NPR logo A Brighter Smile In As Little As Three Days

A Brighter Smile In As Little As Three Days

For Round 7 of our contest, we asked you to send us original works of fiction that have a character come to town and someone leave town.

Sweet potato fries.

Wren and Mark had a lot in common. They liked sweet potato fries more than regular ones and the movie Gattaca. When they were together, they drank white wine and hypothesized about passers-by. Gay or straight? Fat or pregnant? Homeless or hipster?

It was 12 hours before Wren would move away when their conversation faded. Feeling an overwhelming sense of ticking clocks and wasted time, she began to read aloud the signs and advertisements around them, filling the space with inconsequential narrations. "Bagel Deli," she said. "Two for the price of one."

Ten hours before Wren would move away, they met up with some friends at a bar. There was a woman there whom Wren did not know. She oozed sex in a faded and misshapen t-shirt dress that would only make Wren look sleepy. Wren wondered if she would ever look that sexy, if she would like her new town, and if she could wear t-shirt dresses there.

Her name was Solonge and she was somewhat French, but really from Connecticut and had only been in town for seven hours. Mark watched her in a way that made Wren feel more sad than she did when she saw babies who looked like adults and adults who looked like children. Wren had a sneaking suspicion that her name wasn't really Solonge. "Happy Hour," she said to no one. "Monday through Friday from 4 to 7."

Eight hours before Wren would move away, she was already gone. Mark raised his glass in the motion of a toast. "To Wren," he said, "on her last night in town." She brought her Sauvignon Blanc to his, lip-smudge to lip-smudge, clinking with the sound of dropped lucky pennies, or forks. Wren looked at her watch, and then at her cell phone, and then at the clock on the wall. Time moved so fast when it was running out. "She's nervous," said Solonge. "But probably excited, too."

Solonge had been in town for nine hours when Wren watched her pluck a sweet potato fry from Mark's plate, and despite the generous space around them, Wren felt inescapably encroached upon. She thought about the future, and whether or not she'd made the right decision to leave, and stared at the lip-smudge on Mark's glass. It is a good opportunity, she thought.

Five hours after Wren moved away she met someone new. She introduced herself by her middle name and at a restaurant she substituted the fries with a salad. She had a conversation about the flawed logic and plot holes in the movie Gattaca. She looked at her watch, and then at her cell phone, and then at his watch. Time moved so slowly when you felt really lost. When their conversation faded, she read aloud the signs and advertisements on the inside of a subway car. "A brighter smile in as little as three days," she read. "It only takes three minutes a day for two weeks," he said, and she rested her head on his shoulder and fell asleep, someone different and the same and irreplaceable.