Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Cigarette

Author's note: I wrote this years ago, describing something that happened even years before that.  A cautionary tale about smoking. Sorta. And if you want to see the "spot," I'll send you a picture.

           Most everyone says cigarettes are bad for you, and that same most everyone will probably tell you that smoking will kill you.  And then there’s that one person who will tell you that a family member smoked for years and died of lung cancer or emphysema, and doesn’t smoke because of that experience.  I imagine I could tell you that same story, but it wouldn’t make you put the one out that you just lit.  

            Tell you what, I’ve got a story for you.  No, you don’t have to put yours out.  Actually, I think I’ll light one myself.  Hang on.  Okay, let’s share this ashtray.  I have to tell you about this one cigarette I smoked.  No, not this one right here.  I’m not playing a trick on you!  

            Before I tell you about this particular cigarette, I’ve got to tell you about Marty.  Marty, yes, she was a smoker, but that’s not the point.  She was the security lady at a place I used to work.  At the time, I installed cabinets and paneling at a high-rise downtown.  She was the one that let us construction guys in to do our work.  She was once a truck driver, and talked the talk.  If two of us came in to do some work, she would say something like: “Hey look, it’s Dipshit and Shitdip!” At first it was annoying, but we got used to it.

            What does this have to do with cigarettes?  Let me light up another one and I’ll tell you.  One day the whole crew was working there in one of the penthouses.  I was driving in that morning, like any other day.  I had a smoke on the way in, lit it on the freeway and flung it out on the side street.  The problem was that since I was driving slow, the cigarette didn’t land on the road, it landed in the bed of my pickup.  I didn’t know, but it landed squarely on a couple of padding blankets I’d used the day before to move some furniture.

            Ah, good.  Your sly smile tells me you know where this is going.  Hey, is your lighter out of juice?  You can use mine.  Anyway, I walked in the building and signed in – I almost signed in as “Dumbass” since that was Marty’s nickname for me at the time, but I didn’t want to be a smartass and a dumbass at the same time.  Three hours later, Marty came up to the penthouse, looking for me.  I sighed, and without any greeting, she stared me down and said, “Give me your cigarettes!”  I had no idea what her problem was.  So I gave up my smokes, and she grabbed my ear, in front of everyone, and dragged me out.  Being on the top floor and having a death pinch on your ear all the way down to the ground was one thing, but when she showed me the burnt-up blankets and the melted spot in the bedliner, which was right above the gas tank, I freaked.  It was like being pulled through some unpleasant vortex.  

            Oh, everyone knew.  The guy that put the fire out was working in the same penthouse.  I’m thankful it was him, he was the fire sprinkler installer.  If it was the painters, they probably would have roasted hot dogs over that fire instead.  I spent the rest of the day completely numbed by the experience.  

Marty never called me Dumbass again.  I had earned a higher honor.  For the next three months, my name was “Smokey,” and every day for a year I looked at that melted spot in the bed of the truck, wondering how many cars would have exploded had the sprinkler guy never shown up, and how long would I have been in jail.  

            You don’t believe me?  Dude, come look at my truck.  I’ll show you the spot.  I see you’re putting your cigarette out.  Well, that’s good I suppose, as long as you know the dang thing’s out.  Yeah, smoking can kick your ass.  Just don’t ask about the time I quit for a month. 

1 comment:

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