One of my all-time favorite short stories is entitled, Smokers. I wrote it sometime in the late 1990s. Smokers, is an edgy story. It is part drug scene and part rehab. It is set in the future and has a Lesbian under theme. I’d like to sell that short story.
In the 1960s, time of my, youth interrupted, it was common, even expected to smoke. People were doing it everywhere.
In my foster home, great activity surrounded smoking. There were little coupons attached to the cellophane that wrapped each pack of Raleigh’s. A smoker collected those with the same fervor embraced by books of ‘green stamps.’ The coupons were traded among family members. Combined, counted. Calculated. It was my understanding that a person could purchase things with the coupons.
(Stop with the Iron Lung Joke, we’ve all heard it.)
My ‘fosters’ bought a rolling machine and papers and after dinner the adults gathered in learning to roll the perfect cigarette. Then they went back to the store-bought brands.
I stole my first cigarettes from the top drawer when I was twelve. I wasn’t after the coupons, though. It was something to get away with. I recall pressing my face up to the window screen, exhaling and nauseated. The window screen had a coppery metallic smell of its own. It was cool against my cheek.
Pretty soon I was in High School, living with my father and his wife. My little sister’s teacher told her that the people smoking across the street were ‘hoods.’ For a while, she stopped waving to me between her classes.
I smoked. I smoked. I smoked in doctor’s offices. I smoked in the little rooms behind the big room at the doctor’s office. I smoked just before they took me away for a c-section. I smoked right afterward as I attempted to breast feed my daughter for the first time.
It was in the late 1980s and smoking was becoming very unpopular. Larry Hagman wore his ‘wrist snappin’ red rubber band.’ My daughter began pretending her toys were ‘spigs.’ The price of these ‘spigs’ rose to over a dollar a pack.
I traded my Winstons for Nicorette Gum. My ash-trays overflowed with beige colored gum that delivered my nicotine. I kept this up but the DEA of prescriptions raised some concern when someone noticed I had more than one prescription and was calling in refills at a rate that might suggest in the future, I’d be selling Oxy from my car.
I went back to my Winstons but as soon as I heard ‘the patch’ was available I hooked up. I convinced my doctor and pharmacist to give me two more weeks on the tiny patch and I was no longer addicted to cigarettes.
I loved everything about smoking. From point of purchase to tossing the ashes into the trash can.
Pulling the red strip that broke the seal on the cellophane that let loose the fresh tobacco aroma that always reminded me of raisons, was a ritual. Now, tap one out.
If I awakened in the middle of the night, I lit up. I would even smoke while eating.
Grocery stores kept ash trays where Wal-mart places the electronic ad screens that remind you how to shop and prepare a school lunch.
As long as this nicotine delivery system is as legal as the other delivery methods marketed as ‘stop smoking aids’ are legal, I accept your right to smoke.
Now, here is where I go completely off the rails.
My husband quit smoking. I insist I did not ask him to do this. There were times during the process when I thought seriously about encouraging him to wait another six months and see if he still wanted to quit. This happened in the late 1990s.
When we walk by the locked cases of tobacco products, I pause, as I would at a memorial marker. I miss smoking. Then I look at the prices. Then I’ll mention the cost to today’s smokers and the inconvenience of having to stand in isolation outside their own homes.
My darling husband nods and we go to the car and drive home with the groceries.
Recently, I thought I smelled cigarette smoke. A few times I thought I smelled cigarettes and beer. Time passed. My son says he thinks Dad must be smoking out there by the picnic table.
Why would he do that? No, he wouldn’t do it. We have a ritual. I walk by the case and comment about the sad world of our modern smokers and he nods.
Yes, he is smoking and the weird thing is that he cuts the filters off.
Sally’s been Standing too Close to her Fiction… denial some more?
He cannot be smoking. He would not dishonor me by letting me have that ritual conversation. He would not betray me in such a way. Of course, he wouldn’t understand why I call it betrayal.
Even if it is true … let me justify this…
He works all week long, earning money to buy the house, pay the bills and certainly is entitled to buy and smoke something that is perfectly legal.
Everything is going to be Okay
Just about the time I am done talking myself down I imagine him, parking his Harley and nodding to some hot road dusty fellow. They take out their delivery systems and light up.
It is Not Okay … Well, it is, but… Here, let me do what a Shrink calls Projecting….
My writer’s mind hears him comment, ‘the old lady doesn’t know I’m doing this.’ The dusty fellow probably rolls his eyes and laughs. The more troubling part of this is two-fold. First, referring to me has ‘the old lady,’ brings images both perverted and trashy. Second, having been in a long term relationship with another poor soul dancing with addictions, every single time, the drinker, user, gambler or smoker, pulls one over on ‘the old lady,’ he actually loses respect for her.
Here I sit on a Saturday, obsessing about things I do not control. Conflicted about another person’s right to self-destruct.
I really do like the short story I wrote so long ago. Did I tell you it is called Smokers?
This short story is a really good one, if you are a publisher, go ahead, ask to see it…..
Till the next time I post, don’t touch anything sharp.