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Dick and Jane, Together Again-Fiction by Marcy Dilworth
Lay Down Sally-Fiction by Jack Coey
Cleaning Up After the Narc-Fiction by Walter Giersbach
Faith-Fiction by Don Stoll
Cigarettes-Fiction by Gary Lovisi
Blood Will Bloom Like a Watercolor Flower-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Toast, Jell-o, Tea-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The PLacebo Effect-Fiction by Paul Smith
Aftermath-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Just Like Fish-Fiction by Paul Lubaczewski
Waterworks-Fiction by Sue Cmileski
Saith Me-Fiction by Robert Ragan
The Return of the Ladykiller-Fiction by Michael D. Davis
Fire Man-Fiction by Terry Butler
Lost in Greenwich Village-Fiction by Dr. Mel Waldman
Never, Ever Bring This Up Again-Flash Fiction by Ralph Benton
Hip-Hop Baby-Flash Fiction byJ. Brooke
Idylls of the Queen-Flash Fiction by Dini Armstrong
Looking Cold-Flash Fiction by Stanton McCaffrey
Camera_Flash Fiction by Leyla Guirand
Ashes and Dust-Flash Fiction by Janet Hartwell
Family Man-Poem by Ann Marie Rhiel
Heads-Poem by John Grey
The Architect-Poem by Marc Carver
economy class-Poem by Meg Baird
She Knows-Poem by Bradford Middleton
Rain-Poem by Maddisyn Condora
Counter-Intuitive-Poem by Henry Bladon
An Eerie Journey Down the Invisible Staircase-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
A Sonnet for Elvira-Poem by Juan Perez
Unforeseen Endings-Poem by Michael Keshigian
When Her Kisses-Poem by Richard M. Prazych
In Your White Cadillac-Poem by Richard M. Prazych
Love in the Time of Wolves-Poem by Jennifer Lemming
I Do-Poem by Jennifer Lemming
a bite better-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
hot afternoon-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
registry-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Dirty Pink Lipstick-Poem by Ian Mullins
Wrestlin' Gal-Poem by Ian Mullins
Between Takes-Poem by Ian Mullins
Banjo Bob and Cassy-Poem by David Spicer
Neurotic-Poem by David Spicer
I Imagine It's Goodbye-Poem by David Spicer
A Date with Destiny-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
Under Moonlight-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
2020 (The Heart and the Thorn)-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
She Loves You-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

78_ym_cigarettes_amr.jpg
Art by Ann Marie Rhiel 2020

CIGARETTES

 

By

 

Gary Lovisi

 

                          

 

     Phil Johnson had reached his limit with Kathy. His wife's constant cigarette  smoking was driving him mad. Something had to be done about it before the situation drove him up the wall.

     Phil had a plan he was sure would make Kathy stop smoking. He decided now was the time to go through with it.

He made his way to the dresser in their bedroom, feeling around on top of the six-feet-high piece of furniture for what he'd hidden there, days before.

At that time he hadn’t decided upon any action, or really thought it through that well, but now this seemed his only thing to do.

      He brought down the revolver. It was hard, and cold, and its chill sent a slight shiver through his nervous flesh.

      "This is serious, now. I've tried everything," he mumbled.

There had been the endless stop-smoking programs, doctor’s visits and quack remedies, even hypnosis and acupuncture. And of course, a whole pharmacy of various drugs and procedures, each guaranteed to end the cigarette habit once and for all. None of them worked. In the end, Phil realized that nothing would work, unless the smoker really wanted to quit. He decided he'd make Kathy want to quit.

     He spun the cylinder of the revolver. He opened a box of shells, taking out two of the shiny metal spheres. He put one bullet in the chamber and pressed the trigger.

A loud report was heard throughout the house.

     "Phil! Phil! What was that?" Kathy shouted.

     She ran up the stairs and into the room, huffing, and puffing on the perpetual cigarette she carried, exhausted from the exertion of just a few stairs.

She was a chain-smoker, and the house, her clothes, and her own body stunk of oppressive cigarette smoke. The disgusting odor followed her into the room like a pall of death.

     Phil winced as she came in. He didn't smoke, never had. His sensitive nostrils picked up only too well the stale odor that clung to Kathy. The strangling smell that followed her wherever she went in the house.

     "Phil! What's going on? I thought I heard a gunshot!" Kathy shakily put out the cigarette in one of the ubiquitous overflowing ashtrays that were in every room.

Phil wasn’t surprised when she instantly lit up another cigarette before walking over to him.

     Fuming, he sat down, the revolver in one hand, the unspent bullet in the other. He watched as she came close.

     "I've come to a decision." There was a power and strength in his voice that belied the lack of volume. He showed her the pistol, teasingly.

     "Put that away," Kathy said. "It's dangerous. Don't you know not to play with guns?"

     Phil laughed, bitterly. "At least it's quick and clean."

     He saw she didn't understand him. He added, "Guns kill, but cigarettes kill, too. They're killing you—and making me miserable. I can't stand it anymore, Kathy. I've had enough."

     "Is this another lousy attempt to make me stop smoking?" As if to emphasize her feelings on the subject, Kathy took a long drag and let out the exhaust luxuriously, so that a cloud of smoke passed his face. It made him cough.

     Phil sneered, "You'd think you just had great sex, the way you smoke those damn cancer sticks!"

     "So? What's it to you?" she said. "Maybe if I got it more often . . ."

     Phil turned red, changed that subject. "What's it to me? You've got some nerve! I live with you—or at least I’ve tried, for the last five years. It hasn't been easy. You know what it's like making love to a damn exhaust pipe?”

 She looked away.

“Don't you have any consideration for my feelings? Or anybody else’s? Sometimes my love for you is overshadowed by the disgust and anger I feel every time you light up cigarette after cigarette. No matter what I say or do, you just go right on doing it, as if I don't exist."

     She looked at him, curiously, "You're being very foolish, Phil." She shook her head.

     As she walked away, Phil said, "Get over here, you damn chimney!"

     She froze, then turned, finally realizing his anger and madness.

     "You sick motherfucker. Leave me alone!"

     "Yeah?” he said. “We'll see!” He put the bullet in the chamber, then spun the cylinder.

     "What’re you going to do? Blow your brains out?" As she said it, she was scared. Then, she panicked as another thought hit her—maybe Phil was going to use the gun on her, instead!

Phil laughed like a B-movie villain. "No, my dear, but I might blow the few brains you have out of your lovely head—if I can find them through all the smoke."

     As she started to move away, he grabbed and threw her down on the bed. "Now stay there and shut up!"

     From the pocket of her dressing gown, he withdrew her ever-present cigarette pack. When she got up, not to escape his madness, but to take back her cigarettes, he slapped her down to the bed again.

He hardly realized what he’d done. Normally, he wasn’t violent, but now violence oozed from him. He stood over her, his bulk a formidable obstacle to her freedom.

Shaking, she stayed on the bed, watching him, fearfully.

     "It’s about time you quit, for both our good."

     "No, I don't want to! And you'd better leave me alone!"

     "All in good time," Phil said, wondering if this turmoil was a screen for other problems between Kathy and him; if he was justified in what he was going to do.

Actually, he was not justified in doing any of this, but her unyielding fouling of air and house from constant smoking had gone too far. He could not back down, now.

     "You know what cigarettes are doing to you?" Phil tried to calmly explain. "How sick they're making you? You have no stamina, no appetite, no desire to do anything. They sap your strength, and they make everything you wear, everything you come into contact with, stink!"

“Oh, please!”

     He pointed the gun at her. "There's one bullet in this gun." He spun the cylinder again, for emphasis, as though he needed to scare her. "Do you realize that every cigarette you smoke is like putting this gun to your head and pulling the trigger? Sure, I'm exaggerating, but it’s almost the same chance you're taking. Is it worth it?"

     "That's nonsense," Kathy said. "You and I know it's not the same thing."

"But I don't give a damn! You’re going to stop smoking, one way or the other. So I'm making it the same thing.

"You'd better let me go!"

“No. You're going to sit here till you make me a solemn promise . . ."

“Never!" she said. "I got my rights. I do what I want!"

"I never said you didn't have rights; you've got the right to smoke, too. If you want a cigarette, it's fine with me, but you've got to take a chance—with the gun at your head. You make your own luck. If the chamber's empty, I'll give you a cigarette, if it's not . . ."

     "You're out of your damn mind!" He saw the fear that in her eyes and knew it was mirrored in his own.

     When she tried to get up, he pushed her back down. When she slapped him,  hard, he slapped her back.

After a while, shocked by the intensity of it all, she lay quietly. Both were now surprised by the extent of violence and anger, which had never appeared before, in their marriage.

     Finally, Kathy said, "All right, see? I've quit! Now will you let me go?"

     "No," Phil said, sternly. "We're here for a few days. If two days can pass without you smoking, I'll release you, on your promise."

     She began to cry.

     Phil cried too, inwardly, but did not show his tears—could not show his tears. More than anything else was the realization that he had to be strong for both of them, now.

 He realized this was their last chance. He only hoped Kathy would understand, when it was over. He had to do what he had to do. There was no turning back, now.

     Before long, Kathy had cried herself to sleep. Phil put on the TV and watched a few old movies. Afterwards, he raided the fridge.

     Kathy had been asleep about six hours. When she awoke, it was with the gleam of cigarette lust in her eyes.

Instinctively, she reached into the pocket of her robe, where her cigarette pack was always kept. When she found it empty, she remembered all that had transpired earlier—events more dreamlike than real to her, now.

     She saw Phil standing over her. She had loved him so much—before this all began. Now she was just scared she was in the hands of a maniac. His recent unexplained cruelty was making her hate and fear him more, each minute.

     He smiled, awkwardly. "Have a good sleep, baby?" He gave her a bowl of fruit. "Here, have something to eat; you must be starving."

     She took the bowl, but she could only stare at its contents with disgust. She knew what she really wanted.

     "Phil," she said, quietly. "Can I have a cigarette? Just one. I always need one after I wake up. It gets me going."

     He laughed. "Yeah, it gets you going to the second one, the third one, and so on, all day long. But you can have one, if you're willing to pay the price."

     He spun the cylinder of the revolver. "The odds of you blowing your brains out with one bullet in a-six chamber revolver are one in six. That's about an 84 percent chance for success. Better odds than most, I guess."

     "How could I have married such a bastard?" she said under her breath, but he heard it. It hurt him more than he dared admit.

     "It goes both ways. Maybe someday you'll understand that," he said.

     "Bastard!" she yelled.

     "Sure, that's me, baby," Phil muttered. But he knew she was right.

     The rest of the day, Kathy sat quietly. Phil watched her twitching and fumbling, thunderously—but not from the fear of her situation—from her need for that first cigarette. Her eyes were glazed and tearing. She sat stone-cold silent, but she was going through the worst nicotine fit anyone had ever gone through.

     Time passed. He hoped she would break soon—before he did—or before the uppers he'd taken wore off, and he crashed. He feared he couldn’t go on with this much longer.

     The day wore on. Night came and went. No one ate. Always awake, Phil watched Kathy sleep. The uppers kept him up. The next day was rough, but somehow, they got through it.

     Kathy was sleeping again, tossing and turning. Sometimes Phil heard her mumble incoherently, knowing she was having some nasty dreams. He wondered if they were about him.

     Finally, she woke up. Immediately tense, wired. Anxious. Ready for a fight. She glared at him. Phil tensed, as this might be it. Crunch time.

     "Give me a cigarette, you bastard!" she growled.

     He spun the cylinder in the revolver. "Ready to pay for it?"

     "Son-of-a-bitch! I hate you!" she yelled, followed by a flurry of curses.

He was shocked at how many dirty words she knew. She rarely cursed around him, but now she did it with the verve and originality of a dockworker.

     When she calmed down a little, Phil brought out the pack of cigarettes.

     Kathy's lips grew moist when she saw it. The tips of her fingers twitched. She shook, convulsively.

     Phil took out one cigarette, slowly crushing it between his fingers. The shredded tobacco fell to the floor. The cigarette was useless, now. Harmless.

She watched with an intensity bordering on mania.

     "Bastard!" she said. "You can't treat me like this. I'll get even with you! Give me that!"

     She jumped at him—actually, at the pack of cigarettes he held— but he firmly pushed her back down to the bed. She began screaming that soon turned to frustrated crying.

     "Give me a cigarette, Phil!" she cried.

     He almost weakened. He hated himself for doing this, but it was the moment he’d been waiting for. If he didn't hang on now, he'd lose everything. All this pain, trouble, terrible cruelty— it would have been for nothing. And that would be cruelest of all.

     He showed her the gun.

     "No!" she said.

     "First the gun, then the cigarette."

     "I hate you!"

     "I know," Phil muttered.

     It was quiet for a moment.

     "Phil, please," she begged, "please, baby, don't do this to me."

     "I can't help it, I'm a bastard. Remember?"

     "Son-of-a-bitch!" she screamed.

     "And a son-of-a-bitch," Phil added. "Do you want a cigarette, or not?"

     He crushed another one, slowly, between his fingers. Then another, and another. Kathy watched madly. Her body jerked, as each of the small white cylinders was crushed.

     "Oh, well, just one left," Phil said. "Should I destroy this one, too, or do you want it?"

     Kathy sat, quietly, her eyes red as fire. Her hands were shaking. He felt the anger emanating from her, like a furnace.

     She shut her eyes, then. "Give me the gun."

     "No," Phil said, "You think I’m stupid? I'll spin the cylinder, then put the barrel to your temple. You tell me when to pull the trigger."

     "You're sick, Phil. You know that."

     "Do you want a cigarette, or not?" She nodded. "You ready?" he asked, quietly.

     Even more quietly she said, "Y-yes."

     Phil nervously spun the cylinder of the revolver, then put the point of the weapon to her temple. "Keep your arms down and don't move. Tell me when to press the trigger."

     She was in tears, again. "You're a dirty bastard!"

     "I know."

     "You're going to kill me."

     "You're killing yourself. Can't you see that? Tell me when to fire."

     "Never!" she said, with feigned determination.

     "Then I’ll just destroy that last cigarette." Phil looked over at it, on the table.

     "No!" Kathy yelled. "Fire!"

     He shook his head, in disbelief.

     "Didn't you hear me? I said, Fire! Fire! Fire the damn gun!"

     He hesitated for what felt like minutes. He had to fire. Otherwise, all this would have been in vain. What a mess he had gotten them into. It was never supposed to go this far.

     Slowly, he brought the point of the revolver to her temple. It stayed there for a long time.

    Her eyes were closed, tightly.

    Phil thought she looked so beautiful.

    She said, "Fire, you son-of-a-bitch!"

    He pressed the trigger. It moved slowly. Downward. Things were out of control, now. If they had ever been under his control, at all.

    There was a loud click.

    Then . . .

    Nothing!

     The silence was laced with thick sweat, dripping down their bodies. They were both soaking wet. Phil’s loud sigh of relief was followed by one from Kathy.

     Disgusted, he threw the gun on the floor.

What had he done? He couldn't believe he’d actually pulled the trigger! The full impact of it rushed in upon him. With his handkerchief, he wiped his sweaty face. He picked up the cigarette from the table and glared at it.

     "Here." He handed it to Kathy. "You've earned it."

     She took the cigarette, rolling it over, inspecting it carefully, as if it were some kind of alien artifact. Then her eyes locked with her husband’s.

There was hatred and confusion in that gaze. Phil wasn't sure what he saw there.

     "Go ahead and smoke it," he said, disgusted. "Anyone who’d allow a loaded gun to be put to their head so they could have a cigarette— damn well deserves that cigarette. So, go ahead. Enjoy it."

     Now she was shaking, again, her eyes darting from the cigarette hanging so  temptingly between her fingers, to Phil’s strained and haggard face. She looked back, and forth. Nervous. Unsure.

     He watched her. Was she having a nervous breakdown? Is this what he had accomplished?

     Finally, she smiled. "I don't want it, anymore."

Then, to Phil's surprise, she took and crushed the cigarette between her fingers.

      He was so proud of her. He rushed into her arms, finding her warm, and receptive. They both cried, and hugged. Soon, they were in a wild, passionate embrace, sinking to the floor, peeling off each other’s clothes.

     He gasped, as she massaged his crotch, before tracing a path down his thigh, brushing his buttocks.

Then her hand found something else— the gun he’d thrown to the floor.

She grabbed the gun.

     "Now," she whispered. "It's your turn, my love."

     She raised the gun to his temple and fired.

     He jumped.

     There was a loud report—followed by a spray of fine red and gray mist into the air.

For a moment, Phil looked into Kathy's eyes. Deeply. Sadly. Understanding. Trying to say something, but now only blood flowed from the movement of his lips.

Then, he slumped down dead beside her.

     She cradled his head in her arms, "You're not a bastard, Phil," she said. "Not anymore."

 

 

END

 

Copyright 2019 by Gary Lovisi. All Rights Reserved.

GARY LOVISI BIBLIOGRAPHY:  (Recent and partial):

 

 

 

Sherlock Holmes:

 

 The Secret Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Series:

 

 THE SECRET ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (Ramble House, 2007)

 

MORE SECRET ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (Ramble House, book #2, 2011)

 

SECRET ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: BOOK THREE (Ramble House, 2016)

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. HOLMES (Gryphon Books, 2016)

 

SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE BARON'S REVENGE (Airship27, 2012)

 

THE GREAT DETECTIVE: HIS FURTHER ADVENTURES, edited anthology (Wildside Press, 2012)

 

THE MYSTERY SURROUNDING WATSON'S LOST DISPATCH BOX (MX Pub., UK edition, 2014)

 

SOUVENIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (Gryphon Books, 2002, non-fiction, new edition forthcoming)

 

SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE GREAT DETECTIVE IN PAPERBACK & PASTICHE (Gryphon Books, 2008, large-size, spiral bound)

 

 Crime:

 

 BATTLING BOXING STORIES, edited anthology, (Wildside Press, 2012)

 

VIOLENCE IS THE ONLY SOLUTION (Wildside Press, 2012)

 

MURDER OF A BOOKMAN (Wildside Press, 2011)

 

DRIVING HELL'S HIGHWAY (Wildside Press, 2011)

 

THE LAST GOODBYE (Bold Venture, 2015)

 

THE NEMESIS CHRONICLES (Bold Venture, 2016)

 

ULTRA-BOILED: HARD HITTING CRIME FICTION (Ramble House, 2010)

 

DIRTY DOGS (Gryphon Books)

 

EXTREME MEASURES (Gryphon Books)

 

HELLBENT ON HOMICIDE (Do Not Press, UK, 1997)

 

BLOOD IN BROOKLYN (Do Not Press, UK only, 1999)

 

 Science Fiction / Fantasy & Horror:

 

 GARGOYLE NIGHTS (Wildside Press, 2011)

 

MARS NEEDS BOOKS (Wildside Press, 2011)

 

WHEN THE DEAD WALK (Ramble House, 2014)

 

SARASHA (Gryphon Books, 1997)

 

 

 

The Jon Kirk of Ares Series: (Wildside Press)

 

 #1 THE WINGED MEN, 2014

 

#2 THE INVISIBLE MEN, 2015

 

#3 THE SPACE MEN, 2015

 

#4 THE MIND MASTERS (forthcoming, 2017)

 

#5 THE TIME MASTERS (forthcoming, 2017)

 

 Other Fiction:

 

 WEST TEXAS WAR AND OTHER WESTERN STORIES (Ramble House, 2007)

 

 Non-Fiction:

 

 THE SEXY DIGESTS (Gryphon Books, 2001, large-size)

 

THE PULP CRIME DIGESTS (Gryphon Books, 2004, large-size)

 

THE ANTIQUE TRADER PAPERBACK PRICE GUIDE (Krauss Books, 2008)

 

DAMES, DOLLS & DELINQUENTS (Krauss Books, large-size trade paperback)

 

BAD GIRLS NEED LOVE TOO (Krauss Books, hardcover, 2010)

 

MODERN HISTORICAL ADVENTURE NOVELS (Gryphon Books, 2006, large-size, spiral bound)

 

THE SWEDISH VINTAGE PAPERBACK GUIDE (Gryphon Books, 2003, large-size).

Ann Marie Rhiel is the Assistant Art Director for Yellow Mama Webzine. She was born and raised in Bronx, New York, presently living in New Jersey. She reconnected with her passion for art in 2016 and has had her work exhibited in art galleries around northern New Jersey ever since. She is a commissioned painting artist, who also enjoys photography. Her work has also appeared in Black Petals and Megazine Official.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020