Flash Fiction is defined as fiction that is extremely brief, typically only a few hundred words or fewer in its entirety. In other words, a very short story.  Dictionary.com even goes so far as to say that it can be “as short as one paragraph.” That kind of brevity is something I can only aspire to, I’m afraid.

The following story was inspired by something that happened earlier this week, on my way home from work.


From across the street, I could see the kid sitting on the steps leading up to my apartment building. He was wrestling with a great big blue cardboard box clutched between his outstretched legs. As I approached, I could hear him talking to it as he picked at the tape keeping it closed, “Mr. Chung’s box… Mr. Chung’s box. What’s in Mr. Chung’s box?” I thought he sounded like Tom Cullen in Stephen King’s “The Stand.” Laws yes.

The kid, who could have been anywhere from eighteen to thirty and, I guessed, not “Mr. Chung,” noticed me digging around in my purse for my keys. He stood the box on end then used it for leverage as he rose unsteadily to his feet. “Oh, let me get out of your way.”

He spilled what I could only hope was Gatorade on the box then started a slow, wobbly saunter down the block. In one hand he clutched the bottle while using the other to tug at his trousers. A few feet away the kid stopped to yell at a man on the other side of the street. The man was straddling a bike and unbuckling his helmet.

“Can I borrow your bike?” he slurred. It took Mr. “Not-Chung” three tries before he could make himself understood.

The man answered with an honest, but polite, “Sorry, no. It’s new, and it cost me a lot of money.” After a minute to process this response, Mr. “Not-Chung” accepted the man’s answer and continued his tipsy stroll. He muttered something, but I couldn’t make it out.

I watched this little urban tableau from the bottom of the steps without saying a word. I did breathe a sigh of relief. The kid wasn’t dangerous, though he was possibly a felon. I know I saw that box inside the building that morning as I left for work. If a cop had caught him instead of me, he’d be on his way to jail, charged with theft and/or mail tampering. The next question was, what was I going to do with this ginormous half-open box at my feet? I couldn’t leave it there.

I used the building’s new hi-tech intercom system to call the real Mr. Chung. With any luck, he’d be home and able to come down to retrieve his package. Of course not. Nothing’s that easy. I left him a message attempting to explain the condition of the box and how it got that way. Since my big mouth had also told him that I would leave it in the building’s vestibule, it was my turn to wrestle the box. The stairs are few, but the stairway is narrow, steep and at the top, the door opens out. It was impossible to get the box up the stairs, hang on to it and open the door at the same time.

After several minutes of Sisyphean activity, during which several people gawped at me and kept on going, a woman took pity and held the door. The box, which now looked like it had been through a war, was finally inside. I dusted my hands and proceeded to my apartment, sweaty, yet satisfied. I’d done my good deed for the day, and I was ready for a spritzer.

Two hours later there was a knock at the door. Mine is a secure building, so a knock not preceded by a buzzer is out of the ordinary. And rarely does it mean anything good. I looked through the peep-hole. On the other side of the door was a man whom, and once again I took a wild guess, must be the real Mr. Chung.

I looked in the mirror on the wall next to the door. One spritzer in and wearing a ratty t-shirt and shorts, I was in no condition to receive callers, gentlemen or otherwise. Oh, well. I stuck a cap on my head and opened the door to a well-dressed man with thick blue-black hair cut in a trendy comb-over fade. The scent of his pomade hit me before he’d said hello.

Mr. Chung introduced himself and told me he’d gotten both my message and his package. He spent the next few minutes thanking me profusely. We chatted about the changing neighborhood and what Mr. “Not-Chung’s” story could be. (Only I referred to the kid this way, and only in my head.) He turned to go, then stopped to ask if I would be attending the annual “Resident Appreciation Night.” I’m never sure until I get there whether I’ll show up to those things, but I said yes. He gave me a small bow (really) and told me he’d see me there.

I don’t mean to imply that sparks flew, cartoon hearts thumped from our chests or this was in any way our “meet cute.” Nope. Zip. Zilch. Un uh. Nada. Even so, when I came home the following evening, a small potted violet waited in front of my door. Who, I ask you, wouldn’t find a gesture like that charming? I guess I’ll go.

Oh, by the way, the box, it turned out, contained…wait for it…boxes. Mr. Chung is leaving the building.