Thanks to all who submitted an entry to Microcosms 87. I personally found them all very moving… (Geddit?!) There were 15 entries this week (plus, once again, one VERY late one).
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.
Last week’s Judge’s Pick Bill Engleson returned yet again as judge for this contest. Here’s what he had to say:
As honoured as I am to be judging Microcosms 87, there is, inherent in stepping away from the fun of microcosmic flash writing for a week, a slight sense of loss. These days, as a retiree, writing on my own schedule, marching to my own tone deaf drummer, free to squander time or use every second fastidiously, I often set the clock by such delights as Microcosms. Not totally, of course, but I am a creature of habit, of comforting routine.
This week’s theme is moving houses. A few weeks ago, I attended a 50th anniversary reunion of a communal house (two massive houses with close to twenty bedrooms). Decades ago, when I lived there, we often had “room shuffles”. Initially, one room would become vacant. Like dominoes, someone would want that room and this would free up their room. That room would need to be filled. Another space was created. The only way to curtail everyone going on the move was to bring in somebody new. Exciting times…moving inches.
Around the world – Texas, Louisiana, Bangladesh, Nepal, India – thousands of homes are awash in nature’s fury. Millions of lives are floundering. Hundreds of thousands of homes compromised at best, destroyed at worst.
It never seems like we have seen it before…but we have.
Perhaps it’s all too much for us writers. While there were no flash fiction sundries this week about all that soggy soil, those drowning people and water-logged houses, there were a bevy of tales about the intricacies of lives moved in and out of houses, lighthouses, heavy houses drenched with dread. And there were yummy sagas of human-eating beds and other horrifying glutinous pastimes.
And humour. A jiggling bellyworth of that as well.
Thank you all. Without further a doo doo, my judgement.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
John Herbert – If it’s good enough for Woolf, I thought, I’ll head to the lighthouse, escape herself and her dalliances with dilettantes, come down to the dunes and the snot-green sea and write.
Ell Meadow – Now I know I was not supposed to take the sink, and it did take me a considerable amount of time detaching it from the wall, but I had a good reason.
Danny Beusch – I drilled the hole, assuming that the white dust was plaster, cursing myself for not covering the mattress.
Louise Hopewell – In reality Damon was as disappointing as the Cape, his conversation consisting mainly of wind and grunts.
Carol Rosalind Smith – Once divided the wardrobe easily fitted up the stairs, where Bob glued and braced it back together.
Nthato Morakabi – To think I’d be moving back to that woman who claims to be my mother but treats me like a bad rash.
Eloise – Let’s see what we have. Impala, Zebra, Kudu and human. Human?”
Dave Allen – “Yes, Agents. meat is murder, tasty, tasty, murder.”
M Levi – He left again, leaving her alone with the bloody clothes and a half-cooked stew and a blindingly steamy kitchen.
JK – Baking and eating fattening butter cookies until we couldn’t move.
Angelique Pacheco – A strange little man with beady eyes watched them from a distance and, being a good judge of character, he decided to help.
Steph Ellis – It had been a long day and both Gregg and Diane were dead to the world.
Dave Allen – I took a harpoon that was gracing the wall (he thought it was a cool decoration), and viciously drove it into his chest.
Caleb Echterling – Warped floorboards danced the Charleston as Janice and Tameka sloughed the piano off their shoulders.
Valita Suzanne – It had been a hiding place for the son that came after, a skinny boy with a dimple in his left cheek.
Special Mention – Best or Longest Title
I regret to inform you that no one really picked up the best or longest title this week. As someone who usually spends more time constructing titles than writing the bit, I am sorely disappointed. With intoxicatingly engineered titles the likes of “The Bed”, “The Laundress”, “The Wardrobe” and yes, even everyone and his/her mother’s item of last resort, “The Kitchen Sink”, why, it was enough to make this Judge want to leave the Court, penniless and homeless, and run screaming madly into the streets.
Or maybe I place too much emphasis on titles.
Thankfully, Jimmy, Marcel and the Second-Best Bed tried somewhat modestly to satisfy my longing for meandering length.
Honorable / Honourable Mentions
Angelique Pacheco – The Unexpected Gift
I kept waiting for a twist, a slick movement to horror or death, a witty wrap-up, a knee-slapper. But the unexpected gift was a sweet story of disruption and generosity. Thank you.
Caleb Echterling – Songs of the Sea
This tale was simply pure fun. The images were rich, the whole brief story deserves a longer telling. The punch line was a hoot, the musical references a pleasure. The title was tasteful but perhaps deserving of expansion. That quibble aside, we Flash Fiction people appreciate The Village People.
Danny Beusch – Powder Your Nose
In North America, death by fentanyl overdose (or poisoning) is at epidemic proportion. Not that “Powder Your Nose” is about that. Still, I was sucked in to the drug tale, the always sickly-sweet corrosiveness of addiction, the piercingly-hard snag of love swagging lovers down into the pit. And of course, the punch line: why no pictures should ever be hung on the wall.
John Herbert – Jimmy, Marcel and the Second-Best Bed
I loved the voice here, Jimmy’s banter with Magnus, (a cat, I assume, and the delightful Magnum O’Puss* that I would have given my cat’s eyeteeth to create…sorry Shadow and Jasmine) the almost casual acceptance of Nora’s infidelities, the recordings, the back pain. And the Lighthouse escape.
Jimmy is the penultimate example of the self-absorbed, ridiculously-forgiving writer. Surely many of us can relate (not for the tolerance but for the writerly self-absorption).
And then there is Trieste. I passed through it once. I don’t remember it being that cheap.
[* Bill spotted the flaw in what would otherwise have been a fantastic feline pun: although ‘opus’ seems to be a masculine noun, it is, in fact, neuter, so the literary phrase should be ‘magnum opus’. GH]
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 87.
(insert drumroll here)
Ell Meadow – The Kitchen Sink
Kitchen Sink; Cottage; Thriller
I packed everything including the kitchen sink. Now I know I was not supposed to take the sink, and it did take me a considerable amount of time detaching it from the wall, but I had a good reason.
When I moved into this cottage I was delighted with its rustic charm, the blowzy roses over the door, the low beams in the upstairs bedroom, the leaky tap in the bath that dripped all night (it kept me up at first, but later became a metronomic counterpoint to my nightly activities), and of course the cat from next door that caught mice and left them on my doorstep; but the delight soon faded. I grew tired of banging my head on the beam, the rose petals blew indoors and scented the cottage with their overblown sweetness, I much preferred other odours, which brings me to the kitchen sink.
I washed my dishes in that sink. I washed my hands in it, after gardening, especially after planting those special plants. I am attached to my sink; too attached – I suspect that my gardening has left too much evidence in that sink, and so when I came to leave this delightful place, having planted all I can in its small garden, I cleaned thoroughly, washing the last of my tools in the sink, when I found myself staring thoughtfully into its depths. As the last of the blood swirled down the drain, I thought I could not leave it. I must take it with me. Perhaps I shall install it in the small cottage I have found in Portsmouth, I am sure that I shall be gardening there too.
Valita Suzanne – The Wardrobe
Trieste and self-absorbed writers aside, “The Wardrobe”, hands down, was my favourite flash this week.
This was such a fine mood-poem, a gorgeous allegory dripping of time and love. I was swallowed willingly into the deep anguished grain of the Wardrobe’s oak skin, huddled close to the singing boy, brought to tears by the hum of his mother for as long as she waited in the dark closet, lost in the loneliness of the silent cottage. So beautiful. And I apologize for sounding like Trump here.
Wardrobe; Cottage; Memoir
It was an oak wardrobe, old and respectable like a wealthy aristocrat who had attained a great age, and yet looked the same at eighty as he had at forty. Its home was at Hiraeth cottage in Tír na hóige, where it had stood proudly in the master bedroom since the house was built.
It was a tall wardrobe, though narrow, carved to depict scenes of battle and festival, moments of grief and terror, and great joy. What craftsman had taken it upon himself to shape it from the tree, no one knew, not even the wardrobe itself. It had only ever known the cottage.
It had been there when its first master found a lady who suited him, had stored her fine dresses for a time, before she sold all but one when the master died.
It had been a hiding place for the son that came after, a skinny boy with a dimple in his left cheek. He had carved his name on the inside of the wardrobe with a knife he’d stolen from the kitchen. The boy was fond of singing, but only ever did so behind the safety of the oak door, not knowing that his mother would sometimes slip off her shoes, and tiptoe to the side of the wardrobe to listen.
The wardrobe was sad in its way when the boy left home. His mother never wailed or wept, nor had she done so when the master died. But some nights she would sit inside the wardrobe and hum her boy’s songs quietly to herself before bed. Eventually she stopped coming. Eventually, the cottage was silent.
The wardrobe waited long before the boy returned, now a man, with a baby girl in his arms, whom he sang to sleep every night.
Congratulations, Valita. As the Judge’s Pick, you are invited to judge the next round of Microcosms. Please click HERE to let us know whether or not you are interested!