Lifes Worth Knowing

Three Minute Fiction: The Nurse Left Work at Five o’clock

In Three Minute Fiction on October 24, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Three Minute Fiction is a contest run on NPR’s All Things Considered. The premise is simple; write a piece of fiction that can be read in under three minutes. For the second round of the  contest, the prompt was: write an original work of fiction that begins with this sentence: “The nurse left work at five o’clock.”

“The nurse left work at five o’clock.”

“The nurse left work at five o’clock.”

The nurse left work at five o’clock.”

Antonio squinted again at the pronunciation guide. He found English to be a fairly easy language to learn. It shared enough with French and Italian that the grammar was fairly simple to divine. Pronunciation was a challenge, but he had been told that his Italian accent was hardly recognizable anymore. But the rhythm felt off.

He couldn’t quite get a handle on the cadence. Italian flowed. French lilted. But English seemed to stop and start to him. Maybe it was the Germanic influence on sentence structure, or the relative lack or emotion that English instills in the speaker…he wasn’t sure, but whatever it was, it just felt wrong.

He had studied English in grammar school, and as a teenager, he had been bold enough to strike up conversations with the tourists around the Trevi fountain, some days it was to pass the time and other days it was so that Marco could slip in behind the crowd and lighten their load.

Those memories made stop on the sidewalk and his face briefly broke into a sly smile. Those had been simpler days. Things since he left home had been a bit more…complicated. His parents weren’t exactly supportive of his move. Sure, there were other older and more prestigious schools, but the University of London had offered ample opportunity for an aspiring writer, and the fact that he was able to get out into an English University was something that he wouldn’t have been able to turn down, despite everything he had to leave behind.

He pulled the strap of his backpack up onto his shoulder again and looked across the street to the coffee shop where she was sitting. Her back was towards him, but he could tell by the way that her auburn hair fell down across her shoulders that it was her. He allowed himself to imagine for just a moment what it would be like to bring her to Rome, to have her meet his brothers, to see the street where he grew up. He imagined leading her to all the most romantic places in the city that the tourist maps left unmarked.

He shook his head. He was getting ahead of himself. He nervously leafed through the pronunciation guide again. “Beau-tiful?” “Beau-ti-ful?”  He wasn’t sure which it was. He wasn’t entirely sure that he cared. He was going to take a shot, and if he missed, he missed.  What use was it trying to hide who he was? He could practice proper English pronunciation as much as he wanted…but he would always be Antonio.

The guide made a solid thud as it met the bottom of the rubbish bin on the corner. The traffic light turned, clearing the way for him to cross the street. He strode purposefully towards the cafe trying to keep up his courage, but couldn’t help but whisper to himself as he walked, “the nurse left work at five o’clock…”

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