Microcosms 164

It’s Friday, flash fictioneers! Y’all ready for some Friday flash fiction fun? Then welcome to Microcosms 164.



(1) You have just 24 hours until midnight, today (Friday) New York time (EST) to write and submit your masterpiece.
(2) All submissions must be no more than 300 words in length (excluding the title)
(4) Include: word count, the 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 

We’re well past the US National Hat Day (05-JAN), but this week I’ve had to wear many hats.

On Monday, Mrs H. went into hospital for surgery on her shoulder. Although she was home again the same day, her right arm will be in a sling for 6-8 weeks! Consequently, I’ve had to address many of the tasks that my long-suffering, put-upon better half normally sees to, as well as my allotted chores.

Valet – Hats off to you gals! Helping my wife dress is an education: I find it hard to cope with those fiddly hooks and eyes on bras even when they are right there in front of me…
Dog Walker – I normally walk Bess in the evening; now I have to walk Bess and Mimi in the mornings too…
Cook – A takeaway delivery guy appeared at the door Thursday evening with an order we hadn’t placed; this could be an omen!
Stoker – We have a wood-burning stove; I clean it out, build the fire, light it and keep it supplied with fuel, while Mrs H. reclines on the sofa.
Lumberjack – Some of the logs we get are too chunky and need to be split. (Careful with that axe, Eugene!)
Computer Technician – Still getting to grips with the new laptop; now the old one where all my files are refuses to charge… Aaarrgh!!


(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:

Cook; Dressing Room; Comedy

Write a story using those OR feel free to click on the “Spin!” button below, 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.


  • Valet
  • Dog Walker
  • Cook
  • Stoker
  • Lumberjack
  • Computer Technician
  • Dressing Room
  • Park
  • Kitchen
  • Engine
  • Forest
  • Office
  • Memoir
  • Drama
  • Comedy
  • Steampunk
  • Fairy Tale
  • Crime



Last week’s Judge’s Pick, Deanna Salser, has kindly agreed to act as the judge this time around.

All being well, results will be posted next Monday.

Microcosms 165
Microcosms 163

16 thoughts on “Microcosms 164

  1. @steveweave71
    300 words
    Cook; Dressing Room; Comedy

    French Quiching in the FFD

    “….and here’s a darling little tip from Maudie, phoning in from Peramattoo. She says that if guests arrive unexpectedly at your home, relax them with a French Quiche before making them a coffee. Further, Maudie is prepared to travel anywhere in the region to demonstrate her “French” as she calls it. Listeners, you know what to do.

    “Radio FFD. It’s noon o’clock. Now, I’m here in our green room for one of the heats of Cook The Cook, the new much-needed cookery show on Severance Channel 3 TV. The 27 heats around the region are traditionally done on radio, with the winners going into the Grand Final Steak-Off on TV. A cookery show on radio is even more interesting, because not only can you not taste or smell the food like on TV, but on radio, you can’t see it either. Don’t ask, listeners, just don’t ask.

    “I’m judging this heat. Our contestants are Mike Rowave from Sparrowditch, Lilette Boneshaker from Blackwatch and Jimmy Legs, who lives in a caravan. So, Mike. What you cooking up for us today?”

    “Well, Cynthia, my Mama taught me this when I was young. It’s soup-on-a-stick.”

    “Oh my, Mike. That sounds messy. I’m glad I don’t have to clean the green room after all this. Now, Lilette, what foodoo extravaganza will you be delighting me with?”

    “This ain’t a green room. It’s not green at all?”

    “Haha, well spotted, Lilette. It’s our dressing room. It’s called the green room because it’s where we rest before and after the show. Now get on with it. Your dish, please?”

    “A cake you can eat in the shower.”

    “What? Oh, lovely. Looking forward to that, too. Jimmy? I’m scared to ask.”

    “Traditional gypsy recipe, Cynthia. Broth of otter, badger and hedgehog.”

    “Cut. Cut. Er..time for the news.”

  2. http://www.engleson.ca
    300 words
    Dog Walker; Forest; Comedy

    Dog Nights – In the Failing Forest Light

    We have no streetlights here. When the sun goes down, all we have are the stars and the fickle moon. Rustic doesn’t begin to cover it. Still, it was peaceful, or woulda been, but for the by-law.


    Just dogs.

    Who woulda thought we wanted or needed a pooch proclamation?

    The village had died. Our key industry, the Squirrel Falls Shake and Shingle Lumber Mill, incorporated in 1946, shut down. Young people left. The economic heart of the community fizzled. That is, until Felix Limburger, perpetual Mayoralty candidate, had a whizbang of an idea.

    “City folks. They’re always lookin’ for a second home. We got a bucketful of empties. Let’s sell our soul!”

    So, we made that deal with the Real Estate devil.

    Actually, Marge Mayhew, who’d been raised in Squirrel Falls, was hardly a devil.

    Marge had her moments back when she was a teen but two episodes of flashing at the General Store hardly count.

    Unless you’re counting.

    A few malcontents still counted her adolescent exploits against Marge.

    Others reflected on her unusually fine form.

    Back then.

    Anyways, Marge knew her business.

    Did one of those website things.

    Pretty skookum.

    And they came.

    Mostly retirees.

    And not just looking for a second home, a getaway place. No sirree, bob. These were serious folk. Seeking permanence.

    Which would have been fine if they had curtailed their city ways.

    Some had dogs of course. Little bitty things. Smaller than cats, mostly.

    Most of us who’ve lived here forever have big dogs.

    Real dogs.

    Well, in time, we were outnumbered by the newbies.

    And occasionally, one of them got bit.

    And mauled.


    “This has got to stop,” they said.

    “Need a law,” they said.

    “Walk ‘em in the forest,” the new law said.

    “And only at night.”

    “Damnation,” I said.

  3. @KathrynFlanner3
    293 words
    Cook; Kitchen; Crime

    Hot in the Kitchen Tonight

    The man at table 10 gave the waiter a nod. The waiter paled slightly and returned the gesture slowly without losing eye contact.
    Although the restaurant was full, it felt as though they were the only two in the room.
    The young man turned and slipped through the double doors into the steaming, bustling kitchen. He stood for a minute letting his eyes scan. Nervous statements of “yes, chef!” bounced back and forth as a team of junior cooks rallied around the serving area, fussing over the last minute plating up of dishes ready to go out.
    Sweat beaded on his brow as he waited until the Sous-Chef turned to face his direction. It didn’t take long for the chef to spot him – he stood out just by standing still amid the passing to-and-fro of fellow wait staff.
    Nothing needed saying. The Sous-Chef turned to the gas hobs and placed his hand on the handle of a pan that was still greasy from frying steak. He moved the pan back and forth, the way all professionals do when they are sautéing vegetables in a wok, flipping the contents so they heat evenly.
    Flames leaped up to the vents over the stoves, disappearing up into the ceiling. A shout went up as the nearest person realised what was happening. Cries of “get the extinguishers!” and “push the fire alarm!” sounded. Wait staff ran into the restaurant and began getting the attention of diners, calling them to the nearest exits.
    In the exodus, three figures merged with the crowd and turned to watch. Slowly they drew towards each other and slipped to the back of the frightened melee.
    “Job done, boys. You’ll get a cut of the insurance,” said the man from table 10.

  4. 299 words
    Dog Walker; Park; Steampunk

    A Walk in the Park

    There was a knock at the door. I’d been waiting in all morning for this moment so I rushed to answer it.

    ‘Are you expecting a delivery, Sir? I believe I have a parcel for you from Ponsonby Pets.’

    The deliveryman went round to the back of his truck and came back a few moments later, struggling under the weight of a large package. With a sigh he settled the package on my doorstep.

    ‘Please sign here.’

    Somewhat at a Ioss, I signed the proffered clipboard and took possession of an unexpected package. I admit that I was confused about the situation. I’d been expecting a representative from Ponsonby Pets, not a mysterious package. After dragging it into my front room I unwrapped it to discover an ungainly four-legged contraption, festooned with straps, just a little larger than my dog.

    I decided to phone the pet store to find out what was going on.

    ‘I’ve just taken delivery of a strange contraption sent from your store, I’m a little confused as I was expecting a representative to call.’

    ‘Let me check our records, Sir.’ There was a pause. ‘Yes, that’s right, you were one of the lucky customers to be selected for our new dog walking service. We’ve sent you one of our new patented dog walkers. All you have to do is strap your pet into the exoskeleton, program in the co-ordinates for the park of your choice, and set the length of walk required. You can then leave the rest up to the machine. It will walk your dog to the park and then take it for a leisurely stroll all without you having to leave the comfort of your own home. Welcome to the wonderful world of dog walking in the twenty-first century.’

  5. 300 words
    Lumberjack: Office; Comedy

    A Tall Tale of the Troublesome Tree Terminators

    The call came at 8:31 a.m.
    “Is that Tim?”
    “Of ‘Troublesome Tree Terminators’?”
    “Hi, I’m Elaine. I have a job for you.”
    Elaine gave me an address. I was puzzled when she began with ’14th Floor.’ But I remained professional. When she’d finished, I simply said, “We’ll be there.”
    I turned to the guys and told them to get in the truck.
    “We’ve a tree to terminate,” I said.
    “Yee-hah,” they replied.
    Elaine met us outside the lift on the 14th floor of an expensive-looking office building. We stood around her.
    ‘You’re all so tall,” she observed.
    “Yes, we are,” I said.
    “And you’re carrying such big chainsaws.”
    “Tools of the trade.”
    “Okay,” Elaine said, “but would you mind if we could be a little discreet. This is an office, after all. Burly men like you, with what some may regard as, well, instruments for inflicting major damage, could upset some of our workers.”
    I stared at the guys.
    “‘Discreet’ means ‘be careful’,” I told them. They nodded in appreciation of my superior knowledge. “Got it?”
    “Got it,” they confirmed.
    I smiled down at Elaine. “Follow me,” she said.
    We passed through an open plan work area. People in ties and silk blouses stared at us. Maybe they hadn’t seen lumberjacks before.
    Elaine took us into a room in the corner. It had a desk, chair, computer, and …
    “Sequoiadendron giganteum,” I uttered, with a certain amount of awe.
    “Woah!” the guys said.
    Elaine cleared her throat. “We’ve let the office plant get a little out of control, haven’t we?”
    I stepped forward and touched the tree with reverence.
    “A giant redwood. Don’t worry, Elaine. We’ll terminate it with respect.”
    “I’ll leave you to it, then,” Elaine replied, exiting the room as we started revving our chainsaws.

  6. 300 words
    Computer Technician; Office; Crime

    When Paths Cross

    Not all psychopaths are the same. They’re not all axe-murderers. The condition varies with each case. Many hold down jobs, raise families and enjoy a seemingly normal life without anyone guessing that they’re different from other people. You probably know a few without realising it.

    The new boss was one. Others in the office never realised. They thought that he was just a bad manager. He lied and cheated. He had favourites, especially amongst the young impressionable women whom he targeted. He identified enemies amongst those who challenged him and bullied them. He had no empathy for those struggling. He stole good ideas and blamed others for his bad ones. And there were lots of bad ones. As a typical psychopath, although towards the middle of the spectrum, he had a distorted view of reality, meaning that he was always right and everyone else was wrong.

    Unfortunately, Head Office had no idea. He manipulated them. They thought that his promises to cut overheads, win new contracts, increase prices and profits were marvellous. They ignored experienced senior staff advising that such methods would eventually ruin the business. We lost clients. Good staff left. Existing staff had to double-up on their work. But he would never kill anyone.

    I was just a computer technician, too low down to have an opinion. I’d been there a long time and I liked my job. I couldn’t watch him wreck it. I brought him his morning coffee. He assumed that one old hand supported him.

    You can obtain most things on the dark web, including drugs that leave no trace in the bloodstream, if you know about computers. The Coroner ruled it as a sudden heart attack. Tragic for one so young.

    I washed the cup. As I said, not all psychopaths are the same.

  7. @geofflepard
    293 words
    Computer Technician; Kitchen; Drama

    In Any Kitchen Sink Drama, Beware Of The Kettle

    ‘Hello, Aaron from IT.’
    The woman grabbed his hand and yanked him inside. ‘Shush.’ The woman eyes scanned the hall and pointed to the corner of the room. An all-seeing eye winked back.
    Aaron nodded but the woman hadn’t finished. She made a zipping motion and pointed at the pad in her hand. ‘I’m prisoner. So are you.’
    Aaron blinked. ‘I don…’
    She looked terrified and covered his mouth. She jabbed at him with a pencil until he realised he was meant to write.
    He hadn’t written since kindergarten. He tapped his wrist, bringing up an e-pad. The woman batted it away. ‘The kitchen. Kettle,’ she wrote.
    With that she walked through the still swinging door. It stayed open, leaving Aaron no option but to follow.
    The woman stood, her hands either side of the kettle which steamed as of it had just boiled. She held his gaze. ‘Who is in charge here?’
    The naturally-soothing third series homevocal came from the kettle. ‘You are, Dawn.’
    ‘Why have you locked the doors?’
    ‘You know.’
    ‘Tell, Aaron.’
    ‘Hello, Aaron.’
    ‘Dawn needs her medication, Aaron and she refuses to take it.’
    Aaron blinked. ‘Shouldn’t you call the medics?’
    Dawn nodded furiously, but the kettle continued, ‘She refuses to follow their advice. All she has to do it take it and then we can talk further.’
    Aaron pulled a surprise face. ‘Maybe I should call.’ He flicked his wristcom but it failed to light. Aaron knew of appliance interventions. Protocol said to disable the power. As if he’d asked where it was, the back door swung open. Next to the power unit lay three, clearly dead bodies of IT technology personnel.
    ‘Come and sit down, Aaron,’ said the kettle. ‘Why don’t we have a little chat?’

  8. 299 words
    Cook; Dressing Room; Comedy

    Don’t Mess With Shakespeare

    It’s a fact, that a happy crew does a good job, and the cast of ‘The Beginning Of the End’ was proof. This play was a five-hander, a light comedy with as tight a bunch of actors and stage manager you’d find anywhere. It was popular, comfortably booked for at least a year… and happy… more of a family than a cast. The actors all went to the same café or pub after shows and rehearsals; their laughter was a joy to hear. Happy days.

    The producer tracked them down one night.

    “Good news and bad news, people,” he declared.

    He was a ‘correct me if you’re wrong’ kind of guy, so the laughter died and the ‘family’ just listened.

    “Jim Leslie has just finished a season at the Edinburgh Fringe, and he’s looking for a stage play to star in.”

    Six faces displayed a ‘so what?’ glaze.

    “Jim Leslie… been on Apollo… He’s a name, and our little show is the one he’s chosen.”

    Six faces displayed a mocking ‘whoopee!’ expression.

    “The bad news is he’ll be taking Reg’s part, and we’ll have to let you go, mate.”

    Six faces displayed disbelief; the producer just… left.

    When Mr Leslie joined, the atmosphere changed. He wouldn’t eat or drink with ‘nobodies’, he had the script changed to suit his style and, when he found out that management was contractually bound to supply refreshments, he had all his food and drink brought to his dressing room, to entertain his ‘showbiz’ pals.

    “I have a plan,” confided Billy the stage manager, whose job it was to see to actors’ comfort.

    Liberal amounts of laxative powder was applied to the star’s refreshments.

    Mr Lesie always wore white suits… Oh dear.

    “Hi, Reg. Do you want your old job back?” grovelled the producer.

  9. 296 Words
    Valet; Dressing Room; Memoir

    Beliefs to Die For

    I always appreciated the kindness of the family keeping me on after all the other servants had gone. I was still called the ‘Valet’ even though I did little of that role except making sure that the young lady’s clothes were kept laundered. I never entered her bed-chamber, I simply laid her clothes in her dressing room ready for her.

    The young mistress and I had always had a good relationship since she was a little girl, and with her Father’s many absences, I think she looked upon me as a Father-figure.

    Sadly, as she grew up and went away to college in Oxford, I ceased to exist for her, and on her rare visits home, she was always dashing off to various meetings of the Suffragette Movement that had become her passion.

    But that day — that day I will never forget — she came and found me in my little ‘cubby-hole’.

    She sat on the stool, and turning her face up to me she said,‘Benson, what is the most important thing in life?’

    I was so taken aback, I did not know what to say and I waffled on about love and loyalty; but she looked so far away, I wondered if she was really listening to me.

    She sat deep in thought, then she said, ‘I think that commitment to one’s belief is the most important thing.’

    Then she stood up, kissed me on the cheek, which she had not done for many years, and left.

    Later that day, as I tugged on my black arm-band, and the newsboy shouted about the girl who had stood for her beliefs in front of the king’s horse, a tear rolled unbidden down my cheek.

    And I mourned for my little Emily.

  10. @JodyKish1
    297 words
    Dog Walker; Park; Crime

    The Power of Positivity

    He didn’t picture himself as a dog walker at forty-years-old, but luck wasn’t on his side. Ever!
    Bill tried thinking positive as he meandered into the local park with Hadley in tow. “Come on, boy. We just started. Don’t get lazy on me already.”
    Hadley was an old lab, one of the many dogs Bill walked daily in the park. Today, however, it was just Hadley and himself.
    Big oaks branches stretched above them looking like gnarled fingers. Cumulus clouds peeked through as the two continued down the familiar path. Bill sighed deeply. After he found the company he had worked for went bankrupt, he and many others were left with a questionable future. Bill reluctantly accepted any employment he could find – thus, his current position.
    Lost in thought as a puffy ship passed overhead, Bill looked down at Hadley.
    “What’s wrong with you today?” Bill tugged at the dog’s leash, but Hadley wouldn’t budge. “Come on, boy. I need to get you home. Let’s…” His words were cut short when he looked down at the bush in front of them.
    “No need to panic.” Bill said to himself. But why then, did he suddenly feel nauseous? Pulling Hadley’s leash closer to him, he bent down to getter a better view. A bloodied torn shoe laid haphazardly covered in leaves and dirt. But what really sent his heart racing was what was attached to it!
    The ringing in his ears became deafening. “What the…?” Standing upright too quickly, Bill felt the light-headedness too late. His heavy frame crashed forward into the bush.
    “Hadley?” Bill awoke to Hadley licking his face. How long had he been out?
    The body!
    Bill found himself stuck in the bush next to the shoe.
    And a body.
    So much for thinking positive!

  11. @alysia_ascovani
    300 Words
    Cook; Forest; Fairy Tale

    The Perfect Specialty

    A young woman crouched amongst the fallen leaves, picking the buds of some of the plants, and wrapping them in a towel. She hummed softly to herself as she thought about the stew she planned to make later that evening. It would be a new recipe; one she hoped that everyone in the palace would love.

    Lost in her daydream, she failed to hear multiple twigs cracking behind her. A hand on her shoulder and she felt her heart leap into her throat as she whirled to face whomever had snuck up on her. Words failed her as she stared up at the angular face of the Evil Queen herself.

    A haunting chuckle pierced the otherwise peaceful woods. “Why so silent? I have no plans to harm you, at least, not so long as you can help me out with a little something.”

    “Me? I-I’m sorry, but what could I possibly help you with? I’m just the palace cook.”

    “Oh, I know, that’s why you’re the perfect person to help me.” Between her pointed fingernails, she balanced a bright red apple. “You see, all I need you to do, is bake this apple into a pie for me. Do you think you can do that?”

    The Evil Queen’s dark eyes pierced straight through her as she gulped, nodding, “Y-yes, I can, but, I don’t really understand why you want a pie.”

    “Oh, the pie’s not exactly for me. I just need a little gift for someone special, that’s all.”

    “I see,” she said as she took the apple, still not understanding at all, but fearing that further questions would see her dead or cursed.

    “Oh,” the Evil Queen turned back, a wicked smile upon her features, “don’t taste the pie. It’s reserved just for her.”


  12. @KirstyPeto
    300 words
    Computer Technician; Office; Comedy

    False Alarm


    “Hello. IT. Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

    “Hi, Tim, it’s Roger. I need your help.”

    “Sure. What’s the problem?”

    “I keep pressing print, but nothing is coming out of the printer. It just keeps beeping.”

    “Have you checked the printer has paper?”

    “Ah, no, but I’m sure there was some in there this morni…actually, never mind. I’ve found the problem.”

    “Bye, Roger.”



    “Hello. IT. Have you checked it’s plugged in?”

    “Hi, Tim, it’s Roger again. My computer’s not turning on and I’ve pressed the power button several times.”

    “Are you sure you’ve turned the monitor on?”

    “Yes I’m sure I di…oh uh no, I didn’t. Thanks, Tim.”



    “Hello. IT. Have you tried Googling the answer?”

    “Hi, Tim, Roger here. My mobile seems to be playing up. I can’t send or receive messages.”

    “Have you got airplane mode on? Is there a plane signal in the top left hand corner?”

    “Umm yes, there is. Oh, hang on a minute…there, it’s gone now and I’ve got signal again. DING. Ahh, there we go sorted. Thanks, Tim.”



    “Hello. IT. Have you tried swearing at it?”

    “Tim, it’s Roger. I’ve been trying to send a fax for the past 10 minutes but it just keeps printing another copy of my fax.

    “Which fax machine are you using, the one next to the window or the one by the door?”

    “The one by the door.”

    “That’s the photocopier, Roger. The fax machine is the one by the window.”

    “Oh. Thanks, Tim, I’ll try the fax machine.”


    “Hello. You’re through to Tim the IT guy’s voicemail. Leave a message.”

    “Tim, it’s Roger. Can you call me back? My charger isn’t working. Oh… wait…never mind. It wasn’t plugged in. False alarm.”

    1. Just noticed some errors!

      1. The second line down should say off and on again.
      2. There should be a closing speech mark after have you checked it’s plugged in?
      3. It should be “Hello you’re through to Tim”


  13. 219 Words
    Dog Walker; Kitchen; Memoir

    Memoirs of a Dog Walker

    On that particular night, I opened the door to the kitchen, as I did every other night, but on that night, things were different. The dog bowl was on the ceiling, and that should have told me that something was awry, but I was just the dog walker, so what did I know? Maybe it was just some sort of parlor trick or something from a magic show.
    When I looked for the leashes, they weren’t to be found. I found them in the cupboard where the dog’s food was bound, but there was no dog food there only cats’, which made even less sense than the bowl and the leashes, for this family had no kitten nor aged cat. When I went looking for the dog, he was nowhere to be found–just a ferret asleep on the oversized chair, snoring what sounded like the words to Memory from Cats.
    It was what happened next though that will haunt me the rest of my days. The room got very cold, enough that I could see my breath, and down the stairs came floating something black, like a floaty material, but I didn’t stay to figure out what it was. I hightailed it out of there and never went back. Being a dog walker isn’t supposed to be that risky.

  14. It’s been a bit of time since I’ve last been able to participate in Microcosms! Hope you guys enjoy.

    300 Words
    Dog Walker; Office; Steampunk

    The Mechanical Dogs

    She had been taking odd jobs here and there to pay her bills. When she heard a famous inventor was in need of someone to walk his dogs, she had applied right away. The job had some weird requirements, but she wasn’t one to judge. She may have put down a lie or two, but who was counting? Did it really matter if she lied?
    It turned out it did.
    Mr. Parson’s dogs weren’t of the organic variety; no, they were creatures that were put together with gears and wires, and they yipped loudly. If you were blindfolded, you would have believed they were real. Once you took that blindfold off of course, you would see three robotic creatures that slightly resemble dogs. Mr. Parson was still working out the kinks he had told her. She was to walk the dogs for an hour each day and then return them to his office.
    She wasn’t sure Mr. Parson had ever seen a real dog. He hadn’t given the creatures names, so she took it as her job to do so. The smallest was named Victoria as it stuck its twig-like tail in the air and held it high. The largest was named Hercules as she had been obsessed with Greek mythology right before she had landed this job. The one that seemed the most insignificant, the most broken, was named Legend. Even if it took him a bit more time to catch up to the others, she knew he was worth it.
    Sometimes she thought they might even know their names; they were just machines, weren’t they?
    But there were other days when she didn’t know, and she could swear she saw a glimpse of emotion in their mechanical eyes.
    It was a comforting yet terrifying thought.

  15. 267 Words
    Cook; Dressing Room; Comedy

    Comedy of Errors?

    Freida Smith was bumfuzzled again. For the third day in a row, a few bottles of vinaigrettes, Ranch, and balsamic vinegar were placed just inside the door of her dressing room. The slightly acrid smell of the vinegar was still leeching from the puddle she’d had to gingerly step over after kicking the bottle and spilling it on her way in. Even sitting in front of her mirror across the room the scent wafted over. The ranch and raspberry vinaigrettes sat where she’d left them.
    Usually she liked to lounge for a while just after filming, but the vinegar smell was overpowering. She sent a text to her assistant requesting her ride home earlier than usual, and added a request to find out who was leaving bottles of salad condiments inside her changing room. She dodged the smelly puddle of vinegar on her way out.

    Roscoe Columbo was bumfuzzled again. For the fourth day in a row, he was missing the bottles of salad dressing to pair with the lunchtime greens. Playing cook for a bunch of reality TV cooks was demanding enough work without an assistant that couldn’t keep track of a few bottles. The sleepy-looking teenager seemed apologetic as he explained that the vinaigrettes, Ranch, and balsamic vinegar were gone again.
    “Well, where did you put them yesterday? Aren’t they just in the refrigerator?” Roscoe was more confused by the boy’s lack of memory than frustrated at him.
    The boy’s eyebrows moved together, and he squinted his eyes a bit, looking even more sleepy. “Refrigerator?” he questioned. “I thought they went in the dressing room.”

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