Last month, the illustrator-turned-author Lou Beach released a book of extremely short stories – each just 420 characters long. Kurt Andersen challenged our listeners to write their own 420-characters stories. Hundreds poured in; you can read them all here. Lou Beach judged the contest, and kicked in the prize – a signed print of one of his own illustrations.       Winner: It was dog number four that put the nail in the coffin, so to speak. It was about a month after the café went out of business, less, maybe. He comes home with it in his arms. Big thing, but still in his arms, carrying it across the threshold. I think he was trying to be funny. But it wasn't funny. He was never funny. –Samantha Wilson, Melbourne, Australia Runner-up: I pace my side of the lake we swam all summer. Winter's first blizzard has blocked all roads; the half-mile swim between us is now a walk across thin ice. I say I'll cross when the ice is thick. You propose we meet now–halfway. And then? If the ice cracks on your side, you'll jump to mine, you say. Where have you studied ice? Think how a window swallows a baseball. You really want to take a swing at that? –Mary Soufi, Vacaville, California Thanks to everyone who submitted a story.

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