Our Summer Writing Contest: What A Response!

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We are no longer accepting submissions for our Three-Minute Fiction contest. Thanks for the thousands of submissions, and keep checking back — we'll keep reading and posting our favorites through the summer!

Three thousand and counting! That's how many of your original short stories we've received so far in our Three-Minute Fiction summer writing contest.

So, 3,000-plus stories at three minutes each — that's 150 hours of fiction! It's kept all of us here at All Things Considered pretty busy, but it's also been great fun.

And we're not done yet! Keep sending in your short stories, and we'll keep reading and posting them. Here are some of our favorites so far.

Not That I Care

We asked you to send us original works of fiction that could be read in three minutes or less. And, man, did your inner authors respond -- we received more than 5,000 submissions! Read all our favorites from round one on the Three-Minute Fiction page.

Round One Winner!

Molly Reid's 'Not That I Care' is the winner of the first round of our Three-Minute Fiction contest. Congratulations, Molly!

Duck. iStockphoto.com i
Duck. iStockphoto.com

There goes our neighbor, Jim, running into the street again. He grabs one of the ducks crossing. Doesn't even look to see if anyone is looking, just scampers out — hunched over, elbows bent and reaching behind him like he's trying to grow wings or is throwing himself to the asphalt — then scoops a duck and holds it with both hands close to his chest and runs back into his house.

This has been going on for two weeks; started around the time Marcus left, or at least that's when I first noticed it. The ducks always squawk like someone has just thrown a hundred bread crumbs into the lake, moving in frantic, dizzy eights around the stolen duck's absence. I don't think anyone sees him but me. The houses on our street keep the curtains closed. There's nothing ever to see on our street.

I sit at the window drinking pot after pot of weak black coffee, drumming my fingers on the windowsill and chewing off the extra tiny bits of skin inside my cheeks, pondering whether it's always a different group of ducks that cross our street, migrating from the man-made lake across town, or if Jim lets the snatched duck go some time later, and maybe the same group of ducks make the same trek every day, an afternoon waddle, forgetting about the dangers of this street. Or maybe the ducks and Jim have reached an understanding, a mutually-agreed-upon ritual.

When Marcus left, he left behind a pair of dirty socks, one hiding under the bed and one right in plain sight, curled into itself and getting smaller every day, like a sad little salted slug. I can't bring myself to touch them. I wonder if he left them on purpose, if they're supposed to communicate something, something about cheating and the things we discard, the state of our souls, the process by which galaxies implode.

Once Jim has gone inside with the duck, the other ducks remain in the middle of the street, going around and around each other accusingly, angry toddlers pacing in waddles. I think about moving them to safety. Not that any cars drive down our street. Not, anyway, like Marcus used to, speeding, snarled music, brakes wheezing, spitting rocks. I should at least run out and comfort the remaining ducks, tell them it's going to be ok, that sooner or later the sting of absence will lessen. One day those blue and green feathers, you won't remember them so soft.

Not that I know that for sure. Or that I know anything about feathers. Not that they could understand me, being ducks.

Or I could go next door, take that duck back, let him go, let them all go free. If it wasn't for the look on Jim's face, lips pressed together like he has a mouth full of jellybeans, like he's getting away with something — which I let him believe, which I understand the importance of. I keep watching. And every time he takes another duck, I get closer to thinking about moving away from the window.

Something To Crow About

We asked you to send us original works of fiction that could be read in three minutes or less. And, man, did your inner authors respond -- we received more than 5,000 submissions! Read all our favorites from round one on the Three-Minute Fiction page.

One sweltering afternoon, a boy, still wringing wet, walked into Byler's Bar and announced, "I sunk Danny's rowboat." He was nobody's kid we knew, so Bill Byler, the barkeep and proprietor, made a motion with his hand, a little flick of the wrist, and simply said, "Sunk it or not, no minors allowed," but the boy didn't go. Instead, he balled up those little fists of his and said, "Danny's boat is in the Mississippi mud and I'm the one that put it there." His voice was kind of screechy and shrill and we all looked at him.

"Okay, kid," Bill said, after a minute, "Congratulations. So where's your friend Danny now?"

"He ain't my friend. I reckon, by now, he's floated halfway to New Orleans."

A triumphant look shot from the boy's wild eyes. Then he turned around and stomped out.

We all chuckled. I took a long drink off my beer. Sunlight streamed in through the dust-covered windows. I never once saw Bill clean them.

"Ornery kid," I said.

Bill was toweling off a mug. He looked up, like he was checking to see if the kid might have walked back in. "Oh, he just had something to crow about," Bill said, when he saw it was nobody in the bar but us.


We asked you to send us original works of fiction that could be read in three minutes or less. And, man, did your inner authors respond -- we received more than 5,000 submissions! Read all our favorites from round one on the Three-Minute Fiction page.

In the fifth grade there was a boy named Plumstreet. That wasn't his real name. We called him Plumstreet because he came from the projects.

Even the nuns called him Plumstreet.

Sister Mary Snapper — we called her The Whip — didn't like Plumstreet and beat him nearly every day for something.

"Where's your homework?" The Whip would ask.

"I ain't got no homework," Plumstreet would sneer.

And no matter how many times she hit him with a pointer over the hand, he would never cry. He wasn't afraid of her. He wasn't afraid of anything.

One day Sister Snapper burst into the room and cried out, "I need five boys!"

She looked at me and four others.

"Plumstreet has run away," Sister Snapper said. "I want you to go out and find him."

A posse. We were a posse!

Today, of course, parents would be called, and police and firemen and social workers and psychologists and government agents. But, back then, all Sister Snapper did was pick a few boys and told us go out and find Plumstreet and haul him back to school!

We ran outside and went off in several directions.

"Plumstreet," I shouted. "Where are you?"

I never worried about what I would do if I found him. I just assumed that as an official deputized arm of the nuns — he would surrender and let me take him in. Ha! Plumstreet would have spit in my face and pulverized me.

I wondered why Plumstreet wasn't afraid. Was he too stupid to be afraid? No. I don't think he was stupid. I think he just hated school. Was he hateful — was that it? Do hateful people not fear anything? I don't think he was hateful. I was the smallest kid in the fifth grade — much smaller than Plumstreet — and he never bullied me.

Today — I realize that he was a kid who was trapped in some fashion. Either by his family or poverty — something.

And that's probably why he suddenly ran from Sister Snapper. He had to break free! From what, maybe even he didn't know. But he had to try.

I didn't think along those lines back then. But I did think that I would have liked to have had his courage. To jump up in front of a nun — look her in the eye — and turn and run for freedom!

And then I heard the school bell ringing. The Snapper was sounding recall. It was time to return to base.

"Get inside," she said. "Get back to work."

"Did we find Plumstreet?" my friend Eddy asked.

She hit Eddy.

The answer was no. Plumstreet was not found that day. Or any other day, for all I know. He never returned to school.

I think of Plumstreet now and again. Running down the streets — out in the cold — easily outdistancing his pursuers, pausing for a minute to look back in our direction and defiantly shake his fist — in a salute — to courage.

Godspeed, Plumstreet!



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