Cigarettes and Gin by Katherine Nabity

“Grandmother?” Janis smelled smoke. Cigarette smoke. “What’s going on in here?”

Janis found Grandmother sitting on an old wood chair in the middle of the room with a cigarette and 1.75L of gin.

Grandmother Mable despised smoking. When Janis experimented, Grandmother had taken her to view the lungs of a smoker. Janis had puked all over the autopsy room.

“I want to go by spontaneous combustion,” said Grandmother.


“You know, spontaneous human combustion. I was reading about it the other day. It seems to happen a lot to old people. Close your mouth, dear. You look like you’re catching flies.”

“It happens a lot?” Janis could do no better than repeat. Clean-living Grandmother. Paragon of wholesome. Cigarettes and gin.

“Yes, well, not too often. I’ve decided I want to make a splash.”

“A splash?”

Grandmother rolled her eyes. “Yes. I’ve lived too quietly and there’s not much I can do about it now. But my death? That’s something I can do something about.” Grandmother tapped ash onto the skirt of dress and took a swig of gin.

“But how? I thought it’s… spontaneous.”

“It isn’t. There are always factors in common. Old age, nodding off while drunk, cigarettes that cause the fire. Something about how slowly fat can burn when there isn’t anything to accelerate the fire. But that doesn’t mean that every death by spontaneous combustion isn’t sensational. I’ve decided, dear, that finally I want to be sensational.”

Strangely, Janis couldn’t argue.


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Filed under Katherine Nabity

11 responses to “Cigarettes and Gin by Katherine Nabity

  1. Al McDermid

    “Yes, well, not too often. I’ve decided I want to make a splash.” “A splash?” I literally laughed out at this. Like the ending well. Very gallows.

  2. Len

    you should do a whole series. granny is a kick. i loved the line –“i’ve finally decided i want to be sensational.”

  3. You can’t blame the old dear for wanting to be sensational, and after all, it’s her life/death. Jai Ho Mable. :D

  4. I’ll bet you were as fascinated as I with the subject of human spontaneous combustion, hah! Well done.

  5. Puts me in mind of Achille’s choice, but in reverse… :)

  6. KjM

    “Strangely, Janis couldn’t argue.”

    Loved this. “Go, Granny, go!” seems like the only possible response. It appears she’s not one to “go gently…”.

    Good for her.

    I enjoyed this. Well done.

  7. Ha! Love this granny and her desire to be sensational! I sense Janis following in her footsteps, if not spontaneously than at least in character. peace…

  8. Kim Hutchinson

    How can you argue with that? Good story.

  9. Perfect flash material: quick and great fun. Sounds to me like Granny has some life in her yet though.

  10. I found your story funny, like a fireball it involves the reader in its logic – also sad, for the old people thinking they need to make a splash. Thought provoking! Thanks.

  11. Pingback: Week #33 – Spontaneous combustion | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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