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REBECCA ROBERTS, HOST:
And the winner is...
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ROBERTS: Yeah, just kidding. It's not quite that time yet. We know you want us to pick a winner. You've made that clear on our website and on the Three-Minute Fiction Facebook page. But 3,400 stories were submitted to this round of Three-Minute Fiction, and we won't be rushed. So until we make that final decision, here are a few excerpts to hold you over.
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LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: (Reading) What had the man said? Odd. She could remember the thin pink scar that cut through his upper lip and puckered when he spoke, but not the sound of his voice or his words. She lowered her body into a chair, perspiration gathered in the folds of her neck. What did he say? Sonya rubbed her wedding band. It had belonged to her grandmother, passed onto her mother, and now, it was embedded in Sonia's finger. Funny. She could picture the man as he walked toward her, his gait smooth, his expression blank, and she could see him as he took his leave, erect, businesslike, not a wrinkle in his dark blue slacks. But other than that scar, everything that happened in between the coming and going was blank. The car was a speck when it turned onto the highway. Roiling storm clouds were moving across the plain. The rain pattering on the roof would make for good sleeping. That's what her Tom would say.
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BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: (Reading) When the woman fell from the sky, she survived long enough to utter one word: crane. Later, we debated what she'd meant. The bird? The machine? The verb? A name? Someone even suggested that she'd gasped out a different word entirely, that maybe we'd misheard, that maybe it was just the sound of her last breath rushing out of her body. We quickly dismissed this. We knew. Our lives were invaded for three weeks - newspaper reporters, policemen, curious neighbors sauntered up to our front door as if we had won one of those sweepstakes with the big checks and all those flashing camera bulbs. Congratulations. You have just won the grand prize. How does it feel? We never told them about "crane." It tasted like smoke and bile on the tips of our tongues, and letting it out seemed to poison us like we were spilling her most intimate secret. Her skirt had been shredded about her body, for God sake. We needed to spare her at least one shame.
ROBERTS: Excerpts from "Crane" by Becca Leighton of Somerville, Massachusetts, and "Honor" by Linda Nordquist of Pittsburgh, read by our own Bob Mondello and Lynn Neary. To read full versions of these stories and others, go to our website, npr.org/threeminutefiction. That's threeminutefiction, all spelled out, no spaces.
(SOUNDBITE OF CLOCK TICKING) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.