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 Sally Rush was a runner-up in the Three-Minute Fiction competition with Gertie’s a Snoop.
“Gertie’s a Snoop” by Sally Rush
I consider myself a curious person, but not nosy like Gertie. I had known Gertie was a nosy person long before I bought the old farm and became her neighbor. Selfishly, I assumed I’d benefit from her nosiness, knowing she would keep an eye on my place while I worked. Fairly quickly, I elevated Gertie into the category of snoop and I felt she was up to no good.
Gertie could see my barns and home from her kitchen window and was an avid spectator as work progressed to fix up my old century farm. She’d even wander over in my absence to ask the craftsmen about the scope of their work, and what it might cost if she had the same thing done at her place. I knew she was a widow on a pension, and had no intention of pursuing similar upgrades. I suspected she was there to collect dirt on what I was up to, how much I spent and did I like boys or girls? One evening Gertie called all aflutter “There’s a strange car in your drive, are you safe?” and quickly followed with “Shall I copy his license plate down?” After I established my safety, her questioning shifted to “What’s his name?”, “What’s for dinner?” and “Can I bring dessert?” I suspected Gertie feigned neighborly concern to gain the currency of gossip. A currency which can be bartered, invested, saved or spent at the right time to gain the dividend of fresh gossip, which in turn could be invested elsewhere. I valued my privacy, and I resented being the focus of the neighborhoods pyramid scheme of gossip. I closed off communication with Gertie, and her knowledge of me became limited to what she could see from her kitchen window.
Years later, our relationship unexpectedly changed one hot summer evening. I’d saddled up my mare for a ride at dusk to beat the heat. I came home from the backfields under a night sky, and realized it was later than I intended. I quickly put the horse up and headed in, failing to turn off the barn lights. As I prepared for bed, I opened the windows to catch a breeze and saw a light bobbing over near Gertie’s. I stood in my dark room, watching the light hustle down the road and up my side yard. I caught Gertie’s slight frame in profile, dressed in a robe and slippers and moving in the direction of my back fields. I called out to her, thinking the old bat was pushing her luck and at the same time wondering if dementia had set in. She looked up at my window, tugged her robe around her and lifted her light. She appeared flustered and the words tumbled out, just a few at a time as worked to catch her breath. “Didn’t see you ride in…barn light’s still on…thought you’d fallen off…got hurt…came to find you”. My heart softened as I realized the error of my judgement over many years, she may be a snoop but her neighborly concern was real and for my benefit. Our detent began as I told her “Gertie, you can snoop on behalf anytime to keep me safe”.
For more information on the Three-Minute Fiction “very short story” competition, please visit wnij.org.