They're short (and we mean short), intense (imagine a novel crossed with a haiku), and mesmerizing (whether they're illuminating a single moment or a whole life). O challenged eight provocative writers to tell us a story in 300 words or less. The result: eight little beauties that leave a wake of wonder and wondering. So read, and then reread. Bet you can't read just one....
With One Wheel Gone Wrong
By A.M. Homes

With one wheel gone wrong, she careens into the checkout line. A perfect shopper, she prides herself on sailing the circulars, clipping coupons, buying in bulk. Her basket is overflowing with catnip and kitty litter, Pull-Ups and pomegranates—plenty of all. She takes a magazine out of the rack; there's a spot to scratch, an offer she can't resist—"Got an itch you can't identify, don't know what you want, let this be your moment." The background photo is of a beautiful house with everything just as you would want it to be—untouched by reality. She scratches; her finger is quickly coated with gold powder and under that is something a little sticky—tugging at her. It is as though she is being pulled into the magazine. A sudden burst of light, an explosion of inspiration, a fleeting illumination, and she is inside the picture and it is clear—this is her house, this is who she is, the life she is supposed to live.

It is incredible—she's seeing not only the future but the pathway there—and it's a new kind of floor tile—you just put one foot in front of the other, don't stop, and watch where you're going. And then, as though in a faraway dream, she hears the scanner beeping, she hears the checker say, "Are you taking that magazine?" Drawing a deep breath, she pulls herself back into the checkout line. She takes every copy of the magazine out of the rack. "I'll take all you've got," she says.

"Paper or plastic?"

Next: Read Antonya Nelson's Her Number


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