Flecks of Ash

A door slammed in the distance, and I glanced out the window.

A slim figure, wrapped in a black wool overcoat, padded out onto her back porch, just up to the first step, after which the awning vanished and a layer of powdery white covered the ground. She gathered her fettucine strips in one hand, slowly freeing them from the confines of the coat so that they billowed down over her shoulders, then upturned her collar to battle the chill.

She sat on the top step, mindless of the dark, moist wood beneath her. The wind gathered a fistful of her collar in its claws, wrenching it this way and that, slapping it against her cheek and yanking her coat back from her shoulder, exposing the sleeveless skin beneath.

Indifferent to the wind’s one-sided struggle, she dragged a cigarette from one pocket and a silver lighter from the other, letting the cancer stick rest between her lips as she flicked to life the lighter. It radiated red against a white backdrop.

I breathed onto the glass, a foggy sheen obscuring the scene before me. I could make out a bright foreground, and in the center, a dark, still blot. With two fingers, I swiped over the blot, until just January’s figure was in focus against the fog encasing her.

She brought the lighter to the tip of the cigarette, a hand poised just over the end to protect against the wind, but just before the flame reached out for the paper, eager to lick into it, the wind snuffed it out. January flicked the flint wheel once more, and the flame sprung back into being, straining against the silver. She pressed it to the tip of the cigarette, until the paper – and the thousands of carcinogenic chemicals sitting pretty inside of that paper – caught fire.

January stared out at the little expanse of land before her, the evergreens dotting the boundaries from yard to yard, unblinking and stoic. Little flecks of ash began to tumble from the tip, burning through the bed of snowflakes and into the dead, brown grass beneath. The wind whipped up, a door slamming somewhere downstairs under Bernoulli’s sadistic hand. The glowing red dot in the distance sputtered out.

January flipped open the lighter again, repeating the process until a new fire caught, and with renewed interest, set out to gobble up the feast before it. It wasn’t long before the wind, relentless in its mission, tore through her fingers and pinched to death the flame.

January snapped her lighter closed and stood. She walked back to the house, falling off into the fog and leaving the clear glass splotch empty.

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