I am working on something not-flash-fiction-y, but it isn't done yet. Hoping it'll be the first of many installments, but we'll see where it goes. Anyway, enjoy!
It was about ten in the morning, maybe ten fifteen or so. I had Modest Mouse going on my mp3 player. I’m on my way to God don’t know, my brain’s the burger and my heart’s the coal. I was wearing my ratty winter coat and a bandana on my head, even though it was too cold for that. I had my guitar strapped to my back and I was heading to my buddy Jim Walker’s house. We were going to jam before we had to perform that evening; we’d never done an acoustic set before and we wanted to get some practice in.
It was bright and crisp, the air was biting my ears. There were two people ahead of me across the street. I could see them silhouetted against the sunlight reflecting off the side of the Catholic church. One of them was spinning around, arms wide, holding something small with handles. It looked like one of those cases the Mormon missionaries carried their scripture in. I thought they were Mormon missionaries at first and almost waved to them. I’d met them going that way before so it wouldn’t have surprised me. One of them had offered me a card, but I declined. I was a member already, they just hadn’t met me yet. We had a good laugh about it afterwards.
The spinning one had a ponytail. It was a woman with a purse, and so was her companion. Definitely not the Mormons. They were both wearing black jackets which could have been leather. They weren’t white women, but they weren’t black either. I’m bad with ethnicities. The spinning one stopped, facing me. She yelled something across the street and her friend looked at her.
I pulled one of my earbuds out. “Wuwazat?”
“I say, sweetheart, you have a kind of cigarette on you?”
I shook my head. “Nah, sorry.” I don’t smoke. It’s a filthy habit. Did I look like I smoked? I carry a lighter, but not for cigarettes. If she’d asked for a light, I would have obliged. I wouldn’t have enjoyed it, I hate the smell of cigarette smoke, but I would have done it, even if one of us had to cross the street.
“Shit.” She turned back around and kept walking. I heard the two women start talking again as I put my earbud back in. I don’t know what they were saying. For a moment I entertained the notion that they were talking about me, but I’m sure they weren’t. I was just a means to an end. She wanted a cigarette and I didn’t have one.
But she called me “sweetheart.”
I went on my way and met up with Jim at his house. He opened the door and smiled. “Hey man, how’s it going?” He stepped aside to let me in.
“Not too bad,” I replied. “Some lady asked me for a cigarette.”
Jim just shrugged and looked at me, waiting for me to tell him more, like my story wasn’t finished.
“Yeah… I don’t know,” I muttered. He laughed.
We played our instruments together for most of the day, then headed to the gig around six. Our act went over well, even better than we would have hoped. The whole crowd clapped enthusiastically for us at the end of each song. When we were done with our set, they called for an encore. We hadn’t had anything planned, so I stepped up and did a cover of the song “I Save Cigarette Butts” by Daniel Johnston. They really seemed to like it. People approached us as we were packing up and told us that we sounded really good and they liked our music.
That night, after I got home, I played the song again. I save cigarette butts for a poor girl… across town…
She wasn’t anyone I knew or recognized, I’d never seen her before and I knew I’d never see her again, but I was still thinking about her. She called me “sweetheart.” I was certain she’d forgotten about me. Maybe I’ll go out and buy a pack of cigarettes just to have on me in case somebody asks. I doubt the missionaries would like that.