The Last Smoker

The last smoker wraps his coat a little tighter about his chest and takes another draw. The wooden tables and chairs outside the bar are sodden with winter’s approach. Once upon a time the proprietors would have put lights and some gas heaters out here for their clientele but that didn’t make financial sense any more, not for one solitary, old fool. The last smoker reminisced about those days, when you could start up a conversation with a stranger, get a peek into a life you would otherwise never have known, sheltering in a doorway and nicotine addiction your only common bonds.

He took another draw, holding the smoke in his mouth as long as possible, trying to draw out all the flavour. It would be some time before he could afford another packet, what with the price they charged these days. It was cheaper for him to fill up his car (not that he owned it any longer) than to buy a 10 pack of Lites. But damn did he enjoy it. He inspected the burning paper and leaves, pinched between two shaking fingers. A rare delicacy grown on the far side of the world, refined and transported over oceans and mountains just for him to enjoy, the final ambassador of a dying art. He didn’t care if it was true that he was addicted like they claimed, he was good at smoking, dedicated and grateful. More than you could you say about a lot people in this age.

The cigarette had finally burned down to the filter and so the last smoker ground it out on the tabletop and, unable to find a bin or ashtray, flicked away the butt. It landed at the foot of a mother and her young child just coming out of the nearby shopping centre, the woman’s arms ladden with a ridiculous amount of plastic shopping bags.

“Filthy habit,” she scowled, pulling her youngster away from attempting to pick up the cigarette butt.

“Ah you’ll be rid of me soon enough,” called the last smoker then coughed heavily into his fist. The last of his kind.

Title image courtesy saad

Published in: on November 10, 2011 at 9:33 PM  Comments (17)  

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17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Enjoyed the subtle clues that this is not the world we know, at least yet.

    • Yes, it’s the world we know, just a little further along the road.

  2. At that point you’d think he’d grow his own tobacco. Probably won’t give him the license. Maybe move to Mars?

    • A good point – perhaps the punishment for such a crime would be death though?

  3. Great story – loved the way you romanticised smoking whilst wiping it out, almost. And the juxtaposition of the woman’s plastic bags with his ‘filthy habit’ was awesome.

    • Yeah it was an interesting piece – writing from a point of view I don’t necessarily hold myself.

  4. There’s a lot of detail packed into this, and I could really “see” it going on. Such a sense of bored acceptance at the end.

    • Cheers! Inspired by a real scene – seeing a solitary man sitting, freezing outside a pub in the dark.

  5. Interesting scene. I could see this happening.

    • Thanks Chuck – I almost wanted to paint the mother as as much the villain as the smoker.

  6. A shame that people’s choices are making them extinct.

    • I actually cut a chunk out how he’d gotten started smoking and his role models had been these silver screen actors and soldiers in war films – always with a smoke in their hands.

  7. Oh I really liked this descriptive piece of writing.

    I loved this line; ‘He didn’t care if it was true that he was addicted like they claimed, he was good at smoking, dedicated and grateful. More than you could you say about a lot people in this age.’

  8. Well done. Thought at first he was also the last smoker of the evening after everyone else had gone home. Not sure if it would have worked better like this, but there again you need to include the mother and baby walking past at the end. Really enjoyable read though.

    • I’d never thought of that, of him just being the last smoker of the night. However I had intended there to be vagueness about him actually being the last smoker ever, I mean, how would he know? Glad you enjoyed it.

  9. I loved the “burning paper and leaves” line as well as the juxtaposition of “filthy habit” and the plastic bags. Great insight into characters in a tightly written scene.

    • Thanks Cathryn – I definitely wanted to blur the lines about who was right and wrong.

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