NPR’s FREE “Three-minute fiction” contest


July 18 deadline; FREE to enter; about 500 words max; prize

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  1. The Nurse Left Work

    The Nurse left work at five o’clock

    By 5:15 she was in her car watching as the old man slipped out of the side door of the hospital marked “DOCTORS ONLY – NO ADMITTANCE” He was limping.

    It was 5:32 when ,still in his hospital gown, and limping he headed straight for the end of the wall around the parking lot He stayed to the outside ,shielding view from the hospital . When he re -emerged, he was slipping through the gate next to her parked car.

    He struggled with pain to open the passenger door, and slid in with a grunt.

    He wiped his sweating brow “Man, Dat be one bitch of a run!” Do you have de rope?

    “I have the rope” she replied. Did you get the papers signed by the Lawyer yesterday?

    I hope that fool know how to write a ….. what you call it? A cod die sill?”

    He better Joe, or this whole thing is a bust!”

    She turned onto the turnpike at 6:25, and followed increasingly less traveled routes into the rural hill country where she knew she could find the large oak tree she had located last Saturday on her day off.

    Fifteen more minutes on a secluded winding dirt road on the side of the mountain brought then to the designated tree. The nurse pulled off, and showed him the tree she had selected for him.

    Neither of them talked much now. It was already engraved in their minds from weeks of rehearsing in the hospital, as he had laid in bed writhing in pain. Nothing had worked : Not the opium, or even stronger drugs. Strong sleeping pills , nothing had allowed him refuge in sleep. While in the hospital being eaten away by cancer, he had lost over 150 pounds from his prior lithe frame. There was not hope , they had said.

    She went to the trunk of the car and brought out the rope . It had a loop tied in one end, and a ready made hangman’s noose on the other. It had taken her a surprisingly little time to Google how to make it.

    She showed Joe how to climb up on the rock next to the Lodge Pole Pine with the fork in the trunk about nine feet off the ground. She had planned well, and correctly calculated how Joe could be credited to climb up the rock, and into the tree fork. From there a leap out would leave him dangling at least three feet from the ground.

    Joe placed the noose round his neck in silence. They looked at each other, each evidencing fear and determination in their faces.

    “Your idea was a good one Joe” she said. “The insurance man will have to call this a suicide” They will know you had help to get here, but will have no way to trace my car. I rented it under a false name, and cash.

    “Hello Ted Gambino Law Firm Ted here”

    “Ted, Did he give you the signed Codicil ? Does his family know?”

    “Don’t worry Kay, It took some fancy doing, but things can’t be traced” Cobo, here we come.

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