Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Up In Smoke

So, here I was. Head in one hand, cigarette in the other.

Through the open window wafted laughter and yelled conversation. All mixed with whatever royalty free music was playing.

Just noise. Happy noise. Relaxed noise. Don’t give a damn about me noise.

My pint, of whatever was cheapest out of a proper hand-pull pump, teetered on the rounded edge of the grey concrete step where I’d wearily plonked my suited arse. My couldn't be-arsed arse. Couldn't be bothered with the laughter, the conversation, the music. 

My jacket was still inside, on the back of the high stool. I hoped no one would nick it. Actually, I didn’t really give a flying if they did. Did I really want the damn, pain in the arse job that forced me to wear this stifling uniform every day? Roasting in summer and totally inadequate in winter. 

I yanked at my tie. Sodding thing. I pulled it and it curled around my neck like a thin snake going in reverse or a stripper’s feather boa caressing a hopeful client. Stuffing it in my trouser pocket I didn't noticed I’d mainly missed and it dangled, limply, like everything else in my limp bloody life.

Cigarette half burned down and pint down to half a pint I half looked up, half registered the other sad faggies and half smiled at the blonde girl who half smiled at me before turning away.

Emma had gone that morning. Not a surprise really. I don’t suppose I was really all that bothered. I just couldn't be arsed, word of the day, with the fall out. The practical stuff. Who had the dog and who had the house rabbit. No children, thank God. That may make it a bit cheaper. How much were divorces nowadays? Not that I knew how much they used to be. Never done this before. Never had to. 

As I say, I’m not really bothered. In all honesty, she was a bit of a cow. I don’t know why I’d never seen it before. I suppose, like I say, again, I couldn't be arsed to see it.

I wondered, for as long as it took me to have a drag, if it was my fault. I don’t think it was really. No, I don’t think it was.

As the brown taste of liquid hops slid down my throat I summed it up. I gave her money, I shagged her, I emptied the bins. I didn't get drunk much without her and I tolerated her stupid friends. I had the odd cigarette out in the garden, resting my elbow on the sticky out bit of the brick wall. Her mouth would go all puckered-hens-arse and I’d shrug and give a lazy James-Dean-esque smile.

Its alright darlin’ I’ll be back in behaving myself soon and we can forget all about my misdemeanour. It’s been a hard day y’know. I just need 5.

Well, sod her, I’ll damn well smoke, lots, in the lounge. Yes, that front room that I won’t have to call a Drawing Room now. Up yours.

The blonde looked at me again. Fully this time. Right in the eyes.
“You’re Martin, aint ya?”

I frowned.

“I suppose so. I don’t really know any more  I suppose I'll be keeping my name, if who knows what else. I don’t want the nest of tables – I hate those. Useless bloody things. They wobble.”

Blondie frowned back at me.

“Whaddya talkin’ ‘bout? Yer Em’s hubbie aint ya?” I noticed the slurring this time. Great, she was pissed and I really didn't feel like discussing it. How did I get into this? Christ.

The ash had burned right down. I had been too busy thinking about past smokes than actually smoking this one. Crap. Holding itself in a soft, grey column for a second longer, it suddenly dropped. All over my left leg. Crap, again.

I angrily brushed it off and then, slightly less angrily, brushed off Blondie.
“Yeah, I am.” I forced a smile, “I’m off in now. See ya.”

I slid the last of my pint down my throat, leaving remnants of foam to slide down the inside of the glass. It came to a rest in a murky cream pool at the bottom.

As I hauled myself up to stand I suddenly realised that my seat was probably used as a piss place by those even more unfortunate than myself. I then found I didn't really care.

Standards were slipping already.

I briefly wondered when I’d find myself holed up in a grubby room, or two, surrounded by piles of ancient newspapers. Is this how it happened? You started off happily sitting on a pub’s pissy doorstep and gradually turned into Howard Hughes. Without the megabucks.

Blondie smiled and shrugged and swayed and I did the half smile thing.

Didn't want to encourage her. God no.

I turned my back on her, and the other sad sods huddled together on the pavement. All complicit in their mutually-binding, antisocial behaviour. Up two steps and I bloody tripped over the last.

I shot into the room doing that half run skip thing. Desperately trying to keep upright. I did and everyone cheered. I'm not sure at which bit; the stupid dance or the rescue. One would be at and one would be with. A difference. I didn't care. Just punched the air and laughed along, A pint was waiting for me by my empty, jacketed stool. Great. I raised my glass.

Cheers everyone. I'm a free man. Hip hip hooray...


  1. Thank you very much. I'm pleased you enjoyed it :-)

  2. Very clever to write from a man's point of view. Enjoyed it :)
    Jo x

    1. Thank you, Jo. Once I get going they seem to write themselves. i don't normally like my work to be 'sweary' but this was very character-led. I actually toned it down a lot as well! Pleased you liked it :-)

  3. Brilliant. Not my type of short-story at all but still loved it! You got a real sense of character across is such a short time :-)

    1. Thanks Tanya - not really mine either! It just filtered in from an observation plus a few other references and then wrote itself. Very, very character led. I got into this sad, angry, in denial, man's head and that was that.
      My writing is very much organic, like my paintings, I know where I am starting from but don't have a clue how they will end up. Some people plan but I just have to go with my own flow as that what works for me. :-)

  4. Excellent story! Loved the emotion and really connected with the chap (that's a proper English term right? :) ) Very good, I always love reading your work!

    Paul R. Hewlett

    1. Thank you Paul - I'm really pleased you liked it as a little different. What an excellent chap you are! :-)