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Three-Minute Fiction: Sneak Peek

GUY RAZ, host:

Somewhere in Iowa at this very moment, one of the talented students at the Iowa Writers Workshop may be reading your original short story. Close to 4,000 stories came in for this round of Three Minute Fiction. That's our contest where we ask you to write a story that can be read in under three minutes.

Our judge this round, novelist Ann Patchett, is also reading and soon she'll pick the winning story and read it on the air. But until then, here's a story that got our attention. It's called "Bird Man," about a man and his garden, and we asked our Susan Stamberg to read this excerpt.

SUSAN STAMBERG: Here and there, he's piled up little cairns of rocks dug out of the soil over the years. Pieces of polished granite and tile cadged from remodeling sites joined the rocks and became puddles of reflected sky. A couple of years ago, he started picking up shiny or colorful bits of urban detritus -a button here, a key there, a copper penny, a guitar pick, a single broken earring. I watched as he slid them into his jacket pocket and then put them into the garden.

I can see him now, his head tipped up toward the fir tree. I can hear the agitated squawk of a crow hidden in the green-black shadows. He puts his hands in his hip pockets and cocks his head to one side. A trick of the light turns the silhouette of his hat into a beak, his bent elbows into wings.

RAZ: That's a passage from "Bird Man" by Jeanne Martin of Seattle, one of the 3,800 listeners who submitted a Three Minute Fiction story this time. That excerpt was read by our Susan Stamberg.

Now, this round we said your stories had to include four words - you just heard two of them: button and trick. To see how Jeanne Martin used the other two words - fly and plant - visit our website, npr.org/threeminutefiction - and that's Three Minute Fiction all spelled out, no spaces. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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