Thanks to all who submitted to Microcosms 145. We had 20 entries this time. A warm welcome to first-time entrants Paula Puolakka, Kelsey Gallo and Donald Pearl, and welcome back to old pals, Firdaus Parvez and Richard Edenfield.
Please keep returning to Microcosms, and retweet / spread the word about this contest among your followers and friends.
Don’t forget that Microcosms exists primarily to provide a platform for the flash fiction community to hone their skills, and secondarily to give entrants a chance of receiving an accolade from that week’s judge. We also have the vote button for anyone, not just fellow entrants, to register their favourite/favorite(s) and thus establish a Community Pick.
We encourage everyone to reply with a positive comment to any and all of the entries AT ANY TIME: It’s good to have feedback.
MC 144 Community Pick, Bill Engleson, kindly agreed to act as judge for this contest. Here’s what he had to say:
As I explained to Geoff when I accepted his offer to judge episode numero ciento cuarenta y cinco of ‘As the Microcosmic World Turns’, Canada has finally made the big marijuana leap into legalization. I promised him that this momentous social experiment will not in any way affect the rational, thoughtful mind I bring to my occasional judicial renderings.
Finding enough time this weekend will be awkward. On my Island of 1000 souls, we have a lot going on. Saturday night, The Rocky Horror Picture Show comes to life with a twist…or so I’m told.
Sunday afternoon, there will be readings from Dancing in Gumboots – click HERE.
I’m not even going to mention that I have to go to the recycling center on Saturday morning. Or that Saturday is also municipal election day in British Columbia.
So, against that monumental backdrop, and a wealth of excellent contributions — twenty to be exact — here goes…
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Frank Key – 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.
Ted Young – “Oh, Father, it’s tragic… My genius stomped the hell out of my talent.”
Paula Puolakka – “He spent his days pondering and 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.
Steve Lodge – Also, never tickle a person who has diarrhoea.
Tim Hayes – The most honest profession I’ve come across so far, is a life of crime.
Leslie Turrell – The next clip shows men changing nappies, typing, and even cleaning toilets.
Geoff Le Pard – His eyes focused on the spot where they’d stopped him; when they told him Janice was dead in his arms.
Alysia Ascovani – Her ambrosial laugh taunted him as her fingers traced his jawbone.
Angelique Pacheco – A stream of spittle ran down joseph’s cheek towards his ear.
Deanna Salser – The Ringistainer cringed and looked away, as a sizzle from the fallen dancer’s implant heralded her death.
Vicente L Ruiz – Either there were two identical serial killers one on either side of the Channel, or my man had decided to visit Paris.
David Lewis Pogson – If he’d stuck to bars, restaurants, clubs like always, he’d have been OK.
Muskan Dhiman – Outside, the trees had stopped rustling, and the cicadas had started screaming.
Arianna Hammond – I might sound crazy to anyone who hears / But that’s their fault for their pryin’ ears…
Kelsey Gallo – Look, I’m a human being; I feel pain like everyone else.
Firdaus Parvez – Grey clouds mushroomed on the horizon, like the ocean had climbed up the sky.
Arianna Hammond – I haven’t heard from anyone I love since.
Geoff Holme – “Three months’ vacation… and five good leads!”
Richard Edenfield – His body had been destroyed with hope—transformed—it clung to his bones like a poem written on a bathroom wall.
Donald Pearl – While waiting for our food, our conversation turns to world domination, like always.
Special Mention – for Taking a Pretty Old Joke and Almost Making it as Funny as it Once Was
Geoff Holme – I Did It My Way: The Biography of a Reluctant Catholic
I’m not Catholic. Not even a lapsed Catholic. But I swear I have heard this one before, or something like it. Maybe in an old movie with Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable…when they were kids, before Gable became a gangster and Tracy a priest? Tracy always made a great priest. Anyways, a floppy-eared young Gable lookalike conning a Priest into revealing the names of girls in the parish who might be a little…can I say loose?
Okay! Maybe it isn’t an old joke. That would make the joke on me…In any event, the Catholic Church could do with a reboot, even if by Hollywood.
OK, Bill, you got me; I’m here under false pretences. It IS a thinly-disguised old joke. I too later felt uncomfortable about using the term ‘loose’ in this context, so apologies to anyone who felt offended by this. Perhaps I should seek absolution — mea culpa, mea maxima culpa… [GH]
Frank Key – The Pink Line Affair
This little ditty moves along at a frenetic pace. I almost got lost in the story until the ending sort of whacked me across the head and said…eureka, I get it, it’s a tribute to the recently departed Neil Simon and his funny tale, ‘The Out-of-Towners’ (1970) which starred Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis.
Perhaps I have this wrong. Some details vary. Nevertheless, visiting the big city, any big city, is fraught with unexpected perils…as is any attempt by me to judge a flash fiction story without finding a movie reference.
Angelique Pacheco – Past Best Remembered
When I have the opportunity to judge flash, I am often drawn to stories that befuddle me. It doesn’t take much. Of course, the befuddling is best served with a double dollop of appeal, of intrigue, or humour. Even though it may not actually be a ‘travelling back in time’ story — a la Jack Finney’s illustrated novel ‘Time and Again’ — that is the sense I get from it, even if all it is the hallucinating memory of old Joseph Santorini.
This doesn’t explain the “flying cows” or “the dragon(s)” but then I don’t need to know everything. I’ll just sit here at my computer, notice the stream of spittle running down my cheek and…wonder.
Muskan Dhiman – When the Cicadas Started Screaming
It’s a dangerous world. Tourists need to be alert. (I sense a theme developing.) That, of course, can get in the way of having fun. So can being murdered. This brief fable takes us on a well-trodden path. Both filmed renderings of ‘And Soon the Darkness’ (though I prefer the 1970 version with Pamela Franklin) and the 2006 tourist-porn epic, ‘Touristas’ are prime examples to those who travel that they had better take care. And beware of ‘cute’ locals. They’re the worst.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 145.
(insert drumroll here)
Alysia Ascovani – Vermilion Elixir
Criminal Mastermind; Paris; Thriller
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 passers-by. 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.
Geoff Le Pard – When Holding On Is All You Can Do
I was twenty-two when the film, ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’ came out. I wasn’t yet ready to be overwhelmed and depressed, but I fell into its cinematic trap. I mean, the year before, Jane Fonda had impressed me with her artistic flexibility in ‘Barbarella’. But I was young and thick. If you have shooting horses in the title, I guess they’re telegraphing you a serious message. ‘TSH, DY?’ was a downer. But, on the upside, it also gave me a sense of the Great Depression that I had never had…up to then.
This entry captures some of that sorrow, that despair, the rush. There are other things going on in the story that escape me, but it gets my benefit of the doubt…and the golden ring, this week.
Emcee; Dance Marathon; Tragedy
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…’
Congratulations, Geoff. As Judge’s Pick, you are invited to judge the next round of Microcosms this coming weekend. Please click HERE to let us know whether or not you are interested!