The quote is one I’ve heard from a young age, one that seems so true no matter who makes up the company, what period of life you’re in, where you’re at, or when you think there could be an end in sight. There’s no point in asking ‘why.’
Up in Smoke
“There are too many open mouths and not enough open ears in society today,” Maurice said to the smoky smelling, ash-covered small stuffed bear at the foot of the couch, four legs of various lengths going in different directions and a florescent blue keychain around its neck. “You, Buddy, are part of the quiet, laconic few.”
Maurice’s coughing fit buried the sounds of the growling stomach, aggravating his sore back from the fall down the few frozen steps out front. That pain paled in comparison to his throbbing knee and bruised pride –the latter the only thing burning in the one-room cabin.
He refused to get a telephone, didn’t bother with electricity and insisted on keeping the clunker of a car that got him as far as he wanted to go, day in and day out –the town library, post office and grocery store, nothing less, nothing more. The ‘nothing more’ summed up the total count of matches he had in the tin box by the stack of firewood. Of course, he still had his lighter…by the pack of cigarettes on top of the postcards from his grandchild who gave him “Buddy” in the first place.
Maurice had lain on the couch for quite a while, the winter air seeping through the cracks like a snake, perfect to go with the blanket of gray and white outside. Watching the snow fall didn’t brighten or worsen his mood. He could force himself towards the card table where the propane cooker sat – a simple, small single tank setup just right for strong coffee, canned stew and soups. But that required effort Maurice didn’t want to spend, not on something that boring.
He made his way across the room in the opposite direction, slower than a turtle’s pace and resting against the wooden chairs once in a while. Sweeping some candy bars, water bottles, the postcards, the cigarettes and lighter into the shoe box with his good hand for easy carrying, Maurice returned to the couch, cradling Buddy in the crook of his arm.
Maurice grunted before putting his glasses on. Even in large, uneven print, he had a hard time making out the words on the cards once in a while. He read to Buddy, the highlights, the humor, the ‘harsh warning’ of ‘no more silly cancer sticks.’ The warning was included on the back of a photograph of the quilt that had been passed down for generations, too.
“You hear that, Buddy? Doesn’t matter if the child’s at home or in a foreign land, gotta warn me off.” He coughed again. When he could take a deep breath again (as much as his ribs would allow), Maurice re-read the sign-off/semi-wish. By the lantern’s light, Buddy’s tilted head had a scolding attitude to it. Muttering curses under his breath, Maurice pushed himself off the couch, Buddy in tow, and tossed the cigarettes into the fireplace, putting the lighter to the kindling inside.
Things could possibly warm up, he thought.