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 Robin Moremen was a runner up in the Three-Minute Fiction competition with Homebound.
“Homebound” by Robin Moremen
The last thing I remember before I blacked out was dropping the scissors and the two dark holes of the shotgun three feet from my face. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
It was the summer of 1959 and I was 9 years old. We moved to the neighborhood two years earlier. We needed a bigger house because we were now a family of six. All of us walked to the school eight blocks away and, when we weren’t in school, we roamed the sidewalks and back yards of South Second Street with the other kids in the neighborhood, exploring and inventing new ways to spend our time. No one seemed to care where we were during the day; we came in when it was time to eat or get ready for bed. We only saw other adults in the neighborhood when we were selling Girl Scout cookies or collecting newspapers for the paper drive at school. Mostly they answered their doors when we knocked or rang the bell, but some just peeked out around the edges of drawn shades
There was one house that we never approached. It was next door to ours and it was encased in a rusting, wrought-iron fence. There were so many manzanita trees in the yard that it was difficult to see the outline of the house itself. There was a faded sign on the front gate that warned “Beware of Dog” but we never saw or heard a dog. We also never saw anyone coming or going through that gate. One of our favorite things to do was to tell stories about who lived there. I asked my mother once who really lived there and she said it was probably someone who was “homebound.” She was too busy to explain what that meant, so I imagined it must be someone tied up, like when we played Cowboys and Indians at Christina’s. Why wouldn’t someone go in there and untie them?
I was convinced that if it was someone tied up, then I had to go in there and save them. Before school let out for the summer, Officer Cipriani had come to class and told us about a man who jumped into a swimming pool and saved a little girl from drowning. They gave him a medal and his picture was in the paper. I could just imagine how proud my parents and teachers would be when I saved the tied-up person next door.
It was a lazy summer afternoon when I decided I would venture through that gate and become a hero. The path to the house was nearly obliterated by the tangle of bushes in the yard. I made my way to the front porch trying to ignore all the scratches on my bare legs. I hadn’t made much of a plan beforehand; scissors were the only thing I thought to bring. I was completely surprised when I found the front door open and a tattered screen the only thing blocking my way. Once inside, I waited for my eyes to adjust. I was about to call out to whoever was inside, when suddenly the barrel of the shotgun emerged from around the corner to the living room. That, and the clatter of the scissors on the parlor floor, was the last thing I remember.
In case you’re wondering, I didn’t get a medal. Instead, I got a lecture on “breaking-and-entering” from Officer Cipriani and was grounded for a month without television. Guess I learned the hard way what “homebound” really means.
For more information on the Three-Minute Fiction “very short story” competition, please visit wnij.org.