Microcosms 133

It’s Friday again, my flash fiction friends — so it’s a warm welcome to Microcosms 133. Still no word from KM, so it’s me hosting again.

This week’s contest is based — quelle surprise! — on events and anniversaries of birthdays that occurred on this day (27-JUL).

  • 1890 – Artist Vincent van Gogh shot himself and died two days later.
  • 1944 – Birth of Bobbie Gentry, American singer-songwriter: “Ode to Billie Joe” (1967)
  • 1949 – Birth of Robert Rankin, English author/illustrator
  • 1950 – Birth of Simon Jones, English actor: Arthur Dent in the original radio production of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (1978)
  • 1958 – Birth of Christopher Dean, English figure skater and choreographer
  • 2016 – U.S. Presidential Candidate Donald Trump publicly appealed to Russia to find and release private emails from Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton; a Special Counsel investigation (2017–present) later determined that Russian operatives began hacking into servers at the Democratic National Committee on that same day.

Geoff

 

(If YOU have an idea for a future contest and would like to be a 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: Figure Skater, Location: Paris Suburb, and genre: Tragedy.

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, location 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 – not included in the word count.
*** NO FAN-FICTION, PLEASE, and NO USE of COPYRIGHT CHARACTERS **

 

  • Artist
  • Suicide
  • Sprout Fetishist
  • Hitchhiker/Abductee
  • Figure Skater
  • Presidential Candidate
  • Paris Suburb
  • Bridge
  • Brentford
  • Alien Spacecraft
  • Winter Olympics
  • Florida
  • Tragedy
  • Crime
  • Fantasy
  • SciFi
  • Memoir
  • Comedy

 

Spin!

 
Last week’s Judge’s Pick, Ted Young, indicated that he was willing to act as judge this time around. However, personal circumstances have led to his withdrawal at the last minute.

Fortunately, Harrietbelle has kindly agreed to take his place.

 

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 (EDT) 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 134
Microcosms 132

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33 comments for “Microcosms 133

  1. 27 July 2018 at 1:29 am

    @billmelaterplea
    http://www.engleson.ca
    Maybe 299 strokes of the brush
    Artist; Paris Suburb; Memoir

    To Find Sweet Beauty in the Empty Belly of War

    After the great war, I returned home to Alberta. My brother, Walter, had stayed behind and run the farm for our parents. He had married. Louisa…from two farms over. They had known each other for all their lives.

    I watched their…familiarity. She was with child. Their future grew inside of her.

    I remained lost. Unsettled.

    I had once been prepared to be a farmer, to be my father, to find in a woman, my mother.

    But now, I looked away. I had so many questions. Years earlier, for the briefest moment, I had taken up a pen and begun to sketch my world. At war, in the trenches of battle, the bloody field of death, the only thing that kept me even close to sane was bringing the sorrowful shapes of war to paper.

    A couple of months after my return, Walter confronted me. “Brother, you have no joy in you. You seem a walking corpse.”

    I shared my angst. “This life is no longer for me, Walter. Something is missing.”

    “Where will you find it? Your life has always been here.”

    In the morning, I left. Walter shared what little money he had. “The farm will now be mine,” he said. “But you will always be welcome.”

    I took the train to Toronto, and quickly fell in with an aimless bohemian crowd. One night, with opium clarity, I made my decision. I would go back to Europe. Not a war-torn Europe but a Europe of artists.

    I spent my last few dollars and arrived in Paris in late 1919.

    I gravitated to Montmartre which was abuzz with artistic excitement.

    One group in particular caught my fancy, a collective of artists called the Commune Libre de Montmartre.

    I had yet to find myself but here, here I would flourish.

    2+
    • Sian Brighal
      28 July 2018 at 3:49 am

      Wonderful story…loved the language and descriptions.

      0
  2. steve lodge
    27 July 2018 at 4:05 am

    @steveweave71
    300 words
    Figure Skater; Paris Suburb; Memoir

    Le Resort Last

    Professor Drew Pictures left the train at the bustling station of Quarrel Hoheeho, in Western Paris. He’d spent the journey writing up notes for his memoirs. This trip excited him. He checked in to Le Quarrel Motel.

    Drew was in Paris on a two-year contract, teaching Ceramic Engineering, English and Flirting at the Iffy University, on an exchange programme that took Professor Vincent Malcontent to the University of Blackwatch in the English countryside of England. During his time in Paris, Drew was determined to see some of the wild animals and the beauty spots his colleagues at Iffy had told him about, particularly around Quarrel’s enormous lake Drippy, apparently an area of such natural beauty. Here, according to his colleagues, he could also see a frisky rhino.

    He walked into the village of Ici Tolerable, nearest to the fabulous lake. He’d heard from his colleagues that Le Lac Drippy was home to hundreds of flamingoes, a sight so beautiful, full of grace, plumage, majesty, plus on the lakeside, the famous Absolument Pas De Probleme Hostel for recovering figure skaters with names like Monique, Natalie, Rochelle and Ginger. Since youth, he’d been captivated by the legs of female figure skaters.

    It was too dark, he could see little. At a pavement café on Rue de Bleubleu, he sipped Legaredunord and fusilieri, laced with pommepom. He asked the waiter in passable French when in the morning was best to see the flamingoes. The waiter laughed at the eccentric Englishman before him.

    “Flamingoes, monsieur? In Paris? You English and your little jokes. You will ask me next where is the frisky rhino and the hostel for out-of-work figure skaters.” As he walked away, he chuckled, “This I must tell Gigi.”

    Drew stroked his imaginary beard. To think he’d believed his bloody colleagues. Again.

    1+
    • Sian Brighal
      28 July 2018 at 3:52 am

      Excellent. Great piece.

      0
  3. 27 July 2018 at 6:48 am

    300 words
    Figure Skater; Paris Suburb; Tragedy

    Skewered

    The first one is always the best; I try to save it for Arnaud’s, with my demitasse and the hiss of the traffic a street away on the Boulevard Ney where the wage slaves crawl into town. But most days, I don’t make it. Most days, I too am a wage slave, tutoring talentless little girls to glide on one leg, maybe coax a simple Lutz out of the good ones.

    Most days, I have the first one in bed, surveying last night’s damage, light up the thick fog of a Gitane, scanning my body: the temple-gripping ache of too much cheap cognac; the wreck of my knee that will, in minutes, be soothed by the ghostly rattle of the codeine bottle and the cold of the ice pack, soothed by the lull of the rink and routine.

    Breakfast is always Arnaud’s, the same thimble of bitter coffee, a glass of chilled water. If I’m feeling thin, I pick at the crisp, buttery crumbs of a croissant, leaning on a stool at the zinc bar, to take the weight of the bad leg. I keep thin even though the knee can’t bear whatever weight I have.

    Not this morning though. I wave Odette out to the terrace at Arnaud’s where I sit, despite the wind, feeling the chill work through the gaps in my pea coat.

    At the bar, they have it on, Tokyo’s vast rink decorated with the five linked rings that host the twirl and precise scimitar turns of the Russians. It’s the prelims but Yashenko will be there, and Dmitrievich too, men I hunted for a decade in Québec. One faulty rivet wrecked the landing of a simple Axel. And here I am, exiled, still spinning, twisted like my knee, dreams skewered on a snapped blade.

    1+
    • Sian Brighal
      28 July 2018 at 3:58 am

      Wow! Beautifully written, brilliant imagery. So bitter and poignant. Loved it!

      0
  4. 27 July 2018 at 10:50 am

    300 words
    Hitchhiker; Florida; Memoir

    Hitchhiking Across the USA

    I’ll never forget my trip to the US back in the eighties. I was young, carefree and, I admit, naive. For me, it opened up a whole new world of experiences and, incidentally, introduced me to the novel experience of hitchhiking. At first, while I still had plenty of money, I travelled mainly by Greyhound bus. A fantastic way of seeing a new country for the first time. I travelled with a permanent soundtrack ringing in my ears, a soundtrack largely based on a well-known song that went something along the lines of, ‘…all gone to look for America…’ For weeks I lived that song, I saw the countryside and met many a character. I soon learnt that Americans can be some of the friendliest people on Earth. Unfortunately, my travels by bus drew to an end as I realised I was burning through my limited cash. I still wanted to travel, so following the example of those I’d seen by the side of the road, I started hitching.

    Hitchhiking was an interesting way of learning about human nature, a way of learning to rely on the kindness of strangers, if you like. I was fortunate enough to confirm my view on the friendliness of Americans and survived to tell the tale. I have to admit that there were some slightly scary times. I’ll never forget the time when I was travelling around Florida when I jokingly asked the driver who’d stopped and picked me up, ‘How do you know I’m not a serial killer?’ My blood ran cold when he replied something to the effect of, ‘I don’t worry about it. The odds of there being two serial killers in the same car are just too slim to be worth considering.’ Before he turned to me and grinned.

    1+
    • Sian Brighal
      28 July 2018 at 3:59 am

      Lol…creepy, indeed. Great story.

      0
  5. 27 July 2018 at 11:42 am

    @geofflepard
    271 words
    Figure Skater; Paris Suburb; Tragedy

    Caught In A Spin

    The gendarmerie were first on the scene. Soft insistent voices, urging her to hang on.

    ‘What’s your name, Mademoiselle? Can you hear me?’

    ‘Marie. Marie De la Frontielle.’ It was as much as her body allowed. She felt so tired.

    ‘We’ll have you out soon.’

    ‘It’s like an ice rink out here. Why was she going so fast?’

    ‘How long will the Peripherique be shut, do you think? She’s stopped everything for miles.’

    ‘Who’s the driver?’

    ‘That figure skater? In the Winter Olympics?’

    ‘Her? The one…?’

    ‘Yeah. Fell twice. Never happened before. Her chance of the title. Tragic.’

    ‘Do you think she meant it?’

    ‘Falling?’

    ‘No, this. Looks like she crashed deliberately.’

    ‘Why’d she do that? No, the conditions are awful and she’s only young. A star. Whole life ahead of her. Why’d she want to do this?’

    ‘You think she’ll survive?’

    Please, no, not that. I wanted to live; surviving isn’t enough.

    ‘It’d be a tragedy if she does. Look at her legs.’

    0
    • Sian Brighal
      28 July 2018 at 4:02 am

      Oh…ouch! That ending packed a massive gut-punch. Loved how the dialogue worked with the text to define the tragedy.

      0
  6. Arianna Hammond
    27 July 2018 at 2:11 pm

    297 words
    Suicide; Bridge; Tragedy

    Before

    Surprisingly, looking down from the bridge doesn’t make my stomach drop. Perhaps because I’ve been thinking too much about it to care.

    Why should I care?

    And why did I care?

    Everything seemed full of color, whilst I’m a true shade of gray.
    I thought about the city across from where I stood, bursting with life, sounds, supportive communities….
    What was needed to create smiles.
    Minus my frown, who’s space was a defunct apartment with no connections.
    It falls apart. I realize that most people feel a wave of darkness sometime in their life.
    Seems I’m caught in the riptide.
    Five minutes ago, a mother pushing a stroller containing a grumpy yet rosy child, crossed my path.
    Neither of us made eye contact.
    They reminded me of a past life I had- one where my mother got up early so she could stroll in the cool of the morning.
    I would be all bundled up and tucked into a stroller.
    Thinking back to it made me believe I wore the same expression that child had.
    That expression was better than the future.

    My mother disowning me because I threw my life away, stung so bad. After that, it became a downward spiral.
    Late fees, break-ups, break-ins, losing jobs…
    All that without even my mother to talk to.
    ~
    Then, somehow, I hear it.
    The answering machine.

    *click*

    “It’s– it’s mom. I know it’s been a while– I realize–” She starts crying.
    “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Can we talk soon? I– I miss– I miss…sorry.

    *click*
    The line went dead.

    An invisible tear crosses my ghostly complexion.
    I would have answered the phone, for I missed her too.
    I would have answered, if I hadn’t been hanging from the bridge for the past six minutes.

    2+
    • Sian Brighal
      28 July 2018 at 4:06 am

      So poignant! Pure tragedy.

      1+
      • Arianna Hammond
        28 July 2018 at 3:43 pm

        Yes. Thank you 🙂

        0
    • Angelique Pacheco
      29 July 2018 at 3:26 am

      Stunning Arianna.

      1+
      • Arianna Hammond
        29 July 2018 at 1:17 pm

        Thank you 🙂

        0
  7. Angelique Pacheco
    27 July 2018 at 2:13 pm

    300 words
    Figure skater; Paris Suburb; Tragedy

    Bombs Away

    She twirls and jumps, her hair whips backwards, past her ears. Her cheeks are rosy from the exercise and she feels joy as she cuts across the ice, as graceful as a swan. People watch her from the sides and as much as she hates that, she loves the freedom of figure skating.

    She was ecstatic when the open-air rink in the town centre opened. Imagine skating with the Eiffel tower for a view. Marvelous! Every day, she would throw her bags down when she got home from school and rush out with her skates, blowing a kiss to Maman as she left. Her brother Jean-Pierre never seemed thrilled to see her anyways.

    Jean-Pierre was sullen and moody these days. He no longer had time for his little sister since he started at the university. Now everything made him angry. The government, the store clerks and everyone in between. He wasn’t fun anymore. C’est la vie.

    He was home today waiting for Marie to give her instructions. He tried not to feel shame at how her eyes lit up when he chatted to her. He hadn’t meant to overlook his family the last few months. After today, it would be over. He had to perform his duty and then he would be free. He missed Marie. They had been close once.

    “Just once more around,” Marie thought as her skates swished on the ice. Jean-Pierre had told her to leave at precisely three o’clock. It was three o’clock now. She would leave at five minutes past, and run like hell to meet him at the tower.

    He looked at his watch. One minute past three. Marie would be safely out of harm’s way. He pushed the button on the detonator and watched the ball of fire spread across the sky.

    5+
    • Angelique Pacheco
      27 July 2018 at 2:17 pm

      Squeals! Please add words. She was ecstatic when the open… “I need a when and the.” Thank you. Hides away in shame.

      2+
    • Sian Brighal
      28 July 2018 at 4:09 am

      Oh! That ending made my belly drop…excellent lead-up to that devastating line.

      1+
  8. Mileva Anastasiadou
    27 July 2018 at 3:39 pm

    @happymil_
    300 words
    Figure Skater; Paris Suburb; Tragedy

    Bullet with Butterfly Wings

    I thought it impossible, yet inevitable at the same time. Chances were against us. I met him two weeks before the riots started, once I escaped the protected environment in which I had been raised to explore his neighborhood.

    “Are you an artist too? I asked the moment I saw his drawing.

    “Not really, I’m training to be a figure skater.”

    It didn’t take us long to fall in love.

    Impossible, yet inevitable at the same time. Riots burst out of the blue, yet in all truth, we had been expecting them. People were angry in the outskirts of Paris, excluded from the normality I had always taken for granted.

    I was trapped that day, like a rat in the cage. The figure skater came to my rescue and drove me back home.

    “There’s a war going on,” he said. “I don’t have time for us.”

    “Then, what are you fighting for?”

    In that war, he considered me an enemy. What I had felt for a brief moment, had been his reality for all his life; he had been but a rat in a cage.

    “Stay with me here,” I begged. Yet that was not what he wanted. His intentions included a world safe for everybody. He didn’t only want to save himself.

    I couldn’t find him when I went back. His place was inhabited by others who had no clue about him. Last night I saw him on the news. Homeless person shot himself, they said. Two days later he died.

    He had been right about the war. My people won. I still wonder whether it was the gun or despair that killed him.

    I keep painting his portrait since then.

    In my paintings, the figure skater gets all the attention he deserved in real life.

    3+
    • Sian Brighal
      28 July 2018 at 4:14 am

      Bittersweet meeting and a tragic end. Great write on the tragedy of the ‘haves and have-nots’…irony being they’re all have-nots in the end.

      1+
  9. 27 July 2018 at 5:42 pm

    227 words
    Figure Skater; Paris Suburb; Tragedy

    The Visitor

    She was lovely, she had charisma that nothing could cover up, and she had several deadly holes in her torso. She hovered above her body, watching the three detectives enter. The first was Jeanne, and though ghosts couldn’t cry Chloe felt new waves of grief and pain as she looked at her former lover. Henri Dubois was next, and then someone new, retching at the doorway.

    Jeanne looked just as sick. But Chloe felt waves of pride as she saw how strong Jeanne remained, assessing Chloe’s body from every angle and carefully inspecting the broken window and knife on the ground. Dubois was quicker. Suicide.”

    “Suicide?!” Jeanne demanded. “My God, Dubois! There are fourteen stab wounds!”

    Dubois shrugged. “Chloe Hassan loses a qualifying match and tears a muscle. Her girlfriend leaves her. Her parents don’t accept who she is. Clear motives to me.”

    Noiselessly, Chloe attempted to scream in rage. It had been a murder!

    Jeanne looked stricken. The new recruit left the room, vomiting outright. Dubois glared at Jeanne, turning and leaving the room. “Clear to me,” he repeated.

    Jeanne stayed, watching Chloe’s body. She looked up and Chloe moved with her old grace, trying to attract attention. It was to no avail.

    Jeanne swallowed, looking resolute. She closed her eyes for a moment and opened them again.

    “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’ll make this right.”

    0
    • Sian Brighal
      28 July 2018 at 4:19 am

      Great imagery. Can feel the frustration, and using the character’s reactions to add to the scene’s impact is excellent.

      0
  10. Sian Brighal
    27 July 2018 at 7:43 pm

    299 words
    Figure Skater; Paris Suburbs; Tragedy

    Only Strong Enough For One

    There’s a low bridge mantling the river as it slows and congeals into the large pond you currently stand on the banks of. The bridge was here just before the pond, and few remember the river ran carefree and wild for another two miles before Paris stretched and sprawled and knocked things out of the way. For him, the throttling bridge was a blessing; in the past, the river had run too fast to freeze.

    I’m sure you can still hear his laughter and those whoops of delight when he danced on the ice, but it’s just the bitter wind through barren trees. He no longer calls and coaxes people onto the ice to kiss him under moonlight and on silver dance-floors. The only real sound here is your breath hitching as you try not to weep, and even then it’s–

    There was mourning, of course. Dozens came to the funeral, but you couldn’t; trapped as you are in the folly of another. Afterwards, they erected a low fence around this pond and a sign: Danger: Thin ice! Local kids, all bravado and no brains, come here to boast at how they skated on the ice that killed the great ice dancer Travert! You stay silent, looking as still and as cold as the white ice, but I know you both love and hate it: how the laughter warms you and their leaving guts you.

    They dredged the pond, and as small as it is, they never found the body of the great ice-skater Remy Travert. Some say the river flows beneath the ground and carried the corpse away. But you never really left. Your lover got out, now laughs and coaxes somewhere else, while you, Remy, dance alone, haunting this most ironic and cruel of graves.

    3+
    • Arianna Hammond
      28 July 2018 at 4:56 pm

      Beautiful. While reading this story, I felt almost as if I was gliding through each scene. Very smooth, and very transporting. 🙂

      2+
      • Sian Brighal
        28 July 2018 at 5:06 pm

        Thank you

        0
    • Angelique Pacheco
      29 July 2018 at 3:28 am

      Wow! So much emotion captured here. Well done.

      1+
      • Sian Brighal
        30 July 2018 at 7:29 am

        Thank you 🙂

        0
  11. Deanna Salser
    27 July 2018 at 9:25 pm

    300 words
    Hitchhiker/Abductee; Alien Spacecraft; Memoir

    Sleep is a Curious Thing

    Sleep is a curious thing. The vulnerability of it is alarming, especially for those who sleep deeply. Unable to awaken without the harshest stimuli, the body can be manipulated or moved with the sleeper unaware that anything has occurred. Our success as a life form is measured in that we can afford to require this extreme liability. Safety lay in numbers when we were no more than apes, and the same holds true for now, if only to sleep. But I had been alone.

    Waking, I immediately knew I was no longer in my bed. Despite that, I didn’t want to get up, I was so comfortable. I was lying partially reclined, supported and embraced by a material I’m unfamiliar with, but that felt soft and warm against my skin. I turned my head and a soft light came on near my head, illuminating what looked like a round microwave. Inside was a steaming mug. I lifted my arm and a drawer slid out, delivering the mug into my hand. I brought it to my face and sniffed. It was Oolong, my favorite. I could tell from just one sniff. I brought it to my lips and sipped it carefully, but it was exactly the right temperature for drinking. That is almost impossible to do. I know, I am a connoisseur.

    I sat up, the chair moving with me, and looked around myself. Light bloomed indistinctly from inside the walls, allowing me to see the room I was in. From a chair similar to mine, against the far wall, large dark liquid eyes in a pale blue face watched me curiously for my reaction. I gazed back impassively. I knew they were watching me.

    “Thanks for the tea.” I said. He laughed, delighted at my response, and took me home.

    1+
    • Sian Brighal
      28 July 2018 at 4:23 am

      Great piece…love the slightly surreal feel.

      1+
      • Deanna Salser
        28 July 2018 at 5:26 pm

        Thank you! I appreciate your insightful comments.

        1+
  12. Mpart
    27 July 2018 at 11:55 pm

    Seven minutes to spare, but finally made it! This got really dark.

    299 words
    Hitchhiker/Abductee; Florida; Tragedy

    Bursts of Color

    The woman had been young and in love. Everything seemed to blossom with color and the world grew a little brighter when she smiled.

    Love had done that to her, you see. She had a skip in her step and the world was hers to see. Everything was at her fingertips before the lock clicked into place and she had to watch as her dreams dissolved as the world became dull with violent streaks of red that came from his hands.

    She had lived in the state of Florida where tourists flocked to the beaches and while it may have rained often, the sunny days were something many would die for. Her world had already been painted in shades of yellow and orange before he came along.

    He was attractive to her in ways others couldn’t understand. His smile, while a bit unhinged, made her feel as if she was the only thing that mattered in the world. He made her whole world fill with colors she hadn’t noticed before. Purple and pink. White and green. Grey.

    She simply hadn’t known that while her world was now filled with more than warm colors, the cold ones had started to leak in too.

    Possessiveness and insanity simply didn’t matter to her until she was shoved into his car and then later locked in a room.

    If he wasn’t good enough for her in his own mind and simply couldn’t have her, then no one would.

    Now, all she would see were those violent streaks of red on the floor as her vision grew blurry as bursts of purple came beneath his hands on her neck as he squeezed and squeezed.

    The world was at once filled with color before turning into the finality of grey that faded into black.

    0
    • Sian Brighal
      28 July 2018 at 4:26 am

      Potent language, and I liked how colours were used to reflect her changing perspectives and environment.

      0
      • Mpart
        28 July 2018 at 11:53 pm

        Thank you so much!

        1+

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