Don’t be bashful, step up to the mic. Yes, you, Writer, this is your invitation to read. The page is like a warm security blanket, but sometimes we shed that covering and take to the spotlight. Not for fame and fortune, but to connect. Person to person. Think of it as reading stories to your kids, or at school for a class. There’s a special connection writers can have with an audience. Add to the dimension of writing.
This week, whether writers seriously considered the mic for themselves, they took to the prompt and applied their thoughts to the open mic in 99-word stories.
The following are based on the December 19, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features an open mic night.
Open Mic Night by Charli Mills
Mark tripped, spilling loose-leaf pages from a tattered folder.
Bobby laid a hand on the thin man’s shoulder. “It’s okay, dude. First time here?”
“Yeah.” Mark clutched the folder to his chest.
“A poet, eh?” Bobby tapped the folder.
“Been a while since we had rhythmical composition.” Bobby called the gathering to order, issuing encouragement. Some had instruments made of discarded objects. Some had stories memorized in their heads. One man whistled. Only Mark had paper. A luxury at open mic night on the corner of 5th and Elm where the homeless gathered for culture and comradery.
Getting Scammed by D. Avery
Second thoughts teetered on the verge of fear as the road wound along mountains, past ponds, and farther and farther through stonewall traced woods. How well did she really know the driver? Why had she agreed to go to such an improbable place? Finally lights from houses appeared, 19th century houses, but a peopled hamlet. Relieved, she followed into the old general store, which housed a small yet lively bar at the back. Her relief was short lived however, for now she must face and overcome a truly crippling fear. They’d come to read. It was Open Mic Night.
Bold at the Whammy by C. Mills
The Whammy Bar sits at an unpaved crossroads. A local watering-hole for musicians. Some destined for Nashville.
Thursdays are open mic night.
Two flash fictionists drive out of the backwoods in a 4WD truck. They stuff contraband into backpacks, careful not to bend the merchandise. They’re packing a load of books.
Two writers walk into a bar (I’m not kidding you).
Locals have gathered with fiddles, guitars, ukuleles. They clear throats, waiting for their five minutes at the mic. The writers infiltrate, bum-rush the stage.
99-words shatter the air.
“Wanna buy a book,” they ask.
Open Mic Winner by Kerry E.B. Black
Christmas Eve, we host the annual Open Mic Contest. Acclaimed poets drip seasonally-affected despair. Freshmen giggle and blush through limericks or roundelays. Some folks sing.
But then he hopped onto stage. He tilted his seasoned face to see me, standing no taller than my knee. I couldn’t adjust the mic low enough, so I brought up a chair. He leapt up with the grace of a falling feather. Jingly bells upon his costume tinkled like children’s laughter.
I don’t remember his whole recitation, only the end:
“Man in red, or green, white, or brown
Giving heart beating cheer
If only mankind listened.”
Spotlight by Bill Engleson
It’s the Back Hall, eh.
That’s what it’s called.
That’s where it is.
Where it happens.
Our Open Stage.
Our Open Mic.
On a given night, the third Wednesday of the month to be precise, except when it isn’t, a dozen or more local artists, musicians for the most part, ply their inspired wares.
I’ve read the occasional poem.
Even sang a few times.
One night, I sang the theme from High Noon for I too was once forsaken by a darlin’.
There, on that little stage, you are as safe as you would be in your own bed.
Epiphany by clfalcone *
Why was he even at the Open Mic…. he really wasn’t that good. Friends, family, associates, strangers all disagreed, saying he should do this thing, own it.
He stumbled on-stage, papers falling, mike feedback, introduction warbled.
He knew he was going to fail.
The minimalist poetry yielded gasps, cricket silence, followed by applause, cheers, calls for more. The fiery prose got him more accolades. His closing sordid limericks produced laughter, howls, long applause, calls for drinks.
Off-stage, the manager approached him. “Champ… come back next week and I’ll give you twenty minutes.”
He smiled – he really was “that good.”
Backstage Lady by TN Kerr
The backstage lady said I’d go on right after Marvin Joplin. She told me to wait on the stairs, and when I heard them intro Marvin; be ready to go on.
When they announced him, I moved into the wings. He performed a Johnny Cash number I’d heard on the radio hundreds of times. I found the backstage lady and complained.
“You said we were to perform an original song.”
“I heard Johnny Cash play this song.”
“Yeah,” she smiled.
I asked her if I could go on later, not right now, not right after Marvin Joplin.
Open Mic by Floridaborne
“Christina, we’re going out for your birthday,” her mother said.
She sang to the tune of Silent Night, “Mama, no. I won’t go. Don’t like crowds, and you know it. Please don’t say it’s all right, I won’t do open mic.”
“Why do you stutter when you talk, but sing better than Barbara Streis…”
To the ABC song she sang, “Next month I’ll be twenty two. I won’t have to live with you.
“Not as long as I’m your guardian,” her mother said with a scowl.
She’d be in supported living next month. Custody of a minor wasn’t guardianship.
Stepping Up by D. Avery
There were the butterfly garden, sod house, annotated maps, essays, and mock journals. Marlie and Sofie decided to share their migration research with an audience. That’s when Marlie became a stage manager as well as a key performer, for many of the invited family friends wanted to share a song or poem inspired by the topic. That’s when Marlie wrapped her Destiny doll in tinfoil until just the spiky hair on the top of her shorn head showed.
“You can do it,” she encouraged the nervous adults who climbed up to the treefort stage. “Just speak into the microphone.”
Shopping on the Parallel Universe by Doug Jacquier
In the supermarket the other night, I grabbed the store open mic and announced:
“Attention all staff. Red team, please re-arrange the aisles at random to ensure customers have to search the entire supermarket to find what they want. Green team, yes, we know the chicken’s changing colour but mark it down and move it.
And check-out skeleton crew, when you robo-ask a customer what they have planned for today and the customer says “I’m going home to disembowel my dog and then barbecue him for dinner”, don’t forget to say “Oh, that’s nice, are the family coming around?”
Cowboy Poet by Ann Edall-Robson
Cowboy poetry reading at the benefit dance had been Hanna’s idea, but no one expected to see who walked onto the stage.
On the horizon some 800 yards out
An unusual sight needed some learnin’ about
Come close glasses makin’ the scan
Not one, but two shapes—sure wasn’t a man
Across the creek, up the hill at last
Had to be coyotes movin’ that fast
At the top of the ridge those vermin swung round
Laughter erupted at what had been found
Those coyotes leavin’ the waterin’ hole
Turned out to be bovines on top of that knoll
Gerry (from “Lynn Valley”) by Saifun Hassam
Saturday was open mic at Cindy’s Barn. The restaurant was humming with diners. Local musicians, poets, actors, loved the camaraderie of open mic nights.
A math instructor at Lynn Valley College, Gerry played the guitar for fun. He often joined his friends in jam sessions at Cindy’s Barn. Tonight, however he was playing solo. A first.
As he stepped up to the mic, the Farmers Four waved to him. His very first music mentors. Masters at country music, they also loved to improvise, drawing from jazz and classical music. He grinned and waved. He knew he’d do just fine.
Jake by Pete Fanning
I plunked along, off-key and frazzled, missing chords and verses because my hands shook from nerves and detox. My voice was hoarse, the song terrible. It was all Jake’s fault.
My best friend had willed me his guitar—with more than six finely tuned strings attached.
A clumsy finish to polite applause. Misty gratitude on an otherwise perfect spring day. I started for the casket but couldn’t. I stumbled out to my car where I broke down, one of two promises fulfilled. Then I turned the key and drove to Cedar Baptist Church.
I had a meeting to attend.
He’ll Sing Anytime by Susan Sleggs
Tessa’s father handed Michael a beer. “The Vets and family members December open mic is tomorrow night. How about joining us?”
“With a bunch of poets and storytellers. No thanks.”
“There’s no formal way to share. Tessa just talks. The younger women look up to her.”
“We don’t need to show off we’re together. People know.”
“Well then, would you please bring your guitar and lead some carols after the speakers finish?”
“That I’d be glad to do if there’s no discussion about me using my chair.”
“That’s your habit to change, but remember, some don’t have the option.”
Open Mic by Anita Dawes
I managed to get a job
At the last minute with the crew
a runner, fetch coffee at the snap of a finger
I hoped it would be worth it
Chinese whispers bounced around the walls for weeks
The most beautiful man in the world
Would appear for one night
My hero, my first love
Tall, black hair, blue eyes
One kiss from those lips would kill me
I dreamed of being this close to my idol for too long
As I worked, I prayed for the whispers to be true
Then I heard someone say, Elvis is in the building…
Leg Breaker by clfalcone *
He paced outside Mike’s Open Mic Night, afraid to bomb. Make it here and the Big Time awaits… otherwise, you suck!
Was the audience ready for his weirdly intellectual transgressive song and dance (picture Benny Hill, Bill Nye and Jason Voorhees buying some crack…)?
His routine was solid, but the delivery, wasn’t it over the top? Was he trying too hard at humor, only to flop like a salmon dying on deck?
Exit stage left: MC lighting a smoke, thumbing the door.
“You’re on in five minutes, chief….break a leg…!”
The comedian just chuckled, speeding off to awaiting fame.
Flu Wins by Pamela Raleigh
“I’m not sick,” Cara murmurs offstage, shrugging off the sudden heat that envelops her and the ensuing shivers.
It’s just a head cold.
An audition for a television reality show competition comes only once to Hooterville. Illness will not deter her from stardom.
Cara summons her dreams and approaches the microphone, years of hard work her shadow.
Her award-winning voice squeaks. The pipes that carried her dreams through every barn chore wheeze.
She cannot resist the light-headedness or tunnel vision. Her body drops, and with it her hopes for escape, as she succumbs to the winter flu.
The Old Ones Are the Best by Roger Shipp
“Have you heard the one about…?”
“Sit down. You schlep.” It came from a monstrous brute seated at the bar.
“OK. How about … An oyster, and a lobster, and a goldfish go into a bar …”
The comedian quickly ducks as a napkin filled with goodness knows what approaches his face.
“Not that one either. I’m not from around these parts. The first time I was driving through …” This one was drowned by raucous boos and horrid hisses.
“No biographical jokes either.” The comedian boldly stepped closer to the microphone. “Knock, knock…”
The audience was instantly quiet.
Reading Aloud by Joanne Fisher
“I always enjoy hearing you read, it’s always something good.” She said. I thanked her, but if anything, it made me feel more nervous.
Though I have been reading my own work for a while, I still get really nervous as I wait, but I always need that adrenaline boost since it makes me read better, otherwise it would be quite flat.
It was open mic night, I listened to the other poets read. Some of it wasn’t that great, but there was always a gem to be found among the detritus, and that could make it all worthwhile.
The Authors of Anne’s Books of the Year Take the Stage by Anne Goodwin
Furrowed foreheads. Downturned mouths. And not a murmur from the audience as my chosen authors read.
Individually, they were magnificent. Why hadn’t I considered the cumulative effect? People came to enjoy themselves. They didn’t want politics, torture and weapons of mass destruction on a night out.
Hoping to numb the guilt and embarrassment, I sipped my beer. They’d never allow me and my friends onto the open mike stage again.
The final “Thank you!” and the gathering rose to its feet. Thundering applause. Calls for more.
The promoter came over, beaming. “Perfectly pitched! The Resistance movement starts right here!”
Turning Tables by Di @ pensitivity101
The mic beckoned.
Alone on stage, it stood in its stand, waiting for the nervous, afraid, timid, confident or gutsy individual to grab it by the throat and pull it from its anchorage.
From comedy to singing, poetry to story telling, everyone had a chance to stumble, fail or knock proverbial socks off with their performance.
The spotlight came on.
No-one was there. The room hushed.
A cough, whispers, then silence.
A crackle came over the speakers:
‘I am The Mic, and now it’s my turn to entertain you’.
In the wings, the contestant smiled. He had their attention.
Done With Drama? by JulesPaige
rearranging the line up
I tried an open mic night once… I had a dramatic piece and was told I’d go last. But the organizer upstaged me. She went last. I can tell you I disliked the waiting to read. And trying to interpret the other readers in the small setting where there wasn’t room for questions or discussion (at a time when smoking was permitted), left me with a sour taste for such a venue.
Small rooms can get crowded and loud. Two things I’m not a fan of. Self promotion is another one.
Done With Drama? by JulesPaige
spirit of transformation;
I’ll try most things once
Perhaps an open mic night would be different if I had known anyone else there. I hadn’t known a single soul. I was trying to spread my wings. Which are now spread as far as they are going to go. I’m not quite on the proverbial down slope sinking into the mire of my fears. But I know what I like and what I will tolerate and how I can avoid being uncomfortable.
I’ve starred on stage, I’ve appeared in the local paper (no photo) – that’s enough for now.
Done With Drama? by JulesPaige
new year soon to be tolling;
time begins again
Change is one of those things that is most constant. Something that we can’t predict. Can’t add to or totally erase. Every experience makes us grow, shrink, fidget or gain confidence. I can live with that.
I can take each day and watch it transform. I can pretend my written words might in the future be read at some kind of open mic setting. But maybe just not by me. And I’m OK with that. My life’s stage has enough spot lights without thinking about open mic stress.
On Bullhorns and Bull Shift by D. Avery
To grab the bull by the horns might be the best course of action if the bull is bearing down on you anyway. Microphones are one-horned beasts, uni-horns, and open mics, being open, would not seem to present the horns of a dilemma; the only consequence of not stepping up to speak are your words unspoken. While not as dangerous or as foolhardy as running with the bulls, public readings will most certainly get your heart rate up. And you will, in the jelly-kneed afterwards, have that silly grin sense of accomplishment.
See that uni-horn? Grab it. Give voice!
Playlist by clfalcone*
‘Jeez, Open Mic Night is like, the worst.thing.ever!’ Head shaking. ‘They aren’t even funny…. just rehashed laugh radio jokes.’
Open Jam Night was worse, though: sucky musicians vying for 15 minutes of non-fame. She was funnier fully drunk, stumbling, high on coke.
Now if she could only find some coke….
As a host comedienne, she was bored with babysitting wannabes on Wednesdays in exchange for quality time on Fridays.
Then the Caveman appeared, long shagy hair, club-carrying, hide-wearing, painting modern social issues with a demented neolithic brush.
Like Fred Flintstone on crack….
She checked the list, muttering, “Holy shit….competition!”
The Repairman by H. R. R. Gorman
The microphone still sat, open and in pieces, on my workbench. I dreaded having to stay awake all night to get this antique fixed, but the owner needed it repaired by tomorrow.
That was easier said than done. The diaphragm on the capacitor was shot, but I didn’t have a replacement part handy.
“Oh!” I mumbled. “What I wouldn’t give to have that part!”
A man in a pinstripe suit and thin mustache appeared at my side. He held a new diaphragm with his fingertips. “Your soul sound a fair price?” he asked.
“Then let’s make a deal…”
D’ Spies by D. Avery
“What’s up Pal?”
“Plenty, Kid, an’ I don’t like it. Slim Chance is aroun’, wants ta talk ta Shorty ‘bout a merger, wants ta franchise the Ranch.”
“Ranch french fries? Mmmm.”
“No, Kid, fran-chise, and I’d bet that little French friend a yers has somethin’ ta do with this.”
“Pepe LeGume? Why d’ya think that?”
“’Cause somethin’ ‘bout this stinks.”
“Pepe an’ I’s way ahead a ya Pal. We’re suspicious a Slim Chance too, so Pepe’s with him, ‘cept Pepe’s bolo tie is really a mic.”
“Spies! But ok, let’s listen… what? Thet thunder?”
“Uh-oh. Think Pepe’s mic dropped.”
No Phony by D. Avery
“Kid, Pal. You wanna spill the beans as to what’s going on? Ain’t never seen you two wearing headphones afore.”
“Pepe’s wired, Shorty.”
“Yeah, he’s a hyper little fella alright.”
“No, he’s wearing a mic. We’re collecting intelligence.”
“Ha! Fat chance a that!”
“No, Slim Chance. We’re worried ‘bout his plans fer the Ranch.”
“Ah, you two, d‘ya really think I’m shortsighted? This’s my ranch. An’ while I’m happy to share with the ranch hands, I wouldn’t ever sell out. Got my own plans.”
“Shoulda realized thet. Sorry Shorty.”
“Yep, sorry Boss. Hey look’t the evenin’ sky. Emergin’ stars!”
If you’d like to get into the ranch mood this fine Christmas day, take a gander at this classic collection of Cowboy Poetry (and thanks, Ann Edall-Robson, for striking the mood). Merry Christmas to one and all!