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NPR’s Three Minute Fiction – “The Desk”

NPR’s Three Minute Fiction – “The Desk” 997 1000 Jason Stadtlander

In September I submitted a story for NPR’s “Three Minute Fiction” series titled “The Desk”, which sadly did not win.

I actually wrote two stories; The Desk and The Oath, but chose “The Desk” as I felt it had a thread that ran through three different presidents

So, I thought I would post The Desk for your enjoyment anyway.

Let me know what you think:

The Desk
by Jason Stadtlander

The Oval OfficeJared remembered the trip with his fifth grade class from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. His mother had told him about it two weeks prior, and he began marking off the days leading up to the trip on his calendar before bed each night. Jared’s presentiment of seeing the famous buildings from his history books was overwhelming. The Pentagon, Capitol Building, Lincoln Memorial, and White House were swimming in his mind.

The tour of the White House had been magical, the spirits of famous men and important decisions made within those walls creating a buzz of excitement in Jared’s brain. The tour guide led his class down the halls where presidents had walked, passing through various rooms and finally stopping at the Map Room and Oval Office.

The historic room looked different than expected. The only real view Jared had seen as a television viewer was the desk with the window behind it. Five classmates walked about the periphery looking at paintings on the wall while he stood separately on the red-orange sunbeam carpet emblazoned with the presidential seal. Jared remained staring at the impressive wooden desk and could feel the history.

Two secret servicemen walked through the door followed by President Reagan. “Hello,” said the president, walking straight to Jared. “What’s your name?” His natural smile illuminated his face as he held out his hand.

“Jared. Jared Reddington, sir.”

“Well, Jared, would you like to see something special?”

Jared nodded bashfully. The president placed his hand on Jared’s shoulder, guiding him toward the back of the large desk. As they stood together, the president pointed to a cubbyhole beneath. “Do you see under there?”

Jared looked down at the space under the desk and back up at the president. “Yes.”

“Does it look like it would be fun to play there?” President Reagan asked with a mischievous smile.

Jared smiled. “Yes.”

“I know a child who played down there. His name was John F. Kennedy Junior. He played there while his daddy sat here working.”

Jared was amazed that a president had children. “Did your son ever play under there?”

President Reagan laughed. “No. My son was grown by the time I was elected. Do you know what else?”

“What?” the boy asked inquisitively.

The president bent down to Jared’s height. Smiling, he whispered, “Your children could play under this desk. All you have to do is become president.”


Jared now stood on the presidential seal of the United States looking down at a similar but not identical carpet to the one he had seen as a boy. His gaze shifted to the desk he had first set eyes on thirty-six years earlier, and President Reagan’s words echoed in his memory. All you have to do is become president.

Once again, Jared stepped around behind the impressive piece of furniture. Grabbing the chair, he pulled it back and sat down at the desk that was now his. Space beneath appeared much smaller now. He smiled just as his five-year-old, Stephen, yelled from down the hall.

“Daddy! There’s a statue of an old man in the . . . ” the boy stopped abruptly at the entrance to the Oval Office. “What’s wrong, Daddy?”

“Come here, Stephen,” Jared said.

Walking over to the desk, Stephen stopped and stood next to his father. “You see under there?”  asked Jared, pointing.


“Looks like a fun place to play, huh?”

Stephen looked up at his father and smiled in eager anticipation. “Yes.”

The President tossed his son’s hair. “Go on then,” he said laughing, “play!”

The Oath – A New President

The Oath – A New President 1600 1063 Jason Stadtlander

A while back, I submitted a story for NPR’s “All Things Considered” Three Minute Fiction contest. The story had to relate to the President of the United States, it had to show a human element, and be under 600 words.

This is one of the two stories I wrote. I loved both stories, but this one just wasn’t quite as good as the one I sent in. It was written in my mental dream world of a time when being the “President of the United States” was truly an honor and a privilege and not a theatrical presentation as it has become in the last twenty – forty years. Perhaps it has always been a dramatic presentation, and it is just my perception that has changed? I pray that what is in this story will return to the office of the President of our country. I dream that our country will learn to appreciate, love, and respect the diversity for which it was founded upon. Only then can we claim that it is “great.” It has not yet reached that. So to claim that it can return to greatness is an illusion, in my opinion.

The Oath

The young man in a dark suit, wearing an earpiece stepped forward. “Senator Reddington, we’re ready for you.”

Jared Reddington hugged both his boys and his wife then proceeded around the corner and down the steps of the U.S. Capitol, family in tow. He looked over at his wife as she held his hand and for a brief moment, time froze. Gina, the girl he’d met twenty-three years earlier, the woman who had walked down the aisle with him fifteen years ago next month, looked more beautiful now than she had that day. For a fleeting moment, there was no crowd talking and cheering, no camera crews, no secret service lining the steps—only Jared and Gina Reddington and their two sons walking down the steps of the historic building in Washington, D.C., stepping into the pages of history.

Only hours before, Jared had attended a service with his family at the Foundry Methodist Church. The pastor had spoken afterwards to Jared explaining that God had helped the people of the United States to make the right choice and in doing so, had chosen him.

Had chosen him. The words echoed through Jared’s mind even now as he walked down the steps. How can they know I will make the right choices? How can they be certain I will do the right thing when the most critical of times calls for it?

Five steps down toward the mezzanine level, Jared portrayed the solidity, confidence and self-assurance expected of someone chosen for the office. Time and again, however, he had second- guessed his own capabilities. He knew he was flawed, that he had baggage unknown to everyone but himself—he knew it all—but the country had spoken and elected him with an unprecedented 76.3% lead over his opponent.

An inner voice seeking to be heard urged Jared to stop and caution the crowd. “I am only human. Please just don’t forget—I’m human.” But the voice was silenced.

Jared looked over at his wife again, then back at his eldest son Devon.  At only ten years of age, his older boy looked so sure of himself, so solid. Jared knew this was an act, one his perceptive son had learned early on.

Stephen, his youngest, made no attempt to hide his emotions and looked outright scared to death. Jared reached around his younger son’s shoulders, easing him closer. Grasping Stephen’s nervous hand, he reassured him. “It’ll be okay, son.” As if on cue, Stephen pasted his best fake smile across his face and looked forward, saying nothing.

Lessons learned early by a senator’s son.

When the four stepped down onto the mezzanine level, the crowd cheered. Still clasping Stephen’s small hand in his own, Jared held up his free hand in response as a thank-you, drawing even more cheer. When the cheering subsided, Gina walked over and whispered in her husband’s ear. “I believe in you. We all believe in you. Now git ‘er done.”  That last tag had been a personal joke between them that had eased any tension and always brought a smile to his face.

So here Jared stood, facing John G. Roberts, Jr., repeating the words that many before him had spoken. “I, Jared Henry Reddington, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

“ . . . to the best of my ability,” Jared continued in his head. “Please, don’t let me screw this up.”

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