A Sampling Of Three Minute Fiction Entries

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Our Three Minute Fiction contest is now closed. We received nearly 3,800 original short stories and the reading has begun. Guy Raz presents a few of the favorites sent in from our readers at NYU and the Iowa Writer's Workshop. To read the full stories, visit npr.org/threeminutefiction.

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GUY RAZ, host:

Almost 4,000 stories came in this round of Three Minute Fiction here on Weekends on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. The challenge this time, there has to be a joke, and someone has to cry. Here's a sample from the mailbag.

BOB MONDELLO: What do you call a sleeping cow? A bulldozer. I try to think it as loudly as I can, as though the words could cut through the haze of medication and leap into Joseph's head. Joseph doesn't say anything; I know he's watching me. I can almost hear him at it, as though the steady beeps and mechanical whirrs are mocking his gaze and not my vitals.

Why did the snail paint an S on his car? So that people would say: Look at that S car go, I shout in my head. My eyes seem plastered shut, but I wiggle my fingers at this one. This is a routine we used to have, still have in a way. He tells a joke, then I tell a joke, and the comfort is in the eye-rolling. It's always the same set. The only difference now is that I can't answer, and he can't be certain that I'm listening.

SUSAN STAMBERG: Charidy's attention focuses. She recognizes the female in the fuzzy hooded jacket, the teddy bear. Charidy, we're here to get you some help.

Mustard on rye bread. No pickles, please. Charidy grins. Remembering that the teddy bear fed her in the past, she calms down, begins pulling her brown, mangy hair to the right side of her face. She twists it around, attempts to create a ponytail, as if she's fixing herself to meet someone.

When was the last time you took your medicine? Nineteen-ninety-nine ago, when I got my glass eye, she laughs from deep within, slaps both knees, flapping the bark about her like a child playing in fall leaves.

The teddy bear kneels down, speaks softly. Charidy, we need to get you to a safe place. Will you come with me? It's not as easy as it used to be.

RAZ: Excerpts from Three-Minute Fiction submissions by listeners Cynthia Gunadi out in Brookline, Massachusetts and Susanna Hartigan of New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

And thanks to our own Bob Mondello and Susan Stamberg for reading those stories. To see full versions of those stories, go to npr.org/threeminutefiction, that's all spelled out, no spaces. We'll have more stories next weekend, a winner, we hope, in a few more weeks.

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