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GUY RAZ, HOST:
She closed the book, placed it on the table and finally decided to walk through the door. That's the starting sentence for Round 8 of Three-Minute Fiction. That's our contest where we ask you to write an original short story that can be read in about three minutes. Our readers from across the country are combing through all of our 6,000 submissions this round. Let's hear a sample of their favorites so far.
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BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Rid yourself of this pest today, she'd read in the ad in her chicken book. Well, she'd thought, reading it last night after she'd heard the noises. Well, she'd thought, reading it again this morning in the only chair in the house that didn't wobble, the soft chair in the front room that got the morning sun. Well, she told herself again, I'd best be getting to it. She swung the shotgun to a comfortable carrying angle and headed toward the barn.
She knew Ed would be in the barn finishing the morning chores because it often took Ed until mid-afternoon to finish the morning chores. Sure enough, when she dodged the big puddle that never dried and entered the barn by the far door, there he was, leaning with arms crossed over the rail of the pigpen, smoking and scratching his favorite pig, Clete, with a tobacco stake.
Ed, she said. He didn't hear her. She cleared her throat and tried again. Ed, she said, louder this time. He looked up and saw the shotgun. Essie? His face was as broad and as blank as a frying pan. What is it? Rid yourself of this pest today, she thought, and took a deep breath.
RAZ: That's NPR's Bob Mondello reading an excerpt from the story "Rid Yourself Of This Pest Today" by Elizabeth "Bitsy" Hawes Unangst from California, Maryland. That is a real place. Here's another excerpt our readers picked.
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SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: The man shrugged and the woman left. It was strange in the sunny kitchen without her. He listened to the refrigerator hum, the clock tick. He considered turning on the radio, but it was Sunday. His programs wouldn't be on. He wondered which church she had gone to. They had been married by the Methodists because she liked the way the classic white church at the head of the lake looked in autumn.
The bridesmaids wore turquoise. They had not been to services there since. They had not had the baby baptized. Perhaps his wife had mentioned it at the time, but he did not want the infant subjected to a ritual he didn't understand just so the aunts could gather for deviled eggs and miniature sandwiches afterward.
His wife took his daughter to Easter services at the Catholic chapel on the corner one year. They went late at night and watched the baptisms of the converts. His daughter was enthralled, talking about incense and the choir all the next day. He worried that perhaps this was something she would want to do regularly, but by the following weekend, she wanted to go to the shore with her friends. She had not come back from that trip.
RAZ: That's the voice of NPR's Susan Stamberg reading the story "Just in Case" by Robin McCarthy of Belfast, Maine. You can find both of these stories and more at our website npr.org/threeminutefiction. And that's Three-Minute Fiction all spelled out, no spaces. Be sure to tune in next week when we check back in with our judge Luis Alberto Urrea.
(SOUNDBITE OF CLOCK TICKING) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.