I heard a story on NPR yesterday morning about a 3-minute story contest. The objective is to write a piece of fiction that can be read out loud in three minutes (approx. 600 words). I missed the deadline, but gave it a try anyway. What do you like? Don’t like? what works? Do you get an image of the characters? setting?
Joe watched the plane arc across the sky. The steps were hot under his feet. There was no breeze and the air was still. Joe finished his glass of water and slowly stood up. A cloud crossed in front of the sun casting a shadow over the small yard.
“Joe.” Joe turned and saw his sister standing behind the screen door. “We’re leaving in a few minutes. We can’t be late this week.” Joe bent down and picked up his glass but his sister was gone into the cool darkness of the house before he could answer.
Georgia summers were hot. When they were kids they tried to fry an egg on the sidewalk, just to see if it would work. It sizzled when it hit the pavement but after an hour it remained a forgotten, dirty and sloppy mess in front of their walkway.
The screen door signaled its opening with a squeak from the bottom hinge. “Ready?” Janey pulled the front door shut and turned the lock with her key. “I need to stop for gas and don’t let me forget to pick up some milk at the store on our way home. Do you need anything while we’re out?” Joe looked at his sister. She was taller than he was, with a broad face and short hair she kept pulled into a tight bun at the base of her neck. Today she had painted her lips bright red.
Janey smiled and took Joe’s hand. “Yes, Mamma always said I looked good with red lips.” The two walked hand in hand to Janey’s orange Ford Escort hatchback. Her ex-husband left the car, a leather chair and his collection of wind chimes when he moved out three years ago. Janey sold the chimes on ebay. She always hated their constant clanging in the breeze. Leroy knew Janey hated them and she suspected that was why he had left them behind. Sitting on the porch on a hot afternoon was not relaxing with the persistent clanging of the wind chimes. Leroy was easy enough to live with, but after eighteen months Janey felt like she heard more out of those wind chimes than out of Leroy.
Janey turned right onto Centennial Boulevard and drove across town to the home. It usually took thirteen minutes but traffic was light today and they were there in less than ten. A few other cars were parked in the visitor lot and Janey was surprised to see so many young kids in the day room. She scanned the room looking for her mom, but Joe spotted her first. “There, Janey.” He pointed across the room to a large woman with short, cropped hair wearing a flowered housedress and sitting in a chair by the window. “Mamma!” Joe shouted across the room.
She looked up and Janey watched her take a minute to register who they were. Her face broke into an expansive grin and she opened her arms wide. “Colette, and Bobby,” she exclaimed when they were at her side. Joe and Janey looked at each other. Janey shrugged.
“Want to go outside Mamma?” Joe found her walker and pulled it in front of her.
“Just so long as we’re back in time for Dallas.” As far as Janey knew, no station was even playing reruns of Dallas anymore.
“Sure Mamma.” Janey held the french doors open as Joe helped their Mamma outside. The air was thick and Janey could hear the high trill of a Cardinal. “Let’s sit over in the shade.” She pointed toward a tall oak tree with benches in its shade.
“Yes,” she paused and looked up at Joe and then to Janey, “yes Colette, that would be nice.”