Two Lighters

“Damn it.”

Keith gave up with his attempts to light a cigarette and slapped the broken lighter on the deck of his houseboat. There was still plenty of gas in the lighter, but the flint was gone. He leaned back on a cheap plastic chair and idly scanned the typhoon shelter around his boat—but there was nothing new or interesting.

Since Jane has left him, without even bothering to divorce, the houseboat felt too big for him—but it actually was one of the smallest boats in the marina. It only had a tiny bedroom, slightly bigger living room, and a small open area at the stern. Just enough for a very modest couple. Sometimes they even used to invite one or two friends for a drink on board, but then the marina was bought out and shut down, and all houseboat folks were evicted and scattered around. Like a big bang, he thought. All thrown in different directions and flying further and further apart, never to come together again.

Keith was always a bit slow to adapt to changes, so by the time he finally had to move out of the marina, there were absolutely no places left in any of the other marinas, or even typhoon shelters closer to the city. His boat was now moored in one of the small typhoon shelters on the outlying islands. He couldn’t really complain about it—he now wanted to stay away from the big city, to have some quiet time to mend himself after Jane’s departure. He wasn’t sure how long the recovery would take. All he knew was that all good things tend to take much longer than expected.

Keith resurfaced from his thoughts and looked around. If he couldn’t kill some time with a cigarette, he had to come up with an alternative plan. There was no another lighter—since the days Keith had a family, he didn’t smoke on the boat, and now the new habit of keeping a few spare lighters around didn’t quite form yet. He couldn’t even make instant noodles, not being able to light the stove, so a trip to the shore was on the cards. Back in the days when they were living at Discovery Bay Marina, getting to the shore was as easy as stepping down on the pontoon and walking a few hundred meters to the convenience store. Now, at typhoon shelter, his spot was in the far end, almost at the very end of the wavebreaker. To get to the wavebreaker, he would have to climb over quite a few apparently abandoned fishing boats, sampans, and hell knows what, berthed next to each other, with a few perilous jumps along the way. Even in broad daylight, this was not a passage to be taken lightly, but now it was evening already. He’d be lucky if he could get back before dark.

The evening skyline over the city and mountains in the distance on the opposite side of the bay was gorgeous. He often stopped for a while to enjoy it, even when he had something more urgent to care about. Maybe especially because he was attracted to how eternal this sight was, as opposed to the everyday bustle. Keith just couldn’t resist it now. After all, wasn’t he meant to have more time for himself now? There should be some bright sides to being alone and free of any responsibilities. And there was one thing onboard that didn’t require cooking. He had whisky.

* * *

Read the rest of this story in “No Sugar and Other Stories”, available on SmashWords and other electronic bookstores.