Dragons get their smoke from the poke man 

There are few sounds sadder than the plinky-plonk of Greensleeves from a passing ice cream van.  Mickey Mouse’s face plastered on its arse, rainwater rivulets streaking down his grimy cheeks. Processing through dank mid-March streets at a funerary pace. Caution! Children crossing.

Granny used to send me to buy fags from the poke man. She’d give me just enough extra to get a screwball, commission pressed into Pritstik palms. That way, my mouth would be too full of Mr Whippy to let slip to Mum. It wound Mum up enough as it was, catching the skulk of Granny’s smoke, enmeshed in the weave of my clothes. Granny would repose in a claret nightie on her end of the pleather sofa, atop a horde holstered in the arm cushion. Marlboro and lighters and crumpled tenners and darning needles for eating welks and picking teeth. Blanched billows bled from lacquered lips of sun-baked mud and Nescafé, from nostrils encrusted with bronzing pearls, from between claws chewed close to the quick.

From between breaths hauled from an oxygen mask.

From a crumbling mouth repointed with Nude Rose.

From the shadow of a hospital porter, chin inclined towards implausible deniability. She asked to come down. To take in the air. She didn’t say what kind.

The poke man got done for selling smuggled cigarettes, eventually. Never had to put the price of a 99 up, thanks Phillip Morris. Why did the peelers take so long to catch him? Poke vans don’t go that fast. I know, because Greensleeves takes a lifetime to fade once they’ve passed.



Sophie Thompson is a writer hailing from Ireland but living in Essex with her partner, son and chickens. She was a finalist in the WOW! Fall Flash Fiction Competition 2023 and runner-up in the Farnham Flash Fiction Competition February 2024.