A Steady Warmth

It was a cold day, and Jonas needed a cigarette. He’d had seventeen so far today. They kept him warm. Whiskey helped. Tommy ran through the kitchen, chasing his little brother Joel, and Jonas closed the cabinet where he kept his bottle of Jim Beam behind the baking soda and box of table salt. He put the glass away, too.

“Stop running around in the house,” he said to the house itself, hoping the kids would pick up his fatherly signal by tone if not the words themselves.

Joel cruised around the living room, the floor thumping and creaking such that Jonas knew exactly where his son stepped by virtue of the floor’s vocal range. He crouched, and when Joel came flying into the archway of the kitchen, Jonas grabbed his son, flipped him, and tickled him until he curled around Jonas’s arms in breathless laughter. Jonas was also out of breath, and his heart picked up from the brief burst of exertion, and he wanted to calm down with a cigarette.

Tommy wheeled around the corner, dashing into the kitchen seconds after Joel, only for his socks to slip on the lacquered wood flooring, turning him almost as upside-down as Joel. In the instinct of trying to catch Tommy, Jonas lunged and squeezed Joel to his chest with one arm, the other reaching for his oldest. Tommy’s head caromed off the floor and curled sickeningly backward as the rest of his body slapped flat, and Jonas accidentally kneed Jonas in the scalp during the sudden lunge.

Together the boys cried, a burst of horrible sound, then a long silence of agonized faces and wide open mouths before a crescendo of noise emerged anew. Jonas set Joel down, who crawled to his brother and tucked his forehead into his wrists, hands clutching his head, staining the floor with tears and muffled screams.

Jonas was up, he had his pack of smokes slapping into his palm, the smooth paper touch of a lone cigarette caressing the side of his finger. The cig came free and the pack disappeared in his pocket, his children screamed, and Maggie was gone, and he struck the lighter two times, three times, the white of the cigarette shook like it was afraid of the fire, and the cabinet with the baking soda and the table salt opened as Jonas inhaled and felt warmth in his mouth, throat, lungs. And out along his lips. And in again.

He closed the cabinet door.




Day 352’s three random writing prompt categories were, “The Emperor,” “Chainsmoking,” and, “Utterly ignored.”

No sound worse than a kid crying.

– H.

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