A Torch in the Dark by Chris Milam

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Jeremy left the plasma center with his arm wrapped and forty bucks on his debit card. On the walk to the library, he stopped and bought some malt liquor and a pack of smokes. He sat on the steps and drank, his thoughts on his daughter, Isabel. He hadn’t seen her in months because of the drinking and his living situation. He was currently staying on the couch of his friend Brandon, a pill popper whose apartment smelled of tobacco and despair. His friend was at work holding a sign for a furniture liquidation sale on the corner of Catalpa and Verity Parkway, so Jeremy couldn’t go to his place until later in the afternoon.

He chucked the bottle and texted his ex, asked her if he could see his daughter for a few hours, they could meet at the park. His phone rang. It was Jennifer.

“Are you drunk again?” she asked.

“Not at all, babe.”

“Do you have some child support for me?”

He wasn’t about to give away any of his plasma money. “No, but if you let me see her I’ll try and make some cash later in the week and give it to you.” He lit a cigarette, blew smoke rings.

“That doesn’t work for me and I can tell your drinking, I can smell the beer through the phone.”

He shook his head. “For fuck’s sake, just let me see her. I’m tired of your shit, always shutting me down like I’m not her father.”

“No money, no daughter. Bye.”

He pocketed his phone and let out an angry sigh. He decided to go to the Lutheran church for lunch. They served sloppy joes and french fries and a brownie. After he ate, he bought another bottle and went to the park. He sat on a bench and stared at the lake. He used to go fishing with his old man before the heart attack. They would set out at dawn with tuna sandwiches packed by his mom and toss their rods for hours, always catching something for dinner. He missed his dad and almost cried as he looked at the still water. His mom ended up meeting a truck driver years later and now travels the country with her new husband, Rick. Jeremy hasn’t seen her in years.

After a couple of hours of doing nothing, he went to his friend’s house. Brandon was sitting at the kitchen table with a bottle of pills in front of him. “What’s up, man? Want a Xanax?”

“Nah,” said Jeremy. I’m already drunk. Don’t need nothing else to make me feel tired.”

He went to the couch and plopped down. Law and Order was on the TV but he couldn’t concentrate on watching it, his mind was still on seeing his daughter. He thought about ways to make some cash but came up empty. He drifted off to sleep.

Two days later he donated plasma again for forty bucks. He debated what to do. He could do his usual malt liquor and cigarettes or he could give the money to his ex and maybe she would let him see his daughter. He thought as he walked to the library. He didn’t stop at the store this time.

He pulled his phone out and called Jennifer.


Chris Milam lives in Middletown, Ohio. His stories have appeared in Jellyfish Review, JMWW, Molotov Cocktail, Lost Balloon, X-R-A-Y, and elsewhere. He was nominated for Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions. You can find him on Twitter @Blukris.

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One thought on “A Torch in the Dark by Chris Milam”

  1. Pingback: A Torch in the Dark – Wisp of Smoke

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