Challenge: Leave A Message After The Beep
It’s Round 10 of Three-Minute Fiction, the short story contest from weekends on All Things Considered. Here’s the premise: Write a piece of original fiction that can be read in about three minutes (no more than 600 words).Our judge for this round is author Mona Simpson, whose most recent book is My Hollywood. She most recently won a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among other prizes. Here’s her twist for Round 10:Write a story in the form of a voice-mail message.”It doesn’t have to be crazy, but it could be crazy. By nature, first person — basically, a soliloquy or a monologue,” she tells Guy Raz, contest curator and host of NPR’s TED Radio Hour.
“It could start out, ‘Hey, it’s me, I’m glad you didn’t pick up,’ or it could start out, ‘You don’t know me, but …” It could be any number of dramatic scenarios which will unwind in the three minutes,” she says.
Hey it’s me – you, I should say. Anywhoooo… I just met this guy. Well I don’t know if I could say met him so much as run into him. Or him into me, to be more exact. I was smoking outside, u know, “the building”. And he was going to the recycling-bin, I think, had too many card-board boxes in his arm. He almost hesitated before stopping. Like he wasn’t sure if he should be doing it or let it go, I don’t know. He’s this tall—white guy—I thought he was gonne ask me to bum him. Then he said “you are too beautiful and too young to be smoking”. Just like that! I mean I know he is white so he probably doesn’t have a clue what women from my part of the world look like. Or what is considered “beautiful”. He would have no clue why I was smoking out there, on a Saturday night, and not go partying like everybody else. He wouldn’t know why I crave for a phone call, or a text.. and how I feel cheated for signing that contract with my phone company. And why I call you—myself—right now. But it felt good, you know? It felt —. Anywho, I said–I was quick too—I said “I’m not as young as I look, but thank you”. He said something like “well then, you should try to hold on to it”. Or something. Didn’t come back this way, for some reason. I know! I know it’s pathetic, being all flushed because a guy told me I was pretty. But it felt so good! So good!! Having actually somebody to stop and talk to me; and not to ask for the “wares” section or to point out the price on a shoe is missing so can I have it re-priced – regardless of our “no tag no sale” policy. Would you have believed that the loneliness you craved for, the freedom to be your own person.. all that stifling non-privacy was something you’d miss? That you, of all people, would go through anxiety attacks from going through days and days of not talking to anybody save for—work stuff?! Didn’t you think when you came to America.. land of the free blah blah.. you’d get to live your dream?!Be your own person? Sing in the rain—etcetera?! Not this—–scardy cat who has become afraid of her own shadow?! Who is suddenly somebody with an accent and whose education or skills are not transferrable?! An immigrant whose sole purpose in life is letting know someone where she is so they could send her body to her mother in case she died?! Anywho.. thought I’d tell you that somebody out there thinks you are pretty! Alright? No tears, ok?! And whether he was being kind or not, it took courage to stop and say it. Remember—you dorky-dork—that someday .. maybe.. you don’t have to call yourself to hear a friendly voice. Maybe you’d meet somebody who would wanna know how your day was. Take you out walking, maybe, on Saturday evenings. Pick you and drop you off outside Goodwill’s building, the way Karissa’s husband does for her. Maybe you don’t need cigarettes to keep you company. Or—or—shit!!—battery low. Ok… before I hung up.. you hung up… I want you to remember—whatever happens: Try to be there for you, ok? Be there– for me.. please. I can’t—can’t—do it alone. I really.. need you sane on this. Please…
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