The Devil's fingers
Samuel left the Tesco with a plastic bag full of food. Nothing fancy: Fish fingers, frozen chips and a bag of lettuce to cram some vitamins into his diet. Adjusting the bonnet on his head, the old man reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a cigarette out of the box with perfect precision. A whole seven pounds down the drain, that's what his old girlfriend would have told him. He'd always meant to stop but every time he tried, the siren's call of ash and nicotine brought h back to his old habits. At this point, he'd given up trying.
As he reached into his other pocket for his lighter, he twiddled the cigarette in his forefinger and thumb, bouncing it up and down rhythmically. His other hand fumbled around in his pocket, fingers dancing around, bumping into the soft material. Finally, the tips of his digits encountered the cold plastic of the lighter.
What was my ex's name again? He thought to himself. Maybe it was Michelle?
It'd been seventeen years or so since they'd broken up. Whether or not she was still in the city was a puzzle he didn't care to solve. She had her life, he had his. The forced union of their paths all that time ago had done neither of them any favours.
He pulled the lighter out and clicked down, bringing a small flame of orange into the world. It brought much-needed warmth to the world: It was nearly March and yet the snow kept coming uninvited to Glasgow. He brought it upwards, attempting to join it with his cigarette.
It seemed like the tiny tube had other ideas however, as it slipped out of his grasp and onto the snow-covered pavement below him. Before he could bend over, a gust of wind sent it tumbling along the ground clumsily, like a child rolling down a hill.
He cursed under his breath yet paid no mind to it. He had plenty more where that came from after all.
The wind blew.
Marty laughed. And he laughed. And then he fell over.
He enjoyed smoking weed: It took the stress away. It made him a completely different person, not the shy, nerdy boy that people loved to take advantage of. With the drug flowing through his body, it brought forth courage that he didn't know he had: It made him strong enough to stand up to his bitch of a mother. Just thinking about that abusive waste of atoms made him want to hurl.
Well, Ok. He couldn't exactly call her abusive; she clothed and fed him well enough, bought him presents for his birthday every year. For those reasons, he couldn't even call her neglectful. She was rude though: Always more interested in men than him. She even had the nerve to admit she wanted a girl. Shame that he had an extra Y chromosome he didn't need. His SQA results were nothing that amazed her, no matter how he did: She just didn't give a damn.
The people down at the corner cared though. They treated him like family, gave him biscuits from to time. He didn't worry about whether what they were doing was legal or where they got the pants. All that mattered to them was his happiness.
The concrete path was covered with snow. Clearing a space with his foot, he sat down on the concrete path, letting the small droplets of water dampen his jeans. He wouldn't stay long, just long enough for the drugs to run their course. His mother didn't know and he'd rather the status quo was kept: It'd destroy her.
But you know what would be really funny? If he went up to her with a cigarette in his mouth.
He'd never smoked before and yet the opportunity was too good to pass up. There was a cigarette lying on the ground beside him, his mother was at a nearby café with the latest in a long line of boyfriends. His biological father used to smoke, didn't he? Yes, he did. She'd told him over and over to avoid the evils of cigarettes, she called them 'The Devil's fingers'. There was no telling to how she'd react to him smoking, serve her right.
His pocket felt light. Too light to contain a lighter. Must have left it back at the shop.
Martin hid his face in his hands, an animalistic growl erupting from his vocal chords. Now what was he going to do? He couldn't pass up an opportunity like this! Dragging his palms down his face, he forced himself up from the ground and walked over to a lady walking her dog.
"S'cuse me love?" He asked, his thick accent on full display. "have a light?"
"Uh…I beg your pardon?" She muttered.
The woman backed off, dragging her barking cocker spaniel with her. She looked like she wanted to disappear, scuttling back like a frightened deer. Martin however, wasn't finished with her.
"Have a light. For this thingie." He laughed.
The woman put her foot down, both literally and figuratively. She stared into his face: His eyes were an appalling shade of red, bloodshot and tired.
The young man thought she was lying. Scratch that, he knew she was lying. Posh pansies like her always had a light on them, they just thought they were too good for people like him.
"You're lying!" He choked. "Gimmie a light, lass- "
"Get away from me!"
The woman screamed and swung her body back. In one swift motion, she twisted her body about ninety degrees, smashing her ruby red handbag into Martin's face. He didn't fall over but he did lose his balance, the ciggie in his hands falling to the ground. Seeing her opportunity, the woman scooped up her dog and made a run for it. The young man didn't even try to stop her.
The wind blew.
"And I think there's something up with him. He never tells me where he goes anymore and there's a strange smell on him when he comes home."
Michelle took a drink of her coffee. It was too bitter and too expensive for her liking, yet she drank it anyways. Derek always seemed to be drinking Coffee from this place, he'd been the one who'd arranged their date here.
"You dragged me to that art show last week," He'd rebutted over the phone. "It's my turn to choose."
She didn't like having that reminder pinned over her head. So far, all she seemed to be doing was giving, giving, giving. She was giving up her taste buds for disgusting coffee and her free time for a boyfriend who never listened and a son who was out all hours of the night. His grades had slipped recently and some days, he had bunked off school entirely.
At least he wasn't smoking. Her mother would rather let the world end before either she or her son set a cigarette in their mouth. Two of her cousins had died from lung cancer; they both smoked. So did her ex.
He also beat her. Then, to top it off, he'd left her as soon she announced her pregnancy. No warning, just a 'Goodbye' and the sound of keys landing on the table.
As a result, she'd gained a dual personality of sorts, one that would only erupt when she someone smoke the wretched things. If it was a stranger, she could control her, keep that side of her tucked away. But if someone she knew, cared about even, dared to smoke…
"I wouldn't worry about that." Derek said. "He's a teenager, you know what they're like nowadays."
Of course you'd fucking say that. She wanted to say. He's out there trying to get himself killed and you don't even care, you insensitive bastard.
Instead, she lay her teeth into her biscuit and kept quiet. She had to break up with this one, he obviously didn't care for Martin. Did SHE even care for Martin anymore? Of course she did, she was trying to get a stable father figure into his life! It didn't matter if he gave her the cold shoulder nowadays, if she could just succeed, everything would work out.
"Speaking of children, Tom's drama group are doing a live performance at the church this weekend."
A pair of tickets materialized from Derek's pocket.
"Fancy coming along? He asked her.
She felt like she could rip the tickets from his hand and scatter them into a million pieces, see what he thought of that. That damn ego eclipsed his good qualities: His clean face, the fact he didn't smoke, those almost made up for the number of lies he told her on a daily basis.
"Sorry I can't come over," He'd say. "Mates are expecting me down at the pub.
If that were the case, why did she see him kissing that other girl when she was out shopping? She'd keep going, if only so she could win him over, make him dump that whore. Her moral event horizon was on the brink of collapsing though: One more wrong move an-
"Is that a fucking cigarette?!"
The words charged out of her mouth before she could swallow them down. Derek nearly fell off his stool. Right there, a centimetre away from his shoe, was a cigarette. Unlit, uninvited and unwanted by the woman in front of him.
"Eh?!" Derek spat, looking down at the intrusive object. "I…I don't know how this got here, honest!"
"Give me your bag." She growled.
"Your. Bag. Now."
As he pulled the bag closer to him, the woman on the other side of the table was no more. In her place was a freight train of fury, charging right towards him. With strength neither party knew she had, she pulled the bag away from him.
Gravity pulled the contents to the pavement. Out came a magazine, the sole cigarette, miscellaneous dry food from the supermarket and finally…
Michelle held up the box in her hand, thinking just how easy it would be to take her anger out on it. She could squeeze it to a pulp right in front of him, tell him exactly what she thought of his lies, his arsehole of a son she'd never met…
No, she had to be the winner here. For all she knew, he wanted her to get angry, to yell at him. It was silly, yet it seemed like the just of thing he'd do. What men would do.
She gathered the items back into the bag. Derek soon found it being thrust into his chest like a miniature missile.
"We're done, you liar." She spat, throwing her coffee over him.
She didn't even look back as he yelled at her, pleaded her. She was done being the victim.
The wind blew.
Sarah hadn't smoked in fifty years.
She was old now: Old enough to know better at any rate. Everywhere she looked, the devil appeared to her, disguised the form of disgusting ash and smoke. He was infecting the youth of the city like the common cold, snapping them up one at a time into his grasp.
Well, she would rather lie down in front of an on-coming train that let anyone she cared about fall victim to the disease. Michelle, her own flesh and blood had been raised to detest anyone who even dared hold one of those damn tubes. She hoped to god that she was doing the same with her own son.
That's all she could muster when one of the devil's fingers blew her way. She bent over, picked it up, and threw it into the nearest trash bin, right where it belonged.
You can't hurt anyone now. She thought, trudging home through the thick snow.