All Stories, Crime/Mystery/Thriller

A Sunset of Blue Smoke

The motel was distasteful. The wallpaper peeled off in strips, and water leaked from the ceiling into a near overflowing bucket. Everything had a yellow tint as the sun slowly set.

Out on the back patio, sat two men.

“You know how this ends, yeah?” the younger one said, lighting a cigarette. He let out a puff of smoke and looked at the older man across from him.

“I know how it ends, son. I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you have.” The old man reached out a hand.

The young man gave him the cigarette and spoke, “The name’s Mav. Class Four.”

“I suggest you get out at Seven. Ain’t no fun past that, becomes paperwork.” He passed the cigarette back to Mav and really looked at him for the first time.

Mav’s tattoos were still bright, they hadn’t even begun to fade. He wore a white suit, as was tradition, just as crisp as his tattoos. The old man couldn’t see them all, just the edges of a few. The tip of a wing here. A chain there. Flowers covered his hands. Seeing that made the man smile.

He lifted his old eyes to meet the young ones. The sun reflected in his eyes as it lowered in the sky.

“Do you know what I am, Mav?”

Mav shrugged.

“Another one they throw at me, trying to teach me a lesson, I suppose. You’re not any different than the last one.”

“You ever think that’s the point?”

Mav put out the cigarette in the rusted ashtray between them and leaned back in his chair. The old man couldn’t see it, but anyone could look and know it was there – that it fit perfectly in Mav’s hand as if it were molded to it.

“I don’t give a damn what the point is. I make my life what I want,” Mav said, laying one arm over the back of the rusted chairs. The chairs were uncomfortable. Pieces of plastic stuck up and gave sharp jabs at the two men, though neither spoke of it; it could be seen in their occasional grimaces. Like the motel itself, it needed to be broken down.

The old man shook his head, a small smile on his face.

“I thought the same thing when I was young. You can see how well that worked out,” he said.

“The sun looks beautiful, though,” Mav said, motioning at it with his head.

The old man looked and sighed. “Yes,” he said. “It is beautiful.”

Mav pulled the trigger.

The old man’s head was knocked to one side before it rolled to look down, the wings of a bluebird stretching with his skin.

Mav stared at the old man for a while, long after the sun had set.

The motel’s patio lights turned on, and in the distance, the blue vacancy sign was illuminated. Together, they cast a soft glow on the two men. Mav still stared.

Mav pulled out another cigarette and lit it, taking in a long drag.

Letting out a breath of smoke, he stood and tilted the old man’s head back up.

He took one more drag before putting it in the ashtray with the other.

Mav slipped out of the motel. In the dark of the night, Mav stood brightly in his white suit, the bluebird on his neck peeking out.


Katalina Bryant

Image by Hanjörg Scherzer from Pixabay

3 thoughts on “A Sunset of Blue Smoke”

  1. This example of the very short form is fine because every word tells. Sometimes stories of this length are maddeningly vague, but here there’s sufficient detail as to help you make your mind up about the unspoken details.


  2. Hi Katalina,
    As Leila has said, you give the reader enough to form their own idea on the story without taking them by the hand.
    This is a difficult thing to do well. It normally leaves the reader befuddled or it becomes a standard story with a few details which are annoyingly vague and don’t have any merit.
    It’s brave to start a story in the middle of it as were and again this shows a lot of skill.
    I’m very interested to see what else you can come up with.


  3. Yes, Katalina, in agreement with the wise ones above, The details keep me engaged when I don’t know what is happening or why—there is enough image and atmosphere to hold me: they share a smoke, they both have bird tattoos, Mav tilts the old man’s head back up. In the story that goes on in my mind after reading this, Mav will someday be in a seedy hotel with a younger version of himself pulling the trigger. Thanks. Well done.


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