Leaving only Vapor

“I had just come to accept that my life would be extraordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”

He sat up and stared. No, he has no name. Don’t bother asking, I already did. He prefers anonymity. Anyway, he sat up, shoved the cat from his lap. “Extraordinary, how?” He took a sip of the tea he’d requested, tea I’d had to order from China. Pu-erh something or other, aged in the skin of an orange. He drank four cups each time he came, sitting elegantly upon the sofa he’d convinced me to put on my credit card, paying it off fifty bucks at a time so that he could rest his brittle bones upon a soft leather seat.

“Oh…” I reached into the plastic sleeve and grabbed another Thin Mint. Yes, he preferred the tin from Harrods, but he’d polished them off last month and I hadn’t yet gotten around to placing a new order, despite his persistent reminders. “Well, perhaps extraordinary is too strong of a word.”

“I see.” Another sip of the tea. A resigned sigh as he reached for a cookie.

“My socks, for instance.”



“They all emerged from the dryer, each with its mate.”

He raised his thin eyebrows. “No souls lost to the dryer, then?”

“That’s right. And my checkbook. Balanced it the very first try.”

He slumped against the leathery back of the sofa. “That is extraordinary?”

“Yes, and my kid. He cleaned the litter box without being asked.”

He nodded. “OK, I’ll grant you that one. But…” He snapped the cookie in two, looked at it with distaste before popping it into his mouth and chewing thoughtfully. He rubbed a hand along the leather of the couch and stood. “It’s time I was going.”

I stood as well, brushing the crumbs of cookie from the front of my jeans. “See you next week, then?”

He shook his head. “The thing is, I can’t come back.”




“I was sent to show you how extraordinary life can be. But you…You cannot even see the extraordinary when it’s sitting across from you on a leather couch.”

“And you,” I said, “can’t see the extraordinary in a mint cookie. Look around,” I gestured. “There is beauty everywhere. You don’t need a fancy couch or some imported tea and biscuits.”

He grinned, revealing the pocket between each tooth. “I’ll mark your case as hopeless.”

“I’ll do the same.” We glared at each other, then. A sorry way to say goodbye.

“Can I take those?” He nodded at the package of cookies on the table.


“Really? You have so many boxes…”

“I trust you can find your way out?”

“Well, then…” He shook my hand firmly, just once before fading in the usual way: The color slowly bled away. His form blurred and grew watery. Then finally, he disappeared, a candle snuffed out, leaving only vapor and a thin trail of smoke.

I shrugged and ate another cookie. “He was rather demanding,” I said to the cat, who stretched and rolled over on his back with a gentle meow. I rubbed his belly for a moment, then straightened.

I had laundry to put away.



This was written for this week’s Master Class.

Thanks to Tara for this prompt: “I had just come to accept that my life would be extraordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Ransom Riggs

82 thoughts on “Leaving only Vapor

  1. I love the subtle “count your blessings” moral hidden within the words. I loved the surprise of the old man just fading away. I wonder if it’s a figment of his older self he is imagining. What a lovely thought!

  2. There’s a book that’s titled After the Ecstasy, the Laundry by Jack Kornfield that I keep meaning to read, and this piece totally reminds me of that. It truly would be extraordinary if my kid cleaned the litter box without being asked, like, I would rate this occurrence up there with a unicorn sighting. Strange little tale, and I really enjoyed it.

  3. Very intriguing. Their opposing views of what you could consider ‘extraordinary’ definitely makes me think one version is himself appreciating the little things, and the other is himself needing the more expensive thing in the hopes of feeling special in using it. It’s like buying something from a used clothing store – you could find the same thing on the rack at the expensive store, but is it any less for having been bought for $5?

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