The dumpsters behind the old warehouse were a perfect place to snag a mostly sheltered cigarette break. There was always a person or two hiding out from the constant wind blowing along the old canal. There might not be many jobs here anymore, but there wasn’t a shortage of people trying to dodge work for a quick nicotine hit.
Kennedy punched out for lunch and headed down to the dumpsters. He figured to catch a quick hit before getting a coffee and maybe one of those shawarma wraps from that funny smelling dude at the lunch cart. As he entered the unofficial smoking zone he noticed that Travis was already there. That dude had blown in on the winds a couple of weeks ago and worked in the warehouse next door. From what Kennedy had heard he was almost a ghost. He had no friends, and spoke even fewer words. He must have a crapload of stories though. The man was covered in tattoos that pictured faces distorted by screaming. Kennedy had a few tattoos of his own, but nothing that awesome.
Kennedy gave the mandatory head bob in recognition of Travis being there first and received a slight nod back, accepting Kennedy’s entry into the church of smoke. Travis was thumping a soft pack of some off brand of menthols. Kennedy hated the smell of menthols, but he noticed that what wind was there was coming from Kennedy’s side of the shelter. Kennedy wouldn’t have to worry about it.
Kennedy grabbed out his hard pack of unfiltered. He pulled one out with his lips and reached for his lighter. The problem was that his lighter wasn’t there.
“Damn,” Kennedy said through clenched lips. “Hey man, can I bum a light?”
Travis put his cigarette pack on the dumpster and pulled out his sapphire blue Zippo. With a very practiced flick of his wrist and thumb a flame appeared out of thin air. Kennedy leaned in close and drew the flame into the cigarette, bringing it to life. Kennedy breathed in deep and felt a small bit of satisfaction.
“Thanks man,” Kennedy said.
Travis flicked the lighter closed and placed it back into his overalls. He picked back up his unopened pack of cigarettes and began to thump it against his open palm. Kennedy notice and nodded towards the pack.
“You going to smoke one of those?” Kennedy asked.
Travis stopped thumping and turned back to Kennedy. “What nosiness is it of yours?” Travis asked. He began thumping his pack once again.
“You keep that up you won’t have anything left to smoke,” Kennedy said.
Travis paused mid hit. “Who said I wanted to smoke?”
Kennedy laughed. “Nobody is dumb enough to buy a pack for like twenty bucks and not smoke them,” Kennedy said.
Travis began tapping his pack again. “Maybe I’m trying to quit,” he said.
“Then throw them away man,” said Kennedy. “But I always say smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.”
“When I smoke I worry about my smoke killing people,” Travis said.
That made Kennedy almost drop his cigarette as he laughed hard. “Now that is some funny shit,” Kennedy said. “You’re more worried about second hand smoke than what you do to your own lungs? Dude, you must be a saint.”
It was Travis’ turn to laugh. “No one has ever confused me with a saint.”
Kennedy took a long draw on his cigarette and watched Travis. Travis ignored him and focused on tapping his pack. Kennedy was curious. “Hey man, those are some awesome tatts. Where did you get them done?” Kennedy said.
“None of your concern,” replied Travis. The tapping became a bit more forceful.
“Look, I just want to get something like that myself. Your tattoo artist is like crazy good,” Kennedy said.
“Thanks,” Travis said.
Travis smiled a grin that made Kennedy shiver. “I did them all myself,” Travis said.
Kennedy let out a low whistle. “Man, you are one tough mother,” Travis said. “How much do you charge?”
“You wouldn’t want to pay that much,” said Travis. He looked straight into Kennedy’s eyes. “Trust me.”
Kennedy laughed a bit nervously. “Come on, give me a number. You might be surprised what I would pay for it,” Kennedy said. “I mean, your tatts are so lifelike. I love how the eyes scream as much as their mouths”
Travis stood there just staring at Kennedy. Kennedy let the lull in the conversation just sit there for a while, but it seemed Travis wasn’t going to respond. “Come on man,” Kennedy continued. “Don’t be a prick. Give me something to work with.”
“You want something to work with?” Travis asked as he unwrapped his soft pack.
Kennedy nodded. “Yeah man. I mean it. I want one,” Kennedy said.
Travis pulled out his zippo and set his lit his cigarette while facing away from the wind, taking a couple of quick puffs.
“Really, name your price,” Kennedy said.
The wind kicked up just as Travis muttered something. Kennedy moved closer. “What did you say?” Kennedy asked.
The wind died down to a calm as Travis turned back to face Kennedy with his eyes closed. “I said are you willing to be a subject for one of my tattoos first?” Travis asked.
Kennedy nodded, but realized Travis couldn’t see the action. “Yeah, I can do that. It would be pretty cool,” Kennedy said.
“Good,” said Travis. He sucked hard on his cigarette taking in quite the lungful and held it there for a second. Travis’ eyes snapped open as he blew out the smoke into Kennedy’s face. The last thing Kennedy saw was the red glow coming from Travis’ eyes. Kennedy began to scream as he could feel his body, his mind, and his soul being pulled apart by the smoke.
Travis sucked back in the smoke and the dissipating Travis. He held that smoke in his lungs for a moment, savoring the feel before blowing a bit of smoke back out. Travis undid one side of his overalls and pulled down the collar of his t-shirt underneath. There was the picture of Kennedy, screaming, face distorted by the smoke to something so lifelike, but so wrong.
“That’s why you should listen that my smoking kills,” Travis said to the last of the smoke drifting away on the winds by the canal.