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CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

Welcome back. You are listening to WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Celeste Headlee.

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HEADLEE: We're just a week away from announcing the winner of our Three-Minute Fiction writing contest. But before we do, we want to bring you a few more standout stories from the 4,000 submissions we received this round. They were chosen with the help of graduate students from schools across the country, including University of Michigan, University of Houston and University of Illinois.

The challenge this round was to write a story in the form of a voice mail message. And next week, our judge, Mona Simpson, will announce the winning story. But first, we'll hear about a date gone horribly wrong in a story "Call Me?"

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BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: (Reading) The llama was not my fault. Don't hang up. You probably hung up. How long is a voice mail message, three minutes? Look, you're going to have to call me back. There is no way I'm going to be able to explain everything in three minutes. You're not going to call me back. OK, I get that. Maybe I even deserve it. If I was on a blind date with somebody I thought was trying to steal my car, I wouldn't call them back either. 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. 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.

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HEADLEE: That was NPR's Bob Mondello reading an excerpt from the story "Call Me?" written by Anna Geletka of Greenville, North Carolina. Next, we'll bring you a story from across the Atlantic called "Leave Me in London."

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TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: (Reading) You're sleeping, I know. That's why I'm calling. I'm staring at the old spittle fields 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 this 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.

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HEADLEE: That was NPR's Tamara Keith reading an excerpt from "Leave Me in London" by Taylor Sykes of West Lafayette, Indiana. To find out what happens next, head over to our website, npr.org/threeminutefiction where you can read both stories in their entirety. That's Three-Minute Fiction, all spelled out, no spaces. And be sure to tune in tomorrow to hear more voice mail excerpts from Round 10 of our contest.

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