Microcosms 91

Friday: flash fiction aficionados favourite day of the week… or at least certainly in their top seven. Welcome to Microcosms 91.

*** Let’s try not to have any late entries this week, folks. ***

This post is scheduled for release at the usual time of 00.00, Friday, New York (EDT) time. You have just 24 hours until midnight, today (Friday) New York time (EDT) to submit.

Here’s the deal:

For some time, I’ve been attempting to finish reading ‘Mary Barton’, Elizabeth Gaskell‘s first novel, published in 1848. Set in Manchester, it’s a saga of the difficulties faced by the  Victorian working classes, proving the old adage – “It’s grim oop North”.

I had been finding the depiction of grinding poverty more than a little depressing, so I put it to one side for a long time.

On picking it up again, I found it almost instantly gripping: someone is murdered and all the evidence points to the culprit being someone who is innocent. Mary must find the one person who can provide an alibi, with only a few days before the trial begins. Chapter after chapter relates the drama of the chase, and then the tension of not knowing if the witness will make it on time… and the trial due to start first thing the next morning <gasp!>

I eagerly turn the page and read the chapter heading: “XXXII. THE TRIAL AND VERDICT – “NOT GUILTY.”

Thanks a bunch, Lizzy! Never heard of spoiler alerts?!

Miffed, I put the book down to concentrate on finding a theme for this week’s contest by doing my customary last-minute trawl through events,  births and deaths, only to find that Elizabeth Gaskell was born on this very day in 1810!

Her later novels ‘North and South’ and ‘Cranford’ have both been given the BBC adaptation to successful TV period drama series.

Today is also the anniversary of the birth in 1547 of another literary star – Miguel de Cervantes. He’s best known, of course, for ‘Don Quixote’ – considered to be the first modern novel.

And another inspiration to writers commemorated today is László József Bíró, inventor of the ballpoint pen! In Argentina – the country he moved to in 1943 to escape the Nazis – today is celebrated as Inventor’s Day.



(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, location and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are – character: Inventor, location: Jail, and genre: Comedy.

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 – character, setting and genre. 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 ***


  • Worker
  • Seamstress
  • Gossiping Biddy
  • Knight Errant
  • Tax Collector
  • Inventor
  • Cotton Mill
  • Big City
  • Rural Village
  • Spain
  • Jail
  • International Fair
  • Horror
  • Comedy
  • Sci-Fi
  • Crime
  • Memoir
  • Thriller



*** DON’T FORGET to tell us your chosen elements AND to give your entry a title ***



Due to the very late posting of last week’s results, I have to hope that the Judge’s Pick, Steph Ellis, will agree to act as this week’s judge.


Let me reiterate: all submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length. You have 24 hours until midnight, today (Friday) 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 92
Results Delayed

43 thoughts on “Microcosms 91

  1. Hi, guys.

    Due to very late posting of MC 90 Results, and your host for MC 91 being a little gaga at this time in the morning (UK time), this week’s contest went live 30 minutes late. Obviously, time will be added onto the deadline to compensate.

    Keep those entries rolling in, and we promise to do our best to get back to normal service ASAP.

    1. 224 words
      Inventor; Jail; Comedy

      From Blammo!

      It had been a comedy of errors.

      The rebels had kidnapped me, a toy inventor, to make them bombs.

      Why on Earth would they assume a man dedicated to making children happy would want to be involved in mass murder?

      But, when they threatened my family, I had little choice. Or at least that’s what I let them think.

      I built their bombs. I set up their remote timers. What I didn’t tell them was I kept one. What they didn’t know is that the van they were driving would blow up before they even left the building. That it would take out the whole nest of them and, regrettably, me as well. I ached to see my family one last time, but it was not to be.

      Or, at least, that was what was supposed to happen. The problem is when I triggered the bomb, it didn’t go off. On the bright side, when they tried to trigger it, it didn’t go off either.

      When the police caught the would-be bombers, and me along with the rest of them, I was taken to jail with the rest.

      I’m really hoping they figure out I was a hostage, not an accomplice. But I’m from Pakistan so the deck is stacked against me.

      Still, there’s one thing I’m glad of. Toy inventors make lousy bombs.

      Report user
      1. Great response to the three pre-selected elements, Lucian – I’m glad your story didn’t bomb, too. 🙂

        [ However, you failed to light the blue touchpaper on a title for your story. If you leave a reply here with the title, I can add it. ]

      2. This story drew me in from the start. I was a little confused as to which bomb the rebels attempted to trigger – had they found his hidden one, or was it one of the others the toy inventor had made? Just a niggle, but maybe some clarification is needed there.

  2. Gossiping biddy; rural village; comedy
    300 words hot of the Titcomb Golden Gazette Press

    Josie Willowberry’s Titcomb Tattler: If You Didn’t Read it Here, It Isn’t Worth Reading

    “I wouldn’t say this normally, Evelyn, what with me being a body who knows how to mind her own business and mark my words, you know that’s the gospel truth because I only write what is irrefutable, but things …important things… just ain’t the same as they used to be.”

    I’ve pigeon-holed Evie Tucker in the canned meat and vegetable section of the Titcomb Valley Mercantile because word come to me from I don’t want to say who but it is a generally reliable source that Evie’s been cozying up to a new family that recently pushed their way into Titcomb Valley.

    “Well, Evie?” I pummel her with my usual approach when I’m seeking out the secrets of Titcomb Valley for my weekly column, The Titcomb Tattler, which has appeared in the Titcomb Golden Gazette for almost twenty-five years and is read by every thinking adult in the community.

    And when I see her staring down at the bottom shelf where Henry Tuck stocks ancient cans of Pinto Beans that nobody I know is going to buy and avoiding my eyes like I’m a hypnotist, well, you can bet I know I am on to something.

    And then she bursts into tears like a waterpipe snapped by the winter freeze and wails away with, “Oh Josie, I didn’t mean to, but they came up to me at church and invited me over to a barbecue and it just seemed to be the right thing to do, I mean Pastor Willis was going to be there and I forgot how you like to be the first to write up about the new folk…”

    So, I tell her to stop babbling and tell me all about the barbecue.

    Evie gets all giggly and we’re back on an even keel.

    For now, anyways.

    1. Classic Engleson title (is there any point to my removing identifying details from your entry before I forward it to Steph?) – and a mighty fine snatch of small-town Canadiana.

  3. @steveweave71
    300 words
    Inventor; Jail; Crime

    The Blurred Echoes

    PROFESSOR FLUTE: You’re my lawyer. Get me out of here.

    GORDON REDROBE: Ordinarily I’d say, no problem. But this jail’s the Fingernail Factory and you’ve pissed off lots of influential Belzonian people and institutions. Now, in other countries, you’d be as free as a bird and I’d be at my club winning a round of golf.

    FLUTE: You really think so?

    REDROBE: Of course. The golfers I play against are crap.

    FLUTE: I mean my release. I’ve done nothing criminal.

    (REDROBE opens the charge sheet).

    REDROBE: Authorities beg to differ. Bathing Police want to speak about your “Cake You Can Eat In The Shower” device.

    Belzon Animal Rights want to talk about your Monkey Shaver and the Jellyfish Breeding Tablets.

    Your Tattoo Remover seems to be farm equipment.

    First Lady wants a word about your Pancake Wigs. Her taller sister sprinkled lemon juice on the First Lady’s and ate it as they stood in line at a state function.

    Food Beverage Institute (FBI) want to discuss the cheese-fondling gloves and your claims that your locally bottled water is “safe to wash your feet in.”

    Your inventions seem as useless as soup on a stick.

    Also, The Book Police are keen to torture you about your book “How To Weasel Out Of Things.”

    FLUTE: But, it’s important to know how. It’s what separates us from the animals. Except the weasels.

    REDROBE: Maybe, but the President’s name is Otto Weasel. And last but not first, your branded renaissance stew with vicious mustard recipe has decimated the Belzonian Navy, ending their quest to find the sea.

    FLUTE: The country’s landlocked. They don’t need a Navy.

    REDROBE: But they’re also the Army. You haven’t got an egg to stand on. Best we can hope for is you survive the torturing and they deport you.

    1. Are you pandering to the judge, Steve? You know how Steph likes a good old laugh after a week at work!
      This one’s a hoot, packing in the funnies: “You haven’t got an egg to stand on” was one of the weaker gags – and I still laughed out loud. 🙂

      (Improv with Otis Cochise – see MC 90 Results – sounds like a ripping night out. Are there any YouTube clips?)

      [ I had to make an amendment to put the apostrophe in ‘President’s’, so I can’t give you the full five stars. 🙁 ]

      1. I did look up Otis Cochise on You Tube but nothing jumped out (as I used to do in my youth from a fairly high cliff into the Millstream River) and yelled “Geronimo.”

      2. Thanks for the amendment, Geoff.
        I will check and see if there’s anything live on Otis Cochise.
        Pretty sure I also used the name when appearing in a TV series here as well. Might be able to find that.

  4. 232 words
    Inventor; Jail; Crime

    A Jailhouse Visitation

    “We found your I.D. Badge behind a tree, you would have had the perfect view of the victim,” the High Inquisitor stated. “What do think would have caused you to murder him?”

    I looked at him and asked, “What was Rasmussen doing at the time?”

    “According to sources close to Rasmussen, he would always go to that spot to think and smoke his pipe,” came the answer.

    I looked down at the evidence bag that was in front of me; inside was a beautiful hand-carved bent bulldog pipe. It had been a gift from me to my good friend.

    “Well, if I had to guess, and I do, I would say that due to my time travel experiments, that I didn’t get to perform, I developed some sort of psychosis that drove me to kill him simply for smoking his pipe,” I responded then continued, “I personally dislike the habit, but under NORMAL circumstances wouldn’t deny anyone their vice.”

    The High Inquisitor nodded. “Return him to his cell.”


    “And that’s how I came to be here, rotting in this cell for a crime I hadn’t committed yet. Seriously consider your actions when dealing with time travel,” I implored my visitor.

    “Thank you for speaking with me, Professor Tempus. I will keep your warning in mind,” my visitor said as he shook my hand.

    “You do that, Mr Wells, you do that.”

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  5. Tales from the Slammer
    297 words
    Jeff Messick

    “I don’t understand.” The officer said.

    The Inventor shrugged. “I made an app, hoping it would do a certain chore for me, and it did exactly that.”

    “And now, you’re in jail.”

    The Inventor looked around, sadly. “’Twould appear that way.”

    The officer crooked one arm and held his forefinger to his lips in thought. “What is this app, and what is the chore?”

    “The app culls information off the web, collates it, and generates news stories from that information.”

    “Wait a minute.” The officer said. “You’re a reporter, as well as an inventor?”

    The Inventor nodded. “Inventing is a hobby. I make things to help with my day job.”

    The officer still looked to be missing something. “The information off the web…who verifies it?”

    The Inventor gave a short bark of laughter. “No one! Who cares anyway? The app kicks out stories, which I glance at, then turn them in to my publisher. He runs them in the paper and I get paid.”

    “You get paid for doing nothing?”

    The Inventor allowed a sly smile. “Wouldn’t you, if you could?”

    “Well, yeah, but how did you wind up here?”

    The Inventor’s sly smile vanished faster than the truth at a Liar’s Convention. “Well, when you have fake news, from questionable sources, that you haven’t vetted, things can go wrong.”

    The officer grinned. “I can see that. Did you miss some information?”

    The Inventor’s sad grin returned. “That’s the crux. I reported the truth, verified even.”

    The officer frowned. “Who saw it?”

    “My son is the Police Chief and apparently doesn’t like it that everyone now knows he’s had a mistress for the past three years.”

    “Oh, my.”

    The Inventor continued, “Or that he’s been crafting cocaine-laced beer for two years.”

    “Good Lord!”

    The Inventor sighed. “Or…”

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    1. I like the humour and the ending of this story. One slight confusion for me was whether he was reporting unverified or verified news stories – he seemed to state both. As a (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) side note, I beg to differ on this story’s assertion that writing an app is doing no work… 😉

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  6. 297 words
    Gossiping Biddy; Big City; Comedy

    Tornados and Toilets

    Anyone living in South Africa will tell you that our weather is mild. We don’t get monsoons, cyclones or tornados. We don’t get earthquakes either. We have warm, balmy summers and mild winters. Some days you can even wear short sleeves. Yes, yes. I know. You can get your hate on.

    You can just imagine our surprise when we had a tornado last year. Facebook plastered my wall with video clips of it. A factory worker ran outside to film it. A torrent of angry posts relating to his stupidity followed. Come on! A tornado! We don’t even have procedures in place to deal with stuff like that.

    One mall was split in two from its force. I think that’s around the time sensible people started running for cover. Looters even got some early Christmas “shopping” done. Barns on nearby farms lost their thatch roofs, rendering the cows inside rather dumbstruck.

    My favorite story is of old Mrs. Veldhoen, an octogenarian, who lived alone in her single-story tin-roofed house. Mrs Veldhoen refused to go and stay in an assisted-living facility. She always insisted she was quite capable to look after herself. On the day of the tornado, she found herself indisposed on her “throne”. Not having heard the news on the radio, she was blissfully unaware of her predicament when her roof suddenly blew off. She sat frozen on the loo, not sure what to do next. She needn’t have worried. The news helicopter following the progress of the tornado shot footage of her house with her in it, showing all her glory. I hear she has settled in well at the Happy Homes Retirement Center.

    There’s supposed to be a cyclone coming this weekend. My eyes and ears are peeled. Also, I really need to pee.

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  7. @GriffithsKL
    298 words
    Inventor; Jail; Comedy

    With a Twinkie

    “…so this guy, he busts out. With a Twinkie.”

    “Fried or room-temperature?”

    “Does it matter?”

    “You damn right it matters. Obviously you’ve never had one fried.”

    Clark wasn’t sure what the hell the kid was talking about: fried or room-temperature, but he knew it was best to go with it. There was a language barrier Clark had been trying to scale, learning this strange tongue through contextual clues. It was worse than school. Clark wiped a glistening trail of snot on his forearm and tried to look wise.

    A siren blared. Both men glanced toward the clot of orange-clad figures, some muscled and tattooed, some stooped and gangly like Clark. They trudged toward the tunnel that led to a nasty plate of room-temperature lunch. “Too old for this,” Clark mumbled.

    “I can get you things,” Milo offered. “If you show me how he did it.”

    “I’ll tell you what,” said Clark. “Get me a Twinkie, and I’ll show you.”

    Milo narrowed his eyes. “You a rat?”

    “Forget it then. I’ll get my own.” About that, Clark was wrong. Old men didn’t have the one commodity that was coveted in the maximum security prison, where conjugal visits existed only in dreams. Milo, even the guards gave him appreciative stares. He was art and he knew it.

    But it hurt bad, getting the Twinkie. Milo had to let Ox abuse him shamefully. Twice. Then the Twinkie was smushed when Ox violated him with a full mouth kiss. Milo awakened a tiger.

    Clark frowned when Milo offered the Twinkie pancake. “What’s this?”

    “Don’t mess with me, old man.”

    Clark took the confection from Milo’s slack hand, popped it in his mouth. “Twin-key. He used a twin-key to escape. And I invented the whole story.” Clark nodded to his new friend, Ox.

      1. Kelly, You started off with the compound adjective ‘room-temperature’ correctly hyphenated, but then it wasn’t the other two times it appears. I amended those, so now your word count is 298. 😉

  8. 295 words
    Seamstress; International Fair; Thriller

    The Utensils of Life

    Martha was working tirelessly on some fancy costumes for the elite and wealthy businessmen and women attending the international fair in London. Working on these outfits for months was causing her a major lack of sleep. Starting to feel delusional, Martha would daydream about torturing the men and women demanding her to make changes, make this and that, and go faster. She dreamt that the people were like mannequins and she could push her needles into them like the tomato pin cushion on her sewing table – especially into Matilda’s hands that she would always wildly gesture with.

    The maintenance man, Dom at the same factory was about fed up with fix this, do that, and all the demands. He had similar daydreams too, but his involved his tools instead.

    The chef, Billy secretly had the same thoughts too, but he actually wrote his down in a notebook and created a variety of plans to torture them. It seemed to be the only thing that would give relief to his growing rage.

    After, working a double shift with no sleep, all three were making their way to the garage the morning of opening day for London’s fair. The three of them started complaining about their bosses, encounters from the day and past months. The hatred ran deep for the three overworked and exhausted employees.

    Billy said, “Why don’t you two come over my place for breakfast so I can show you something?”

    Agreeing, the three went back to Billy’s, all delirious and angry. Billy pulled out his notebook and they discussed his ideas. That night, the maintenance man got the keys to all the areas of the fair and warehouse and Maratha and Dom got creative with the costumes. The real celebration was about to begin.

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  9. Twitter: @lizzynim
    300 words
    Inventor; International Fair; Sci-Fi

    Experiment at the World’s Fair

    She stood quietly, observing the throngs of people as they moved around the fair, taking in the varied contraptions on display. Looming above the crowds was a giant steel globe, symbol of international cooperation and ingenuity.

    “What are you exhibiting?” A man was frowning at the small metallic cube sitting on the otherwise empty table in front of her.

    “Oh, I’m not…” she began.

    “The inventor. I can see that,” he interrupted. “But I assume you know what it is he’s exhibiting here.”

    She was momentarily taken aback, but then smiled. “I was going to say that I’m not exhibiting. I’m just… conducting an experiment.”

    “With this?” he pointed to the cube. She nodded. “Well, what does it do?”

    “It has… interesting properties, let’s say. Why don’t you see for yourself and pick it up?”

    The man reached for the cube. His fingers closed around it… then he stared at his hand in horror and retracted it sharply.

    “What kind of devilment is this?” he cried, inspecting his hand. Satisfied that it was intact, he turned back to her. “My hand just went straight through it!”

    “Like I said, interesting properties.”

    His face flushed with excitement. “Think of the applications! I must speak to the inventor. Where is he? When will he be back?”

    “I am the inventor,” she said.

    He looked at her askance and scoffed. “Yes, very funny. Now look, I need to speak to him right away.” He pulled out a pocket watch from his waistcoat and inspected it with impatience.

    She reached forward, flicked a switch. The man, the fair, the crowds and the globe all vanished. She was left standing in an empty room, holding the cube.

    Not bad, she thought. The holographic simulation cube could be the star of the World’s Fair 2120 yet…

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  10. Inventor, Jail, Comedy
    Words: 300

    December 14th, 7 AM. The plan had begun.
    He took the bed sheet off, and tied it around the prison bars. With all his might He pulled the sheet. Pedro joined in. So did the monkey. At once they all fell like a domino, the sheet ripped, but the cell wide open. They slipped out and ran into the control center. The whole prison filled with the ruckus police and the blaring loudspeaker.
    Pedro looked through the surveillance camera.
    ‘They’re onto us, He! Look, they’re going down the hallway.’
    Pedro took out his knife, and set it on the table. He ripped off the control panel and stared at all the chips and wires.
    ‘Come on, think. Think what you could do to help us escape.’
    He turned his back to Pedro, and spent a few minutes tinkering, cutting and creating something. Pedro looked at the screen. He smelled donuts; the police were closing in.
    The noise had stopped. He sat motionless. Pedro did too. He slowly turned in his swivelly chair, with a cold stare.
    But then he grinned.
    Out from his hands came a small sombrero, made of blue wire, so carefully tangled and formed for a little head.
    ‘It’s a hat…for the monkey. Monkey’s like hats.’
    ‘Y-y-you spent all this time making a sombrero. Are you crazy?’
    ‘Crazy for International Monkey Day, maybe.’
    At that moment they heard a bang on the door. The cops yelled.
    ‘Hey, give me that.’ Pedro said, and tossed the small hat right by the door. The monkey went bananas (no pun intended). Crouched by the corner, he held the monkey with all his might.
    The cops smashed the door, and confused, the Officer looked at the hat. He picked it up. Just then did Pedro let go of the furious monkey.

  11. 251 words
    Inventor; Jail; Comedy

    Your Turn

    “He’s doing it again,” Jameson said, not looking away from his computer.

    “Excellent,” Shore muttered. “You gonna deal with that?”

    “It’s your turn.”

    It was absolutely Jameson’s turn, but Shore could hear booms from down the hall, and it was in her best interests not to let the jail blow up again. She marched down the hall double-fast.

    “Cut it out!” she hollered as soon as she was in range of Prisoner 13.

    13 turned around, his eyes excited. He laughed maniacally as he saw her. “Well, if it isn’t the fuzz! Come to watch my magnificent escape, Officer Shore? You fools! You’ll never catch me now!”

    “Stop it, Thirteen,” Shore ordered. “This is getting ridiculous. If you smash through the prison wall we have to rearrest you for property damage.”

    “You won’t catch me!”

    “We always catch you. Let’s see…” Shore thought back to 13’s files. “You haven’t hit up your mother’s house yet. You gonna go there next time?”

    “How did you—I mean, no! You’re wrong!”

    Shore knew that she wasn’t wrong. “You get out next week!”

    13’s hands, which had been raised in a ‘watch this’ movement, fell to his sides as he nodded slowly. The scraping sounds behind him didn’t quiet. “Oh, yes. I, um…now I remember.”

    Shore sighed. “C’mon, man. You’ve gotta time things better than this.”

    “Yes, well, I-I’ll have it better next time.”

    “Please try not to get rearrested,” Shore begged. “I don’t think this prison can handle you for any longer.”

  12. Twitter: @nancymbeach
    Jail; Comedy; Inventor
    298 words

    In a Nutshell

    “You’re never going to believe what I saw today!” Sargent Edwards slid into his chair next to Sargent McAdams at the Lake County Jail control room. “A bit ago, on this monitor, I saw one guy apparently peeing, and the rest of the inmates surrounding him, facing away. What kind of power does that guy have to command privacy in prison?”

    McAdams bolted out of his seat with Edwards following behind. “The kind that hatches escape plans. The new guy is an inventor; creative minds make the best criminals.”

    As he expected, the cell was empty. Edwards looked confused.

    “Do you smell anything?”

    “Smell? No.”

    “Rookie mistake.” McAdams pointed to the outside door. Instead of the EXIT sign, there were numbers like a cell door, molded out of peanut butter.

    Edwards’ stomach dropped. Would his first week on the job be his last? After showers, he hadn’t buzzed the prisoners into their cells, had he? He’d buzzed them to freedom.

    Outside, the four orange jumpers were thrown in every direction, blankets hung from the fence.


    “I wasn’t sure if I should show up for work today?” Edwards looked like he hadn’t slept.

    McAdams pointed to a monitor showing all the guys in their cell.

    “Is this footage from yesterday’s breakout?”

    “No. Look at the date stamp – it’s real time. We received a call from The Dollar Store about an hour ago. My guys are investigating. But it looks like our boys broke out of jail and broke into a store. They stole a bunch of cigarettes and lighters, stuff they can sell on the inside, and then broke back into jail.”

    “Broke into the jail? I’ll be the laughing stock… I hope the news doesn’t get a hold of this.”

    McAdams motioned to the window. “Too late.”

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