Alexia used to joke – and goodness knows it was the same joke every midday Sunday – that there were fewer deaths on Sunday so she would indulge in a wine or two and a cigarette.
They always had the main meal at midday-ish on a Sunday. On other days of the week the main meal was in the evening. Alexia’s little joke was undoubtedly because the list of names in the death column of the Sunday paper was a lot scantier than the list of dead people during the week. In general, all Sunday news was scantier. Of course in reality the number of dead on a Sunday was averagely the same as every other day.
None of this stopped Alexia from her little weekly joke as she settled in an armchair during pre-prandials, pouring a wine, and lighting a cigarette. “It’s safer to drink and smoke today because there are fewer deaths on Sunday.”
When Aunt Ethel called from the kitchen door that “Dinner’s ready!” (Aunt Ethel always cooked the Sunday meal) all rose except for Alexia. The newly lit cigarette held between her two fingers had burnt to the butt. So quiet and sudden was her death that not even the ash had fallen to the floor. No one had noticed.
Abernathy had a few serious New Year resolutions to make. And he made them. He needed to give up the drink – alcohol that is. Every evening he drank too much. That would have to stop.
Then there was smoking. He had to give that up too. It was for the sake of his health and for the sake of his pocket.
What he needed to do was to have new and varied interests. That should take his mind off things. Perhaps he should take up pottery, or herb growing and drying, or fruit tree grafting? Perhaps he could go to night school and study Middle Eastern cooking, or learn how to paint with water colours, or master all the ins and outs of the computer programs he used?
It was five o’clock on New Year’s Day; the sun had gone over the yardarm. Abernathy poured himself a drink and lit a cigarette. Decisions! Decisions! So many options to mull over!
Herb had been sent home from school for swearing at a teacher. They’d phoned his father, and his father had said “What the … Where did he learn that from?” Herb started walking home. Then he noticed something he’d never seen before. There was a sign as he walked past the gas works:
NO SMOKING. DANGER OF EXPLOSION.
Herb lit a cigarette and threw it over the fence. He carried on walking. That should teach the town a lesson.
Nigel had secretly decided to give up smoking on his forty-fifth birthday. My wife will be pleased, he thought to himself. I’ll keep it as a surprise.
Natalie, Nigel’s wife, had resigned herself to her husband’s forever smoking. She was tired of finding used soda cans at the back door where he went out to have a smoke. He’d stub the finished cigarette on the empty can and drop it in. She would get him a fancy ashtray for his forty-fifth birthday. It wasn’t to encourage him smoking; it was more to try to keep the back door area tidy.
“That’s lovely, dear,” said Nigel opening his present on his birthday. “Thank you!” He gave her a kiss.
Nigel’s now seventy-seven and still puffing away. The ashtray’s long gone. Natalie is forever tidying up the back door. But she insists that Nigel first clear the area of his empty soda cans full of cigarette butts.
Gudrun stopped at the service station to buy some cigarettes. Gina was behind him in the line.
“How can you smoke?” ranted Gina. “It’s disgusting. You should think about your health. It’s totally irresponsible. Think of your family, and what it’s costing the health system. Get a grip on your life. You stink and it’s repulsive and you’re a loser. You make me sick.”
Gudrun paid for his cigarettes and left. He got in his car. His friend in the car asked: “Who was that woman you were talking to in there? The really fat one with the three hamburgers and an ice-cream?”
Maurice’s wife suggested he give up smoking. He paid over a hundred dollars to attend a Give-Up-Smoking seminar. Now that the course was over, he had to sneak down to the woodshed at the back of his garden for a quick puff so his wife wouldn’t find out. And he kept the toothpaste tube on the window ledge of the bathroom so that he could grab it and take a squeeze of toothpaste as he passed by on the outside. It disguised his breath.
But in such things, no one is fooled.
The worst thing was that his wife said nothing, and the tension for Maurice was almost unbearable. He made an appointment to have acupuncture, and that cost another hundred dollars. On the way home from the acupuncturist he had a cigarette in the car and then had a terrible time trying to get rid of the smell of smoke, for his wife was to use the car that afternoon. He feigned a puncture and left the car at a friend’s place.
Then he tried hypnotism, which was even more expensive. A similar thing happened.
Eventually his wife said, “Oh, for goodness sake!”
At last! There was no pressure! No stress! He gave up on his own.
To reward himself for two weeks of not smoking, Maurice snuck down to the woodshed at the back of his garden for a quick celebratory puff.