The winner of this round of NPR’s Three Minute Fiction contest was not me. However, I loved the winning piece. It is amazing how much story you can get into 600 words. NPR also posted more of their favorites on their page. Take a look. They are really wonderful. Actually, of the ones they posted on their site Sleep Lessons was my favorite.
Wednesday Afternoon Writers will take up the challenge again along with at least 3000 others, when the new contest starts in January.
Below is my entry. I had fun writing it. We used NPR’s prompt at Wednesday Afternoon Writers about two weeks before the contest closed. We were to write about someone coming to town and someone leaving town.
The Zen of Scarcity
Lyla perched on the hood of the ’55 Chevy Nomad smoking her last joint, at least in Pilar. Her eyes focused across the arroyos into the setting sun as she rubbed her knee, her ring catching on the threads of the slit running across her jeans. The arthritis was bad today. She couldn’t keep up anymore, so it was time to go.
Lyla had a bag to sling over her shoulder and one suitcase. It came as a surprise that she had so few possessions to pack this time. The “zen of scarcity” was something she unconsciously embraced after inadvertently hearing a lecture while waiting in a hotel lobby a few years back. The lecturer’s words seeped into her soul. One by one she let loose of items that held her back, had no meaning. Until all that was left was a suitcase holding an extra pair of jeans, two shirts, a bible, and a bit of chattel used to complete her daily chores. The lecturer was right. It was all that she needed.
This was her gift, if you could call it that without people thinking you were crazy. Lyla absorbed information without direct focus on a subject. It worked for some things, but was a great disadvantage in others. She dropped out of school when she was twelve because they said she was retarded. Now they have prettier names, but it still means the same, stupid. She didn’t want to deal with their condescending classrooms or her father’s disappointment, so she just left.
She kept in touch with her father, the professor, for a few years. But by the time she was eighteen, she found more fulfilling companionship on the streets of small New Mexican towns and more stimulating religious experiences in the desert.
Lyla knew this assignment was coming to an end. She made the choice to leave before it was suggested to her. She was close to seventy. But it was becoming too much of a physical challenge. She could tell she was slipping.
The stars smiled down at Lyla as they always did, and she accepted their friendship. They listened to her and allowed her to make plans without interfering. She wondered if it would be the same in the city, where the stars dim to the commotion and bustle, but mostly because no one notices.
Taking a rock from the cairn, Lyla pitched it as far into the blackness down the road as her arm could muster. She knew from experience it would take a few more tosses before her call was answered. Waiting, she returned to the stars. The air was beginning to make its way through the thinning fibers of her flannel shirt and she could feel her bones longing for warmth.
The swift reply surprised her. A stone bounced back from the inky shadow, rolled towards her, and came to rest at her feet. This was the confirmation. Her time was up.
She moved to the back of the car. With a click, the trunk opened wide, as if to devour her. She grabbed the suitcase and bag. She almost wanted to take up the invitation, crawl in, and let the car deliver her back home. But it was too late to change plans. She could hear the beat of his heals against the asphalt coming nearer.
She walked passed him without a glance. Reaching into her front jean’s pocket, she pulled out the key and tossed it over her shoulder. As Lyla disappeared through the void, the roar of the ’55 Chevy Nomad faded into oblivion.