Three-Minute Fiction: 'A Day In The Sun'

The judging of Round 9 of Three-Minute Fiction continues. NPR's Susan Stamberg reads an excerpt from one of the favorites so far, A Day in the Sun, by Rita Bourland of Columbus, Ohio. You can read the full story below and find other stories at npr.org/threeminutefiction.

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CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

This is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Celeste Headlee, in for Guy Raz.

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HEADLEE: You know what that means. It's time for Three-Minute Fiction, our contest where listeners come up with original stories in under 600 words. The challenge this round was to write a story that revolves around a U.S. president - fictional or real. Our judge, the writer Brad Meltzer, will be deciding the winner in just a few weeks. Until then, here's an excerpt from one standout story.

SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: (Reading) President Williams sits nursing a beer in his private quarters. He feels confined, like a goldfish in a bowl. Between the Secret Service, his aides and the constant presence of the media pool, he rarely has a moment to himself. He wishes he could have just one day where he could disappear for a few hours. Pierre Dumand is summoned to the White House the next day. The Hollywood makeup artist receives many strange requests, but this is a first. He waits in a basement room and fidgets with the two suitcases he brought.

The door opens and four Secret Service agents enter, followed closely by President Williams. Putting out his hand, the president says: Pierre, you come highly recommended. Let's have some fun. Over the next two hours, Pierre utilizes all his skills. He applies pouches, wrinkles, wigs, prosthetic teeth, scars and body-shaping pads. He selects appropriate clothing to complete the look he's after.

The group is driven to a remote parking lot. One by one, they exit the car. The president is the last to get out. He leans forward on his cane, adjusts his ball cap and overcoat and steps away from the car. He hasn't been anonymous since a couple of years before he was elected. All he wants is a day in the sun and a reprieve from thinking about polls and his current likeability ratings. It's a gorgeous day. People are walking dogs, having picnics, tossing Frisbees and riding bikes.

The president steps onto a walking path that circles a lake and begins to smile. This is exactly what I need, he thinks. Maybe I'll have Pierre come once a month. At that very moment, he hears a piercing scream and turns to see a small child sinking below the surface of the lake.

HEADLEE: That was Susan Stamberg reading the story "A Day in the Sun" by Rita Bourland of Columbus, Ohio. To learn what happens next to our presidential hero, go to npr.org/threeminutefiction for the rest of the story. That's Three-Minute Fiction all spelled out, no spaces.

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A Day In The Sun

For Round 9 of our Three-Minute Fiction contest, we asked you to send us original works of fiction that revolve around a U.S. president, who can be real or fictional. Our winner was "The Dauphin."

walking path i i
unknown/iStockphoto.com
walking path
unknown/iStockphoto.com

President Williams sits nursing a beer in his private quarters. He feels confined, like a goldfish in a bowl. Between the Secret Service, his aides and the constant presence of the media pool, he rarely has a moment to himself. And now he's up for re-election. He truly cares about the American people and wants to promote their well-being, but in this partisan cesspool, nothing gets done. He often feels like a puppet with strings being pulled willy-nilly. He wishes he could have just one day where he could disappear for a few hours.

Pierre Dumand is summoned to the White House the next day. The Hollywood makeup artist receives many strange requests, but this is a first. He waits in a basement room and fidgets with the two suitcases he brought. The door opens, and four Secret Service agents enter followed closely by President Williams.

Putting out his hand, the president says, "Pierre, you come highly recommended. Let's have some fun."

Over the next two hours, Pierre utilizes all his skills. He applies pouches, wrinkles, wigs, prosthetic teeth, scars and body-shaping pads. He selects appropriate clothing to complete the look he's after.

The group is driven to a remote parking lot. One by one, they exit the car. The president is the last to get out. He leans forward on his cane, adjusts his ball cap and overcoat and steps away from the car. He hasn't been anonymous since a couple of years before he was elected. All he wants is a day in the sun and a reprieve from thinking about polls and his current likeability ratings.

It's a gorgeous day. People are walking dogs, having picnics, tossing Frisbees and riding bikes. The president steps onto a walking path that circles a lake and begins to smile. This is exactly what I need, he thinks. Maybe I'll have Pierre come once a month.

At that very moment, he hears a piercing scream and turns to see a small child sinking below the surface of the lake.

Without stopping to think, the president drops his cane, pulls off his cap, sheds his overcoat and runs toward the water. With strong, steady strokes he reaches the child and pulls her toward the shore. As he swims, his makeup, prosthetic teeth and wig fall away. There is very little left of his disguise as he emerges from the water.

A photographer for the Post is strolling through the park, looking for unique summer pictures. She begins snapping photos as the rescue ensues. Once she recognizes the president, she works with a feverish focus. She sees him lay the child on his overcoat and begin CPR. A crowd gathers. The agents hover. The White House helicopter arrives. The president is whisked away as soon as he is sure the EMTs have stabilized the little girl.

By 6:00 p.m. the photos and YouTube videos have gone viral. Calls are pouring into the White House switchboard from all over the world. The president is resting in his private quarters sipping a cold beer. What a strange twist of fate, he thinks. I saved a life today, lost my anonymity once again, and somehow feel freer than ever before.

The president wins the election in a landslide. His likeability ratings go through the roof, and his popularity with young people is at an all-time high. He finds the renewed optimism of the nation to be a bit contagious. With the help of Pierre and an occasional walk in the park, he might just survive the next four years.

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