NPR’s Three Minute Fiction contest
Earlier this year, on a whim I decided to participate in round three of NPR‘s “Three Minute Fiction” contest. Alas, since NPR does not send out “You did not win because we think you suck” announcements, I didn’t win, but I don’t know why. I’m not saying I should have or shouldn’t have, mind you, I just didn’t.
Anyway, I have nothing else to do with the piece except post it here.
The Last Newspaper
The last newspaper in New York had died quietly on a table near a coffee shop window. Murdered by its own descendants, the paper had become a relic the second the ink dried. It was a thing to be explained to wide-eyed, fat little grandchildren when a story was required about how difficult the old days had been. “You have it easy,” the grandfather would say, “we used to wait a full day to find out what had happened.”
The last person to read this particular tabloid on this particular table was a white male of medium build and brown hair, a Yankees ball cap pulled down to just above the eyes. Nobody noticed the slight limp or the pencil-thin white scar across the cleft of his chin from some undetermined childhood trauma, or the gun until he used it.
He had read the paper from cover-to-cover over the course of forty minutes and then flipped to the crossword, where he proceeded to fill in the entire puzzle incorrectly but with a degree of cleverness that suggested he could have solved it properly had he wished: all of his answers were words, only they were the wrong words. To say he was insane would be to oversimplify; he was sane, just working with a different set of clues than everyone else.
Corrigan sighed, because this was not the last newspaper in New York. The industry was confused and wondering what happened and why nobody would save it, but it was not dead. Which was a shame. The death of the printed daily would mean no more tabloids resting on tables in fey little urban coffee shops ten feet from the bodies of two people who had erred only in their choice of skinny lattes.
There would always be guns and coffee shops, but one day the papers would surrender, and so, perhaps, would the man who did this. It was something to look forward to.
Corrigan slipped on a glove and flipped the paper to the crossword. Seventeen down: Philadelphia. Maybe, he hoped, they’ve stopped printing the papers there.