Flash Fiction Forward: “The Wallet” and “The Orange”

This week’s published work consists of two pieces from the collection Flash Fiction Forward, one of the anthologies by Flash Fiction in which they try to answer the question: “How short can a story be and truly be a story?” I think this question came up last week, so I wanted to pull these two, because they are good, but different examples of how character and story are constructed in such a short space. The first, “The Wallet” by Andrew McCuaig, originally published in 2001 in Beloit French Journal, is a brief glimpse into the life of Elaine (Sloe?), a toll booth worker. Whereas the second, “The Orange” by Benjamin Rosenbaum, first published in Quarterly West 54 in 2002, offers a more surreal/bizarre quality that shows how both plot and character have adapted to this form.

Questions to consider when reading:

“The Wallet” by Andrew McCuaig

  1. In this story, we are given almost nothing of Elaine’s appearance. In fact, one could argue that all we really know about her is her job. How does this work to inform us (or not inform us) about who she is?

  2. Elaine is also given to us through her thoughts about and interactions with those around her–Troy, Jose, that battered woman and her children. How do these characters shape the story and Elaine?

  3. How does McCuaig use objects that seem mundane (a “forgotten” wallet and coke, the change Elaine stacks, even the stool she sits on) to heighten the story’s tension?

  4. To push the matter a little further: do you consider Elaine to be a character? Do you consider any of the people in this story to be characters?

“The Orange” by Benjamin Rosenbaum

  1. Covering a longer span of time in an even shorter word count, Rosenbaum’s piece shows us how flash explores stories in a new light. With no traditional plot, how does the story stand on it’s own?

  2. In many ways, this story is a mini-parable that mirrors the story of Christ. What is Rosenbaum saying about the story of Christ (or even the idea of a story itself), by making an orange the center of it all?

  3. One more time: do you consider the orange to be a character? What about the speaker?

This collection is filled with 80 amazingly short and brilliant stories, so picking just a few to share was incredibly difficult. If you’re interested in reading more you can find Flash Fiction Forward here.



Filed under Published Piece

3 responses to “Flash Fiction Forward: “The Wallet” and “The Orange”

  1. Two very different pieces! Wonderful.

  2. Loved your choices, and the subtle simplicity at the center of each.

  3. storyboy1985

    I am the author of the Wallet, and I’m grateful to be recognized in this blog. I wanted to clear up a typo that was in the original Norton publication: in the book, “she” was incorrectly printed as “sloe,” which has caused some confusion. As far as I could tell, it was the only typo in the whole book, and it was in my story! Oh well. Thanks again.

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