Monday, August 29, 2011

a short story

Three-Minute Fiction is a contest NPR runs every once in a while, and this was my entry, but it lost. The rules are simple. You have to write an original piece of fiction that's under 600 words, but the judge of the contest (some author or journalist) decides the rules, and to win you can not break them. This latest was too much fun to pass up. Judge and author Michael Cunningham just had this to say: the first line of the story had to be Some people swore that the house was haunted and the last line had to be Nothing was ever the same again after that. Here is my entry.

P.S. You will notice comments from when I posted this a year ago. I had to remove it from the blog because entries could not be published, in any form, before the winner was announced. So when I knew that I took it down. But my sister asked about it today so I reposted it.

Mark The Frame

Some people swore that the house was haunted. The black dog knew better. Sitting outside on the porch of the old Federal mansion the Saster knew how foolish those words were the moment they came out of those stuttering human mouths. Why they chose to label some homes haunted and others not always annoyed him. He was a black sheepdog, heavy in coat with yellow eyes and he stared at the haunted house the same way all dogs did. Don't they understand that every house is haunted? Filled with the smells of generations of dead animals? Covered in the stains of memories? The mold of nostalgia good and bad?Saster lifted his nose and smelled the dead toddler, the broken wedding vows, the Irish Setter who left one night and never came home. Ghosts circled the wainscoting, turned up the corners of the linoleum. Each past life was an apparition and unless you cut down a tree in the woods that no man or dog had ever pissed on, they were all haunted. Every damn one.

His people were young and new to farming. They brought him here from their last home, smaller and belonging to someone he never saw called Lord. He worked sheep with them and after many conversations and lifting of heavy things they left Lord's house and came here. It was the only farm they could afford, the price low and lonely because the rumors of slamming doors, knocking walls, and footsteps in the halls when no one was in those places. These are things dogs see all the time. They are as normal as rain.

Saster scratched his right ear with his right back foot and shifted back into a proper sit. He watched his people lift the heavy things inside, sign papers, rattle keys, and shake hands. They seemed a quiet happy, but so preoccupied with the ghosts they might see it made every crooked smile a measured success. He worried about them all the time. He couldn’t work sheep with people who thought ghosts were as dangerous as coyotes. He wanted people who understood the world. He had not met them yet.

When the only people left were his, the heavy things put down, and their truck the only car in the farm’s driveway they called him inside as they walked through the old hallways, touching the wallpaper gently as they said his name without looking back. Saster stood up and shook out his hide and trotting towards the door. Before crossing the threshold he lifted his leg and marked the frame with a long stream. He heard the growls of long dead dogs and ignored them as he stepped inside. The living add to every haunting, create them in truth. Urine slid off the red frame. Nothing was ever the same again after that.


Blogger Feelings for Breakfast said...

Oh wow, that was really good. Makes you want the story to continue, but yet the ending is very satisfying. Like finishing a piece of rich chocolate cake and knowing that even one more bite would have been too much, even though the thought of it still makes you salivate.

September 11, 2010 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Michele said...

A most excellent entry.

September 11, 2010 at 7:04 PM  
Blogger Robbie Grey said...

That's awesome.

September 11, 2010 at 7:24 PM  
Blogger SouthernHeart said...

Excellent, indeed. Keep writing fiction, my dear friend!

September 11, 2010 at 7:37 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

Awesome! :)

September 11, 2010 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Debra said...

Loved it! I was just thinking this week how short story fiction seems to be a dying art. Glad to see NPR is helping keep it alive.

September 11, 2010 at 8:42 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Honey- you REALLY need to get a novel written and published. Then you could take care of the animals and your garden, knock out a couple of pages before tea time, and then go call everybody in. And never have to drive into the office again.

I am willing to bet, right here and right now, that every one of your blog readers would buy your first novel.
And the one after that too.

But maybe borrow the third from the library if we're all still unemployed at that point....

September 11, 2010 at 8:49 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

That was fabulous!! What a brilliant writer!

September 11, 2010 at 9:25 PM  
Blogger Funny Ernie said...

I like Paula's comment. I would buy your novel, too. Wouldn't that be amazing? Working from your farm and earning enough to make keep? Ahhhh....

September 11, 2010 at 9:28 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I've been working on a novel since 2001, the same characters and ideas. But I have yet to finish it. It's about a sheepdog named Saster.

September 11, 2010 at 9:36 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

Dang girl, you can WRITE!

September 11, 2010 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger LMC said...

That was really good. I was worried at first that the dog's point of view might be cheesy, but you made it believable and gave him a true voice. Nice work!

September 11, 2010 at 11:18 PM  
Blogger Manzanita Farms said...

Finish that novel so we can all buy it.

September 12, 2010 at 2:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I were you I would delete this now and remove your post on facebook. It most certainly disqualifies you from the contest. Read the rules. Nice piece though! Your secret is safe with me, unless of course I'm a runner up and you win.

September 12, 2010 at 3:33 AM  
Blogger Greentwinsmummy said...

Oh goodness I love that! I just read it to my 5 yr old twins & they sat there entranced & both went quiet & said wow after wards,high praise indeed x x x
GTM x x

September 12, 2010 at 4:29 AM  
Blogger georgie said...

You should have won. I love your description of the dog's thought processes.

August 29, 2011 at 9:05 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

This reminds me of one of my favorite books of recent years, "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle." I'd love to see where you take this story and agree it would be a great novel. I think you've got a pretty good fan base here already:)

August 29, 2011 at 9:11 PM  
Blogger CarolG said...

Write more! I loved this short story. I would gladly add purchase fiction you wrote.

August 29, 2011 at 10:27 PM  
Blogger LindaSue said...

I would like to see the winner. It must be a whopper, cause yours should have won. Great short read. You should send it to some publisher's to see it get into bigger print. Keep it up. I know it is hard with your work load. Get a little tape recorder and talk out your ideas when you are out working on the farm. A voice activated one would be perfect. If I knew where my hubby had his ( which he never used ) I would send it to you. Take care. So glad you came out of the storm ok. So many others are not so lucky. The devastation is just horrible.

August 30, 2011 at 1:12 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...


August 30, 2011 at 7:45 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

You truly are a writer. I hope you will expand this piece into a novel. I would definitely buy it!

August 30, 2011 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger jules said...

Even a book of short stories! This was great.

August 30, 2011 at 4:04 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Great short story, please do write that novel.

August 30, 2011 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

That was awesome, very captivating!

August 30, 2011 at 7:10 PM  
Blogger Harpy 101 said...


August 30, 2011 at 11:41 PM  

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