by Claude Jones
I pulled my old work coat from the back of the cluttered hallway closet. The winter had been mild and the old coat had seen no action. I put it on, having to force my left hand through the wadded and knotted sleeve lining. I had to twist, then untwist and then re-twist the outside of the sleeve to get the stiff denim to the same turn as the lining that was cording my arm.
I walked through the front door onto the porch, a 4” step down from the floor. The temperature was cold, 28 degrees, and a chilling north wind blew. I slipped my hands into the coat pockets and found there a stub of a small cigar. The stub was dry and hard, showing my teeth marks on the butt end. I explored further into the pocket, finding a dozen or so #10-2” wood screws, a 3/8” wing nut and a Bic lighter. I stuck the cigar in my mouth, tasting the bitterness of the concentrated nicotine and stale smoke trapped in the butt from the last, long ago draw.
I cupped my hands around the lighter and ash-free cigar end to shield them from the wind. I flicked the Bic and to my surprise a lively flame came forth. I sucked on the cigar and drew the flame through the rolled tobacco. I tasted the strong smoke and quickly parted one side of my lips to let it escape. The wind rolled the smoke from my mouth and swirled it around my head until it was gone. I once more drew in and the flame of the Bic attached itself to the cigar. I sucked the smoke into my lungs. I coughed, blowing out the flame on the lighter. I drew again on the butt and inhaled the smoke into my lungs just like I did back when I was smoking. I felt dizzy and a little nauseous.
I sat down in one of the seldom used, decorative rocking chairs on the south end of the porch. The cold split cane bottom of the chair cracked and popped as if it had broken. The cold of the split cane penetrated the worn bottoms of my jeans. I shivered from the drop in the temperature of my buttocks, but the cold relieved my queasiness and I took another drag on the cigar. The lung full of potent smoke could not match the pain of the burn of my thumb, which pinched the bottom of the cigar holding it to my lips. The wind whipped flame of the Bic had lighted only the bottom of the cigar and my ensuing puffs had quickly drawn the fire to my thumb. Even in the darkness I could see the blister swelling the end of my thumb. I had dropped the cigar butt and the glow slowly died.
As I stood, the smoke induced dizziness and nausea returned. This was one of those times I wished life had a functioning rewind button. I would not do it again. Throwing the found cigar stub away would have been smarter and would not have been a waste.
"I have lived all my life in Pontotoc, Mississippi -- raised on a farm where we milked cows, raised cotton, corn, and had a peach orchard. I've worked for Pontototc Electric Power for 31 years. My wife Ann and I have two sons, both are pharmacists, and we have two grandchildren."
Who Has The Edge?
Two Poems - II
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