The American Cancer Society sponsors the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of each November to encourage Americans to stop tobacco use. In 1970, Arthur P. Mullaney of Randolph, Massachusetts, asked people give up cigarettes. Fifty years later, his suggestion still resonates.
If a lower heart rate, reduced blood pressure, and a diminished risk of stroke is not enough to convince you to lay down that smoke, perhaps this parable will help.
Moon Is Beautiful This Time of Year – by Don Mathis
I asked her not to smoke cigarettes. She did anyway. And what upset me, more than the hazards to her health (I mean, I wanted her to outlive me so I wouldn’t have to live alone), was the fact that she had to be secretive.
She used to make up trips to the store so she could smoke along the way. But of course I could smell the tell-tale odor in the car. Visiting the neighbor didn’t work either. Short smoke breaks turned into an hour-long chat and I’d have to go get her for dinner.
So she started smoking behind the old barn. I knew exactly where she was, close by, close enough for me to catch an occasional whiff of burning tobacco floating toward the kitchen window. Eww.
I can forgive her, like I say, for wanting to smoke. I smoked for years, off and on (mostly on) from age 16 to 40.
At times, the traces of smoke that would drift to the back door would smell good, like a memory of a memory that foreshadowed better times. But most of the time, it was malodorous, a stale reminder that she was ‘cheating’ on me.
She loved those cigarettes — more than me, more than life itself — and she didn’t want to admit they would kill her. I always told her they were bad for her health.
Finally, the worst happened. How did I know? How could she have known? She should have known!
The live ember slipped off as she was ‘field-stripping’ her last cigarette. And the live leaves of tobacco ignited the leaves from the live oak, which ignited the dried lumber of the barn. Which went up amazingly fast.
Her yelling and screaming brought me out at a run to help her put out the flames. But it was a goner, I could tell. The barn, I mean. More than a pile of lumber was destroyed that day. The west wall fell. And when it did, it landed on top of her.
I lost more than the barn. I lost my future with the love of my life. I told her a hundred times those coffin nails were bad for her. Now she’s as much as a pile of ashes in the ash tray I wish she’d used. It’s hard to see the good side in any of this.
Ah well… Barn’s burnt down. Now I can see the moon.
Previously published in the San Antonio Current.
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