“No Smoking” by Sara Dobie Bauer
Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuana, cocaine, speed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)
This week, Sara Dobie Bauer meets an intriguing stranger while taking a cigarette break.
She wondered what his skin felt like. There was little of it to see, wrapped in all black like a Bedouin woman in the desert. It was a nice suit but had so much fabric, so many layers. His neck and face had somehow escaped. He had fingers like long unsharpened pencils.
“May I borrow one of those?”
“Will you give it back once you’ve finished?”
There weren’t many smokers. Smoking was passé, like opium. There were laws against it: no smoking inside. No smoking within twenty-five feet of this door. People never walked down sidewalks smoking for fear of offense.
“Why is it only bad guys smoke in films?”
He looked like neither. She’d seen him before, of course, dozens of times. The bigger the city, the smaller it felt. The smokers—bad guys, whores—were relegated to a side alley. There were a few folding chairs and a gate at the end to keep the party private. The night was warm. Her legs felt sticky and wet where they crossed. She regretted using lotion earlier. She feared at any moment she would slide off herself and into his trousers.
“I’ve been trying to quit.”
“Is it going well?”
Smoking looked like a reward. Better yet, an award. He smoked like his lungs only functioned on nicotine. A fish out of water in fresh air. He gulped at the filter. Even when his lips weren’t attached, the smoking stick lingered by his mouth so his nose could tickle with the sensation of slow suicide.
“Have we met before?”
“You may have seen me around.”
He crossed one ankle over the other and leaned against the brick wall. He only then seemed comfortable.
Her mind wandered beneath his black suit. Would he have chest hair? If so, it would be light like the short hair on his head. Would his torso be hard or soft? A well-tailored suit hid so many sins. She thought of his penis, too, considered its existence as one considers the existence of love or God.
“Does the woman have a name?”
She tossed her cigarette and watched the embers burn orange in the shadow of a streetlight. A loud couple, cackling with their hands under each other’s clothes, tumbled from the party exit. They almost knocked him over. Although he saved his suit, he did not save the smoke, which fell from long fingers into a pile of damp dirt at his feet. She watched his eyes study the dying cloud as if he might reach for the filter and continue. Instead, he sighed.
“Must be a sign.”
“That you’re no good for me.”
SARA DOBIE BAUER is a writer and prison volunteer in Phoenix, Arizona. She is an Ohio University alum, which means her college experience was more fun than yours. Her short fiction has appeared in The Molotov Cocktail, Stoneslide Corrective, and Blank Fiction‘s horror issue. Read her further ramblings at saradobie.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter @saradobie.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected], and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series, Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry Stahl, Lydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).
Posted: Mar 12, 2015
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