Short Story Exercise: Light a Match

(using the book Playful Way to Serious Writing, set the timer for ten minutes and wrote a short story relating to the phrase, “light a match,” lightly edited)

Carol swiped the paper book of matches from the ash tray on the table. Smiling slyly at the handsome man seated next to her, she tore off a match and hit it against the striker on the back. The paper match folded in half, unlit. The man, fresh cigarette waiting between his lips, winked at her.

Carol tossed the wasted match to the floor, flipped her hair over her shoulder (she’d read that men love that), and grabbed another match. Unfortunately when she tore it she managed to leave most of the match in the packet. With a nervous giggle she doggedly pulled yet another match from the pack.

The man leaned forward, presenting his unlit cigarette. Carol smiled then tapped the gray match head on the striker. It did not light. She tapped it again. Then again. She tried holding the match sideways, then tried sawing the match back and forth. She smelled burning and brought the match to her eyes. The head was black and dull. She blushed and shrugged at the man. He leaned back in his chair and began searching his pockets for his lighter.

Quickly Carol ripped three more matches out of the pack. She bunched the heads together between her fingers and forcefully pushed them across the back. They lit! And the bright flame immediately burned her finger tips. Carol cried out and threw the lit matches onto the table. Chuckling, the man quickly pinched out the small flames, lit his cigarette with the Zippo from his pocket, and excused himself.

Carol glared down at the book of matches on the table. The bar’s logo was printed on the flap in tacky gold lettering. The Bar Room,” she muttered. “Stupid name for a stupid bar.”

A few minutes later the man returned to her table, smiling and carrying two pints of beer. He placed a glass in front of Carol and resumed his seat. She was elated…until he casually pulled a match from the book and lit it with his thumb nail.