541. It was the most articulate ‘Go to Hell’ he’d yet been given, a thunderclap, the impression it made on him stuck the way cigarette scent would remain on fingers even after hands were soaped and toweled.

542. It was coming to an end, ellipsis or period or whatever punctuation, she was already impermanent, cigarette carried on a draft, and there were things he wanted to say to her still, but they were things he already had said before.

543. A woman in the midst of her thirties, Cassandra was oddly child-legged and child-learned—sometimes he’d see something behind her eyes light them while she otherwise expressionless made her way down a cigarette, knew something was occurring to her, fascinating, wondered each time would she say it, make it like an announcement, or did she realize on some level that whatever it was was something that should have occurred to her ages ago.

544. It was as though every woman she’d ever taken a liking to only knew words that were the length of their lips, so she had to make a game of it, find some pipsqueak eloquence in monosyllables and pause sounds and stammers, had long ago replaced asking for the impossibly long Cig-ar-ette, only ever bothered now with ‘You got a smoke?’

545. Bernard’s life had collapsed into a kind of architectural marvel of lunches with people he only knew from work, cigarettes handed to strangers during nights out he was too meek to turn down invitations to, telephone calls to his sister, masturbating in a kind of fussy way to old fantasies that didn’t quite get him there, and insomnia bouts of love-sick that had gained him fifteen pounds.

546. The week before and after Tuesday cramped around it, the day a rib poking through skin and side-muscle tangled to gnarls—Olivia tried to comfort him over the telephone, the pushes of her cigarette out nice to hear over the line, but also it sort of dampened his spirits not to smell the words she was saying.

547. A new animal—he contemplated it, not in the appropriate way, but like the purchase of a vintage record player or an impulse waste of ten bucks on some fancy import cigarettes—another cat, a first dog, a turtle, a snake—that excited him, to be the sort of person with a pet snake (or if it didn’t excite him, really, he anyway figured it was an easy pet to have and not give a shit about).

548. This way she chose and put on expressions, like a glove a hand went into one finger-all-the-way at a time, tug tug to place, fist closed, relaxed, this way she selected words so that everything she said sounded quoted from a revered translation of a watershed novel, this way she would take without asking someone’s cigarette from its lean to the ashtray, give the filter end hardly a kiss, stub the thing out as though off in some thought-train that could excuse what she’d pretend had been accidental.

549. This world needs a new kind of light, something else for mingling strands of cigarette to swirl in and make more beautiful.

550. Out the window, his gaze, his cigarette smoke, the cigarette itself, he himself, one day.

551. It was a shame that most of the words to describe her (traits, mannerisms, tendencies) didn’t rhyme with more interesting things—not that he needed to rhyme, but it seemed more about him to play with the idea of her in free verse, that it would be more accurate to her actuality to poetic her in A B A B or some such thing—she oft forgets/her cigarettes was a nice one, but in truth he didn’t so much think she forgot them as left them home on purpose to nurse her cheapskate nature.

552. ‘I’m not going to ask you what I think you believe I’m going to ask you,’ Darren said, taking the offered cigarette, mimicking Howard’s suspicious but amused expression as best he could, Howard nodding an ‘Is that so?’ and passing across the match booklet, scratching and itch at the pimpled loop of one nostril.

553. About in the shaped of a dumped bunch of laundry, he clung his face over the bowl of the toilet, retched some belches that were just, one at a time, the muddy reek of his last several cigarettes, then a monstrous bellow which produced a coin of phlegm, depressed the flush but the blot rode the roil out, floated gelatinous plump in triumph on the fresh fill of water, the cold of which refreshed him a moment before his stomach backfired another holler of expectorantless odor.

554. His younger brother had developed the junkie habit of constantly digging at the skin around his thumbnail with the tips of any other finger that could reach, it made Arthur feel ill at ease, even smoking a cigarette his brother’s hands moved, insectoid.

555. She’d gotten skinny as office carpet, it had only been a month, the transformation striking, in the drab crème colors she was wearing she truly resembled an animate cigarette.

556. ‘Must you fill every moment with music,’ she asked, a sigh like a body flung overboard, ‘must there be lyrics to accompany everything, must every fucking cigarette with you be a liner note?’

557. Dawn didn’t break, it was just the night starting to perspire, and Hank made the walk from the building door to his car—a sleepwalked ‘Have a good one’ to his relief—bulbous with vending machine burgers and forty-five cent paper cups of coffee, sat in the stale cigarette funk of his driver’s seat and stared at the overcast, trying to make out where exactly behind it the sun was layabouting.

558. It was the last time—oh God this was a solemn and morbidly non-alcohol fueled vow, despite the flask tilts he’d taken between cigarettes pacing the platform an hour away from the first morning’s train—that he’d get stuck finding himself in bed with a girl who’d swooned over a book name he’d dropped, especially one he hadn’t even read.

559. Three things were precise, made up the clock of Tuvia’s day—the cat scratching sandbox over its shit, clawing the wall would wake her, a ringing phone to ignore every lunchtime, and three cigarettes, one between each commercial break of the show she watched before showering, laying to sleep with her hair dampening the pillow.

560. A slug on the doorknob, sweet Jesus—luckily he had a few cigarettes left, but if it was still there by the time he was through the pack something drastic would have to be considered.


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