Thank you to all who squeezed out a story in Microcosms 41. (Scraping the barrel now for a punning reference to the contest…) Back to a reasonable number of entries this time.
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 Alex Brightsmith for judging MC 41. Here’s what she had to say:
Well, gosh, thank you for having me. I’m not, as you may know, the most decisive person, and I have a tendency to gush unconstructively in the presence of writing I admire, so I’m not quite sure what I was thinking when I agreed to judge.
Still, at least one goes into Microcosms knowing there won’t be any shortage of best lines to choose from, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed… I just forgot about the choosing: it’s hard. I found myself surprised, too, by the favourite lines that I was drawn to. If you asked, I’d have said I’m all about the words, always ready to be seduced by language into disregarding deficiencies in characterisation and plot, yet you’ll find I’ve picked a lot of lines that need their context, often lines that add spin or depth by puncturing the mood or shifting the tone.
So let’s just dive in to a week that I found surprisingly dark… though maybe I just don’t know what to expect of Squeeze… or possibly I have a surprisingly cheerful view of crime.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Alva Holland – His shiny blacks were the reason I gave him a second look, a chance, a dance…
Steve Lodge – Awful winter things that warm you from your throat to your feet including yards of your colon.
Nthato Morakabi – The man took a glance at the rear-view mirror and felt his body gradually chill as bright hazel eyes stared back at him.
Geoff Le Pard – As he watched it sink, Ronnie promised himself that he would never be the one frightened ever again.
Geoff Holme – …so it led to a right argy bargy! (Tempted though I was to choose the whole piece as being technically one line.)
Bill Engleson – And I have these awful memory scraps, bits and bites of emotional flaps…
Holly Geely – And starve they did not, but they did go to jail for theft and destruction of property
Nicola Tapson – And here I sit in the flashing lights.
Steph Ellis – Marnie stared at the imposter. She would never call her Suzy.
Geoff Holme – Wilhelm Wönke confronts three intruders in his latest Schokoladenfabrik, a converted UK cement works.
Daisy Warwick – 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.
Richard Edenfield – My future was heavy and had scratches
Meg Kovalik – And all his less good leads.
Most effective unexpected sense of unexplained menace:
Alva Holland – Shiny Shoes and a Song
Bill Engleson – Unruffled for Moggies
Best demonstration that short sentences are for wimps (and boy was I tempted to select the entire first paragraph as the best line!):
Richard Edenfield – Like Pulling Mussels From the Shell
Hardest tale to select just one best line from:
Nicola Tapson – Sweets From a Stranger
Honorable / Honourable Mentions
Nthato Morakabi – Sweets From a Stranger
For the slick way it turns the tables.
Geoff Holme – Sleeping With The Enemy
For cheeky light relief and directness in a dark and twisty field.
Geoff Holme – Ian, Diana, Jonas and The Lost Dark
For a playful and delightfully twisted take on an already twisted tale.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 41.
(insert drumroll here)
Steve Lodge – Totally Werthless
Sweets From A Stranger / Crime
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.”
Meg Kovalik – Sweets from a Stranger
A beautifully complete and nicely balanced tale, packing in a whole lot of story and a convincing backdrop despite a deceptively leisurely pace.
Sweets from a Stranger / Crime
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.”
Congratulations, Meg. As the Judge’s Pick, you are invited to judge the next round of Microcosms. Please let me know whether or not you are interested!