Smoke by Miguel R. Alcázar

He wakes up—the shower, the shave, the breakfast listening to the news on the radio—, leaves his downtown apartment—dressed up, briefcase in hand, a simple wave to the doorman and to the first floor neighbor—, takes the street that leads to the garage where he parks his car—it’s already good weather, what a pleasure to breathe spring from a high-income neighborhood like this— and, suddenly, a burning trash can …

Or smoking, more like it.

And he, from the street corner, looking at it like an idiot.

Considering the different options—calling 911, searching for a bottle of water that would help him putting out the fire—, the different possibilities—there are barely any people in sight and the trash can is rather far from any actual building entrance—.

He keeps on walking—public parks, bakery stores, very costly private clinics—, takes the car—what in hell could happen?—, drives to work.

Once there, the colleagues’ jokes, the meetings with clients, the monthly discussion of revenue results …


Already past five and he leaves the office—the old song playing on the car radio, the usual evening jam on his way to the suburbs—, and he parks the car in the garage, and takes the street that goes from there to his apartment.

On the way home, one of his neighbors.

On the way home, haven’t you heard anything?

On the way home, a real tragedy.

On the way home, the explosion of a motorbike, the delayed response from the firefighters, a mother and her two daughters, charred.

On the way home, all because of a trash can.

On the way home, down to his apartment.

Once there, the sofa without television, the coming of the night without dinner, the cold bedclothes and the impossible prayers.


Next day cracks very sunny and he spends five minutes watching the white clouds roll by from his bed.

Eventually he gets up—the shoulder workouts, the shower, the breakfast while watching television news—, leaves home—casual Friday today, briefcase in hand, a simple wave to the cleaning woman and to the doorman—, takes the street that goes to the garage where he parks his car—for real, such a splendid sunny day today—and, it can’t be possible, at the same corner, the same trash can from yesterday, burning …

Or smoking, more like it.

Miguel R. Alcázar was born in 1987 and has lived in Dublin, Iowa City and Barcelona. His work includes the novel Bulevar 20 and short stories published in Gravel and Maudlin House.