Are the Stories Still Very Short Sometimes Where You Are?

NB: Paper Cut Flophouse was a group blog that ran in the late aughts. Most posts were written by two contributors: me, using the pseudonym Roman Briton, and my friend Pompeston, the mastermind of the endeavor. This is a cross-posting of a post I originally wrote for PCFH; here’s a link to the original.

“It’s like,” he said, tapping the end of his cigarette on the edge of the ashtray, “it feels like there was this whole world, see? I mean, what I mean is, a whole world of stories. Geez, I don’t know if I’m making any sense.” He stubbed out his cigarette, got up from the couch, and walked to the kitchen. “You want another beer, honey?” he asked. She nodded at him from the couch. “Okay. Okay, I’ll get us both a couple beers,” he said. “I’d like a beer,” she said. He got the beers from the refrigerator and walked back to the couch. “What do you mean when you say it’s like it was a whole world?” she asked, grinning at him. “You’re not going cuckoo on me, are you?” He pulled the tabs off both beers and dropped them in the ashtray with the dead cigarettes. “Hey, I’m no loon,” he said, gently punching her in the chin as he handed her one of the beers. “It’s just, it’s like all these old stories, see, it’s like they were supposed to be these mirrors, but it’s more like they were windows, you know?” He sipped his beer. “Windows on this world where all these gents and dames talked alike and all, all natural-sounding and such, all in this crazy mixed-up world that wasn’t real, even though it was supposed to be real. You know, a world where it’s like all they do is smoke and drink and the dames are made of cardboard! And nothing ever happens! Ah, nuts,” he said. “See what happens when I try to go and make sense? I get all, what’s that word, I get all cockeyed.” He took two cigarettes from the pack in his pocket, lit them both, and handed her one. “Screwy, is all it is,” he said. They both took drags on their newly lit cigarettes at the same time. She turned in her seat and slid down, resting her head in his lap. She balanced her beer on her belly. “What’s wrong with smoking and drinking all the time?” she asked. “That’s like, well, I mean, that sounds pretty swell to me.” He stroked her hair with his cigarette hand. Her hair caught fire. “Geez,” he said. “Honey,” she said. The flame quickly spread to the couch, the area rug, to her body and to his. They both tried to put it out with their beers, but the beer did not extinguish it, but rather fed the fire. “What the,” he said. He held up his burning arm. “How come,” he said, inspecting it. “How come it doesn’t hurt?” She sat up. “I’ve never been on fire before,” she said. “It’s kind of, it’s kind of nice, I think. Don’t you think?” They looked at each other. They looked at the room, now completely engulfed in flame. “Well now, I don’t know what I think,” he said. “I mean. Not exactly, is what I mean.”