Smoking Is Bad

          “I don’t think we’re supposed to be in here,” he said nervously.
          “I didn’t see a sign,” she said, walking on.
          “I meant generally,” he said, stopping.
          “It’s fine,” she said, dragging him on.
          “Woods are never fine,” he said, stopping again.
          “It’s fine,” she said, rolling her eyes. “It’s the 21st century. There are no witches or pedos.”
          “If you say so,” he said, letting her drag him further into the woods.
          “I do,” she said. “Witches and pedos hang out at the mall, you know they do, you’ve seen them.”
          He had seen them. Both seemed to congregate near the food court: the witches hid behind their gothic makeup and the pedos hid behind the plastic shrubs.
          “True,” he said.
          “Hiding in plain sight is the new woods,” she said.
          “I guess,” he said.
          She was his big sister after all and did seem to know these things.
          “Don’t go too far though,” he said, looking back where they came from, wishing he had secretly dropped a few M&Ms so they could find their way back.
          “I won’t,” she said, dragging him on.
          “Here’s fine,” he said then, stopping. “Have your cigarette and then can we go back.” He was proud of how assertive he was being but worried she would kick him in the nuts and run off, leaving him alone in the woods.
          “Okay, okay,” she said, stopping and getting her cigarettes out of her bra.
          He tried not to look but wondered what else she had in there.
          “Want one?” she asked, waving the cigarette pack at him.
          “No, thank you,” he replied, knowing she already thought he was a big baby so he was just being consistent.
          “You’re disgusting,” she said, blowing smoke in his face.
          “I was gonna try kissing that Jessica girl later so I don’t want my breath to stink,” he said, lying. He had no intention of kissing any girl ever but knew this might impress her.
          “Fair enough,” she said.
          “Hurry up, it’s creepy out here,” he said, looking around.
          “It is not. You are so suburban,” she said, rolling her eyes again.
          “Like you’re such a nature girl,” he said.
          “I can smoke a cigarette in the woods without my phone if that’s what you mean,” she said.
          “You don’t have your phone?” he said, looking worried.
          “It’s in my coat pocket,” she said.
          He wondered why it wasn’t in her bra with her other worldly possessions. He was pretty sure he saw a lipstick in there when he was not looking earlier.
          She stubbed the cigarette out on a tree and started back the way they came.
          “See. No witches. No pedos,” she said.
          Just then there was a rustling sound and a large angry badger appeared and dragged his sister down a hole.
          Before he could do anything she was gone.
          He was alone in the woods.
          He waited a few moments by the hole and listened but it was quiet.
          “I was going to punch him on the nose, promise!” he shouted down the hole. “Can you hear me? I was going to punch him, swear!”
          “That’s sharks, you moron!” she shouted back.
          “Are you okay?” he asked, crouching by the hole.
          “Of course, I’m not fucking okay!” she yelled.
          “He hasn’t eaten you yet?” he shouted.
          “Yet? What the fuck? I hadn’t thought he was going to eat me until you just mentioned it!” she said.
          “Sorry,” he said, sitting down beside the hole.
          “It’s okay,” she said.
          “Can you climb out?” he asked.
          “I could but then I would be the girl that climbed out of a badger hole and that is not something I want to be,” she said.
          “Well what do you want to be?” he asked.
          “I’m not sure yet,” she said.
          They were quiet then.
          He ate a few M&Ms and was glad he hadn’t thrown them on the ground earlier.
          “What’s it like down there?” he asked.
          “It’s like a hole,” she said, and he knew she was rolling her eyes at him underground.
          “I haven’t been down any,” he said honestly but knowing she would think this was so lame.
          “Oh yeah, right, sorry, forgot you’re more used to the Hilton,” she said.
          He wondered what holes she had been down and not told him about. He knew his sister did some crazy things but he would have been interested in any holes she might have been down more than any boys she may or may not have kissed or substances she may or may not have done that she wasn’t supposed to.
          “Is he gnawing at you?” he asked. Then he suddenly had the image of the badger shredding her legs. She had previously made him watch films he should not have been watching. They even said so on the box.
          “No, he’s just looking at me,” she said.
          “In a good way or bad way?” he asked.
          “What sort of question’s that?” she asked. “Do you mean do I think he’s going to make me his bride or eat me?” she said, trying to get some clarification.
          “I just mean does he look friendly or angry?” he said.
          “Neither. He looks like a badger,” she said. “I don’t think he dragged me down here for tea and crumpets if that’s what you mean.” She was little irritated at him. At him, not the badger.
          “Not Narnia,” he said then.
          “Not Narnia,” she said.
          “Should I get help?” he said, standing up.
          “I don’t know,” she said then paused. “It’s not that bad.”
          “That wedding was awful,” he said.
          “Did you see Aunt Jasmine’s hat!” she said laughing.
          “I did. It caught me in the eye, remember?” he said laughing.
          “Ha ha, oh yeah!” she said laughing again.
          This was the best terms they had been on in years.
          “Maybe they’ll come look for us,” he said.
          “I doubt it. They’ll all be wasted by now,” she said.
          “Oh,” he said.
          “Sorry, I know you wanted cake,” she said.
          “It’s okay,” he said, sitting back down.
          “Thanks for sticking around,” she said. Then, “If I’d been with Steve I bet he’d have just left me down here,” she said.
          “He’s a douche,” he said.
          “I know,” she said, sounding a little sad.
          “If you get out you should dump him,” he said.
          “Okay, but only if I get out,” she said.
          They were quiet again for a while.
          “I really don’t want to go to work tomorrow,” she said.
          “You have a good excuse,” he said.
          “You should go back,” she said.
          “Okay,” he said, getting up.
          “You can have my room,” she said.
          “I wasn’t going to ask,” he said.
          “Really? I would have. You’re disgusting.”
          “See ya.”
          “Yeah, see ya. Oh, looks like he’s gone off to make some tea…”
          “Really?” he said, peering down the hole.
          “No! Idiot!” she said affectionately.

Lucie Britsch says her career peaked when she was a runner-up in a poop-scoop slogan contest as a child and has been writing crap ever since. She lives in the middle of England on an imaginary farm where she is not writing three novels but enjoys procrastinating and collecting imaginary eggs.

"Smoking Is Bad" is Lucie's first published story.