Three-Minute Fiction Favorites Three of NPR's signature voices -- Lynn Neary, Bob Mondello and Linda Wertheimer -- read excerpts from a trio of the more than 5,000 entries to Round 5 of our Three-Minute Fiction contest.
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Three-Minute Fiction Favorites

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Three-Minute Fiction Favorites

Three-Minute Fiction Favorites

Three-Minute Fiction Favorites

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Three of NPR's signature voices — Lynn Neary, Bob Mondello and Linda Wertheimer — read excerpts from a trio of the more than 5,000 entries to Round 5 of our Three-Minute Fiction contest.

(Soundbite of clock ticking)

GUY RAZ, host:

As we make our way through more than 5,000 original short stories you submitted this round of Three Minute Fiction, we promised to share excerpts from some of our favorites. And remember, each story has to begin:

LYNN NEARY: (Reading) Some people swore that the house was haunted.

LINDA WERTHEIMER: (Reading) Some people swore the house was haunted.

BOB MONDELLO: (Reading) Some people swore the house was haunted.

WERTHEIMER: Some people swore the house was haunted.

NEARY: Now, isn't that just about the worst opening line you ever heard in your life? Richard thumbed through the frayed paperback nearly as thick as it was long. He flipped it over and pointed to the round orange sticker over the barcode. See, he said, bargain bin. Molly grabbed the book from him and set it back down on the nightstand. Leave that alone, she scolded. In fact, leave all of it alone. Let's just pick something out and go. It was obviously the last thing the woman read before she kicked it, and it's a paperback novel from a bargain bin. I'm just asking you to acknowledge the tragedy in that.

(Soundbite of music)

NEARY: Molly slid the closet door aside on its rusty track and observed its contents. She used to think, when handing Mrs. Nora her rent check at the end of every month, that the landlady must have a limitless supply of pastel colored scrubs. Now, here she stood in front of the entire collection of them, color-coordinated. It was the funeral director who asked her to pick out the dress. He said Ms. Nora had made arrangements for herself but hadn't included that detail. Molly had given her contact information to the coroner and now...

(Soundbite of birds chirping)

WERTHEIMER: Some people swore the house was haunted, but Wilma J. Pickering, amateur horticulturist and self-styled floraphile didn't care. Roses around the porch were dying and something had to be done. The dilapidated gate could not deter her, the creaking shutters could not dishearten her, the spider web-laced windows could not dissuade her. Armed with her trusty pruning shears and leather ladies gardening gloves, she waddled onto the property.

(Soundbite of music)

WERTHEIMER: Wilma was locked in constant battle. By days, she whispered encouraging words to the blooms that she pruned and primped. But by night, the bush has browned and wilted. Today, as Wilma cooed and clipped, the front door of the house creaked open, tendrils of smoke curled onto the shaded porch, stopping short at the sunny garden bed. Wilma, a low voice said. She glared into the shadows and pointed her shears like a rapier. Mr. Bellamy.

(Soundbite of music)

WERTHEIMER: A wizened walnut of a man emerged leaning heavily on a cane. He demanded, as he did every day, that she vacate his property and then puffed on his cigar for punctuation. Wilma could not let this travesty continue. She stomped her foot and stood tall in defense of the thorny bushes. The old man coughed and smoke billowed out his nose and mouth. In his scrub brush voice, he recited the town's trespassing law.

(Soundbite of music)

MONDELLO: Some people swore that the house was haunted, Gary said, speaking loudly into the microphone the reporter had thrust into his face months ago. He didn't know if people thought that. Really, he just wanted to make people think they can't just go around blowing houses up, even if they think it's for the best, even if they really only tear it down, even if they own it. Gary had grown up looking at that house.

(Soundbite of music)

MONDELLO: Right across the street is what he told the reporter when she'd asked him where he was from. He'd been standing on a sidewalk in front of the now vacant lot, imagining how the shutters used to hang, the way their crooked porch used to lean to the left, the precise shade of sun-bleached red on the front door.

(Soundbite of music)

MONDELLO: As a child, he'd dreamed of owning the house. Then we can be neighbors, he told his dad. Later, Gary included his girlfriend in the dream. We can raise our kids there and build them a sandbox. I'll mow the lawn on Saturdays, he told her, when they sat on his front steps looking at the house across the street.

(Soundbite of music)

MONDELLO: Then they started fighting about whether to paint the front door Hong Kong Sunset or Ladybug. Nothing was ever the same again after that.

(Soundbite of music)

RAZ: A few excerpts from three of the more than 5,000 original short stories we received for this round of Three Minute Fiction. We heard "Practically Strangers" by Nikki Mayeux of New Orleans, "Where Roses Grow" by Cameron Robbins of Mount Prospect, Illinois and "Invisible Strings" by Jolynn Baldwin of Athens, Ohio.

Thanks to our own Lynn Neary, Linda Wertheimer and Bob Mondello for reading one. You can find the full versions of those stories, along with many, many more at our website. That's npr.org/threeminutefiction.

(Soundbite of clock ticking)

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