Thanks to each and every one of you who entered Round 75. We had 11 entries this week (plus a very late, just-for-fun entry from yours truly).
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 Alva Holland for judging MC 75. Here’s what she had to say:
Thanks again to everyone who submitted a story this week. Your creativity with the prompts never fails to surprise me.
My judging method is simple. I read all of the stories once, straight through, one after another. Usually, one story jumps out at me as a cut above the rest, for content, entertainment, cleverness of flash and completeness as a story.
Then I read the stories a second time, straight through. Sometimes, a second story will jump for a different reason, something I missed first time around, a subtle shift in the tale, a nuance that takes the story to a higher level, or just explains something that didn’t fit first time round.
My third read confirms my winner and runner-up. Then the mentions fall into place.
As this was a busy Fast Flash Reunion weekend for me, I make no apology for being glad there were only eleven stories to judge.
Well done, everyone. It’s always a pleasure to read and judge. I look forward to writing for the competition next week and hope you will all join me.
Louise Mangos – Threads of asbestos have woven their way into the soft tissue of Harry’s alveolar walls.
Carin Marais – And he would not cry in front of these strangers.
Jeff Messick – He watched it until it vanished into the gathering darkness in the east.
Bill Engleson – 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
Steve Lodge – A tooth I was fond of became loose.
Michael Emerson – “To hear the trains speak the wisdom of the ages!” answered the Fool.
John Herbert – You never want to be a short man in a crowd.
Angelique Pacheco – Always rushing, meeting deadlines and bitchy co-workers. I wanted a new life, like Cinderella got, but without the midnight wake-up call.
Bill Bibo – I stayed low, extended my leg to the side, and bit my lower lip to distract me from the pain.
A.J. Walker – 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.
Caleb Echterling – Leather sandals stomped to punctuate her certainty.
Geoff Holme – 1 day saw gangsta rapper/baseball cap/hoodie/ray-bans/bling/cant remember name
Special Mention – For a splendid short title which packed a big punch
Steve Lodge – Small Axe, Tall Tree
Angelique Pacheco – SPacific News
The sheer frivolity of the newsletter in the sand carried me along. How will this end? Rescued, but not before birds and crabs were interviewed and articles were written with a stick. Great story!
Carin Marais – A Father’s Kiss
I knew this was going to be a sad story when I read ‘he wasn’t sure how many times his suitcase had passed him before he grabbed the handle’. Grief does that. This is a splendid account of an inconsolable young man returning home, full of memories, and grief for his murdered father. It made me cry a little. Impressive writing.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 75.
(insert drumroll here)
Louise Mangos – Harry’s Hope
Naval Commander; Pacific Ocean; Memoir
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.
John Herbert – Crowds
From the splendid opening line to the easy flow of the story, the vulnerability of the narrator is clear. We feel the insecurities when opportunities are missed.
Then the twist – the ‘other story,’ where the hapless replacement for the real thing becomes the show, the exhibition.The seemingly insignificant, normal things rise to the top and gain fame. The ending line is super, wrapping up a wonderful story. Well done.
Reporter; Airport; Memoir
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.
Congratulations, John. As this week’s Judge’s Pick, you are invited to judge Microcosms 76, let us know whether or not you are interested ASAP!