Short Story: On the breeze with a cigarette

It was nearly the weekend. Dan and I stood in the usual spot, in an alleyway just down the road where the building was almost, but not entirely, out of sight. Between an industrial bin and a parking garage. Dan leaned against the wall smoking.

“Smell that. Doesn’t that remind you of last year?”

Dan didn’t even sniff the air. Instead he gave a short laugh and raised an eyebrow. “That’s just cigarettes and filth. And I didn’t even know you last year. What were you doing for a smell like that to bring you back there?” Dan nudged me with his elbow, then pulled his phone out of his suit pocket. “Eight minutes left. Better make the most of it.” We fell into silence, puffing on our second cigarettes, getting them in before the break ended.

I thought back to the end of last year, when I’d started this crazy experiment: I hadn’t worn a watch for three weeks, hoping that maybe this could help me get the better of time somehow. Delay it, or scare it off, or get it out of my head. It hadn’t really worked. How could it when smells and sounds moved time around so easily? I’d thought about time a lot. I don’t really feel like my life is rushing by, but I suspect that sometime soon it might. At least that’s what the movies say. The movies. Always messing things up. Nothing had ever really bothered me until I’d started watching the movies. I’d been content to fake my way through life, in a white shirt and a black suit. But the movies, they’re dreams turned to liquid and spewed onto the streets like gas.

Sometimes I thought I’d run away. Or maybe just live in a tree somewhere, one of those crazy big trees on St Kilda Road. I’d make a dash one morning at the exact moment my train would be leaving for work. I could go earlier, but I’d wait for the train… For poetic justice or whatever they called it. I’d sell my car and rent an old bomb, maybe even steal one, not too dilapidated, but one with that antique charm about it. One that would be difficult to find parts for if it broke down. Maybe with those draw-blinds on the back window. I’d drive across the country and write a book about my escapades. Half-drunk and with borrowed pens, of course. I’d keep the pages of it in an old shoebox under the empty passenger’s seat. I’d get deliberately lost until the car ran out of gas. This would happen in the desert, or up in the mountains, or in some little backwater town that had a bar and a jazz singer but no band. They’d packed up and left. And I’d leave soon too, when I’d figured something out with the car. I’d call my book On the Breeze or something like that. Because that’s how I’d feel, on the breeze, on the way. That’s how I liked to be. On the way where didn’t really matter. I’d be like this guy I saw in America, years ago, on the sidewalk outside a restaurant. This man that had been wearing this beautifully cut wine-red suit, with a white shirt and a black tie, and a cigarette in his hand. The suit had obviously been tailored just for him and the guy was as handsome as they come, with a carefully managed Beatles haircut that made him look like he’d just walked out of the movies. The goddam movies. He’d had this look on his face as he stood there, this melancholy as hell look as if something wasn’t up to scratch with the world and soon he was going to have to do something about it. How was that fair? To look that good and stare so sad? The bastard had even had a fountain pen sticking out of his pocket, as if he were a playwright or a novelist, and was deep in the middle of some big project.

Well it wasn’t fair, but that could be me, maybe in a less impressive suit and maybe not looking so melancholy. Maybe someone would walk past me and think to themselves, what a good-looking bastard, what’s he doing looking so bored? Surely he drives a Cadillac or something, to be so well-fitted in that suit?

On the way home from work I sat on the train between an elderly woman knitting and a young boy nodding off to the music in his headphones. I stared out of the window and studied the parked cars with envious eyes. How hard could it be to open one?

They did it with coat-hangers in the movies.




1963 Caddilac advertisement

19 thoughts on “Short Story: On the breeze with a cigarette”

  1. This isn’t the original version of your story (contest wine label entry) that Tabby shared with me… and I see you’re going slightly hard core or maybe “off the ranch” in the telling. I don’t know you at all, so probably shouldn’t be so direct or off the cuff… but in any case, you’re a very interesting writer. Your first version was better in my opinion, for it’s “innocence” but this one is honestly seeking and finding grit and so valid too. I probably sound full of myself. Forgive me. I’m new to your blog. I have appreciated/valued/enjoyed your perspectives on several posts. It’s also good you enlightened the Tabs that ferns and palms are part of the same family. 🙂

      1. original as well! I mucked around with the draft for some reason and now am having trouble finding it, but when I do find it I think I will repost it because I agree that it has lost something. So thank you for your honesty, it is appreciated! And thank you for reading and commenting!

        1. Sometimes losing a first draft is good. In the letting go, I mean. It’s okay to muck about with drafts. I did really like the “borrowed pens, of course” part. That was was wonderful. 🙂

  2. This is a great short story! I wasn’t going to read blogs or blog anymore. But I immediately missed your non-movie-like-life-style posts and so re-followed. And this is funny to me… as I just kinda wanted to sit and see how your window sill of avocados will grow… or listen to your lovely stories observing what most people might miss, when uh oh! you write of red-suit jackets and car heists! 🙂

    I like the the woman knitting being included to get a sense your character’s real surroundings. And wonder what color of yarn…

    short, sweet and engaging. nicely done.

    1. Ahh thank you, so kind! I am glad you are back, I always love hearing your thoughts!! 🙂 and hah yes I definitely agree, this story is a departure from the norm… I wrote it for a competition where the winning story would be printed on the label of a wine bottle. So narurally I thought running away in stolen caddilacs with cigarettes would be most at home on a wine bottle ☺ But alas it was not to be, so I gave the story to the blog 🙂 thank you for reading and commenting! And if you were wondering the avocado still hasn’t sprouted, but I still keep it on my windowsill 😉

      1. Oh! Maybe the wine label people were afraid you’d release the “inner dapper thief” of their wine connoisseurs and didn’t want to be liable for the drunk driving or rise in cadillac insurance? Might make that particular year less cozy? 🙂

        I do love this whole bit added to your tale… that you imagined this and wrote for a contest. That’s great you tried for it!

        My avocado seeds always split and dry up and my water goes a bit gooey, no matter how many attempts. I don’t know how people make avocado trees grow. I’m looking forward to your success. 🙂

        Now my aloe is droopy and I’m in a panic trying to save it.

        I was no good with the African Violet either.

        I seem good with palms. I have too many indoor palm trees sort of by accident.

        Oh well, thanks so much for indulging my comments and for the kind welcome back. 🙂

        1. Not at all, I always like reading your comments! Thanks so much for reading, it always makes my day!
          Hahaha perhaps that was it. Even if it wasn’t I think I shall tell myself now that it was their fear of unleashing car thieves, which I can’t hold against them loL!
          Oh wow you have indoor ferns?! I discovered one growing out of a crack in the shed and am currently trying to grow it from a cutting…see how that goes. And see how the avocado goes. It’s growing a root but hasn’t got a stem yet, I’ll let you know! And aloe is definitely a good plant to have around in summer, must get one of those myself. Maybe it will live a bit better in the shade? I hope it wakes back up soon! I love googling gardening tips…am currently reading about how to stop caterpillars from eating everything. :/
          Thanks again for reading!

          1. I have “foster” palms indoors… I keep ending up with them and they grow to the ceiling and I have to tie them or espalier them now around the windows. so they are ending up looking like Dr. Seuss trees. Which I like. 🙂 My ferns are outdoors… and different varieties. Ferns seem pretty hardy things and they bounce back.

            Good luck with your caterpillars! If I hear of any good ideas to stop their munching, I’ll certainly let you know.

            It’s cold becoming a wet blowy early winter here not at all conducive to caterpillars, so you could pack your little unwelcome worms up and exile them to hibernation! Or maybe you’d be better off googling garden items. 🙂

            1. Haha wow! Indoor ferns, that would make any room so much nicer. If mine lives I think I might bring it indoors, but I don’t think it is one that will grow that tall! And Dr. Seuss, what a great writer – ‘adults are just obsolete children and to hell with them’ – so true. Thank you, I will get the better of the caterpillars one day, I know it, for they eat everything they touch, the little saboteurs :/ Either that or I will make a greenhouse. That would be an epic project 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

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