Tangents

Flash
Brian D. Day


After they were done, he had one of her cigarettes. It was one of those brown cigarettes that smells like apple cider. He didn’t usually smoke, but it seemed appropriate.

She pulled the sheet up to cover herself and sat leaned against the headboard without saying anything. He couldn’t tell whether she was sad or content.

“Cigarette?”

“No thanks,” she said.

He took a long pull from his cigarette and tried not to cough as the smoke tickled against the back of his throat. He blew the smoke out with a gasp and cleared his throat.

“Smooth,” he started to say, but his voice cracked as he said it. He cleared his throat again. “Smooth.”

She smiled and ran her fingernails through the short hair on the side of his head.

“That was nice,” she said.

“My smoking or… the other thing?”

“The other thing. The smoking makes you look like a moron.”

“Well, I can live with one out of two,” he said. “I’m glad you liked it. The other thing, I mean.”

“You know we can never do that again, right?”

He stared at the glowing ember on the end of the cigarette and didn’t say anything.

“Right?” she repeated.

“You mean like after right now or after we leave the room?”

“I’m serious,” she said. “I mean, once is a forgivable lapse. An accident. More than once is like a premeditated conspiracy. I’m not that kind of person.”

“Premeditated conspiracy? You sound like a lawyer.”

“I am a lawyer.”

“Well, then, that’s good,” he said.

Neither of them said anything for a moment. He stared down at his body and patted his belly.

“I should work out more.”

“What?”

“Work out. I should go to the gym more.”

“What brought this on?”

“I’m just saying that if I’m going to be a premeditating conspirator, my tummy should be a little more six-pack and a little less pony keg.”

“I’m sorry, did you just say ‘tummy’?”

“Yeah… well, you got me feeling a little giddy here.”

“Your—uh—tummy is fine. Besides, I think you missed the point. You’re not going to be a conspirator.”

“Yeah.”

“I’m not that kind of person,” she said.

“Yeah.”

He looked again to the glowing tip of the cigarette, but it had gone out. There was nothing but ugly gray ash. He dropped the butt in the ashtray beside the bed.

“You never answered my question, though.”

“What question?”

“Can we never do it again after right now or after we leave the room?”

She smiled.
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Brian Day is a lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, where he lives in a small house with his wife, a dog, and a three-legged cat. E-mail: briand[at]legis.state.il.us.

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