National Public Radio’s web site is hosting a three-minute fiction contest. NPR book critic Alan Cheuse will choose a winning story to be read on-air and the best entries get posted on the site. The rules are simple. You just write something that can be read in under three minutes.
My camera is a digital one. Not the old kind with rolls of film in it. I took this photo to show you something about the street where I work. Lots of people there do things the old way. They read newspapers and get on buses to go across town. Things like that. I always think of lists and smeared fingers when I see a newspaper. And I think about people looking for jobs or fast horses. They’re always folding the pages and scanning them while they wait for something else, like a sandwich or a cup of coffee. So that’s why I took the photo of the paper as I passed. No one was using it. They’d left. The place was empty. Not even a person behind the counter, though the door was open. People sometimes leave papers for the next person. Happens all the time on the subway or a plane. ‘Well I’ll just leave it right here in the seat so the next person can have something nice to read.’ Really they’re just littering like a Christian.
I went home and bought a Kindle. Now I can read my news each morning in electronic ink without any smears. It’s under my control and I can have it all delivered before I wake up. When I canceled my paper delivery the representative of the Times spent forty-five minutes on the phone with me trying to find an argument that would keep my driveway on their delivery route. I asked why I should pay for something I can get for free online. He told me that all the people who work at a newspaper need my money so they can keep gathering important news. I told him if someone’s willing to do it for free then it’s free. He said he certainly hoped I would return soon and have a nice day.
I felt like I had started a war.