By Dini Karasik
So, if you don’t already know, National Public Radio (NPR) has been holding a contest series called “Three-Minute Fiction.” Each round, contestants submit a piece that is no more than six hundred words (i.e. something that can be read in three minutes or so). A guest judge determines the theme and names a winner at the end of each round.
The most recent round was judged by Mona Simpson who sought submissions in the form of a voice mail. Throughout the contest, there was a lot of chatter on Facebook about who might have been selected out of the over 4,000 entries received. (Click here for the winning entry.)
Meanwhile, here at home, I chattered a lot about my husband’s hilarious entry (note: my husband is not a writer but likes a challenge and hammered out this piece in one sitting,) entitled Mickey Thedog Phones Home. And it was my friend and fellow Yale Writer’s Conference alumna, Melody Feldman, who motivated me to submit something. Her entry Hope You Have An Easy Fast was also creative and deserving.
Alas, these entries won neither the contest nor honorable mention. So, I’m “publishing” them both here, along with my entry, Gardenias at Day’s End.
Leave a comment. Tell us what you think of our “winning” voice mails!
Mickey Thedog Phones Home
by Phil Karasik
Hey, it’s me…your dog, Mickey. I’m sorry I haven’t called. Soooo, yeah, I’m just gonna say it. I’m in a little bit of a bind. I met this bitch a few weeks ago and, uh, you know, she was digging my rap and whatnot. So I brought her back to the house for a couple of drinks and well, one thing led to another and, so, here’ s the deal: she hits me up by text the other day and says she’s late, you know, and that they’re mine.
Dude, I kinda freaked. I mean, I just needed some space. Some time to clear my head. So, I had to jet for awhile. I didn’t even know where to go or what to do. I’ve been staying at Fido’s. He’s on vacay with his family so I’ve been able to just think. I’ve seen the posters in the neighborhood and I’ve been meaning to call but man, I’m just so whacked out right now.
I’m not ready to be a dad. I’m just a pup myself! How am I gonna raise six or seven little guys? I mean, I was the runt of my litter. I can’t even take care of myself. Now I’ve gotta provide for the whole pack?
You know, one minute you’re chasin’ tail and the next you’re supposed to be Ward Cleaver. I’m just not ready for this. I’ve never worked a day in my life!
Anyway, I guess I need to step up here. Be an alpha and do the right thing, you know? I’m not going to lie to you and say that things won’t change. I’m going to be a family dog now and I’m not going to be able to hang like we used to.
So, I won’t be coming back. (Sniff.) We had some great times. Some really great times. Man and, look, you did me a solid when you didn’t get me fixed. You totally did me a solid. I’ll never forget that. You had my back. And that time, you know, at the park when you met that blonde with that fine poodle…(sniff)…we tore up the town, man…we tore it up. It was our world but I guess we’re all grown up, you know, and we have responsibilities now.
It’s all good though. I’m ready for this. I can do this. And I’m gonna show everyone (sniff). My cousin Spot works on a farm up North and he’s in good with the farmer there and I’m sure he can get me some work during the hunting season.
Maybe that’s what I need, you know? To settle down, raise a family, earn an honest living. I mean, my old man walked out on me. I need to be there for these guys, right? Give them everything I didn’t have until I met you.
All right, well, I’m gonna go. I just wanted to make sure we were cool.
Much love to you.
HOPE YOU HAVE AN EASY FAST
by Melody Feldman
It’s me, God.
Or Elohim, or HaShem, or Adonai, or just YHWH, or whatever you want to call me since I can’t tell you my real name. Anyway, just wanted to give you a quick call to, well, you know, apologize.
I’m sorry I wasn’t able to convince Cecelia to go out with you. I thought that the song you wrote for her was incredibly moving. Even a few of the angels shed tears.
I’m sorry about that allergic reaction to shellfish you had on the date with that girl you met on JDate. And I’m really sorry that you vomited all over her car on the way to the hospital. At least you got a funny story out of it!
I’m sorry your mom badgered you into signing up for JDate.
I’m sorry that you had to attend your nephew Gregory’s Bar Mitzvah instead of going to Joe’s bachelor party in Vegas. But you have to admit dancing the Hora is way better than getting arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct.
I’m really sorry that you didn’t win the lottery this year, or that bet about Notre Dame (I thought that was brutal too), or that your flag football team failed to make the playoffs because you missed that last touchdown catch.
I’m sorry you’re lousy at flag football.
I’m sorry that your turtle, Domino, was run over by your neighbor’s car (he moves slow and you believe in Evolution, so I think I get a pass on that one).
I’m sorry that your neighbor’s dog barks all hours of the day and night.
I’m sorry that your white towels were dyed pink by accident at the Laundromat, that your suit no longer fits (more your fault than mine – gotta lay off those cheeseburgers), and that you lost your absolute most prized Seattle Mariners cap in a taxi in New York (I’m still on the look-out for it – promise!)
I’m sorry that you slipped on the patch of black ice and sprained your ankle. (That’s really more Mother Nature’s fault than mine – I’ll make sure she calls you).
I’m sorry for every time you were late because your alarm didn’t go off. I’m sorry that a lot of important phone calls were dropped. I’m sorry your laptop battery died. I’m sorry your dishwasher broke. I’m sorry your email account was hacked. (Most of these are human errors but I’ll apologize anyway).
I’m sorry that your parents discovered Skype.
I’m sorry it didn’t snow and your office never closed even though The Weather Channel said it would about six times this year (really, Mother Nature should be on this call too).
I’m sorry you’re still single, slight balding, twenty-pounds heavier, and without a promotion. But, hey, at least Baltimore won the Super Bowl. Wait, just looked at my notes, you’re a 49ers fan. Sorry about that. Just FYI, the blackout wasn’t my fault.
I’m sorry this is such a long message.
So anyway, again, I just wanted to apologize for any slight or hardship I might have caused you this year. Since today is Yom Kippur I felt that it was my duty to make amends. Now you’ll have to excuse me as I have to go make 6,973,738,432 more phone calls before break-fast.
Thanks again for believing in me! Better luck next year!
Hope you have an easy fast.
Gardenias at Day’s End
By Dini Karasik
Hello? My name is Gardenia Jones. I was in the back of the courtroom today, watching you. Maybe you saw me wearing a white sundress and fanning myself with my newspaper? It was damn hot in there watching that endless parade of sorry people passing by, guessing the outcomes of cases. Like that one you had. I was right about your client. Judge agreed with me, too. As guilty as they come! There is no way that man was trying to buy a sandwich from the undercover lady cop all dressed in red leather and stacked heels. Oh, he was trying to buy something alright, but not any kind of food I ever heard of!
But you did a good job. And that blue suit fit you real nice. I know clothes ‘cuz my mama worked as a seamstress when she came to this country from Cuba in ’64. She met my daddy in Richmond, Virginia a year later and they opened a tailor shop in Jackson Ward. But after he died in the war, she never touched another man or his clothes! She lost the store and found work at a boutique, making wedding gowns for rich white women, pretty ivory dresses with lace and pearls and tiny buttons running down the back.
When she held up a dress for a customer to look at, all you could see were the tops of her hands, slender brown fingers like clothespins clasping a dress up high. I’d sit on the counter watching Mama, hidden behind a wall of white, holding up dresses or steaming the wrinkles out of a floor-length veil while standing on a chair to reach the tippy-top.
Sometimes, I’d play at her feet, sewing dresses for my dolls, tying up tangles of thread, and pricking my fingers with needles. You might think I grew up wanting to be a bride all spun up and cocooned in someone else’s dream, but no, sir! I wanted to be like her, like my mama. Independent. Strong.
Truth be told, she was kinda shy, too, with her mouth pressed closed and her eyes cast downward whenever she smiled. She smelled like cocoa butter and sweet pipe tobacco, though I swear she never smoked a day in her life. And she was always singing while she measured, cut, and sewed. Crooning to her creations, I’d say! Stitching magical seams made of happy dreams and good wishes for the brides-to-be.
She sang about love and the ocean and the Cuban countryside where she grew up. And I would listen to her, holding my dollies, imagining two lovers humming the same melodies on their wedding night, the groom getting a hint of Mama’s cocoa butter smell in the gown as he nuzzled his bride’s long, downy neck.
Mama’s favorite song was Dos Gardenias. You ever heard it? It goes:
Dos Gardenias para ti
Con ellas quiero decir
Te quiero, te adoro, mi vida.
But you probably don’t speak Spanish, do you? I don’t either, really, but I sure do know those songs.
When Mama got sick and no longer remembered things, I filled her room with potted gardenias as bright white as those wedding dresses. Their creamy jasmine fragrance reminded her, I hope, of her childhood, of those beautiful dresses, of me playing at her feet.
This evening, moments before she took her last breath, she closed her eyes and sang those very words. Softly. As if to forgive me. Or maybe thank me for what I was about to do.
Which, sir, brings me to the reason for my phone call…