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Three-Minute Fiction: Our Winner Is...

In June, we appealed to your inner author, asking you to send us original works of fiction that could be read in three minutes or less. And, man, did your inner authors respond! We received more than 5,000 submissions to our Three-Minute Fiction writing contest.

Now, series guide and literary critic James Wood of The New Yorker has picked our first winner: Molly Reid of Fort Collins, Colo. Reid is waiting tables this summer, but during the school year, she teaches freshman composition and literature at Colorado State University.

Wood says that Reid was an early entrant whose work held strong against the hundreds of stories that followed. The narrator of her piece, "Not That I Care," observes a neighbor repeatedly snatching ducks from the street. The missing ducks become part of the narrator's own reflections on loss.

Wood also chose five runners-up in the competition: "Mickey Mickey You're So Fine" by Sally Reno of Denver, Colo.; "Plumstreet" by Bernard Mendillo of Canton, Mass.; "Something to Crow About" by Paul Luikart of Chicago, Ill.; "Allechka" by Deborah Kaple of Princeton, N.J.; and "Constellations" by Gabriel Louis of Washington, D.C.

Wood says the quality of the stories was remarkably high. "There's something about the brevity of the form," he says, "that incited people and excited people to produce a tremendous range of pungent anecdotes and wonderful, brief monologues."

Still, he says, there was nothing in any of the stories he read like one image in Reid's piece. In it, she writes: "When Marcus left, he left behind a pair of dirty socks, one hiding under the bed and one right in plain sight, curled into itself and getting smaller every day, like a sad little salted slug."

"Like all good simile or metaphor," Woods says, "it has an initial strangeness and then an absolute rightness.

"And of course, it's a terrific, self-revealing image, because in some way that person, too, is shrinking from absence, shrinking away from loss like a little salted slug."

When asked what inspired her story, Reid says she borrowed a friend's heartbreak. She also let her imagination fly when she discovered her cat was spending a lot of time at a neighbor's house — a neighbor who was keeping geese.

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