Microcosms 66

Hello and welcome to MC66!

The eminent Billie Holiday was born on 7 April 1915. She was a famous American jazz singer who grew up poor and faced many, many hardships in her life. She was not a classically trained singer, but people were drawn to her for her unique and sultry voice.

Her most famous song is arguably “Strange Fruit”, which was a song based upon a poem meant to protest racism in America, especially lynchings, a horrible practice that I’ll let you read about on your own, should you be so inclined.

7 April also happens to be the symbolic birthday of the Internet, with the signing of Publication RFC1 in 1969, which happened roughly 10 years after her death in 1959.

Holiday died at the young age of 44, but her legacy lives on (as does the legacy of racism in America).

The prompts this week are based mostly upon events and people in Holiday’s life. Since many of the options are a bit grim, I’ve thrown in a couple of wildcards inspired by the Internet to lighten the mood.



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


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

We spun, and our three elements are – character: Musician, setting: Hospital, and genre: Fantasy.

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.


*** HEY! Remember to include which THREE elements you’re using AND a title for your entry. ***

  • Jazz Singer
  • Addict
  • Musician
  • Dog Named Mister
  • Prostitute
  • Mafia Wife
  • Abuse Victim
  • Railroad Worker
  • Actress
  • Sentient Technology
  • A Youtuber
  • The American South
  • A Hospital
  • A Recording Studio
  • A Courthouse
  • “Online”
  • New Orleans
  • A Bedroom
  • Steve Jobs’s Garage
  • A Brothel
  • Tragedy
  • Crime
  • Romance
  • Horror
  • Memoir
  • Comedy
  • Fantasy


Judging this week is Microcosms 65 Judge’s Pick, Sian Brighal.

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 67
Microcosms 65

39 thoughts on “Microcosms 66

  1. Zebra’s Folly
    Prostitute; brothel; memoir
    300 downtown moments

    Some nights, I slept under the bed in the attic. I imagined it was cave, deep down in the earth, as far away as an spelunker could get from Zebra’s Folly.

    The first time Mae called me her little spelunker, we had only been in the Zebra’s Folly and Fandango Pleasure Palace for one night.

    She’d crawled into bed oozing of sweetness and death and slobbered in my ear, “It’ll be a goldmine, my little spelunker. Let’s dig deep. Make it work.”

    We’d caught the Greyhound out of Chicago after midnight two nights before.

    I was almost seven.

    We were always on the move.

    “It’s sudden, baby boy,” she’d cuddled me as I drifted off in her arms, the highway whizzing by, the bus as dark and foul as a sewer, wretched snoring going on in the back, tearing into the other grunts and the smells. She then said something close to what she always said. “I know I promised we’d plan for the next time but it isn’t always easy. Chicago ain’t for us. We’re goin’ south.”

    A dozen cities hadn’t been for us. And we’d been north and east and west and south a thousand times.

    I slept anyways. It was always the only smart thing to do.

    “Wake up, kiddo,” Mae finally woke me a thousand hours later. “Time to say hello to St Louis, Missouri.”

    We’d hustled off the bus and caught a cab.

    Mae asked the driver, “You know the Zebra’s place?”

    I saw his look. The way he looked at Mae. The way he looked away from me. He then said, “Yeah, I know where it is. It ain’t a place for kids, Lady.”

    “Just drive,” Mae’d said. “Drive and mind your own beeswax.”

    Mae was always on top of the world…until she wasn’t.

    1. Love this, Bill. Pitiful circumstances. Would love to think it’s always fiction but unfortunately it’s all too common. Great story.

  2. Abuse Victim/New Orleans/Crime

    Word count: 296

    Twisted Hurt

    She stood in the rain peering at her reflection in the store window. She had been a pretty, dainty girl but now she seemed far older and wiser than she was. She held a suitcase that she had stored at Mary’s house in case she needed it. Last night had been the final straw and she had run.

    She was tired and felt a headache coming on. Her stomach was rumbling loudly. She stopped at a small, rather dingy looking café, where she ordered a hot fish and chips. She ate every morsel licking her fingers and sighed happily. Two cups of tea washed down any regrets she had about leaving. It was around then that she felt, rather than saw, someone staring at her. A young gentleman approached her and she stared back afraid, holding her suitcase tightly against her body.

    “I’m sorry to bother you, Miss,” he stammered. “You look like you need some help.”

    He told her of his mother’s boarding house one street over and offered to help her get settled. He was shy and sweet and she knew her luck was about to change. She accepted his offer gratefully and they left the café into the inky blackness of the night.

    Detective Johns looked at the crime scene before him. He had never seen such brutality before. David Green’s head had been bashed in numerous times with an iron. It sickened him to think that a woman had done this to her husband. Her friend Mary had spoken of the years of abuse suffered at his wife’s hands and she was too afraid to speak out against her. He looked out into the night sky. Somewhere out there, that murderous fiend was starting a new life collecting new Mardi Gras beads.

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  3. @CarinMarais
    Elements used: Musician, hospital, fantasy
    Words: 243

    The Man in Blue

    Music drifted through the silent hallways of the hospital as the clocks outside tolled the midnight hour. Sleeping patients woke as a figure dressed in blue slowly stalked down the long hallways, silver flute pressed to his lips. Around him nurses and doctors seemed not to notice the music or the figure, only seeing that the patients became restless in their beds.

    Here and there patients peeked from the doors at the tall, skinny man whose long coat was hidden in midnight shadow. Some said prayers and crossed themselves, willing their feet not to move to the sound of the ethereal music. At last one man stepped from his room, following the unearthly music and the man in blue.

    Step for step he followed the dark figure, entranced, swaying to the music that only the dying could hear. A woman joined him, white nightgown shining in the hospital’s half-dark hallways. Together they danced-walked-waltzed behind the man in blue, out of the wards and through the reception to a lush moonlit garden appearing just outside the sliding door.

    Gone were the electric lights, noise, and pollution of the city, replaced by the notes of the music that now sounded even sweeter than it had inside the confines of the hospital. The man turned to them, revealing his midnight cloak to be shining wings. He lowered the flute from his lips, but the music remained. Around them the night garden bloomed.

  4. Alva Holland
    300 words

    Mammy’s Boogie

    Pod One. Ward One.
    ‘Good morning, Mrs. Paul. Time to change your sheets.’ The high-pitched electronic voice of the bed-changing robot grated on Lesley Paul’s ears. She hated this place, especially the levitation. Each time, she had immediate use for the commode sitting beside her pod.

    ‘Up we go,’ shrilled the cheery voice as Mrs. Paul’s body levitated, rendering the elderly woman speechless and terrified. Within 10 seconds, the old sheets had been replaced with crisp white cotton freshness and hospital folds.

    ‘Down we go,’ grated the bed-changer as Mrs. Paul’s limp hovering body was lowered onto the clean sheets and a fresh top sheet pinned her tightly to the bed.

    ‘Wait!’ shouted Mrs. Paul. ‘I need the commode.’

    She swore she heard the robot sigh.

    ‘Up we go,’ repeated the cheery voice. More levitation and Mrs. Paul was on the commode. At times like this she wished she had better retention – of memories.

    ‘Don’t you dare say, “up we go” again, she quipped, scowling at the machine. Undeterred, after an adamant cleansing swoosh, the robot announced, ‘Up we go.’

    Lesley was furious. Her head twirled at the sound of the pod door opening. There stood her son, Les.

    ‘Les Paul! Get me out of this place, immediately.’

    ‘Sorry Ma, got a gig to do. Just came in to show you my latest Gibson. It’s the L200 specially commissioned for Emmylou. Isn’t she a beauty? Took me months to get her right. You ok in here, Ma – they’re taking care of you?’

    ‘Les Paul! I’ll only stay if you play “Mammy’s Boogie” for me. Remember the words?’
    ‘Deed I Do, Ma.’

    The jazz chords from Les Paul’s Gibson resounded through the ward. Even the robots seemed animated.

    ‘Pod One. Ward One. Patient placated by a Gibson ‘57. Over and out.’

      1. Thanks, Bill. I hadn’t a clue what to write about until I had a clue what to write about!

  5. Singing While Your Heart Breaks
    Jazz singer, American South, Tragedy
    @geofflepard 281 words

    Pretty Melbourne was born on New Year’s day 1900 with a cleft lip. Her parents, Andersen and Susan hoped her name would compensate; they were wrong. Pretty hid and her folks despaired. Anderson, tired before his time from years in the fields found solace in whiskey and his fiddle. Pretty followed watching from the shadows.
    ‘Sing for us, girlie.’ Ezekiel took his chance, catching Pretty.
    Anderson knew better than to interrupt. He winked and set the fiddle to his chin, slowly playing an old lullaby.
    Pretty understood he wanted her to sing, knew it was important though not why; she swallowed the grit hardening in her throat. With eyes shut one tune followed another.
    ‘Now how’s she do that, being as she is?’ Ezekiel stared at the startled Pretty.
    When Andersen died followed shortly by Susan, Pretty’s only hope was her voice; she knew she’d never marry. Ezekiel offered help: ‘New Orleans ain’t no place for womenfolk save you’s no choice. I’ll take you.’
    A terrified Pretty gradually found her feet, singing in a Jazz club. Soon her voice and strange smile drew people in; recordings were made, scoured into wax discs bringing more fame and attention.
    Ezekiel visited regularly; she’d eat with him, listening to stories of the town. After yet another fan stopped to talk, he said, “Girl, you have the world at your feet.’
    The faces stared up as she prepared to sing, a world at her feet; yet inside a little of her died. Without her father’s wink and her mother’s smile what was the point of this adulation? It’s wonderful to find your voice, she thought, but only if the people hearing it matter to you.

    1. There’s a poignancy to a lot of this week’s stories. This one is no exception. Love the mood permeating through this, Geoff.

  6. The Guardian
    300 words
    Musician, Hospital, Fantasy

    I’m awake in this mechanical bed with its stiff sheets,
    But I must be dreaming.
    The golden-haired creature, standing over me like a winged sentry, is anything but real.
    “Who are you?” I ask.
    “I am here,” he replies.

    Memories flash.

    A handshake.
    “Thanks for the new strings, Erik.”
    My mentor beams and reminds me to practice.
    I breeze through the door, guitar case in hand, out into the street.
    Red-faced children bounce, gripping daydreamy mothers’ arms, skipping along pavement.
    Men in suits are anything but present, lost in the world that exists within the wires between earbuds.
    Chilly air plucks at me, but I’m as distracted as the others.
    Lost in notes of a new song my fingers strummed moments ago.
    At once, the tune is all dissonance and minor keys.
    A crash.
    Screaming and shots and swerving.
    I’m bumped and bowled over and bruised.
    But all I can think about is my instrument.
    It lies bent inside its case on the bloodied street, where still bodies have taken the place of buoyant children.
    Where morbidity has taken the place of the mundane.
    I lunge for my guitar.
    Searing sensations grab my funny bone, as my arm is crushed by heavy black rubber.
    My right hand hangs by threads of blood and mucus.
    Before I can wonder where my scream is, you appear, scooping me into your arms.
    You enfold me in wings that are feather-soft and everywhere.
    They envelop all pain and fear.
    “I am here,” you say.
    In the midst of terror, I smile.

    Memory ceases.
    I’m back in this bed that smells like urine and antiseptic.
    My eyes roam to the place where my hand used to be.
    Erik’s song weaves through my mind, torturous.
    “I am here,” you say, then sing me to sleep.

    1. Wonderful feeling to this. A sort of swaying sadness. Once again in keeping with the poignancy this week.

  7. Watching For Rainbows In London, She’d Be Singing Of Milk And Honey
    by Steve Lodge (written with tears in me eyes)
    300 words
    Jazz singer/hospital/crime

    Now, I wasn’t the only one. Tell you that for nothing. All me mates had one too. An Auntie Reen. Mum’s best friend. Lived in the same street or block. A couple of me mates had an Auntie Reen that was a right stunner, a vision of loveliness; but most had the more traditional type – heavy smoker, a hint of a moustache, one thumb and varicose veins.

    My Auntie Reen was lovely, but she’d had a really hard time; her old man used to beat her. She’d had a couple of miscarriages through it and he’d gone off with another singer in the jazz band Reen sang in at the Docklands Hayloft in Limehouse. After he left, Reen carried on singing with the band but Mum said her voice was never the same. The smoke in that Hayloft was awful and she was on 60 ciggies a day after Uncle Frank had pissed off. Sadly, me and me sister never got to hear her sing.

    Aunt Reen had a heart of gold. She lived next door to us on the 6th Floor. She always had the kettle on and people were popping in for a cup at all hours, even though her tea could rot concrete. Her coughing woke us up better than any alarm clock.

    Loved it when Mum was working and we went into Auntie Reen’s after school. She’d give us sweets, comics… spoiled us rotten.

    We tried to avoid her greeting kiss, though. She looked cadaverous and her laugh was a bit of a cackle. “Hello, me little darling,” she’d say and then lean in to plant a kiss. She seemed to have lips like a donkey.

    We went with Mum to the hospital. Aunt Reen passed away on Christmas Day. I cried all day.

    1. Lovely nostalgic walk down Memory Lane, Steve.
      [ Not at all sure why you went with ‘Crime’ as the genre, though: ‘Memoir’ or even ‘Tragedy’ would have been more appropriate, surely? ]

      1. Thanks, Geoff. It was just I always felt it was a crime what that b######d done to me Auntie.

    2. I felt like part of the family here. Felt the writer’s pain, Steve. This was indeed a crime. Gulped past a lump in my throat.

  8. Word Count: 291
    Dog Named Mister/ New Orleans/Comedy

    The Mardi Gras Disaster
    Once there was a dog named Mister. He lived within a lavish New Orleans house. Mister would sleep on a small bed facing the windows. He loved to see the trees change color and enjoyed watching the birds flutter in the birdbath. The only thing that irritated him was the tabby. Now the tabby was a recent addition to the neighborhood and no-one knew who he belonged to, but he loved to hunt master’s birds. Mister would bark and scratch at the door but Master would never let Mister out. He just scolded Mister . Until one day.

    Master left Chef in charge. Now Chef would always give Mister a small piece of steak when Master wasn’t looking. He let Mister venture in the garden, which always brought a wag to his tail.
    “Out you go Mister, Enjoy the fresh air and the squidgy mud on your feet”.
    “Woof, Woof” said Mister as he dashed out the house and ran to sniffing all the new smells. Mister was enjoying the flowers when a strange waft of air floated by. What was that? He followed the trail and then saw the tabby. “Ah. Ha. I have got you know” and Mister slow crept up to the tabby. But just as Mister was about to pounce. Tabby lurched. She hissed and jumped on the wall. Mister barked and barked. Tabby waltz along the wall with her tail in the air.
    “You will never catch me” she sneered.
    “Yes, I will” and Mister ran and jumped up the wall. The flowers flew. Master’s one-of-a-kind pots were left in shards. Tabby jumped the garden gate. Mister was in hot pursuit. Green. Gold. Purple. The colors assaulted him. How would he find her.

  9. @fatimat91
    300 words
    A Life In A Day

    Rosemary John, 32, Intern Pharmacist at Wuse District Hospital was running the night shift at Accident and Emergency Pharmacy alone. By 7pm, she had attended to all the rollover patients so, she reclined in the revolving chair and turned on the TV.
    An interview of Flobuster; world famous platinum recording artist was on.
    Rosemary sighed and fell into her favorite reverie;
    Flobuster falls down the stairs moving some boxes in his sprawling mansion. He loses consciousness and is rushed to the Emergency section here. The consultant on duty prescribes IV fluids which are gotten from her unit where she is second in charge at the young age of 28.
    Fast forward three days later. Flobuster is off fluids and on anti-inflammatory and multivitamin tablets. She visits his room on pharmacist ward round.
    How are you today Mr. Davidson? He lifts his eyelids and stares at her. She is mesmerized. A hot current flows through her and goose pimples appear on her skin. Her throat is dry. He too, is dumbfounded by her goddess like beauty.
    He says; I know this is out of line but may I see you again?
    They have a whirlwind romance; the stuff of telenovelas. Three months later, they are engaged to be married in three months time.
    Please hurry she says to the make-up artist on the big day. Where is my veil…
    Madam. Madam. Loud bang on the counter.
    So sorry she said snapping out of fantasy land. She quickly wiped off a line of spittle and looked up. Her heart missed a beat. Flobuster in the flesh was standing before her. She closed and opened her eyes a second later.
    This time it wasn’t Flobuster but a middle aged man with a prescription before her. So much for wishes coming true.
    Prescription please.

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      1. Hahahahahha. So true. I have to admit I was stuck for a name… was actually gonna use Gangstalicious but I didn’t wanna sound too Boonducks-y.

  10. Meat on the Bone

    296 words
    elements: musician, New Orleans, horror


    The hat sat empty at his feet. The crowds who passed by would pause, listen politely and then move on. His playing had fallen on deaf ears. Nor did they notice his appearance, his ragged clothes, his gaunt face. They were also blind.

    “Perhaps we should invite ourselves to dinner,” whispered a voice in his head.

    Buddy frowned. It wasn’t polite to just turn up unannounced.

    “Think of it … all that meat …” continued the urging.

    Buddy’s stomach ached at the thought.

    “And you won’t even have to sing for your supper,” said the voice. “Look at that Preacher Man and his family. Fine upstanding citizens. They’ll feed us.”

    Buddy gave in to the voice, to the thought of meat and followed at a distance, waiting until the house slept before he slipped inside, tying up its comatose occupants before they even realised what was happening.

    “Time to play,” said Buddy’s unseen companion.

    He walked over to the mother and forced the saxophone’s mouthpiece between her lips. “Play,” he ordered. And he plunged a knife into her stomach so that her last breath filtered up and out of the instrument in a long tormented wail.

    Then he turned to the Preacher.

    “Play,” he said. But even as the man struggled, Buddy did unto him what he had done to his wife until he too sang for the saxophone.

    Finally it was the turn of the children. Their tunes were mere fragments but they added to the composition, made it fat, gave it meat.

    “On the bone or off?” asked the voice.

    Buddy giggled. “On, tonight I think,” he said and bit into the arm of the youngest child. She was only the starter. He had the whole night to work up to the main course.

  11. Cheesy Wonder & The Sticky Wickets
    A.J. Walker

    Bingo Barr looked out beyond the A&E Department. He thought the maze of painted lines was groovy but had no idea why they had floor art.

    Cacca pulled him back. ‘Look, everyone knows there’s hierarchy in bands. The bass player is one fucking wierdo no mistake. But he’s on the same planet. Whilst the drummer… a fruit loop! Every time.’

    Bingo cackled like a old crone on crack. ‘Carn’t argue with that. You’re madder than a box of frogs, while I’m fifty miles madder than an orange pres-i-dent!’

    Cacca spluttered his machine bought tea, which seemed to be a Bovril and washing-up liquid mash-up (but somehow worked). ‘You’re madder than a box of frogs on speed, but you ain’t as mad as that Thumperino.’

    Bingo put his arm around his old compadre. ‘That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said.’

    It probably was. They’d not seen eye to eye since Bingo said his ‘grandma could play the bass better than Cacca and she was deaf. And dead.’ But needs must. Both were one stumble from a stage short of Skid Row.

    ‘Anyways, Cacca, what about this hierarchy?’

    ‘Follow me! We need to get the front two back or we’s finished. They’re our ticket to fluid money whatsis.’

    ‘About this box of frogs. They’re back there in pieces, man. That bizarre accident with the industrial cheese slicer. There ain’t no getting the band back together.’

    ‘We gotta try or we’re finished. I’ve got this stuff. It’s magic.’ Cacca held up a brown tube.

    ‘It’s No More Nails.’

    ‘Says it’ll stick anything.’

    ‘Intestines? Sliced kidneys? Does it mention them?’

    ‘Not explicitly. But it doesn’t say it won’t. You in?’

    ‘Go on then, why not. Let’s put the band back together!’

    And do you know what? They did.

    WC – 299
    Musician – Hospital – Fantasy

  12. @stellakateT
    300 words
    Abuse victim / A hospital / Crime

    I Need My Fifteen Minutes.

    I’m always here even the cleaner knows me by my first name. Dan says that’s because I’m accident prone and I’m famous. I sing down the local jazz club but I haven’t seen any of the hospital staff there. As for accident prone I’m no worse then anyone else maybe I should stop the drinking or reduce the units but I like the buzz of alcohol. Intoxication is my game.

    This time I’m here on my own in A & E. No Dan, he was called away some crisis with his parents. He caught the Glasgow Flyer just after I tripped. He called two cabs one for him and one for me. The doctor wants to do a tox screen. He mentions something about my pupils. I say I haven’t felt right for months. I’ve left notes for Dan, my parents and the police hidden in my lap-top. I’ve told the doctor and two nurses that if anything happens they should tell the police. No one has ever suggested that I could be a victim. They don’t think that good old Dan could be the source of my many accidents. He’s not of course. He’s too nice and caring. I’ve given myself just enough drugs today to render me into a stupor by 10 pm. That pharmacology course I did was a gem. Money well spent. I might apply for a job here once Dan is banged up for attempted murder but maybe not. Don’t want Dan’s family putting two and two together.

    I’ll be the victim in court. My face splashed across the tabloids. People once they know I can sing will be clamouring to hear me. I’ll be famous like my idol Billie Holiday just hope Dan can survive in prison. He’s the nicest person I’ve ever met.

  13. “Until Dawn”
    Jazz singer, Steve Job’s garage, Tragedy
    Word Count: 197

    Duke hadn’t known that he was in Steve Job’s garage until long after he’d died. Or perhaps it’d been just a few minutes following. It didn’t matter much to a ghost, even if he did come out to haunt from time to time, crooning in his fetid bass.
    Whiskey Sunshines until dawn had always felt classy to Duke, even as they slipped down his throat. He’d liked to think they loosened his vibrato. It’d always helped him with the blues, that much was for sure.
    Jobs was dead, of course, years before Duke had broken into the genius’ garage. He talked to him sometimes. Jobs was a pleasant ghost, if a bit uneducated.
    There hadn’t been a moment’s hesitation. The girl had shot him, and he had crumpled to the ground: clutching, then dying.
    Dying is like alcohol. It makes you feel loose, but you always regret it the next day, even if you don’t.
    Duke remembered the look in her eyes. She’d hit a note and belted: cawing, then noticing it was dearly, horribly wrong. Duke spoke with her ghost too, from time to time.
    She always began with an apology and ended with a drink.

    1. I’m not sure what the policy is for stories turned in at midnight exactly, but I figured I’d hit “Post” in either case. Apologies for the lack of spaces between paragraphs, though I kind of like the effect produced by having this story all scrunched up.

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