09/18/2021

Simon A. Smith ~The Cigarettes of my Youth

I

In high school, after I ran my mouth too much and Ronnie Bosman dropped me with one ham­mer punch to the face. I remem­ber that when I came to my best friend, Lance, was already say­ing some­thing about how it wasn’t that bad and nobody would remem­ber any­thing in a week or two. He’d sat me up, I guess, and propped my back against the side of a dump­ster in the alley. At some point he’d tak­en off the hand­ker­chief he usu­al­ly wore around his head and pressed it to my nose to stop the hem­or­rhag­ing. While I wait­ed for the stars to clear, I lit a cig­a­rette and inhaled. It tast­ed like the blood trick­ling over my lips and onto my tongue, and the whole fuck­ing thing was far more sat­is­fy­ing and desir­able than it had any right to be.

II

Before my sister’s wed­ding. Hiding out­side the church with the groom’s uncle Steve who lit my smoke with one of those trashy torch lighters. The flame was pure blue, and it made the kind of aggres­sive whoosh­ing sound that like­ly scared most nor­mal peo­ple away from using it at all. I don’t think Steve knew any­thing about the way his nephew treat­ed my sis­ter, how he used the kind of threat­en­ing, emo­tion­al lan­guage that could only lead to some­thing phys­i­cal, the way a blast of light­en­ing always ends in thun­der. And still there were no real moves toward draw­ing any lines or pre­vent­ing any catastrophes.

III

Alone in the park­ing lot of 7–11, fin­ish­ing a few puffs before head­ing inside for some soda or Slim Jims or some­thing equal­ly juve­nile. My phone rang, and before I could take the final drag, have a sec­ond thought or brace for impact, my mom told me how dad was found dead in the garage. I remem­ber what he was with and what he was with­out when they dis­cov­ered him – a gun, a shirt, a bot­tle, a pulse. Lots of peo­ple make plans for how to end things, inno­cence, bad habits, tox­ic rela­tion­ships, but on that day, minus any plots or promis­es, every­thing came to a close sud­den­ly and with a bang, which is the only sure way to erad­i­cate some­thing tru­ly bur­den­some from your system.

~

Simon A. Smith teach­es English and debate to high school stu­dents. He holds a BA in cre­ative writ­ing and an MAT in sec­ondary edu­ca­tion. His sto­ries have appeared in many jour­nals and media out­lets, includ­ing Hobart, PANK, Whiskey Island and Chicago Public Radio. He is the author of two nov­els, Son of Soothsayer and Wellton County Hunters: Book One of The Search Team Trilogy. He lives in Chicago with his wife and son.