Three-Minute Fiction Deadline Nears
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GUY RAZ, host:
You have just over 24 hours to submit your original short story in Round Six of our Three-Minute Fiction writing contest here on Weekends on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Our judge, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, says each story has to include one character who tells a joke and one who cries.
BOB MONDELLO: (Reading) I remember when I first saw you, I said. So beautiful. I sat like the most shameless voyeur and watched you eat a bowl of soup for 10 minutes trying my best to think of the line that might get your attention, even make you laugh. Do you remember? Yes, she admitted, voice lacking the flavor of nostalgia, I do. She flipped the lid of the suitcase, zipped it all the way around and tugged it twice to make sure it was tightly closed, looked at me then and showed the briefest crinkle of her brow.
And then, I said - she broke in - waiter, what's this fly doing in my soup? And the waiter said - I began, she finished - the backstroke. We both laughed as we'd laughed then at the familiar thing that was once new and meaningful, beautiful in its infancy but now gnarled and gray. She picked up the suitcase. I didn't offer to help.
SUSAN STAMBERG: (Reading) Did I ever tell you the one about the rope that went in the bar, he asked. I had heard it countless times, but I smiled and nodded noncommittally. He took my gesture as a reason to continue. See, the rope goes in and the bartender tells him to scram. He don't serve their kind. So the rope goes out, puts a loop in himself and unravels his end and goes back in the bar. Bartender says, ain't you the rope I just told to get out? And the rope says, I'm afraid not.
The unlit cigarette dangled from his lips shaking and almost falling as the old man laughed and struggled to find his breath. I smiled until the spasms went on longer than I liked, and I looked over at him.
MIKE PESCA: (Reading) Vince sat on dad's bed and talked to him as if he could hear everything. Dad hadn't uttered a word in days. The nurse would come in and turn him and the party would resume upon her departure. Cat poured the wine. Always the wild woman, she was more gentle this evening. We were all trying to one-up the other with our stories. Vin, the consummate prankster, decided to tell a joke.
Hey, I have one: What is dad's favorite drink? But we never got to hear the answer to Vin's joke. Out of nowhere, we heard a gentle murmur: Becks. Not believing our ears, Vin said, what? Again, dad breathed: Becks.
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RAZ: Excerpts from the stories by Lamar Jones of Wilmington, Delaware, Benjamin Tosh(ph) of Wasilla, Alaska and Isabelle Hart(ph) in Naples, Florida. Thanks to our readers, NPR's Bob Mondello, Susan Stamberg and Mike Pesca.
And now, it's your turn. To submit your story, go to our website at npr.org/threeminutefiction, all spelled out, no spaces.
(Soundbite of music) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.