Microcosms 41

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends! OK, I admit it: in my student days, I was a big Emerson, Lake and Palmer fan. But this is Microcosms 41, and Sal Page is guest host. I wonder what she could possibly come up with… Over to you, Sal!

So, you’ve had the Bruce Springsteen competition, where Sal found out everyone liked Bruce Springsteen. Well, some of you. I never like the right things. Reading my Twitter feed often makes me think others are in a parallel universe. Or am I in the parallel universe?

Some of you may know I like Squeeze. Can you believe it’s a year since I went to see them for my birthday? Since the – probably quite annoying – Squeeze Concert Countdown? Since I stayed in the hotel with a pool, and made the decision to swim all the time and annoy my Twitter followers further with endless pool reports? Since I met my hero, Glenn Tilbrook, and thanked him for the past thirty-seven years? Thirty-eight now. Nearly another year older. Time flies when you’re having fun/getting on a bit. I’ve loved being fifty. Fifty-one, I’m coming to get ya!

Squeeze songs often take titles from elsewhere just for inspiration, often twisting them into something slightly different. There are songs called Vanity Fair, The Fortnight Saga and A Man for All Seasons, and an album called Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti.

The prompts this week are all names of Squeeze albums. Go where you will… I know you will.


Our contest this week begins with just two things: album title and genre. Use the album title as the title of your entry, and/or incorporate it somewhere in your story.

We spun, and our two elements are album title: Sweets From A Stranger, and genre: Crime.

Write a story using those OR feel free to click on the “Spin!” button, and the slot machine will come up with a new set – you can keep clicking until you have a set of elements that inspire you. Be sure to tell us which two elements you’re using.

  • Some Fantastic Place
  • Argy Bargy
  • Eastside Story
  • Cradle to the Grave
  • Ridiculous
  • Sweets from a Stranger
  • Cool for Cats
  • Memoir
  • Fantasy
  • Poem
  • Horror
  • Comedy
  • Fairy Tale
  • Crime
  • Romance


Judging this week is Microcosms 40 Judge’s Pick, Alex Brightsmith.

All submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length. You have until midnight, New York time to submit. (If you are new to Microcosms, check out the full submission guidelines.)

All being well, results will be posted on Monday.


Microcosms 42
Microcosms 40

49 thoughts on “Microcosms 41

  1. Alva Holland
    WC: 299
    Some fantastic place/Memoir

    Shiny Shoes and a Song

    His shoes started it. His shiny blacks were the reason I gave him a second look, a chance, a dance, which turned into an evening, some enchanted evening – when the sparkling moonlight lit up a personal path which up to then had been so mismanaged it had tripped forward like a game of badly-played hopscotch.
    ‘Would you like a drink?’ he asked.
    ‘I’d prefer a dance,’ I said.
    ‘A dance it is then, if you’re willing to take a chance on me and trip the light fantastic with a two-left-feet admirer who’s been watching you ever since you and your friend giggled up to the gate two hours ago?’
    With his front-crease flannels and button-down shirt, he looked out of place at this casual outdoor bash, but somehow he got me with his shoe-polishing effort and his formal approach. I glanced across at Tilly who was trying to wangle a free drink from the young bartender.
    ‘Why not?’ I grinned and offered him my hand. He pulled me to my feet and raised the back of my hand to his lips. ‘Some fantastic place this,’ he whispered into my ear as we danced to a reasonable version of Our House.
    ‘I guess,’ I said, thinking his experiences must be limited if he thought a field in the middle of nowhere with a hastily-erected tent, some temporary lights strung through the trees and a band perched on a series of chopped and grounded tree trunks was anything to write home about.
    The band switched to Emerson, Lake and Palmer. As Fanfare for the Common Man wafted through the crowd, Mr. Shiny Shoes pulled me close to tell me this was his favourite band.
    ‘Mine’s Squeeze,’ I said
    ‘Some Fantastic Place this,’ he repeated, and I realised… he knew.

      1. And sorry about this, but can you also fix my Twitter handle please! Errant space there. Need to get my act together.

      2. Aaaargh! I jumped into that with both feet. Ok then! Now my nerves will be shattered all week.

    1. Such a lovely gentle story! Very romantic. Strange how seemingly little things can be such a solid anchor: those shiny shoes. I especially like how objects and a music reference carried so much information of effort and hope.

  2. Steve Lodge
    299 words.
    Sweets From A Stranger/Crime

    Totally Werthless

    Rocky came into the kitchen, where his Mum was sitting, smoking a cigarette and watching daytime TV.

    “Mum, I’m sorry…” he began, staring hard at the floor.

    “What’s wrong, Rocky? What on earth has happened?” she asked, her face turning pale.

    “I know you’ve always told me not to. You and Dad. But today, I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m just going to come right out and say it. You’ve a right to know. I took sweets from a stranger.” He stared at her, awaiting her reaction.

    “You took sweets from a stranger?” she repeated.

    “Yeah, at the bus stop. I mean he didn’t look like a perv. I’m so sorry, Mum, and I do regret it. I hated the sweets. Werthless. Something like that. Awful winter things that warm you from your throat to your feet including yards of your colon. Oh please don’t be mad at me, Ma.” He looked so sad.

    “Mad at you? Rocky! You’re 37. That ‘no sweets from a stranger’ line was for when you were a kid. You’re an adult now. You do what you like, you buffoon.” She threw her cloth at him, but it landed on the cat.

    “Do what I like? Really? Oh, thank goodness. I felt so bad. I just spat the sweet out, and then I strangled the guy. You make me feel so much better. I thought I may have done something bad.”

    His mother coughed on her cigarette. “You strangled him? Seriously? I don’t know much, I’m only your mother. But that may be a crime. Killing someone. We’ll ask your Dad when he gets home.”

    “Really, Mum? You think what I did was a crime?” Rocky started to look worried again.

    “I don’t know, son,” she replied. “That’s purely my assumption.”

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    1. Excellent dialogue! The story unfolded so neatly….the ending was so unexpected. Bit of a quirky family.

  3. @Nthito
    WC: 300
    Sweets From A Stranger/Crime
    Title: Sweets from a stranger

    The car tottered over gravel on a quiet October afternoon. A quick glance in the rear-view mirror revealed glossy cerulean eyes below thin furrowed brows. An upturned nose blew out every few seconds while silver tape around the lower half of the face crinkled against barely perceptible lips. The man grinned through the mirror.
    “You still okay back there?”
    The boy turned towards the window in reply. A dimmed sky cascaded sunlight through, dulled by the tint to ensure no one could see in.
    “Well you better be. And don’t bother memorizing the road.”
    Silence. It was exactly how the man preferred it. The radio had been turned off and only the low hum and crunch of gravel permeated the vehicle. Another glance back and it seemed the boy had fallen asleep, eyes shut and chest rising gently under the Manchester City jersey he wore. Perfect.
    The silence felt heavy. Outside the sun had deepened, vermillion against the tinted windows. The man took a glance at the rear-view mirror and felt his body gradually chill as bright hazel eyes stared back at him unblinkingly. He was sure the boy had blue eyes.
    “You still okay in the front there?” The boy asked. The man’s eyes widened, mouthing drooping agape as duct tape around the boy’s lips fell away completely. Sharpened teeth revealed in malevolent grin.
    “Well you better be. And don’t bother getting off the road, we’re going exactly where we should be.”
    The detective stared at the file before him then up at the tall man who had shucked off his lab coat,
    “You’re saying he looks like a boy but is actually a full grown man?”
    “And takes sweets from a stranger before letting them think they’ve lured him away. Only the assailant becomes the victim. Always.”

  4. @geofflepard
    Sweets From A Stranger / Crime
    296 words

    Fortune Cookies

    ‘What you got?’ Reggie peered over Ronnie’s shoulder. His sneering ‘Rubbish’ hit Ronnie hard.
    ‘They’re humbugs,’ Ronnie said hopefully.
    Reggie took one. ‘And? That mark had a wallet and you got his bloody sweets.’
    ‘I’m sorry. I’ll…’
    ‘You’re useless.’
    ‘I can have another go. Give me ten and…’
    Reggie grabbed Ronnie’s sleeve, throwing him against the wall. It hurt, not that he showed it. ‘He’ll clock you. Come on, mum’ll go bonkers if we’re not back for tea.’
    Ronnie hung back, as Reggie strode ahead. A tall man, Jewish with a twitchy eye, passed him, and headed for Ronnie. He knew he should leave well alone – ‘not in your own manor’ was their watchword – but after the ear-bending he still fumed with indignation.
    The man stopped by the crossroads. Taking his chance, Ronnie pushed against him and caught him by the elbow as he stumbled. ‘Hey, sorry, mister.’ He grinned and hopped away quickly towards Reggie.
    In his pocket he slipped the bag he’d lifted. Not a wallet. More bloody sweets, probably.
    ‘What’s up?’ Reggie faced him, his eyes narrowed. ‘What you done?’
    ‘Show me.’
    Reluctantly, he pulled out the bag. To his surprise, it was cloth, not paper. Reggie snatched it from him, and poured a dozen uncut diamonds into his hand.
    ‘Christ,’ Reggie smiled, ‘where’d you get these?’
    ‘That Jewish geezer, going towards the station.’
    Reggie’s grin froze. ‘You snatched these from Goldman? Are you mad? Come on, we have to get rid before they find we have them.’
    ‘But why? They’re worth something, aren’t they?’
    ‘Yeah, they’re worth someone breaking your legs.’
    Reluctantly, Ronnie followed Reggie to the river when they dumped the bag. As he watched it sink, Ronnie promised himself that he would never be the one frightened ever again.

  5. @GeoffHolme
    Argy Bargy / poem
    28 words

    Sleeping With The Enemy

    Once, a Falklands inhabitant, Margie,
    Got engaged to a veteran Argie…
    People’s pain had been raw
    Since the ‘82 war,
    So it led to a right argy bargy!

  6. Cool for Cats; Memoir
    300 memories squeezed out

    Unruffled for Moggies

    It don’t mean Diddly Doo
    Diddly dew is way overrated
    Though my heart was severely serrated,
    Alas I was fated
    to be way overdue.

    But I meant to ask
    now that I’ve run into you,
    Did Diddly really bend his bow to you,
    bow down over bough down and bark,
    watch your conniving lovers arc, arch,
    run naked with you, a lover’s march
    in Frontenac’s Park,
    lose easterly sight of you and Diddly Doo,
    the way it can be in the dark?

    And finally, tell me true,
    did he really sail away with you
    at night into life’s murky blue?

    But I don’t need to know;
    Just passing time in tow,
    cause It don’t mean diddly dooooooo.

    My memory’s got some giant gaps;
    Holes in my head and some holy traps.
    I dream of you and Diddly Doo
    walking in the Past way out by the Slough,
    rolling in the hay and covered with dew.
    And I have these awful memory scraps,
    bits and bites of emotional flaps…
    Some tragically slippery memory lapses.

    I dream of you and Diddly Doo
    But then the whole dream wall collapses.
    And plays hell with my simple synapses
    And always, always the dream collapses.

    It was so very piddly,
    So piddly true
    A piddly pew
    Poisoned in your queue
    A pious crew are you.
    You sinnerless are so fiddly,
    so fiddly few.
    I wake up in the orchard
    cool with dew; it may be cool for cats
    having field mice chewing on their bric a brac,
    There! I am devilishly due,
    for a new memory or two,
    but not of you and that damn Diddly Doo,
    both of you damp with dew.

    No, I am through with all of that.
    It was never cool for cats,
    It was always cruel for this cat.

    1. Really enjoyed that! I also really wish I knew how to properly critique because I don’t know where to begin to say just what I loved about it. Sections just made beautiful and perfect sense. Thank you

  7. Candy House
    201 words
    “sweets from a stranger,” “crime”

    John’s second wife was not fond of the children of his first marriage. She often joked about murdering them in their sleep. “We can’t afford to keep them,” she said, “Because they drink their weight in milk twice a week. Teenage boys are horrible things. Don’t you wish they were gone?”

    “It would make life simpler,” John admitted. “I’m not going to allow you to smother my children, though, so you can forget it.”

    “Let’s abandon them in a busy subway. Come on, John. It’s for the best.”

    Young Simon, and his younger brother Jack, were prone to eavesdropping and heard this entire conversation. Simon plucked up his courage, took Jack by the hand, and together they ran away. They ran as fast as their little legs would carry them, through the village and into The Forest where they spent the next week and a half wandering the streets.

    The Forest was a rich neighbourhood with a good gardening program, and Simon had often wished to go there.

    “Look, Jack. That house is made entirely of candy. We won’t starve,” said Simon.

    And starve they did not, but they did go to jail for theft and destruction of property.


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  8. @InquisiHedgehog
    Words: 300
    Sweets From a Stranger / Crime

    Sweets From a Stranger

    I sit in the flood of blue and red flashing lights. Blood was drying on my hands and I was patted on my shoulder like I was a lost pup. How had I got here? Who had I become? I was a vivacious woman who could turn the head of any man. Maybe that is how I got here.

    It was a regular night at the corner pub. My favourite barman was piling me with Cosmos. I was with my gaggle of fans when he caught my eye. Black suit, well-manicured hands, impeccable smile. He brought me a Cosmo and I lost sight of my gaggle. He brought me roses. He brought me books and he always managed to whisper sweet nothings which made me giggle. I was besotted. A month later, I was in his home and we were planning the white picket life but I slowly lost my shine as his sugar-crusted lies started to turn sour. I was wandering through the house one day while he had left for the store and locked me in. I came across the forbidden room. I felt around the doorjamb and he had left the key. I opened the door. What a voluptuous room. There were velvet curtains across one of the walls. There was a round table. In the middle of the table was a silver candelabra. The smell of vanilla filled my senses. There was a pile of satin cushions in the corner. I moved slowly along the wall when my hand crashed into something hard and cold. I moved the curtain. Behind it was a wall with small, silver doors like in a mortuary. There were labels on each door. I scanned them. The blood drained. I felt his presence.

    And here I sit in the flashing lights.

  9. Cradle to the Grave
    299 words
    elements: Cradle to the Grave, Horror


    Marnie dropped her hands, eager to see the long-promised gift. But there was only an old mahogany crib sat in the middle of the room. Marnie was puzzled at first. Then her face cleared. They’d bought her the Suzy doll she wanted! The one just like a real baby. Marnie ran over in excitement.

    A shrivelled pink face looked up at her with empty blue eyes. This wasn’t a Suzy doll. This thing was ugly. And it stank.

    “Oh, dear,” laughed her father. “Someone needs changing.”

    Marnie clapped her hands. “Yay. Take her back and change her for a Suzy doll, Daddy. She’s much prettier and I bet she doesn’t smell.”

    “Now, Marnie,” said her mother. “This is your new baby sister. Say hello to Susan. You can call her Suzy for short.”

    Marnie stared at the imposter. She would never call her Suzy.

    The months passed and Suzy grew until eventually she was able to toddle after Marnie. Occasionally she would take a tumble. “Don’t worry, babies bounce,” said her mother whenever this happened.

    Babies bounce. Marnie stared thoughtfully at her sister.

    “Come on,” she said. “I’m your big sister and you have to do everything I say.”

    She put Suzy in the now too-small-crib and sang as she pushed it, Rock-a-bye-baby …

    It was heavy but eventually she reached the top of the stairs. When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall.

    Exhausted, Marnie took a breath, only for Suzy to scramble out. The toddler grabbed Marnie and tugged with surprising strength forcing the girls to swap positions. Too late Marnie realised what had happened and found herself plunging down the stairs. When she eventually stopped, she was unable to move, could only look up at Suzy who now pointed at her. “Suzy doll,” she kept saying.

    1. Love the changing baby sister for Suzy doll. And the ending was super….bitter irony. Siblings, eh!?

  10. @GeoffHolme
    Sweets From A Stranger / Horror
    197 words

    Ian, Diana, Jonas and The Lost Dark

    “Vot are you doing here so late, meine kinder?”

    Wilhelm Wönke confronts three intruders in his latest Schokoladenfabrik, a converted UK cement works.

    “We heard that yer dark chocolate was really nice,” said Ian. “ We saved up and bought some, but…”

    “…It fell dahn a grid,” interrupted Diana.

    “We thought we’d see if you had any… free samples, like,” added Jonas.

    “Hein! Vot vould your parents say if you vere to take – how do you say? – sweets from a stranger?”

    “They won’t say nuffink.”

    “They don’t give a monkey’s.”

    “We do wot we likes.”

    “I zee… Vot you heard is korrect: it is very good.”

    “Where does it come from?”



    “Pound Realm sells that.”

    “Tastes like crap!”

    “Not mit mein secret ingredient.”



    “Whazzat then?”

    “Ein psychotropic agent.”

    “Drugs don’t work that fast.”

    “We’ve tried ’em all! We live on a cahncil estate!”

    “Where’dya gerrit?”

    Wönke raises his hat, pirouettes – coattails flying – and flashes the broadest, whitest smile, distracting the youngsters as his Mönions surrounded them.

    “Ve extract it, meine lieblinge… from ze hopes und dreams of poor kinder.”

    Wönke leans close, eyes slowly widening with a maniacal glint, and whispers:

    “Just… like… yoo-ou!!”

    1. Lol…gut gemacht! Still think the council estate kids will win, though..they’ll do nasty things to his coat tails

  11. @WarwickDaisy
    Words – 300
    Genre – Fairy Tale
    Cradle to the Grave: A Young Woman’s Life in the Wake of Batty Bill

    Once-upon-a-time there lived a princess called Elaine. When she was a child it had been said by the Kingdom’s wise woman that her birth was a miracle nuisance. It wasn’t a miracle because her mother had been sick, or claimed to be an unsullied virgin. No, the reason Elaine’s existence was extraordinary was because the gentry had never expected Queen Salira and King Peter to willingly conceive an heir.

    Historically, every fourth generation of royalty skipped having children because the next generation were usually inbred enough to be completely mental. It was generally accepted that after the rule of the fourth that a new family would take over the throne. This was democracy in the Tarduc Kingdom.

    These laws meant that everybody’s family had a chance to be royalty and nobody had to worry about suffering the reign of an erratic, genetically-imbalanced lunatic. Despite six-hundred years passing, the tales of batty old King Bill had never been forgotten in the realm.

    Therefore, Elaine’s birth was unpredicted and unwanted by the Kingdom’s court. After her first breath she was hoiked off to the nursery and studied daily for signs of aggression, over-excitement and arrogance.

    To some of the court’s dismay, these bad qualities were never found in Princess Elaine. She proved to be sweet, calm, amiable and rather attractive. But, the King and Queen kept her locked in the nursery wing for fear that an attack motivated by jealousy might be made upon their daughter.

    As the princess turned eighteen it was clear that she would be a most considerate Queen. It also became clear that the Kingdom didn’t trust her.

    The wise woman couldn’t explain how Princess Elaine had suddenly fallen into a coma next to her teddies and a half-eaten apple. She’d never gotten to leave the palace.

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  12. Great take on the prompt, Daisy.
    [ Given the plot, I suppose you meant ‘genealogically-imbalanced’, rather than ‘genetically-imbalanced’. In case you didn’t, I can make an amendment. 🙂 ]

      1. Done!
        [ Yes, I am a star – a shooting star, burning up in the creative atmosphere of Microcosms entries… (Too florid? Must be lack of sleep – we have guys above our bedroom finishing off re-roofing our dormer windows. 🙁 ) ]

      2. You keep going, who knows what creativity brews in a sleep deprived brain! But if your German piece is anything to go by, its not working out too bad for you ;P

      3. To be honest, that is just a slightly extended version of a piece I wrote for Flash!Friday over a year ago. I thought it needed another outing as it only achieved SM then.

  13. Like Pulling Mussels From the Shell

    Argybargy on the bed in my sister’s room was the album I had to take I had to steal the turntable like Saturn spinning in my thoughts rings on rings on rings the phone pink by her bed and I had to have it the jacket that she gazed at and the posters on the wall of that band and the boyfriends she had over and the pillow and perfume and the noise from her closet of dresses addressing darkness with sign language of wrinkles and the needle dragging across I had the perfect plan and I waited till the moon dropping in the window like bright silver change in a jukebox and they were in the kitchen smooching and talking about a million ways from Sunday I walked in and I went to the bed and I grabbed it the music I longed for playing at my fingertips the music that I heard in my head and I turned and pushed F6, ‘Caught Stealing’, by Jane’s Addiction.

    “What are you doing?”

    “I’m stealing your Squeeze album.”

    Her boyfriend laughed and she shot him a look and I held onto the album because it was my future it was what I needed, I needed the Goodbye Girl I needed to get away and I saw her eyes go through many emotions like a vending machine of feeling and then she walked over to her collection and took out all her Squeeze albums and gave them to me.

    “Here, take them.”

    My future was heavy and had scratches but I walked out of her room and I thought to myself very sincerely because I did not know but I said it out loud by accident; “Is that love?”


    And she slammed the door.

    But behind the chalet
    My holiday’s complete…

    (300 words)

    1. Love this ‘stream of consciousness’ piece, Richard.
      [ ‘I saw her eyes go through many emotions like a vending machine of feeling’ is classic Edenfield. Keep ’em comin’! 🙂 ]

    2. Great imagery…future heavy and scratched. Nice how the sentences got shorter and more precise, as though coming to a set point, like a crescendo hitting hits peak.

  14. Sweets from a Stranger

    Crime; 279 words


    Clyde shivered and blew into his cupped hands. The basement was icy and dank, reeking of cat piss. And sadness.

    Still, all his good leads had dried up. And all his less good leads. Now he was onto wild notions and speculation. The Smithy family had once stored belongings here with a friend, two years before their mysterious disappearance. The friend had sold the place to developers a few months later (“It was always so damp and depressing! I couldn’t handle it.”) and it had sat empty and neglected ever since.

    He opened the door that led to the alleyway outside, seeking out fresh air, but finding only refuse. A young girl skipped around the corner and froze when she saw him.

    “Hey, Mister,” she said, “what are you doing in the bad house?”

    Clyde snorted. “I was just wondering that myself!” He walked toward her and pulled a mint from his pocket. “Would you like a lolly, young…?”

    “Lucinda,” she responded, snatching the sweet from his hand.

    He smiled. “Why do you call it ‘the bad house’?”

    She flinched. “Because the bad man waits for the children. He poisons their toys and whisks them away!”

    At the sound of footsteps, Clyde started and turned to see his partner, Keats, in the doorway. “You okay out here, Clyde?”

    “Sure. I’m just chatting with Lucinda here.”


    Clyde turned back. There was no sign of the girl besides a stray mint wrapper cavorting in the breeze.

    He shivered again.


    “I’m fine, Keats. I want a detailed history of this property, and a chemical analysis done on the Smithy kids’ toys. I have a feeling there’s life in this case yet.”


  15. Since you have a valid excuse, Meg, you are in the draw – especially with such a chilling, atmospheric tale. Creative response to the prompt – to have the crime committed before the sweet is taken from the stranger!
    [ I took the liberty of amending ‘the door that lead to the alleyway’ to ‘the door that led to the alleyway’ – definitely one of the less good leads! 😉 ]

    1. Thanks so much Geoff. Again. If it helps, I’ve been late for everything for the last few months. I’ve set a couple of weekly alarms now though. This is the last time, for sure…

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