Two men stood outside of the brick building, smoking cigarettes. The taller of the two kicked at a clump of weeds and inhaled at his Marlboro, while the other worked an orange, plastic lighter through his nicotine stained fingers.
“Did they install your A/C yet?” the taller man asked.
“Nah, they told me there was something going on with maintenance. You think we’ll have them by August?” the man said with a laugh and continued to practice with the lighter like an unlikely baton twirler before a high school football game.
“I put a fan in my window, but it’s just blowing the hot air around. It’s like the desert in there.”
Beads of perspiration popped out on the taller man’s forehead, he wiped it with the back of his hand.
“Whew, it’s hot,” he declared. “But its cooler out here than it is up there,” he gestured with his eyes in the direction of his apartment, too drained from the heat to lift his arm to point.
A woman emerged from the door of the house next to the apartment building. She wore a neon swimsuit top with white washed, cut-off jean shorts that were pulled up over her belly button. Perhaps most noticeable was the mean looking, black and purple bruise around her left eye.
“Hey boys,” she rasped to the men with a grimace that was as close to a smile as possible.
She fished out a lighter from her high-waisted pocket and uncurled her fingers from around a Pall Mall.
“How’s your old lady?” she asked the taller man.
Sensing a follow up question, the man answered with a reserved, “She’s ok,” and waited.
His companion interrupted the pause with a snort, “She’s been cooking again. I smelled the burned food all the way over in my place,” he chortled.
The woman lit her cigarette and took a deep drag with no small amount of pleasure.
Exhaling a dragon-like stream of smoke through her mouth and nose, she continued, “Does she smoke? You tell her to come over and visit anytime she gets sick of you. We can garden and smoke a little herb.”
A shadow darkened the doorway from which the woman had previously emerged and a man with strands of long gray hair appeared.
“Theresa,” he barked with a tone that threatened of another bruise, this time to her right eye.
The men outside stopped smoking and looked at each other; the reputation of this neighbor preceded him via the frequent bruises of his partner.
“That’s just my ol’ man, you know how he gets.”
Theresa took another long drag of her cigarette before dropping it onto the grass and walking away with a wave. Smoke curled from the end of the abandoned cigarette, briefly burning before it extinguished itself.