89.5 WNIJ recently invited listeners to participate in Three-Minute Fiction, a “very short story” contest inspired by an NPR series of the same name. GK Wuori, a DeKalb native, Pushcart Prize-winning author and Illinois Arts Council Fellow, wrote the story prompt and selected five winners and five honorable mention commendations.
Author Leigh Delhotal was a runner up in the Three-Minute Fiction competition with Talent.
“Talent” by Leigh Delhotal
Glory and I often read for each other, but we respected each other’s creative space. There was an unspoken rule concerning the notebooks. Hers was a MacBook, password protected. Mine was an old-school black composition book, in which I drafted longhand, in black ink.
Since we’d been together, I’d read drafts upon drafts for her: she showed me Tennyson-inspired poems (heavy on the symbolism), Onion-inspired satire (technically proficient but painfully unfunny), Rakoff-inspired essays (perceptive but oh my god dull), and Franzen-inspired fiction (and I thought the poetry was overly symbolic). Everything she’d shown me was capably written and boring. Every draft screamed out her fear of individuality. Nothing said “Glory.”
My stuff, on the other hand, seemed to go over her head. She always looked up from my drafts embarrassed. Most of her feedback centered on me “improving clarity.” Which I assume meant she wanted me to write for the masses.
Yet occasionally, I saw in her a tiny glint of genius. Of raw intelligence. Like the first day I met her and she compared Robert Lowell to “Salinger and Thurber’s boring furniture-obsessed baby.” Sometimes I saw a gem sparkling on the pages of the drafts she showed me. Which begged the question: What wasn’t she showing me?
I really didn’t intend to snoop on her computer. Or maybe I did. We’d been living together for months, but she always seemed to keep me at arm’s length. I knew she adored me, but she adored me from across the room. Her private thoughts, her real self, she kept locked inside.
Inside herself. Also . . . inside her MacBook.
Okay. Sunday afternoon. She’s working a double shift at the Thai restaurant down the street. I pour myself a Glenlivet neat and open her computer.
Password: my name.
Password: her birthday.
Seriously? So predictable. Grow some literary balls, Glory.
Under Documents, she had a folder labeled “College,” a folder labeled “Job Search,” and a folder just called “Writing” with sub-folders inside labeled by genre: “Poetry,” “Fiction,” “Essays.” I snorted and took a drink of scotch. Conventional.
I opened them each and gave the contents a perfunctory glance. I was careful not to make any changes so the “Date Modified” would be consistent. But there were no surprises, nothing new, nothing earth-shattering. If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, then Glory’s well-organized computer files were the sign of a competent but thoroughly dull brain.
Most of the drafts were ones I’d seen before. My initial instinct seemed to be correct. I was the truly gifted writer in the relationship. Glory would be destined to a lifetime of entering local poetry contests while waiting tables, while I would eventually leave her behind. I would be the next Kerouac and she would be a footnote in my history.
The last folder was called “Musings.” Cute. I opened it and blinked at the file names inside. Some were Emily Dickinson-esque first line things. Some were titled like philosophical essays—“On the Beats,” “On Order and Perfection,” “On Being Thirteen,” stuff like that. One was simply called “Dusty.”
I clicked on the icon and began to read.
An hour later, I closed the file and drained the rest of my scotch. It was us. It was the story of us. And it was really, really good. She the gifted one after all.
And it was really, really honest. And she didn’t adore me after all.
When I walked out ten minutes later with all my shit in my backpack, her MacBook was still glowing on the table.
For more information on the Three-Minute Fiction “very short story” competition, please visit wnij.org.