Thanks to all who submitted to Microcosms 156. We had just 15 entries this time. A warm welcome and a Happy New Year to first-time entrant, Heidi MacDonald.
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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.
We encourage everyone to reply with a positive comment to any and all of the entries AT ANY TIME: It’s good to have feedback.
MC 153 Judge’s Pick, David Lewis Pogson, kindly agreed to act as judge for this contest. Here’s what he had to say:
Once-again I was faced with a varied collection of well-written stories that gave me cause to sit back and scratch my head about how I was going to choose a winner from a quality field. I reverted to my previous approach in requiring the following ingredients:
* Simple, old-fashioned story-telling with a beginning, a middle and an end; especially an end with a little twist.
* A strong central character.
* Preferably a character that I can relate to emotionally.
From several that came close, I then picked one in particular that stood out because of its pure, undiluted quality.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Bill Engleson – Mac was the neighbourhood bull back in the day.
Angelique Pacheco – He could take a squashed-by-a-tank squirrel and make stew from it for twenty men.
Geoff Le Pard – ‘Do you need one of your pills?’
Steve Lodge – If I agreed with her that she had the voice of an angel, then we would both be wrong.
Kelly L Griffiths – Their noise reminds me of the frantic whirring of tine bugs, pests that nest in the humidors.
Susan O’Reilly – I swallow my gasp and hug my secret tight.
Arthur Unk – The process began with a small nod and the push of a button.
Harrietbelle – The mothers in the bus queue Having their morning chatter Do not know the woman behind them But, hey, that does not matter!
Johanna – Then a shadow fell upon me.
Tim Hayes – Doomed to continuously finesse my life’s decisions yet never reach a satisfactory conclusion.
Ted Young – So with the reckless speed and grace of an off-road nun, ‘Billy the Kid’ made it to the top.
Sarah Mosedale – …since he was the lollipop man at their primary school, he was harmless, surely?
Deanna Salser – Of all the things I had been warned to expect, meeting myself was not one of them.
Alysia Ascovani – My voice was so smooth, I wasn’t sure if I believed me.
Heidi MacDonald – “I don’t like bringing up the War Years,” he began.
Geoff Le Pard – It Doesn’t Matter What You Do As Long As You Dress The Part
There always seems to be one story each week that totally floors me. This is it. I’ve no idea, as a story, where or what it’s leading to but as a commentary on what could happen in the Prime Minister’s office (as a parallel to what is actually happening in the White House, I assume) it is both hilarious and uncomfortably possible. Every credit for boggling my mind.
Tim Hayes – Adrift on the Seas of Time
This could have replaced Second Runner-Up – it was a toss-up. Loved the title in particular, but see comments below.
Deanna Salser – Too Many of Me
The Honourable Mention and Second Runner-up had similarly imaginative ideas based on interfering with time. Something about that subject tugs at me because I want to go back and get the lottery numbers for the next Rollover*. Both were humorous, delivered in a chatty style that made you relate to the narrator and believe that you were listening to it for real. Only the twist at the end swung it for me between these two.
(*Good luck with that, David: personally, I would have thought that going forward in time would be a better option… [GH])
Kelly L Griffiths – The Perks of Galactic Transport
This idea was just a bit different – making humans the playthings rather than the exploiters of the galaxy. It met my criteria, had a strong character in Uncle Asbestos and had a good twist at the end, although from the gradual build-up I did just guess it slightly before the finish. Well-written and a worthy runner-up.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 156.
(insert drumroll here)
It’s a tie!
Bill Engleson – The Mentor
149 – I’m retired. I’m just an ordinary member of the public now.
I saw Mac Sweeney in Centennial Park recently. Hadn’t seen him in years. Mac was the neighbourhood bull back in the day. I was still a skinny snarky snot that final time he’d rousted me. Rousted? More like he turned my head into a cauliflower.
I’d been acting as lookout for the Red Visors whose primary criminal enterprise was ripping off warehouses, mostly local businesses.
Creepy stuff they were doing…we were doing.
Krikee, he tossed me around like I was a windshield wiper. Finally, he hurled me into the bank of trash cans back of Mickey Low’s Chow’s On Chinese Restaurant joint. That knocked the stuffing outta me. That and the fact that the city was three weeks into an ugly garbage strike. The whole alley stunk like stink.
“Come on, bucko,” he’d said, and then cut loose with a loud “pee-yew,” looped his meaty hands into my belt buckle right above my butt crack and frog-walked me home.
The old lady was busting a gut until she smelled me. Then she shooed me upstairs to take a bath. Before I jumped into the tub, I spilled my guts. Mac rushed away, and I heard he busted the lot of them.
I straightened up after that.
So, when I saw him that Saturday, I sauntered over and cracked wise with, “Hey, Mac, Bust any young punks lately?”
He smiled, said, “Nope, bucko, that’s behind me. You know that. I’m retired. I’m just an ordinary member of the public now. Mac Q. Citizen, that’s me. What about you?”
“Oh, yeah. Following your lead. The streets are full of little turds like I was.”
“Trust you’re gentler than me.”
“Have to be. Too many cell phones.”
“Right. Say, let’s get a coffee. Shoot the shit.”
“Good idea, Mac,” I said. “About time.”
Kelly L Griffiths – The Perks of Galactic Transport
143 – There were always interesting treats lurking in his pocket.
Uncle Asbestos brings me presents when his tour is done. There are always interesting treats lurking in his pockets.
He removes his helmet with a wry smile and dramatic sloth. My fidgeting betrays my impatience.
He inside-outs his pockets and a slew of tiny, multi-colored creatures fall out. I squeal. We play with them until they run out of battery life. Uncle says I just need to let them recharge. I suggest hooking them up to a v-tube to see if they’d stay animated longer, but Uncle Asbestos laughs.
“It would blow them right up, little one. Just enjoy them while you can. I’ll get more next time.”
“Where do they come from?” I ask as I toss the wiggling creatures into the air and catch almost all of them. Their noise reminds me of the frantic whirring of tine bugs, pests that nest in the humidors. Uncle says the toys are made of calcium. Can you imagine? No wonder they break so easily.
At school, I pull them out of my pocket and dump a pile of them on the lunch table. They try to scrabble away, but we make a corral out of trays and silverware. I’m the envy of all the kids.
“I wish my uncle was a galactic transporter.”
All my friends agree Uncle Asbestos has the coolest job ever. I get the best gifts.
Suddenly, a loud sound (for them) issues from one, and then it loses all animation.
“Careful,” I rebuke my friend. “You squeezed it too hard.”
“Sorry. Can I keep it? It’s broken anyway.”
“Yes, but not too long. They stink once the batteries go.”
She tweezes the limp, pinkish creature with four appendages and one dense tuft of fur. “So strange…where’s he get these again?”
Harrietbelle – Mrs N.P.
This was a cleverly-crafted and polished gem. It totally absorbs the prompt theme and meets my criteria: it has the three part structure that I require but its subtle blending masks how that’s achieved; it has a strong central character who is believable and it has a punch-line that acts as a twist, to end it. But the added bonus is that it’s incorporated into a poem. The work that has gone into this is incredible and … the icing on the cake … it rhymes (an under-appreciated art-form in my book). It has quality.
150 – Nosy old fart.
Mrs Nosey-Parker sets out into the day
To stick her nose in everything
And make sure she has her say.
She listens to conversations
And if they have a theme
That Mrs Nosey knows about
She has to intervene!
The mothers in the bus queue
Having their morning chatter
Do not know the woman behind them
But, hey, that does not matter!
As they discuss their babies –
Really no business of hers –
She twitches for opportunity
To stick her nose in theirs!
She has wisdom on every subject
From child-birth to death
And once she’s started holding forth
She does not stop for breath.
She talks as if she’s an expert
Her knowledge quite profound,
And if anyone tries to argue the case
She will always stand her ground.
From gardening to child-care
From bunions to cancer,
She knows the score on everything
And always has the answer.
If anything is private
Or not for Nosey’s ears,
She feels quite frustrated
Because she always fears
That if it’s not her they are asking
How on earth will they sort it out?
For only she can tell them
What life is all about!
For everything and anything
She surely knows by heart
And never hears them mutter,
‘Sod off, you nosey old fart!’
Congratulations, Harrietbelle. As Judge’s Pick, you are invited to judge the next round of Microcosms this coming weekend. Please click HERE to let us know whether or not you are interested!