he did, he used the “f” word a lot.
    “Let’s get you back into Belzon, Michael,” I removed the expletives to stay within the word limit. “I’m handing you a story for your memoirs. Get to the Belzon capital one month from today. Come back over the border with us, then lie low until October 23rd. OK?”

    We left the airport by jeep. I asked Squalid about the story. He said, “You’ll see,” and playfully tried to pull my tongue out through my left ear.

    Once across the border, I took mountain trails to No Mules Creek. I was an empty canvas on which no shadow had fallen. I had decided my new persona would be Robert Dare, garment salesman. I washed my hair in pristine rock pools, and survived on wild marmalade tacos and fried bread until it was time to hire a “dooli”, and head for the capital. I didn’t know it then, but the Third Starmy would bring down the Belzonian Government using only a lonely, semi-retired beauty queen, whose toenails had been removed in another story, a large mercenary army and some exploding cheese.

  6. Michael Emerson (https://thefantasticalsite.wordpress.com/)
    50 words
    Monarch; Railway Station; Comedy

    Said The King To The Fool

    “Why are we here?” asked the King of the Knave.

    “Because of the Fool,” answered the Knave.

    “Why did you bring us here?” asked the King of the Fool.

    “To hear the trains speak the wisdom of the ages!” answered the Fool; all turned to the trains.

    “…” the trains said.

    Report user
  7. Crowds

    Character: Reporter
    Setting: Airport
    Genre: Memoir

    (300 words)

    You never want to be a short man in a crowd. I learned this to my cost, among the sweat and the leather jackets, standing among the pack with their telephoto lenses and their voice recorders, craning for the latest emaciated starlet to swan past as we scurried, begging for a quote or a snap. I could never make my way to the front of the crowd, you see, barge through the melee to make my voice heard or get a shot.

    I tried lurking at the back or skulked off to the side, hoping I might anticipate the target’s turn, get myself in the way of the hulking bodyguards for long enough to fire off a question, scoop a story.

    On one such day, chasing a reluctant actor I was laid flat when I collided with his ape of a minder, breaking my arm. From then on, I stayed further back still, guarding my camera, hoping for a long shot past the ordinary folks, staying safe in the cafe, far from the arrivals hall rail.

    While I waited and smoked and drank bad coffee, I watched, trained my camera instead on the smaller stories around me.

    At nights, back in my flat, I examined the shots I had taken, huddling on my sofa, getting close to the ordinary tragedies and comedies that played out on my laptop screen, stories that would never make the front page.

    I watch them now, these workaday images, adorning the walls of the gallery, the crowds now admiring a picture of a wasted man in a wheelchair departing for a one-way trip to a Swiss clinic, his mother bending for a last kiss, pictures of reunited couples and long-lost friends. And now I know: in a crowd, you share a single view.

  8. Reporter/Pacific Ocean/Memoir
    Word count: 298

    SPacific News

    I’d just about had it with my job. Always rushing, meeting deadlines and bitchy co-workers. I wanted a new life, like Cinderella got, but without the midnight wake-up call. There’s no such thing as consequence-free wishes. My boss, Madeline, came to me with an awesome scoop. Go interview someone in South America. How exciting! I couldn’t help feel pleased with my new lot in life, and became a bit of an ass as a result.

    Nose still in the air, I boarded a plane and flew off into the sunrise. Karma visited me on this flight. I could almost hear the air hostess beaming, “Beef, chicken or an attitude adjustment?” The plane lost an engine and plummeted to earth. We landed safely in the Pacific Ocean, near a tiny uninhabited island.

    Bruised and shaky we bonded instantly. From the accountant to the stripper, we were all different. It was like being on a reality TV show where people have to fend for themselves for a bit. We quickly assumed roles. We were excited at the prospect of being castaways and being rescued soon. After all, this is the 21st century and technology has its advantages. Hours turned into days, and days into weeks. The excitement wore off.

    I was no forager and I couldn’t hunt, so I started a newsletter. I used a stick and wrote in the sand. I do believe this is where people thought I lost the plot. I interviewed birds and crabs for the serious articles and gossiped a little about my fellow castaways in the editor’s column. I did this every day until we were rescued several months after crashing. We promised to stay in touch, but the reality is we won’t.

    P.S. I am so happy to be back at work.

    Report user
    1. Lovely read…almost like a parable. ‘Beef, chicken or an attitude adjustment’ .. great phrase.

  9. Reporter/Airport/Memoir
    298 words

    Love Is the Drug

    I squatted behind a luggage cart, a few hundred feet from the military cargo plane. I had a clear view of the loading ramp and the empty hold.

    The soldier who contacted me had said that something was going on, and every effort was being made to keep it from the press. He knew what it was, but he wouldn’t say.

    “I want you to see it. What’s going on needs to get out. The American people should know.”

    We knew there was a problem with illegal drug trafficking. It was one of the consequences of this war in Iraq. My colleagues had done a very thorough article for our last issue, but they had found nothing about US military involvement.

    A sharp twisting pain radiated from my left knee, down into my calf. A cramp was the last thing I needed. I was about to stand when four armed guards took positions on both sides of the ramp. I stayed low, extended my leg to the side, and bit my lower lip to distract me from the pain. After 9/11, everyone was on edge, and I didn’t want to get shot.

    The hangar doors rose with a grinding cry. I raised my camera, adjusted the focus. Nothing prepared me for what I saw.

    There were coffins, each draped in an American flag. Silently, efficiently and with great respect, they were loaded into the cargo hold. Four rows of coffins that seemed to stretch for an eternity. A tear clouded my viewfinder.

    After I had taken the photo, I knew there would be consequences. Photos like these were banned. It was felt they would detract support for the war. The soldier who contacted me knew that too. I lost my job. I never heard what happened to him.

    Report user
  10. Story Cancelled Due to Turbulence: Report to Booking Agency
    A.J. Walker

    I was at Schipol Airport that fateful day. I know you know the day. The word Schipol now is synonymous with it.

    Writing this memoir, I found it difficult to know when to start, what to put in; for I remember every little thing about that day. Which is odd, why can I remember every moment when much of the day passed without a hint of what was to come? We’ve all seen those remarkable video feeds and the photographs from the the day. They’re all night time shots, under the plastic glare of the airport lights. Yet I can tell you what time I woke, what socks I put on (and in what order). I can tell you the answer to 7 down in the cryptic crossword in the Times and how many pieces of lettuce there were on my BLT from the airport shop. I mean, it’s crazy what I recall.

    Then there’s the night itself. Those two and half bat shit crazy hours. I could break it down into minute details. Each minute what I did, where I was, what I saw. What crazy thoughts I thought.

    But why put that down here for you? It’s been written about so many times – my byline was in the NYT! So many documentaries and those bloody awful films purporting to retell the “true events”. You’re probably as bored of the idea of these memories as I am. So no, I will not retell the events here. Not now. Maybe over a coffee or a bottle or two of wine, but not here. Google it if you need to refresh your memory of Schipol 17.

    Suffice to say, I suffer the nightmares still. Probably will till my tiny mind gives up.

    Just thank your lucky stars you weren’t there too.

    WC: 300
    Airport/ Reporter/ Memoir

  11. @CalebEchterling
    300 words

    A New Pet from the Pound

    The crackle of feedback drowned out conversation. “For your safety and the safety of those around you, please do not leave any monarchs unattended in the airport terminal. Any monarchs left unattended may be removed by airport personnel.”

    A lone man in a gray pinstriped suit marched through the concourse. A wobbly sceptre kept an irregular beat next to his shoulder. Two armed guards closed him down. “I’m sorry, sir, but you’ll have to come with us.”

    The man squinted at his inquisitors. “Jolly good, my honor guard has arrived. Step lively and hold those bayonets straight.”

    “Yes, your majesty.” The guard shook her head. “He’s the third one this week. What happens after we drop him off at the clink?”

    “Not our problem, is it? Sometimes it’s better not knowing.”


    A briar patch of blonde curls danced atop of a six-year-old head. “Mommy, mommy, can we take that one home? He has a gray coat and sceptre like I wanted.” Cell bars pressed parallel streaks of grime into her cheeks.

    “Sweetheart, don’t you and your friends play ecclesiocracy? Bishops are the next row over.”

    “No, mommy, constitutional monarchy.” Leather sandals stomped to punctuate her certainty.

    Gentle fingers pried the child off the bars. “A crown prince is a lot of work. You have to take him on parade every day. Plus visit sick children and go to tennis tournaments. Are you sure you can handle that responsibility?”

    The girl gyrated like she was hooked up to live current. “Yes, mommy, yes. Aisha has a pet king and we’ve already arranged a state visit.”

    The jailer turned an oversized key. “He’s all yours, ma’am. Been here a week without a prime minister claiming him.”

    The crown prince ruffled the mop of curls. “Young lady, let’s go call parliament into session.”

    1. Wonderful! Delightful read. Utterly bonkers but written to make it utterly believable. Thank you.

  12. SUBMITTED LATE – Just 4 Fun

    175 words
    Reporter; Airport; Memoir


    dont get out much nowadays/pretty much couch potato/or wd be if not confined 2 wheelchair/ha ha

    still luv words tho/bt hard 2 concentr8/espec on long paras

    was shit hot on punc2ation/bt 1 finger typing/so shortcuts


    run flash fiction contest on the web now/from my laptop

    1 entry ths wk had unfamiliar wrd/-rale-

    looking it up in dogeared dictionary/saw headwrd -lax-/took me back


    los angeles intl airport/2nd busiest airport in usa

    was paparazzo/-photojournalist- used 2 say/-picture tells a thousand words- rt

    1 day saw gangsta rapper/baseball cap/hoodie/ray-bans/bling/cant remember name

    started snapping/loud gunshot/rapper fell

    ppl ran 2 help him/i turned 2 where shot came from

    used 2 seeing world thru telephoto lens/felt invisible/protected

    saw gun pointing at me too late/guess i was -lax-/ha ha

    turned 2 run bt took slug in spine/cracked head on tiled floor


    so here i am

    wheelchair no gd 4 chasing celebs/even desper8 z listers


    (Note: ‘LAX’ is the IATA code for Los Angeles International Airport)

    1. Sorry to have missed this one. Excellent read, interesting presentation, very clever and also grabs you very hard as a counterpoint to what he’s saying. Brings it home.

      1. It was very easy to miss, being almost 13 hours late for the contest!
        Glad you enjoyed it, Sian. Thanks for the very inciteful comments and positive feedback – for my piece and for all the others to which you took the trouble to respond.

  13. Thanks to:
    John – for the basic plot idea;
    Louise – for the obscure word ‘rale’ which had me reaching for the dictionary;
    Bill E. – for his predilection for one sentence paragraphs!

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