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by Prospero 

Posted: 06 July 2005
Word Count: 456
Summary: A collection of images generated by thinking about the word Smoke. My post fo rthe Week 54 challenge.

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Sitting in my pushchair by the railings looking down, with my Father, on the red and green dragons of the Southern Region as they emerged from their lairs beneath the earth, roaring. Battle of Britain class, Merchant Navy class, there in hot steam and noise a life-long love of steam trains was forged.

The stench of sulphur redolent in the thick choking smogs, that resulted from the wide spread use of soft coal for domestic fires. Such a smog was responsible for the cough my father had for weeks after he was forced to walk the ten miles home in near total darkness from New Cross after the terrible rail crash at nearby St John’s where over ninety people died.

Smoke filled our little terraced house when the chimney caught fire, and suddenly our home was full of big burly men who rushed from room to room and tore up the oil-cloth looking for smouldering floorboards. We got a gas fire after that.

Smoke from the bonfire I tended alone. Dragging dead branches from the pile that had been left for the purpose. It was someone else’s house. I had gone along with a girfriend. She had disappeared indoors with her friends. I was alone so I kept the fire going. Some girl came and taunted me, called me ‘Boy’. Tried to get a rise out of me. She failed. Got bored eventually, and stalked off. I got bored eventually, and walked home. Alone.

The taste of smoke in your mouth from your first cigarette: hot and sour. You wonder how anyone can get any pleasure from this but you persist because everyone is watching, waiting for the moment when you start to cough and they can begin to laugh.

The smoke from target practice. The unmistakble acrid tang of cordite wafting back after the bullet hits the target, and then buries itself in sand. Score a magpie!

The stink of burning fat from the chip-pan fire, the thick greasy smoke that clings to every surface and takes ages to clean off.

The shock of a car suddenly exploding in flames as you cross the road. The shadows of the incendiarist thrown stark against the last remaining wall of the partially demolished factory where the car thief has dumped this, his latest accquisition. Watch him running now from the pyre of someone else’s pride and joy where smoke driven by the sudden heat also hastens to escape.

Waiting for the first wisps from that strangely un-prepossessing chimney that will announce the election of a new fisher of men, a new spiritual leader for millions.

Leaving your father at the crematorium with instructions for disposal of the ashes. Hoping you will be gone before the smoke appears.

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Comments by other Members

Dee at 18:06 on 06 July 2005  Report this post
John, very evocative. As you say, it’s a collection of images rather than a story, but very well written.


crowspark at 18:41 on 06 July 2005  Report this post
Hi John, this is a rich concoction of memories framed by memories of a father.

Nice writing.


Jumbo at 18:45 on 06 July 2005  Report this post

A life etched in smoke! Some great images.

Nicely done.


bjlangley at 11:14 on 08 July 2005  Report this post
Hi John, I enjoyed these small smokey snapshots, and liked the way it begins and ends with the father. I didn't notice at first the chronological order of it, with the experiences at different stages of life. I thought it worked well.

All the best,


Prospero at 16:11 on 08 July 2005  Report this post
Thanks Dee, Bill Jumbo and Ben for your kind comments.

Well done Ben on picking up on the chronological order, very astute, as it was barely implied.

Thanks agian to you all.

Anj at 19:29 on 08 July 2005  Report this post

This is a really evocative collection of images, and I love the way they've charted a life.

Great stuff


lieslj at 08:54 on 10 July 2005  Report this post
John, it feels to me like this is a poem in the making! This flash has terrific potential, a life story told by reflections and connections to smoke.

It seems to need a little more or a little less, though. If you're going for the concentrated, condensed form of poetry, then pull in as much as possible. Alternately, expand it into a short story with a narrative arc with a sense of conflict and resolution.

You've made a great start, though.


Prospero at 10:19 on 10 July 2005  Report this post
Hi Liesl

Thanks for your comments and suggestions. I guess I kind of went into my box of memories and opened the file marked "Smoke', but yes I can see what you are getting at. A poem and a story. Why not?

Great ideas, thanks again,


Prospero at 10:22 on 10 July 2005  Report this post
Hi Andrea

Thank you. It is kind of strange re-visting stuff from such along time ago, but remarkably the memories come back pin-sharp.

Best regards


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