A Pack of Smokes

Mr. Butcher did not know where his cigarettes were but he did know one thing…they definitely were not on his person. And they definitely were not on the park bench at Tompkins Square Park where he had just been sitting. Oh well. He supposed this was just another step on his path to Eternal Damnation which started long ago. But sitting in the middle of a playground, puffing away, while parents looked on disdainfully, probably advanced him quite a bit.

But to hell with them. He remembered this park when a kid wouldn’t step foot in it for fear it would be scurried over by a rat. Those were the days when he and Skeeter ruled the streets…or so they would have liked to have thought. Those two…they always had some kind of scam going. They lived on the streets and worked them for all they could get…cigarettes, drugs, sex… Butcher thought he had made it for sure the first day he could even afford his own pack of smokes.

And Skeeter…what happened to him? Butcher heard that he was now filed under Married with Children, headed for a life of yuppiedom with a woman who was seriously looking into converting to Krishna, if she hadn’t already.

In the meantime, somewhere blocks across The East Village, Skeeter hadn’t completely lost his edge. Behind his wife’s back, he was meeting with a group of conspiracy theorists who believed that one day, when everybody realized that you didn’t have to pay $22 for a sandwich, the punks would take back the Lower East Side…and they were getting the next generation ready.

Every Saturday at 2, when Skeeter’s wife Emily was getting ready for her knitting circle, she’d send Skeeter and their son Mason off to yoga…only that’s not where they ended up. Once well out of her sight, Skeeter would take off his son’s yoga pants and headband, and replace it with (authentically) ripped jeans and a Cannibal Corpse t-shirt. Then Skeeter would take Mason to Juvenile Delinquent’s Class where he learned the finer points of looting, pickpocketing and becoming a successful drug lord.

No one could quite believe it when they saw Mason running around Tompkins Square Park with an unlit cigarette hanging out of his mouth so they all just assumed it was candy. “Nice job son” Skeeter said, as he extracted one from the pack and lit up.


I’m kind of excited at my foray into short story writing and am looking forward to your comments and criticisms. The story was inspired by my trip to New York and partially based on truth.


81 thoughts on “A Pack of Smokes

  1. Great start! Wonderful to mix it up and experiment. I keep telling my kids NYC wasn’t always so polished. There were major sections one needed to avoid in the 80s. Keep at it!

  2. Okay I kept looking for a rhyme, (even an accidental one) but that’s my problem! You’ve taken fantastic imagery, a great voice, terrific cadence, and woven it into narrative fiction….. Nothing can stop you!

  3. I loved it! At first I was confused when it didn’t rhyme, but after I realized it was a story I rolled with it. Pretty awesome! Will there be more installments?

    • Yeah, I think a few people are getting the idea that I was going to continue with this story line but I actually just meant it as it’s own piece. This was based on a true story since my friend was hanging out with me in TSP and lost his cigarettes. We were so engaged in conversation that he didn’t notice they were missing but my family saw a young boy running around with them in his mouth. They assumed it was candy. Later we were making jokes about how his family takes him to pickpocketing school on the weekends. I thought it would be funny to expand on that.

  4. I like the feel of this story. A spectator’s view with a touch of omniscience. My only critique would be the paragraph where you say, “Every Saturday…”. That transition felt abrupt to me from the previous paragraph. Overall, this was a fun read though… and who puts a boy into yoga pants? That should be a crime.

    • Right Todd, I appreciate the feedback. The story did jump around a bit and I wanted to keep it brief so I kind of fed off that but I can see where it could throw some people off.
      Yes, the yoga pants were definitely meant to read as a travesty so I’m glad you picked up on that.

  5. You’re off to a great start! This was delightful and fun to read 🙂 keep them coming, you’re very good at mixing it up.

  6. Great start Marissa- but you’ve always been brilliant storyteller. Really glad you’ve delved into stories. You might not want to delve into your back catalogue but I reckon you have a huge amount of short story material in your poetry. So- which bits are based on real life?????

    • Yeah, I often think of what can convert to short stories. I’ve written a couple as short stories and then converted them.

      Funny enough, I met with a friend in TSP and we were talking for a while and then we got up to walk around. Then he realized his cigarettes were gone. We were absorbed in conversation so had no idea what happened but my family said they saw a kid running around with his cigarettes and just assumed they were candy. Then we started kidding around about how he probably went to Pickpocket’s Class on Saturday afternoons. So, that’s all based on truth…not to mention the yuppification of Manhattan.

  7. Welcome to the Dark Side. I knew you’d come over eventually. Just wondering. If Eternal Damnation is next to Purgatory, I’ve been there. Believe me, everybody smokes in that town.

  8. I hung on every word…and other cliche compliments! Seriously though, I’m super excited for you, and I love that your gritty voice is still very present, even though you’ve switched genres.

  9. Love that affording your own pack of smokes means you’ve made it. Also that Skeeter has a “secret life” unbeknownst to his wife and her knitting circle. $22 for a sandwich? I hope you’re kidding! 🙂

  10. My favourite part in here was about Skeeter taking Mason to Juvenile Delinquent Classes as part of the punks prepping the next generation to take over. Marissa, you tell a good story. In my head I could hear this being read in an announcer voice for a crime show like the opening sequence for Law & Order 🙂

  11. I really like this, Marissa. Keep on writing. I was pulled into this short story immediately and you kept my interest to keep on reading more. Love the “feel” of this as well. Great job!!! ❤

  12. I think you have a short story writer within your abilities, really good character development here. Changes in familiar places are not always easy to accept.
    There is an Italian family movie where each character has a secret and I love this, knowing it is posdible members of your family may be hiding other facets of themselves. The film is called, “City Island.”

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