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dmontague
February 9th, 2014, 10:01 AM
Could use some criticism. Thanks in advance.


Cigarette

David Montague



“Pardon me, Monsieur. Have we met?” the woman said.
The man leaning against the streetlight blew a ring of smoke at the eroding moon.
“Monsieur?” she said.
“You wanted a pardon, so I didn't give you a sentence.” He stamped out his cigarette.
“What's your name?” she continued.
“Ladies first.”
“And your last name?” she said with half a smile.
“Stranger.” He reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out a silver cigarette case, and lit another.
“So what should I call you?” she said.
“Girls like you don't call guys like me.”
“Maybe because you don't answer.”
“Perhaps. I assume you're going to Rue de Seine?” he asked.
“Yes. Just walking home. You've been there, Monsieur Étranger?”
“Once or twice.” He flicked his cigarette and watched the ashes fall. “Last time I was on Rue de Seine was nine years ago. Nine years and twenty-three days.”
“What were you doing there?”
“Same thing I'm doing here.” He offered her a cigarette. “Your favorite brand.”
“How did you know?” she said.
“Lucky guess.”
“It's a dreadful habit. It's addictive. It's dirty. It annoys everyone else in the room. It takes your breath away. And someday it kills you.”
“Like love.” The man blew another smoke ring and watched it wander off into the midnight air. “You must think a cigarette is the perfect lover.”
“It's a bit small, no?”
“It's slim. Fiery. Musky. Presses against your lips and it gives and it gives and it gives, never asking for a damned thing. Until it's nothing but ashes. You kick it to the curb and step on it and forget it. And then you light another, don't you?”
“I'm trying to quit,” she said.
“I've heard that before,” he said, and turned away.
“Almost one.” She gestured at the clock tower.
“Just one?” he said, offering a cigarette to her again.
“Merci.”
He lit it for her. Returning his lighter to his pocket, his hand started shaking. By the glow of the ashes he saw a diamond ring on her finger.
“Cold out,” he said, his voice breaking. “I should go.”
“Me too,” she said. “Alexandre always wakes up at quarter past one. Nice to meet you, stranger.”
“Goodbye, Esmé.”
“Goodbye.” She took three steps toward Rue de Seine, cigarette in hand, before freezing in place as though guillotined. “Wait, what did you say?”
“Just a sentence.”
He vanished like vapor into the night, leaving behind nothing but a halo of smoke and a pile of smothered ashes. She tried to call his name but fell into a coughing fit as her eyes welled up with tears. Shivering, she leaned against the flickering streetlight and smoked her cigarette to the filter, staring at the moon until sunrise.

InstituteMan
February 9th, 2014, 05:58 PM
I can't really offer much in the way of criticism, I fear - I quite liked that.

I like the sparseness of the sentences and the way the grammatical structures reinforce the mood of the piece. It strikes me as a lovely piece of noir - I am a sucker for noir - so if that was your mission, well done! If you were going for a sunny comedy, though, you might want to try again.

J

patskywriter
February 9th, 2014, 06:10 PM
Very nice. I think it might add to the noir/mysterious air if, when the man offers the woman a cigarette, you say, "He offered her a Gauloise." Darn, I just remembered that they were unfiltered; I guess it wouldn't work because you say that she smokes the cigarette down to the filter. I had originally thought of the Gauloise when I came to the part about the coughing fit. I don't smoke, but I bought a souvenir pack while vacationing in Paris. When my sister and brother took a puff, they immediately had coughing fits. The stuff was pretty harsh (for Americans), but those who enjoyed Gauloises liked them for their dark, smoky flavor.

dmontague
February 9th, 2014, 09:02 PM
He was smoking Lucky Strikes. That's why he said "Lucky guess." And thanks for your time, guys.

escorial
February 9th, 2014, 10:47 PM
rolled of like an old advert from the 50's...interesting

dmontague
February 10th, 2014, 05:25 AM
That was the sort of mood I was going for. Thanks.

bluemidget
February 10th, 2014, 12:48 PM
boom! Short , punchy & full of atmosphere. It played out in my mind like a scene from an old black & white film :) he he it made me think of when I was a smoker - I remember well the burn of a full strength Gitanes (cough cough!)

Pluralized
February 10th, 2014, 11:39 PM
This is really good - I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! The only nits I can come up with are really personal preferences; wanted a bit of description/setting/exposition to balance the conversation between these two. It's authentic enough for most, and strikes up a nice vintage tone. Dig it.

The other thing - I wasn't feeling "kick it to the curb." For some reason that's like channeling 90's hip-hop or something and didn't fit the piece in my opinion. That's all I got. Good work there sir!

dmontague
February 15th, 2014, 01:42 AM
Yeah, "kick it to the curb" seems sort of anachronistic on closer inspection. Thanks.

lewis
February 18th, 2014, 05:07 AM
I also would have liked more descriptive/narrative context thrown in but the dialogue does move it along nicely. It brings the two characters out as quirky, sardonic, sexy people. But I want to hear about their gesturing, their appearance, the dinginess of the street, maybe some sounds from down the way (or lack thereof if it's, say, midnight). Overall it draws me in, though. I think you've got the effect you're looking for.

dmontague
February 18th, 2014, 06:55 AM
I also would have liked more descriptive/narrative context thrown in but the dialogue does move it along nicely. It brings the two characters out as quirky, sardonic, sexy people. But I want to hear about their gesturing, their appearance, the dinginess of the street, maybe some sounds from down the way (or lack thereof if it's, say, midnight). Overall it draws me in, though. I think you've got the effect you're looking for.
Thanks. I could have put in more details, yeah. Originally the story was supposed to be only dialogue with no description as a sort of experiment, but I added the narration at the last minute. Glad to hear you mostly enjoyed it.

Stardust
February 20th, 2014, 12:38 AM
I enjoyed it. The man was mysterious enough and witty to keep me reading to see what he would say next, as well as how the woman Esme was going to reply. I love the cigarette analogy for lovers. That's how people really tend to treat others today, and most people don't realizing that in using and destroying others they eventually harm and destroy themselves. I also liked how the story began with a "pardon" and ended with him speaking the "sentence." It really gives a sense of closure in that respect.

dmontague
February 21st, 2014, 07:53 AM
Glad you liked it. Thanks.

Jake Creamer
February 21st, 2014, 09:32 PM
I really enjoyed your noire stylings.
A few things that I will venture an opinion on:
During the dialogue, I think you can pare down a few of the "he saids" or "she asked", when the dialogue is making it clear who is speaking or asking. Unless they ask or say or whatever in some significant way that you will describe further.
Some of the adjectives you choose are jarring to me. I feel like your terse and powerful style isn't aided by these more abstract descriptions. Erosion and musk have specific meanings that don't seem to be appropriate to the context. The word guillotined brings a nice French flavor, and speaks to me of the violence associated with her reaction, however, it doesn't seem to fit with the freezing in place.

I like your scene, I think it's excellent. I enjoy how sardonic he is, and how she appreciates his wit. I wonder what happened to his face that she doesn't recognize him until he calls her Esmé. What is their past? Is that really her name? Is he calling her "loved" and she figures it out? Very enjoyable.

dagrar
February 22nd, 2014, 01:23 AM
It's dark and dirty, very sexy and metaphors abound nice so parts could use a tweaking thou.

Zabaar
September 8th, 2017, 09:54 PM
Three years on and this story still sticks with me. Was writing a story that had cigarettes in it and thought of this. I'm so glad i managed to find it again.

I remembered there was more to the thread; that you had made edits to the original version.

Where has it gone? Or is my memory faulty?

Roac
September 11th, 2017, 07:37 PM
Hard to criticize since I enjoy this type of writing. Dark, mysterious and it makes the reader imagine the atmosphere without getting into too much detail. Great little story.

SueC
September 12th, 2017, 04:51 PM
I really liked this. It reminds me of when you sit down to write, and next thing you know you're hip deep in atmosphere and smoke. I found the beginning just a tad bit stilted though. I know it's a "show don't tell" world we live in here, but I would have liked a more reasonable connection in the beginning. It's probably just me, but something about him seeing her coming, or her view of him as he stands under the street light before she speaks to him. Just a thought - otherwise, wonderful!

VonBradstein
October 15th, 2017, 05:50 PM
I like it. I didn't get a real sense of a story but that's all right. I disagree with the comments about putting more descriptions, etc. in. I think a piece like this is good precisely because it lacks description. It leaves a lot to the imagination of the reader to decide and I like that.

Style-wise it's up my alley - brief and clear and the little imagery you use is decent. Not sure if I really agree with the idea of smoke 'wandering off' but I also don't have a better suggestion and it's fine. Eroding moon, fine. Has a kind of Hemingway-esque vibe - admittedly in part because of the setting.

Anthony-Richard
October 28th, 2017, 10:01 AM
I like it. I didn't get a real sense of a story but that's all right. I disagree with the comments about putting more descriptions, etc. in. I think a piece like this is good precisely because it lacks description. It leaves a lot to the imagination of the reader to decide and I like that.


This is the kind of story I like, one which is driven more by dialogue rather than one that consists of masses of descriptive narration. Too much narration would have spoilt the pace of it. I see it as the genesis of a screenplay for a 1950s black and white movie or a TV show like Rod Serling's "Night Gallery".


Similar in format to Serling's much more famous "Twilight Zone" series. Each week we get a new tale, represented by a painting in an old museum. Whereas the tales in "Twilight Zone" were more science fiction, these tales have a darker, more horrific edge.

Andrew78
November 2nd, 2017, 07:18 AM
Yes, a really good piece, the athosphere it conveys, vow, I actually saw some black-and-white movie stars like Grant, Bogart and the like, seemed like a scene from a movie of the 50s, which I'm crazy about. You were clever since it's easy to get into something hackeyned when trying something like this, especially about cigarettes. I liked that part when you make a comparison between love and smoke, that was a witty expedient. If you really want some criticism maybe at the end I was expecting a little bit more, it's not like I'm really disappointed, I'm not, but maybe all the suspense was not 100% fulfilled, maybe you could have put some stronger detail in the end to hit the reader in the stomach, given all the dark atmosphere that you so masterfully created. And I'm perfectly happy with all the dialogue, it moves along very powerfully, I don't feel in the least the lack of description the others told you about.

Anthony-Richard
November 3rd, 2017, 04:34 PM
A good story I quite liked it. It could be the summary of a storyline for an episode of a TV series such as Tales of the Unexpected. Which was a British anthology series featuring tales of horror, mystery and suspense. It's the kind of story I'd like to read along with similar ones curled up on the sofa in front of a blazing log fire on a wet and cold Sunday afternoon.

There's not many stories give me Goosebumps, this one sure did.