Thank you to all who submitted their RTA obituaries in Microcosms 39… Actually, there weren’t any of these, but it would have been an original take on the prompt! 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.
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 Carlos Orozco for judging MC 39. Here’s what he had to say:
I really have a love-hate relationship with judging, but I can never turn down a chance at doing it. Being on the other side reminds me of the things I need to work on. My advice to anyone who hasn’t judged: do it. You will learn so much and grow as a writer. Having to describe why I liked story A more than story B opens my eyes to the small nuances that can make a good piece of writing that much better.
That being said, I really enjoyed all the stories. They all had elements to them that I
will stealenvied. On a different day, and with a different amount of gin in my system, I’m sure the order I put them in would be different. I know I am probably beating a dead horse by saying this, but judging is subjective. Every person has his/her preference in genre/style. Don’t be discouraged, or think you need to change your style because one ginned up judge didn’t choose your piece. Writing should be challenging but fulfilling. Don’t write something you think someone else will like, at the expense of torturing yourself to try and write it.
But I digress. Let me get to the lines I will definitely steal. Or as you all know them, Favourite / Favorite Lines…
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Bill Engleson – The sun’s shining, the birds are almost in tune. And we’re alive…which is more than we can say about this poor bugger up there.
Love that the birds are “almost” in tune.
Geoff Le Pard – ‘They won’t talk. They’ve pleaded the 452nd Amendment.
I am sure we will get to 452 sometime soon.
Steve Lodge – I feel that I and my fellow abductees are beginning to develop this awful breath too.
Awesome description for showing that the abductees have been there a while now.
Alva Holland – Our music was as different as chalk and cheese but, like all musicians, we shared a common thread – life on the road.
Love the rhythm in this one. The pauses and breaks really placed the emphasis where it needed to go.
WolfRich93 – I guess it takes a while for memory to cross the space between us.
This description is amazing. Wish I had written it.
Richard Edenfield – Your hand grasped the stem and held the bloom to the universe.
Another line I wish I had written.
Brian S Creek – I’d been at this for five months, and the military had been monkeys on my back the whole time.
Really like how the military is reduced to monkeys by the character.
Sal Page – I was drinking in those days and was ‘of no fixed abode’.
Will definitely steal this line sooner rather than later.
Meg Kovalik – It was the first time they’d experienced hope in generations and for now that was enough.
I really like the “for now that was enough” part. It balances the grandiose first part of that sentence.
Geoff Holme – She sees a red glow in the shadows, smells the smoke… the brand he uses.
This was one of the most vivid descriptions in my head.
Stephen Shirres – Each possible answer is cleaner than the last.
I like how the answers are described. Cleaner answers. Don’t mind if I steal this, do you?
Bill Engleson – Either a Minor Case of Murder or a Very Complex Suicide at 1127 Walnut Avenue
I love a long title that flows. It is very poetic. This one fits the bill.
[ “Fits the bill“! Hur! Hur! And Carlos was judging blind! (GH) ]
Richard Edenfield – Bugatti Flowers
It was very hard to pick a best line from this one. So many good ones to choose from.
Honorable / Honourable Mentions
Brian S Creek – BIG WORDS
This one was simple, but had a very interesting premise. Even though I want to know more, it didn’t feel like an incomplete story. I wish the writer had more words to work with to add some more descriptions, but really I can’t complain. The plot won me over.
Runner-up 2 (Third Place)
WolfRich93 – The Biggest Blue(s) Star
The characters in this one really stand out. That is part of the great dialogue. It feels very natural, which makes both characters come to life. Just reading the last line alone, I get a feel for the true character of Ravin’ Walt Rayet. He doesn’t have to do a single thing, I just know who he is at that point.
Runner-up 1 (Second Place)
Sal Page – Singing the Blues
I enjoyed the descriptions in this one. For the most part, the descriptions move the story along, and do that thing writers are always told to do—“show don’t tell”. I also really liked the ending in this one, “with her scarf warming my neck and the mate who’d offered me his floor”. The contrast in this line sums up the final sentiments. The narrator felt like he had the world, even though he really didn’t have anything.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 39.
(insert drumroll here)
Sal Page – Singing the Blues
Blues Singer / Scarf / Memoir
I saw her in the early days. A tiny run-down club. Winter nineteen seventy or seventy-one, I’m hazy about dates. I was drinking in those days and was ‘of no fixed abode’. I walked around the city, relying on the kindness of strangers. It was icy cold outside, snow on the ground. I only went in because my teeth were chattering and my hands were turning blue. I checked my pocket for change. I needed a stiff drink or two.
She walked onto the stage, apologetic and giving the impression of not wanting to disturb us. All glass clinking and murmuring stopped when she opened her mouth to sing. It’s like we all knew, at that moment, who she was going to be.
She sang the blues. Her scarf, like iridescent parrot’s feathers, lifted and swelled in icy breezes creeping through gaps in the walls, and yet she appeared warm and relaxed in the electric blue spotlights. She sang of sky-baby blues, of fields of nodding cornflowers on summer days, of her lover’s periwinkle eyes & denim shirt and of her sadness at his parting.
Her epic song, of which I really only recall fragments, was packed with shining cyan pools, royal blood and glittering sapphires. She sang of swirling Prussian and cerulean starry nights, bright cobalt stained glass, sailor’s uniforms, lapis lazuli and turquoise scarabs. She ended with the aqua seas, azure skies and indigo mountains of home. During that final achingly sweet midnight-blue note, she slid the scarf from her neck, throwing it into the air for this lucky audience member to catch.
As I stepped back out into the cold, with her scarf warming my neck and the mate who’d offered me his floor for the night by my side, it felt like the world was wonderful.
Microcosms 39 Judge’s Pick
Geoff Holme – All or Nothing at All
I love me a well done dark story. This one fits the bill. The description of Leroy in the alley is chilling. The alliteration describing her onstage performance is fantastic. “Gold lamé dress sparkles, lip gloss shines, teeth gleam, eyes glint. Her hands glide slowly, sensuously, suggestively along the shaft of the microphone stand; her fingers linger lustfully.” Just read all those S’s G’s and L’s in there. That is sexy. It also doesn’t feel forced which is important. And that death: killed with something she loves, by someone who is supposed to love her. Is that not haunting? This is a well done story with excellent language.
Blues Singer / Scarf / Crime
The blues had become her salvation.
In the speakeasy, air filled with blue smoke and blue notes, she shimmers from the shadows of the small stage into the spotlight.
Gold lamé dress sparkles, lip gloss shines, teeth gleam, eyes glint. Her hands glide slowly, sensuously, suggestively along the shaft of the microphone stand; her fingers linger lustfully.
She arouses passion in men, envy in women… and seething jealousy in a figure standing in the veiled seclusion at the back of the auditorium.
After her set, she leaves by the stage door, standing in the twilight of the early hours, breathing in the relative freshness of the humid Harlem air.
She sees a red glow in the shadows, smells the smoke… the brand he uses. Her breath catches in her throat: how had he found her?
Discarding the cigarette, he takes a step into the light; another, and he’s standing in front of her.
“I thought I told you to get rid of this,” he whispers evenly.
He’d forbidden her to wear the cotton scarf, draped around her neck, that her sister had bought her, calling it cheap and tawdry. Cheap? yes… tawdry? perhaps… but it was more than Jasmine could afford, and for that reason, she loved it.
Her words are cut short as he takes the material in his hands and pulls it tight.
The blues had become her salvation, her escape from an abusive marriage. She had finally embraced life, but now she would never know the contentment of old age.
Thank you very much, Carlos! It’s a great honour but – at the same time – slightly embarrassing since I submitted the story after the deadline (with extenuating circumstances). I hope that no-one is aggrieved, especially Sal whose story was not only first runner-up, but also – deservedly – voted Community Pick…
No repeat of this situation next week, as I will be assuming the role of judge of Microcosms 40. (That’s my weekend schedule sorted out…)