Three-Minute Fiction

This round of Three-Minute Fiction attracted 3,400 original stories. NPR's Bob Mondello reads an excerpt from Sleep Lessons by Chad Woody from Springfield, Mo., and Susan Stamberg shares parts of The Edge by Andrew Morris from Andes, N.Y. To see these stories and others go to npr.org/threeminutefiction.

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

We're now about three quarters the way through all the stories you submitted in this round, round seven, of our Three-Minute Fiction writing contest. It's where we asked you to write an original short story that can be read in about three minutes. And soon, very, very soon, our judge this round, the writer Danielle Evans, will come back to announce the winner right here in the studio with me.

And in this round, each story had to have one character who arrives to town and one character who leaves. So here are excerpts from two of the nearly 4,000 entries we received this time.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: When Tad's mother found she no longer needed sleep, they left town. It was full, she said, of dirty old men and devil worshippers. She drove north, away from the Mason-Dixon line. Tad wasn't scared. He rode in the back, between the blue fold-down seats, on a blanket that smelled like Sarah the Doberman. The radio played "Coward of the County" and Blondie. Tad slept.

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MONDELLO: Tad had a little globe inside a cube of clear plastic, like magic. The oceans were blue, America was red, other countries were other colors. His dinosaur book said they were once one big country. Tad woke up in Rolla. They were going to a fortune teller to have their palms read. The old gypsy woman lifted his hand, tracing his lifeline carefully with her finger. Soon, they would see the arch, dark silver over the sunset.

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SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: When we arrived in Mexican Hat, you were all smiles and already miles away. You still held sway, making sure we arrived in advance of the harvest moon, emphasizing that I bring those items that would make you happy: Swedish fish, the heavy Coleman lantern, a bottle, not a box, of wine. I felt sick. I wanted new rituals to take root, an untouched narrative to sprout up in the seven days we had together. You were eager for the stone and sweep.

I wanted to match your pace again, but you bee-lined for the rim while I lingered back. No matter how much fresh air I took in or how long my eyes rested there on the stone or on your backside, my anxiety remained. I couldn't escape the sun's epilogue either - six nights of the same conclusion, the same closure.

RAZ: That's "The Edge." It was written by Andrew Morris of Andes, New York, and read by our Susan Stamberg. We also heard "Sleep Lessons" by Chad Woody of Springfield, Missouri, and that was read by NPR's Bob Mondello. To read full versions of these stories and others, go to our website npr.org/threeminutefiction. And that's Three-Minute Fiction, all spelled out, no spaces. And don't forget to check out our Three-Minute fiction Facebook page as well.

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