Short story: Boxes

Flora liked to press her nose up against the workshop windows and watch the men working. In summer, when the doors were open, she played on the threshold, making mountains from the sawdust and stick people from splinters.

Workers fed planks to the machines and pressed each sheet, until blonde curls fell around their feet, as if the men were hairdressers, not carpenters. The boxes they hammered together were stacked five-high, awaiting collection. Flora tried to imagine her mother laid out in one of them, but the picture wouldn’t stick; even after five years, her mother was still out there somewhere, still swimming.



For those who don’t know how Friday Fictioneers works, this picture (this time supplied by me!) is our inspiration for our weekly online writing group hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Click here to read other people’s amazing stories or to join in. And please comment below with any suggestions for improvement on mine.

67 thoughts on “Short story: Boxes

  1. Claire love the photo first of all and the story secondly. Coffins carved through the eyes of a little girl and her subsequent denial. I too choose to believe her mother is swimming. You imagery was fabulous- mountains of sawdust, stick people from splinters, blonde curls of wood falling from the planker. Great!


  2. Great picture for this week’s prompt–and a surprise revelation in your story that the workshop was producing coffins. The poignant tie-in with her mother works well as a conclusion.


  3. blond curls, such fantastic imagery. your descriptions are always so good. i like child’s great need to know where her mom is.. to the point of envisioning her in a coffin.


  4. This is fantastic, Claire! I love how you never mention the word coffin, nor does the photo imply it – the *gasp* effect is wonderful.
    I also agree that the touches of curls and hairdressers, the girl playing in the sawdust are spot on.
    I wonder if “five years” is necessary, though. It took me out of the story to try and figure out how old the girl was, when until then it didn’t matter. Love the image of her mother still out there swimming. < 3


    • I think you might be right about the five years. And as someone else pointed out, if she remembers her mother that would make her about 10 – perhaps too old for the kind of playing she’s doing. Thanks for your comments.


    • You’re absolutely right, Bjorn. I hadn’t thought of that. If she remembers her mother she might even be 10 – too old to do the kind of playing she’s doing perhaps. I think this is going in something longer, so I’ll bear that in mind. Claire


  5. There are things we don’t think of — professions that we forget exist — like coffin makers.
    What a beautiful and sad story, darling. Well done.
    I’m not writing this week, but I’d love it if you’d drop by my blog for a second anyway, I posted a big announcement today


      • No,no Claire,you did not cause any distress-it was the reader in me responding to the emotional trauma in your piece and you are so right,unless a writer is able to invoke different emotions in his/her reader through his/her writing,no point in writing,is there? :-)You succeeded in doing that through your story and that is awesome:-)


  6. a beautifully written scene although a sad line runs through with the mother not put properly to rest. i enjoyed this story and your lovely photograph. thanks for sharing, Claire.


  7. Claire, your photo has been a source of inspiration for me, all week! I love your story, the way it brings the saw mill to life through the eyes of this grieving child. You make the scene so real and vivid! I love it.

    As you know, this photo brought some very interesting events for me this week. I ended up writing my story for the Tipsy Lit competition (tomorrow) based on the images and thoughts that came from this photo… great job inspiring us all! Where is it? I’m dying to know.


    • Yes, I’ve never heard a picture having that effect – that in itself would make a great story… The picture is of a workshop I passed on a walk in South Cadbury, Dorset, England. The sign above the door said that he was also an undertaker, so I think coffins are actually made on the premises. It was just a really atmospheric room, so I took a picture as I was passing.


  8. Claire,
    this story is beautiful, though sad. There is a certain unreality to a coffin, when you think of it as the eternal resting place for someone you knew and loved and was active and alive. It’s an odd concept, really. But that’s life (or death). Thanks for the picture. 🙂


    • Coffins are peculiar things when you think about them, and even more so for a child, I think. I’m glad you liked my story. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.


  9. Oh yes… I can’t think of my dad in his willow coffin. He will always be out there, painting, writing and smoking his cigars. This was a lovely, sad, poignant story. And thank you for the photo that has inspired us this week.


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