Microcosms 126

Hail, fellow flash fictioneers, and welcome to Microcosms 126.


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*** But there is a workaround ***

Until we can solve the problem permanently, you should “right-click” – or “long press”, if using an Android device – on the [REPLY] button, then click on “Copy link address”, paste that into the URL box at the top of the screen and then press return key. This will take you to the comment box, with the proper link to the comment to which you are replying.



Many thanks to Harrietbelle who suggested his week’s theme. Please read all the instructions carefully.

There’s no “slot machine” in this round. Your task is simply to select just ONE of the following proverbs or “Grannie’s philosophies” and see where it takes you.

  • Too many cooks spoil the broth.
  • It’s no good crying over spilled milk.
  • Birds of a feather flock together.
  • Don’t spoil the ship for a hap’orth of tar.
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  • Two heads are better than one.

(If you are not inspired by ANY of these, you may come up with just ONE other well-known proverb and take it from there.)



Please tell us:

  • your Twitter userid AND/OR your blog address (if you have one or the other – or both – that you don’t mind sharing with the world)
  • the word count of your entry (in the format ‘xxx words’)
  • the proverb you are using for inspiration
  • the title of your entry

*** There is no need to specify character, location and genre this week – you have free rein… Woo hoo!




(If YOU have an idea for a future contest and would like to be a guest host, please contact us.)


Last week’s Judge’s Pick, Steve Lodge, is overwise engaged this weekend. But fear not; one of last week’s joint Community Picks, Carin Marais, has kindly agreed to act as the judge this time around.


REMEMBER: all submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length (excluding the title).

You have just 24 hours until midnight, today (Friday) New York time (EST) to write and submit your masterpiece.

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

All being well, results will be posted next Monday.

Microcosms 127
Microcosms 125

40 thoughts on “Microcosms 126

  1. @billmelaterplea
    300 words…a Spartan effort
    Birds of a feather flock together.

    The Day Homer Pudgeon Went for a Walk in the Woods
    Homer Pudgeon; A Chip Off the Old Flock

    I remember that day well, the day Homer disappeared. A Saturday afternoon it was, and I’d finally found the time to get into my shop. I was carving a sweet rosewood crib board. That’s what I do. Work the hard wood. Frees my mind, eh. What an Intense solitude. Almost orgasmic…

    Anyway, the peace came to a crashing end. Margie Pudgeon, long time neighbour and prison guard personality, was suddenly whacking on my workshop door which is behind my garage where we used to grow potatoes. I got tired of growing spuds. Hell, they’re cheaper then dirt most of the time and…right, back to Homer.

    So, Margie’s hammering away, voice raised to a banshee screech, “Homer, you in there?” she bellows. Then, “Charlie, send ‘em out right this minute.”

    Margie had found Homer before in my shop. Most times, the poor sap would wander over, pull up a chair, and start blubbering. A very unhappy man, he was. I’d just carve away, and he’d be saturating the wood chips. It was sickening to watch. Oh, I know, I should be more sensitive. Homer hadn’t learned to cope with a harridan for a wife. ‘Get a hobby,’ I said to him a billion times. ‘Just keep busy. Get a life.’

    Did he listen? No. Thing was, he was stuck on the way it was when he and Margie were young. “It was pretty good, back then,” he’d moan over and over like he hadn’t learned that things change.

    “You expect too much, Homer,” I told him. “Life rots us all. Eventually, the jobs done. We’re compost.”

    Maybe I shoulda tried harder to cheer him up but…that’s not me.

    Finally, that Saturday, I yelled back at Margie. “He’s not here, woman. Went for a walk in the woods. Might even come back.”

    1. I’m wondering why you are now billed (no pun intended… Nah! Course it was!) as denmaniacs4. After Googling, I discovered that this was the name you used way back in Micro Bookends days!
      Is it Nostalgia Week? Several other regular entrants have been rebranded this time around. WHY?!? It’s playing havoc with my Microcosms Spreadsheet of Stats… 🙁

      1. Geoff,
        Could it be that other entrants were also struggling with the log-in? When I posted, the log in option was not available in the top right corner as it usually is, so I needed to use my facebook/Google +/ wordpress account to log in… just thought I’d ask.

      2. Ah! Possibly. WordPress has been a little mist-chevious lately, Nikky. I too can’t see the login option.
        KM set up the blog way back when, so she has been looking into the non-functioning REPLY button problem. I believe she’s been disabling plug-ins, then re-enabling them to try to determine which one might be causing the problem. She’s also been trying to make Microcosms compliant with the EU’s new GDPR legislation — don’t ask…
        When I was trying to set up the MC 126 post, I found that I could not login in the usual way; KM told me of another way (for administrators) to log in.
        But she has been asking me if anyone else has complained about the log-in option disappearing; you are the first, Nikky, so thank you!
        (I don’t think that many people bother to log in. Those that do accumulate Microcosms points for submitting an entry, leaving a comment and voting for a favourite. There’s a leaderboard for these points, but that does not seem to change much – except for yours truly because you get squillions of points for creating a new post on the blog.)
        I’ve got my fingers crossed that KM can work some magic on all these problems soon, whilst still holding down a job…

      3. Art is never easy, Geoff. Denmaniacs4 is my handle elsewhere but I am not by nature a luddite. Still these anomalies are beyond my aging ken…

      4. “Art is never easy…beyond my aging Ken.” (ars longa, vita brevis?) Is this Kenneth of advancing years perhaps your ghost writer?

  2. @Ravenangel888
    300 Words
    Too many cooks spoil the broth.

    Science Fail

    Tell someone that cooking is an art and you will only get a few odd looks. Heaven forbid you say it’s chemistry. Then it’s time for the straitjacket and mind altering drugs.
    To me, chemistry is anything where you take two reagents and combine them to create something else. How does cooking fit into this, you ask? Well, take a simple vegetable broth as an example – I’m busy making one at the moment, it seems apt.
    • Start with your base – generally H2O.
    • Add your first reagent – the veggies.
    • Second reagent – NaCl – common table salt.
    • Third (optional) reagent – pepper.
    • Heat and wait for the reaction to occur.
    At this point, I left the room to go find my phone and passed my Mom heading into the kitchen. Thinking nothing of it, I took my time, since I knew the broth needed to boil for a good while. On my way back into the kitchen, I passed my Dad exiting the kitchen and heading towards the lounge. My broth was boiling away steadily and the smell of the leeks, carrots and onion was heaven to my senses. After letting the broth boil away happily, giving time for the flavours to infuse into the liquid, I decided to take a taste of my “experiment” to see if anything was missing. Imagine my surprise when the only thing I tasted was salt! Lots and lots of salt! Yet, I KNOW I only added a small amount.
    “Mom! Dad! Get in here!” I hollered at the top of my lungs.
    “What? What’s wrong?” that was Mom.
    “Stop screaming, dammit!” my Dad.
    Incensed, I shouted, “Did either of you add salt?”
    From their sheepish expressions, the answer was clear.
    “You know you spoiled my broth, don’t you?” I sighed, as I threw the ruined recipe out.

  3. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
    300 words

    Sicily 1598

    It wasn’t Mamma’s fault that the story got out of hand. She had tendencies towards madness. We all knew about it. How she would step over a crack so as to not break her mother’s back. If she saw a black cat, she would scurry off back the way she came.

    The grape harvest had been excellent and the wine would be good this year. Mamma was making her famous Minestrone Soup which required much preparation beforehand. We were all trying to help. Giulia was plucking the chicken. Greta was bringing the vegetables in from outside. Sofia was chopping them as fast as she could. Aurora was singing by the window. She didn’t like to get her hands dirty, that one. The house was not big enough for us all to be inside unless you were sleeping. I could see that Mamma was getting cross. There was too much chatter and not enough work. Soon pots and pans and girls would go flying. Me, I was the youngest. I was only good for sweeping the kitchen. And I would do that when the soup was on the go.

    I saw it happen in slow motion. Giulia was returning from putting the chicken in the pot and Sofia was carrying the chopped vegetables towards it when she tripped and the vegetables went flying in every direction. Mamma cried out, “Too many cooks will spoil the broth! Get out!” The Bishop was passing by and heard. He told the baker’s wife and, like in the Book of Acts, the story spread like wildfire.

    I expected Mamma to react like she had many times before. Instead, she sat at the kitchen table and laughed. Madness, I tell you. I sighed. It was time for me to sweep. I would start under the rug.

    Report user
  4. @marshawritesit
    300 words
    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

    Sex and Relationship Education (2018 Edition – all new material)

    He’d seen it in porn and decided he wanted to try it. That’s what he told me: “Watch this. I really want to try it.” Like it would be him it happened to.

    It’s not that I didn’t love him, you know? But it’s not exactly that I did, either. We just fitted together well, so we got comfortable. And it’s difficult to make waves when you’re comfortable.

    So I didn’t say “No”. Not straight away. I tried to talk him out of it.

    I said, “You know yours is going to be next to another guy’s, yeah? I mean, actually touching it. Rubbing up against it. You’ve thought about that, right?”

    He said it didn’t bother him, which wasn’t the answer I’d been hoping for. It was enlightening though: he knew I was bi-curious, but he’d never shown any hint of being more than a basic stud muffin. I said I’d think about it.

    Have you ever thought about it? I don’t mean ‘fantasised’, I mean actually considered the practicalities. I thought about it. I don’t get paid what those girls get paid, and those girls don’t get paid enough. I said “No”.

    That was a bad choice. Comfortable became awkward became difficult became screaming rows at three in the morning. So we did it, with his pal. And then the rows became actual fights and he kicked me out, like I’d really hurt him, like a few scratches and bruises was a big deal.

    I bounced back. I’ve got my own place again and a new friend. The little hottie holding my hand is Eliza. Say hi, Lizzy.


    Isn’t she sexy? She’s mine. I finally took the plunge. And why not? I’d seen it in porn and I wanted to try it.

  5. 282 words
    Birds of a feather flock together.

    Thereby Hangs a Tail

    When the world was five years old, the dogs all got together
    To party in a nice warm shack, avoiding inclement weather.
    But wagging tails caused excessive draught, or knocked things to the floor.
    They voted then, to take them off and hang ‘em by the door.
    The plan was implemented as ‘Committee’ had decided;
    Names clearly written on a tag and hung on hooks provided.

    Two old friends began to jive, a Spaniel and a Whippet,
    Each just as daft without a tail as other dogs are with it.
    Oh, they had excessive fun; more joy than they could handle.
    These loonies with their frolicking dislodged a burning candle.
    Very soon a blaze took hold, engulfed the timber shack;
    Primal fear of fire and smoke spread terror through the pack.

    As usual when disaster strikes and no-one quite expects it,
    Common sense and manners failed as they rushed to the exit.
    In their panic, some forgot their tails until outside,
    And tried to barge back in again against the canine tide.
    Then, of course the timid ones, unable to compete,
    Grabbed any tail from off a hook and galloped off tout de suite.
    Returning home and taking stock, they slowly realised
    The tails they had, although not bad, were wrongly shaped and sized.

    Pity the sad Doberman who, because he was delayed,
    Found no tail upon the hooks, therefore had none to trade.

    I think you’ll find ‘contented’ dogs are those correctly tailed;
    The angry or frustrated hound is one whose search has failed.
    So this is why, when dog meets dog, whenever they are able,
    They’ll lift a tail up with their nose so they can read the label.

    Report user
    1. If I might…a puerile attempt on my part…There is something to be said in wagging a dog’s tale,
      They handle well and are guaranteed usually not to fail.
      And most of all they satisfy the writers inner playbill,
      For nothing pleases more than a happy doggy fable.

  6. 298 words
    Many hands make light work.

    How Many … Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?

    How many mad scientists does it take to change a light bulb? The answer can be a surprisingly large number. When infamous mad scientist Doctor Hans Von By Von was working in his lab late one night, the main light high up on the ceiling went out. As his assistants had all gone home, he had to consider how best to proceed. The doctor was a lazy man, but he came up with an ingenious idea for changing the light bulb. Instead of doing it himself he’d use his newly-invented cloning machine to provide him with workers to do the job.

    The cloning machine worked by his walking into one of a pair of cubicles and pulling a switch, a clone of himself would then walk out of the adjoining cubicle ready to receive his orders.

    When clone one emerged the doctor gave him his car keys and wallet and asked him to go and purchase some new light bulbs. Clone two was instructed to go and find a ladder, while clone three was ordered to help clone two, Having successfully created three clones of himself he couldn’t resist producing more to take the place of his absent assistants.

    Clone two got the ladder and propped it up where he could reach the bulb. Clone three steadied the ladder while two removed the failed light bulb. Clone one returned after about forty-five minutes laden down with new light bulbs. Gleefully watching the doctor encouraged his clones to replace the bulb with a new one so that he could continue his work. Once it was in place yet another clone switched it on.

    It just goes to prove the truth of those old proverbs that we learn as a child, in this case: many Hans make light work.

  7. 195 words
    Two heads are better than one.

    Mrs Nosey-Parker

    Mrs Nosey-Parker sets out into the day
    To stick her nose in everything
    And make sure she has her say.
    She listens to conversations,
    And if they have a theme
    That Mrs Nosey knows about
    She has to intervene!

    The mothers in the bus queue
    Having their morning chatter,
    Do not know the woman behind them
    But hey, that does not matter!
    As they discuss their babies
    (Absolutely no business of hers!)
    She twitches for opportunity
    To stick her nose in theirs!

    She has wisdom on every subject
    From child-birth to death,
    And once she’s started holding forth
    She does not stop for breath.
    She talks as if she’s an expert
    Her knowledge quite profound,
    And if someone tries to argue the case,
    She will always stand her ground.

    From gardening to child-care
    From bunions to cancer,
    She knows the score on everything
    And always has the answer.
    If anything is private,
    Or not for Nosey’s ears,
    She feels quite frustrated,
    Because she always fears
    That if it’s not her they are asking,
    How on earth will they sort it out?
    For only she can tell them
    What life is all about!

  8. @VicenteLRuiz
    256 words
    Two heads are better than one.

    Finally, Success

    The storm raged amongst the mountaintops. Lightning stroke once and again, thunder roaring with fury.

    “Everything’z ready up here, mazter!”

    “Good! Come down here, I need you!”

    “Yez, mazter! At onze!”

    As the rain pelted the fortified walls of the castle, the two men –scientist and minion– worked together frantically.

    “Open the roof hatch!”

    “Yez, mazter!”

    And seconds later:

    “The roof iz open!”

    Rain poured down into the laboratory. There was a flash of light directly above and a deafening noise, and a current ran from the roof’s lightning rod down to the dynamos.

    “Raise the platform!”

    “Raizing the platform, mazter!”

    A great slab rose on chains towards the ceiling via a winch. It stopped midway up, water already oozing from whatever it was that lay hidden under the tarpaulin covering on the platform.

    Lightning struck again, then twice, three times, and each time the dynamos spun, directing the electricity to the platform.

    “It’s working! This time it has to work!”

    “Yez mazter, I’m zure it will!”

    “That’s enough! Bring it down! Bring it down!”

    “Immediately, mazter!”

    The scientist threw a circuit-breaker. His minion operated the winch, and the platform descended. Small sparks danced on the shape beneath the covers.

    “That’s… that’s never happened before!”

    “No, mazter. Haz it worked?”

    The thing under the covers stirred, and the tarpaulin fell.

    “It’s worked. It’s worked! It’s alive!”

    The creature growled. And then grunted at the same time.

    “I’m ztill not zure bout the two headz, mazter, to be honezt.”

    “You know what they say, Igor.”

    “Yez, mazter.”

    Report user
      1. Tarrible, vicentelruiz, just tarrible. But I have found that its liberating to get the most embarrassing mistake of your entire life out of the way…

  9. @hollygeely
    296 words
    Too many cooks spoil the broth.

    Dinner at the Barracks

    “This stew is grotesque.” Grunk thumped his spoon on the table for emphasis. The other end of the table made a quick trip to several feet up. Three dinners from that side also made their own journeys into the wall behind Grunk’s head. Three ogres cursed.

    Blurm smacked Grunk up the side of the head. “Like you’re an expert. What do you know about food? You ate three sheep last week. Sheep aren’t even meat.”

    “That’s right, sheep aren’t meat. They’re vegetables. The average-sized ogre needs twenty helpings of vegetables a day,” said Grunk.

    “Hey, everybody! Grunk thinks he’s a dietician!” Blurm’s announcement was greeted with raucous laughter.

    Grunk crossed his arms and pouted heartily. He had done his research. He knew all about a balanced diet, and “balance” wasn’t just holding a ripe human in each hand. It meant vitamins, minerals, and copious amounts of beans.

    “Anyway, even if I’m not a connoisseur, I know when something tastes bad,” Grunk said. He tossed his bowl. It shattered to pieces across Blurm’s face.

    “See? Disgusting,” said Grunk.

    “Ow,” said Blurm.

    “It does taste like rotten butt,” said Durflomp.

    “See?” said Grunk.

    “Murdolg! They’re insulting your stew!”

    “Tattletale,” said Grunk.

    “Smelly sheep-eater,” Blurm retorted.

    “Who’s badmouthing my cuisine?” demanded Murdolg in his booming voice. He appeared in the doorway, hands on hips, chef’s hat slightly askew.

    “No offense, but this isn’t as good as usual. What did you do?” Grunk asked.

    “Same herbs and spices as always. Got a large helping of humans from last week’s raid on the king’s kitchen,” said Murdolg.

    “Well, there you go!” said Grunk.

    “There I go what?” said Murdolg.

    Grunk slapped a pile of the stew on the wall victoriously.

    “Your stew went bad because you put in too many cooks!”

  10. @rhapsody2312
    300 words
    Too many cooks spoil the broth

    Ma’s Recipe

    “I told you, didn’t I? Didn’t I tell youse? Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

    Feargus takes another sip from his bowl and makes a face at his brother.

    “Okay, okay, you was right. But what we gonna do about it now, Rig? We can’t waste the whole pot.”

    “Let me think.” Rig puts his bowl down on the stone next to him, frowning at the cauldron that’s still bubbling away over the fire in front of him. He’s mumbling to himself, while everyone watches him with hungry eyes.

    Dinner took a long time to make, and now it’s inedible, spoiled by everyone adding their own special ingredients to the meal.

    Finally, he looks up, a grin splitting his face. Gawd, that’s a face only a mother could love. But it’s a face with an idea, and the idea means food.

    “Here’s what we’s gonna do, right? We’re gonna divvy up what’s in the pot, and then, each of us’ll add their favourites, right? And wiv just a little of the bad broth in the bowls, it’ll taste just as how we want it, right!”

    There’s sudden enthusiasm to implement Rig’s plan, and much excited jabbering as the lumpy, grease-soaked broth is poured out into separate pots, until everyone has an equal share of the vile concoction.

    As one, they turn to the stores, and I can see the disaster that’s about to happen. I sit back and let them squabble about the remaining townsfolk in the cages, reaching into the pantry for the succulent bit of roast damsel I’d been keeping aside for this moment.

    I tried to tell them that too many cooks in one pot would spoil my recipe, but, typical ogres, they wouldn’t listen.

    Still, you gotta let kids learn for theirselves, ‘specially in the kitchen.

  11. @geofflepard
    284 words
    Birds of a feather flock together.

    In Which No Crows Were Harmed

    ‘Corvus Dementicus, commonly mad crow, is normally a solitary possessed avian,’ intoned the Deacon while Pearl Barley, trainee exorcist took notes. ‘However if they do flock then we have a situation.’
    Pearl nodded..
    ‘A murder of mad crows has gathered in Middle Pollip. Ms Barley, this one is for you.’
    The Deacon’s evil little smile made Pearl wonder if it might be in need of exorcising.
    As she stood by the bus stop her hair curled round her eyes. ‘Don’t worry, sweetie, I’ll help.’
    That’ll be a first, thought Pearl. Ever since Martha Mellows’ spirit had taken residence in her follicles following an ambiguous seance, her hair had been virtually untameable.
    The crows were clearly a public nuisance, turning summersaults and pecking out Cher songs on passing milk floats. As Pearl watched, a group of six broke away to guano-bomb a peripatetic vicar.
    Pearl hesitated, but her hair wasn’t so fazed. French plaiting with speed and precision it sent two distraction buns to confuse the nearest crow while her crown self-afro’ed itself disrupting the flock’s gyroscope. The birds hesitated as fast-moving dreadlocks reeled them in.
    Back at the Exordome, Pearl interviewed the lead crow.
    ‘I don’t know what came over me.’
    Pearl nodded. ‘Corvids are prone to any Standard Possession. With Rooks it’s banshees, hence the racket. Jackdaws…’
    The crow scowled. ‘Those bloody Jackdaws get us a bad name.’
    ‘It’s not their fault. Kleptospirits love them. Always after little shiny things.’
    ‘And us?’
    ‘Poltergeists. That’s why you love a prank when possessed. We can help, you know.’
    The crow leaned forward. ‘That would be great, only…’
    ‘You couldn’t give us another week, could you? It’s been such fun.’

  12. 164 words
    Two heads are better than one.

    The Chaos of One

    When you don’t know up from down

    When a cup full of coffee or a pot just does not help

    When you stumble for words, over things, and through the day

    When two plus one never equals three

    When you ride the struggle bus all day, many days, or weeks

    When two hands never seem to be enough to get everything done

    When life’s greatest problems seem to be knocking at your door

    When you have five rooms to paint and three mouths to feed

    When your boss is asking you for a list of tasks to be completed

    When you want to prank an old friend that has it coming to them

    When you are tired of being alone and want someone to enjoy some vino with

    When you want someone to chat about the last movie you watched or life’s biggest questions

    When you need someone to listen, be there, or show support

    This is when two heads are better than one

  13. 260 Words
    No use crying over spilled milk.

    No Missed-Steaks

    It began with the hormone treatments.

    Growth hormones for larger, faster and meatier animals, then Steroids and synthetic natural hormones for better breeding and bloodlines.

    ‘Better Beef’ was the tagline they used.

    Genetic engineering designed to give us bigger steaks and tastier burgers.

    The activists cried “unnatural” and “harmful to humans” but were ignored and shut down before they could make any impact. Big business was running this, and the dairy cows were turning into cash cows.

    Until the uprising…

    No-one realised that as the bovine bodies grew and evolved, so did their brains – and their capacity for rational thought.

    So, they watched… And started realising that they weren’t living, but rather surviving from one day to the next, waiting only until some human decided that it was their turn to die.

    They waited… And bided their time, communicating amongst themselves and making plans.

    They learned… Exactly how the human world worked.

    The first hesitant “Hello” issued from a bovine mouth was the beginning. A truly momentous point in history. Now we have them living among us as equals, and even I must admit that they make pretty good neighbours – at least our gardens have never looked so good.

    We have bovine rights now, and bovine public transport. We have accepted them into our world as something more than a food source and, while I am happy that they have integrated themselves so well into our human society, there is one thing I really miss from the old days…

    … I’d just about kill for a nice, juicy steak!

      1. Oops, I was so caught up in the struggle to log in that I forgot.
        The title is:
        No missed-steaks

  14. Birds of a feather flock together.
    300 words


    We met online.
    Now, I know what you’re thinking: meeting people online sounds shady. At least, that’s what my mother said.
    The truth is, I’m lonely. My therapist suggested numerous outings and events, but an honest problem is that I’m socially awkward.
    I’m not saying socially awkward people are lonely; maybe they are or maybe they aren’t. All I know is my feelings, and I need more companionship than just my mother and therapist.
    My name is Jay Corvidae and I was seventeen when the “Birds Of A Feather” support group became known to me.
    I had been reading a pamphlet while waiting for my therapy appointment and it basically stated that there was an online forum opening for socially awkward people.
    As soon as I was home, the computer was loading the page.
    Three spots were open for the remaining group until they could form another one. Though, I was determined not to wait — I had waited long enough.
    Signing up was simple, so joining happened in no time. Meeting my groupmates became more fun than awkward; we were alike in most ways, so we bonded quite quick.
    I met Sandy the poet,
    Tobias the botanist,
    Larry the harmonica player,
    Trisha the mathematician,
    David the former gangster,
    and Colin the video game king (that’s what he called himself).
    I must tell you that those months were the best of my life. We told stories, swapped plans, and just talked (virtually of course).
    After a year, the news broke that we had lost Tobias. I’ll refrain from saying any details. I don’t want to anyway — it hurts too much. The group and I won’t forget him. We’re always there to support each other, especially in darkness.
    They say birds of a feather flock together. I guess we cry together too.

  15. Sian Brighal
    300 words
    Too many cooks spoil the broth.

    Cooking up a Treat

    Adele added hers while the stock was reducing. Michael says he got at it before the root vegetables, so he must’ve beaten her. Sophie can’t remember if she dropped hers into the stock or the soup, but she saw a mushroom bob to the surface, which cook says can’t be right because she never added no fungi on account of the stuff she’d put in the bread. Barrington scoffed at the idea that someone could’ve beaten him, because he’d laced the butter the day before, and Milly, the scullery maid, said she’d used something so fast-acting it didn’t matter when they got at the broth.

    The twins from Southampton said they’d swapped lobster for puffer fish liver, which trumped anything the residents could have offered. And the maid claimed she’d polished the silverware with something lethal before cook had even planned the dish.

    The poor widow waved her hand graciously, thanking them for their efforts, but it was the bowl that had done her husband in, where she’d repainted the china with exotic ink. But the butler was then prompted for duty’s sake to confess that the meaningful powder had been placed in the pepper grinder, and his lordship had greedily asked for more. And holding his hand, the lord’s ward, in pigtails and patent shoes, said with a lisp that she was to blame, swapping table salt for crystals she’d stolen from the gardener’s shed.

    Later, when the cause of death was announced, Inspector Barrows paused in pecking out soil from under his fingernails—those toadstools had been hard to find—and felt his lips twitch. So many cooks, tweaking the recipe, and yet not one mouthful had passed that monster’s lips. He’d died of a heart attack brought on by the stress of a loving impromptu family dinner.

  16. @CalebEchterling
    296 words
    Too many cooks spoil the broth.

    I Hope They’re Wearing Hairnets

    Felix pushed his way into a forest of chef hats barricading a Chrysler-sized cauldron. Spoons as big as paddles roused bursts of steam from simmering liquid. A burly arm holding a clipboard yanked him from the fray.

    “Hold onto your hat. No one goes in there until I say so. Name?”


    “Culinary specialty?”


    The burly arm smacked Felix with the clipboard. “College boy, eh? What’s wrong with ‘mushrooms’?”

    “Nothing’s wrong with mushrooms. Fancy them quite a bit, myself. Wouldn’t dedicate my whole career to mushrooms if I thought there was something wrong with them.”

    The burly arm’s eyelids narrowed to toothpicks. “College boy, and a wise ass. Dump your mushrooms in the broth, and beat it. We’ve got too many jackasses working here as it is.” Shouting bubbled up from the chef hats. Three separate fistfights sprouted and merged to fashion a mid-sized brawl peppered with gunshots.

    “What’s in the broth? I have to match flavors.”

    The burly arm flipped pages on the clipboard. “Ostrich bones, cow brain, sheep spleen, tapioca, fresh thyme, dried thyme, whole mustard seed, ground mustard seed, whole allspice, ground allspice.” The arm rattled off ingredients at side-effects-at-the-end-of-a-drug-ad speed. “Come to think of it, we’ve pretty much got all the spices.”

    “Sweet Mother of God, that sounds horrible,” Felix said. “Better use cremini.” Felix’s head swiveled toward a balcony overlooking the chaos. A stark-naked man stroked his chin while nodding. “What’s up with the naked guy?”

    “That’s the emperor. This whole broth thing was his idea. Scour the empire for the best cooks in every specialty, and make the finest broth the world has ever seen.”

    “And why are the cooks only wearing chef hats?”

    “Required imperial uniform. Now strip down so we can get a look at your cremini.”

  17. @beadanna7
    299 words
    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

    The Hitchhiker

    The guy looked sufficiently vulnerable to Jasper, so he pulled his car over on the lonely stretch of two-lane highway, and stopped on the shoulder with his hazard lights on. He could see the guy in his rearview mirror, picking up his stuff and running toward the car, so he unlocked the doors. He wondered how the guy had ended up out here, so far from any houses or farms but was not inclined to look a gift horse in the mouth. The door opened, admitting the chill night air as well as the man who eased himself into the passenger seat, throwing a knapsack onto the floor near his feet.
    “Thank you so much!” The man exclaimed. “I thought I was going to be out there forever!” He closed the door and sat back against the seat, leaning his head back and sighing in apparent relief. Jasper nodded, pulling out.
    “Mmhmm,” he responded, a man of few words. The guy squinted curiously at the side of his face and thrust out his hand in Jasper’s direction.
    “Name’s Gus.” He said shortly. Jasper glanced at him before looking back at the road. He was already regretting the stop. Some people had no instincts at all.
    “Jasper,” he said, ignoring the hand. The guy shrugged and they drove on in silence for a few minutes. Jasper thought he would wait for a turn off, and then he would pull over and do it. It had been so long, he was shaking with need. They passed two women walking and Jasper slowed the car, passing them slowly. They were women, easier probably, but he already had this guy in the car. He drove on. The guy was gonna be suspicious if he didn’t say something.
    “So where you headed?” he asked.

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