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It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.


LYDEN: We're back reading excerpts from Round 11 of our Three-Minute Fiction writing contest. The stories were chosen with the help of graduate school readers from schools across the country, including Vanderbilt, University of Illinois and Georgia State. The prompt, chosen by our judge, Karen Russell, is that a character finds something they have no intention of returning. First up, "The Art of Compromise."

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: (Reading) Erin's shoulders slumped. I must've thrown it out accidentally. Maybe you could find a different shepherd's pie recipe, Jeremy asked doubtfully. Erin was not good with change. As he predicted, Erin frowned at the thought. I don't think another version would come out as well. Maybe it'll turn up, Jeremy offered. Erin smiled half-heartedly at the thought. Maybe it will.

She sighed and shrugged. I guess I'd better get to the store. I'll figure out something else for dinner Wednesday night. Never mind that, said Jeremy. Let's go out to dinner. Your pick. Erin's smile was more genuine this time. For all her adherence to routine, Erin was quick to recognize the good of a situation. It was another trait Jeremy admired.

That'd be nice. We could try that new Thai place. Erin grabbed her list, gave Jeremy a quick kiss and left. Jeremy smiled. He stuck his hands in his jeans pocket. He loved his wife. He loved her small habits, her green eyes, her resilience. At the bottom of his pocket, his fingers brushed the frayed edge of a recipe clipped from a magazine. Jeremy did not love his wife's shepherd's pie.

LYDEN: That was NPR's Bob Mondello reading an excerpt from the story, "The Art of Compromise" written by Lindsey Appleford of Boerne, Texas.

SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: (Reading) I bend over and clutch it, carefully, like a precious jewel, a little plastic F plucked from a keyboard, my little plastic F. Of course, I only ever saw computers at the library, but I could recognize them and their parts and whatnot. And I could see my soul in that F and in the swirling lines of heat stretching across the sky, the free parts, the fun parts, the fast-flowing fresh parts, the fantastical, the fabulous, the fragile and feminine parts of me.

And I wondered if there were another universe in a mirror or in a black hole or down a well in which Papa understood. And I drifted into it like a fever.

LYDEN: That was Susan Stamberg reading an excerpt from the story, "Claudia Who Found the F" by Sean Enfield of Denton, Texas. You can read the rest of both of these stories at our website, Tune in next week to hear more excerpts from Three-Minute Fiction Round 11.


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