…the director turns up for work. First thing he sees, right there on the pavement in front of him: a discarded cigarette stub, life in it yet.
He gave up smoking two years ago and — with the exception of a house party he vaguely remembers and at which he may only have had a couple of drags on someone else’s anyway, certainly not more than half — hasn’t touched one since. Literally not even one.
It’s not alone on the pavement. There’s other rubbish with it and dirt and an ant or a fly or something, but there it is, right there in front of him: a still smoking Marlboro butt, life in it yet. He looks at the oozing wispy smoke, trying hard to be optimistic, not to think of it as limp-looking. It’s just lying there on the pavement, and he’s standing there in his suit though he’s taken off the jacket and rolled up his sleeves.
He wonders what they’d think if they saw him now.
The old cinema has a huge neon BINGO sign above the door, but there are hundreds of people walking past it, and he doesn’t recognize any of them yet: he’s clearly the first here. In a city this big, no one’ll recognize him again. What would it take? A second to bend down and pick it up, three seconds to finish it off, half a second to ditch it again. It’d be nothing. He’s already tired, he’s pissed off, he’s just spent the best part of an hour — what felt like much more, smelt horrible, felt horrible and will surely be long remembered for the extent to which it was horrible — on a packed train, and he’s walked a good ten minutes just to get here. His ankles ache, the soles of his feet ache, his head is starting to ache. And there it is, right there in front of him.
He imagines the old cinema, back in the thirties, with its new white brickwork, ionic columns, a leaning pagoda roof. He looks at the BINGO sign. He’s short of inspiration. He isn’t happy with the script, and he only has a day of filming to play with, and all the while, the cinema persists so elegantly. He picks up the butt, takes a drag, appreciates the anti-climax and walks inside, trying to remember that great idea from last night when he was just lying there in bed, and affecting a limp as he does so.
About The Author
Daniel Wise works as an English teacher in London. He writes flash fiction and short stories in between piles of marking and spending time with his wife and daughter.
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