View Full Version : The Sample Box (Flash fiction - 594 words)

July 8th, 2015, 12:18 AM
Ok, I've never written flash fiction before, and I haven't really tried to write prose for a few years. I wrote this little thing a few months ago, though. Maybe some feedback will help me jump back into writing stories.

The Sample Box

We were staring at a gray folding table, the interviewer and I, but I could feel his eyes wandering to my breasts. Not that I hid them. If I had, he'd be prowling through the black threads of my turtle neck to find them. I cut an opening in the fabric over my chest, or rather, ripped it open little by little. It began as a hole, a failure in the construction I couldn't stop stretching.

“So after he put you in the box, what was going through your head?” the interviewer asked. I never bothered to learn his name. Each question came out invisibly from his fat rubber-looking lips, so when his name, too, became a question, it became invisible.

I have a thing for disappearances. When I was eight, I stuffed my little sister's favorite Malibu Barbie into our front flowerbed after we'd finished planting the bulbs. I wrote a ransom, magazine clippings and all: bring me your Halloween candy and you’ll get your doll back. She stepped into the unusually sticky November, soft pumpkin bag clasped in her small hands, but I never did.

“Maya?” Was that my name he was saying?

I finally looked at him above the rim of my rectangular lenses. I hadn't listened when he told me who he worked for, but it must've been someone important. The navy coat of his suit had a luxe sheen that played with the light of his gold watch. I smiled at its audacity, not at him.

"Good, I have your attention," he said. He clamped his hands together, as if in prayer, leaning into the table to get a better look at me. "I'm trying to help you here." The lines burrowed in his forehead seemed irate and glowed more than his hairless scalp. In whatever room we were inside, his head reflected most of the light. I grinned.


"I'm not a detective." This time, I really looked at him and he really looked at me. I hoped he saw his old frown reflected in my glasses. I hoped he thought my hazel eyes were green, a summertime beneath his face. I liked fooling people.

"Listen," I told him, "I know why you're here." He looked suspicious, but I knew better. I took a breath that felt like wind. "My father is dead." As I watched the man's brows furrow, as the crevice between them deepened, I felt the fresh tickle of gladness.

"How do you know this, Maya?" His voice was a pitch I couldn't identify, motionless, trying not to expose itself. I glanced away.

"You asked me what I was thinking after he put me in the box. I was thinking about him, my father, and how he put everything in boxes." I began to pinch off the dangling skin around my cuticles. Piece after piece, I cleaned myself. "I wasn't anything special," I said, looking the old man right in the eye. "He collected knives, you know. Those were in boxes. Everything—spices, books, other collections of junk—had to be boxed up at the end of the night. It's how he put things to bed when he was done with them. So I figure he's put himself to bed by now."

The interviewer let a puff of air slide between his lips, then slowly reached underneath the table to pull out a notepad. Even it looked like a box. Holding symbols. Holding black ink. He took my hand, then placed a square paper inside it.

"Fill your prescription this time. I'll get you a sample box."

July 18th, 2016, 01:45 PM
Not sure why this had no replies. It's very good, kind of unsettling, as though the I has some troubling disorder of the mind. No grammar issues or anything like that thankfully. Can't really fault it too much at all, other than a couple of things:

Even it looked like a box. Holding symbols. Holding black ink.
I don't think you need to emhasise holding this much. Maybe:

Even it looked like a box, all symbols and black ink.

Also I was / am not sure what a "sample box" is, or why it's significant. I can tell you that I do want to know, so hopefully that can serve as feedback to get you writing more :)

July 22nd, 2016, 02:22 AM
Interesting twist at the end. I liked it. I felt like I was truly inside the head of the main character, and it was an uneasy but satisfying feeling not truly understanding what was going on until the end.

I'm assuming "sample box" is like a free sample of the drugs she was supposed to be on? Well written, thanks for sharing!

July 22nd, 2016, 10:54 AM
Nicely done! I agree with bulbasar, I particularly liked the twist ending and often employ this device in my own stories. I find bits of ambiguity scattered over the piece and it begs the question as to whether this is the result of failure to add enough explanation (what was the box all about? what about this allusion to the Barbie doll? what about her father?) or, as I am more inclined to believe, the narrator is speaking while in the throes of her neurosis thus the narration is disjointed in a manner commensurate with her absence from reality. I find myself captivated by the inclusion of these holes in the story much like a member of an audience who is trying to conclude how the magician performed his trick. You know it is a good trick - you feel the quality of it - though you cannot quite figure out how it was done.

Captivating writing. I would like to read more from you.

October 14th, 2016, 09:38 PM
Thank you so much for your replies and suggestions! Last I checked, this didn't have any replies, so I'm sorry I missed all of your comments. This was my first stab at fiction in years, as I'm a poet, but now I feel inspired to give it another go. So thank you. :)

October 19th, 2016, 10:31 PM
This was quite good. Excellent twist at the end. Put just the right way so it doesn't come off as bland. DATO mentioned the bits about the allusions that could be expounded or delved more into. Your style was particularly effective as well. Hope to read more by you!


November 3rd, 2016, 02:37 PM
I loved the beginning. That's a lot of character in just a few lines, and it doesn't take flashy verbs or heavy exposition to make it work. I think you're definitely a talented writer, so please, write more. There's a lot of good detail here. It's the stuff that people actually notice, the stuff that they think about and outlines who they are and what they care about. The peeling back the skin on the cuticles, for example, was an extraordinary small thing that makes a big difference in how we see the character. That's the work of a poet, if ever I've seen it.

The story structure and the ending need a little more fleshing out, though. There's a little too much left open for interpretation in terms of a story. The father comes in and out so fast, it's almost throw away. What happened to him? Is she psychotic and she killed him? You don't have to give the fate away, but hinting at it or teasing it would go a long way towards some clarity in this story.

I also think there are too many uncertainties here. In flash fiction, you don't have a lot of time to set up what IS happening, so when you spend a lot of time on what IS NOT happening, it's almost like a waste of words. Psychotic people tend to see things more than not see them, anyways, and that strikes me as a more obsessive trait than forgetting or ignoring the points. Misinformation is fine, but a distinct lack of information makes the story a little confusing.

Still, I really like reading it.

July 9th, 2017, 05:18 AM
Hate to bump an old thread, but I thought it deserved a revival.

This is very well-written for a short story. You have a knack for writing dark-natured characters. The only major issue I spotted was that there were some unanswered questions, such as what happened to her father. I really want to know more about Maya.

Overall, I can tell you're above average--and I don't say that to be flattering. I think you should definitely write more fiction stories.

Chris Green
July 21st, 2017, 08:29 PM
I really enjoyed this for a number of reasons, the dialogue was so off beat that it kept me locked to the characters, I wanted see what they would say next and the storyline...I don't know where I thought this was going but the ending caught me so off guard that it made me smile when I got there. You have a very unique style and I think you did a great job with this piece. I know there are many different rules for Flash Fiction and the set I follow are 500 words or less, a complete story, beginning, middle and a twist at the end. With the exception of the word count, which you could easily cut down to 500, this was spot on. Really cool.

July 23rd, 2017, 03:30 PM
Thanks so much, everyone. I feel inspired to try my hand at fiction again. :)

July 23rd, 2017, 08:19 PM
If you ever want anything critiqued, feel free to message me. I'm one of the best you'll ever find. Though I must warn you, I am very gruff with mine reviews. But just keep in mind that it's all to help--not to bully.

March 28th, 2019, 02:39 PM
If you ever want anything critiqued, feel free to message me. I'm one of the best you'll ever find. Though I must warn you, I am very gruff with mine reviews. But just keep in mind that it's all to help--not to bully.

You may want to edit this post for proper grammar then. ;)

April 1st, 2019, 07:11 AM
You may want to edit this post for proper grammar then. ;)

"Mine" was deliberate. That's just how I phrase things.

May 24th, 2019, 12:58 PM
Amazingly written, really! Keep the stories coming in!