Here's the story I submited to NPR's Three Minute story contest. The prompt was: Write about a character who finds something they have no intention of returning in 600 words or less. It's called IN THE BAG
Bonnie found the diaper bag full of silver dollars while kayaking up river from her farm. She’d just been joking about her ability to find useful things when she most needed them- like the time she found a sled in the woods after she shot a deer. She’d hurt her ankle and was thinking about ditching the meat and limping home when she saw the bright orange sled stuffed in a laurel bush. Hunter and prey slid home in style.
“Why can’t I find money?” She’d laughingly told Maria.
Minutes later they saw the mud-covered bag tucked into a downed tree. It must have washed downstream after the big rains.
“There’s gotta be hundreds of dollars in there- the thing weighs a ton!”
The bag was tossed into the kayak along with the duck decoy they’d found. They split the findings when they got home and went on with their lives.
A few weeks later, Bonnie was sitting at the local juice joint when she overheard someone at the next table.
“I still haven’t found that bag! I can’t believe I lost my grandfather’s silver dollar collection!”
The voice was familiar. Looking over her shoulder Bonnie saw it was a girl who was in her niece’s Waldorf class.
“Oh, baby-girl, it’ll be found. You’ve told everyone in town and I’m sure some good soul will return it.” The girl’s mother reached across the table to hold her daughter’s hand. “The world is a good place- you’ll see.”
Bonnie sipped her banana smoothie and pretended that it tasted as good as it had before she’d eavesdropped. She still had her half of the find and last she knew so did Maria; it’d be simple enough- drop by the police station, walk away, and the world would be a good place. She’d be a “nice person” and presumably sleep well for the rest of her life. But if it were a silver dollar collection, it might be worth big money and big money would enable her to pay her taxes before the auction next month.
Big money would pay for sleeping pills if it came to that.
But what if she were to see the girl whenever she went to visit her niece? She knew they were good friends. And her niece was supposed to spend the summer at the farm while her parents went to Europe. Not good.
“I could spend it and then say, ‘Hey little girl. I found your bag and I spent it. Thanks!’
Or, ‘Hey little girl, you know that bag you lost? Well how do you like the farm it paid for?’”
She looked at the little girl again. The girl didn’t look like that great of a kid. Nice clothes, picking at a $15 burger- most of which would get tossed after ‘precious’ had her nibble, and besides- Waldorf cost a fortune. Kids these days get whatever they wanted. If losing a little bag were going to ruin her life then maybe this experience would teach the girl a little compassion for those less fortunate than her.
And Maria needed money as badly as Bonnie did.
The more Bonnie thought about it, the clearer it became. She’d prayed for help when she needed the sled and she got one. She’d prayed for money, as had Maria, and there was the diaper bag. It was a no brainer spiritual gift. Returning it would be like spitting in God’s face. No way was she going to return a bag of manna to a spoiled, little rich brat.
The smoothie started to taste better.