81. The sex had been, to put things mildly, leftfield from sublime—Christ, he hadn’t even felt so much like he’d cum, more that his cock had taken a wrong drag from a discount cigarette, hocked up a piece of lung.

82. There was no avoiding the fact he should buy the fancier of the toy swords for Henri, the set that came with a shield and some make believe chainmail, but there was also no avoiding the price difference was twenty brand new cigarettes that could bulge his pant pocket, five of which he could use to pass the time waiting for the next of the buses, so intermittent now that the transit schedules had gotten so iffy.

83. He rolled his cigarette around on the paper of the bag with the new books in it, knees together for a shivering table, ground his heel down hard to the carpet through the chilly inside of his shoes, the slather of his foot bottom on used sock.

84. When Stephanie asked him things like that he felt he should know the answers, like people should know the names of flowers, streets, film directors, holidays, but all of it just background to him, stuff that was there, no need to name, about as relevant as titling each drag from cigarette or kiss or eyelash.

85. Radio news seemed somehow more pertinent than televised news, than words in print—she’s driving her car and hearing voices, wishing there was a lighter that worked and that she had a cigarette for it were it there—the news of the day so goddamned pertinent sounding, interviews, even-toned commentary, trickles of music or just a soft beat of clear quiet indicating something new was starting from what had ended.

86. Little else to do, he stared at the shop mirror, his flanks in this new suit he’d never pay to wash properly, the price of the clothing assuring he’d not go through with the job if he got it, would sink back to pencil circled other listings, cigarette pleasantries with people in coffee shops and outside walking their dogs.

87. Other patrons milled and the clerk did transactions around Janet—Janet who eyed the wall of cigarettes and travel razors, condoms and phone cards to communicate with relatives in specific foreign countries, Janet trying to word it somehow, word that she’d been told this place gave better rates than the proper Check Cashing store a block over, some way to put this to the bloat of a man that would make him not a bloat of a man but someone who’d make what she’d heard true.

88. He told Franklin how he’d used to have to light cigarettes with the stove top, had loved it, loved how it’d made him feel cinematic, somehow more worldly when he’d head out, the cig like some down-and-out suave he stole and that imbued him with a workingman virility.

89. Kaitlin insisted he have one of her cigarettes while he waited for her to finish the call—and it was nothing he could avoid, she either peeking in to make sure he was doing it or else finding little excuses (needed a pencil, needed to read something from a paper she left on the counter to whoever was on the other end of the line) to come back in to the room, some idiot smile and a puff-puff-look-I’m-smoking-it an automatic response from him when she did.

90. A pencil should be made to double as a cigarette, or an ink pen, or something—pull the insect legs of the slapping letters of some typewriter off, take drags off one till it ashed to nothing (it’d be worth it, whichever letter could just be avoided from then on).

91. The vestibule was no better than the outside and had the inconvenience that his cigarettes were unusable, but the shivering had stopped, the only physical evidence of the cold to him that his scrotum, his whole cock and balls actually, was fisted tight, a little crabapple stuffed down his trouser front.

92. Cranky bastard machine vended the cigarettes, pack dropping with a powdery tiff to the blue felt lined bin, Jerome still blathering on about whatever it was, how it must be awful to be a cartographer and do all that motherfucking work only to never have your map used by anyone, be told its out-of-date.

93. Having a spot of bother getting her cigarette to light correctly, Caroline spoke distractedly, rhythm broken into curt tapping breaths, about how, as she saw it, there were enough books in the world for no one to ever have to meet someone else who’d read the same books they had, no two people ever needed to read the same thing at all, how this was her idea of a paradise, a world where people read with no shared reference to any book between them.

94. The traffic continued to stay to place, the downpour so severe his cigarette seemed soggy even under the windshield, the desperate coursing bucketful-at-a-time bailing of water of the frantic, drowning arms of the wipers psychologically did nothing to keep him dry.

95. Her unwashed shirts and their heavy presence of the cigarettes they’d smoked he shut in to the closet, then sat to the bed lip, pretending to drag from the unlit last of the pack she’d left on the counter that evening, the last in that pack still out on the counter, not something he felt like moving to ruin.

96. He measured the length of the sheet of paper in cigarettes, then rolled the sheet around one of the smokes, not even looking up when he heard the automatic doors slush and the conversation of the approaching clients soften, ready to aim at him.

97. Up Turnover Avenue he caught sight of a car that looked like Jared’s, squinted to see if the plates were familiar or if there was that odd gouge to the paint of the side (the side he couldn’t make out, either way, he realized) squinted a little too long and was punished by a long pin of the smoke of his cigarette pricking the wet of his eye (winced for the next two blocks, smoking the rest of the thing down to the filter, like for revenge).

98. The power came on and he heard the children give a cheer, two rooms over, then a groan (just as loud, maybe one of the accidentally cheering again) came from them when right away, pow, the lights went back out—then silence, silence, nobody breathing except for his waiting cigarette, the smoke of which came all the whiter for the blue of the dark.

99. Bagged grass from the neighbor’s lawn sat a mess, morose slop from the day’s rain, spilling from the plastic they hadn’t bothered to tie up proper, Benny flicking his cigarette into the muck just as it seemed everyone else in the neighborhood had done so, already.

100. The only one in the theater, she ventured her cigarettes from her coat pocket, her matches, watched the empty screen a moment—the next advertisement slide appear—glanced around for smoke detectors and leaned herself stuffed further into the uncomfortable slouch she was plastered in.


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