Microcosms 63

Welcome, one and all, to Microcosms 63. (I’m resisting the temptation to start with “Top o’ the mornin’ to ya!”)

A couple of notes before we get down to business:



*** New York has changed over to daylight saving (EDT) ***

Here in the UK, for instance, for this week and next, the time difference between New York and the UK will be 4 hours, instead of the usual 5 hours. Plan your schedule for entries according to your time zone.



Include which THREE elements you’re using AND a title for your entry. 


This week, our guest host is Ireland’s own, Alva Holland. Don your emerald-tinted spectacles, and have a look at what she has to say:

Happy St Patrick’s Day, everyone. Today, Irish people all over the world celebrate their country and its heritage. The world, or at least a significant portion of it, goes green for a day. Irish people have emigrated to and settled in every country in the world. Some international Irish communities are, in fact, larger than the population of Ireland itself. Astonishing!
And so, to today’s challenge. Every city in the world has its famous or infamous landmarks. Our elements today are iconic urban landmarks, and the people and situations making up our neighbourhoods.



(If YOU have an idea for a future contest and would like to be guest host, please contact me.)


Our contest this week begins with THREE things: character, setting and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are – character: Pilot, setting: Le Louvre, and genre: Tragedy.

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 inspires you.


*** Once again, be sure to include which THREE elements you’re using AND a title for your entry. ***

  • Cyclist
  • Firefighter
  • Detective
  • Pilot
  • Dentist
  • Judge
  • Artist
  • Guinness Storehouse, Dublin
  • London Eye
  • Le Louvre
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Sydney Opera House
  • Taj Mahal
  • The Colosseum
  • Tragedy
  • Crime
  • Romance
  • Horror
  • Memoir
  • Comedy
  • Fantasy


Judging this week is Microcosms 62 Community Pick AND Judge’s Pick, Nthato Morakabi.

All submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length. You have until midnight, New York time (EDT) to submit.

*** If you are new to Microcosms, remember to check out the full submission guidelines. ***

All being well, results will be posted on Monday.

Microcosms 64
Microcosms 62

55 thoughts on “Microcosms 63

  1. Crowning Glory

    Towering above me was Lady Liberty, dressed in her drab crown. It was time. I walked through the turnstile.
    “Excuse me, miss,” said the officer as he motioned for me to come closer.
    “Yes, sir?”
    “What’s in the bag?”
    “Just my crochet.”
    I put the bag down and the zipper creeped open. Psychedelic colors popped out. The officer took a stick and poked through the bag.
    “OK, have a nice day.”
    I released a breath as I sauntered away. That was a close call.

    I darted up the stairs, passed a crowd of tourists milling about wondering which way to go next. As I crested the stairwell, I was gobsmacked by the view of New York, but that wasn’t why I was here. I had a different mission. I scanned the room and saw the fire exit. That was the door I was looking for. I moseyed on over. As I was about to open the door, I heard someone clear their throat behind me.
    “Where do you think you going, missy?”
    I twirled around. Doesn’t this guy have a job? “I was looking for the loo.” The officer pointed to the opposite side of the building.
    “Ok. I am actually trying to get to the crown.”
    “I want to yarn bomb the statue.”
    The officer’s eyes narrowed and he reached for his radio. I edged away, but he had my arm in a vice grip. “Hey, Frank. Come in.”
    “Yeah, Joe,” crackled the radio. “Please open the stairwell. Maintenance are here”. The door clicked and the officer winked.

    ‘Lady Liberty Gets A New Crown’ was splashed on all the papers the next day. Commuters chittered about the unknown artist. I smiled. My job was done.

    Artist/Statue of Liberty/Comedy
    Word Count: 289

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  2. Alva Holland
    295 words
    Detective/London Eye/Comedy

    Silencing The Pod

    ‘Aye, aye, and what have we here?’

    ‘It’s an iPod, sir.’

    ‘An Eye Pod? Sure, can’t I see that for myself, boy. Are you trying to be funny? We’re all in this Eye Pod together, looking down over the Thames and across London as far as the Eye can see.’

    ‘Yes, sir. If you say so, sir.’

    Clearly, the young boy thought the trench-coated old man a tad weird, if not a little threatening. Burying his nose in his screen, he fixed his earbud air-pods firmly into his pink-tipped ears and sidled closer to his mother.

    Trench Coat settled on his next victim. ‘Like peas in a Pod, we are,’ he said to the old lady sitting minding her own business on the centre bench, looking like she was about to throw up. She too wore a trench coat, turned up at the collar over which her grey curls tumbled in ringlets young women would give their Eye teeth for.

    ‘Peas in a Pod, I said,’ the old man shouted this time.

    In the second it takes to split a pea, the old lady turned and whacked him with her handbag which made a swoosh as it flew and a whack as it landed in Trench Coat’s stomach. He doubled over and toppled to the side, shoving the young earbudded urchin into his mother who lurched into the two young lovers canoodling and taking selfies against the glass. We all glared at Trench Coat who was ruining our London Eye experience.

    I approached him as he sat, alone on the bench now, everyone avoiding him.

    ‘Excuse me,’ I whispered. ‘I’m a P.I.’

    ‘You can Pee Eye off, you dirty git. I’m not interested.’

    The entire Eye Pod was silent for the remainder of the journey.

      1. Thanks, Nic! Good to be back. I missed last week. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    1. Wonderful play on words. Well done to little old ladies and heavy handbags. Thanks for a lovely story

    2. ¡Ay caramba! Why wasn’t Bart Simpson in the pod! A fun story, Alva.
      And your fan club are back in numbers; looks like the ayes have it – you’re Community Pick again. 🙂
      ( But what happened to the story set in the Guinness Storehouse? Perhaps you were too pie-eyed after a visit to write it. 😉 )

  3. Cyclist/London Eye/ Memoir
    Word count: 300

    Call Home, Ernie

    Ernie has always been a bit of a drunk and a braggart. He tells tall tales while slurring his words. He cycles everywhere because he can’t afford a car, but tells everyone that he’s a cyclist. He’s everyone’s uncle and you tolerate him because he’s family.

    Uncle Ernie came to the pub tonight. He burst in through the door, his eyes were bloodshot. His hair was wild. Even old Albert Einstein would have thought twice about his own hairdo after seeing this. He was covered in leaves, twigs and dirt. He was spluttering, trying to talk.

    “I was abducted by aliens!” he shrieked. A couple of chuckles rang out. “I’m serious! They were skinny and grey and had ant-shaped heads. They said I was vital to their mission of a future takeover.”

    At this, someone in the corner piped, “Take me to your leader!” There were guffaws.

    Ernie carried on. “They took me to their galaxy. I saw constellations unlike any I’ve ever seen! Their world looks just like our London Eye. It’s magnificent!”

    The barman slapped a beer glass down on the counter. “Shut up, Ernie! Drink your beer!”

    Ernie became quiet. “I don’t drink anymore,” he said. At this, the whole bar burst out into delighted laughter. It carried on for several minutes. He walked out of the pub, dejected.

    I picked up my bag to leave. It was a warm night and I enjoyed the walk home. As I approached the lane, a bright light stopped in front of me. I could make out Ernie talking to a strangely-shaped human who resembled an ant. My jaw dropped. Ernie smiled at me and winked. He disappeared before my eyes.

    Now it is I standing in the pub, shrieking about aliens while everyone around me thinks I’m drunk.

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    1. Great tale! Funny but also slightly worrying…why did he wink after going off with aliens talking about taking over? Hmm….

  4. Ear Today
    A.J. Walker

    Egbert Plum-Taylor III stood beneath the Gypsy Moth with a dumb grin as wide as the Liffey. ‘Tallyho!’ yelped the young man. He threw his stovepipe hat in the air, misjudging the wind, and it blew down the runway to be lost to the crows. ‘Paree here we come! We’ll find a hat shop there.’

    ‘Idiot,’ muttered George, the old pilot. He’d seen it all in his career, and done a lot of jobs he found tasteless, but his annual jaunt to Paris with the winner of the Rotary Club of Mayfair Raffle was pretty much the worse day of his year. Always such stupid plebs seemed to win; he was sure it was fixed, it was always a Club grandee who won it.

    The flight, thankfully, was uneventful. Egbert had gone coldly quiet once up in the air. His choice of attire was clearly not through any consultation which made George laugh through much of the flight.

    At Paris airport, the man turned to the pilot. ’To the Louvre first. I’ve still never been. It’s about time I saw that tart’s sly grin everyone talks about. What’s it called again? Moaning Lisa or something. Then we really must find a milliner. My ears are about to drop off, if they haven’t already. I really can’t feel them. You’ll really have to drive back a bit slower or take a warmer route.’

    ‘Yes, sir. I’ll take a slower warmer route on the way back. You should have said on the way.’

    ‘I would have thought it should go without saying. Especially after the tragedy of losing my hat. We lose 120% of our heat through our heads.’

    ‘Yes, sir. Maybe a flat cap, or something with flaps would be more suitable, sir.’

    ‘A cat flap? What you on about?!’


    WC 300
    Pilot / le Louvre / tragedy

  5. Crime of Passion
    282 words
    Detective, the Colosseum, romance

    In Dectectivus’ opinion, Vespasian’s pet project, this so-called Amphitheatrum Flavium, was a terrible idea.
    However, she was not employed to have opinions, but to solve murders (but only those murders which mattered to Vespasian; to solve all the murders in Rome would take more than one Detectivus).
    Detectivus poked the protruding foot with one sandal.

    “It was an accident,” said the engineer. He had been overseeing construction when it happened. If he spoke the truth, Vespasian would not be pleased; the victim was one of his favourite painters.

    “We could pin it on one of the slaves,” the engineer suggested.

    Detectivus sighed. She hated boring, predictable little men like this one. To save his own hide, he would sacrifice a slave; how thoughtless. How unoriginal.

    “It was a revenge killing,” said the artist.

    That was a much better suggestion.

    “Go on,” Detectivus said.

    “The painter had a wife who was in love with another. He learned of his wife’s infidelity and he was displeased. He forbade her from seeing her lover. The wife, desperate for her true love, murdered her husband.”

    “Do you have proof?” asked Detectivus.

    “Nope,” said the artist.

    “Fine. I’m going to arrest the engineer.”

    “What? But I didn’t kill him!” the engineer protested.

    “That’s fine,” said Detectivus. “You’re the engineer. You should have engineered a safer work environment.” Detectivus was pleased with her logic, because she knew it would please Vespasian.

    Detectivus dragged the screaming engineer out of the Amphitheatrum by the ear and whistled a romantic tune. She passed the artist, who had her arms about a sobbing woman with a tenderness that Detectivus envied. The artist smiled.

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    1. Ha! Great story, Holly. Love the perverse logic employed to appease an imperious leader – thank goodness that couldn’t happen today…
      [ My background in Classics, however, compels me to wonder why your female investigator isn’t called ‘Detectiva’. 😉 ]

  6. Would You Mind Awfully?
    by Steve Lodge
    299 words
    detective/the taj mahal/crime

    It is about 90 minutes from London’s Liverpool Street station on the first train to the coast. Once arriving at Stormwatch, there is a branch line that runs south to Hawkmeadow via Sparrowditch, Horse Ridings, Frintongar, and Grey Wrath or north via Otter Halt and Balfour End to Serpents Point. A real milk run.

    I’d been overnight at the TV studio, filming back-to-back episodes of the quiz show ‘Would You Mind Awfully?’, and had just got to Horse Ridings station, one dim, sleepy October morning in late July, when I received a call from Mama, saying she’d come and pick me up from the station. Odd, I thought, what with her being bed-bound and all.

    Lew Stools, the famous actor, got off the same train as me. I’d seen him get on at Sparrowditch, looking, frankly, exhausted. He was met by a relative..ly low centre of gravity, which turned out to be his uncle.

    I heard Lew say, “No one saw me. Let’s get home for some of that chewy soup, always the highlight of breakfast. Then you can show me your new rat juggling act.”

    Next day, I read in the paper that two bodies had been found in the Sparrowditch cricket pavilion and another with his toenails missing behind the Taj Mahal Restaurant, making a body count in the village of seven in less than two months. A coincidence? Why on earth would a well-known actor be killing people off in Sparrowditch?

    It was the talk of the golf club over lunch. I considered calling a private investigator fellow I knew, a former detective, Ernest Hugh Murmur, in Frintongar, and getting him to see what he could find out about the whole sordid business. But then I remembered I owed him some money, so I didn’t bother.

  7. Dentist; London Eye; Tragedy
    300 family jewels

    Down the Long Corridor of Generational Madness

    The madness, if that was what it was, likely began before Sylvester Hummingbird was even conceived. And even before Syl’s inauspicious birth, before his father, Wentworth was a gleam in the eye of his grandfather, Conover Hummingbird. In fact, it probably began with his great grandpop, Wolford.


    Syl Hummingbird tried to focus on Marjory Maitland’s molar. It was surely inflamed. But his eyes, his deteriorating mind was drawn out of the window of his second-story Lambeth Dental Clinic to the eroding London skyline. “Damn, they are beginning,” he swore as the probe resting on Marjorie’s inflamed tooth slipped, gouging her unanaesthetized gum.
    The London Eye was going to be built. Another exhibition of American excess despoiling the Old World.
    Glynis Swart, his hygienist looked at him quizzically.
    “I need a moment,” he blustered and went to the window, caught on some ancient grimace.
    His mind rushed back to the family tale.


    “I fought it, Connie,” a dying Wolford Hummingbird scrunched in his daybed, cancer gobbling his brain, cancer, and the struggle to remove the Great Wheel from view, Wolford major accomplishment, realized forty-five years earlier. Not the Great War or WW 2 but the struggle to remove that first rotating sign of encroaching, thrill-a-minute culture exported by the Yanks.
    “I fought it and you must fight this abysmal Dome of Discovery. If you don’t, we will be lackeys of America by century’s end. Britch initiative, my red lollipop.”


    The Dome had been dismantled of its own accord but the message to Conover had been as clear as acid rain. Conover’s anti-American frill-architecture activism was not actualized. The guilt rankled and was passed on to Wentworth.
    Wentworth, Syl’s father and dental partner, interrupted his reverie.
    “It may take explosives this go-around, sonny bunch,” Conover said, somewhat ominously.

    1. Brilliant generational tale, Bill. Love the dentist’s probe slip and ‘as clear as acid rain.’ Lots of favourite lines here.

    2. That was awesome! Reminded me of something by Lovecraft….ominous start and pervading sense of looming dread.

  8. Encore Une Fois
    Pilot/Le Louvre/Tragedy
    @geofflepard 294 words
    Jerome Kay piloted his boat towards the harbour. It had to be France, but which bit he’d wait to find out.
    Patrice Lefond watched as the skiff approached, allowing a stereotypical shrug to reach his knotted shoulders. Not again, he thought. When ‘Le Louvre’ was within hailing distance he cupped his hands in an improvised hailer and called, ‘Monsieur Kay, you need to keep going.’
    Jerome frowned. The French chappie knew him it seemed, though he was darned if he could recall seeing him before. He steered towards the dock. ‘Do I know you?’
    Patrice nodded. ‘You need to sail on, Jerome. You cannot stop here.’
    Jerome pursed his lips. Damned rude, he thought. Typical bloody continental. Still, no point antagonising the local officials. ‘Where are we, by the way?’
    Patrice nodded again, a slight smile on his lips. ‘Where do you think you are, Monsieur?’
    Jerome let go a short laugh. ‘I know. Sounds incompetent, doesn’t it? Lost in the jolly old fog. Somewhere French, of course.’
    ‘Belgium, in fact. Ten kilometres north of Dunkirk.’
    ‘Course. Thought I recognised it.’
    Patiently, Patrice held the rope that Jerome tossed to him. When the boat was alongside, he met Jerome’s rheumy gaze. ‘You need to set sail, Monsieur. For the Port de Dunkirk. Your daughter will be waiting for you.’ He paused and added, ‘For the rescue.’
    Jerome nodded. The rescue. Course, that’s why they needed him. He ignored the daughter reference. Some Belgium thingy, he supposed. Never did understand those johnnies. He pulled the tiller as Patrice pushed him off and watched him go. He should have kept a note of the visits. One day Jerome wouldn’t reappear. Patrice watched the sails shrink into the horizon; what, he wondered, would be the greater tragedy?

    1. I know I’m missing something in this story, and it’s such an evocative read that I’m actually upset that I’m missing it. Beautiful story.

    2. Wonderful atmospheric story, Geoff.

      But I have to agree with Sian that it would be great to know – or at least to have some more clues about – what is actually going on here. I assume it’s a ghost story, a spirit continually reliving the rescue mission to Dunkirk from which he never returned. But ‘Your daughter will be waiting for you… For the rescue.’ is a little ambiguous: is she there to commemorate the event or to be rescued?
      The last phrase ‘…what, he wondered, would be the greater tragedy? is tantalising too. Does that refer to ‘One day Jerome wouldn’t reappear.’ – continually reappearing and ceasing to reappear both being, in different ways, a tragedy? If so. it would be clearer if ‘Patrice watched the sails shrink into the horizon’ came before ‘One day Jerome wouldn’t reappear’, especially as you used a semi-colon in the last sentence.

      [ There are also a couple of details that detract from the story for a pedant like me:
      1) As a port, Dunkirk is obvious on the coast of France. ‘Ten kilometres north of Dunkirk’ would in the English Channel / North Sea. Should that be north-east ?
      2) For a French-speaking Belgian, ‘Port de Dunkirk’ seems wrong. He would say either ‘Port of Dunkirk’ or ‘Port de Dunkerque’ (the French name for Dunkirk). ]

      Well, I seemed to have ripped your tale apart, Geoff! But you know I provide this service only to stories that I really like. 😉

  9. Smile

    299 words
    Elements: dentist, Louvre, horror


    A closed mouth was a rarity in Daniel’s line of work. Perhaps that was why the Mona Lisa was his favourite painting. He stared at the smile, wondered at its hidden meaning. Did pearls lie behind those gated lips or was it coal?

    The press of the crowd and a gesture from the hall guard interrupted his contemplation, forced him to move away. He tried to return to his spot but the guard prevented him, unapologetically blocking his path. Daniel glanced at her name badge. Marie Durand. An unworthy protector for La Giaconda he thought as she curled back her lips in a snarl, displaying two rows of uneven ivory, an insult to the woman in oil. Some things needed fixing.

    Daniel lurked outside the staff entrance, waiting until the museum closed before slipping inside. It proved surprisingly easy. Marie was alone in a dimly-lit office. She paid no attention as he entered the room. Only when she sensed him standing right behind her did she look up, see his reflection in the black glass, turn …

    He moved quickly, pressing the chloroform-soaked pad over her mouth until she stopped struggling, then he dragged her to the couch, positioning her head carefully on its arm. Working quickly, he manipulated her jaw, gazed once more on the insults within. There was not enough time to fix that problem. Better they were just hidden from view. He took out needle and thread, pulled the corner of her mouth up so it curled into a smile, started to stitch. Each time steel pierced flesh, a crimson stream trickled down her chin. In and out he wove the thread, in and out, in and out, until a seam of blackened cross-stitch formed its own Mona Lisa smile. Da Vinci would have been proud.

    1. Love your opening line here, Steph and you’ve just given me another dentist nightmare! Super story.

  10. @stellakateT
    287 words
    Detective/ The Coliseum/ Tragedy

    It’s In The Eyes

    When he said they were sending me to The Coliseum, I automatically thought of the bar in Connor’s Walk. God! Memories fighting to be remembered! That girl, what was her name? I’d dated her on and off for weeks. She’d give me free drinks providing the manager was looking the other way or give me change for a ten pound note when I’d given her a fiver. Now that was a long time ago. I must have looked a doughnut when the Super asked if I had a passport. I nodded like a right plod.

    He told me to read the file and come up with a strategy. I presume he either couldn’t be bothered or had no idea. Incapacity always brought promotion so I’d already decided I’d be a humble DC until suspension or retirement.

    An Irish girl had fallen to her death on the steps and the Italians were saying it was accidental. Her family were accusing the bloke she was travelling with. All round it was a tragedy. It was the girl from The Coliseum. Aileen Doherty. I remember now I called her A because she kept saying, ‘Its Aileen, not Eileen!’.

    I should have told the Super I knew her, but I didn’t. I owed her. She pointed me in the direction of my final career choice when the manager got done for having an illicit still in the basement and the bar closed down. I was so incensed that she suggested I got my own back. If you can’t beat them, join them. So here I am on the plane having a Guinness on St Patrick’s Day. It was the boyfriend that did it! I could see it in her dead eyes.

    1. Wonderful Irish references wound into a tale of murder, pints and Italian steps. Nice one, Stella!

    2. Despairing story…I like rich stories like this one, filling in the details behind an event.

  11. Sian Brighal
    300 words

    Artist/Statue of Liberty/Fantasy

    Still Life

    ‘Good afternoon, my dear,’ he muttered as he set up his easel. ‘You’ll be glad…or hopefully not…to know I’ve finished the rough outline and ready to paint.’

    A few pigeons waddled over. They remembered him and his habit of forgetting his lunch while he worked.

    ‘You’ve been a most obliging model,’ he continued while squirting blobs of grey and white paint on his palette. ‘The last one was…feisty. Couldn’t sit still at all! Most unprofessional. But I guess that’s freedom for you, and she must have been lonely up on that dome.’

    He paused, looking slightly amused. ‘And the lions! Oh my. But at least we did well, even with all those pigeons being a distraction.’ A pigeon cocked its head as though suggesting that tormenting art was part of their remit. He saw it and straightened, raising an indignant eyebrow. ‘Yes, you and your London feathered brethren! You have no appreciation for art.’

    The artist, satisfied that all was in order sat and picked up his brush. ‘Right, my dear,’ he said brightly, swirling the brush tip between some grey and white. ‘I have your good side, don’t worry. You’re liberty…all sides are good.’

    A swathe of grey later, he stopped as a shadow fell across the canvas. ‘Oh really!’

    ‘Sorry, mister,’ a kid said before side-stepping out the way and taking a lick of his cone. ‘That’s real good!’

    Mollified somewhat, he smiled. ‘Well, thank you, young man. Be sure to tell her, as she’s curious.’

    ‘Er…okay,’ the kid mumbled before looking up at her and shouting. ‘He’s doing a good job.’

    Then he dropped his ice-cream.

    ‘She winked!’

    ‘She’s a cheeky one, isn’t she?! That’s the French in her.’

    ‘She winked!’

    ‘Don’t fret,’ he soothed. ‘Nelson had things far worse: four lions and pigeons for a start.’

      1. Thanks, Alva! Trying some new genres…whimsy and such are a bit like undiscovered country. Glad you liked it

  12. @GeoffHolme
    300 words
    Pilot; Statue of Liberty; Tragicomedy

    “You’re Propane-Fired!”

    I was hiking through the countryside on a sunny day, and stopped to take a rest. I lay down on the grass, and drifted off to sleep.

    “Hey, buddy!”

    The loud voice interrupted my nap. I opened my eyes.

    Floating above me was a hot air balloon with an huge image of the Statue of Liberty on the side. From the wicker basket suspended below, a self-important face scowled down at me.

    “Where am I? I promised a business associate I’d meet him for a round of golf a half hour ago.”

    “You’re in a hot air balloon,” I told him, “maybe 30 or 40 feet above the ground. You are between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude.”

    “I gotta tell ya, you’re not helping my situation,” the pilot answered. “I know where I came from. The information you’ve given can’t be correct. It’s a distortion of the truth.”

    He pointed an accusatory finger at me. “You must be a journalist!” he concluded.

    “I am,” I answered.

    “But you know where you want to go, but you don’t have a clear idea how you are going to get there. You have risen to your current position due to a large amount of hot air. You change direction as the wind blows. You made a promise that you have no idea how to keep. You don’t appear to be experienced in the job you’re doing, and you have no one with you qualified to help you solve your problem. You’re in the same situation you were in before we met, but now, since I told you something that you didn’t want to hear, you’re blaming me.”

    There was only one conclusion I could draw. “You must be the President of the United States!”

    1. Class! If only the man in question possessed even a smidgen of it, Geoff. Super story. Now, if you could just arrange one of those balloons to whisk him into space for other-worldly beings to deal with. Maybe they’re orange too.

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