Three-Minute Fiction: Amitava Kumar’s “Postmortem”


This NPR contest “has a simple premise: Listeners send in original short stories that can be read in three minutes or less. We're posting our favorite entries here every week until The New Yorker's James Wood picks our winning story and reads it on the air.” Amitava Kumar's piece:

The nurse left work at five o'clock.

She had seen the dead woman's husband sitting, near the entrance, under the yellow sign that Doctor Ahmed had hung some months ago. “While You Wait, Meditate.” He was sitting with his arms crossed, elbows cupped in the palms of his hands and hadn't looked up when she passed him on her way out.

Just before lunch, a convoy had come from the Army camp. A dark-skinned soldier, holding a small rifle in his left hand, threw open the office door and announced the Colonel. Doctor Ahmed had automatically stood up.

The Colonel was plump. He looked calm and extremely clean, the way bullfrogs do, gleaming green and gold in the mud. He put his baton on the table and asked the nurse to leave the office.

When Doctor Ahmed rang his bell, the nurse went back in and was told to get his wife, Zakia, from their home on the top floor. Usually, he just called her on the phone. The nurse hurried up, carrying news of the Colonel.