by Jake Christie

WHERE THERE'S SMOKE.
a story.

Jen and Brucie sat on the edge of his fire escape and let their legs dangle. The acrid smell of burned casserole hung in the air, mingling with the fresh fourth-story breeze. Brucie absentmindedly flicked a small potted plant on the metal grating again and again until a petal came loose and floated over the edge.

“Sorry,” he said again.

“It's okay,” said Jen. She smiled at him, then looked back at the metal fire escape. She ran one finger over the tines next to her leg, bup-bup-bup-bup, bup-bup-bup-bup.

“Should I order a pizza or something?” Brucie asked.

“Sure,” said Jen. She looked at Brucie again. “You don't cook much, do you?”

Brucie pulled himself up by the railing and leaned forward. “Not in the oven,” he said. He bounced back on his heels, as if testing the railing's strength. “I'm pretty good with the microwave though.”

“Oh really?” Jen said.

“I'm the Wolfgang Puck of microwaves,” he said. “I'm the Emeril Legasse of small, controlled amounts of radiation.”

She laughed. “Very impressive,” she said.

The smoke alarm started beeping again. Brucie hesitated for just a second, enjoying the sound of Jen's laughter and the breeze in his hair, before he ducked inside to push the “hush” button.


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