Microcosms 97

Welcome to Microcosms 97, my flash fiction friends.

Daylight saving has been discontinued in New York: on Sunday, 05-NOV, they put their clocks back by one hour as they reverted to Eastern Standard Time (EST). Therefore, the customary 5 hour difference between New York and the UK has been restored.

APOLOGIES: this post is late. The closing deadline has been extended – you have until 01:30 a.m., tomorrow (Saturday, 11-NOV) New York time (EST) to submit.

Here’s an eclectic assortment of people who share the same birthday – 10-NOV:

  • 1728: Oliver Goldsmith – Irish-English novelist, poet, and playwright who wrote ‘The Vicar of Wakefield ‘ (1766)
  • 1810: George Jennings – English plumber and engineer, inventor of the first public flush toilet
  • 1909: Johnny Marks – American composer and songwriter, who wrote ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ (1949)
  • 1947: Greg Lake (ELP) – English singer-songwriter, guitarist who wrote ‘Lucky Man’ at the age of 12
  • 1950: Debra Hill – American screenwriter and producer : co-writer of ‘Halloween’ (1978)
  • 1963: Hugh Bonneville – actor: best known for his role as the Earl of Grantham in BBC TV series ‘Downton Abbey’

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, location and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are – character: Earl, location: Midwest Town, and genre: Crime.


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 ***

*** NO FAN-FICTION, PLEASE, and NO USE of COPYRIGHT CHARACTERS ***


  • Vicar/Pastor
  • Inventor
  • Reindeer
  • Lucky Man
  • Babysitter
  • Earl
  • Rural Parish
  • The Great Exhibition
  • Lapland
  • Battlefield
  • Midwest Town
  • Country Estate
  • Crime
  • Sci-Fi
  • Fantasy
  • Poetry
  • Horror
  • Memoir

Spin!

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

*** NO FAN-FICTION, PLEASE, and NO USE of COPYRIGHT CHARACTERS ***

 

Last week’s Judge’s Pick, Alva Holland, has kindly agreed to act as judge this time round.

 

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 (EST) to submit.

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

All being well, results will be posted next Monday.

Microcosms 98
Microcosms 96
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70 comments for “Microcosms 97

  1. Eloise
    10 November 2017 at 2:18 am

    292 words
    Pastor; Rural Parish; Crime

    Mistaken Identity

    Strolling through the rose bushes, Pastor Vic contemplating Romans 12:19. God had told him vengeance was His, not Pastor Vic’s. He needed just to be patient, and the crime which had befallen him would be returned. The crime: his prized roses had been eaten. Each beautiful rose had been slaughtered. The rascal who had eaten them had left just the stalks behind; even the leaves were gone. Pastor Vic glared at the soil under one of his prized bushes. There, perfectly shaped in the mud, was an upside-down heart shape. Deer. Why did they favor these rosebushes? Could they not go down the walk and chew on Lady Grey’s petunias instead? They were much tastier.

    Pastor Vic stomped back to his parish house. Today, vengeance would be his. Deer pie was always delicious. He stalked back to the bushes, and hid behind the wall. Slowly, the deer crept closer. Its ears twitching. Its nose twitching. Pastor Vic lifted a leaf, and watched as it drifted away. Perfect. He positioned his barrel through a hole in the wall. As the deer moved towards the rose, Pastor Vic pulled the trigger. The deer pranced out of the way. “Darn it!” blasphemed the Pastor. The deer disappeared into the forest.

    The next morning, Pastor Vic rose with the first cock-a-doodle-doo. He walked to the rose garden. As he came closer, he could see a brown shape scrummaging through the undergrowth, chomping his roses, one by one. The cheek. He lifted his barrel, aimed and shot. The brown shape went limp. He walked over. Oh dear! The red nose slowly stopped flashing. The man dressed in red at the North Pole wouldn’t be happy.

    5+
    • Sian Brighal
      10 November 2017 at 3:00 pm

      Oh dear. But to be fair, he shouldn’t have eaten the roses. Suspenseful story and great read.

      1+
  2. 10 November 2017 at 3:46 am

    @Nthito
    300 words
    Pastor; Rural Parish; Crime

    Anathema

    Petals sloped downwards in sun kissed spirals of purple and white as gusts of wind denuded flaring twists of thin branches. Petals tumbled over the shoulders of black vestments crouched to the mud caked, dirt road.
    “They came this way,” a voice spoke, delicate and soft.
    “Certain,” the pastor said, fingers brushing along cracked imprints in the dried mud.
    “Then you must find them quickly.”
    “Hmm.”
    The pastor rose swiftly as a deer rising from the stream, lined face grim as pursed lips and furrowed brow traced bronzed face. Calloused hands caressed bristles of grey along sharpened chin.
    “The sins of the father shall be visited upon the children…”
    “And the children’s children,” the voice completed.
    They wound through bare shrubbery of twisting thorn twigs, past yellowing stalks rising along the path like spellbound sentries wavering before the wind. As those that forsook the doctrine wavered every which way.
    “You must protect the flock,” the ethereal voice continued to whisper in the breeze.
    “Protect the flock,” the priest mumbled, storm-grey eyes following the tracks as a dog follows a scent. Mud and dirt softened to gilded grass as path turned to field. The pastor lifted his head upwards to stretching meadow, hard eyes scanned the span of God’s creation.
    There.
    Tan cloths heaped in slumbering embrace. Dark tresses in disarray while protective hand clasped prodigal son while the other clutched forbidden tome against bosom. A book of fiction. Blasphemy.
    “Therefore I poured out my wrath on them,” the voice whispered, caressing ear and mind and heart. Vestments ruffled with the rise of steel,“for the blood which they had shed on the land,” he continued, standing over recreant mother and son, “because they defiled it with their idols.”
    Eyes flew open. Steel tip descended. Screams echoed.
    “Anathema,” the voice whispered.

    6+
    • 10 November 2017 at 6:59 am

      Hey Geoff, hope you’re keeping well. I have the word prodigal in the story and as it has been pointed out to me (by friends and my brain actually) it’s not the best word to use for the story. Would you be able to change the sentence:

      “standing over prodigal mother and son”
      to
      “standing over recreant mother and son”

      Thanks!

      0
      • Profile gravatar of Geoff Holme
        10 November 2017 at 11:13 am

        I’m good, thanks, Nthato, despite pulling another all-nighter setting up this contest. Serves me right for procrastinating, and not leaving enough time to come up with a theme and to work out all the elements – hence the delay in posting. Apologies again to you and to everyone else: the closing deadline has been extended to 01:30 a.m., Saturday, 11-NOV New York time (EST).

        I saw a tweet of yours the other day, and thought that I should get in touch with you to encourage you to send us a story, because it seemed such a long time since your last submission to Microcosms; but, after checking my spreadsheet, I see its only 8 weeks – relatively recent compared to other former regulars. 😉

        So, it’s good to have you back with this intriguing, gripping tale. Many fine, descriptive lines in this one.

        [ I made the change you requested.]

        3+
        • Profile gravatar of Mark Sadler
          11 November 2017 at 5:51 am

          Thank you Geoff for the work you put into this. It’s very entertaining.

          2+
    • Sian Brighal
      10 November 2017 at 3:04 pm

      Beautiful language and story. Powerful ending.

      1+
  3. Profile gravatar of Mark Sadler
    10 November 2017 at 5:51 am

    @backwards7
    Earl; Midwest Town; Crime
    300 words

    Bring Down The House

    Clapps of Indiana was originally one of those out of the way places where lawbreakers went to lie low. It started life as a ranch-house, but by 1910 it was operating as a brokerage for stolen property. The law caught up with a lot of places like it, but Clapps kept on going.

    By the 1990s, it was a warehouse store, on the outskirts of Brewers Pond, that exclusively sold stolen goods. They even had a fresh produce section. The first thing you saw when you pulled into the parking lot was the sign with the American flag underneath and the motto: ‘All our products are selected by hand in the USA.’

    Just inside the main entrance there was a banner that read:

    ‘If you can prove an item in the store is yours, we’ll return it and pay you its worth.’

    They had a team of workers outback whose job was to alter any stock that came in so it was harder to identify. On the shop floor, there were private detectives who were in the store all day, following leads on stolen items for their clients. There were over fifty detective agencies in Brewers Pond, and it’s a small town. I work for one of them. I spend some of the money they pay me in Clapps.

    Earl grew up practically next door. I reckon practically everything he’s ever owned belonged to someone else first.

    “There’s a place in the Pacific Ocean where all the discarded garbage goes. Clapps is like that, but with other people’s property,” he philosophised.

    We bought my engagement ring there. I felt guilty about it, but the prices are good for what you get.

    I told him:

    “You stole my heart. Make sure it don’t end up in here one day.”

    7+
    • 10 November 2017 at 1:20 pm

      Loved this. Hope the novel’s out soon and that the movie rights translate into a grand film.

      0
    • Sian Brighal
      10 November 2017 at 3:07 pm

      Wonderful piece. So many brilliant lines: ‘…selected by hand…’ was my favourite.

      0
    • Profile gravatar of Geoff Holme
      11 November 2017 at 12:16 pm

      This takes ‘fencing company’ to a whole new level… Very innovative use of the elements, Mark, and a great tale.
      [ You’ve used ‘practically’ in two adjacent sentences. Repeating a word in this way in close proximity is a practically unheard of in polite circles. Would you like me to amend one of them to ‘almost’ or something similar? Or am I being too picky… again? 😉 Leave a comment below.]

      0
      • Profile gravatar of Mark Sadler
        11 November 2017 at 4:39 pm

        Thanks. I only noticed the word repetition afterwards but decided, because the piece is effectively a monologue, it probably adds humanity. Let it stand as it is, blemishes and all.

        1+
  4. 10 November 2017 at 6:34 am

    @Elliot_P_McGee

    Pastor – Rural Parish – Crime

    Word Count: 296

    To Lead A Flock

    “Bring the child.” Black robes rustle as a figure lurches from the doorway. Hinges squeak, the door bangs against the frame.

    Camille sat, drained, with her child in her arms. A weak sound passes through her lips. Her face is stained with tears, eyes red and puffy.

    The infant squirms in her arms, babbling and waving his tiny fists at her. His face, too, was tear stained. Exhausted as she is she knows she must follow the pastor.

    The door creaks open and a sudden gust assaults her. The sky is angry and Camille has to fight through the gale, as if mother nature herself was passing judgment. Several more steps and her feet slap against the concrete, signaling her entry into the church.

    Numbly she walks past empty pews toward the altar. An ominous presence stands above the altar and ushers her down into a pit of darkness. Fresh tears choke her as the darkness suffocates her.

    A hand grips her wrist and lifts her from her feet, her son cries again as he almost tumbles from her grip. More hands accost her and suddenly her son is gone and she is thrown against a wall.

    A match is struck, candles lit, and a sullen glow fills the room. Several black-robed figures crowd around a darkened altar, a twisted facsimile of the righteous construct above. Camille is pinned to the wall by one such figure, unable to move, eyes fixed on her son as he is laid upon the altar.

    Two figures, disrobed and prostrate, hands bound at the wrist by nettles, took up a chant. The priest utters dark words, “Ego conjungo vos in matrimonium in nomine dei nostri…”

    Camille struggles and cries out. A knife flashes, a child falls silent, blood runs free.

    4+
    • Sian Brighal
      10 November 2017 at 3:12 pm

      Built up the tension brilliantly to a dark ending. Excellent.

      1+
  5. steve lodge
    10 November 2017 at 6:59 am

    @steveweave71
    298 words
    Vicar; Rural Parish; Crime

    The Ghost On The Coast

    Reverend Pulmonary sighed as he put his paintbrush down. His words, well-intended, had gone unheeded. He looked out to sea, past the promontory. A yacht glimmered in the distance, the only movement on a still horizon. Not even a seagull stirred. Classic signs that the dread sea creature, Maunkex, was in the vicinity.

    Towards the right of the picture he was painting, close to the cliff edge, was the signal box at Broken Biscuits Station, long ago the scene of The Great Rural Branch Line Train Robbery of 1903. There was no train in his painting, however. It wasn’t a trainting. In the sea of his painting was the customary pink blancmange, the colour and shape of the sea creature. This wasn’t a painting of illusion.

    Over wine and cheese earlier at the Vicarage, he’d begged his guests – the Belzonian film director Uwe Rettensteiner and his latest girlfriend the novelist Fern Lichen – not to take the yacht out today. Uwe and Fern had just laughed. A little too loudly, as only two people newly in love can do, bordering on the maniacally hysterical. Their relationship was so new that the vicar doubted if they had even shaved each other yet. He didn’t use his binoculars for fear that they were making love on the deck of the yacht. The world was their Maunkex…

    Reverend Pulmonary shivered. He tucked the now dry painting under his arm, and headed for the charming village pub on the cliffs, The Ghost On The Coast. He would try to sell the painting to the landlord Max Twist or one of Max’s customers. The vicar had learned that people appreciated his work much more after a few drinks. He well understood that old English saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder”.

    1+
    • Sian Brighal
      10 November 2017 at 3:24 pm

      Fantastic whimsy, horror, comedy and art.

      1+
    • Profile gravatar of Geoff Holme
      11 November 2017 at 2:14 pm

      It may be due to lack of sleep but, despite reading your tale several times, Steve, I still can’t figure out what the crime is here. And, given your track record, it seems more than likely that ‘Maunkex’ must be a pun – but I haven’t worked that out either.
      Love the magnificent wordplay in the last sentence though!

      1+
      • steve lodge
        13 November 2017 at 8:08 am

        Thank you, Geoff. My apologies. In fact the crime was barely mentioned, just alluded to as the Great Rural Branch Line Train Robbery of 1903 at Broken Biscuits Station. Some might say also that it was a crime that Uwe and Fern hadn’t yet shaved each other. Again, the jury’s still out on that one.

        0
        • Profile gravatar of Geoff Holme
          13 November 2017 at 1:48 pm

          Ah, yes… too subtle for this old codger, Steve. But just mentioning a crime in a story, especially one that happened a long time in the past, does not then mean that the story can legitimately be classified under CRIME.
          [ I began to wonder whether Revd Pulmonary considered fornication outside wedlock a mortal sin, and that his painting the sea scene with Maunkex had actually caused the sea creature to appear, thus making that the crime. ]

          1+
          • steve lodge
            14 November 2017 at 7:27 am

            An excellent suggestion, Geoff. Certainly one I didn’t see coming. Maybe that should have been the main artery of the story.
            I had thought to let sleeping maunkex lie, but, Geoff, I fear the beast has awoken.
            Point taken about the crime, Geoff. I would be the first to say that I was being a bit cheeky there.
            Wish you good sleep and a happy week.

            0
  6. 10 November 2017 at 8:17 am

    @Rhapsody2312
    300 words
    Reindeer; The Great Exhibition; Sci-Fi

    Found at the Fair

    “Da! Da! ‘Urry up! The fair’s ‘ere!”

    “Hold your horses, boy. And don’t call me Da!”

    Sten rose from his bunk with a groan. Gingy bounced around him, eager as an AI-Pup about to go walkies.

    “Boy, if you don’t slow yourself down and stop tripping me up, you’re gonna stay here and clean up the Mess.” The threat had the desired effect, sedating Gingy’s enthusiasm to a mild skip. Sten ruffled his fiery hair, experiencing a rush of affection. The foundling child had been a mixed blessing.

    “Wi’ there be nanimals, there, d’you think, D–Sten?”

    “Animals,” he corrected automatically, ignoring the thick accent. He was probably too hard on the kid; he could have a holiday from his schooling today. Gingy nodded eagerly.

    “Yeah, thems!”

    Sten winced. “There’ll be robotics, not live animals. Haven’t seen those since I was a boy your age.”

    Gingy’s eyes widened.

    “Tell me!”

    “Please!”

    “Please, Sten?”

    Gingy listened eagerly as Sten spun stories of his childhood visits to the annual fair with his father; usually punctuated with animal rides, most memorably – a reindeer.

    THE GREAT EXHIBITION flashed in garish lights above the airlock, a steady stream of visitors from the space-station already lining up to enter.

    Gingy slipped his hand into Sten’s as the crowd swelled around them. Looking down, Sten noticed his freckles standing out against the sudden pallor.

    “Gingy …” Sten crouched next to him. “We don’t have to go in.”

    The kid had a death grip on his hand, but he shook his head. His eyes shone with tears as he met Sten’s gaze.

    “Wanna –” He stopped. Started again, enunciating slowly. “Please, I want to see the animals. But you won’t leave me, right, Sten?”

    Sten choked back the lump in his throat.

    “Never, Gingy. And call me Dad.”

    2+
    • Sian Brighal
      10 November 2017 at 3:33 pm

      A lovely story. Like the subtle imagery creating the setting for the story.

      0
  7. 10 November 2017 at 8:17 am

    @DanaFaletti
    300 words
    Earl/Midwest Town/Crime

    EARL’S HEADACHE

    Up. Down. Side. Side. Down.
    With my dust cloth, I paint invisible stars along the coffee table until it gleams with lemony brightness. A waft of citrus hangs in the room, a cleaning scent Earl hates.
    He’ll notice when he wakes. It’ll give him a headache.
    I might pay for it.
    My fingers float to the fresh blue contusion under my breast. It hurts, but I smile anyway, choosing to consider his headache instead of my bruises.
    When the doorbell slices through silence, I jump out of my Keds. On the couch, my Prince Charming stirs but doesn’t awaken. He flips onto his side so his belly drips out of his yellowed t-shirt and hangs over the cushion’s edge. A drool string stretches from his lips, lengthening then breaking and landing on the carpet.
    I swallow the bile that’s creeping up my throat and head toward the front door.
    The cold Kansas air hits my cheeks before a fist does. My head lands with a clunk on ceramic tile. There’s a black boot pressing on my chest, a pistol pointing at my face.
    “Where’s the cash?” the gunman roars. His masked face hurtles at mine until he’s close enough for me to smell onions on his breath.
    “I… d-d-d-on’t- ”
    “Don’t lie to me, you b-”
    As he’s about to curse, I squeeze my eyes shut. Profanity is replaced with a whoosh, a thud, and a sharp crack.
    When my eyelids peel back, the gunman is lying in a heap.
    Crimson shocks me.
    It’s everywhere.
    I reach for my dust cloth in a confused haze.
    Up. Down. Side. Side. Down.
    Bloody stars smear the foyer floor.
    Earl lies face up, baseball bat in hand, bullet hole in the middle of his forehead.
    I won’t pay for that headache after all.

    4+
    • Sian Brighal
      11 November 2017 at 7:40 am

      An excellent dark piece full of wonderful images and descriptions! Vivid and gripping. Fantastic read!

      0
      • 11 November 2017 at 8:08 am

        thanks Sian. I actually added a line at the end (just for myself), bc I wasn’t sure if it was clear that Earl had woken up and tried to attack the intruder, who then shot him in the head.

        Before the last line about not paying for the headache, it would read:

        Prince Charming seems to have tried to rescue his damsel in distress, despite my act of olfactory vengeance.

        Clarifies the plot a little. I don’t know why I keep going so dark with these entries. I love this contest though. The prompts always inspire something interesting 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to read

        1+
        • Sian Brighal
          11 November 2017 at 10:52 am

          Yes, the change does clarify things, and also fits the tone of the story. And I like dark…so don’t fret and get ready for next Friday 😀

          1+
  8. Elizabeth Moura
    10 November 2017 at 8:23 am

    Small town
    Word count: 300
    Earl/midwestern town/crime
    @brevity555

    Earl didn’t like girls but that was ok, because girls didn’t like him.

    He wasn’t sure he liked boys because he had never met one he felt that way about. His small town didn’t talked about each other and they would’ve talked about a gay person living there. Small towns are like that.

    When he thought about it at all Earl thought he might be asexual. That was ok too, because he really just enjoyed his cigarettes and his old car and hanging out alone.

    Then Robby drifted in late one fall afternoon and Earl felt something. He stared at Robby’s butt and his arms and the way his hair fell over one eye as if he’d never seen a young man before.

    Earl made a play for Robby by asking him if he wanted to see a grove of trees where bank robbers were gunned down in the 1930’s and bullet casings could still be found. Robby got into Earl’s pristine old car and off they went.

    They got to the grove and shuffled around, kicking at little stones that looked like they might be bullets but weren’t. Earl watched Robby as they both kicked at ground and he felt something he hadn’t felt before and didn’t know how to handle so he lunged at Robby. They scuffled and Robby fell, whacking his head on a tree root. He didn’t move. Earl was hyperventilating and shaking him. No use.

    Earl ran for his car and started it, a big belch of smoke shooting out. He reversed fast and went over a soft bump that he knew must’ve been Robby. Earl gunned it and took off.

    Someone would find Robby, someone just passing through. No one would know what happened. No one would really care. Small towns are like that.

    1+
    • Sian Brighal
      11 November 2017 at 7:44 am

      Harsh and brutal! Love how the indifference became so much worse than anything else.

      0
  9. 10 November 2017 at 11:19 am

    @billmelaterplea
    http://www.engleson.ca
    300 reindeer remembrances
    Reindeer; Battlefield; Memoir

    Let me show you war in all its finery,
    And then there’ll be no more,
    And then there’ll be no more

    We Reindeer simply do not show our age. Its just, one day, we know. It sneaks up on you and suddenly smacks you in the kisser. Time. Time’s the great equalizer. You know then that It’s done passed you by. You ain’t gonna fly no more.

    Lucky. Now there was a skookum reindeer. And a poet. He was ready. Before my time, but we all know the story. Rudy joined up in nineteen and nine, just a few years before that terrible war. Lucky was a North Pole Vet even then. He goes and takes Rudy under hoof the way all the great ones are supposed to and they formed a special bond.

    But that war. That was a doozy. The world had never seen anything like it. Flying that sleigh over all those guns, the mud, the blood, the dead and the dying, the skies exploding…first time war was fought in the skies as well. Made sleigh travel a little precarious.

    Here and there that first war Christmas, the opposing armies held fire, sang carols, rested from the battle.

    Lucky was impressed.

    But in Christmas, nineteen and fifteen, the guns were not silent.
    A stray bullet shot into Lucky’s breast…
    He survived, but the heart went out of him.
    That’s when he wrote new lyrics to that old spiritual song…

    I’m gonna lay down my boots and sleigh
    Down by the chimney side
    Down by the chimney side
    Down by the chimney side
    I’m gonna lay down my boots and sleigh
    Down by the chimney side,
    Ain’t gonna fly Santa no more.

    And that were it. Left a big hole but the old man, he was always on top of personnel issues. My granddaddy, Felix, he signed on and filled Lucky’s boots.

    My family’s been flying ever since.

    8+
    • Profile gravatar of JK
      JK
      10 November 2017 at 6:41 pm

      Enjoyed this, beautiful flow and nicely written.

      1+
    • Profile gravatar of Mark Sadler
      11 November 2017 at 5:08 am

      You got a good angle on this. Of course a world war wouldn’t stop Santa. He would fly overhead regardless, surveying the carnage from altitude. I liked the rough around the edges reindeer; generations of families signing up to fly with Santa, the same way you have military families. The Christmas-themed battlefield folk songs were a nice humanizing touch.

      1+
    • Sian Brighal
      11 November 2017 at 7:46 am

      That was stunningly beautiful.

      1+
  10. Profile gravatar of Angelique Pacheco
    10 November 2017 at 12:03 pm

    Vicar/Rural Parish/Horror
    Word count: 207

    Vestments and Victims

    When you approach the doors you’re quite certain you are going into another world. Trees flank the building and the sun tries pushing through the leafy darkness, each fighting for its place in the world and the result is spectacular. You can’t tell where the church begins and the trees end. You half imagine fantasy creatures such as fairies and vampires living there. Tourists call it St. Edwards Church in Stow-on-the-Wold while we just call it, “Lieu des âmes perdues” or “Place of the lost souls.”

    I have been the Vicar here for a long time and my ways are set. Every morning I get up, I dress in my vestments and I prepare myself for Mass. I have my cup of coffee then I walk into the church and the service begins. Pipe organs boom out hymns and small voices warble along with. I give the sermon. I welcome the newcomers, I can spot them a mile away. “Wide-eyed wonder,” some would call it. I call it “Scared shitless.”

    As for the rest, they sit silently, staring straight ahead, bored, as though they have heard all this before. Which they have. Every single day since they died. I guess they didn’t realize that Purgatory is forever.

    3+
    • Profile gravatar of JK
      JK
      10 November 2017 at 6:36 pm

      Nicely written!

      0
    • Sian Brighal
      11 November 2017 at 7:48 am

      An elegant story. The ending was superb. Loved the poetical build up to that slamming door of looming despair.

      0
  11. Frank Key
    10 November 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Twitter: @frankdaad
    298 words
    Earl; Midwest; Crime

    True Confession

    Governor Earl Regan had little to lose and much to gain when he began playing the bribery game. At first the stakes were small potatoes then grew and grew until they took over the whole farm. From ‘endorse this pending bill and we’ll donate a grand to your campaign’ to yesterday’s ‘send this man to the lethal infection gurney and you can name your price’.

    As he pushed aside the confessional curtain, he chastised himself for what he was about to do. The decision to ‘tell all’ to the priest in the only Catholic church in Arcola, Illinois was more an act of getting this shit off his chest than performing the Christian duty of true repentance. Earl had no plans to turn his back on the high life by losing all that he’d worked so diligently to gain.

    He simply wanted peace of mind. That’s all. Just a little respite from the worry that had long held his hand like a best friend for life while attending his only granddaughter’s middle school graduation.

    Father Brown recognized the voice of the confessor as soon as he began to speak. No saintly lifelong follower of the gospel was this man who entered the priesthood after serving twenty-five years in the Illinois State Penitentiary for a crime he did not commit. The heinous crimes for which he was convicted involved multiple acts of extortion that forced many business owners to eventually declare bankruptcy, leave the state, or, in the most notorious case, kill herself.

    It was a handy device he’d installed himself, discreetly hidden within the confessional walls. Father Brown pressed the button to ‘record’ as Governor Earl began to confess.

    Betraying his vows cost the priest his job but at least the true criminal was now behind bars.

    3+
    • Profile gravatar of JK
      JK
      10 November 2017 at 6:45 pm

      Nice twist! nice story

      0
    • Sian Brighal
      11 November 2017 at 7:51 am

      Great story. The ending was perfect: justified.

      0
    • Profile gravatar of Geoff Holme
      11 November 2017 at 2:59 pm

      You left out the word count, Frank, so I added it.
      You also had ‘discretely’. There are two homophones: ‘discrete’ means ‘separate’; ‘discreet’ means ‘tactful, able to keep secrets’. So I changed it to ‘discreetly’. (Hope that’s what you intended.)

      0
  12. Sian Brighal
    10 November 2017 at 1:36 pm

    Sian Brighal
    299 words
    Lucky Man / The Great Exhibition / Memoir

    Soulfood

    I must ‘ave stood for hours outside o’ that palace. But I weren’t bothered. The sun shone so it looked like it were made of melting gold. An’ when the sky blinked, clouds danced in them glass panes. The wait outside were no chore, I tell ya!

    And the people…so many o’ them, even though the city were quietening down, ‘cos all them lords and ladies were goin’ for country air. Dunno if they all felt as me…like a growling belly seeing food on the table: all frantic and happy at the same time. An’ they was gassin’ about diamonds and treasure and these new-fangled rooms for doin’ yer ablutions. They kept askin’ each other if they had their penny. I found out what that meant when I got caught short an’ some raucous bantam laughed, asking if I had to spend a penny. One o’ them silly sayin’s…it won’t last.

    One shillin’ it cost to get in. My ma thought I were daft, savin’ up to go to Hyde park and stare at things beyond me ken, but when the day came, she made me some snappin’ and got Eddie to take me on his wagon as far as he could.

    But I weren’t there for gems or posh toilets. No. I ‘eard there was a telescope that could peer into places that were more like dreams. I wanted to see them things. I’d had enough of bricks and smoke and black skies where nothin’ shone. My old man laughed at me. He said nowt came to the likes of us but soot, scraps and strife. Guess that’s why Ma were so keen to see me off. So I’m here, waitin’, a lucky man to be alive to see a dream. ‘Cos dreams fed better than scraps sometimes.

    7+
    • 10 November 2017 at 1:42 pm

      Exquisite, Sian…loved this line…”‘Cos dreams fed better than scraps sometimes.”

      1+
      • Sian Brighal
        11 November 2017 at 7:54 am

        Thank you 🙂

        0
    • Profile gravatar of JK
      JK
      10 November 2017 at 6:49 pm

      Beautifully written! Loved the ending and this part… But I weren’t there for gems or posh toilets. No. I ‘eard there was a telescope that could peer into places that were more like dreams.

      1+
      • Sian Brighal
        11 November 2017 at 7:56 am

        Thank you. I really enjoyed writing this and reading up about the Great Exhibition. Was fun 🙂

        1+
        • JK
          11 November 2017 at 8:30 am

          Welcome! Definitely an interesting time period too!

          1+
    • 11 November 2017 at 7:19 am

      This is so brilliant. I love everything about this from the brogue to the word choices to the prose. Your main character is so lovely and so well developed for such a short piece. I would love to see this fleshed out into an entire story! Great job Sian.

      1+
      • Sian Brighal
        11 November 2017 at 7:59 am

        Thanks 😀 I’m useless with accents…have no idea what accent I’ve done. The words were easier…I imagined listening to my grandmother. I liked him while I was writing. He was going to be a thief at first, but when I wrote about the meleting gold glass panes, it kind of made him.

        1+
        • 11 November 2017 at 8:04 am

          I love when characters reveal themselves to the writer. Magical. Like watching a movie in your mind.

          4+
  13. Profile gravatar of Jane
    10 November 2017 at 2:19 pm

    @completelyjane
    297 words
    Earl; Midwest Town; Crime

    A Place by the Sea

    Suzie dreamed of a place by the shore: a pretty house with a deck and roses around the door. A weathered sign proclaiming ‘At the Beach’! Earl said he was happy in Strongsville and what did the Jersey Shore have that you couldn’t get from Lake Erie?

    Earl spent a lot of time on the road. He said his promotion kept him away, but Suzie suspected it was more than likely Delightful Deborah at the office. When Earl didn’t come home for three nights running, she booked herself a trip to Cape May. She walked along the beach barefoot and paddled in the ocean. But best of all were the seashells, and she collected buckets of them.

    Earl yelled a lot when she got home, but she didn’t think he’d missed her much. But she missed the ocean with an ache that made her stomach tight.

    Needing something to appease the ache and keep her from worrying, Suzie set about converting the back yard into her own seaside. She dug up the turf and extended the pond: backbreaking work, but it stopped her mind from wandering and wondering. She dotted her pretty seashells around the water’s edge.

    One day, Deborah popped in with some papers that Earl had left at the office. Or so she said. Suzie caught them in flagrante delicto in the den. She hadn’t known her own strength when she’d smacked them over the head with the shovel. She’d just wanted to warn them, really.

    Suzie went outside and looked at her beach. It was almost finished, a couple of sand dunes would make it look just dandy. Digging the holes was excruciating; but when they were filled and grasses planted on top, Suzie knew she was done.

    Strongsville wasn’t so bad after all.

    2+
    • Profile gravatar of Mark Sadler
      11 November 2017 at 5:45 am

      I enjoyed this story of a woman caught in a cul-de-sac, adapting her environment to better suit her wants and needs. I found myself thinking beyond the limits of the story. Suzie has the transparent criminality of a doomed Elmore Leonard character. Will she find a way to smuggle seashells into jail?

      I looked up Strongville, since I wasn’t sure if it was a real place (any word or short combination there-of can sound like the name of a Midwestern town). Thanks to Google streetview I moved along Tomson Drive; its rows of flat bungalows set behind neat lawns a long way back from the road. I imagined Suzie living in one of those places, alone with her small beach.

      1+
    • Sian Brighal
      11 November 2017 at 10:59 am

      Wonderful story. Really liked how you built up empathy for her on events and people around her. The ending was brilliant and surprising.

      1+
  14. A.J. Walker
    10 November 2017 at 4:58 pm

    She Had the Best Poker Face
    A.J. Walker

    The Earl’s pockets were laid heavy with the winnings from the afternoon’s poker game. He clambered up the stairs tired after the exertions from the hours of concentration and the effort of keeping his tell hidden. Finally he’d be able to relax. In his suite he found the curtains billowing wildly, the cleaner must have opened the window to freshen up the room. Evidently there was a storm coming. The sky was lead grey, which was apt in the town of Galena.

    He placed his winnings on the bed; cash, jewels, watches and even a couple of gold fillings from Harvey somebody. It had been like taking candy from a baby.

    Lying down on the soft eider pillows and unusually comfortable mattress he could feel the tension ebb away from his muscles. A few hours sleep, a bath and maybe another early evening liaison with the voluptuous Mrs Sedgewick and it could prove a most positive day.

    Mrs Vera Sedgewick was married to Mr Sedgewick – that’s the way surnames work – though Mr Sedgewick was more usually known as Lord Galena or the King of Leadtown. He was the richest man in Galena, the booming mining town; fingers in every pie and interests in everything; legal and not so. And Vera was his number one concern, confidant and chief earner. She was outside of the Earl’s door waiting to hear the snoring. The spare key, her ninja tip-toeing and her capacious handbag made the the theft a doddle.

    The poor Earl met her in the evening to drown his sorrows, have a bit of cuddle and a fumble, completely unaware that it was Vera that had done him over – he’d bounce back. Vera bought him a drink or two using the ill gotten gains. She wasn’t always completely heartless.

    _____
    WC: 299
    Earl/ Midwest Town/ Crime
    @zevonesque

    3+
    • Profile gravatar of stellakateT
      10 November 2017 at 5:41 pm

      Love this little vignette AJ , very visual, Vera the voluptuous viper!

      1+
    • Sian Brighal
      11 November 2017 at 11:05 am

      Great story. Reminds me of a classic fim noir

      1+
  15. Profile gravatar of JK
    JK
    10 November 2017 at 5:31 pm

    Character – Earl
    Place – Midwest Town
    Genre – Crime
    Word Count – 301

    Title – The Family Trade

    Earl reached over to his crooked end table for his morning whiskey shot and cigar. He rolled over to the sight of Sally the tequila, shooting, dancer. Sally had red smeared lipstick ear to ear. Oh Sally he thought not all there, but a heck of a good time. Last night he visited her saloon to watch her dance on the rickety wooden tables. He remembers taking shots of tequila with her, but doesn’t remember much after that.

    Swinging himself out of bed he noticed a trail of jewelry leading out of the room. Following the trail he found wallets, gems, and gold. Well shit we are rich! How the heck I get all of this though Earl thought scratching his overgrown beard. Earl could hear the Rockerville sheriff in the distance through his thin wood walls in his tiny shack.

    “For a handsome reward please turn in a bearded fellow, wearing dark jeans and a black cowboy hat with a horseshoe emblem for stealing from the McIntyre estate,” the sheriff was shouting.

    Sally came sauntering into the room, “well that sounds like you and definitely was not.”

    “You must have been framed, now what?”

    Earl said, “I can’t remember a dang thing just you dancing on those tables and slinging back tequila.”

    “Well, Sally I guess we are going to have to go on and get ourselves up outta here before the jig is up.”

    The two of them started making changes to their attire and their appearances.

    Pausing the story, Savanah stopped and closed the album. The front of the album said the Maslics. Tommy looked at Savanah, “aren’t you going to finish the story about uncle Earl?”

    “Well sure I am and I will teach you the tricks of the trade so you will never be poor either.”

    0
    • Sian Brighal
      11 November 2017 at 11:20 am

      I like the private-eye/memoir style at the start and the idea it’s a story to inspire the next generation.

      0
  16. 10 November 2017 at 6:56 pm

    Vicar/pastor, rural parish, crime
    @geofflepard 293 words
    Hartley and Mrs Scroop: A Marrow Made In Heaven
    The Reverend Hartley Scroop bent slowly and stroked his marrow. ‘Come on beauty. Just give me a little more.’
    Over the fence his neighbour listened to the blandishments with scorn. Rupert Penfold had won best marrow and supreme vegetable for the last umpteen years and he wasn’t about to lose to some Jonny-come-lately like the Vicar, especially if the best he could offer were words.
    Rupert returned to his own chosen specimen, turned up the drip feeder and headed indoors.
    Doris Penfold peered down the garden. ‘So, how’s he doing? You got a rival, Rup?’
    ‘Pa! He’ll be lucky to be an also ran.’
    She put his dinner in front of him. ‘Now have some charity. That awful wife of his gave him hell for years and even though she’s left him he still talks about her. If he can gain some comfort from the simple act of growing veg, well I for one am pleased for him.’
    ‘I suppose, just so long as he doesn’t think he can beat me.’
    ‘Well, given the effort he’s put it, it’ll not be for want of trying.’
    Three months later Rupert stood to one side of the stage, seething, as Hartley received the Cumbernauld Cup. He couldn’t believe that bloody man had won. ‘It’s a bloody fix, Doris. Sympathy vote for his loss. It’s a bloody crime, that’s what it is? He must have cheated. Injected with growth hormone, I’ll be bound.’
    Hartley took the applause and said a few words of thanks. His audience thought him extraordinary that he thanked his wife after what she’d done. How Christian they thought. Hartley didn’t disabuse them. His wife would be feeding his vegetables for many years, her putrefying flesh a gift that just kept on giving.

    2+
    • Sian Brighal
      11 November 2017 at 11:25 am

      Ha! That was brilliant. Tomatoes next time…apparently, they do well in such soil….allegedly

      0
  17. Profile gravatar of Emily Pierce
    10 November 2017 at 7:08 pm

    Onni
    by Emily Pierce
    (Reindeer—Lapland—Fantasy)
    (299 words)

    His world faded in from white, muddy-colored branches bristling his face, and Onni snorted to brush them aside. The trees were friends, sometimes, like everything he knew was a friend, sometimes, and there was a rabbit among them today. Black as the stacks of coal harvested from the good herder’s village, she was an unusual sight for this late in the winter. And so, against Göte’s gentle guidance, Onni followed her into the woods, hoping for something warmer.

    It was further than Onni had ever dared to go, but as he found himself deeper among the trees he felt a calm bubble in his chest. Like medicine. As he turned into a clearing, his eyes met with those of the rabbit, perched atop a branch.

    “You followed me,” she said.

    “Yes.”

    “Why?”

    Onni did not know what to say. Göte had always told him that the rabbits were not to be trusted, that they would cut a deal with anyone to save their own hide. But one so dark, in midwinter Lapland? The situation was too unusual to not sniff out— and certainly, Onni’s nose had brought him to stranger sights.

    The rabbit continued to stare, unblinking, and Onni steeled himself enough to answer, “I want to know what brought you here.”

    “A fight.”

    Onni’s ears flattened. Friends don’t fight, he thought.

    “Against those who violate the land,” the rabbit quickly added, likely in response to his fear. “It is too warm, and that is what brings me.” With a twinge, Onni thought of his favorite treats that wouldn’t grow without enough cold. He thought of the good herder muttering to his son as the coalmen came to stay and took the mountain.

    “Can I—”

    “We’re going to save your friends. Come with me.”

    She leapt; all went dark.

    2+
    • Profile gravatar of Mark Sadler
      11 November 2017 at 6:01 am

      A well put together piece of impressionist writing. I admire structured abstraction like this that hints towards things without stating them explicitly. It conjures an atmosphere that you don’t get with more direct prose.

      1+
      • Profile gravatar of Emily Pierce
        11 November 2017 at 6:30 am

        Thank you for taking the time to read! I’m slowly becoming more comfortable writing fiction and appreciate learning that I’m not completely goofing up 🙂

        0
    • Sian Brighal
      11 November 2017 at 4:55 pm

      Lovely story. I like the myth quality to it, as it suggests greater things behind and within it.

      1+
    • 12 November 2017 at 11:43 am

      Wonderful staging of a set piece, the hinting of more, as Mark comments, and, as Sian mentions, augering a larger, deeper expanse. Well done.

      1+
  18. Profile gravatar of Justin J.
    10 November 2017 at 11:34 pm

    Sins of the Father

    By Justin J

    https://twitter.com/CrazyWriterGuy

    Victor/Pastor/Rural Village/Crime

    Words: 298

    It was a small town, with just a single, small church. It was home, though, and had been for a very long time. He was old, now, but safe in the knowledge that God had accepted his repentance and forgiven him his past sins. Getting up in the morning, before the sun even rose, he tended his small garden of flowers and vegetables before breakfast.

    He liked flowers, especially the asphodel he grew. He used to leave them behind, back when he was…a younger, far different man.

    The skies were getting darker, he knew that rain was due today. He never liked the rain, it had made his past work more difficult. That was in the past, though. With a sigh, he went into the small church and knelt in front of the crucifix, praying as he always did before the first service of the day.

    He knew the people here, liked them too. They didn’t know about who he was before, but that didn’ matter. With a light heart, he gave the morning sermons. The new man in the back caught his attention, but he was quiet and just listened.

    After the sermon, he slipped into the confessional. It was barely used, the people here were good, but he went in anyway. At least for an hour or two.

    Today was different. Today, somebody sat in the box across from him.

    “Father,” the stranger to town said quietly, “I am here about forgiveness of past acts.”

    The pastor smiled.”God is always willing to forgive, if you are willing to confess.”

    The stranger was silent for a moment. “I’m not talking about my own past acts, I’m talking about yours.”

    The pastor froze. “I forgive you for her murder.”

    1+
    • Sian Brighal
      11 November 2017 at 5:01 pm

      The story gave a lot about his past and some terrible thing in there, which was offset by the idyllic nature of his current life wonderfully…it almost became unfair for anything to catch up with him. Then the stranger! And then the twist like a breath of relief. I now, of course, want to know who he murdered and why.

      0
  19. Profile gravatar of Paula Nutt
    11 November 2017 at 12:06 am

    271 words
    Inventor; The Great Exhibition; Memoir

    Occupied

    It was to be the best of times, it was the most embarrassing of times.

    I’m speaking of course of The Great Exhibition, held in London in 1851 – the greatest assemblage of the greatest minds in all the world. Inventors, designers, scientists, and writers swarmed the Crystal Palace. I, George Jennings, fully expected my name to go down in history as the genius who solved one of society’s greatest problems: the public’s need to relieve itself.

    After all, my contribution to the exhibit provided a necessary service for the attendees. Everyone talked about my public toilet rooms, located in the Retiring Rooms of the Crystal Palace. Then the cheerful and often drunk visitors began bandying nicknames about. ‘Chamber pot room’ I could live with. But john, loo, and can? Offensive. Quite offensive. I ignored the sobriquets as I prepared my toilet rooms for a very special visitor.

    Face flushed with anticipation, I unveiled the world’s first public restrooms to Prince Albert, the esteemed spouse of our beloved Queen Victoria. The Prince politely shook my hand and entered the room, locking the door. I was proud that my rooms possessed innovative locks just introduced at The Great Exhibition.

    At first, all appeared to go as intended. After a suitable time, however, the doorknob began to rattle and the royal fist pounded on the polished oak door. Water seeped into the hallway. Alas, the door to the toilet room stuck at this inopportune moment, leaving Prince Albert stuck in the can.

    As the Prince cried out for assistance, I saw my future taking one last swirl on its path
    straight
    down
    the
    drain.

    4+
    • Profile gravatar of Geoff Holme
      11 November 2017 at 5:41 am

      Oh my, what a terrible in-convenience… I’m reading this after breaking the handle on my upstairs toilet, so it has great resonance with me.
      This is a wonderfully-imagined memoir, Paula; there has to be some reason why the name of George Jennings isn’t more widely known. But I’ve no doubt that it’s this incident that led to that other term for the lavatory – the “throne”. 😉
      (I’m surprised that you didn’t show your Word Count as “WC” though…)

      2+
      • Profile gravatar of Paula Nutt
        13 November 2017 at 12:12 pm

        Thank you!
        I thought about using WC somewhere in the story. Can’t believe I forgot about ‘throne’ though!

        0
    • Sian Brighal
      11 November 2017 at 5:04 pm

      That was great…thank you 😀 Love the sense of grandeur you gave the loo and the image of his career and future being flushed away.

      0
      • Profile gravatar of Paula Nutt
        13 November 2017 at 12:14 pm

        Thanks! Getting positive comments means so much. Everyone on this site is so creative!

        0

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