Down to the Last Match
When fictional characters desperately need to light something with a match, they will likely find only three or so remaining in the matchbook or box. All but the last will be duds or blow out, and the last will probably do its share of flickering but stay lit.
- Sam Vimes of Discworld really wants a cigar. He also realizes that he is running low on matches and will absolutely need a fire to survive. He has a cigar.
- To Start a Fire by Jack London. The hero fails in the title task.
- "The Little Match Girl" by Hans Christian Andersen. She still freezes to death.
- One of the earliest episodes of Gilligan's Island (from the black-and-white days) plays with this, in that there aren't very many matches left and most of them were ruined in the storm that wrecked the boat. The second-last match worked, but the fire went out quickly because of poor air circulation, so the Skipper told Gilligan to blow on the fire once it was started. The Skipper lit the last match... and Gilligan followed the Skipper's order to the letter, immediately blowing out the match.
- There's a brain teaser about this, which was used in Professor Layton and the Curious Village but has appeared elsewhere: "You are stuck in a remote cabin in the woods, with only one match. You see a stove, an oil lamp, a fireplace and a candle in the cabin. What should you light first?" The answer, of course: The match!