Cocooned in my parka and head down I walk. I keep to the edges of the pavement and I follow the cracks between the slabs and in this way I cover my patch. I tug at my hood just to be sure; a habit I can’t, or won’t, break, and I scan the ground at my feet. When I spot a cigarette butt, a good one, I reach down and snatch it and place it in my pocket along with the others.
I must appear erratic, resemble a chess piece, the rook perhaps, my movements awkward and jerky. Any progress I make is difficult to determine as I trek the board, seeming to endlessly fail at making my way across.
But I don’t raise my head and I don’t know if anyone is watching. I suspect that when I am noticed it is fleetingly and that they steer clear. I am just somebody scuffling, a scavenger.
There are plenty of cigarette butts but I only collect the good ones. The best are those that have been pinched or stubbed out before being dropped and not stamped upon. But I’ll take any that might still contain a little tobacco rather than just dry dust and ash. And I have become adept at spotting these and I know when to reach down and which ones to gather. Throughout the day I fill my pockets and when they are full I leave, I abandon the board.
I never stray far from the Centre now and I settle behind the bins at the back of PoundSaver. I empty my pockets and set to work, rubbing with my thumb and forefinger I remove the burnt tips. Stripping the paper away, I pull out all the good tobacco and without wasting a single stringy strand I drop it, one pinch at a time, into the tin. When it is full and the tobacco is tightly packed, as I roll the first cigarette, just fleetingly I am content.





8 thoughts on “GHOST LETTER 11

  1. Again, great perspective, Mark, and your style really hits the spot. I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to be a bit pedantic here – if it were me I’d have used ‘knight’ as opposed to ‘rook’. Just a thought. Great writing!

    1. I know what you mean Chris and I did think about the knight. In the end I went with the rook as the word felt right with its connotation of scavenging but now, after your comment, I wonder if I should have used both. Thanks so much.

  2. No Chris, not at all. I value your opinion and I may yet edit the piece and add the knight as part of the description. Write on.

  3. Mark,

    I can’t explain as to why, but this piece, “Ghost Letter 11” has been an echo on a loop in my mind. I keep thinking about it, wonderfully written, stirring some odd emotions inside of me. I love the fact that the scavenger of cigarette butts describes himself as, “I must appear erratic, resemble a chess piece, the rook perhaps, my movements awkward and jerky”, so visually divine and descriptive, the use of the rook and the connection to the chess board I think is brilliant. Creating tension with the disparities, but also similarities between the rook, such a strong/major chess piece, and the scavenger and how he feels about himself (these are only my perceptions). “Any progress I make is difficult to determine as I trek the board, seeming to endlessly fail at making my way across.” Again, I’m taken away with the imagery that fills my mind, it is rather bleak, and his final remark, “just fleetingly I am content”. Wow, very powerful piece, I really, really enjoyed your words. It is very thought provoking, as is much of your writing. Thank you for the many moments of reflection!

    Take care,

    1. I am truly heartened by your response to this piece and pleased that it moved you and thank you so much for the in-depth comment and critique. Your words are both insightful and inspiring and I am so glad to have them here on my site. Thanks Pepper, regards Mark.

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