Three-Minute Fiction

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The Three-Minute Fiction contest is over, but the fun is just beginning. We received 3,400 stories in Round 7 and our readers from Iowa Writer's Workshop and New York University are hard at work trying to get to all of them. NPR's Lynn Neary and Bob Mondello bring two of these stories to life: "Misshapen" by Aaron Maltz and "The Young and the Old" by Alex Swiatek.


MARTIN: The contest is over, the stories are in, and already, a couple of your entries to our Three-Minute Fiction writing contest have caught our eye. Now, we're early in the process. Our readers at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and NYU are hard at work sifting through the stories we received by last weekend's deadline, about 3,400 submissions in all. Here is a little bit of what we've seen so far.

LYNN NEARY: He stared out from his good eye, the other being an unsightly black hole, and held her gaze, unable to say the right words before swiveling and hopping to the edge of the table where a black convertible awaited. After a few running starts, he flew clear over the city of little blue people with funny white hats, soared over the village of fuzzy bears with varying emblems on their chests, and landed in the town of Bedrock.

From the land of blue people, the resident female turned her head from the flying spectacle to the abandoned figure on the table. She took a few valiant hops, then made the magnificent jump upwards into the land of shortcake. She approached Mommy and buried into her chest. It's okay, Mommy. Please don't cry.


BOB MONDELLO: The old man groaned as his piercing alarm sounded. The morning wasn't as vivacious as he had remembered. Time doesn't stop for anyone, he supposed. The lifetime he had spent in a once small town was beginning to overstay its welcome. Even the noble spruce tree was beginning to wither.

He looked with his failing eyes at the spruce, his childhood friend. The first time he talked to his wife was when he was 7 under that spruce tree. He thought of her as the ancient Chevy coughed and moaned to life. Perhaps it was the only thing with any life left. Where did it all go? Where were the times spent together? The times growing and not knowing where next week's paycheck would come from? The times when all he had left was himself and his dear wife, his best friend? All of those moments were scarcely memories anymore; it was all that was left.

MARTIN: That was NPR's Lynn Neary and Bob Mondello reading the stories "Misshapen" by Aaron Maltz of Portland, Oregon, and "The Young and the Old" by Alex Swiatek of Gorham, Maine. You'll find the full versions of these two stories on our website at, all spelled out, no spaces. You can also check them out through our Three-Minute Fiction Facebook page. And stayed tuned, we'll announce the winner next month.


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