Sunday, February 2, 2014

End Lesstin Kering 3 2/2/14

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The lighter sparked behind Lesstin's cupped hand, once, twice, three times before a hesitant light flickered. The merciless wind blew it out before any warmth reached Lesstin's thumb. A gust of air blew up his coat, tugging at shirt tails and jean bottoms, but somehow the cold felt trivial when confronted with the unlit white stick dangling from Lesstin's mouth.

He tried the lighter again, then shook it by his ear to hear the unlit fluid inside it sloshing lazily. The crosswalk clicked to go, and he walked off the curb. He grunted and flicked the lighter once more, which conjured a flame that lit the paper, producing a pleasant shushing sound he had been waiting for.

By that same inevitable fate that rules all happy winter days, the moment it lit, Lesstin stepped off the curb and into a puddle of slush that soaked his ankle above the sock line. Cold water and crushed ice flowed into his left shoe. Cold weather veteran that he was, Lesstin soldiered through the rest of the intersection, shaking out as much winter as he could. He scraped the ice layer from the rim of his wool socks, which seemed to have repelled the worst of it. Good enough.

Puffing happily on his cigarette, only a block later the lighter had been forgotten. Five blocks after that, so was the puddle. But after the cigarette faded, the icy breeze curled around his chest, so he reached for the lighter and pack, the third time on a single march to the office. Layered inside a closets worth of cold-weather gear, he still felt the chill. But the ligher offered a different sort of solution.

After getting to work, it would be at least an hour before he could find a break to smoke. Best get it done now. These three had been free cigarettes anyway, leftovers in a pack he hadn't finished the night before. He had another eight blocks, and accompanying stop lights. Might be ten minutes before he marched into the lobby. Plenty of time.

Once in the office, the morning flowed onward. Emails were read, mostly things out of his hands, but a few he would have to deal with later in the day.

The clock was flirting with ten o’clock by the time Lesstin managed to escape the monotonous bog of email tag and touching base. His head wasn't quite pounding, thanks solely to abundant coffee. As he got out of his seat, he could already smell the cigarette, taste it in his mouth, even twenty floors up.

As usual, the elevator took forever to reach the ground floor. Three minutes had been wasted by the time Lesstin pushed out through the service door out onto the back dock. He recognized two people there who worked on his floor. A man he thought was named Nick, and a woman he had greeted at the coffee pot, but never been introduced to.

“I guess bothers me a little,” the man said. He had his lighter out and offered the service to Lesstin.

“Thanks,” Lesstin mumbled through pursed lips. “Nick?” He asked, carefully.

“Nate,” the man corrected.”

“It makes me feel ill sometimes,” the woman added.

“What's that?” Lesstin asked. He shivered in the cold and half wished he had brought a cup of hot coffee with him.

“Working on the anti-smoking campaign,” Nate said. “The stats aren't fun to read, every day.”

“No doubt.” Lesstin had heard it all before. “I guess, when you've been smoking as long as I have, it doesn't really phase you anymore.”

“Leetha's job might even get to you old hats,” Nate said. He gestured to the woman.

“I'm in the media production group,” she admitted. “The pictures that come through are pretty terrible. Worse than those abortion ads, and I'm not involved in those. But here I am, outside in the cold.” She raised her hands helplessly, then ashed carefully so the wind carried the coals away from them.

“Thinking about quitting then?” Lesstin asked. He'd tried that a long time ago, when he was younger and more energetic. Lesstin had long since accepted his smoking, understood that if he didn't quit, it would kill him. Maybe he would. Eventually.

“Isn't everyone?” Leetha asked, shivering as the wind whipped through the narrow delivery alley. Lesstin shrugged his uncertainty. “That wind is so cold,” she said through chattering teeth. She coughed, the short deep chested cough of annoyed lungs. “The dry air hates me. Staying out of the wind alone might be worth quitting.”

“Ah,” Nate added, smiling cleverly as young men do when they talk to a pretty woman. “But then you'd miss all this clever talk.”

“That would be terrible,” she said, a little playfully. Lesstin suspected these two weren't out here on break at the same time by mere chance.

“And then you'd spend all day watching the water cooler, waiting for me to get up, so we could happen to be there at the same time.” Nate smiled wider as he spoke. Leetha laughed encouragingly. “And I'd be eying the bathroom door, so we could bump into one another. We'd never get any work done, and we'd always manage to pass one another by, because of bad communication.”

“Ooh,” she said sadly, as if that were much of an answer. “Guess I'll keep at it then. Like you said, I'd hate to skip these thrilling conversations.”

They chatted a little more, mostly about the weather, and which coworkers they liked the least. Lesstin had experience in these situations, and after three or four minutes, the others were ready to go inside, but Lesstin's headache still raged, so he thought to have a second. He still had a small nub, and promised to finish it before heading right up.

The pair vanished into the building, leaving him alone on the dock, at least for a moment. He quickly drew off the last of his free cigarettes, and pulled another from a new pack. Before Lesstin lit his cigarette, the breeze plowed through the alley again. He hacked, a grating cough that caught in his chest like a burning fire. A cough that had nothing to do with the wind, and more to do with the lighter in his hand.

But as he thumbed the flint, a trio of men exited the building. One of them was a man named Calvin, who worked in printing, down one floor.

“Balls its cold out here,” Calvin said as a shiver shook his coat. The other two made similar comments, likely hoping to join into a conversation with Lesstin. But he barely heard them.

His cigarette lit and burned, he drew in, and exhaled. “I guess it doesn't bother me at all,” he said, not at all talking about the wind. All three men raised shocked eyebrows, at such a thing to say.

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2 comments:

  1. I like the characters in this. I feel more connected to Lesstin in this one. I love that it revolves entirely around smoking, although I abhor smoking. Can't wait for the next one.

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    1. I'm glad you feel more connected to him in this story, as I feel it's the first one where we see him not nearly dead. Lesstin is (more or less,) in a stable mindset here. Also, having written a few now, I'm starting to get a feel for the character.

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