My NPR Three-Minute Fiction Entry: “You, Me and Leonard Peltier”


I discovered from reading the writer’s blog associated with NPR’s Three-Minute Fiction contest that writers have no way of finding out whether their 600-words-or-fewer submissions were in the top ten or rejected at the initial sorting out process by creative writing students with no appreciation for the scope of their genius.

Anyway, Round 10 was a story in the form of a voicemail message. Here’s mine:


By Kathleen Kern

Hey, I heard that the President didn’t pardon Leonard Peltier today, so I know that right about now you’ve thrown some plants against the wall, and shredded the piles of petitions, appeals, and endorsement letters by your computer and all the printouts of celebrities holding up the “Free Leonard Peltier” signs around the office. Or maybe you’re just on your couch sobbing while you watch the Cartoon Network. And that’s okay, too. Anything that doesn’t involved hurting yourself is good.

I hope you didn’t shred the photo of us all at the Mitakuye Oyasin awards banquet last year. The award’s legit, you know. It’s the president that failed, not you. And I’m on the edge of the photo. You could just cut my head out and shred me.

I was going to send you an e-mail, but that seemed inadequate. I mean, all the overtime on nights and weekends, all the rhetorical shrieking with Zuzu, Mark and the others. It was…big. Bigger than just you and me. But I guess since I’m calling you and not them, then this is about you and me, too. You, me, and Leonard Peltier.

I wanted to tell you there’s more to life than your computer, your rage, and Leonard Peltier, but there’s also part of me that’s glad there are angry obsessive people with poor social skills like you who won’t give up on him, because frankly, I like going hours at a time NOT thinking about Leonard Peltier. I like getting seven to eight hours of sleep at night. I like being a Religion and Ethics professor for earnest young Mennonite college students who think I’m exotic because I’ve lived in Washington, DC.

They write letters for Leonard, you know, my students. They’ve been writing to President Obama, asking him for the pardon for weeks. They were shocked, just shocked, when I told them the details of his case, the extradition and everything. Remember what it was like when you could still find something that felt a little bit like joy in your outrage? You probably can’t. I miss it.

There’s one girl, Kayla (so many, many Kaylas here) who asked me this week why I left the campaign. The way she said it, she meant, “Dude, Leonard Peltier’s still in jail, and you’re teaching Intro to Ethics? Seriously?” I wanted to smack that disapproving arch right out of her eyebrow. She’s a senior and I’d hook her up with you and the office, but I don’t think she’s got your stamina, or, for lack of a better word, your soul—even though you don’t believe in souls.

That’s another thing I like besides my job and enough sleep, by the way. I like going to church and believing in God without listening to your snide comments. I never understood why in your cosmology only Leonard was allowed to believe in God.

Sorry; sorry, sorry, sorry. This isn’t why I called…

Umm…you know sometimes I wonder whether my motives for wanting Leonard freed are entirely selfish. I mean it; some days, I my reasons have nothing to do with travesties of justice. Some days I just want him out jail because of how it will change your life and my life.

Because maybe then you’ll be free.
And maybe then you’ll pardon me.

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