It’s time to find the top three stories for the fourth quarter of Micro Bookends Year One. Below, I’ve compiled the winning entries from rounds 1.40 to 1.52. Below them is the voting gadget. Please take a moment to read the stories then vote for your favourite three. Voting is open until 5 a.m. on Thursday 22nd October. I’ll announce the results on Saturday 24th October.
The authors of the three stories that receive the most votes will each receive a copy of Writing Short Stories by Ailsa Cox. That’s a real book with paper and ink and that new-book smell! The winners will also go through to the Micro Bookend of the year competition to be held soon.
Was when we met on the subway. You, in your overcoat and hat. Me, sneaking glances over the paper I was pretending to read.
Was when we found out we weren’t alone in the relationship. You, shaking in the doctor’s office. Me, holding your hand.
Was when I asked you to marry me. You, too sick to walk. Me, standing in the snow with a sign proclaiming my love.
Was both the happiest and saddest time of my life. You, beautiful in your wedding dress. Me, in tears both times I wore that suit.
Beloved Wife. The tombstone bears your new name.
1.41: A Winter’s Tale by Geoff Holme
“‘Catch me? You couldn’t catch a cold!’ Remember you used to tease me with that when we played tag as kids?”
My breath condensed into clouds in the railyard where I’d found him . I cradled Benjy in my lap as he stared into the distance, eyes like glass beads.
The syringe fell from his arm.
I thought my older brother was too wasted to hear my words, until I heard him whisper, “Momma always said life was like a box of chocolates: when you reach the bottom, you don’t have many choices.”
“Yeah, man.” I choked, a tear rolling down my cheek. “She always was good for a memorable phrase.”
1.42: The Weight by Karl A. Russell
“Carry the tent first, then the beers.”
Simon sighed, hefted the tent and plunged into the freezing mud. Jay grinned.
“I’ll take the rucksack, then piggyback you across, yeah?”
The girl in the pink Metallica shirt giggled drunkenly.
It took a while, but she was eventually ferried to dry land. Jay and Simon slogged on towards the Pyramid Stage.
Simon sighed deeply.
“That was wrong.”
“Let it go, man! You want a clear conscience, the Krishnas do free lentil curry… Or…”
He pulled out a pink Metallica purse and checked the contents.
“We can get burgers and beers before the Foos start.”
Simon’s stomach gurgled muddily.
1.43: In Memoriam by Rebekah Postupak
Plot (single): $2,000
Grave liner: $1,800 (seriously?)
Opening/closing of grave: $1,475 (note—Saturday surcharge because they can, the vultures)
Maintenance fee: $250
Headstone (includes installation): $3,200 (note: sappy text still needed for engraver)
Coffin (“solid cherry”?? as if. What a ripoff): $3,490
Flowers for funeral service & gravesite: donated by friends and family (awesome!!!!!!!! <– write thank you notes)
Funeral home fees (incl embalming & death certificate): $3,800 (Q: tip for (smarmy) director??)
Post-funeral dinner: covered by in-laws (TELL SOPHIA TO NOT LET M-I-L COOK!! BLECH!!!!!!!!!!)
Anticipated total: $16,015
Anticipated life insurance payout: $2,000,000
Whoops, hahaha! Almost forgot!
Dead body: kiss (disgusting! HELLO BREATHMINT) + $5 martini with a twist.
1.44: Submission by Steph Ellis
Love is a light that has faded from my life. The roads I have taken, dark and lonely. My journey, as I cast off friends like worn-out clothes, is one they cannot follow. It is obsession that has brought me here, to this place.
Will my words gain my admittance, my acceptance? Or will I be rejected and be sent back into the void?
I cling to my sanity, now wafer thin and leave my offering at these gates of perdition, my words, my other self. And wonder again at how I have been consumed by this craft.
“…body and mind aligned; push back into downward dog”.
The blond, skinny decaf lattes who took this class meant nothing to Durga.
Her attention returned to the class instructor. ‘Yogi’ she insisted on being called, as if she understood the deeper rituals.
Durga channelled her energy into the tiger’s eyes taped to her chakras.
“…and forward on all fours, left leg raised, into tiger pose.”
Summoning the power of her namesake Deity, she willed the transformation.
Padding forward, amidst the screams of fear, she growled deeply “I’ve come to devour…I mean take this lesson.”
She calmly pawed her whiskers. ‘Think of it as yoga, with some minor modifications…”
1.46: When the Student Becomes the Master by Brian S Creek
How about W, for ‘who gives a crap’. Pythagoras, fractions, algebra; it’s all gibberish.
Graffiti on the page.
My son looks up with patient eyes. I’m supposed to be helping him with his homework but he’s the one teaching me.
I struggled with it back in the day and it ain’t no easier now. I used to blame the dyslexia but Frank down the road doesn’t let it beat him down.
My three-year-old walks over to me holding his new favourite toy, a second-hand Mr Spell. Damned thing is probably smarter than me too. It mocks me.
“Would you like to play a game?”
1.47: Da Capo All’Infinito by Steven O. Young Jr.
“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”
I pull a cigarette out of the pack. “You mean ‘British’?”
“No, ‘Brithic.’” I know. “You probably don’t believe me, but there’re aliens!”
“Oh yeah?” Smoke limits my words.
“They took me in my sleep one night.” You weren’t sleeping. “They experimented on my brain.” They were trying to repair the damages I’d done to your jigsawed skull. “I bet they don’t realize I remember it all.” I wish you did. Or could.
The ashes collapse as your story ends and I dread your moment of silence. Again.
“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”
I pull a cigarette out of the pack.
1.48: Merry Andrew by Karl A. Russell
Merry Andrew jigs and reels,
A-dancing through the fayre,
To frighten boys
And tug their flowered hair.
In motley caravan he comes,
To sing the summer in,
On potter’s fields
And plague pit mounds,
With revelry and sin.
A powdered face, a rictus grin,
A crown of jangled bells,
But none dare meet
His shadowed eyes,
Nor hear the tale he tells.
For when the dance is over,
And all the sinning’s done,
The tent’s took down,
The earth stripped bare,
To claim them one by one.
And Merry Andrew travels on,
To spread his lies like cancer,
Of summer’s warmth
And endless joy,
That damned infernal prankster.
Mum’s right, of course, in her own unpredictable Nokia text speak. Lazy bones is exactly what I am. I should have popped round today to say hello and to talk about Col’s birthday. Unlucky lad had his Raleigh nicked last week and she wants me to find him a replacement on eBay.
THIS BILE. WHAT SHOULD I SAX?
Pay what you like, Mum. This 18 speed hybrid looks good, though. Auction ends later tonight and the current price is £40. I think it would be a steal at twice that.
OK. NAY 100 POUND. INCREASE MY AGE.
1.50: Cortigiana di Lume by Bill Engleson
Perfect, she is! Perfectomundo, she might once have said! In certain casually carnal company. In the end, all she could think, sadly, was how perfunctory it had become!
Glenys Walters sits before the mirror. Her finger traces a wrinkle that insists on flinging itself out from the left side of her face right near where her upper and lower lips converge, that little fleshy junction, spiraling into a demisemihemidemisemiquaver.
She has risen too far above her station; her wiles, her guile, strings pulled and plucked, the back stairways where the aromatics wander in search of favors, ever pandering for her piquant pleasures, for the courtesans indulgently intoxicating pitch.
1.51: Blackbird by Karl A. Russell
“Civil partnership, is that it?”
“What? No Mum, that’s something else.”
“Oh. Well, what’s that other one then? Humourist or whatever?”
I can’t talk to her, so I look out of the window instead. The smokers in the shelter look like bedraggled birds, waiting to spread dressing-gown wings and soar toward the sun. I wish I hadn’t quit.
“We were partners though.”
I look back, feeling my throat tighten.
“I know Mum. I know.”
She looks like a little bird herself, perched at the bedside. She’s still holding his hand.
“It’s called a humanist ceremony. Yeah, I think he’d like that.”
She smiles through tears.
“Humanist. Yes, that’s right.”
Five years old. Capricious. Mischievous smile. He could still feel her tiny arms wrapped around his neck. “Faster, Grandpa!” she’d shout as he galloped around the house like a pony.
What a softie she turned him into. He, of all people, whose very name inspired fear.
Loving her left him vulnerable; he knew that. But there were unspoken rules, lines that shouldn’t be crossed.
Caskets were not supposed to be that small.
If they thought they’d finally broken him, they were right. Was it time to hang his hat? Perhaps.
But not yet.
He checked his watch. Dinnertime – perfect.
They were about to learn the true meaning of “family”.