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By Phil Temples
The woman and the man shared an awkward silence. They had only just met outside on the patio. Neither of them was very good at small talk.
The man spied another couple smoking nearby. She saw them, too.
“Isn’t it awful how many people die from cigarette-related illnesses each year?”
“Yes,” she replied. “I understand it’s something like a half million in the United States alone.”
“Yes, and it’s terrible what the cigarette industry is doing to open up its worldwide markets. I remember reading somewhere that if all cigarette sales were banned tomorrow in this country, those companies would still make a killing overseas.”
“You’re probably right.” She added, “Did you hear that Philip Morris changed its name to Altria Group? They’re hoping that they can clean up their image without sacrificing tobacco profits.”
“And you know something? It’ll probably work, too. The American public is so naive about big business.” He added, “The public still has this romantic image of the ‘Marlboro Man.’”
“He died of lung cancer, right?” she asked.
“Yes, I hear he died a horrible death.”
The man paused a moment. He looked over his shoulder at the couple smoking nearby. They were laughing. They seemed to be enjoying each other’s company. They were both perfectly at ease. He envied them. The man resumed his thought.
“...Both of them, I should say. There were two. Wayne McLaren and David McLean. Before McLaren died, he testified in front of Congress in favor of anti-smoking legislation.”
“Wow,” she said.
“Pretty soon, you won’t be able to smoke within 100 feet of a public building in the City of Newton.”
“Is that right?"
“Already most of the bars in New England are either smoke-free, or have separate smoking areas.”
“I guess it’s a sign of the times,” she replied.
The two endured another pregnant pause. He felt on-edge and tense. He also wondered if she found him to be a bore.
“Um... I know this sounds bizarre,” she started. “But...”
“You wouldn’t happen to have a cigarette, would you?”
“No,” he laughed. “Let’s ask that couple over there if we can borrow from them. I’m dying for one, too."
#ShortStory #FlashFiction #SmallTalk #PhilTemples #HeyBud #YouGotALight?
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