201. Toothpaste still lined my teeth, as much as the fur of plaque it likely did nothing to combat, the perfect soil for another cigarette.

202. As soon as the temperature got enough to make a sniffle, Gwendolyn would up the heater, keep her apartment puke-warm and dress in nothing but Sullivan’s old shirt from his job at the arcade—and dressed this way, she’d coil herself around cigarettes under blankets on the sofa watching films she’d borrow and never return.

203. Shumbling the empty classroom, he breaked for a cigarette, sitting on the floor where he assumed there’d once been the teacher’s desk, noted the small handwritten somethings he didn’t bother to read, chickenpox of maybe poetry or lewd notes on the olive paint over the cinderblock walls.

204. His tongue rolled around, this cheek then that then settled like a marble in a cup bottom back to its place, froth, the held cigarette inhale mixing with enough saliva the swallow was thick and long, made him hiccup.

205. This motherfucking talcum powder he’d spilled a mess of was giving him a headache—on top of which he couldn’t stomach a cigarette, felt the powder was still microscopic everywhere, getting down in him with the drags, would settle in his lungs and sicken him, and then also the mix of the stuff with the usually pleasant scent of the microwaving pizza nearing ready was wrecking his appetite hard.

206. Wall to his ear, the catcalls of termites were evident, the big bellied louts ready to leave his home pauper thin, stick figure—screwing his only just lit cigarette into one spot made him feel better a moment, but then even if the things noted his anger in one hot moment before there was a just an ash spot he would be left to wipe up, in the next moment they’d stuff his shelter down themselves faster to make up for the bits that dribbled out from their guffawing maws.

207. ‘Rasputin,’ Starla said, breaking ten slow minutes silence, reclining the passenger seat back and now unable to see over the dash, ‘he knew just how to be—he’d have invented the cigarette if somebody hadn’t already.’

208. He was going in to his pocket, absently asked the panhandler what he’d use the few bucks for, panhandler saying ‘Need cigarettes, something to do since I can’t keep warm,’ and so he said he could just give him the cigarettes he’d just bought not five minutes before from the grocery store, panhandler saying ‘How bout the smokes and a few bucks—I’ll still need something to do when I’m still not warm later.’

209. Though it was easy enough to keep his sneer to himself, Mister Briggs could already see the fat man this boy would grow up to be, just plain as day saw the plumper full grown with dandruff white coat shoulders and cigarette ash grey shirt belly watching television with no sound in a restaurant alone once a week.

210. Fever not broken, two days in now, past shakes into brittle stiffness from no cigarettes, whole body felt dog-eared, marked to remember each ache.

211. He could smell the chlorine from the swimsuit his sister had left in the bathroom since yesterday and out in the side yard heard the fizzle of a half pack of matches stuck-extinguished as someone was holding stubborn against the wind for a cigarette, likely cupped to the stucco of the wall beneath the half open window he was hearing out through.

212. Bridget was the sort who was enamored of the shape of her skull, even considered ‘her eyes’ the holes in the thing rather than her penguin black pupils, tea brown and cigarette beige around them, those just grime she saw things with, her real eyes these even-there-in-death cavities meant for people to dare each other to peek in, poke fingers through.

213. The sign on one place loutishly proclaimed We Sell Cigarettes!—but everyplace sold cigarettes, she’d bought hers just at the other end of this mangy, frostbitten strip mall, so what was it made this place think a proclamation was needed?

214. Did the drivers all mark him, did they know he was chaining these cigarettes and walking dog circles from bench end to lobby wall because he didn’t want any of the first three of them (had his heart set on the fifth one back, who at least was reading a paperback and not just eating—what was it, porridge?—out of Styrofoam bowls) would he have to go back inside to buy another pack before someone else needed a ride somewhere?

215. The burger from earlier felt like two hands of dropped pennies down there, mineral sweet gurgles trilling up her throat, coming out in burps about as long as finger snaps, but before she looked for a toilet she blatted her only three drag smoked cigarette into a mash on the sidewalk, giving a straight look to the vulture do-nothings taking up all the benches over there (even still though they’d probably come over, see if there were any bones of it to peck at, even just a suck’s worth left scabbed to the filter).

216. This alleged gallery still hadn’t opened, though each day four cigaretted guys would go in and out in and out in and out, and now there were no longer the signs affixed to the inside of the windows (which he’d never read or examined the photos on) explaining exactly what it would be when it did.

217. Gerry felt just about like that broken skeleton of everyone’s cigarette scraps in the ashtray they all glanced for but never noticed the color of.

218. The cigarette he’d been playing with, tunneling into the spirals of the notebook, well now it was stuck in such a way the pages wouldn’t splay straight, his writing all off balance and the light causing pesky shadows to flicker with each wrist movement.

219. All he could think about, wide awake—wide wide wide awake but not moving—was how many cigarettes he’d have to pretend he didn’t have while he walked from Field’s Station to the office, the autumn leafing nicotine addicted homeless, two for every three cracks in the pavement.

220. He pumped his gas in his unbelted pants, jiggling tugs at them, an alarming number of stepped out cigarettes slimed in the puddles of gasoline he tried to avoid but couldn’t—and that blue juice for cleaning the windshield had fourteen or fifteen glug glugging the surface of it.


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