Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fool for a Cigarette . . .

Illustration by Holly Wales

Once in a while, I read something that strikes me to the core, and yesterday's something was a column by Duane Tollison about his father, titled "Our Smoking Habit":
A few months into my fourth-grade year, in 1987, my father and I hitched a ride with a trucker in Texas, who drove us all the way north to Rochester, Minn., a small city famous for the Mayo Clinic. We were drifters. We hitchhiked even when I was very young, small enough to sleep on top of a suitcase laid on its side. I never knew exactly why we traveled so much, but Dad seemed to have his reasons, and I trusted him.
Although his father had a temper, he doesn't seem to have been abusive to his kid, either physically or emotionally, for the little boy trusted him at nine years, but this wasn't a normal childhood. His father couldn't hold down a steady job, and their drifting went on long enough for the boy to figure things out by two years later, at age eleven, when his dad quit a normal job after only a brief time working:
Without warning, Dad quit. He said it was because the ceiling leaked into his coffee when it rained. That seemed far-fetched, even to an 11-year-old. I figured he was fired (my dad had a temper) or quit because he couldn't smoke inside. I was disappointed but not surprised. It reinforced my "hope for the best, expect the worst" mentality.
His dad was hooked, as if on drugs, to cigarettes, three packs a day, and too weak-willed, I suppose, to quit. Lacking work, always short on money, and perhaps too proud to lower himself, the father sent the son out into the city streets wearing a big-pocketed jacket for collecting cigarette butts, which satisfied the father's expansive taste for tobacco, but devastated the life of the son:
I wore that same dirty jacket to school. The residue that lined the pockets smudged my hands and got under my fingernails. Most of my classmates believed that, at 11, I smoked. I was taunted: "Ewww, Duane. You smell!" "Smoker!" I had few friends -- some who didn't want me to say hi to them in public.
Those lines come near the end, after which we learn:
Duane Tollison is a writer for CBS Radio News network in New York.
And I wonder, how did he do it? How did he beat the odds? And what became of his father, that fool for a cigarette?

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At 9:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Jeff...

Were it me and daily posting I, ... I dunno...

What I'd do is link a Janis Joplin sort of thing. This day, an anniversary of sorts... given your post. (But not the Me an Bobby Kris sorta thingy. Then again...


At 10:07 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Is today the anniversary of her death?

Jeffery Hodges

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