The Pot-Leaf Lighter (Flash Fiction)

This is a work of fiction and should not be taken seriously by anyone.


My parents coerced me into going to the flea market on a boiling afternoon in the middle of May, still dressed up after going to church that morning. It was the first time I’d gone since leaving for my freshman year of college back in September and although sleeping until noon was my only real interest for the morning, my parents woke me up.

This little bazaar was an annual event that our church hosted, but it had a carnival-like feel and it attracted people from all over the state. There were vendors sprinkled in among the crowd, who sold food and drink to the consumers and those who had come to market their wares. The smell of fried dough hung thick in the air, as if it was the reason for the uncomfortably hot and sticky atmosphere.

My mother had already collected an enormous pink-leather bag and announced excitedly that she’d be able to bring her Bible with her wherever she went. My silence, aside from occasional complaints about the heat, did nothing to affect her good mood.

“Well, if you’d just cut your hair and shave for once, maybe you wouldn’t feel so hot?” she said.

She continued to drag my father around, examining dresses in one of the displays and I took the opportunity to get away for a moment. After some aimless wandering, a cart showcasing various metallic items under a glass barrier caught my attention. There were knives, pocket-watches, silver and gold little knick-knacks and numerous other items that all glittered brilliantly in the sunlight.

The item that drew my gaze was a silver Zippo lighter with a dark green pot leaf emblazoned on it. It seemed so out of place. There was no reason for me to buy it, since there was no secret stash waiting for me at home. My life of occasionally getting high, of discussing literature and politics and art late into the night with my small circle of bohemian friends and sleeping in on Sundays, that was all on hiatus until the Fall. And there was a good chance that the lighter would never even make it there, thanks to the semi-regular bedroom intrusions by mom and dad and their certain disapproval at a lighter’s presence. Even so, I felt an unexplainable longing to possess it.

A bead of sweat ran down from beneath my bangs and suddenly the tie around my neck felt extremely tight. Loosening it and unbuttoning my collar, my eyes darted back to last known direction of my parents. They were nowhere to be seen. The vendor strode towards me and said, “See something you’d like?” He was a big guy that looked like a biker, wearing a black leather vest over a light-gray T-shirt that matched his goatee. I pointed at the lighter and the vendor said simply, “Thirty bucks.”

Hurriedly I pulled out my wallet, retrieved two twenty dollar bills and took another fruitless glance behind me. The vendor handed me the lighter, took my money and turned to his cash machine to make change. The lighter went into my pocket quickly. My heart pounded against the interior of my chest as I looked around in other directions, half-expecting to be ambushed from behind some other vendor’s cart.

The man handed me a ten back. I thanked him and walked off quickly, then meandered off in search of my parents.

They turned up a moment later, carrying plastic cups with lemonade. My father was sporting a mustard-yellow T-shirt over his church attire with the words, “Jesus is my Homeboy” on the front in big brown letters.

“You like?” he said with a grin. “I got you one too!”

My mother reached her whole arm into her new bag and retrieved a shirt that exactly matched the one my father was wearing and tossed it to me.

“Thanks,” I said, trying hard to suppress the urge to roll my eyes. “It’s too hot to throw on over my church clothes though. I’ll wear it later.”

Already plotting the shirt’s demise, I threw it over my shoulder and followed my family towards our car, my right hand in my pocket, opening and closing the pot-leaf marked lighter with a series of tiny clicks that no one else could hear.

(713 words)


8 responses to “The Pot-Leaf Lighter (Flash Fiction)

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