Maybe some of you have heard of the writing contest on NPR called “Three Minute Fiction.” (TMF) Readers submit an original short story based on a required theme. The story must be 600 words or fewer, and be able to be read aloud in three minutes or less. I missed round one of TMF. For round two of TMF the story had to start with “The nurse left work at five-o’clock.” I thought about that one; even began formulating a story in my head, but I had heard about it while in the car, and didn’t get back to it once I got home. This time, round three, the story had to be inspired by a picture posted on the TMF website. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105660765 The picture showed a newspaper lying open on a table in a café, and a man walking by on the street, visible through the café window. This time I entered my story.
Well, no surprise – I did NOT win the TMF contest. Many talented writers entered and I didn’t have a chance. But, it was great practice and fun to try. I’ll try again when round four rolls around. Meanwhile, If you like, you can read my submission for TMF below, titled “The Reader.”
“Doesn’t anyone believe in recycling anymore?” Abby looked down in disgust at the recently abandoned table. The newspaper lay open; the last dregs of coffee spilled across the page, before the cup had crashed to the floor. Why had he been in such a hurry? The man had been lingering at the table over coffee and the paper for hours while other customers came and left, clicking away on laptops and playing with their phone apps. Now it was late, the diner deserted. Jake the cook, having abandoned the kitchen, sat slumped in the alley, chain-smoking, watching the clock for closing time. Abby allowed herself to flop down at the man’s abandoned seat, and let her eyes skim over the paper. Her shift was almost done, her feet ached. The thought of the empty house waiting, no one to rub her neck and feet and make her tea, was depressing. Not much better here; no one appreciated servers any more – this man hadn’t even left a tip. She swiped her towel over the damp coffee spill and started to fold the paper for the recycle bin. Then she saw it. Was this what the man had been looking at so intently before abruptly taking his leave? “Suspect sought in armed robbery” There was a blurry surveillance camera photo – why did these photos always look so bad? She peered closer. The man in the photo was wearing the predictable hoodie, baseball cap pulled low over his face. What had her man looked like? “We never really see people any more, what they’re wearing, how tall they are,” thought Abby. A slight cough startled Abby from her reverie, then the voice saying “I think you’re in my seat.” As Abby slowly looked up, she instinctively slid her arm over to cover the blurry photo.