(cigarette by lanier67 | Flickr – Photo Sharing!)
His life filled with things he hated. Radiation. Chemotherapy. Inoperable cancer.
He hated that everything should be compromised to have a chance.
He hated that everybody told him how sorry they were, like it was their fault somehow.
Above all, he hated that what he really wanted was another cigarette.
Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty
For this week’s challenge, you must write a fifty-word story. Not five thousand, not five hundred, but precisely fifty words.
Jones never believed in wishing wells or fountains, but shooting stars were a different matter. He looked into the night sky, clear of clouds and lightly frosted by stars, and thought of what he would wish for if he saw a shooting star. Someone else to baby-sit for one thing. Sure he owed his sister some money, but working it off via indentured childcare? It rankled him, all but destroying the tiny bit of integrity remaining in his spine. Maybe he would wish for Stacy to come back to him, that bitch. Jones realized having her back would not bring him happiness, but he felt like a dysfunctional relationship was better than the nothing she had left him with. He could wish for his mother to come back from wherever she’d gone to. It seemed like everything had really started to spin out of control after she finally passed. He could wish for his father to walk again, if for no other reason than to knock him back down. How feeble his father had grown in his older years, an atrophied shadow of the man that had terrorized Jones’ entire life. His father consistently claimed that Jones was far less than a man, that Jones was pathetic and would never amount to more than a pile of cigarette butts. Maybe Jones could wish to be a man, in the eyes of his father and the eyes of the world, whatever being a man entailed. Jones wasn’t sure what he would get with a wish like that, but it was a wish that would probably be worth the gamble. He’d mulled it over a million times. What was the one thing that could change his entire life around, the one wish that would make all his other wishes come true? He hoped for a meteor shower, so that all his wishes might be accounted for. Then, from the corner of his eye, Jones saw a streak of light sliding toward the horizon, and for a brief instant it seemed like everything might actually be coming together for once.
He took the pack of smokes out of the breast pocket of his red and black flannel, much lighter than he remembered it. He probed inside with a finger, grabbing hold of the last one carefully. He placed it between his lips and then double-checked the empty pack again, hopeful of some oversight on his part. Finding no more cigarettes he silently wished for another pack, and then cursed himself for wasting his wish.
Shit, how stupid to waste a wish on cigarettes. I should have wished for two more wishes with my one, but what good would that be? Left with nothing but unfulfilled wishes. The people who want one thing more than anything else, they are the lucky ones. They always know what to wish for. What about the people who don’t know what they want or the people who want too much? Wishing for cigarettes, how stupid are you Jones?
Jones realized he had been talking to himself out loud again. He hated when he did it, although he was never sure unless there were others around. Usually, by the time he found out about it, it was already an embarrassment. He should have wished that he’d never do that anymore. He couldn’t even make a wish without fucking it up.
Written for the Daily Prompt: Three Coins in a Fountain
A DP Weekly Writing Challenge about Emptiness
Yesterday my mom called me and asked me to buy her cigarettes. I told her no and hung up. Five minutes later she called me back and asked me to buy her cigarettes again. This time I told her that she didn’t need cigarettes because she had quit smoking. This upset her, as if quitting smoking was awful news. She told me that she didn’t believe me. She called me a liar and hung up. It took her ten minutes before she called back again.
“Hello, this is your mom,” she said.
“Hello mom, this is your son.”
“I need you to take me to the store.”
“We went to the store yesterday. What do you need now?”
“Well, your not going to like it.”
“Is it cigarettes?”
There is silence on the end of the line, as she tries to think up something else she needs besides cigarettes. “I got this letter from the DMV,” she tells me. “You know I can’t drive anymore.”
“I know mom. You tell me about it every time you ask for a ride to the store.”
“I just need some things and if you can’t take me I don’t know what I’ll do.”
“You could take the bus.” We’ve been trying to convince her to take the bus for months now. The bus stop is about 20 feet from her front door and the bus comes once an hour. We want her to be able to go to the store by herself, but the bus schedule confuses her, and she says the bus is so bouncy it makes her hip hurt.
Her sigh is so heavy I could feel it through the phone line, a sigh so deep it has transcended time and space and travelled through the wires with the electrons. “So will you take me or not?”
I calculate what will be the least time consuming option, if actually taking an hour or so to drive through traffic and take her to the store would require less time than answering her phone calls as she repeatedly calls up and asks the same question over and over, having forgotten that she just called five minutes before. How distracting will it be to listen to phone ring all day? How upset will she be when I don’t answer?
“Okay mom, I’ll take you to the store. Write it down so you don’t forget.”
“Thank you,” she says.
“Write it down, please.”
“Okay, okay, let me find a pen.”
“Write down that I’m going to take you to the store. Today, in like half an hour.”
“Okay, I got it.”
“Put the note near the phone, and I’ll see you in a little bit.”
“Okay. Thank you.”
We hang up, and I try to finish up my kitchen chores, loading the dishwasher and taking out the compost. After about five minutes the phone rings again.
“Hello, this is your mom. Are you taking me to the store today? I found this note that said Store Today, but I’m not sure when today is. Is it today right now?”
Sometimes her dementia seems so deep and existential, so enlightened. There are heady lessons hidden there. Don’t take today for granted, and remember that it is today right now. Today is a privilege. It is today right now. How unlikely to find such revelations in an existence where time is measured in cigarettes. I try to cherish these small morsels of wisdom buried in such a dark and scary place.
Of course this all happened back when yesterday was still today, and I wonder if the today happening now is at all different than the yesterday I remember.
Is today the tomorrow I expected?