Sunday, December 26, 2010


The hottest stories from 2010...

To Light a Cigarette

They watch the BIC swirl down the icy creek, a stab of yellow bobbing with luminous truth. “Matches?” Sam asks, last farewell cigarette dangling, ready. Holt digs his pockets. “No.” Plan was to wrestle nic demons in the wilderness like Jesus. “How many miles back that liquor store?”

--Bruce Willey, Big Pine, CA


The Last Cigarette

As he finally caught a first dim glimpse of the cave's fabled wonders, Roger thought he'd earned a smoke for his travails. As he greedily put a cigarette to his lips, he tried to recall Evans' warning about the place. Too late, he realized it might have had something to do with matches.

--Seana Graham, Santa Cruz, CA


A Matchbook Memoir

The casino lighting was unkind. I tore a single match to light the cigarette that dangled from her mouth. Tiny words inside the matchbook cover caught my eye, and stayed with me as we stumbled inside her musty trailer. The story of a lonely man revealed in a matchbook. I hate people who smoke.

--Kathleen Parvizi, Scotts Valley, CA


These Are My Prayers

Lady Summit, balanced a cigarette at the edge of her crusted mouth. She had no idea how to regard the news the post had left earlier that morning. "I am your son" the letter read. She repeated it several times. Her lips barly tracing the words. Smoke filled the air as a match was struck. A whisper.

--Carter Quick, Los Angeles, CA


Almost Like Dad

Robert fires a needle. The splinter stings, but Ava’s fear is worse. “It doesn’t hurt. I’ll keep it,” she begs, lakes pooling in her eyes. He blows on the needle and anchors into her finger. Ava yelps. “It’s out, love,” he soothes. She soaks his shirt with tears. Her enemy and her hero.

--Lindsey Morrone, San Jose, CA


Make a Wish

The fire started with one match, dropped casually, almost on accident. It took an hour for anyone to notice, and thirty minutes more for the fire engine to arrive. By then it was too late. You love fire. Happy birthday.

--Katie Sparrow, Santa Cruz, CA


Woman’s Revenge

"Got a light?" joked the spelunker, as sudden dark embraced them both. The teen he was guiding said, "One match," though she had two. She'd light one for him to fix his hardhat headlamp by. Then she'd shoot him, put it on her own head, and have a smoke. She said aloud in the dark, "I like that hat."

--T.C. Marshall, Felton, CA


A Tight Space

Planks above, dirt below. Elbows chaffed raw. Nails gone. I'd scratch with bone if I thought it'd help. Screaming for rescue, I can taste blood in my phlegm. There's barely room to move and it's dark but for the light of one match. Yes, oxygen dwindles, but as long as the flame's alive so am I.

--Josh Barlas, Santa Cruz, CA


Non de Fume

Books and fire don't mix with kids now that the smoking age has been turned to eleven. Skip had a short wait the fourth time around, sweating with his box of sulfur and dirty stories, full of anticipation that maybe, just maybe this may be the resolution to the whole darn saga. He went next to the bar.

--Daren Commons, Portland, OR


Little Girls’ Room

Coughing noises will make up for the lack of pissing sounds coming from your stall. Pull the spoon and syringe from your panties and the matches from you bra, toss the cotton ball when you’re done, return the cap to syringe, flush, and keep your eyes open while washing beside the fat-ankled lady.

--Teesha Garfield, Topanga, CA


There’s Always Arson

The house was blown apart. Sir Bill and Lady Gloria were now domestic terrorists. Arson the salve of the divorce—see!: flaming panties and ignited Dodgers box scores dancing in the dusk like fireflies. Adultery. “Well?” said Gloria. Bill kissed her one last time before the flames finished it all.

--Joseph Mattson, Los Angeles, CA

Monday, November 8, 2010

Matchbook Story Issue No. 3

Susan McCloskey works at Bookshop Santa Cruz and is close to completing the licensing process for becoming a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She studied literature and creative writing at UCSC, before turning toward psychology. She believes in story, and says, "Matchbook Story was a welcomed reentry back to my own creative process."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010



The flowers are eccentric, but I like his honesty. On our second date we attempted sex, but Elvis Costello interrupted foreplay. Our spit has the sharp taste of Irish Cheddar. He is balding. There are flailing strands of hair that I’ll need to trim for him. At the drop of a hat. All in good time.

--Dolores Meatyard, Suisun City, CA



I hold slides up to light: still-lifes of yellow syringes, gums, and sharp, shiny metal. Tooth dust plumes. Machines moan. A young man looks in horror at a picture of my family in the country: white polos, white teeth, khakis, my kids, my wife. I make a joke about falling in love.

--Will Vincent, Los Olivos, CA



He said he’d tell me about the job over dinner. The plastic cup he handed me, “something for the road”. The crackle of gravel as we drove someplace. Where is the restaurant? Dizzy, numb, hot breath. Footsteps. A bright light. “Can I see her ID?” I blame myself. I can never tell my boyfriend.

--Kathleen Parvizi, Scotts Valley, CA



A card. From you. No return address. Unexpected, late, and over-filled with cheap, dollar-store glitter crap leaving me, once again, hands full of hearts, vacuuming stars and angels from the doormat.

--Heidi Alonzo, Watsonville, CA



I ran sales for 22 years and the retirement party was unsettling. The day after, I bought a new bottle-blue BMW. White Ford sedans for fifty thousand miles every year damn near killed me.

--Doug Crawford, Los Gatos, CA

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pick of the Week Archive - August 2010

Bayside: April 25

DEP permits ring the lot; dozers push sand mountains and breakwater boulders to the Bay. 'Take that!', said holiday homeowners thru legal channels. Must Have August Beach. Asphalt crumbs remind the waves how good Billingsgate Island was; they lick their chops at the new food being plated on shore.

--Teresa Martin, Eastham, MA


City Dog

Farmers adopted the city dog and took him to the country in the back of a pick-up truck. Whenever he got the chance he stood on top of the cab to get as far away from the muddy ground as possible. He barked at his new owners: Take a shower, take a shower. He bared his teeth.

--Christopher H., San Francisco, CA


(Sorry, no story this week: I had to visit in-laws...)


A Dentist’s Dream

I hold slides up to light: still-lifes of yellow syringes, gums, and sharp, shiny metal. Tooth dust plumes. Machines moan. A young man looks in horror at a picture of my family in the country: white polos, white teeth, khakis, my kids, my wife. I make a joke about falling in love.

--Will Vincent, Los Olivos, CA

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Day Laborer Love" - the author responds...

ONE: I wrote "Day Laborer Love" because relationships, all of them, have become almost totally subjected to and/or vassals of the systemic drive to accumulate wealth and power. How do you tell this story in 300 characters or less? A recent New York Times review of "AFTERSHOCK The Next Economy and America’s Future" by Robert B. Reich, provided rich examples that I would proffer to explain what I was trying to get at in my Matchbook short story. How do we survive living under different forms of neoliberal capitalism? Calling them "coping mechanisms, Reich wrote, "First, women joined the workforce, giving families a second income. Then husbands and wives put in longer shifts, creating a species of family called DINS — 'double income, no sex.'" Although I was not imagining "Americans" in general, I was writing of families who aren't even considered DINS because of the color of their skin and their income levels. The break up of the working class, the outsourcing of jobs and the lack of living wage employment, has transformed everyone into day laborers. Some may object to being labelled "day laborers" because they don't stand on street corners waiting or asking for work. Day laborers may work a few hours a day, maybe a week or two and even a whole month if they're lucky and survive on that. But they work two or even three jobs to survive. A day laborer is another name for a contingent worker, a contracted laborer, and a "consultant" that gets paid maybe more but still piecemeal and still maybe only for a few hours a day. A consultant, a contract employee is a day laborer regardless of the gilded concept or label you may prefer. And the soul is drained at work or work that barely pays for survival and all our relations suffer for it. The NYT review went on to remind us that as a result of DINS and other unfreedoms, we are sleeping 2-3 hours less per night than our parents in the 1960s. As a result new dependencies have emerged: sleeping pills, anti-depression meds. Americans spent an incredble $23.9 billion on sleep aids So we work more, make love less, sleep less, earn less, have less "free" time. How do we get out of this?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Day Laborer Love" -- a reader responds...

Between living and surviving, I believe many of us steal such precious moments when we can. To feel alive, looking for contact with another human being, even if that contact is only physical, even if it's just sharing some words or just a glance of the eyes in the streets. What touched me most about this little match story, as Arnoldo calls it, is the tenderness mixed in with the most absolute weariness of the person who is telling the story. I was deeply moved by it in spite of the story being only a few lines. I'm still trying to sort through it... What I feel is the absolute exhaustion of life between labour, the survival mode of my parents as migrants and so many family members and friends, refugees I struggled with, and the folks I struggle with now in Mexico. It speaks to me of our unglamourous lives where we steal moments to write our romances in these little gestures at times. These are the love stories of those of us who can't take our girl out to the fancy restaurant or plan a surprise weekend for our guy. We live our loves through our shared exhaustion, our shared histories, our shared alienation sometimes, and hopefully our shared struggles. Our ways of loving are a part of our identity. The love and tenderness that come through to me in this short story are so regular that they are powerful. Despite the rather crude words used to describe the sex and the woman's body, what I feel most is the tenderness... and an almost edgy desperation to connect in the midst of survival mode. What a tribute to someone to say that one worked just to see them! What a tribute given the absolute weight of what work is in the prevailing economic system and at what personal cost one works! Thanks Arnoldo. Still reflecting on this one...

Mandeep Dhillon is a woman of East Indian descent, born and raised in Canada, and currently living in Mexico. She works as a social justice/community organizer, writer, and doctor, struggling in solidarity with indigenous communities in the movement for justice for migrants and refugees. She identifies most with anti-authoritarian movements to build popular power.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pick of the Week Archive - July 2010

Afer the War

She read him poems. Haikus on post-its. They were to-the-point, true and deep; what he deserved. Once done, she let the paper go in the breeze. Some would lift and leave with the wind. Others came back to her and stuck. It had been the same with his ashes. And over time, also their love.

--Susan McCloskey, Santa Cruz, CA


After Sales

I ran sales for 22 years, and the retirement party was unsettling. The day after, I bought a new bottle-blue BMW. White Ford sedans for fifty thousand miles every year damn near killed me.

--Doug Crawford, Los Gatos, CA


Job Interview

He said he’d tell me about the job over dinner. The plastic cup he handed me, “something for the road”. The crackle of gravel as we drove someplace. Where is the restaurant? Dizzy, numb, hot breath. Footsteps. A bright light. “Can I see her ID?” I blame myself. I can never tell my boyfriend.

--Kathleen Parvizi, Scotts Valley, CA


Happy Birthday

A card. From you. No return address. Unexpected, late, and over-filled with cheap, dollar-store glitter crap leaving me, once again, hands full of hearts, vacuuming stars and angels from the doormat.

--Heidi Alonzo, Watsonville, CA

Friday, July 9, 2010


Here they are, the Matchbook Story Issue No. 2 Exquisite Corpses. For those of you who missed it, the following matchbook stories were written collectively (three words per person, then pass...) by the beer-swilling attendees of the Issue No. 2 release party. What a night it was! Many thanks to all who put pencil to paper. Some of you are true poets. Some of you should be locked up. Enjoy!

Kick the ball! echoes across the field. I laugh demonically. Too many touches! Turn your phone off. Some drunkard yelled, I love men and my wife! Beyond the veil, friendly carousing men. My achilles tendon! God, my feet found the ball. Ball to net. Just pass it... Goal! Goal! Goal! I love men.

Bird nest hot and brittle with remnants of hair entwined in its condition of hope. A blue egg teetered precariously, then, instead of falling, tipped back in. My hand reached up and crack! My knuckles resounded against my head, a blended treat of yolk and fear. Fly, gravity can be found in hand.

Beautiful Santa Cruz red table top marked with a pint glass crescent ocean crashing. Run, fly, cry. What the fuck, oil is elsewhere. The night sky sucks my kiss. Then there was busted cloudy day. Marty McFly biffed but not gracefully. Opaline jet ebony gonna stay hard. It was marvelous!

Pop a wheelie! So would I fuck that shit? She was beautiful until she died. Duckets for sicking an Easter basket full of flowers. Should have fucked her while she was alive until she died. He was a happy jackass. What the hell is going on? Pointless Easter memories. Waking up would fumigate my soul.

Hello. How are my three children, A, B, and Sue? Kids in 3-D. The road goes on. Me? Slo-mo until the top blows up and hits the sky. Holy molé! Who? Me? What kind of aliens write this shit? Guys with purple teeth and gorgeous spiky chest hair. Why notice hip-hop? Listen. I think this tale begins now.

Brazilian bikini waxes on Orcas island make moms scream. The end rains all day. Why you ask below the belt, above the belt? What the fuck are we talking about? Women always ask whether the ends are sometimes shorter that the beginnings. I was cold as Christmas cake when I wrote my tropical tootsie.

All of us feel for the pulse of darkness. Sensual desire burns slowly, deep in our souls and organs. Please keep the flame alive and fart on it. Then be in the moment. Smell it. Until she died ensconced in pine. Trade Lebron James. It’s optimism, right?

Zip it, lady! She reached down and zipped his luscious red lips. Kick the ball! - a ridiculous slogan for women’s jeans. It would be nice to see the point of this long story. However, I understand when people speak about me that they really want my soul. If I could only forget it all.

All work is gonna kill me. This egregious transgression slices my artery. I relax mostly by bathing with Alex. Got blood red ink and used it in a cleansing ritual. I called him Bottoms-up last evening. What do you hear when you call the wind? I hear a semi driver sleeping. I hear the roar of lions.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


On “Day Laborer Love”

I think a lot about work. I think about all the many different forms of labor and how that labor is compensated. I think about the difference between cost and value, and how some of the most valuable things are the cheapest--food and clothing, for instance--and the least valuable things the most expensive--sports cars, furs, diamond rings--and how in the world it got that way. I think about how we compensate the people who produce these things, and how some of the best paid workers produce the least useful stuff and the worst paid workers produce the stuff we all need. I think about the relationship between time spent and money earned, and how some people spend very little time making lots of money while others spend lots of time making very little. I think about how we all ultimately work for the same reason, which is to be with the ones we love--to share a home with them, a meal together, a beer after work, a bed--but we don’t all get to enjoy these things equally because a bargain for some means long hours with low pay for others. And I think about how the world might be improved if we balanced these things out, how if everyone made a descent amount of money for a descent amount of work, then we’d all have a descent amount of free time to be with the ones we love. Maybe I’m naive, but I think about these things, and I wonder if other people think about them, too. I think they’re important, which is why I chose Arnoldo Garcia’s story for Issue No. 2.

All writing is political, fiction included. The worst kind preaches, condescending to instruct. The best kind discusses, working to reveal. In fiction, the rule is the same: show, not tell. “Day Laborer Love” does a great job of this. It’s a highly political story that takes place in bed. All and more of the socioeconomic issues mentioned above are at play here, shining an entire way of life through the keyhole of the bedroom door. The story contains some strong language, to be sure, which will elicit objections to Garcia’s and, by editorial extension, my verbal depiction of the female body. That said, the narrator (assumed to be male) expresses an undeniable love and tenderness for his partner in the last two lines. All in all, I believe “Day Laborer Love” is really a love story--maybe the most real kind. It’s neither fairy tale nor tragedy nor melodrama. Love is work, and that is life.

Arnoldo Garcia is a cultural worker and poet born in the mouth of the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande. He has worked as a migrant farmworker, janitor, courier, substitute teacher and, since 6th grade, as human rights organizer. He has published poetry, essays and short stories intermittently over the years. His last book, "XicKorea: rants, words & poems together" with Beth Ching and Miriam Ching Louie, was published in 2003. He works for the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights in Oakland where he is the editor of their newsmagazine and heads up NNIRR's Immigrant Justice & Rights Program. He writes intensively on immigration policy, human rights and linking interior and border communities to dream together the changes the want and how to get them. He is currently finishing up a manuscript of poems and essays titled "La revolucion emplumada" that will come out before 2012.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Hi All,

The June 1st submission deadline for Issue No. 2 fast approaches. Get your best effort in by midnight tonight!

The ISSUE NO. 2 release/reading party will be held at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing on Thursday, July 1st, at 7 p.m. Get directions here, under the bottle cap "Join Us." A portion of the evenings proceeds will go to Matchbook Story, so drink up!

The reading will feature the Matchbook Story shortlist winners as well as the one-and-only issue winner. Afterwards, we'll play a few rounds of 300-character Exquisite Corpse--an always hilarious and occasionally scatological exercise in group writing (read this from the Issue No. 1 release party if you don't believe me). After that, we'll just hang out. Maybe practice our air guitar solos. Pick each other's fleas...

So pencil it in: July 1 - Issue No. 2 Matchbook Story release/reading party - 7 p.m. - Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing. That should fill the box.




She awoke, her husband's empty space on the bed a bitter reminder of their dispute in the night. In the kitchen, the liquor cabinet hung ajar, the bottles inside knocked carelessly over. She looked out a window, and the air rang with anguish as the new widow saw the overturned tractor outside.

--Mark Walsh, Santa Cruz, CA


One quarter mile each way, six days a week, she walks to the mailbox. Following her, along the gravel road, a dog, large, brindled, and old. The postal service wants to deliver mail one less day each week. She wonders what she will do on the day of no delivery. The dog just follows behind her.

--Dana Hoeschen, Pepin, WI


Coffee. Login. Status Available. Six smiley faces. No KPM. Laundry, dog poo, errands, pick up kids. Move laptop to counter. View contacts. No KPM. Prep dinner. Hide screen. Hot bath. Chenille robe. Unhide screen. Refresh. KPM…There you are! Touch his initials. Status Invisible. Shut down. Goodnight.

--Kathleen Parvizi, Scotts Valley, CA


Mortuary called. Mom's ready for pick-up. He hands me a shopping bag and I write a check. Outside the sun is bright, the sidewalk slick from a recent rain. I slip, fall, reach out to take hold of the cardboard box before it gets damp. Shopping was my mother's favorite pastime. We used to argue a lot.

--Manjula Stokes, Santa Cruz, CA


Last night I dreamed I ate a giant marshmallow. When I woke up, the pillow was gone.

--Keith Fisher, Marina del Rey, CA

Monday, May 31, 2010

Pick of the Week Archive - May 2010

May 7


She watched the men hassle the American whose painted toenails were dirty from the street. "Leave her alone." Bhai let her burka fly open. Beneath it, flowered pajamas and slippers. She kicked a coconut, a cap. All she wanted to do was play futbol. "Either wear a burka, or don't," one man yelled.

--Manjula Stokes, Santa Cruz, CA

May 14


He fingered the parcel in his waist pocket, waiting her out. Something about the neighbor cat, and the tea kettle, drew her away like a siren. He eased open the bureau and nestled the paper package in folds of linen, grunting bemusement at her shouted story. He heard cups clinking faintly and smiled.

--Jeff Eberly, Los Angeles, CA

May 21


The casino lighting was unkind. I tore a single match to light the cigarette that dangled from her mouth. Tiny words inside the matchbook cover caught my eye, and stayed with me as we stumbled inside her musty trailer. The story of a lonely man revealed in a matchbook. I hate people who smoke.

--Kathleen Parvizi, Scotts Valley CA

May 28


He found her address on the internet, bought a road atlas and drove. In Utah, he got a haircut--likely his worst ever--and asked where Young St. was. Back then, they agreed to have it. When she came out slow, he up and ran. Now, a mile more, the sign says ROAD CLOSED. How much snow buries that road?

--Decker Marshall, Charlottesville, VA

Friday, May 21, 2010


Like all good and not-so-good works of literary fiction, I wrote “To Light a Cigarette” on a whim and a prayer. Though I’ve long given up praying (or smoking for that matter), I still hold tightly to whim. It’s how I make sense of mine (and yours—mostly yours, come to think of it) existence on this fine but short term on earth. So when the call went out for submissions to Matchbook Story, I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t take my contribution very seriously. I merely wanted the editor, Mr. Kyle Petersen, to know that I’d clicked on his website. A hello of sorts and a simple validation of his project rolled into one friendly little story. I’d heard nothing of this project before. In fact, brilliant and obvious as the idea of printing a lit journal on a matchbook is, I thought he was just passing on a link despite the fact that I’d known the editor to possess routine brilliance over fireside chats and his own work.

As I may have mentioned nervously at the Poet & Patriot reading, I’m a bona fide gas bag. I like to write long, stretch-and-pull thick paragraphs onto the page at my own peril. My favorite, albeit rare, words out of an editor’s mouth are, “take as many words as needed to get the story told.” Short form fiction, flash fiction, or whatever you want to call it, doesn’t really appeal to me. Too many years spent writing music and events page blurbs for the Good Times and Metro Santa Cruz make short shorts seem a bit sexy. Since a lot of people seem to think writing is a craft, I might as well go out on a limb and use a metaphor: I have far more patience for making rough-hewn tables than cute little jewelry boxes, but not enough patience for a whole house. Journalism and long-form non-fiction seems to fit my wandering head and feet.

So I banged out a 300-word story about two fellows on a backpacking trip who lose a lighter while suffering in the throes of a nicotine fit. Sort of an updated version of London’s “To Light a Fire” without the wolves, dogsleds, or the Yukon. I set the story somewhere in the backcountry of the High Sierra near my hometown of Bishop.

But to my dismay, I realized I’d not read the instructions carefully enough. I felt like I was putting together a cheap piece of Ikea furniture where you get to the end missing some Swedish screws and Nordic do-dads. Oh, 300 characters. Bastards. Even 200 words into it I’d begun to wonder what kind of matches Mr. Petersen intended on using. Those long fireplace matches for the pyrophobic? I also knew the editor as a cheap but generous man; wooden matches and a big box wouldn’t fit his budget-minded literary project.

So, with a chopping axe worthy of my amateur woodsmen characters, I cut the story down to size, liberating adjectives, nouns, and verbs from captivity in one fell swooping thud and… submitted it.

When Mr. Petersen informed me a few weeks later that my submission was being considered for publication, my first thought was pity. I figured he’d gotten two or three submissions total, one of which must have been about vampires, the other a sci-fi tale concerning mutating viruses—not that there’s anything wrong with that. Mine wasn’t better, it just fit the theme of a matchbook with its underhanded critique of modern technology—the lost and wet lighter. Petersen, after all, is a manual typewriter man; plop him down somewhere between 1949 and 1962, and he wouldn’t know he’d gone back in time. Admittedly, I was playing to the editor’s aesthetics (and mine, too, since we probably share a commonality in that department minus the typers). But, again, I was only to sending off a simple missive to demonstrate that I care.

That’s the back story on the story, all of which is a bit absurd given this amount of words to write about a story that has so few. But the editor wanted me to respond, in part, to his thoughtful, dare I say, elongated, analysis. He was thoroughly schooled in the mid-nineties lit crit craze of signs & signifiers, and he knows his way around a deconstruction site. And unlike any lit journal I’ve ever heard of, he’s actually paying me $25 to write a response to his careful, erudite theory, so I’d better earn my keep.

Mr. Petersen is mostly right on, though I didn’t give the story nearly the same thought as he did. It makes me blush to think he spent so many brain cells on it while pumping his fingers around words like “metafiction” and the like. Let’s just say having your story torn limb from limb then put back together again is a rare reward. It makes the writing life seem worth it for a few days more.

A story containing only 300 characters forces the reader to fill in a lot of narrative gaps. Big, canyon-like holes make the reader a participant in the process, and what isn’t said explicitly in the story (absence vs. presence) becomes more important than what is said. I guess the trick to writing this damn short is to anticipate the reader’s imagination and just nudge them in the right direction with a few precious details and a tad bit of mumbling narrative so they don’t get completely lost. This means, without sounding trite (but still managing to do so anyway), that the miniscule short story is and has to be wholly open to interpretation. For that, Mr. Petersen is well within his lofty bounds.

But I do have one beef to air with his otherwise astute interpretation, and that concerns not whether mine is a story or not, but the narrative itself. Mr. Petersen says he thinks the characters quit smoking. That’s wishful thinking. This would be, in essence, a happy ending given that cigarettes slowly strangle you to death. The very reason the characters try to quit their habit in the wilderness is because they don’t possess enough willpower to do it in the lowlands with handy access to their addiction. And there’s the matter of the last cigarette that is left defiantly and temptingly un-smoked. As any smoker knows, the lack of atonement in the ritualistic last smoke means he can postpone quitting until the conditions are more perfect—or failing that, it provides another excuse to go on smoking another day. You can’t say goodbye to a bad habit until you’re allowed to wave.

Instead, I imagine they hightail it out of the woods. Not only do they buy another pack, but a lighter, too. And as one of them pays the cashier, the other has the foresight and wisdom to say, “Do you think I could get some matches?”

Yes, this is likely what happens. But that’s not much of a story, is it?