by M. B. Vujacic

Don’t smoke while walking.

That’s what Irma’s mother had said whenever she saw Irma and her friends strolling around the neighborhood with cigarettes in their hands. Apparently, smoking while walking caused you to inhale more of the cancerous stuff than if you were sitting or lying down. And boy oh boy, did it piss Irma off every time she felt like lighting up while on the move.

Like now. It was nine in the evening and still 90 degrees with no wind. She was on her way home from work, every inch of her body clammy from standing all day in a clothing store—one that didn’t allow its employees to smoke, not even in the bathroom—and she couldn’t enjoy a goddamn cigarette without being haunted by some factoid her mother had read in a magazine 20 years ago.

“Christ,” she said, lighting the cigarette.

The first few drags tasted like heaven, but then she started getting an itch in her throat. Constantly talking to customers had left her throat feeling dry as emery.

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