For Round 11 of our Three-Minute Fiction contest, we asked you to send a story in which a character finds something he or she has no intention of returning. The winning story for this round was "Reborn" by Ben Jahn of Richmond, Calif. Stories are published in their original form.
I found your journal in my car. A slim, Moleskin, six by ten centimeters, soft cover, blue, curving upwards at the edges like an incredibly shallow bowl, or a key dish. By the concavity in its form, the book seemed to be suggesting it was capable of carrying something. Something real. Not much. A few pennies. A handful of nails. One heavy pen cradled at that depression in the center, which had dropped out of the flatness of the book from riding around in the back pocket of your jeans.
The journal had slipped from that pocket onto the black leather of my car seat. You had not felt its absence as you climbed out and gathered your belongings from the space where your feet had recently been. A backpack, a tote bag and a travel coffee cup, blue, white letters advertising Rudy's Deli faded from washing.
The journal's pages are rounded and secured to the spine with thread. Did I see it slip from your pocket? And if so, why did I fail to draw your attention to it?
Perhaps I feared giving you the impression I had been looking at that pocket as you climbed from my car. Burnt orange thread edging dark denim. A small tear at the bottom left corner spilling white — not orange — thread. Why?
Right before I opened your book, it occurred to me that you had intended for me to find it, that you felt it slip from you, saw the blue cover on black leather and left it anyway, that you felt — as I felt — a desire to collapse the space between us. A desire to come closer. I could touch that pocket, I often thought, watching how it advanced towards me and then withdrew as your body sloped up and then out of my car. I could touch that pocket except for in the space between my hand and that dark denim half-diamond, the world drops off. Perhaps you — like I — had been perseverating over this distance and the implications it had for Euclidean geometry.
Because the shortest route from Point A — my hand resting lightly on the gearshift — to Point B — your pocket — was not a straight line. The distance could not be traversed before first traveling to some other point not on that line. It occurred to me, as I opened the pages of your book, that you not only recognized the fact of that other point, but also that I did not know how to find it. The journal was a map you had constructed to help me get there. I felt, as my fingers slipped into your pages for the first time, an overwhelming sense of gratitude that you would do this for me.