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Three-Minute Fiction: Excerpt

GUY RAZ, host:

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RAZ: Grandma is a great heave of a woman in a billowing black dress. That's the first line of a story we received from listener Mike van Mantgem of Eugene, Oregon. Mike's story is among the 3,800 short stories you sent in during this round of our Three Minute Fiction contest. It's called "Pearl Cadillac," and it opens with a scene shortly after the death of the narrator's grandfather.

LINDA WERTHEIMER: (Reading) It's like Norman when he had to go to that hospital down in Iowa City after his accident, Aunt Laura says, soft and kind like she is. It was so sudden.

The wrinkles on Grandma's face tighten. She stows her knitting and hauls herself up. It wasn't the same. We all know it. Grandma trudges across the back lawn. The knitting needles glint in her grasp.

Uncle Norm had been high up in the big oak, trimming out branches near the power line when he touched a wire. The jolt seized his heart, blew off a boot, and knocked him to the ground. The impact restarted his heart and broke his leg. He lost three toes.

The doctors grafted on new fingertips, using skin from his stomach. Each little button sprouted a patch of coarse hair. He likes to make dirty jokes about it when he shakes hands with strangers.

RAZ: That's a passage from "Pearl Cadillac," by Mike van Mantgem of Eugene, Oregon. It was read by our own Linda Wertheimer. Mike's story was picked as one of our favorites so far. To read the whole thing, check out our website: npr.org/threeminutefiction, and that's threeminutefiction, all spelled out - no spaces. And stay tuned because our judge this round, the novelist Ann Patchett, is very close to announcing the winner.

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(Soundbite of bell) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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