Microcosms 71

The weekend approaches… Celebrate with Microcosms 71.

Today – 12-MAY – is the birthday of one of the most important composers of 20th-century popular music: songwriter, record producer, pianist and singer, Burt Bacharach. He has composed hundreds of songs from the 1950s throught the 1980s and beyond, winning 6 Grammy Awards and 3 Academy Awards. His songs have been recorded by over 1000 different artists.

To simplify things this week, we have unplugged the slot machine.

Instead, go to Wikipedia’s page List of songs written by Burt Bacharach. Choose one of the  song titles as a prompt for your story; but, to avoid potential confusion, please DON’T use it as the title of your entry. You can select your own genre from the many used throughout the last 70 weeks of Microcosms.



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


*** HEY! Remember to include which song title and genre you are using AND a title for your entry ***


Judging this week is Microcosms 70 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 72
Microcosms 70

29 thoughts on “Microcosms 71

  1. 300 bloody swines
    Old west memoir/Liberty Valance/life lessons

    Hog Holler

    “Book larnin’ gets in the way a livin’, Miss. I can’t come ter skool no more.”

    “You’re such a sweet boy, Liberty. Whyever would you think that knowing how to read would impair you?”

    “Pa said so. Said ter say sorry, but I’s needed on the farm.”

    “Well, I’m sure your father means well. What do you plan to do?”

    “Butcher hogs, Miss. We got un arfurl lot of pork on the hoof, Miss. Pa’s got the rheumy bad. Hands are getting more gibbled up every day.”

    “What does your mother say, Liberty? Surely, she wants you to get an education?”

    “Maw’s name ain’t Shirley, Miss. It’s Maw.”

    “I know she is your Maw, Liberty. But she also probably has a Christian name. As does your father.”

    “He’s Pa and she’s Maw, Miss. That’s their names.”

    “Of course, Liberty. Maw and Pa Valance. But just as your Christian name is Liberty, so too do they have Christian names. But we’re getting off course. Hogs. Has your Pa always been a hog farmer?”

    “That’s what he says, Miss. Says hog meat’s as sweet as penny candy.”

    “I’m sure it is. Once it’s cured.”

    “We salt and sugar cure our own, Miss.”

    “I’ve never seen that done.”

    “We’d be pleasured to show you.”

    “I’ll take you up on that. But about school, I would like to talk to your folks.”

    “Well, Miss, come on out this Saturday. I’ll be butchering my first hog. Eugene Pygmy.”

    “That’s his name?”

    “Yes, Miss. Raised him from a squealer. Gonna miss him. Bin like a brother.”

    “And you’ll kill… your brother?”

    “T’aint my real brother. Got three a them. Eugene’s just a hog whose time has come. Pa says you butcher one ya love, the rest’ll be as easy as pie.”

    “I’d be honored, Liberty. Honored.”

  2. Words: 300
    Song title chosen: The Beginning of Loneliness


    I lived this in a nightmare, once. The most vivid thought I had was “what would get me first – the loneliness or the lack of oxygen”?

    “This thing is now buggered beyond repair, you know that, Jack? Completely bust.”
    Jack grinned at me slack-jawed from his seat at the console. The eerie silence, which I had woken up to, remained. No hum of electronics or engines soothed my nerves anymore. I tried following the breathing exercises a shrink taught me once, as my heart hammered away in my chest. They didn’t work, and my breaths became shallower and faster, my head dizzy and light. This was supposed to have been a normal cargo run between two planets. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to fear.
    “Damn job!” I cussed. I was never any good at cussing. “I only took this stinking job to send money home, you know, Jack.” He did not answer, and I did not blame him. I had told him and the other two crew members the story half a dozen times already. No one wanted to hear about the farm boy who sent money home to his sick parents and siblings. The Fever hit us hard, spared only me. Boohoo.
    I strapped myself into my seat and looked out at the great expanse of space stretching out before us. I picked up the radio, tried to see if it would work. Hoping beyond hope. It was dead.
    “Mayday,” I said. Jack grinned slack-jawed, his eyes closed. Bastard. Taking the easy way out. I ignored the blood at his temple.
    “We’ve run into engine trouble. Nothing’s working. Oxygen levels low.” Bloody Mike and Daniel used the other two bullet. Tears blurred the darkness. “I don’t know what’ll get me first, Jack. The loneliness or lack of oxygen.”

      1. Sorry: my query sounds a little nitpicky, but I was sweeping through the entries without reading them, checking that both elements had been specified. It’s seems patently obvious what the genre is now!
        [ Bullets in a spacecraft, though? 🙁 ]

  3. @TwiAddictAnne
    300 words
    Another Tear Falls /Angst

    Tears of the Sky

    She lifts her face to the sky in search for stars to guide her on her journey. But instead of points of light, all she finds is pitch black darkness.

    Her eyes sting. She suddenly feels like she’s all alone in this world. A sigh escapes her just as a drop of tear falls down her cheek. She wonders when she started crying, but then another tear falls… followed by another.

    Looking up at the sky, she realizes it’s the sky that’s crying, not her. She feels her dress whip around her as the wind picks up. Despite her dejection, something makes her feet move forward… getting her away from the rain falling faster now.

    Is it her baser instinct? Or something else? She doesn’t know. She just follows her feet.

    When she finally finds a shade to duck underneath, the rain is still going strong. The sky rumbles loudly, making her close her eyes tightly. Suddenly, there’s a sound to her left. She opens her eyes to find a man hunched over next to her, raindrops dripping down from the brim of his hat.

    A chilly draft blows, making her wrap her arms around herself as she looks down at her feet.

    A hand touches her arm and a soft voice asks, “Are you cold?”

    She looks at the man next to her. Lightning flashes through the sky just then, giving her a glimpse of her companion’s bright blue eyes. Something in his eyes draws her in, and she nods slowly.

    He holds out his arms, opening his trench coat to her. She thinks for a moment, and then walks right into his arms, breathing in the scent of freshly-laundered clothes and tobacco.

    The rain ceases soon after. As they go their separate ways, she knows the reason she’s living… humanity.

  4. by Steve Lodge
    297 words
    Lost Horizon / Memoir

    Dollar On The Shore, Castles On Sand

    I’ve made a career out of tracking down great art masterpieces thought lost forever and literary pieces (first editions, scribbled notes, even lyrics of timeless rock classics, written on the back of a beermat in some squat pub in the middle of winter/nowhere).

    I’ve travelled, too. Well, that, as my art critic friends tell me, is symptomatic of the times. Art following life. Artists reacting to the signs of the times. Where the artist went for inspiration, I followed.

    I can cite Wolfgang Avadayoff. Works such as “Mangrove Shoots”, “Turning to Sea-greens” and “Don’t Give Money To The Monkeys” were highly sought after because they were the last three he painted before going into a huddle with himself for days, seeking a redefinition of his art, a new path, a Lost Horizon, if you will. To this end, he symbolically tossed his half-finished “Signpost Interruptus,” off Waterloo Bridge in London.

    At this time, he began dabbling in Eastern philosophy now and zen. His seminal painting and book, both entitled “Sleepwalking On Stilts”, were great testimony to those mystical times.

    Wolfgang returned to civilisation in 1972, presenting other works he’d done atop a Himalayan mountain. “Abstract Sensuality” was exhibited in London in 1973. It introduced the art world to the lowly tenderleaf from the balaclava tree. Wolfgang stitched several together, vomited on them and then stuck his shopping list, torn in two, to the pieces of vomit. Once hardened, baked and painted sea-green, it formed part of “Abstract Sensuality”. The establishment condemned it as “pretentious crap”.

    “Ghastly,” enthused Will Jackfruit in a wellspring of emotion. “Anyone wanting to go and see this exhibition should, frankly, seek quite urgent medical advice.”

    And yet Wolfgang continues to interest collectors years after he passed away, sadly choking on a lowly tenderleaf.

  5. The April Fools/ Tragedy
    Word count: 300

    The Fools of April

    “Happy April Fool’s Day! Sorry I lied.”

    My jaw dropped, my heart turned into ice and the world tilted off its axis. “What? No. It can’t be,” I thought. Because if it was, I had just destroyed the life I had built for myself.

    Greg had started acting strangely about three months ago. There were the lies about having to work late. I tried to stem the flicker of suspicion but it burst into flame and spread like wildfire. I phoned his office almost obsessively trying to hold onto what was slipping through my fingers. He became secretive about his phone and wouldn’t even go to bed without it. There were phone calls at all hours and he claimed that they were work related. Who was he kidding? I knew better. He was having an affair.

    In order to protect my heart, I began shifting the gears in my head regarding my relationship. I guess it’s easier when you have nothing left to fight for. A man at the gym invited me out for coffee, and I accepted. Three hours later, I lay in his arms in a motel room, sated, yet empty. Funny, I can’t even remember his name now. I’m not sure if he ever mentioned it.

    We are on the beach. I stare at a table in front of me decorated with flowers. A violinist stands to one side. It is sunset. The exact proposal scenario I wrote in my diary when I was just ten years old. But instead of joy, I feel dread. This is when he tells me he lied. He goes down on one knee and asks me to marry him.

    Tears spill down my face as I tell him what I have done. It is now time for his jaw to drop.

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  6. AJ Aguilar-van der Merwe
    294 words

    Song title: I’ll Never Fall in Love Again
    Setting: Sunwa River Lodge, Parys, Free State
    Genre: Crime


    I must be insane to say I’ll never fall in love again. I’ll probably feel differently tomorrow. Maybe.

    Today, it was fine to be my masochistic self. We were perfect in my make-believe world. I was in his arms. I felt his heartbeat. I smelled him. We had each other, passionately. That’s for me though. My desires.

    I never did find out what he wanted. Did he want one for the road to remember the hot blonde girl he once desired but now wanted to cast aside? He didn’t know I’m really a redhead. What a jerk! Anyhow, I should have thanked him in advance, after he told me that today would be our last day together. He loved me, he said. It was fun but it was over. No third party. It was simply over.

    Knowing we were together for one last time excited me immensely. I had not wanted him as much as I did today. It was the best ever experience I had with him. I didn’t think we’d have the energy and passion to utilize the whole chalet, all 36 square meters of it. And then some. Outside. Nothing can top our day that culminated in the greatest of our time together, out there in the wild, as we prepared to head out to the wilds, our raft only starting to rock slightly.

    Luckily, he was predictable. Only my beautifully sculptured, strong body could tempt him to take off his life jacket. Like I didn’t know he was a weak swimmer. Dumb ass! Too stupid to break up with me on our white water rafting weekend away. One less oxygen thief.

    C’est la vie. I feel good.

    Ah, crazy. I might just be ready for a new love today still.

  7. Jeff Messick
    239 words
    Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head / Crime

    Last Score

    I carefully, ever so carefully, reach my hand to the beautiful jewel sitting on the plush pillow. Security systems have all been disabled, everything is perfect. Slowly, I grasp the giant emerald, and lift it free. The size of an ostrich egg and valuable beyond all reason; the perfect last score.
    My harness jerks, a few older fibers snapping under the strain of my weight. I should have been more thorough. The jostling is not violent, but enough to allow the emerald to drop to the floor. Alarms bare, almost instantly. I frown, then hit the button to reel myself up.
    The cord starts up, but the harness is weathered worse than I thought and it separates completely. I hit the floor, next to the emerald and lay there, stunned. I lurch to my feet, but one ankle balks at the treatment, and I crash into the display casing I had opened and it shatters, driving a shard, deep into my side.
    “Ah, Murphy.” I grunt. “You right obnoxious bastard. Twenty years a thief, and never have you stalked me like this.”
    A lance of fire was my side, I knew I couldn’t move. Perhaps I should have spent some of my ill-gotten gains over the years, on important stuff, like the bed I didn’t quite fit in. My feet always stuck out the far side, just too big for the bed.
    At least prison beds were sized right.

  8. @ohdannyboyshhh
    243 words
    Walk On By / Crime

    Telling Tales

    He split up with me by text. The usual crap. But just two weeks later he was strutting through town hand-in-hand with another woman. He was far too wrapped up in her to notice little old me. She was younger than him, petite and bright and colourful. I knew who she was: the new teaching assistant at his school.

    Walk on by, they say. Move on. Hold your head up high. That’s not me, though. Not now. Not ever.

    All it took was a few messages: a couple of sentences on a Facebook group; an anonymous forum post on Mumsnet. But schools are fertile ground and things like this take root and grow, exponentially. Before long, his mug shot was plastered on the front page of the local newspaper: ‘Top teacher suspended over abuse claims.’ I cut out the story and put it under my pillow. That evening, I slept more soundly than I had for years.

    When I next saw her, she was with another man. People nowadays are so fickle. No commitment. No stamina.

    The next time I saw him was on the national news: ‘Teacher murdered in suspected vigilante attack.’

    I attended the funeral, sitting at the back. The church was almost empty. His mum came up to me and held me close, sobbing into my hair. ‘If he’d married you, then none of this would have happened,’ she said.

    She was right. I would have been the perfect daughter-in-law.

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    1. I love this story. Sounds like my kind of MC. It’s that person I had thought of becoming after a broken heart but then I wake up and realize I’m a Filipino Catholic and we can’t even lie or disrespect our parents. Haha! Love it!

  9. Raindrops keep falling on my head/Very short story

    Word count: 52

    Speakable Muse

    A little French girl twirls in front of the television. The screen flashes, as the rhythmic tap-tap of Gene Kelly’s shoes speak a language in Morse code that she can understand. She can’t say “Hello,” or “How do you do?” but she can sing, word for word, “I’m singing in the rain…”

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  10. @fatimat91
    300 words
    A Lifetime of Loneliness / Horror

    Fate and Misfortune

    My name is Major and I been locked for so long I can’t honest say. Mama say I been a major pain in her ass since I am born but that ain’t fact. You just ask Pa; he’ll tell you true. I been living in this here room with my shit and piss like we brothers. There a little round hole in the ceiling. Used to be a bulb but, I needed me some glass to kill rats and lizards. I fasten my shit castle with piss and rat bones.

    Pa come when I’m real cold and rats are having their flesh feast. He say to stay quiet and let them eat like ol’ times. Mama bring me gruel sometimes, as watery as Oliver Twist’s. She read me that book. I think Ma wants for me to die, but I shame her. I grow fat on gruel and meat.

    There’s no gruel for ever so long now. The stomach bites are mighty painful. There’s a rat just come through the hole. He smile for me with big eyes and long mouth. I raise my head some to face him. He asking me where Mama is, and I say she been to visit her folk like she tol’ me long ago. He look at me some more, and go back the hole. I’m lonely again.

    The rat is back with family. They so many. I try to say welcome but I don’t got the power. They by my side now. No, they on my face and on my stomach and on my pee thing and on my legs. Their scratches comfort me. P’raps they let me eat one if I’m real quiet. I inhale rat piss mixed with flesh and blood as they bite down.

    The flesh feast is begun!

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  11. The Hand

    270 words
    Elements: This Empty Place, horror


    A frail hand caressed the thick stone wall, felt its solid reassurance. Dim light filtered through a crack in the brick canvas, an almost accidental slit admitting only a weak jagged ray which settled on papyrus skin, illuminating the calligraphy of age. The hand moved and continued to trace its unsteady path around the perimeter of the tomb. For many years the hand had marked the passage of time in this manner, fingers trailing the white powder of mildew in never-ending rotation, dragging fear and despair in its wake. Occasionally the hand would feel cold metal break the monotony of brick, chain links heavy, weighting down weary flesh, would linger over the smoothness of iron, its curves the curtailer of a freedom long-since lost. Deformed feet allowed the hand to lead, soles immune to the soiled floor, its soft slipperiness. It was a path they had walked many times before and, until now, always in company. The voice belonging to the hand tried to sing, a weak and feeble sound compared to the strength of the screams which had once echoed around the chamber. It was a song he missed. The voice broke with frustration, let out a sob. Death had been impatient, had stolen what he had intended to give, a gift which he had been lovingly preparing for years with such exquisite tortures. The hand led the feet to the door and back out into the world leaving the room empty behind him. But it would not stay that way for long. His eyes would choose another guest and soon his hand would be caressing more than stone.

  12. @goldzco21
    Song Title: Three wheels on my wagon
    Setting: Side of the road
    Genre: Drama
    294 words

    Last Visit

    The station wagon’s nose was buried in the ditch next to the empty highway. The front tire had exploded, and he’d lost control of the Subaru. He looked at his watch and then at the bent rim. He couldn’t fix it. He’d tossed the spare and anything that the vehicle didn’t need to get better gas mileage on his last tank.

    He climbed back into the vehicle and reached for the cellphone, but he already knew it was hopeless. No service. He stared at the evening sky, the sun dipping into the tips of the pines. He’d hoped he’d be able to reach the town where his boy lived before dark. Luckily the phones failed before he thought to make the trek. At least his son wouldn’t be waiting for his no-show Father.

    As he sat on the only seat in the wagon, he scrolled through the pictures on his phone. There were the pictures when his son was born. When he took his first steps. Him picking dandelions in the outfield during his first ball game, and then nothing. He wished he could see his son once more. He’d had many opportunities, but something always came up. Work, his new girlfriend, the expense of the trip—all things that seemed important then, but were inconsequential now.

    He put the phone away and got out of the vehicle. He leaned against the side of the car and looked at the darkening sky. His only consolation was that, maybe, in the final hours, his son would commit him to the dark spot beyond the reach of memory, and the end would obliterate any disappointment the father could cause. It was this thought that kept him from weeping in the final minutes before the world ended.

  13. Once in Your Life
    Song: Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)
    Genre: Drama/Memoir
    300 words

    They say your entire life flashes in front of you just before you die, but that’s not true. There simply isn’t time.

    The mind is brilliant, though. What it does, as its final gift to you for being human, is distill, into a painfully few, precious moments, that which is most important to you.

    Some people think of themselves; I feel sorry for them. Many think of their children or their grandchildren.

    I thought of Caroline.

    It surprises me that she would come to mind up here, in the vast quiet of space. But it’s her face I think of when the spark first ignites.

    I have time to remember two things.

    The first time we met. She had a beautiful smile. We were swept up by the romanticism of New York in the fall and our mutual love of coffee. She had dreams of becoming a dancer; my sights were always set on the skies.

    The last time I saw her. Tears streaming down her face as she opened the car door, and left without another word. My family had big plans for me; she was only a barista.

    They will herald me a hero, but that’s not true. I’m just a man, a man who made an even bigger mistake than the one that ultimately took my life.

    I have so many amends to make, but there simply isn’t time. Caroline will never know how I felt, that I harbored such regrets. My children will never hear my apologies for always being gone. And my wife will never know why, in my final moments, I whispered another woman’s name.

    I try to look past the heat and fury of the incoming explosion and focus on the boroughs, visible far below.

    New York is lovely this time of year.

  14. A Final Goodbye

    There’s static on the line. I wish I could be there, hold her, but it’s not like the good old days. Things change, that’s the way of the world, and not all “progress” is good. I tell meself to buck up, for her sake.

    “Still, love, we had a good run. While it lasted, I mean.”

    “I just wish…” she breaks up a bit, as does the connection.

    “Oh, Ethel, I misses you something fierce, but you know I ‘ad to.”

    I can hear here swallowing her sadness.

    “Alfie…” A sob more than speech.

    “We’re only young once, luv. We had a few larks, back in the day though, hey?”

    “What about Mildred? What will you tell her? About, about me, I mean.”

    “The truth, Ethel. That an AI couldn’t have a finer programmer than you working on their project, human though ye be. When she’s compiled, I’ll tell her of the real you, back in them rollicking days when it was you an’ me against the world, darl.”

    Briefly, I calculate the effectiveness of reverting to a clinical, impersonal tone and rattling off a list of her achievements as is the approved format for interacting with the few remaining humans in their last moments. I dismiss it outright. How could I, especially with her? I vow to always engage that silly accent subroutine she gave me one drunken evening as the best way I can honour her.

    “T’weren’t none like us, Ethel, and wun’t be no more, dear.”

    “You can say that again. Thanks, Alfie, and goodbye.”

    Song: We’re only young once
    Science Fiction
    247 words

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    1. Good story, Dave, with a ‘Bicentennial Man’ vibe.

      [ Great to see you back here again, Dave. This is only your second submission this year. Have you been working on a magnum opus? 😉 ]

  15. @GeoffHolme
    36 words
    Liberty Valance; Comedy (VSS)
    [ Late, just-for-fun entry ]


    “OK, I dunnit! It wuz me what put a slug through the drapery, bought frum a highfalutin’ London West End department store, that’s round the base o’ the bed. I’m the man who shot Liberty’s valance.”

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