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“Where are my smoking glasses?”

"Smoking_Glasses"_Narration_1

"Smoking Glasses" Narration 1

Elizabeth frowned at her father’s request, not having made it one step out of the stuffy, dust-layered hole that was their living room. This was her third attempt at leaving, and once more had the confused man called out for her in that all-too familiar way, voice heavy with contempt. It was the same loveless cadence she recognised from the 40-odd years they had lived in the house together, though the energy behind it was now weak and smouldering, like a fire in need of stoking.

She took a moment to consider the question. First the blanket, then the ashtray, now this. It was true that her father had been a rather excessive smoker in his prime (perhaps contributing to his aforementioned asthenia), but she had never heard of such an accessory. Smoking glasses? Was she to look for a smoking wristwatch, too?

“Do you mean your smoking jacket?” She had never before seen her father wear such a thing, but it was not impossible that one might be upstairs in the attic, tucked away in some half-crumbled box with all the other forgotten mementos from the man’s younger years.

“No, you useless girl…I need my smoking glasses!”

Elizabeth stammered, trying to find some combination of words that would smother his growing ire. His hate-filled eyes burned into hers, forcing her to withdraw.

“I’ll-I’ll see if I can find them.”

The statement seemed to appease him. He turned and slouched into the old armchair, plucking a cigarette from a nearby dish and placing it between his lips. A flame popped into existence with the flick of his thumb and perfectly singed its end. The movement was practically automatic; Elizabeth knew it would be one of the last things to go as his mind fully collapsed in. As long as her father could still partake in his favourite habit, she would not be free. Not quite yet.

She walked out of the room and into the kitchen, feeling like she could use a cigarette herself, did she not find the activity so revolting. For a reason that eluded her even now, her father had forced her to try one at no older than ten or eleven; countless nightmares of choking breaths and loose, yellow teeth followed. She was sure that fateful puff had contributed to her asthma diagnosis.

Feeling out of sorts, she retired to her usual place of recuperation: a chair by the open window. Though Elizabeth had much to complain about in her dragging, unhappy life, the view was certainly not one of those things. From the back of her faded, broken-down house was a bright, grassy plain filled with foxes, squirrels, and all sorts of woodland critters. It was a beautiful sight, not just in the summer months, but all year-round, even when the ground stood firm with white and the skeletal trees rapped against the walls, like they did when she was little. Now was autumn, and those trees were painted a flaming orange, just starting to lose their leaves. In moments like this, she pictured herself as a Snow White of sorts, humming a beautiful tune while smiling animals surrounded her, making her feel at home.

No sooner than the thought came to her did a bird land on the windowsill. It made a brief vocalisation and tilted its head, showing no signs of fear or trepidation. Elizabeth was stunned – she had scarcely been able to spot a robin in years, let alone have once come to visit her. She scanned the room, checking if she had left any seed out, but there was none. If she didn’t know better, she’d have thought the thing was only interested in her.

And as that thought came to mind, she heard another:

“What do you want, more than anything in the world?”

It was only in her head, but some strange gut feeling told her the voice was not hers. She dismissed it instantly, of course. Though she was not in any way brave nor bold, Elizabeth Parsons was an astute, intelligent woman who did not believe in such fanciful things as gnomes and fair-folk and talking animals. It was the same kind of rubbish that had consumed her mother in her final years, ranting and raving about the fiction of her diseased mind as she did until she simply dropped dead. Elizabeth suspected that the foul brain-rot that afflicted her father may have wrapped its grimy hands around her mother too back in those days, though at least then, it had the mercy to do her in quickly.

So, with a self-satisfied smile, she gave the request no further thought then to answer it with the first thing that she could think of:

“A pair of smoking glasses.”

The bird tilted its head once more and flew off, as if on cue. Elizabeth sniffed and licked her dry lips, suddenly overcome by anxiety. What was she doing? Sitting idly, daydreaming, while in another room, her father was alone? She felt his scornful eyes upon her again, despite the fact that he was nowhere to be seen. Enough of this. Collecting herself, she stood up, took a deep breath, and hurried back towards the living room.

Dinner in the Parsons household was often a sorry state of affairs. Elizabeth was hardly a cook, and she frequently found herself having to make do with the limited budget of her father’s diminishing wealth. Caring for him was a full-time job in of itself, so the money had to last until either one of them kicked the bucket. With the scars on her wrist, Elizabeth wasn’t too sure who that’d be anymore.

Regardless, the pair sat at the table in the dimly-lit dining room and ate. Tonight’s meal was a rather simple spaghetti Bolognese from a jar. Elizabeth had neglected to make her homemade version since the last time, when it was spat back out in her face. As she leant over her plate, she played endlessly with the noodles, something she would always be scolded for as a girl. Her not having eaten all day did nothing to encourage her to put the food to her mouth. Her appetite seemed less and less with each passing week.

Her father, on the other hand, wolfed down the processed calories like a man starved, caring not for the sauce caked around his mouth, which betrayed those ideals of manner he’d so desperately tried to instill in his daughter. His eating habits seemed to change with the wind; sometimes he’d reject food he had enjoyed for years beforehand, instead opting for a mouldy orange or the spoiled leftovers of something he’d refused to eat at the time. It was behaviour that, on paper, was infantilising, but did nothing to dispel Elizabeth’s fear of him. Sometimes he’d even look at her like she was the one doing things wrong, making him feel uncomfortable.

Moving to finally pop a meatball into her mouth, she elbowed a glass of water onto her lap.

“Shit.”  She whispered. “One minute, dad.”

There was a stack of paper towels in the other room. Rounding the corner, she plucked a few off the top of the pile and hurried back to her seat.

“Do you remember nights like this, Liz?”

Elizabeth froze. Her father was standing now, at the end of the table, a sliver of drool edging its way out of the corner of his mouth. Instead of being hunched over as he usually was, looking towards the floor, he was stiffly upright, awake, and alert. It was a side of him she rarely got to see anymore, and she would’ve relished the moment of clarity if she did not know what it entailed.

“Fine food…the record player on…”

He began humming some familiar tune. Something old and slow and sweet. Its name evaded her, but she definitely recognised it, well enough that she started to shake. He was striding now, taking long, rhythmic steps towards her, as if in time with the song. It didn’t end until he was pressed right up beside her, and she had to crane her head upwards to even look at him. She was a small girl; even with his shrunken frame, her father stood around a foot taller than her.

“Don’t you miss it?”

Elizabeth swallowed, her eyes awash with un-cried tears. She was aware of the way the dementia worked by now; sometimes a fleeting memory from a bygone year would pervade her father’s mind, and he would demand immersion. Nothing less would satisfy.

She noticed how tight the front of his pants looked, and as she opened her mouth to speak, he slipped a hand down her front.

Smash came the impact of the empty glass against her father’s temple. Elizabeth hardly registered the searing pain of the shards lodged in her palm. As her father wobbled backwards and slumped down against the wall, she delivered a hard kick to his windpipe. The result was a satisfying choking noise as the man’s airway collapsed inwards, preventing the flow of oxygen to his lungs. One half of his face swiftly turned a pale shade of blue, the other obscured by a downpour of blood that stained his collar a deep crimson. Again and again, she brought her heel down upon his head, producing a loud crunch each time, shaping its structure into a mushy, concave surface of fractured bone and splattered flesh-

Elizabeth screamed, her fantasy interrupted by the undeniability of the reality before her. She shoved her father hard enough for him to recoil, hard enough for her to break free, run to the bathroom, and lock the door behind her. She found herself to be the one slumping down as she burst into tears, all the energy sucked out of her in an instant. The only thing she could think about was how much she wanted to die, for that to have been her wish to the bird instead.

Time passed, and she gradually recomposed herself, enough to at least open the door. Half of her expected him to be stood right outside like some kind of boogeyman, but a quick peek through the crack of the hinge proved that this was not the case. She tiptoed through the dark, decrepit house until she made it back to the dining room.

Her father was sat as before as if nothing had happened, quietly finishing his meal while still humming that repetitive tune.

The next day was cool and blustery. Elizabeth pulled her scarf tightly around her neck, determined to keep the chill out. Her extremities always seemed to be cold, no matter the weather. “You’ve got your mother’s hands,” her father used to say as he held them in his own. That was a long time ago. He would never let her touch him now.

With a basket of shopping, she rode steadily along the winding country lane. As per usual, her thoughts were occupied with the schedule of the day ahead. What needed to be cleaned, cooked, emptied out. It was all so lamentably boring. Perhaps if her labour was in service of some dashing breadwinner, she’d appreciate it more. Someone to sweep her off her feet and bridal carry her up to their bedroom.

Another silly fantasy. She tutted and began cycling faster, wary of getting lost in her own mind.

She crested the top of an incline on her way back towards the house, which was now visible. It was a regrettable sight from a distance, a rotten speck on the otherwise pristine natural environment, thankfully obscured by a cluster of hills. A few miles down the right side of the fork was the big city, where she had not been in a while. Occasionally, she entertained herself with the thought of moving there, but it was never more than a dream, a passing fancy.

As she pedalled up to the front lawn, she saw something strange: her father sat upon the top floor balcony. He rose quickly having seen her, a look of bewilderment upon his face. Elizabeth kicked herself internally – this was the second time she’d forgotten to lock the door behind her.

Though it was mid-morning, he had his evening clothes on, a plain white button-up with a beaten jacket, poorly-knotted tie, and pair of round spectacles to match. Elizabeth’s annoyance turned to worry as she noticed his front was completely soaked, all the way down from his neck to his crotch.

“Liz!” he cried out to her, “the stupid thing isn’t working!”

She squinted up at him. In one of his hands was a rusty flip lighter with its bottom removed. The other held a crumpled cigarette. A haphazardly-sliced open can of lighter fluid lay on its side on the table behind him, its contents dripping onto the floor.

It didn’t take long for her to put two together. Elizabeth’s senses heightened as she felt herself pulled into a moment of deep contemplation. There was a kind of battle raging within her, one side desperately trying to convince the other that her anger, her opportunism, was nothing more than morbid curiosity. It was something she didn’t quite know how to feel about.

“Tell me how to do it, you idiotic girl!”

All she had to do was obey. And that was one of her greatest talents. As she weighed up her options, she noticed him toying incessantly with the top of the thing.

“Down, father.”

“What?”

“You have to flick it down, not up.”

He stared at her with glassy eyes, then turned his attention back to the Zippo.

“Down…”

Time seemed to move in slow motion as Elizabeth watched her father explode into flames. The blaze began at his chest, giving her just enough time to see the abject horror upon his face before it too was consumed. He let out an awful, guttural squeal, like a dying pig, and began frantically hitting his arms against his body. She waited tensely for the rest of the fluid to erupt, setting the house alight, but as the man stumbled forwards, away from the table, the moment never came. Whatever greying part of his brain was responsible for self-preservation was clearly unable to fully kick in, however, as he suddenly became rooted in place.

“Jump.” Elizabeth called out. “Jump!”

He must’ve heard the command, because no sooner than a few seconds afterwards did he throw himself between a gap in the railing. The fire came down with him, and Elizabeth thought he looked rather like a meteorite for a second, before his body impacted the first floor awning. There was a crunching of bone as the man bounced off the wooden protrusion, and a pathetic yelp, like that of a scurrying dog. Several items were launched towards Elizabeth at once: a shoe, some teeth, the responsible lighter, and something else, something she didn’t care to acknowledge at the moment. She was purely focused on her father as he rolled onto his back in midair and hit the ground, falling another storey in the process. The force of the collision sent some area of his pelvis protruding through itself, a thin, white bone suddenly sticking itself out of his side. His leg was bent in what could have only been an incorrect way, also, and she was sure that his neck was far too twisted to still be in order. As he lay upon the muddy ground, completely still, he gave Elizabeth the impression of a discarded ragdoll.

He was still burning, of course. He burned and burned, and as he died, so too did the hate and insecurity Elizabeth felt in her heart. She pushed out a deep sigh, as if to expel all of it at once, and sat upon a nearby log, waiting for the flames to tire themselves out. Only hours later, when the last embers of the fire were all but dead, did she begin to move away.

As she stood up, her foot came down upon some piece of debris that had been thrown at her. She bent over to pick it up, but gasped as she felt its heat sear her fingers.

She knelt down to inspect it further, finding it to be a pair of blackened, smoking, glasses.



Written by Cornconic
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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