Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Other Secret Cigarette

Mark kept the secret cigarettes in a china box in the vanity in his bedroom, deep inside, so that he had to stick is whole arm inside the cabinet to find them. Sometimes he stuck his arm in just to be sure they were still there. Other times, he thought of them while sitting on the dock or reading by the lake, or watching "The Price is Right" on television. The overexcited, foolish contestants jumped up and down and slobbered on Bob Barker's fine suits while Mark thought of the cigarettes. Poor Bob Barker, Mark thought.

The vanity in Mark's bedroom had three mirrors, but only two doors. The unopenable second cabinet made the vanity feel a little like a hidden door, or a hole in the wall: nothing could be seen, so anything could be there. He half expected someone to grab his arm when he stuck it inside, or to feel some foreign object left there fifty years before, a treasure, or a hair clip, or a bottle of perfume. There was a yellow children's toy inside, a giraffe with red plastic balls where the giraffe's body was. There was an old candle. And the secret cigarettes, of course, a stale pack of Winstons from the previous summer, well aged after a freezing, quiet winter during which the drafty house stood empty.

In the afteroon, after "The Price is Right" concluded with Bob Barker's admonition to "get your pet spayed or neutered", Mark headed into the small town near his house to buy a jelly doughnut. Inside the little bakery, the smell of fresh bread and gooey, just-baked cookies permeated the air and mixed with the fresh breeze blowing off the lake and into the bakery just up the hill from the docks where he parked his little red boat. Behind the counter, Anthony, a young kid working at the bakery during the summer, asked Mark what he'd have.

The rich, fresh smell of the bakery and the smiling Anthony behind the counter, made Mark dizzy with excitement. Anthony was the capitan of the town's little league team, had the best uniform and mitt, and was in this small world, a star. Mark felt small and insignificant asking for his dozen jelly doughnuts and two headlights, and he felt an electric excitement too. It was like being slammed in the gut with a fast pitch, unexpected and jarring, causing the world to stop - fast - and resume only a minute later. The minute was lost, along with all the other minutes, and could be recovered only in a dream, or a nightmare, or a flashback.

No comments:

Post a Comment