Thanks to all who submitted to Microcosms 150. We had 15 entries this time. A warm welcome to first-time entrants, Sarah Mosedale and Flora Mack.
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 149 Judge’s Pick, Geoff Le Pard, kindly agreed to act as judge for this contest. Here’s what he had to say:
As usual it has been a pleasure to read your takes on the varied prompts. Many of you embraced space and retirement homes in a blur of reminiscence and forgetfulness. Some left to it to dialogue, others embraced a tight paragraph of description. It is extraordinary how the minds of you guys work. Keep up the good work.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Bill Engleson – The Government of Canada had banned executions of unworthy, incurable felons, but there was a market, folks who wanted some professional assistance to cross over.
Alva Holland – I saw Buzz.’ ‘I had a buzzsaw once.’
Steve Lodge – Not since the Last Executioner was himself beheaded by Madaxe the Saxon around 1115, although some say it was as late as two in the afternoon.
Stephanie Cornelius – There were many weird and wonderful dumb animals on the planet.
Sarah Mosedale – Nothing to worry about for any farm girl who’d ever handled a Massey Ferguson!
Angelique Pacheco – “Nice asteroids,” he whispered as he flinched, waiting for the next blow. She started laughing.
Tim Hayes – I enjoyed a long and interesting career up until capital punishment was abolished.
Frank Key – “But you look more like RuPaul having a really bad day.”
Ted Young – They’d had quite enough of ‘Living-with-Arthritis’ or ‘Making-Flowers-out-of-Paper-Napkins’ type speakers.
Flora Mack – The only thing in the damn box was that disgusting astronaut ice cream.
Vicente L Ruiz – A horse grazed in a field beyond, oblivious to the deadly tool made by men.
Alysia Ascovani – From inside the building, I see the wall perfectly intact.
David Lewis Pogson – ‘This isn’t exactly what I thought that you had in mind when you asked for a favour.’
Flora Mack – The old woman had died of a heart attack last year at the ripe old age of 86. Gabriel found this hard to believe, since his mother seemed to have no heart.
Deanna Salser – Nosy old fart.
Alva Holland – Floating In A Most Peculiar Way
For ‘Most Psychedelic Dialogue of the Week’.
Flora Mack – Canary Yellow
For creepiest tale … and a warning to check the contents of a strange fridge.
Deanna Salser – In Which One Old Man Gets The Last Laugh
For leaving me confused, but in a good way.
Alysia Ascovani – Operatic Death
This kept me guessing. The song led me in directions I don’t think the author intended, but left me thinking how one story can have different meanings. The ending was nicely pitched.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 150.
(insert drumroll here)
It’s a tie!
Bill Engleson – Hangnail Harry
Executioner; Retirement Home; Comedy
After 1962, my Grandpappy was at loose ends for a few years. There was little call for his line of work. None in fact. But he was a resourceful man. A good family man.
Death was still inevitable for all of us. The Government of Canada had banned executions of unworthy, incurable felons, but there was a market, folks who wanted some professional assistance to cross over.
He learned that by a few years of drivin’ taxi. The stories people would tell! It got him to thinking.
I’d sit on his lap whenever my folks would take me to visit him at the Home, the place where he finally ended up, the Sweet Slumber Lodge, and he’d talk up a storm.
“Well, I’ll tell ya, little Harry the Third” he’d say quite often, “I was real surprized. The number of folks, all poisoned up with cancer, with the brain tumors, with the psoriasis and other unpleasant skin malignancies…they were tickled pink to hire Hangnail Harry to send them on their way. Course, I had to learn a few new tricks…I mean, you can’t take a portable gallows along with ya. I figured that out pretty darn quick, let me tell ya.”
It worked out pretty good for him. He didn’t become a millionaire. I’m not saying that, but he socked away quite a boodle. Enough to afford the $3,000.00 a month that Sweet Slumber cost.
Believe it or not, he was still providing his unique service. “Don’t say a word, little Harry the Third,” he’d whisper to me when my folks wandered outside to have a ciggie, “Don’t say a word, but I’m making a little pocket change practicing my art with a few of the folks here who’ve had just about enough of Sweet Slumber.”
And I said nada.
Alva Holland – Floating in a Most Peculiar Way
Astronaut; Retirement Home; Comedy
‘Ground control to Major Alastair.’
‘Eh? I think that’s Tom, mate.’
‘Who’s Tom? Is he a new guy?’
‘No, Tom’s the guy in the song – Major Tom.’
‘I knew a Tom once, but he was a minor, never reached major. Couldn’t hit the note.’
‘Excuse me, is this chair free?’
‘You’re the astronaut, you tell me.’
‘Giant steps are what you take, walking on the moon.’
‘Who said that?’
‘Sang it more like – That Sting guy – he hoped his legs wouldn’t break, walking on the moon.’
‘Why would his legs break?’
‘Have you tried walking on the moon?’
‘No-one. Alastair is telling a story.’
‘I saw him moon-walking, during a performance of Billie Jean.’
‘Michael – the one and only moon-walker.’
‘But I thought Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin…’
‘Strong arm of the law is what they need to cut that buzzing out.’
‘I remember what I was doing when it happened.’
‘What? The Michael moonwalk?’
‘No, the actual moon walk – I saw Buzz.’
‘I had a buzzsaw once – dangerous bugger it was too. Wife made me get rid.’
‘OK, we’re doing well now. We’ve got almost two full storylines. Well done, guys.’
‘I love this creative writing class they do here on a Wednesday, don’t you, Alastair?’
‘No, that’s Michael, and Buzz and Neil.’
‘Our character development is really coming along. Great job.’
‘When do we get published?’
‘The Ready-Steady-Rest Home Monthly Newsletter comes out on the 1st. Your stories will be in there.’
‘Fantastic! What’s next?’
‘Dance class with another Michael – the Flatley guy.’
‘Oh! Bit of an oddity that one. Cry me a River dance sort of thing?’
‘Something like that, Alastair. Are you ready?’
‘Ready to rock, ready to roll, ready to rest.’
‘Can you hear us, Major Tom?’
Vicente L Ruiz – Last Trip
It took a couple of reads for me to place the neat and nasty twisting in the story, the confusion in both the Sheriff and the condemned man. And the ending was great. Most enjoyable.
Executioner; Ghost Town; Western
“You Gilchrist?” the sheriff asked.
“Yes. You must be Sheriff Kinghorn,” Dillon said.
Kinghorn nodded and stared at him.
“Have we met?” he said.
“No, sir,” it happens, Dillon thought. Unavoidable. “Can you show me the gallows, sir?”
“The gallows, yes, certainly. By the jail. Behind it, in fact. For the ladies.”
“Fainted. We moved it down there.”
They walked in silence until they reached the jail, then down a narrow passageway beside it. The gallows stood in a plain. A horse grazed in a field beyond, oblivious to the deadly tool made by men.
Dillon Gilchrist, executioner, examined the stairs, the platform, the beams. He even took one of the stools, positioned it under the beam, and producing a length of rope from his satchel, threw it up and round it. He grabbed both ends and leaped.
Gilchrist was a large man, powerfully built. The beam didn’t even creak. He nodded. He picked up his rope and walked down the stairs. He checked his fob watch.
“One hour,” he said. “Is your man ready, sheriff?”
“I’ll be here,” Dillon said.
There’s always a crowd at a hanging. Be it large or small, there’s always a crowd. He checked everything one last time. Rope, knot, stool, knife. He was ready.
He noticed the change in the people before he even saw the convict. They wanted blood. Well, so to speak. Revenge? Retribution? Simply justice?
Dillon stared at the man brought forward. Gareth Dunbar. One full head smaller than him. As usual, Dillon filtered everything out. He ignored the whimpering laments, the speeches, the last pledge. The woman who claimed to be a widow.
On cue, he kicked the stool.
Gareth Dunbar stood, laughing.
It was always the same, wasn’t it?
“No. That’s why I’m here.”
Congratulations, Vicente. 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!