Streams

Listener Challenge: 420-Character Stories

Lou Beach’s new book of very short stories – 420 Characters – packs vivid descriptions into tiny narratives.

We want to read your 420-character story!
Submit yours below to enter our contest.

→ The story must be 420 characters or fewer -- including spaces.

→ Only one entry per author will be considered.

→ The deadline to be considered for our contest is 11:59 EST December 31, 2011.

The winner will be announced on the show and will receive a signed print of an illustration by Lou Beach.


→ Read stories submitted by other listeners

Click here for the complete rules and regulations for the contest.


Filter results:

May 15, 2012 10:51:00 PM
:

Leslie

:

Dr. Monty Carlos headed out to the street leading his "mom" on a leash. She likes to go for walks, though it often takes some persuasion, he thought while checking out the scent on a bush. Not good enough to spend a spot of urine on, so he kept going. A small tug at his neck became an insistent jerking. Monty resisted and lifted his leg against a tree. Humans are so hard to train!

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April 13, 2012 11:50:05 AM
:

Pez

:

He hesitated at the foot of the staircase. “I have looked into the eye of the tiger,” he said to himself. “I have fought pirates and advised kings. I have sought out lost treasures in misty green mountains and through the riches of poverty have tamed my own heart. I have walked paths none other would tread, but this is more than I have courage for.” And he stumbled as he climbed toward his dying father's bed.

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February 17, 2012 12:16:05 PM
:

Mary Ann

:

The summer we moved back to America for good, I was 14. We packed the blue minivan my grandparents bought for us in Chicago and started the thousand mile drive to Colorado. “First person to spot the mountains wins,” my dad challenged. For the last 150 miles after we left Kansas, my brother and I sat in the back seat with heads tilted to the center, eyes unblinking, straining towards the horizon.

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February 10, 2012 11:41:20 AM
:

Philip

:

Studio 360 420 word story Philip Lustig

“Jeez, it’s cold out here.”
“Yeah, it’s bitter cold and we have to wear tight shorts
with our tits hanging out.”
“That’s advertising, honey,” laughing.
“How’s business?”
“A couple of OK’s and some weirdos.”
“Yeah, I get a lot of that crude, too. Must be because they can’t get it from their wives.”
“Yeah, sometimes I feel sorry for them.”
“Well, it’s just a job.”
“I never get it. They pay fifty bucks for five minutes to just wet their wittle, if you
know what I mean?”
“Yeah. I got this father driving up. “Hi, remember me?” he says.
“He’s got his sixteen year old son, and wants me to give him his first sexual
experience. He remembers how ‘gentle’ I was. He slips me fifty, gets out of the car
and we do it in the back seat. The kid says to me,”This is not my first, but don’t tell my dad. He was going like a rocket,” and then says, “Thanks a lot.”
“How’s your kid?”
“Good, she’s two. My Mom’s taking care of her. She doesn’t know what I do.
Maybe she does, but she bites her lip a lot.”
“You ever figure out who the father was?”
“You kidding me? I get, maybe ten johns a night. Doesn’t matter. She’s a darling.
It’s what I live for.”
“There’s a Mercedes. Your turn. Those rich bastards think you’re shit, and think they’re
buying a slave. Wonder what kinky stuff he wants.”
Half hour later. “Wow, it was good getting into a warm car. The front seat went down;
really soft, and he’s playing classical music. He’s pumping away with Tchaikovsky’s
1812 Overture blaring, and comes exactly when the canons go off. A hundred bucks, and he kisses me.”
“Wadda you know about classical music?”
“Oh, I went to Juilliard. I studied ballet. Got out and gained too much weight. No
ballet corps wanted me. I was screwing the ballet master. Funny! He was homo,
but he was good getting down. Then got stuck with student loans. Gotta pay the bills.”
“Jeez, honey, you’re something else.”
“Hey, isn’t that your pimp pulling up?
“Yeah. He wants his money. If I don’t get at least ten a night, he beats the shit out of me.
He’s a fucking bookkeeper. He knows more about profit margins than an accountant.
But he protects my ass if I run into a creep.”
“Weren’t you pregnant last time I saw you?”
“Yeah, lost him. The price of overhead.”

Philip Lustig

Downingtown, PA 19335

cybersagacious@verizon.net


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February 06, 2012 08:59:17 PM
:

Jason

:

I held the dead eel by the head and raised it up like a whip before whacking it across Geoffrey’s buttocks. He squealed with glee. Later, I told him he needed to leave because my wife was coming home. Geoff seemed put off by this. I didn’t have the energy to console him so I simply threw him his clothes. I suppose he was getting fed up with the arrangement and for once denied me his affections as we parted.

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February 06, 2012 01:34:42 AM
:

Christopher

:


_H. Sapiens_

The PaleoAmericans fan out
Above the Arctic Circle
Ten thousand years ago.

A dozen generations,
Two continents later,
They have arrived
--In Patagonia.

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February 05, 2012 12:24:38 PM
:

Fleming

:

A light snow is falling. There is a moon, and from her house on the ridge she can see darkness rolling in from the mountains to the east. What was it that he said? “Your eyes are as blue as a deep breath” and “The snowlight through the window on your breasts shines like the Parthenon at night.” She hears her husband’s truck downshifts on the long hill. Her boots squeak on the fresh snow. There is a moon.

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February 05, 2012 12:13:18 PM
:

Gloria

:

It all started when I wanted to see how this application that I purchased for my computer worked.

I have been wanting to write for a long time but have procrastinated to just sit and begin. So here I am. I have so much to write about. For example I like short stories because they provide a respite and don’t require too much of my attention. I am after all diagnosed as Adult Attention Deficit Disordered. Oops ADD setting in (as my sister Tite always says when she is losing interest) where am I? Ok I am back. So one short story:

I am sleeping and dreaming that I am trying to get somewhere or to someone’s house. There is a river that keeps me from walking to my destination and as it is, it is a rapidly moving body of water. Everything that surrounds me is beautiful, the water, the river banks, the houses surrounding the edge of the river. I remember not wanting to get wet, so as if there were a new scenario I forget how I get out of the river and I find myself in the home of about 5 women. The house is very neat and clean and I want to go home. I am told that there is no transportation because it is far from any subway. I want to call someone to come and pick me up so I somehow call my friend Hilda. My cell phone is losing power and I only have a short time to make my request to my friend. She does not answer the phone but I leave her a message and somehow I give her directions how to get to me.

Meanwhile I am getting to know these women and find them strange, weird? They all have had plastic surgery on their lips. So when I ask them if this is a fact they don’t deny it and seem very ok with it. Somehow I feel as though my life is in danger because there seems to be a malevolent being controlling these women. Or maybe more than one of these beings. I think they are male but make no appearance. I continue to feel very uncomfortable and thus refuse food offered to me or even a drink of water. I continue to feel the danger within and think that I don’t want to place anyone else in danger, so I call Hilda again to tell her not to come. She I am told she is on her way with her husband Ed.
I wished that I had gotten to them before they left. Shortly they show up to the drive way of the house that I am at. It is very dark outside but their car lights flood the yard. Both Hilda and Ed are talking and laughing as they usually are, and I am afraid for them and want to warn them about the impending danger that lurks as a translucent evil mist.

I am so afraid but in a way relieved that I will be able to leave this unfriendly and dangerous place. I go to the bathroom before I get ready to leave, and when I enter there are two pubescent girls with the most beautiful faces that I have ever seen and one has a scapel and the other one has a paint brush with many different colors on a palette. But what I had not noticed is that there are two other girls whose faces I can not see because they refuse to look up at me. I am horrified because I think that they have no eyes and maybe some more horrid has happened to them. So I want to run but I want to save the girls but I think it’s too late because they are part of the danger and the evil.

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January 17, 2012 10:25:57 AM
:

reid

:

When Trent was a child his father gave him a telescope and every few months he added to his concoction of mirrors and widgets until the boy scientist could observe a distant planet and as he focused more and more he saw a town and a house with a window into a bedroom and recognized himself starring back. Sat down in a corner and slipped into a coma for the rest of his life.

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January 08, 2012 01:44:42 PM
:

Azur

:

Dear time travel team, In the days before time travel we sat down and laid out four basic rules. One, do not interact with the locals. Two, do not alter history (like killing Hitler or saving JFK, or saving your dog). Three, you cannot choose to stay there, and finally the most important, rule four: under no circumstance make contact with yourself. These rules apply to all of them,, but not to us. I remember the first time I gave myself what I thought was good advice, the usual stuff: study hard, don't smoke pot, hug your grandmother, listen more, make nice friends, don't hang out with so and so. I have no idea if this has trickled down into my forties now. I do go back frequently but my life on this end remains the same, I even brought the numbers of the biggest lotto ticket ever and still nothing changed. Hum. The only plausible explanation is that in the future we decided that these rules also apply to us and are diligently undoing all of the changes we have made to better our present situation. Being that the case, I suggest we stop wasting our time trying to break these rules and go about our business looking backwards but plannig forward. Sincerely yours. A

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January 07, 2012 04:50:31 PM
:

Gregory

:

I've had some good times. I've done some good deeds.
But now it's all over.
How can I be so calm? I'm about to die.
When I was 12, more than anything I wanted to be an astronaut.
Now, for the life of me, I can't remember when or why I changed my mind.
Just a few more seconds.
What a beautiful view!
I wish I'd seen more beautiful things.
I wish I'd led a fuller life.
I wish I'd done a better job packing my chu...

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January 07, 2012 01:28:36 AM
:

Derek

:

We entered the board room Monday morning; to find S.O.S spelled out in rocks next to a deflated raft on the conference table. Our colleagues filled the room with lafter as we sat in the vacant seats, relieved to be alive.  The AP and Alska magazine spread the news, with the headline "Alaska - This Aint No Disney Land". After being stranded on an Alaskan river bank for five days, we were airlifted by helocpter to a lodge where we drank rum until we were stoned. It took some time to absorbe the reality of what we had just endured, over what seemed like eternity. We really  were lucky to be alive after losing our vessel  in the boiling rapids that August day. We were lucky we didn't crack our heads open on the boulder that twisted our raft and engulfed it in the fridged water. We were prepared for an easy float down a gentle river, but not for class three rapids and the freezing cold of the glaciated water flowing from Mount McKinley. Our fears were unique to every waking moment; hypothermia, dehydration,  bears, food, rescue, warmth .  Each morning when we woke, the massive tracks surrounded our shelter, and showed sign that we were in a place, where we did not belong. The defining sound of the water gave the bears the freedom to move about without our knowledge. We couldn't see them, we couldn't hear them, but they were there. We felt that it was just a matter of time before they overtook our makeshift camp. We would never be rescued, we knew that we could not be seen above the fog that filled the tree line. We were at the mouth of a massive canyon and the bear trails would be the only way out. We were in an enemy encampment, surrounded by fear. Now I truely understand  how my father must have felt fighting a  war in the jungles of Vietnam. Every waking moment, knowing they are there, seeing all the signs of them, but hearing nothing but the sound of war.

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January 07, 2012 01:25:45 AM
:

Derek

:

We entered the board room on Monday morning; to find S.O.S spelled out in rocks next to a deflated raft, lying on the conference table. Our colleagues filled the room with lafter as we sat in the vacant seats, relieved to be alive after being stranded on an Alaskan river bank for five days. We were lucky to be alive after losing our raft in the boiling rapids, of the glaciated water flowing from Mount Mckinley. Had hypothermia set in, i would not be writing this and the Grizzlies would have made a meal of us. Each morning when we woke, the massive tracks surrounded our shelter and showed sign that they were there. It wasn't until this trip did I truely understand how my father must have felt fighting a war in the jungles of Vietnam. Every waking moment, knowing they are there, seeing all the signs of them but hearing nothing but the sound of war.

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January 04, 2012 10:59:11 PM
:

Matt

:

It came all of a sudden, out of my car’s radio speakers. The song I had so longed to hear, after so many years without hearing it. I felt a tingle up my spine, as the notes surged through the speakers. The strings of the guitar, the drum beats pounding so hard, and then the magnificent song ended. Without warning, it was gone. Sadness came over me, and I could tell that it would not end. The agony and defeat!!

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January 04, 2012 07:39:46 PM
:

Gloria

:

Route 80

A massive migration of license platelets meandering through arteries that flow into the heart of civilization (a term with which Gandhi would most definitely have taken exception). They return via veins that escape behind rising hilltops, dropping poisons along the way.

Existence

She was suffering from sameness, not sadness just too much order, like going to different cities and seeing the same stores one sees everywhere. Life’s only bright spot was time spent with her closest friend who she ironically called “Old Same” from a novel they once shared.

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January 02, 2012 07:47:59 PM
:

Lucia (6th grade)

:

Popular girls

They clump up to each other in the hallway like they are stuck with honey. They build a dam, blocking the river of student bodies. They do everything together, like they all share the same brain. I wonder how much there actually is. They whisper and look at people the same. They think you never know what their saying. But they stand out as if the world was black and white, and they are the only color.

(Sorry for being late; I was away on vacation without e-mail connection)

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January 02, 2012 07:43:30 PM
:

Lucia

:

Popular girls

They clump up to each other in the hallway like they are stuck with honey. They build a dam, blocking the river of student bodies. They do everything together, like they all share the same brain. I wonder how much there actually is. They whisper and look at people the same. They think you never know what their saying. But they stand out as if the world was black and white, and they are the only color.

Comments(1)
January 02, 2012 01:03:01 PM
:

Patty

:

Like
the villager who
prised the wing bone from the red-crowned crane,
smoothed it,
drilled seven holes,
and a smaller one
below the last,
to fix an off-key note;
who rested the flute against her lip,
blew across the opening,
covered and uncovered the holes,
fingers flitting like a hummingbird
exploring the octaves
primordial poetry
sloughing the sharp edges off
that Neolithic place—

I, too, hunt the sweet songs.

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January 02, 2012 12:46:17 PM
:

Diane

:

​She poured herself another glass of wine and set the bottle back into the bucket it had been soaking in.  She smoothed nonexistent wrinkle out of her white cloth napkin, running her hand over her knee has it bounced, knocking her spiked heel against the hardwood floor like a woodpecker.
​“ Would you like to order any food this evening?”
​“What?” She yelped, then thought of the long drive home. “I guess so.  I’ll have the alfredo. Thanks.” As he left, the server collected the untouched dinnerware from her table.

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January 02, 2012 10:55:04 AM
:

Kathleen

:

My father often told me of the land he bought
in middle age, though I’ve only seen it in his eyes.
But I’m proud of it and him, and he of it and me.
Four oaks were clustered there like a
family, their thick, straight trunks rising past the
canopy before branching out on their
own good terms. Last month, my now old dad found
three of his oaks cut down by a bloodless surgeon who’d
dressed the scars with dirt. Oh,
how I dread the day I get the same bad news, that another force, quite as
blind, has taken my father, by the roots, from me.

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