It’s time to find the top three stories from Micro Bookends Year One. Below, I’ve compiled the winning entries from the four quarterly polls. 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 3rd December. This time the number of votes each entry has received will be shown after you have voted. I’ll formally announce the winners on Thursday.
1.07: The Nation’s State of Mind by Marie McKay
Mock vaccinations were clearing their gurgling lungs, drying their weeping sores, sewing together their broken spirits, stitching up their despair.
The Bowler Hats congratulated themselves on employing the most cost effective placebo since Jesus Christ.
But words got out and spread like a mutating virus:
So in the safety of shelters tucked underground, they bludgeoned and gouged, raged and violated, tortured and brutalised until only their corpses were left to top and tail.
Sacred it truly is, the privilege to peep through his favourite antique of a gadget.
But how objects at both extremes hang precariously bother me some – as though if my grip wobbled, the fellow on the ladder to the right with his aircraft would come sliding, crashing into the pretty lady in the center. Dad yaks about the device’s ‘wide angle lens,’ ‘aspect ratio,’ (or is it ‘field of view’?) as responsible for that ‘panoramic view.’ Whatever.
Thrill of my 6th birthday treat peaks with the brief flash on depressing the knob – this moment captured and cached into my childhood memory by the shutter’s clicking sound.
1.10: Disorder by Rasha Tayaket
Explosive sounds of pots and pans banging around erupted from the kitchen. Martha was disheveled, her hands gripped her hair and she was muttering about the mess.
“Can I help?” I asked. She did not respond. I started to cover turkey leftovers. She screamed and I jumped.
“Stop haunting me!” she shouted uncovering the dish.
“Haunting? Martha, I’m not a ghost.” I grabbed for the doctor’s note hanging on the refrigerator to once again remind Martha that she had been diagnosed with psychosis after the accident.
The sounds in the kitchen silenced as I pointed to my own name on the line diagnosed with hallucinatory psychotic disorder.
1.11: What I Taught My Daughter About Dating by Geoff Holme
“’Rating’? No, it should be ‘dating’.”
I was looking over Hannah’s school essay about my work as a palaeontologist.
Fossilised dinosaur bones are found only in sedimentary rock. Researchers have to find adjacent layers that include igneous rock; radiometric dating can determine their age.
“They’re like bookends, indicating the start and end of the period when the sedimentary rock formed.”
I’d also explained how I use a rock hammer to dig out fossil bones. Bobby must have overheard.
Downstairs, he’d covered the carpet with dinosaur models and coal from the Aga and was using our finest dessert spoons to recreate the scene.
Thinking of Eve’s reaction convulsed my digestive system.
1.18: The Dying Swan: Dancer to the Last by Foy S. Iver
“…sweet, sticky tonic and there’s no certainty it’ll cure pneumonia–”
“Victor?” Anna lost in covers.
Her self-ascribed husband moved bedside, “Dearest?”
“Are they taking me to hospital?”
Victor’s eyes monitored him. The physician answered cautiously, “We can operate but…you wouldn’t dance again.”
“I could live–?”
“Love,” Victor’s words crushed hers. “You’re not thinking clearly. If you couldn’t dance, wouldn’t you rather slip away?”
She tried freeing her hand from the cage his fingers formed.
“You don’t want to be remembered that way. Not when the world could know you as ‘The Dying Swan–dancer to the last.’”
Fear turned her skin hard and white as a tooth.
1.20: True Artist by Steven M. Stucko
Blueberry was never bored. She saw possibilities for joyous expression everywhere. She made colorful collages from discarded magazines and gave them as personalized gifts. She bent soft twigs into heart shapes and suspended them from elastics pulled from her socks to make elaborate kinetic mobiles. She used broken blocks of cement to create art on the steps of the run down housing project where she lived with her six siblings. Blueberry saw beauty everywhere. In her mind she lived in a glorious wonderland of her own creation. She was the curator of a great museum on the hill.
1.22: Pixelpusher by Jessica Franken
Beat the drums. Shout it out. Write it down. Document everything. Fill the archives. Build more archives. If I don’t describe it, it will remain undescribed.
Walking to work today I saw an old man in boxer shorts open his front door, float up his rosebud fingertips, and fold into a perfect arabesque penché to lift the newspaper from his front stoop. I worry so much that no one will know this.
Hunched modern scribe, I fantasize about ceasing—ceding to the universal subconscious (a gyre spinning slowly below, gathering in all our tiny hearts). Every sigh and sandcastle would be inherited, written onto the bones of the next generation.
1.25: Ancient Sound by Marie McKay
New layers of architecture rise beyond the minarets. The old muezzin looks up to see the changes, for the physical world is no different at eye level: children impoverished still naively play, kicking up the dust of decay.
The muezzin sits mute. He draws his eyes down knowing there are other changes for those who stay the same. The cacophony of the city’s noises are transformed. The diminished soundscape tires him: the blend of chants for prayer now a single electronic voice.
Taciturn he shakes his head, another layer, another coat that strips the ancient city of its old but colourful clothes.
1.26: Trinket Box by Marie McKay
‘Play!’ prods the electronic voice in her head.
She picks up her pace, an hour in and her tits and legs ache. She’s nauseous. Contorting and twirling make the air crawl up her exposed skin. The sensation triggers her synapses. She wonders if the men below still give their daughters music boxes that play You Are My Sunshine while the stiff pop-up ballerina spins.
‘Plaything number 1. You are thinking!’
Before she detaches again, becoming a distorted rag doll in a glass box, writhing for the ‘nice men’, she allows one last lucid thought to fire across her brain:
‘Please make this one a boy.’
1.27: Just Maybe… by N J Crosskey
Silent treatment, that’s what she accuses me of. Then it’s all: You Never, You Don’t, You Aren’t.
Well maybe I don’t and maybe I’m not. But maybe Glynis, just freakin’ maybe, YOU don’t and YOU aren’t either.
And maybe, just maybe, you sound like a flock of constipated pigeons. Maybe you’re a shrill, controlling harpy who kicks me when I’m down, so MAYBE, just maybe, I Don’t and I’m Not because of YOU.
Maybe I’ll smash your skull in with a freakin’ shovel. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll bury you on the hillside with the other cows…
…Or maybe I’ll just turn the sound up so I can hear the film.
1.32: Phantom by Marie McKay
‘Fear me,’ he says- just as he hands me my change; just before the train pulls up; just before the guy behind me shouts, ‘What’s keeping you, Lady?’
I try to find a trace of the words on his face. In the lines across his forehead. In his pinpoint pupils. In the shiny gold between his yellow teeth. But they’ve disappeared.
Except, somehow, I am in possession of them. I carry them onto the train, feel them fluttering at my chest. I try to pull them into some other shape. But the train thrums, ‘Take care! Take care!’ I turn towards the squawking skies and watch the noises flying.
1.38: Dull Silver by Iskandar Haggarty
Childhood is supposed to be golden.
Fathers are supposed to wake up, bright and early, and make breakfast.
Bright and early, Papa put the barrel of his shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Mothers are supposed to tuck their kids in at night.
Mama cried tears of salt and cigarettes when the judge found me a new home, but she never visited.
Not even once.
Friends are supposed to stick up for you.
The whole baseball team disappeared the day the bigger kids came for me.
Childhood is supposed to be golden.
Mine was the dull silver of a dying star.
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.”
1.43: 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.
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”.