NPR's Bob Mondello and Tamara Keith read excerpts from Round 10 of our Three-Minute Fiction contest. Saturday's excerpts are from the stories "Call Me?" by Anna Geletka of Greenville, N.C., and "Leave Me In London," by Taylor Sykes of West Lafayette, Ind. Read the full stories below and see other submissions and past winners on our Three-Minute Fiction page.
Look, you're going to have to call me back. There is no way I'm gonna be able to explain everything in three minutes.
You're not gonna call me back.
Ok, I get that. Maybe I even deserve it. If I was on a blind date with someone I thought was trying to steal my car, I wouldn't call them back either. Or listen to their message.
And I know the thing with Karl was confusing. That's his real name, Karl. He introduced himself as me because he thinks he's funny. He's a performance artist — I know, that explains a lot, right? The casual nudity at least.
I am a much more normal person than this, I swear. I have a boring college degree, I have a boring job, I have a boring car — yeah, I have my own car, for the record.
This is what I get for trying to plan a creative date. The way you were described to me, I didn't think the regular dinner and a movie thing would cut it.
I guess I didn't think it all the way through.
I should have warned you not to wear heels. But I don't think I can fairly be blamed for what that mime said to you. What kind of a mime talks, anyway? Not to mention the pornographic balloon animals. That was not in the online reviews.
Can I also just say that my ex-girlfriend is not the best authority on what kind of a human being I am? And that I had no idea she works at that coffee shop? I never thought she was the kind of person who would do — that — to someone's drink. She's really changed.
I know, I'm not explaining myself very well. And I haven't even gotten to the llama yet. Or why that man seemed to think I was the guy from the internet video with the trampoline and the whipped cream and the cat. The guy in that video does look a lot like me, but I promise, I don't even have a trampoline. Or a cat. But I would have a cat — I like cats. Unlike the guy in the internet video, apparently.
I'm really sorry that when that little kid threw his ice cream at me, some of it got on you. You can send me the dry cleaning bill.
I'm sorry too that I laughed a little bit when your hair got tangled in the Ferris wheel. I laugh when I'm nervous.
And I swear, I had nothing to do with the skywriting. That might sound like a weird coincidence, but your name isn't that uncommon.
And I didn't know that you're lactose intolerant. Or that that word is a euphemism for — well, I think we both remember. Or that fear of geese is, like, a thing.
Normally after screwing up this bad I wouldn't even bother to call someone, because I got enough rejection and disappointment, you know? But the thing is, I think we really connected. One bright flash, right, a spark, when you looked at me and smiled. It was just before the goose chased you and you fell into the lake. That was Karl's goose. His name is also Karl.
Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is ... I really like you. So maybe, if you bothered to actually listen to this, you might ...
You're sleeping, I know. That's why I'm calling. I'm staring at the old Spitalfields church and someone is playing a bagpipe on a roof across the street. I never even wanted to enter a church before we came here. Now I'm crying in every cathedral. It's London, this city. I didn't think I could love a place like I love New York. A month in a different country can change everything.
Three a.m. and the city is still so alive. God, you should be awake to hear this. We could go on a night walk and listen on different side streets. Remember when we waltzed in the alley? I finally found the nerve to put my head on your shoulder and then you pulled away. But for a moment there, I swear, you wanted to.
This is our last year together. I'm applying for schools in New York, and you'll be trying to write ... where? Colorado? Destination unknown. Sure, we'll pretend distance doesn't make a difference. You'll send me your desert poems. About lizards and feeling like cacti. I'll write stories about animosity with nostalgia for you. You'll notice but won't want to say. You'll get married and I'll forget a friend. Three years and it'll all be gone soon.
We were meant to be best friends. That first day of class, we were the only ones who raised our hands when the professor asked who J.D. Salinger was. I never told you, but I saw you before that. I was sitting in the grass writing in my journal, looking for anyone doing the same thing as me. There were people talking in groups. Sleeping. Frisbee. I remember I felt so alone on campus, like I wasn't in the right place. And then you walked by. With your over-sized statement headphones, and you sat down under a tree. Started reading. Which book was it? I wondered how it made you feel. I wrote about you. I described a skinny boy with dark hair and worry lines across his forehead. The perfect representation. It was such a relief to see you. I didn't even know you but suddenly I wasn't alone anymore.
I am in the right place now. And if we fly home tomorrow, I'm not sure I'll ever feel like this again.
Going back to America means going back to how things were. You've never kissed me or held my hand while walking down the street or fallen asleep in my bed. You call us the Queen and the Court Jester. Except that's not how we are. We are two sides of a record. Worthy adversaries. You're my equivalent. We've been cowards, feigning friendship when we know it's not enough.
I love you like I love churches, like I love London. I never knew I could until I came here. I've kept it closed off but I can't let you go home without saying, let me love you and I'll never love anyone else again.
Don't get on the plane tomorrow. I know it's the biggest risk you'll ever take but I'm doing the same thing by leaving this message. I won't be afraid anymore, even if it means losing you completely. Hasn't the chaos of this city made you feel anything at all? Don't go back to safety. Stay the rest of the summer. If you've loved me for three years, meet me in the hotel lobby at the time our flight is supposed to leave. If you don't, then leave me in London.