Microcosms 145

Hello again, flashionistas, and welcome to Microcosms 145.

As William Shakespeare famously wrote in ‘As You Like It’:
…All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances…

This week’s contest is based on ‘players’ who had their ‘exits’ (deaths) or ‘entrances’ (births) on this day – 19-OCT.


  • 1978 — Gig Young, American actor: ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’ (1969)
  • 2009 – Joseph Wiseman: Canadian-American actor – ‘Dr No’ (1961)
  • 2010 – Tom Bosley, American actor: ‘Father Dowling Mysteries’ (1987-1991)


  • 1940 – Michael Gambon, Irish-British actor: ‘Maigret’ (1992-1993)
  • 1941 – Simon Ward, English actor: ‘Young Winston’ (1972)
  • 1945 – John Lithgow, American actor: ‘3rd Rock from the Sun’ (1996-2001)



(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 elements — character; location; genre. We spun, and our selected elements are:

Criminal Mastermind; Chicago; Tragedy

Write a story using those elements OR feel free to click on the “Spin!” button below, and the slot machine will come up with a new set – character; location; genre. You can keep clicking until you have a set of elements that inspires you.


  • Emcee
  • Criminal Mastermind
  • Catholic Priest
  • Police Detective
  • War Correspondent
  • Extraterrestrial
  • Dance Marathon
  • Caribbean Island
  • Chicago
  • Paris
  • Boer War
  • University
  • Tragedy
  • Thriller
  • Mystery
  • Crime
  • Biography
  • Comedy



Last week’s Community Pick, Bill Engleson, has kindly agreed to act as the judge this time around.



(1) You have just 24 hours until midnight, today (Friday) New York time (EDT) to write and submit your masterpiece.
(2) All submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length (excluding the title)
(4) Include: word count, which THREE elements you’re using AND a title for your entry
(5) Do NOT give details of your entry on social media, your blog, etc. until the Results post is live
(6) If you are new to Microcosms, PLEASE check out the full submission guidelines 


All being well, results will be posted next Monday.

Microcosms 146
Microcosms 144

34 thoughts on “Microcosms 145

  1. @frankdaad
    286 words
    Criminal Mastermind; Chicago; Tragedy

    The Pink Line Affair

    Freddie and Irene Munro, newly-wed tourists from downstate Urbana, thought it would be fun to spend a day riding the Chicago “L” trains. Begin their honeymoon adventure with Belgian croissants and coffee on the Blue Line, then end the day at a local pizza joint (figured they’d stroll the streets until they found one that looked nice) in Cicero, near Cermak station, the last stop on the Pink Line.

    Now, the good folks down in Central Illinois are not always as acquainted with big city Chicago as one might think they would be. In fact, they tend to forget all about their state’s most famous city while tending to their own local affairs. In Freddie and Irene’s case, ignorance (of Cicero being the home of Al Capone as well as other present-day crime bosses and infamous street gangs) did not lead to bliss.

    Exhausted from a full day of riding the “L” trains and desiring to get as far away as logical from metallic clickety-clack sounds, they approached an older guy at the station and asked his recommends. “We’re not from around here…” were the most tragic introductory words they could have chosen to speak to the guy.

    “No problem,” he replied. “Come with me. I know just the place for you two. My car is right over there.”

    Authorities eventually found the couple. Poor Freddie was located with a bunch of undocumented transients picking potatoes in Idaho, while Irene was caught dealing blackjack in a Vegas bootleg casino, and pimping girls on the side. Freddie received a hero’s welcome back in Urbana. His ex-wife is serving time for her mastermind role in “The Pink Line Affair”.

  2. 238 words
    Criminal Mastermind; Chicago; Tragedy

    El Lobo

    “Talent does what it can; genius does what it must,” mused the man in the confessional booth.

    “Very likely,” agreed the voice through the lattice, “but, now, my son, what do you need to tell me?”

    For thirty years, the relationship between the priest and the man known only as ‘El Lobo’ had flourished in the atmosphere of honesty and trust.
    Over that same period of time, ‘El Lobo’ had established his grip on the world. He owned or ran governments, armies, banks… even countries. No crime of any importance or significance was committed without a ‘nod’ from this criminal mastermind.

    “Father, the final piece of my plan is in place. I, as near as dammit, run this planet.” He let out a sigh which was nearer a sob. “I really wanted to be a jazz clarinettist. I’m good you know. I know I could make it in Chicago; they get my kinda stuff there.”

    Quietly the confessional booth door closed… ‘El Lobo’ was gone.

    Within six months, a clarinet player from Chicago dominated the music world. Edgar Wolf was on every film score, music chart, and concert. The clarinet had replaced guitar and piano as the world’s favorite musical instrument. Edgar Wolf was the richest, most influential musician in the world.

    The Priest entered the confessional booth and heard the sound of heart-rending sobs.

    “Oh Father, it’s tragic… My genius stomped the hell out of my talent.”

  3. 291 words
    Emcee; University; Mystery


    The University Chapel was packed. Adam’s ashes had been spread earlier. “Whenever there was a party, Adam would be there,” Mike tried to show a brave face but crumbled.

    Adam knew the beat bop, hip-hop, and rock lyrics from A to Z, and that the song remains the same. Nobody quite knew how he was able to know so much about music and how he was able to create his own tunes out of the blue. He wasn’t one of those middle-aged dudes rapping at their kids’ birthday party. No. The words came out like from a machine gun. His records were pure gold.

    “He spent his days pondering, fiddling his mala beads, but if someone called him up and needed help, he was there in a sec,” Rose said and they all cried. To Adam that was the worst thing to hear. He was standing in the shadows, witnessing another one of his lives coming to an end. Nobody knew Adam from his childhood. This enlightenment was about to take place soon.

    Adam went back to the woods, climbed up to his favorite branch, took his flute and played the oldest melody of sadness and delight. He was memorizing the first time he had seen the sunset. That was a long time ago.

    “Please, have some sympathy for the devil,” he said to the One who had lowered him.

    But again, He smiled and said: “Not yet. By your example, they must learn to understand the essence of Love.” Then the pinks and the yellows were gone. All that was left was the Moon.

    Adam gave out a sigh, to empty his old self. Then he filled his lungs with fresh air and prepared to become someone else someplace else.

    1. Welcome to Microcosms, Paula.
      It’s a great story; but as it’s set at a funeral, it’s not clear to me where the ’emcee’ character comes in.
      [ To help the poor old reader follow what’s going on, the convention is to have direct speech from only one character in a paragraph; direct speech from anyone responding appears in a new paragraph. (I took the liberty of splitting your penultimate paragraph into two.) 😉

      Also, there is no need for you to give your name with the information before your story – it”s right there next to your avatar! The rest of information should be in the order and format I’ve amended it to – no need say ‘Word Count’, ‘Elements’, ‘Title’. Sorry to be so picky about this, but contests are judged ‘blind’: the judge does not look at the contest post, but receives entries — stripped of any identifying details — via email. I try to ensure that everyone provides word count, elements and title in the same format to avoid any chance of the author’s identity being sussed out.]

      1. Hi, Geoff.
        Thanks for the feedback. The rules didn’t give out if the name etc. should be written or not and since the others also had them at the beginning of their stories I decided to add them, so it would not be a reason for you to kick me out from the competition.

        The emcee is Adam. The emcee is also the writer of this story if you see the hints to the songs and musical characters. And to add a third layer God is the emcee of us all.

        What you said about the paragraph, okay. The way I wrote the piece was based on the feedback I got from an American writer friend. So, obviously many things are a question of taste and a question of place. I don’t mind the edit, it’s something you decided to do here.

        Thanks and I wish you the best day of your life.

      2. Also, I forgot to mention, it’s set in a university chapel. So inside the university building. So “University” is covered too, even if it’s not about lecture halls and professors. It’s about students inside a wing of the university that is usually forgotten… maybe because people don’t go and pray that much.

        Thanks again. 🙂

      3. Abject apologies, Paula.
        As a geriatric senior citizen, I assumed that ’emcee’ was exclusively an abbreviated term for ‘Master of Ceremonies’ — a tuxedoed individual (if that’s not too sexist) who oversees an event… just like the character that Gig Young played in the film ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” (Probably way before your time…)
        After your explanation, I can see the oversight I made.
        I would never disqualify an entry for not complying with the chosen elements. They are always meant to be open to creative interpretation. In this instance, I was simply seeking clarification because it wasn’t clear to my sleep-deprived brain.
        (The only reason I have used — so far! — for disqualification of an entry is if it is posted way after the contest’s closing deadline; there’s always some ‘wiggle room’ in case of problems with the technology.

  4. @steveweave71
    288 words
    Emcee; Caribbean Island; Comedy

    Because The Night

    “Hi there, nice to be with you. I’m Otis Longshot, your guest Emcee. Now don’t worry, I’ll keep my highly-polished feet on the ground. No uninhibited dance exhibitions from me. You couldn’t afford me. No, I’m kidding. You probably could. This beautiful resort is not for the poor, the penniless; we only work here. No, I’m kidding.

    “Now before we get this lovely evening started, while you’re on your third lobster and your lady has cheeks a-blush from champagne, specially imported into Santa Jacinto Island by my cousin, Silas — no, I’m kidding, or am I? Hey, where was I? Oh yeah — the management like me to set a cool scene for you, but also lay down some warnings. Local advice. Never take shelter from the tropical storms under the vulturian trees on account of the steamy droppings; and they have been known to eat a person that gets stuck to the bark. Also, never tickle a person who has diarrhoea. OK, that last one was from me, but that’s just common sense, man. But seriously, watch for the vulturian trees…and the cloudfruit, the Spanish Town Broccoli brothers, er… the Ambush Patrol between here and the airport at El Gringo. OK, now,a-hush and listen…

    “Through the twilight, you’ll hear the incessant sound of humming birds and bongo drums, the shrieks of the crazy pipwillet. The small waves lapping on the beach and the sound of distant laughter from friends at a shoreline BBQ. The pale, beautiful moon is as clear as a bell at this time of year. Oh, in case you don’t know, I’m an Olympic medallist at mixed metaphors. Doubly true. Oh, yes. Tomorrow night, there’ll be naked darts on horseback down at the racecourse. Always popular.”

    1. A classic Lodgean piece, Steve.
      “…never tickle a person who has diarrhoea.” And never make a man laugh who has a bladder infection… 🙁
      [‘Santa Jacinto’? should that be ‘Santa Jacinta’ — or is it a variation on a mixed metaphor? ]

      1. You say Jacinto and I say Jacinta ….
        I really don’t mind, Geoff. Sometimes I can’t be in the same room as a decision, as you probably realised. My indecision is final. Anyway, Leyton Orient are at Maidstone in the FA Cup. Singapore is subdued in anticipation – Well I am. Keep well, Geoff.

  5. 300 words
    Extraterrestrial; University; Comedy

    As Others See Us

    The longer my stay on your planet, the more curious I find your species to be. To facilitate my study of your fascinating species, I had embedded myself at one of your places of learning; I believe it’s called a university. Here I was able to observe your young at close quarters as they chose the professions they would follow for the rest of their lives.

    What a peculiar array of professions your species possesses! Whilst I could understand the value of becoming a member of the police force, righting wrongs and enforcing the law and suchlike, I failed to see the value in disseminating the news of martial conflict that seemed to prevail across your planet. Unless, that is, it is purely in the attempt to discourage the practice of war. If so, it doesn’t appear to be working.

    The frivolity of training to become a host for the purpose of entertaining the masses is beyond me. Why don’t you just have fun by yourselves? Why does it need to be organised? Similarly, training to pursue a religious lifestyle seems at odds with the day-to-day life of most members of your species.

    The most honest profession I’ve come across so far, is a life of crime. It offers a bewildering selection of opportunities for the venal. I’ve observed how your young start off with petty crime and then work their way up the ladder in the hope of graduating as a mastermind.

    These are just a few of the professions I’ve studied during my stay on your planet, there are of course innumerable others I’ve yet to turn my attention to. I’ve yet to make my mind up about your species but, given the choice between comedy and tragedy, I would tend towards declaring it a tragedy.

  6. 296 words
    Criminal Mastermind; Chicago; Tragedy

    The Empty Chair

    The Chicago news bulletin on Thursday 18th October was one of the most downloaded ever. Surprisingly it mainly features an empty black chair set against the view of the skyscrapers across the grey lake.
    ‘At 11.00 am this morning the country stopped. Women everywhere sat down.’Martina Frederick smooths her raspberry blond hair. On the screen a nervous woman about fifty wasaddressing a group of ladies. ‘Our pension age rose during our working life and we’ve been given no real opportunity to make up for our lower wages. Janet had to beg her husband for the money to buy her discreet pads after giving up work to look after His mother. Her husband isn’t a bad man, just a bit careful. They’re used to her using her own money for such things.’
    The next clip shows men changing nappies, typing, and even cleaning toilets|. ‘As everything stopped, people initially looked on with amusement. They then had to get stuck in. At 11.30 am the women just restarted without a word.’
    Martina reads like an automaton. ‘Police suspect this woman is guilty of inciting an illegal strike.’ The banner across the bottom of vt had that day’s date and times plus an exhortation to all women to stop work. ‘If Jill Archer, at her age, can try and make changes, so can we. Firmly and politely, this morning, say nothing, just stop. Work does not have a gender.’ Martina runs off.
    She phones her new English stepmother, ‘I bet you didn’t fix those privacy settings on your social media accounts, did you? Someone has shared your latest video with strike details added in. It looks to the world that you are the mastermind of the movement.’
    Martina’s father would be shortly getting yet another divorce.

  7. @geofflepard https://geofflepard.com
    294 words
    Emcee; Dance Marathon; Tragedy

    When Holding On Is All You Can Do

    The clap on the shoulder felt sincere enough. ‘Captain.’ Jack Reynolds oiled his smile. ‘Like the old days, eh?’
    Harrison eased back, not trusting a reply. Reynolds straightened his jacket, skipping into the lights, accepting the applause. Same slime-ball, Harrison thought and regretted it.
    The band’s opening bars died away; Reynold’s arm swept the room. ‘We have some special people in tonight.’ He pointed out several groups, units like Harrison’s.
    Harrison stopped listening, his mind skipping back 15 years, his eyes circling the self-same ballroom as he and Janice had those desperate days and nights. The stench of sweat, urine, fear as each couple fought to stay upright, one goal in mind. To be there at the end, to secure an unlikely future.
    ‘Captain, come on.’ Reynolds called him to stand. Stiffly, he faced the crowd, took in the dead eyes above the almost-believable smiles, saw their despair, the untellable horrors they’d shared in the hope of another unlikely future.
    His eyes focused on the spot where they’d stopped him; when they told him Janice was dead in his arms. They’d taken her and disqualified him. His men saw the tears and thought they understood; it was for the seventeen men who’d not returned with their unit. Everyone in the room had a similar story. A shared survivor’s guilt.
    He caught Reynolds’ gaze. For one brief second they were back to that dance hall. He’d seen Harrison’s despair, understood it came not from her death so much as the loss of hope that went with it. He nodded, understanding that private, selfish grief; the pain, so much worse than that suffered by any group because it was his to bear alone.
    The emcee turned to the crowd, ‘Here’s an old favourite…Maestro, take it away…’

  8. @alysia_ascovani
    300 words
    Criminal Mastermind; Paris; Thriller

    Vermilion Elixir

    The sun glinted off the Eiffel Tower as it began to slide beneath the horizon. A short woman with auburn hair lurked in the shadows beneath the Tower, staring through the flood of passerby. As soon as dusk established its hold over the square, she moved out from beneath the Tower, striding confidently towards the city streets.

    She reached a small shop, the bright decor a stark contrast to her tight leather pants, studded belt, and cropped tank which showed off her tattoos. A hand wrapped around the knife hilt at her belt, she pushed open the door to the tinkling of the bell. Before the young girl behind the counter could say a word, the woman held up a hand to silence her as she stalked to the back of the store.

    Hearing a male voice from behind one of the doors, she laid her hand on the doorknob, pausing to smile before smoothly sliding open the door. A man sat behind a desk, engaged in a lively phone conversation which she swiftly ended by plucking the phone from his hand.

    “I’m sorry,” her husky voice bathed the receiver. “Paul will have to call you back at another time. He’s about to be otherwise occupied.”

    As she ended the call, the man tried to turn to face her, but was caught in her grasp, her knife caressing his throat. Her warm breath filled his ear as she leant down beside him. “You’ve failed another assignment. Tell me why I should let you live.”

    “Please,” he whispered, “I can do better. I will do better, I promise.”

    Her ambrosial laugh taunted him as her fingers traced his jawbone. With a quick flick of her wrist, his body slumped against his desk.

    She kissed the blood that fell from his body.

  9. @angs_pacheco
    300 words
    Criminal Mastermind; Chicago; Tragedy

    Past Best Remembered

    8 October 1871 was a great day for Joseph Santorini, mob boss of the Southside gang. That’s what they were still known as back then. Later on, they would be known as the Chicago Outfit. Old Al Capone was always a little bit too big for his boots, even as a youngster.

    Joseph remembered the night of the fire and how he had singlehandedly brought Chicago to its knees. The insurance money paid the Santorini family thousands of dollars in the line of construction workers, brokers for re insurance, carpenters and blacksmiths and this meant that, in one foul swoop, the Santorini family became the richest overnight.

    Not that it didn’t come without a price. The flying cows were a peculiar complication. Wait a minute… why did he think that? There were no cows about that night, except for the ones on the O’Leary’s farm that he used as a ruse for setting the fire.
    It took the fire brigade three days to put out the fires. The dragon sure did a good job setting those fires. Wait, what? Dragons? Were there really dragons there? He was surely losing his mind.

    A scream pierced the hollow hallways. They were as hollow as the minds of the people who lived there. Every now and then you would hear banging or manic laughing. The nurse, a man by the name of Jeremiah, sighed. He looked into the vacant eyes of Joseph Santorini. This guy was one of the lucky ones, he thought as he turned Joseph onto his side. The family must have tons of money to be able to afford a bed at the Wispy Pines Institution. A stream of spittle ran down joseph’s cheek towards his ear. Jeremiah wiped the drool away. He left to tend to the other patients.

  10. @ beadanna7
    300 words
    Emcee; Dance Marathon; Tragedy

    He’s the Ringleader, He’s an Entertainer, He’s the Great Ringistainer

    “Folks, if you could move back and give them some air, that would be good.” The Great Ringistainer’s palms were sweaty, and the microphone kept slipping. The two participants left on the floor were gyrating madly, inches from each other, and somehow the flailing arms and legs had yet to collide. He glanced over at the latest fallen contestant, limbs still contorted in pain. He looked away, unable to bear watching, to see that the crowd had once again gathered closely around the remaining two.

    “People!” He implored. “Everyone, please!” But the fever pitch had risen to such a height, that no one heard him, even with the microphone. They were all focused on the final dance, eyes locked on the spectacle. The performers saw only each other. Sweat poured down their faces, straining to continue, though their muscles were cramping and their breath came painfully to their lungs.

    The champion would win an all access pass, allowing them to go anywhere in the world. It was worth dying for in a realm where status determined where you could be at any given moment, and every move you made was monitored. The lower classes competed every decade, the winner being allowed to share the prize with five people of their choosing for the entire time. An upgrade would be uploaded into each dancer’s microchip, which amended the existing protocol controlling the intensity of the electrical charge delivered when entering a forbidden zone.

    Two thrusting legs abruptly collapsed, and the other reached out, eyes wide, empathy pulling her features into a horrific mask as she offered support to her rival. Too late, sorrow took over as the other fell.

    The Ringistainer cringed and looked away, as a sizzle from the fallen dancer’s implant heralded her death.

    “And we have our winner!”

  11. @VicenteLRuiz
    300 words
    Police Detective; Paris; Crime

    The Hunt Begins

    “Monsieur Francis?” the guy said, showing his ID. Jean Parra, it said. He must have memorized my face.

    “Police Detective Francis, yes,” I said, flashing my own card for him. “Call me Alexei. Or Alex.”

    “Welcome to Paris, Monsieur,” he said, checking my papers. Obviously the guy wasn’t going to call me anything else. Oh well. “I have a car waiting for you.”

    “Can we go straight to the scene?” I asked. His car looked civilian, and he drove himself.

    “Certainly.” I noticed he had a portable police light, but he didn’t engage it. “Do you want me to update you in the case?” He passed me a tablet with a file.

    “Yes, why not. Perhaps the Brigade Criminelle has details we don’t in London.”

    “Female, between twenty-five and thirty. Brunette, one metre sixty-five. Wearing a red dress and heels when she was killed.” He jumped a red light without a sweat, and took a left. I grabbed the door handle.

    “She fits the bill.”

    “Strangled. Missing her toenails and one finger.”

    “Which finger?”

    “Middle one, left hand.”

    “Shit.” That’d make her victim number eight. Either there were two identical serial killers one on either side of the Channel, or my man had decided to visit Paris. “That actually helps…”


    “It helps. I’m almost sure it’s just one man. We can use this to search for him. He must have had to travel to Paris for some reason. And when he was here, he came across her, and couldn’t help himself. She sounds like his ideal victim.”

    “I see,” Parra said. “I’ll have my people search for recent travellers from Britain and see what we come up with.” He seamlessly took a sudden left turn and screeched to a halt. “We’re here.”


    I looked up. The Eiffel Tower?

  12. @davidlpogson
    300 words
    Criminal Mastermind; Chicago; Tragedy

    He Should Have Passed On It

    ‘He never listened. You know how he was.’

    ‘His greatest strength – ambition – was his greatest weakness. Should’ve stuck to what he knew best rather than risking everything.’

    They were in an office off Michigan Avenue. Outwardly, it was just like any other business meeting. Organised crime had moved upmarket.

    ‘He said he was thinking big. With so much cash coming in from the rackets, he needed other ways to launder it.’

    ‘If he’d stuck to bars, restaurants, clubs like always he’d have been OK. Or maybe investing in one-off film projects. God knows but those Hollywood guys seem to get away with murder every time they finance a turkey. Going into TV was a big mistake.’

    ‘Yeah. It was one thing to finance the project with dirty money that you got for nothing and then sell the series on for clean money, albeit at a loss. The clean money was always what you were after. But it was something else again to keep losing big money on production costs every week of every year and not make the fraud guys suspicious.’

    ‘I ask you? A quiz show based on the Brits’ ‘Mastermind’ but with large cash prizes? It never worked for dumbed-down American audiences. And greedy, trying to fix it for the contestants to lose to avoid paying out the prize money. Denying some brainiac the win on a technicality after the cops set him up to enter with the specialist subject of ‘American Gangsters’? That was like setting a criminal mastermind to catch a criminal mastermind. That guy could smell a racket from a mile off.’

    ‘You know what the real tragedy is? He’s sitting in Cook County now, being forced to watch re-runs of those old shows as part of a rehab programme. That’s rough justice.’

      1. I do this as part of the service, Dave, since bold, italics, etc. formatting is lost (unless you know how to use HTML attributes…).
        It would help me, though, if you — and everyone else — used a semi-colon and a space to separate your chosen elements: e.g. Criminal Mastermind; Chicago; Tragedy, in your case.

  13. 294 words
    Criminal Mastermind; Caribbean Island; Tragedy

    When the Cicadas Started Screaming

    For almost a minute after I came to my senses, I couldn’t remember where I was, and how I came to be there. Every square inch of my body ached, and I realized that I was blindfolded, with my hands tied behind my back. First came the surprise, and then, sheer terror.

    I ran my tied hands across the coarse wooden floor and discovered that I wasn’t very far from a rough plywood wall. I slid across, leaning against it. My head throbbed so fiercely, I felt like it was on fire. I couldn’t make out anything through the blindfold but could hear the trees rustling gently in the cool sea breeze. I could hear the cicadas chirping, and the sea waves ebbing.

    The last thing that I remembered was having a drink with Luis, a cute local I’d met. But he couldn’t have been the guy behind all of this. He was so sweet, so helpful. It seemed so probable, but I couldn’t bring myself to believe it.

    Just as I was wondering how long I’d been there, I heard a door open, not quite far from where I sat on the cold wood. A switch clicked, and the blindfold was removed. Right in front of me, crouched on the floor in the dim yellow light, was Luis, a pistol in his hand.

    He grinned, his breath reeking of alcohol. “Luckily for you,” he said, “I had quite a good day today. So I’ll make it quick.” He pointed the pistol at my forehead and clicked the bullet into place. Outside, the trees had stopped rustling, and the cicadas had started screaming. I too, tried to, but no sound came out.

    The gunshot was the last thing that I heard before the darkness descended.

  14. 300 words
    Emcee; Paris; Tragedy

    The Final Beat Drops

    “I sing my way up through the walls
    Callin’ my name, shouting my cause
    Happy to be alive, just where I am
    Talkin’ to myself, instead of holdin’ it in
    I might sound crazy to anyone who hears
    But that’s their fault for their pryin’ ears
    So don’t talk to me when I’m talkin’ to myself
    I’mma keep it clear I don’t need anybody else”

    The final beat drops.

    Choruses of ‘Nous t’aimons!!’ erupt all around the arena. I grin at the reaction of my depart.

    Hugging Jay on the way to the backstage lounge, he speed walks along with me.

    “Man, they love you.” His voice comes out sincere and tired.

    “Yeah. Thanks for coming out, Jay. It was a good performance.”

    We duck around two serious-faced backstage staff, giving them nods.

    Jay smiles, “No, Cee. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

    I stop. “Thanks.”

    He turns to face me. “Yeah.”

    “Uh, huh. How’s family?”

    “Fine.” I know that tone.

    “Monsieur,” another voice cuts in, “your fans are waiting.”

    “Just a sec. What do you mean, ‘fine’? Last I talked, mama was sick.”

    “It’s all good.”

    “Stop with the short answers. Give it all.”

    “We can talk about this later.”

    “No, we can’t. I know when something’s up. I’ve been gone awhile. Tell me.”

    “Monsieur, fans are waiting.”

    “Just give me a damn minute! Frickin’ spit it out, Jay. What’s up?”

    “Mama’s gone! That’s what up. You happy? I came for your stupid show to tell you. Phone calls are hard. Real hard.”

    I feel my final beat drop.
    I slam into the wall. The bodyguard rushes to help me, but I push him away.
    “Leave me be.” Tears fall.
    Jay looks at me, and I finally see the pain in his eyes. They mirror mine.

  15. 255 words
    Catholic Priest; Boer War; Tragedy

    Pomp and Circumstance

    October 19th, 1902

    Finally. Five months later, and I get to write again. It’s ended, but now I have heard those words:

    “Father, you’re the chaplain! Whatever happened to the funeral?”

    Look, I’m a human being; I feel pain like everyone else. The only way to regain my composure is to wait it out, pray, assist in negotiations with the monarchy, pray some more, and then spill my thoughts onto paper.

    See, I experienced, with God as my witness, total victory. We sieged a few cities occupied by the British in our republic. They wouldn’t know what they were doing with their ragtag bunch of arms because they stampeded all over our homes. In fact, our newly-upgraded rifles, and our guerilla warfare for good measure, were a hit for everyone, so they would have to teach them a lesson. And there wouldn’t be a snowball’s chance in Hell that those heretic Britons would be saved.

    But I was wrong. Just when you would think that they’ve surrendered, those Uitlanders wouldn’t stop marching in. Their soldiers, like clones, charged in droves.

    This is what we have now: Our precious gold mines — shut down. Our constitutional liberty — gone. My fellow countrymen — disappeared (they could be imprisoned solely because of their existence, for all I care). And 14,000 of my comrades — slain. I’m praying to God, Mother Mary — well, all the saints that they’re not in Hell. If they are, their coffins would be much heavier to bear.

    Yep, so much for those promises of our self-government…

  16. @firdausp
    299 words
    Extraterrestrial; Caribbean Island; Tragedy


    Come fast, she called in his head. He immediately dropped the fishing net he was mending and stood up. His little human friend gave him a quizzical glance. He explained with hand gestures. A white grin cut the man’s face, “The baby!” He nodded, pumping his fist in the air and started down a road ribbonning its way along the ocean to his tiny village on the other side of the island, far away from the large city with a bulging population; toxic air and poisonous ocean.
    Thoughts of vengeance melted away as she called again, this time urgently. He quickened his pace, his vest stuck to his back, slippers slapping against his feet. The tarmac felt sticky as he sprinted.
    She started wailing. He kept talking to her as he ran. I’m coming, I’m coming.
    Grey clouds mushroomed on the horizon, like the ocean had climbed up the sky. The buzz in his head grew louder; the whispers of the elders – sighs and cries. He blocked them out only keeping her with him. She was silent as he reached the village.
    He squinted into the dark hut, saw her huddled on the cot with a bundle cradled in her arms. She wasn’t crying anymore, just looked at him and shook her head. He sank to the mud floor, face in his hands, and wept.
    He carried his son for the fifth and probably last time to the resting place. A bunch of elders followed him in the rain. She didn’t come this time.
    For miles there were large and small bumps on the ground, more small ones. He dug a hole and laid his son to rest; another small bump. He looked at the skyline of the city; the towering skyscrapers. The storm was just breaking out.

  17. 44 words
    War Correspondent; Chicago; Tragedy


    Once I found out, I told General Jameson to abort the mission of destroying my long-time Chicago hometown, as the aerial bomb obliterated the largely-populated, yet unaware war zone in a deadly sneak attack.
    Too late.
    I haven’t heard from anyone I love since.

    1. Short and grim, Arianna – like a deadly sneak attack.
      But I don’t see how a war correspondent – someone assigned to a war zone to report on events – would have the authority to tell a general to abandon an attack; plead with maybe?
      [ Apologies, Arianna! This submission was so short that I must have mistaken it for a reply to another entry. I’ve asked the judge to consider it at short notice. ]

      1. No problem! And yes, now that you said that, it doesn’t make that much since. ‘Plead with’ would’ve definitely been better. I’ve got to start checking and revising things like that! 🙂

  18. @GeoffHolme
    179 words
    Catholic Priest; Chicago; Biography

    I Did It My Way: The Biography of a Reluctant Catholic

    Chapter Two – The Chicago Years

    Roberto the altar boy makes his way to the confessional.
    “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I’ve… I’ve been with a loose girl.”
    “Is that you, Roberto Ortelli?”
    “‘Yes, Father, it is.”
    “And who was the girl you were with?”
    “Cain’t tell ya, Father. Wouldn’t wanna ruin her reputation.”
    “Elmwood Park is a small suburb, Roberto. I’ll find out her name sooner or later. You may as well tell me now.”
    Silence ensues.
    “Was it Maria Bernadetti?”
    “I cain’t say.”
    “Was it Francesca Romano?”
    “Don’t make me tell ya, Father.”
    “Gioia Cicone?”
    “Sorry, Father, but I just caint give ya her name.”
    “Alessandra Piriano perhaps?”
    “Wild horses wouldn’t–”
    “Sofia Conti, then?”
    “Please, Father. I already said I caint tell ya.”
    The priest sighs. “Your discretion is admirable, my boy, but you must atone for your sin. You cannot act as altar boy for three months. Now go and behave yourself.”
    Roberto walks contritely back to his pew. His friend Salvatore slides over and whispers, “What’d you get?”
    “Three months’ vacation… and five good leads!”

  19. 298 words
    Criminal Mastermind; Chicago; Tragedy

    You Must be 21 to Have 20-20 Vision in the 21 Club

    Glass of wine had a pulse. Candle danced and shattered the darkness with child-like flickers, soft hands catching radiant blankets of moonlight.

    There were drops of blood on the table. Each drop a note to some moment lost in time: Occasion they walked down the Seine holding hands and whistling between bites of bread ripped from the carcass of a loaf. Morning coffee startled with wired intensity sending electrical currents to ticking bombs made of flesh and routine.

    The paramedics came at midnight. They took glass, half full, and hooked it to an apparatus. “It’s best to let it breathe.” They let it gently swim in their hands.

    She waited patiently, watching the clock on the wall unravel the night as if it were a sweater made of silken dark thread. She tapped her finger, then stopped. She liked to be original. Liked sound of her own thoughts pushing her eyes toward the ceiling where a fan turned, cutting them to pieces.

    His body had been destroyed with hope—transformed—it clung to his bones like a poem written on a bathroom wall. But he was determined to arrive intact. With a smooth finish. Slightly tart.

    Ambulance pulled up and brought glass into famous Chicago restaurant Lou Malanti’s and placed it across from the woman. She smiled. Her lips agreed with her irrational desires. Her tongue glazed her words.

    “What year is it?”

    “I think it’s a Jeroboam of Château Mouton-Rothschild 1945,” the paramedics responded.

    She gestured them away.

    From inside, I saw her face. It had a red hue. Dark. Like a wound frozen over with anger. Then her hand swatted. I splattered against the wall. I made the outline of a heart. She put her glasses on to get a better look. Then took them off, and ordered.

    1. A modern day T.S. Eliot! And, like his work, I love it — the rhythm of the words, the lights and shadows and the mystery of meaning; but, as with Eliot, I get to the end and have not a clue what it is about!!
      It is like a painting that is full of intrigue and story but one longs for the artist to be there to explain it all! I am really hoping that this author may do just that!
      Thank you.

  20. 295 words
    Criminal Mastermind; Chicago; Tragedy

    In the Deep Dish

    Lord Farquaad: I’m not the monster here, you are.

    Criminal Con Chicago at McCormick Place! I can’t believe I’m here! What to do first? Attend the villain monologue workshop, visit the supervillain weapon demonstrations, or walk the general convention floor.

    Nikola Tesla’s death ray demonstration makes the decision easy. I hear it comes with its own free dirigible for remote destruction fun! Once I have mine, I’ll be the envy of my online Criminal Mastermind!

    What a demonstration! All electronics in the range of the ray are toast. More effective than a Samsung exploding battery.

    On the convention floor, the crowd is heavy and rude (they are all criminals, you know) but I feel light owning my own deadly airship! If they knew my plans and genius, all these fools would bow down to me! So many gadgets and potential minions, but none like my new death ray.

    Tonight’s dinner will be the first time our group has been together. Wait until they hear my plan for using the death ray. World domination is mine!

    We are off to Geno’s Best Chicago Pizza. I can’t wait to have some authentic Chicago Deep Dish Pizza! The restaurant has a rustic industrial atmosphere and smells of garlic. We ordered a pizza feast befitting a group of evil geniuses.

    While waiting for our food, our conversation turns to world domination, like always. I tell them about my new toy and they can’t wait to see the death ray in action. Do I tell them my plans?

    Before I can decide, the waiters return, carrying our pizzas to the table. I can’t wait to taste authentic Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. The waiters leave the trays and walk away.

    That’s when I notice the horror! The pizza is thin crust!

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