NPR's Bob Mondello and Susan Stamberg read excerpts of two of the best submissions for Round 11 of our short story contest. They read Ten Ring Fingers by Tamara Breuer of Washington, D.C., and Ghost Words by Matheus Macedo of Winthrop, Mass. You can read their full stories below and find other stories on our Three-Minute Fiction page or on Facebook.
She found the first ring on a night that smelled of body odor and beer. The bar's last customers had finally given up hope of taking her to bed and staggered away, leaving her to clean the stains of their desperation. She mopped the floor as quickly as possible to escape the place that made her feel uncomfortable in her own skin.
The letter smelled of lavender and vanilla, like she couldn't decide which perfume to use so she used both. Her hand-writing had been drawn with the careful precision only seventh-grade girls in love have patience for. Hidden behind the words were indents and scratches, ghosts of words that weren't quite right, rewrites on top of rewrites.
The envelope lay flat and perfectly sealed in the middle of the hallway. If it had not been in front of her locker I may have left it there. I thought of all possibilities before tearing open the smooth flap of pink paper.
World War II remains a monumental event in the collective Russian mind. It's known as the "Great Patriotic War," and Russians believe no one made greater sacrifices than the Soviet Union when it came to defeating Nazi Germany.
The end of the war is celebrated with a huge military parade in Moscow's Red Square on May 9, commemorating the millions of men and women, military and civilian, who died during the struggle.
Eritrea's human rights record has long faced international criticism. Located in the Horn of Africa, the country is home to five million people, but so closed to the outside world that individual stories tend to come almost exclusively from those who have fled.
In 1995, an unintended cult-classic trilogy was born with a film that centered on a simple, romantic premise. Two strangers in their early 20s spend a spontaneous night together in Vienna. The characters, Jesse and Celine, split ways in Before Sunrise, but they reunited nine years later for a sequel, Before Sunset.
In that sequel, Jesse and Celine, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, find each other in Paris for another brief rendezvous. Even though both are now in other relationships, they can't shake their connection.
There was a time around 2003, before e-books and e-readers, when it seemed that everywhere you turned — in an airport, on a bus or anywhere people read — people were lost in The Kite Runner. An epic tale set in Afghanistan, the book sold more than 7 million copies in the U.S. and catapulted the author, Khaled Hosseini, onto the global literary stage.
Hosseini followed that success with another book about his homeland, A Thousand Splendid Suns, which also became a best-seller.
According to New Yorker writer George Packer, there used to be a kind of deal among Americans — a deal in which everyone had a place.
"People were more constrained than they are today, they had less freedom," he says, "but they had more security and there was a sense in which each generation felt that the next generation would be able to improve itself, to do better."
The IRS was in the hot seat Friday, with its outgoing acting commissioner testifying before a House committee. A Senate panel is scheduled for Tuesday. Congress is prodding to find out why the agency singled out conservative groups for special scrutiny.
One hundred and forty years ago this month, a German immigrant named Levi Strauss patented the first pair of jeans ever made. During the California gold rush, Strauss traveled across the country to set up a West Coast branch of his family's dry goods business. That business changed forever when Strauss got a letter from a tailor named Jacob Davis.
Climbing the rickety metal staircase is precarious enough if you aren't on crutches, but it's simply dangerous if you are. At the top is the office of Janbazan-e-Mayhan, one of many social councils for disabled Afghans. Men missing arms, legs or hands sit around the small room.
Afghanistan isn't an easy place for anyone to make a living. But for those with disabilities, it's a downright hostile environment. Tens of thousands have been maimed and disabled during decades of conflict. Jobs are scarce, and there's almost nothing that's handicapped-accessible.
I'm sure if I asked him, Will Shortz would probably acknowledge that the same people who really love words and word play also have a special affinity for punctuation. I would put myself in this camp. I have a lot of respect for a well-placed semicolon. But it's really the ellipsis that captures my punctuation imagination. To be honest, I've never much cared for the apostrophe. Maybe it's just too utilitarian.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.
Earlier this month, three women held captive for nearly a decade came home. Amanda Barry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were rescued from a Cleveland basement where they had been held captive since early 2002. The case has generated worldwide attention, some of it fell on the Cleveland Police Department. Officers there had searched in vain over the years for the missing women. Following a case like this for years demands an emotional investment from investigators.
There were countless sacrifices made during the Civil Rights movement, in Birmingham, Ala. And for African-American students graduating high school during a particularly turbulent year, one of those sacrifices was their prom. But this past Friday, hundreds of members of the Class of 1963 got to have their night, 50 years later. From Birmingham, Gigi Douban has the story.
GIGI DOUBAN, BYLINE: They arrived at the Boutwell Auditorium in downtown Birmingham, in stretch limos. Some came from Atlanta and Detroit.
On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with H-A and the second word starts with T.
Last week's challenge: From listener Al Gori of Cozy Lake, N.J. Name a famous American man — first and last names. Change the first letter of his first name from T to H. The result will sound like a term for an attractive person. Who is it?
More than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer's disease, and the National Institute on Aging estimates that that number is going to triple by 2050 — in part due to aging baby boomers.
The cost of coping with the disease — currently estimated at $215 billion — is projected to rise to half a trillion dollars by 2050. That amount will likely tax our overburdened health care system, the economy and the families of those affected.
Amy Goyer realized her 84-year-old father Robert's health was deteriorating one night while watching a movie with him.
Climate change is a stark reality in America's northernmost state. Nearly 90 percent of native Alaskan villages are on the coast, where dramatic erosion and floods have become a part of daily life.
Perched on the Ninglick River on the west coast of the state, the tiny town of Newtok may be the state's most vulnerable village. About 350 people live there, nearly all of them Yupik Eskimos. But the Ninglick is rapidly rising due to ice melt, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the highest point in the town — a school — could be underwater by 2017.
When 20-year-old Amanda Knox left for Italy in August 2007, it was supposed to be a carefree year studying abroad.
No one could have foreseen it ending in her being accused, tried and convicted in the murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher.
The case, and Knox, became an international media sensation.
"I think that there was a lot of fantasy projected onto me," she tells weekends on All Things Considered host Jacki Lyden. "And that resulted in a re-appropriation and re-characterization of who I am."
NPR's Susan Stamberg reads an excerpt of one of the best submissions for Round 11 of our short story contest. She reads Plum Baby by Carmiel Banasky of Portland, Ore. You can read the full story below and find other stories on our Three-Minute Fiction page or on Facebook.
Fresh Air Weekendhighlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interview with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week: