Obviously an homage to Stephen King although at the time of writing it there was only a small niggling sense that this wasn’t original. It stems from a truly original source. That picture (below) was taken with my camera in a parking garage and lay just as described. I wanted to tell the ‘what if’ of such a peculiar situation and this story was born.
Word Count: 980
It lay in the parking spot, in the dimly lit parking garage. A little cardboard box of Camel cigarettes, the top propped open. A full pack, several cigarettes tapped out, looking like an Olympic win. Donner Eastwood stood mesmerized.
He looked around, left and right, then impossibly straight up, as if God himself was watching.
Or Stop Forever.
He took a tentative step forward. He could already feel it against his lip, could feel the tingle, the burn, his lungs responded by breathing in deeply, anticipating the swell. His hand trembled.
Could he smell it? Yes, he could.
He put his hands in his pockets, shook his head, denying himself. No matter what, he couldn’t. He’d promised.
Impossibly, no car drove past him, coming or going. His own car sat in a slot three spots down. He stood there for long minutes breathing the phantom smoke. He felt slightly heady with the heat, the gas fumes. His stomach growled reminding him that he was late to meet Miriam at the bookstore. She’d been waiting at least five minutes by now and she hated to wait. She was probably already eating her sandwich as a punishment to him, an indictment of his lateness.
Still, Donner stood there.
Still, he was alone.
It had to be a trap.
Step away. Better yet, go home.
His feet wouldn’t move.
Outside he could hear shoppers, walking the streets, attending to their shopping. Too far away to help him. No one at all to restrain him.
No one to watch him either, no witnesses.
What could it hurt to have just one? A last one? A goodbye to a previous life?
The silence begged him to slip quietly closer. Perhaps it was a trick of the eyes. Perhaps it was a bit of trash, a food carton, a gag gift–want a cigarette? A rubber band trick.
He sighed. He had learned in counselling that attacking an obsession head on was the best way to dispel its power. So, with that logic, all he had to do was pick it up, then throw it back down. Giving in, maybe, for a moment, but then saying no in the most powerful way possible.
No. Too much risk–glue on his fingertips, he was sure of it. Maybe just look at it instead.
He leaned over it thinking how pissed Miriam would be at that moment. How long had he been standing here? Twenty minutes? Thirty? An impossibly long amount of time. The blood flowed to his head making him stumble dizzily. He stood back up.
He felt uneasy suddenly. Looked around him quickly, certain that he had an audience and saw–no one. In another aisle a car headed for the exit. The sound of one of the exhaust fans turning on buffeted the walls somewhere nearby.
He tried reasoning. Why would there be a pack of cigarettes just lying around? It either wasn’t real or it was a trick. No self-respecting cigarette addict misplaced his cigs. Period.
It had to be Stop Forever. But that sounded just as crazy. It wasn’t as if they would follow him around, watch his every move. He wasn’t under surveillance, for god’s sake.
Last week while flipping through the newspaper–the event newspaper– Donner had spotted an ad for Stop Forever.
Serious about quitting? Call 1-800—
A phone call and one meeting later Donner had signed on the dotted line smiling widely at the pretty brunette behind the desk. He’d gladly handed over his cigarettes, even the stale spare pack he kept in his car with a promise that he would never touch them again.
They’d handed him pamphlets to get started but he hadn’t had time to read them. The woman had passed a bottle of pills across her desk, that were in his pocket right now. He’d called Miriam immediately and told her he’d had good news to share. He wanted to surprise her—
He’d better get going before she got good and mad and stormed away. Or worse broke up with him before he could even give her the good news, the impossible news, that he had quit smoking.
She would be so proud of him. She might even consent to marry him.
He fingered the pill bottle in his pocket. Pulled it out. Put it back. They’d told him to start on Friday and to check in on Monday for dosage adjustments or any other concerns he might have. Today was Thursday and he was on his own, the power of his will his only deterrent.
He stepped back, intending to turn tail and meet with Miriam at last when he had a sudden thought.
What if some kid found them? Wouldn’t it be irresponsible to leave them right there where any kid could get ahold of them? Shouldn’t he better move them, remove them, throw them away? He paused, stuck squarely between addiction and responsibility. Needing to touch it, not wanting to touch it, liable if he didn’t. His fingernails dug into the palms of his hands.
There had to be a brighter side to this. Maybe…If he threw them away he could tell Miriam, boast to her of his good deed. He would have done this great thing and it would explain his being late, paint him in a good light. He would be back in Miriam’s good graces. She might even swoon with love for his brave act.
Yes, that was what he should do. He swooped down, scooped up the pack of cigarettes crushing them in his hand and screamed as his fingers separated from his body blown all the way across the garage, as his wrist spurted blood that sprayed impossibly far, painting the concrete walls of the garage. He took a moment to wonder who was screaming so loud before his head hit the pavement and he lost consciousness.