Penance

by Richard Woolley

“Smoke?”

“Okay. Thanks.”

“Shouldn’t smoke.”

“Really? I hadn’t heard that.”

“Yeah, yeah. But it’s true, love.”

“Says the man with the twenty pack of Pall Malls.”

“I do say it. And these fags, they’re not mine.”

“Okay.”

“I’m telling you. I bought this pack maybe two weeks ago and now I’ve got three left and I haven’t smoked a single one.”

“You give them away.”

“I give them away until the pack’s empty. Then I buy another one, and I give them away too. I watch them dwindle down like I used to when I was smoking, only I feel better the closer I am to running out.”

“Expensive habit.”

“Always was. But what can I do? I’m addicted. I love cigarettes. Love to smoke. It doesn’t go away, even after you’ve quit. You’ll learn that one day Katie.”

“I remember you smoking. That’s one thing I do remember.”

“Well you’re right to, I was terrible.”

“And in all of the photos. The ones she kept.”

“Surprised she kept any.”

“Well.”

“Yeah.”

“Anyway.”

“I’ve still got a couple of my own. Keep this one with me, look.”

“I’m a bit pushed…”

“I know, I know. Just, here.”

“Jesus. The state of me.”

“Ah, you were ever so bonny.”

“Oh, stop it.”

“You were! Just. Completely perfect…”

“… So why did you quit?”

“I… What?”

“Smoking. Was it like a Road to Damascus thing?”

“Oh, I don’t know love, sorry. It was a bit like a New Year’s resolution, only it was June. Woke up coughing, couldn’t move. Finally managed to get to the sink for some water. My spit looked like golden syrup.”

“Delightful.”

“And all the time I’m thinking ‘I’m gasping for a fag here’. Anyway when I’d got it all under control I went straight out and bought a new pack and started giving them away. It’s my what-d’you-call-it?”

“Penance?

“That’ll do. My penance.”

“Well, good for you Chris.”

“Thanks love.”

“Well, anyway.”

“Just once Katie, I mean, would it hurt you to call me Dad?”

“It… I think it might, actually.”

“I mean would it kill you…”

“Have you got a light for this or what?”

Richard Woolley is a journalist from Doncaster. He lives in London.

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  1. #1 by Angela Wray on May 11, 2015 - 2:59 pm

    Great conversation – so much left unsaid. Loved it.

  2. #2 by Linda Daunter on May 14, 2015 - 1:05 pm

    I agree with Angela, it’s the gaps between the words that tell the story.

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