NPR’s Three Minute Fiction and William Howard Taft’s Bathtub

It was one of those moments of electronic serendipity. I follow NPR on Facebook, so of course I had heard of their Three Minute Fiction Contest before. It’s a competition in which people submit a story of no more than 600 words around a constraint of the judges’ choosing. This time around, it happens to be that the story must be based around a real or fictional president. Just as I finished reading the prompt, my friend Davis, who I also follow on Facebook (and who runs the fabulous blog A Modern Timepiece), posted that it had just been the birthday of one of his favorite presidents, William Howard Taft. He wrote how Taft is often remembered as “the fat president,” but had accomplished so much, and was really a fascinating figure in many ways. I clicked on the link to Taft’s Wikipedia page that he presented, and found an interesting story. Apparently, in addition to being known as “the fat president” (he weighed close to 350 lbs.), Taft is also well-known for an unfortunate incident in which he became stuck in the White House bathtub and had to be pried out using butter.

This got me thinking. I am really not one to make fun of peoples’ weight, so I didn’t want to write something funny. But I was fascinated by the idea of such a powerful man in such a vulnerable position. And also of how such a powerful man could subsequently have all his power drained away from him by anyone who had been present with as much as a smile. The whole idea intrigued me, and I stayed up late last night writing and submitting a two-page piece of fiction called “The Bathtub Incident” to the NPR contest.

Wish me luck! And submit yourself! Here are round 9’s official rules!

The bathtub Taft had installed after the unfortunate incident, which could comfortably fit four men.

P.S. I also came across a band called Taft’s Bathtub while researching for this story. They’re not too bad, either!


About thebaffledkingcomposing

Pamela DiFrancesco is a writer with a community college degree in journalism, a fancy art school degree in fiction and a penchant for community organizing. A native of Pennsylvania coal country, Pamela lives in Astoria, Queens, writes, and does whatever else it takes to pay the bills. In the past, Pamela has worked for newspapers and taught children journalism in an after-school program. Pamela's fiction can be found on the web at Cezanne's Carrot and Monkeybicycle, in print in The Carolina Quarterly (who nominated "The Chuck Berry Tape Massacre" for the Best American Mystery Writing anthology) and forthcoming in The New Ohio Review. When not writing, Pamela practices acts of love and kindness in hopes of a radically different world, and is preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse through acts of badassery.
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