First appeared in Retro Spec: Tales of Fantasy and Nostalgia, 9/8/10; reprinted in Bull Spec #8, 04/23/13.

Sparks Between Our Teeth
Amanda C. Davis

I smoked a lot
In the Fifties.
Half a pack a day.
Helped with my nerves
When the job needed done.
We were shrewd and urbane,
Chronos cowboys,
And pretended we belonged to the era
And didn’t know better.

Killing spies and profiteers.
Keeping kinks out of the timeline.
Vintage smoke made it all go down easier.

I quit when they transferred me
To the twenty-first century.
It’s not the same, anyway,
Crushing butts beside your computer
Instead of in a nightclub
In a suit.

But sometimes on the sidewalk
I pass a man
Puffing something sweet and stinging
As my Chesterfields used to be,
And it all comes back:
Gin and Reds and social shaming,
High heels and discretion,
Careless racism,
Constant fear.
Choosing cigarettes
On your doctor’s recommendation.
Tracking a timesquatter to his portal,
Fixing his mistakes,
Unsnarling his damage,
Throwing his body
Where the G-Men can’t go.
And a smoke under a street light
To put you back together.

We choked our lungs with tar
Just like everyone around us,
But cold foreknowledge
Set us apart from the natives:

We knew about carcinogens.
We were trying to kill ourselves.

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