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
"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