Charcoal, Part 1

(by, 28 December 1999)

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Charcoal (Part 1 of 2)    

    I remember the first time I saw a picture of myself smoking. I was 
sixteen at the time and god, how I loved to smoke back then.
    Don't get me wrong. I love to smoke just as much now. Maybe more. Not 
that a year is long enough for major life changes. Well, I suppose it is, but 
I'm seventeen, so it doesn't seem that way just yet.
    The story behind the picture is pretty funny. Really.
    You know the one about the wicked step-mom ? Dad married her twenty 
months ago. He didn't know- he wasn't marrying a mother, after all. From the 
noise they make, I take it that she's a monster in bed, and I mean that in a 
good way, and while this might sound crude, who can blame their parents for 
seeking out a good fuck.
    Still, until just recently she was never anything but a pain in my ass. 
That's always a downer. Well, how did this beautiful picture of me come to be 
    I was on the back porch. It was this time of year, well about a week 
later, just after Christmas. Dad and Melinda were at work- or so I thought, 
so I was out on the back porch, doing some reading for intersession. You know 
how it is at these private schools- a vacation is just an excuse to assign 
heavy readings. Naturally, I was smoking.
    A little history. Mom smokes- she quit from the time she was pregnant 
with me until I was old enough to start school- that was the deal she made 
with Dad. For those first five years, she, well, quit is too strong a word, 
but I never once saw her smoke. Not that I didn't know about smoking- my mom 
has four younger sisters, and they all smoke. By the time I was five, the 
youngest one, Aunt Brianna, was fifteen, and she was already smoking. I 
remember asking my mom once why she didn't smoke and she just laughed.
    So smoking runs in that side of the family and that's what got me 
started. Anyway, here I think I'm alone and actually doing something 
valuable, not just screwing around in chat rooms or playing Quake on the 
internet. And smoking. I was on my fifth cigarette of the day- when you think 
you have eight hours to smoke you just kind of take your time. Why rush ? 
Well, all of the sudden there's this flash, and I knew right away it was her. 
I never saw her- she was halfway out the driveway by the time I got to the 
bay window in the living room. I just finished my cigarette in the house and 
went back outside.
    I knew Dad was going to be pissed.
    She must have gone to the one hour place with the film because by two 
o'clock she'd sent an email out to him, me, and Mom. I got emails from Mom 
and Dad. Dad's said 'We are going to have a LONG talk when I get home.' Mom 
sent her email to all of us and the only thing she wrote was 'So what ?' She 
sent me a second email 'I told you to be careful. Oh well, fuck it. She was 
bound to catch you sooner or later.'
    I gave Dad the pleasure of lecturing me for an hour- I'm not going to 
bore you with what he said any more than I'm going to say anything more about 
Mom and Dad's split than that he married someone he couldn't bring around to 
his way of thinking automatically and he didn't like it. Daddy's not a bad 
man, but he would have made a great dictator. A benevolent one, but....
    After Dad was done with the 'do you have any idea what you're doing to 
yourself' and 'you're not old enough' speeches I got up to call Mom to come 
pick me up. She was already waiting for me in the driveway. I love Mom. She 
met me on the porch and talked me into lighting a cigarette right there- not 
much arm twisted needed either. Since then, well, there's been more than one 
fight about my smoking, but Dad always stops short of what Melinda suggests- 
that he should just ground me until I'm either eighteen or I quit.
    Well, a girl can only take so much, and well, some people just shouldn't 
be messed with. Now I'll tell you my big secret- it's not that I smoke- hell,
that's not a secret to anyone who has seen me outside the house or on the
back porch when I'm alone. No, my secret, the one no one, not even mom,
knows, is that I'm a witch. And not one of those limp-wristed Wicca, either.
We're talking black magic, worship the dark powers type magic. I don't do the
animal sacrifice thing- I'm a vegetarian and that would be pretty fucking
hypocritical, don't you think ?
    I don't really believe in God- or if I do, I think he must be pretty 
mean. All those rules, always punishing and stuff. Not my deal. But the other
side of it, well, you can't exactly truck in black magic and not shake hands,
metaphysically speaking, with the devil. It's really a lot of fun. But this
wasn't, and isn't, about fun. No, I set out to get my revenge on Melinda, and
I did a damned good job. If there is an hell, I'm might regret some of what
I'm doing with my life, I suppose, but hey, I'm seventeen.
    There's other things I'm good at- school is a breeze- especially art. 
And it took me a long time to figure it out, but there's lots of ways to
combine black magic and art. If you draw it, you can make it happen. Which is
exactly what I've been doing, and I'm close to getting what I want. As the
snow is falling outside the house, I know that I'm almost free.
    More background. Dad and Mom split when I was twelve. Mom smoked ten of 
those fifteen years that they were together, so that tells you that Dad is 
not entirely opposed to smoking. You don't date a woman who smokes from a 
family of smokers for three years and then marry her if you hate smoking. And 
there is something to that that Melinda knew nothing about. Dad used to smoke 
cigars. Not often, not every day, but on a regular enough basis that he has a 
small humidor and a gold cigar cutter. He used to let himself have a cigar in 
front of me on special occasions like his birthday and Christmas. I never 
said anything about it because it would have just been spiteful. But I know 
that before I was born, he smoked more often, and Mom has often said- 
wistfully- '˜Your father used to be a smoker like us.' With a big emphasis on 
    Well, it wasn't the first thing I thought of. The first thing was- well, 
this is pretty downright nasty. Genital warts. That would have been cool, but 
you're talking about an host of problems, some for her, some for Dad. You 
can't do that to someone and not think about all of the complications unless 
you want people to start thinking about what you're doing. You can cut 
corners with white magic, but with the dark stuff, you'd have to be an idiot. 
It would be like sending up a flag.
    So I went to work on Dad, and I have to say that it was easy stuff. I 
began at the end of August when I had finally worked out the details. I 
started with simple things, drawings of Dad cutting the tip of the cigar. 
Then smelling that wonderful tobacco aroma of a well made cigar. Finally, in 
October, I started drawing him actually lighting and smoking the cigar. It 
was a lot of fun, because the bottom line is that I enjoy both the drawing 
and the associated spells. It's hard work- a good charcoal and paper drawing 
takes four of five hours to get right, and finding the time to do the spells 
somewhere I could count on not being disturbed wasn't easy. Plus I had to 
come up with an entire box of cigars- I ordered them over the internet using 
the credit card Dad gave me when I turned 15.
    I had to actually learn how cigars are smoked. Not much, and I can only 
take a puff or two without getting wickedly nauseous- Aunt Brianna would be 
shocked and disappointed, but that's life. 
    After a month of drawing him smoking, I was starting to have some doubts 
about the potency of my magic- nothing seemed to be happening. But then on 
Hallow'een it all came together. Melinda has to travel at least twice a 
month- she's an artsy interior decorator, not much of a seeming match for my 
Dad, who's your typical rich law partner on retainer to a variety of 
successful corporations. He's hopelessly conservative, but he and Melinda met 
while she was doing a redesign of his office. She's pretty liberal- except 
about my smoking, but she's also gorgeous, energetic, and as I mentioned, a 
wonderful fuck. And she has a way of making him think he's getting his way, 
even when he's not.
    She was in Houston on some project and Dad and I were alone, handing out 
candy, drinking hard, spiced cider (his idea) and having a great time. He 
dressed up as Bill Clinton- he's got the hair and that same genial smile that 
makes him a winner with juries. I was made up like Helena Bonham Carter in 
Fight Club. Nobody got the costume, but I didn't care.
    Anyway, he was walking around all night with this unlit cigar. I had my 
cigarettes, and every now and then I'd pop out onto the back porch to smoke 
one- just playing the part, I joked with Dad. Well, we were both pretty 
tipsy- okay, we were both drunk- by the time the kids stopped come to the door
 around nine-thirty. He looked at me and smiled- Dad is a very pleasant mild 
drunk, because he looses all those sharp edges that makes him so good at what 
he does.
    'Want to join me on the back porch ?'
    'Sure,' I said, frustration at failure melting. 'You bet.'
    He opened the slider for me and we stepped out into the sort of cool fall 
night, moist and electric, full of stars, that is perfect for smoking. As I 
walked through the opening I kissed him on the cheek and he positively 
beamed. Have I mentioned that I love him, warts and all ?
    Immediately I pulled out a brand new pack of cigarettes and removed the 
first one with that skill only a smoker has.
    'Let me get that for you,' he said, lighting it. I wondered how many 
times he'd done that for Mom.
    'I want you to know,' he said, as I took the first pull on one of the 
best cigarettes I have ever smoked- and you know if you smoke that it's 
possible to remember an individual cigarette's beautiful pleasures- 'that I 
no longer have any problem with your smoking. If you want to smoke in your 
room, that's okay. I'll handle Melinda.'
    I kissed him again.
    He cut the tip of his cigar and I pulled out my lighter and lit it for 
him. He was surprised that I knew to light it without singeing the tip, but 
he puffed eagerly on it until it was going.
    'God, that's good.'
    'You have something else to tell me, don't you ?' I asked with false 
innocence, extending myself enough to know. There are advantages to the dark 
arts, after all. We smiled at one another again and I realised that we were 
have a parent-child moment. It was really cool.
    He was blushing. So it had to be about a woman. It may sound spiteful, 
but the thought of Dad having something to do with any other woman but 
Melinda made me pretty psyched- especially if he was willing to talk about it 
with me. So I took a deep draw on my cigarette and smiled at him and let him 
tell me about what he'd been doing.
    'Well, this isn't exactly the first cigar that I've had recently.'
    I wasn't exactly expecting that, but it wasn't an huge surprise either- 
just a pleasant one.
    'Does this have anything to do with that gorgeous new junior partner you 
sponsored ? The smoker ?'
    'I didn't allow her looks to enter into my decision and it doesn't make 
any difference to me that she smokes.'
    'I believe half of that,' I said, enjoying the mellow smell of his cigar 
smoke. Some women don't like cigars- I can't say I enjoyed the small amount 
of smoking of them I did- but I do enjoy the smell of a good cigar while I'm 
smoking. It's a nice complimentary smell, totally perfect on a cold night at 
home when you're relaxed and you know some bitch isn't going to start 
yelling at you about something as trivial as smoking.'
    'I certainly wasn't taking her smoking into account when I hired her. 
But it has helped me realise something that I always knew. I- well, two weeks 
ago, Leah asked me if I'd let her take me out to lunch as a way of saying 
thank you for sponsoring her. In my opinion, she'd already thanked me enough, 
but who am I to pass up a free lunch ? Well, she wouldn't tell me where she 
was taking me- and I wasn't really expecting Mason's-'
    'That place with the cigar bar ?'
    'One and the same. She's a regular there- I guess her old boyfriend 
loves a good cigar, and that's the place to go to have one in public. And the 
food is top notch. We've been having lunch there just about every day for the 
last two weeks. And I've been loving it.'
    'Is there something going on between you two ?'
    'Just the smoking, hon. If there's one thing a lawyer can tell you it's 
that no man can afford two divorces- and before you say anything, Mom was 
real good about things, but that thousand dollars a month is nothing compared 
to what Melinda would take- and I do love her, even if you don't.'
    I drew on my cigarette and let him squirm a little before I spoke. Leah 
is twenty-nine and so gorgeous that I'd do anything to turn out as well as 
she did. Her breasts alone are worth any eternal punishment, and she has the 
sweetest face. Not that she's sweet. No, she's more of what you'd call rawly 
sexual, in a semi-nice sort of way. 
    'You're not the least bit attracted to her ?'
    He didn't answer right away. Instead, he took a long pull on the cigar, 
held the smoke, and then let it drift from his mouth.
    'Hell, yes, I'm attracted to her, but even men are capable of being 
attracted to someone without doing anything about it.'
    'Except lunching with her every day-'
    'Melinda would turn me on just as much if only-'
    I knew what he was thinking, of course. This was better than I could have 
hoped for. It was only Hallow'een, but it was beginning to feel a lot like 
Christmas. Leah's smoking was turning him on, and not just a little bit. A 
lot. That made what I had already started working on even easier, and it also 
gave me some new ideas about exactly what to plant in Melinda's mind.

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