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This contest is now closed. But enjoy!

(Click here to go directly to the winning entries.)

The Atlantic Monthly is proud to announce its first short-story contest. And we do mean SHORT!

Your assignment in this word game is to submit a story in which *ALL* the words are three letters long. Not one, not two, not six--not any but *one and one and one*. You get the bit?

Your three-letter words may include any proper noun, abbreviation, or creative spelling (such as "pix" for "pictures" or "sez" for "says"). To keep stories suitably short we ask that they not exceed *100* words.

Within these miniaturizing constraints, you should nevertheless strive for the usual literary virtues--style, plot and character development, social relevance, passion, irony, humor, erudition, and surprise. We'll hope to see explosive action, deep philosophy, and lyrical descriptions of nature's wonders. We'll award our three prizes to the tales we deem most original and moving.

This contest will run from Friday, May 5 through Saturday, May 20.

Now, get thy ink, you mad wag! Pen thy gut out!

--EC and HR


(All names without @ symbols are AOL screen names.)

"Eye may hav too buy uhh gun." That's what correspondent Alamano had to say about our challenging short-story contest, in which authors were restricted to 3-letter words. And as you'll see from TinLizzard's story below, more than one contestant had the urge to point that gun at CoxRathvon!

Despite the maddening constraint we imposed, some very heroic tale telling was accomplished. Below you will find recreations of Joyce's "Ulysses" (G8ly), Kafka's "Metamorphosis" (DHyman), "The Wizard of Oz" (JebMar), the Bible's Genesis (Naits), and the dialog style of Clifford Odets (JCMaher), among other literary feats.

We have cried "Yes!" and "Ooh!" over virtually every entry sent to us. The ones reproduced here are those in which ONLY 3-letter words were used, in accordance with our dreadful edict. Landlord1's playlet may not strictly adhere to our limit of 100 words per story (unless you ignore the speaking assignments), but it tickled us so much that we have bestowed one top "Wow!" on his creation. He and our other winners will each receive 5 free AOL hours, plus a book from the Atlantic Monthly's online bookstore. Congratulations, and thank you, everyone, for a job wel dun!!--
Cox and Rat

***Our Top One and Two***

"Big Dog and Wee Pig and Wee Pig etc."

(The tri act bio)

Act One

Pig pad one. Hay. Bad.
Big dog: "You are wee. Dog way big. I'll eat you."
Pig One: "Dog not eat Pig."
(Big Dog huf. Big Dog puf. Hay pad nil. Big Dog ate pig one.)
Big Dog: "Yum."

Act Two
Pig pad two. Elm. Bad too.
Big Dog: "I'll eat you too, Pig two."
Pig Two: "NOT!"
(Big Dog huf. Big Dog puf. Elm pad nil.
Big Dog ate pig two.)
Big Dog: "Yum."

Act Tri
New Pig Pad. Dry Mud. Tip-top.
Big Dog: "You die too, Pig!"
(New Pig has gun.)
New Pig: "Die, Dog, Die!"
New Pig: "Yee Hah!"

The End


One day Sam Gee, odd nap o'er, did ope eye mid his bed, and saw his big new six leg bod. Sam saw red. Why him? How can his kin see Sam now? And how can any bug job hop?

Mom saw him. "Out, now!" was her rap. Sis did try TLC, but did not aid him. Dad was ape. "It's the end for you, Sam," he'd vow, "now git!"

"Eye him," Sis let out. "Dad may try and lob any red orb yer way!" But now... "Ooh, ooh" did Sam cry out. His woe was two the Max.


"The eel," sez Irv. "The eel: he's low."
"How low?" sez Jed.
"Low for the cat and dog. Not for the ant. For the ant, the eel he's not too low."
"Yes?" sez Jed. "And the auk?"
"Auk?" Irv sez. "Naw. He's not low for any. He's..."
Jed saw Sam. "Hey, Sam!"
Sam sat wit' Irv and Jed. "Wha' sup?" Sam sez.
"The auk," sez Irv and Jed too. "The auk."

The End

***And Too...***

Too bad for Leo: it's not his day. Did Bud Man say, "Buy the ads and I'll buy for the pub?" Did his son die and has his Old Mol met her new man yet? She had cut out his sex for the oaf who bet the nag and may yet win The Cup. Leo had not the wad and had not bet, but yet the men say, "It's pay day - buy the ale, pay off the old hag and let the dog and the one-eye nap." Hug him mad yes, Mol, yes and say yes and yes Yes.


Day one: Mrs. Ito put out the cat, fed the dog, got the bat and KO'd her old man. She cut the ice off his USC law pin and hid the gem.

Day two: Sam Hoe had all his top men out for the old zig zag. The Kid had the car, Bad Bob set out for his pad and gun and Big Lil did the cop hop for any new ort the Fed had not let her see yet.

The End: "Did you ask her why she did him?" "Yah." "Wha'?" "Her wig was too hot!" "Bad air day!"
(Raymond "Ravensegg" Chandler)


"Who are you?" Sue was mad.
"You may ask. Why the ire?" Tom had the lip, you bet!
"You are the guy who had our hot car! Sis and Mom are sad! May you die!" Sue sat and hid her eye.
"Ice tea?" Tom got the jug for her.
"Not for now." She let him off.
"The car can not run yet. But the man has the key. Pay the tab, get the key and the car can get out. You get the car!"
"Wow!" Sue was not mad and she got out.
Tom sat and lit the fag.



The tan dog sat. Pam did not see the cut ear nor the one bad eye. All she saw was the tag: BUD. She got hot. God, was the dog Bud? One day, her man Bud and her pal Sue had run off. The two had set out for Rye. Now Bud was not Bud: Bud was the tan dog. She bit her lip. "Bud? Not you!" Bud put out his paw. "Sit, Bud." Bud sat. She now had her guy--and her dog. "Bad boy, Bud! Now, beg!"


The rag man had met the Wiz and the PHD was his. The tin man had luv for all and the big cat had won his war. But wee Dot and her dog are far off Oz's map. Dot can not fax and can not fly o'er the sea. How can Dot see Oz's men? She has PSs for all. For the big cat, the rag man and the Wiz, "Eye Luv Ewe!." And Dot has one for the tin man. "I've got his oil can!"


She had but one eye, but she saw all.

She saw the men one day, the way men are, act out how the pow-wow was led way, way ago. Not one gal e'er saw the men hop and bop and jig. But she did one day, cuz fog lay 'pon the lea and the men saw her not. But she saw the men.

"Yee haw haw, yee haw haw," the men say, one hop for "yee" and two for "haw."

"God," sez she. "'Tis fun." And she duz one "Yee" and one "Haw"-- jus' one. And the men see her.

"Run," sez she. "Run way far 'way."

But she can not run. Nor can the men. The sun was out, and the fog was now not 'pon the lea.

"She did the act," the men say. "Her one eye has the art. The pow-wow had not art, but for her."

She was now the one gal men let hop and bob and jig for pow-wow. The New Era was 'pon the lea. And she, she had fun.


The men who ran and won the big job...Abe and Cal and FDR and old HST, all saw the job was too big for one man. Ike and JFK and LBJ and Ron all saw the hex too. Yet men run, and try for the top CEO job, not for joy, but for ego. WJC, the boy who now has the job, saw the job was too hot for him too, and has let the Mrs. HRC, run the USA.


One day God saw man and his pal Eve sin. God was mad and hit the fan. Why not? -- The fan was too low and the sin was too big. God did say, "Get out!" The guy got one fig for Eve and one fig for him, but Eve did not opt for one fig for HIM. She got her own fig and saw she can don her fig and act coy. And she hid her hip and her leg and ran all the way out.



One May day, Cox met the Rat. The Rat was mad cuz his pal, Wiz, ate his hen pot pie.
Cox sez, "Gee, Rat. You are ill. Get off the big bum and fix new din."
Rat sez, "Hey, Cox, can you aid?"
Cox saw Rat was sad and she led him the way.
Rat sez, "You are the one for dis ole rat. Can you wed?"
Cox let her mum say, "Yep, you bet!"
Rat was not sad any one day. And Cox? She was one hip Mrs!



The tee box lay nex too the sea, and ifn Tom was man 'nuf too hit his one eye urn oer and put his nex one inn the cup, Tom sed he'd win uhh gob uhh doe, cuz he'd win the bet. But, his try was bad and he'd pay out too Bob bee for the day was oer.

"Ifn i'ed hit the two eye urn, the cab age wud pay for uhh new car and lik err onn dat bar tab mom ran too the sky for mar dee gra," Tom sed, wit ehh sob and sad mug.


Coy Lil ran far out o'er the lea,
All set for mid May fun.
Sly Lou had set his cap for her;
For him she was the one.

Lou put his arm out for the gal,
And Lil, she hit the sod.
For Lil had not the yen for him,
But saw him sad and odd.

"Aha!" sez Lou, "I've got you now.
I'll woo and wed you too."
"Cad!" sez Lil, "I'll wed you not.
I've not got luv for you.


She had yet the ken - one not too far off era ere she had met the mad god. One day all but the god may run, and her ego die; the mad god now her all. Her way was set. The mad god had her ..... but she had the gun.

Use the gun, and cut the tie - dim the pun din and the pun mot may die. The end was fit for the two-for-one mad god who led her wit the run for pun and gag and rib and rag. She set her jaw - she set her aim - one hit ..... Cox! One hit ...... Rat!

The pun god duo has met its end, and AOL may let its gab run fey:)


The old cat had one mat. The fat rat had one big bat. The fat rat put his paw out, and the mat had one mar! The old cat was mad ... the fat rat got mad too.

Eye for eye, toe for toe, the old cat and the fat rat vie for the win. Not old cat, nor fat rat, are fit foe, yet cat and rat met jab for jab, hit for hit, and the fur did fly ere the job was o'er!

But ... the mat had NOT one mar! The bat bop and the rat jab got the mar off the mat for the old cat.

And the end? Not one can say, who saw the row, who won. But the old cat and the fat rat are paw for paw, toe for toe, now pal not foe.


"Luv?" she sed. "The old man bet his pal he'd get sum ass."
"His kid?" Ann had her pry.
She hid her hed, "Due any day."
"Yea. Ooo."
"Are you...?"
"God!" Get him."
"Yur old man?"
"Ted. Get Ted."
"'Cuz he's the one...Ooo. God."

The bar was set. Her old man bet his pay the kid was his.
Ann hit him, "Mom and son are..."
"Son?" His eye ran the bar.
"She had the boy for her old man."
"She had her son for her."
"He's not her son, he's..."
"For luv, she sed. For luv."
(JH Francis)

Day was new. Jax, the dog, set out. Why? Get tea - Boy ill. Jax ran far and sat one sec - who did pup spy? Fox, who did irk any old day. Sly Fox bet Jax not end job ere the sun set. Jax did fly; yip was his cry - rox mar the way, cut pup paw. Did dog fix Boy? Yes - Jax met his pal, Gnu. Jax sat 'top, Gnu ran, and bet was won. Few saw the duo and you may say the eld lie, but Old One was Boy and sez sun set aft' Gnu/Jax see tea.

Copyright © 1995 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.