Monday, February 04, 2013


(For those of you waiting for the groundhog report, be disappointed  This is my offering for the write club prompt due last week.)

Enveloping all things is the smell of stale cigarette smoke. From the time the door swung open until it slammed shut with a metallic crunch, the scent was in stark contrast to the cold clear morning air. Now, however, “outside” has been locked out where it should be. The temperature has been raised to almost-too-warm and the smell is as comfortable and constant as it is sad. It has become the backdrop against which all other experiences are defined. Each look, thought, spoken word is mingled with the aged gray odor and retouched to become a dingier hue. It would be easy enough to blame the tray filled with once straight sticks that are now hopelessly bent fragments, but this is only a consequence not a cause. The color, the smell, the memory of too many things that cannot be unseen has saturated everything. The window slides open and the pensive silence is broken by a cascade of cold and a garbled exchange. A paper sack is shoved between the seats and until the heater wins the battle against the chill, the air is clean enough for the heavy smell of ham, egg and cheese biscuits to circulate. And for a time the blessed aroma of cheap coffee stands strong and bright against the background but this too begins to blend in until it is forgotten. The window again slips open, but this time only a crack. There is a rush of fresh, freezing air followed by a spark. Most of the spent nicotine is hurried out the window but unseen wisps of smoke spiral in on the current, noted only by the acrid overtones they bring. These little bits of invisible ash will swirl and mingle with the others until they come to rest on the discarded jacket, the binder overflowing with papers, the empty cans of Red Bull, that one dirty sock. They will become old air. They will fill in the gaps. And every time the speedometer and gear shift start to disappear out of sight, each time the cadence of fire and the smell of spent powder creep out of dark corners but before... before the vision of a helmet pierced front to back by a well-placed round and suddenly unable to hold its former owner in, before that there will be a rush of cold, a spark, and some long deep breaths. The present will reclaim a foothold in the confines of the 5-speed import, and the smoke will redefine the scenery, strengthening the smell of no-longer-enlisted until the day the memories stop their siege.

-Jn (Union Hill, 1/25/13)

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