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It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Wade Goodwyn.


GOODWYN: We're back with more Three-Minute Fiction excerpts. These stories from Round 11 of our contest were chosen with the help of graduate students from schools across the country, including the University of Wisconsin, Minnesota State and the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. And next week, our judge Karen Russell will be announcing the winner of Round 11.

Now, you remember our prompt, somebody in the story finds something they have no intention of returning. Our first character has found something very unusual in the trash.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: (Reading) I found your soul discarded in the street today. On a three-by-five index card, you scrawled in heavy black permanent marker letters: You now own my soul. Initialed under that. Today's date under that. It's a neat little binding contract. I bet it would hold up in the highest court, even if you meant it as a joke. You shouldn't be so cavalier with your immortal essence. I spied it between a wad of chewing gum and a mangled plastic bottle. Anyone could have found this card where it laid half-in, half-out of the gutter with the collected effluvia of a thousand passers-by. But I found it. It's mine.

GOODWYN: That was Bob Mondello reading an excerpt from the story "Litter" written by Kalad Hovatter from Orange, California. Have you ever found something that transports you to the past? Our next character does.

SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: (Reading) It wasn't until months after that night, when they were firmly established as a couple and practically living together, that she finally gave him grief about the shirt. Oh, the bloom is really off the rose now, he'd said smiling. He'd still pull it out occasionally, putting it on despite her groans of protest, not caring a bit how ridiculous it looked. She knew he wore it just to get a rise out of her, to establish himself as a still independent guy, despite the fact that he'd happily let her replace most of his wardrobe by then.

One day when he was at work and she was home with their first son, she'd come across it while searching for something to wear that wasn't yet stained with Will's spit-up. The shirt was lurking toward the back like an embarrassing drunk who won't leave the party. Now, this artifact from another life was in her hands, still just as awful as she remembered. She started to toss it into the Goodwill pile, but stopped. It was precious, this obscenely ugly shirt. She smiled to herself as she folded it carefully into a tidy square, stepped back to gather momentum, and launched it up into the darkest reaches of their closet.

GOODWYN: That was Susan Stamberg reading an excerpt from the story "The Shirt" written by Jennifer Anderson of Shorewood, Wisconsin. If you want to find out what happens next, you can read both stories in their entity at our website, Be sure to tune in next week for more excerpts from Round 11 of our contest.


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