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GUY RAZ, HOST:
So right now, creative writing students at more than a dozen graduate programs are plowing through the 4,000 stories we received this round of Three-Minute Fiction. That's our writing contest where we ask you to come up with an original short story that can be read in about three minutes.
This time around, each story had to revolve around a U.S. president, fictional or real. And that challenge came to us from our judge this round, the thriller writer Brad Meltzer. He's going to be deciding the winner in the coming weeks. But in the meantime, here's an excerpt from one of those 4,000 stories, this one written by Stephen Fratus of Walnut Creek, California.
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BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: (Reading) It was a small tub, and when President Bill Taft tried to climb in, he did not fit. Bill was a big man, over 300 pounds. Bill was also a man not easily thwarted. He draped his body across the top of the tub. In one fluid motion, he lifted himself then plunged downward. With a loud squeak, his body slid into the hot bath. Within seconds, he felt cleaner. Bill tried to shift into a more comfortable position but could not move. He struggled until sweat ran off his nose, but it was no use. He was stuck.
Jim, he called out to his attendant, I need assistance. Jim took Bill's hand and heaved until he turned purple. Despite their exertions, the president remained hopelessly trapped. I can round up some strong workmen, Jim said, struggling for breath. Before we do that, I want you to go to the kitchens. Find me five pounds of butter and two loaves of bread. Bread and butter, sir? Right now? Jim asked. Make sure you get a great lot of butter.
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RAZ: That's our Bob Mondello reading the story "The Generous Application of Grease" by Stephen Fratus of Walnut Creek, California. The winner's story will be read in full on this program. And this time, that story will also be published in the Paris Review. To read Stephen's story in full and to see other picks so far, go to npr.org/threeminutefiction, and that's Three-Minute Fiction all spelled out with no spaces.
(SOUNDBITE OF CLOCK TICKING) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.