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Short Fiction Contest: Arcadia Tolerance McKinship Finds a Home

Alexander Steinhof

For our 50th Anniversary Short Fiction Contest, we asked you to send a 700-word, or less, story in which Montana Public Radio is mentioned in some way. We'll be accepting entries until March 15, 2015. Winners will be announced in April. This story is by Ethan Zimmerman.

Eons and ages and epochs ago, or maybe it was yesterday, a young woman by the name of Arcadia Tolerance McKinship departed on a journey to circumnavigate the world for a place to call home. She had no physical aspect that distinguished her from anyone else, she was not very short, nor very very tall, nor did she have a nose like a hose, nor her ears like the sails of a ship; neither did she specifically prefer the company of women over men. But still, she was different from everyone else in her town. She longed to be surrounded by intellectual people: people who liked to read and listen to music. She was starting to think those people didn't exist.

One foggy winter morning, she grabbed some grits and some grub, some clothes and her radio, 'Ira', boarded her ship and set sail. She visited every port and town that she could find; each place she visited, she found the same vapid lackluster people devoid of refinement and intellect. With great disappointment, she stepped back onto her ship and pressed onward.

Over the course of the next 30 years she sailed to and visited over 1000 towns whose sobriquets, it seemed, grew stranger and stranger as time passed:

The Wealthy Millionaires Colonoscopy Cartel
The Divorced Ladies with One Leg Society
The Fraternity of Fishermen who are Fond of French Fries
The Blue-Eyed Ping Pong and Pigeon Lovers League
The Peg-leg Policeman's Partnership
The Doughnut Eating Presbyterians Syndicate
The Liverpool Ladies Liquid Lunch with Long Straws League.
The Horses and Heifer Lovers Clip Clop Club
 The Clique of Clever Troubadours,
    and finally,
The Federation of Fiddle-playing Fitness Freaks.

Arcadia settled back into her ship after each visit, exhausted, and sailed off in search of other land. One fine summer morning she landed her vessel on a plain little shore with not a soul in sight. She built a sturdy fire, cooked some flounder, laid down to scrutinized the stars. A meteor crossed her vision, so she closed her eyes and made a wish just for fun. She fell asleep with sand between her toes and a whirlpool of new worlds swirling in her mind.

The deceased fire at her feet, Arcadia woke up to blue skies and birds singing in the trees. She spent the entire day searching the island and discovered that she was all alone, but she enjoyed the scenery, and decided to stay. She and Ira lived alone for many years until one day a visitor deposited himself upon her shores. Inquest Inskeep spoke elegantly and kindly and had soft blue eyes the color of a shallow ocean pool. Arcadia invited him to stay. Together they listened to Ira from sunrise to sunfall, for if the sun should rise, surely it should fall. They ate fish and nuts during “Morning Edition”, laughed and held onto their aching sides during “Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!”, and drifted off to sleep to the sounds of “Into the Groove” and “Blues on the Move.”

Soon, many more travelers came their way, and before long they found that they had created a village unlike any other. A committee was formed and they unanimously decided to call themselves The Montana Public Radio Retinue of Enthusiastic Enthusiasts. In a grand ceremony, Ira had his tuning knob removed, leaving him permanently tuned in to Montana NPR.

In the many days and months to come, nearly every island inhabitant had sketched into their arm or their torso, a crude tattoo of the NPR logo: three square blocks of red, black, and blue ink surrounding the contoured outline of lower-case letters.

On a calm cinder black night, Arcadia lay swaying in her hammock, holding Ira, staring from terra firma to glittering starlight, and made another wish, that soon everyone would come to love Public Radio as she had. And just then, a meteor shot from right to left, and Arcadia, displaying a wide voluminous smile, knew that she had finally found a home.


Enter your story in the MTPR 50th Anniversary Short Fiction Contest.

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Chérie Newman is an arts and humanities producer and on-air host for Montana Public Radio, and a freelance writer. Her weekly literary program, The Write Question, is broadcast on several public radio stations, and available online at PRX.org and MTPR.org.
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