Thank you to all who waited patiently in line to post their entry in Microcosms 34. Another increase in the number of submissions this week:. (Stuck in traffic? Fill the time writing a flash fiction and send it to Microcosms!) Please keep returning to Microcosms, and retweet / spread the word about this contest among your followers and friends.
Please 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.
Remember, you can reply with a comment to any and all of the entries AT ANY TIME: It’s good to have feedback.
Many thanks to Sal Page for judging MC 34. Here’s what she had to say:
Here I am judging again (the para-phrase ‘Enter not, lest ye be judge’ springs to mind. I will learn my lesson one day. Perhaps.) This week I was very impressed with the quality AND quantity of your traffic jam tales. Good to see some folk entering for the first time too. Keep up the good work.
Another judge may well have chosen very differently; but tough, you’re stuck with me. I’ve noticed I’m getting better at not wasting time speculating who wrote what and was helped by the knowledge that some of these were written by writers who I’ve never read before.
Ah … Romance popping up again, or rearing its ugly head. The genre of choice of nine out of seventeen entries. Romance does take many forms here; first meetings, flirtations, the portrayal of something more long-established and familiar, and – of course – romance with the possibility of murder. Hmm…
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Amy Wood – Annie flapped the map.
Nthato Morakabi – I rolled the window down slightly letting the tendrils escape into the expanse beyond the road, an endless stretch of lush green on either side.
A J Walker – The Wedgewood Blue sky washed by wispy cirrus drenched Derek with the joy of an English summer’s day.
Geoff Holme – “Keep acting this way, you’ll lose everything – wife, kids, home. You’ll end up living a lonely, bitter existence.”
Marie Mackay – A slither of panic slid up her spine as she thought of the tangle of twisted lanes that had brought her to this remote point
Geoff Le Pard – She looked up, framed by rat’s tails and gloom.
Brian S. Creek – The road is my mistress, with only the car between us to translate.
Alva Holland – Both girls shrug in that way they have.
Bill Engleson – “We’ll treat her as if she were ours. And the pigs will love her.”
Steve Lodge – “I think you and that cow are romantically linked.”
Steph Ellis – The human cargo held its breath. Their prayers had been answered.
Josh Bertetta – Daze after day after day.
Richard Edenfield – … the air freshener swinging from the rear-view hypnotizing the air to behave with manufactured floral dignity.
Geoff Holme – Kept an Aussie galah as a pet
Voima Oy – That’s where Mary’s waiting, wearing the white dress we buried her in.
Vibha Lohani – Next morning his dead body was found holding a book in one hand and his bag in another.
Meg Kovalik – Peter watched intently, biting his lip to stay in control of his treacherous body.
Steve Lodge – Milking The Fare
For the character of the manic taxi driver, who made me laugh. The driving gloves, the cow, the farmer has ‘first dibs on’ and his passenger’s realisation that she’s ‘moved from the back of beyond to the middle of nowhere’. Heather gives as good as she gets. Then it takes a weird turn. IS this a romance? Or is he going to kill her?
Geoff Holme – Who’s a Travel Sick Boy, Then?
For having the CHEEK to submit a limerick, and I just really like parrots.
Alva Holland – Movie Night
For its subtlety and lightness of touch, for the romance being between two women for a change and for the really cool Mum.
Honourable / Honorable Mentions
Geoff Le Pard – Pick ‘n’ Mix
I just thought this a really sweet story. Simple but well told. I even liked the dog! The changeable weather was very ‘bank holiday’, reflecting this character’s change of mind. The romance aspect is low-key and I like the way they were laughing at nothing. The line ‘At least her smile kept him sane while the daydream lasted’ told of much that’s unsaid. We wonder what next for these two. All we know is that he goes back for her… and blames the dog.
Nthato Morakabi – Dust
Romance or horror? This is rather beautifully written. The character has, if I interpret correctly, ‘found’ a real version of Millais’ Ophelia, for this is the image the story makes me see. Is she sleeping or dead, we begin to wonder. Did he find her in this state or kill her himself? His intentions are that she should be put to rest seem good in a way, though his assertion that her ‘beauty required stilled peace’ is extremely chilling.
Josh Bertetta – Non-Traffiction
Breathless and intense, the reader’s right there with the character with no shifts of point of view. The short, often one word, sentences and run-together words give the piece a fast and panicky pace, reflecting the character’s acutely anxious, irrational state of mind and post-traumatic memories. We get a mix of the trigger, what is happening now, and what has happened in the past. I particularly liked his compulsion to remember the list of names. One thing is certain, this won’t end well.
Meg Kovalik – The Final Lesson
Again, I just thought this was very sweet. (Am I REALLY a ‘sucker’ for romance?) I like the characters, the realisation they’re both spinning the lessons out so they can see each other and it made me smile that they were both thinking exactly the same thing and wonder if this EVER happens. The close sexually-charged atmosphere of the car comes across well and I enjoyed the innuendo. The ending’s great (I would have been tempted to make them say goodbye, neither daring to speak up, which would have been a shame) and I love her last two words. I imagine them choosing to sit side-by-side at dinner, and hope he doesn’t criticise her driving too much.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 34.
(insert drumroll here)
Richard Edenfield – Celebrating Christmas Under My Pine-Scented Air Freshener
Driver / Rural Road / Romance
It wasn’t Christmas. But it felt like Christmas when we finally arrived home the air freshener swinging from the rear-view hypnotizing the air to behave with manufactured floral dignity.
We did this every year. All our faces bright red. Staring straight ahead. Sand in our hair. Sand in our shoes. Sand in our ears. Sand in our eyes as if we had just woken up to a cruel stiff reality stretched out before us. The Jersey Shore. Trampolines and boardwalks. Muffled screams and waves. We looked like blood awkwardly making its way through a body of traffic toward a home with 97 degrees beating on its country frame.
There was silence in the car. The kind of silence that exists when you are underwater. A contained swaying kind of silence. The air conditioner felt like perfume an Eskimo would wear when taking a trip to Hawaii.
My daughter,son, and wife looking out the window. The other blood cells making their way down the highway. There was a bruise up ahead.
There is a soft, cruel sadness when a vacation is over. A nondescript depression. Like getting divorced. Every vacation is a quick marriage. We now have two children so that complicates things.
The traffic thinned out as we entered the Catskills. They say home is where the heart is and we heard thumping from the potholes in the road. A steady untended beat.
My wife said if she didn’t say a word the entire trip then she would stay married to me. As the car entered our drive she was still silent. Everyone was. As if they were listening to all the chatter on the way down to the beach. As if the car was a shell praying in our ears with the calm hushed voice of summer renewal.
A J Walker – Moveable Feast
Oh dear, am I about to use the word ‘sweet’ for the third time? I shall try and resist. I do really want some mint sauce though. I’ll begin by going straight to the ‘balls in the bath’ simile. Would ‘bubbles’ be better, though not as funny? The backs of sheep might look and move like foam on the top of bath water. This would fit well with ‘enveloped the car like a flood’ later.
But despite this … I love the initial scene-setting description of the summer’s day at the start, the light touch with the characters, their realness. Him almost forgetting she was there, shown by using ‘he’ not ‘they’ as they encounter the sheep. The way Claire wound up the window to spare the sheep hearing her doing the ‘mint sauce’ joke made me smile.
As a flash, this is just a tiny non-momentous moment, not dramatic in any way. But it does contain a BIG TRUTH, cleverly signalled in the first paragraph by allusion to things people say traditionally, in this case when the weather gets hot, then brought home at the end with what people say when they see sheep. Derek thinks it himself. It’s as traditional as lamb and mint sauce itself.
Yes, there are some folk we don’t mind how many times they repeat their so-called funny lines. It may even be the same for the sheep. Baa!
Driver / Rural Road / Romance
The Wedgewood Blue sky washed by wispy cirrus drenched Derek with the joy of an English summer’s day. Yesterday’s washout at the barbecue was quickly fading and filed under ‘predictable barbecue weather’. It was now time to say to all and sundry ‘it’s too hot’, ‘just makes me want to do nothing’, ‘good beer garden weather – why do I have to be in work’ etc. Meanwhile the sun was adding to his right arm tan to give him his annual lopsided look.
As he came around the blind bend he was met with sheep. Lots of them. They bobbed up and down like balls in a bath. Constrained by the steep banks of the road and an unseen sheepdog behind them they were heading slowly but inexorably towards Derek who now feared to reverse. He pulled the handbrake on.
‘Mint sauce!’ Claire said.
Derek had almost forgotten she was with him. She’d taken the earphones out as if she’d be able to better enjoy the scene without music.
Derek smiled. A childish thing to say, but something he always said in his head when seeing the dumb but beautiful tasting animals.
‘Mint sauce indeed,’ he said. ‘Tell you what, after the debacle of yesterday and the distinct lack of meat-based sustenance… fancy finding a country pub and getting a Sunday roast down?’
‘With mint sauce.’
‘Don’t even like mint sauce, but roast lamb sounds yummy.’
She wound up the window despite the heat, worried that the sheep that now enveloped the car like a flood would hear her.
Derek held her hand as they waited for the meat feast to pass them. He knew just the place. He didn’t like mint sauce either. But he loved lamb, and he loved Claire.
Congratulations, AJ. As the Judge’s Pick, you are invited to judge the next round of Microcosms. Please let me know if you are interested!