Father's Day

(by an4@anon.lelnet.com, 08 June 1997)


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Father's Day
an4@anon.lelnet.com

   Lisa looked at the old picture and smiled.
   Oh, it was ten years old, but she remembered the day. Father's day, 1987.
She'd been six, there'd still been a family-
   She knew that wasn't fair. Just like it wasn't fair that was about to light
a cigarette standing on the back porch, just because Dad was still at work.
It certainly wasn't Dad's fault that their family had shrunk down to just two
members, and it wasn't right to say that two wasn't really a family.
Especially when neither of them missed mother in the least.
   There was that same certain sense of excitement Lisa had grown used to when
she thought about lighting the cigarette. It would be at least two hours
before Dad came home and she planned to spend the first half of that time
staring out at the crystal blue water of the Atlantic and smoking. Towards
that end Lisa pulled a pack of Virginia Slims from her purse.
   Extracting a single cigarette, she lit it casually and inhaled deeply. It
had been just over a month, but she found herself inhaling now whenever she
smoked. At first she'd been content to just hold the cigarette and
occasionally pull smoke into her mouth, but that had been three weeks ago.
Now, inhaling was smoking. Lisa understood the difference.
   It was so soothing. The tension drained from her neck as the smoke filled
her lungs. She exhaled casually through her nose and looked once more at the
picture.
   Father's Day 1987. That was the year she'd given him the electric shaver
he'd always wanted. Or rather Mom had gone out and bought the razor for her.
It really had been Lisa's suggestion, but only because Dad had dropped a
minefield worth of hints in the month leading up to the big day. It had also
been his birthday party, a week early. There'd been a cake and people and-
   The picture had been snapped after the partygoers had left. It had been just
the three of them. Mom had taken the picture-
   Lisa paused and took another long pull on the cigarette.
   It was all so clear. Mom had been wearing the skirt Dad loved the best- a
long tan leather skirt, the sort of thing which might have been trailer-park
had it been three inches shorter. Her blouse was low cut, tight, not exactly
modest. She'd been wearing a bra, but you could still see her nipples. In her
right hand she was holding a cigarette- a Virginia Slims, of course.
   In her left she was holding the Minolta, angling for the perfect shot. Lisa
was on Dad's lap, drinking in the mingled smell of the cologne Mom had given
him and the scent of a fine cigar. Said cigar was clenched between his teeth,
about a foot from Lisa's head. As always, she was trying hard to get as close
to that wonderful smell as possible.
   Oh, it was utterly crazy, Lisa knew, but even then at that age, she'd known
she'd wanted to smoke- and be around smokers. Even now, just smoking was not
satisfaction enough.
   Of course, part of that was because she had to sneak around-
   Maybe had to wasn't exactly the right word- There was no way to know what
Dad's reaction would be when he found out that she'd started smoking- if he
didn't already know. But Lisa was sure of one thing- when the subject finally
did come up, she wanted it to be a discussion among two smokers.
   There were dozens of pictures of Dad smoking cigars, but this was the one
particular one which she always remembered. It was strange. She remembered
the picture, remembered her mother snapping it, remembered being so very
happy that day. What she couldn't be sure of was why. The rest of the memory
was lost in the murk of time. Ten years had erased all knowledge of the
reason for her happiness, and that in itself was disturbing.
   Lisa flicked ash over the side of the deck and turned away from the water.
She watched her reflection in the slider as she brought the cigarette to her
mouth. Every move was practised and precise. The turn of the wrist was just
so. The lips were pursed in anticipation. The breeze was wreaking havoc with
her hair, but that would have to wait. She inhaled deeply, held the cigarette
in her mouth for a moment afterwards, and then used the same hand to
straighten her hair. Just the last two fingers and the thumb.
   It was a casual look. She exhaled with her hand still entwined in her hair,
then removed it and brought the cigarette back to her lips, turning her neck
upwards to meet the cigarette as it descended.
   She found herself wishing that Josie or one of her other friends was here to
take a picture. Ever since she'd started she'd found herself wanting a
picture of herself smoking.
   The nose exhale clouded the image in the glass and Lisa reminded herself
that right now she needed to start thinking about her father. With Father's
Day the day after tomorrow, the time to take care of his present was now- and
looking at the old picture had been enough to make Lisa sure what it was
which she wanted to get him.
   And she knew exactly where to go. The only question was whether or not the
owner of the store would let her buy what it was she wanted.
   
   Pulling the car into a drive-through parking space, Lisa relaxed and sank
back into the plush leather seat of the Del Sol. It was still hard to imagine
that this was her car. Of course, Dad had picked it up used, but still, it
was more car than she'd expected to start out with.
   It was an hot day, but Lisa made no move to get out of the car and head for
the mall. No, not when the mall was entirely smoke free. It figured that just
six months before she started Wildwoods became the last smoke free mall in
the state.
   She finally finished the cigarette and got up out of the low-slung seat. She
grabbed her purse and started walking towards the south entrance to the mall.
She'd stopped at the bank and taken most of her money out of the ATM, so
she'd be sure to have enough. As she reached the entrance, Josie and her mom
walked out the doors, seeing her immediately.
   "Hey, Lisa," Mrs. Morris said cheerily. Lisa smiled and returned the
greeting. Mrs. Morris- Irene- was everything her own mother wasn't. Outgoing
and friendly, with never a bad word for anyone.
   "What are you guys up to ?" Lisa asked.
   Josie and Irene sat down on the wall of the flower bed outside the doors.
Both women dug in their purses for their cigarettes. Irene pulled out a pack
of Salem Lights 100s and Josie Marlboro 100s. When the breeze it made it
impossible for Josie to catch a light, her mom assisted her. Looking at the
two of them smoking together, their motions so similar, it was easier to
believe that they were sisters than mother and daughter. Irene tossed her
curly blonde hair and laughed.
   "Well, we're looking for Father's Day gifts for Hank, but we're a little
short on ideas, and-"
   "It's such a pain in the ass," Josie finished. "Ever since they banned
smoking in the mall. It's so crowded in there and you can't think straight,
so we decided to have a smoke to clear our heads. Why don't you join us ?"
   Lisa knew she really didn't have time. She wanted to get home before Dad,
but watching the other two smoke, she knew better than to think she could say
no. It was one thing to smoke, another thing entirely to share the
experience.
   She sat down next to Josie and lit a cigarette, inhaling deeply. She watched
Josie do the same and wondered how she could smoke the harsher golds.
   "Josie said that you were planning on finally telling your Dad that you
smoke."
   Lisa nudged her friend hard. It was almost a sore subject between them.
Josie nagged her about it every day, and more than once she'd threaten to
tell him herself the next time she saw him. That would be her idea of a
favour.
   "Well, actually, in a strange way, that's why I'm here. I- Dad used to smoke
cigars. Until Mom left him. She's the one that got him to start and the day
she left- well,-"
   "If you don't mind me saying so," Irene said, each word carried on a cloud
of mentholated smoke, "it's time that your father moved on. He's an
attractive man-"
   "Mom-" Josie said, insistently, pausing to inhale on her shrinking
cigarette, "not everyone has an amicable a divorce as you and Dad did."
   "No, she's right," Lisa said. "Everything they used to do together he's
given up. It's time-"
   "I didn't know that your Dad used to smoke," Irene said, blowing smoke into
the air. She watched the way the smoke was caught in the breeze and smiled
slightly as it drifted back to her. "If Hank had smoked, we'd probably still
be together. There's nothing quite like watching a man smoke a good cigar."
She paused, trimmed the end of the cigarette with a single practised tap, and
inhaled again. "Do you really think that you can get him to start again ? I'd
love to see that-"
   "Mom," Josie said, an angry edge to her voice. "Stop dro-"
   "I think I can," Lisa interrupted.
   "And you'd rather tell him you've started smoking after he does, right ?"
   "Is that selfish ?" Lisa asked, embarrassed.
   Irene patted Josie on the knee. "If I were to quit, I'd hope Josie would be
that selfish. But you aren't going to be able to buy him cigars. Even Cynthia
is afraid to sell to minors these days. It's gotten to the point where I buy
Josie's cigarettes for her because it's just too hard for her-"
   "I did think of that," Lisa said hesitantly as she exhaled through her nose.
The smoke clung to her and she found herself enjoying the way it drifted into
her face and hair. Of course, assuming she got home before Dad, she'd have to
take a quick shower, but it was a small price to pay.
   "Why don't we go into Cynthia's together. You pick out what you want and
I'll buy it for you-"
   "Mom-" Josie said, warningly.
   Lisa had a feeling that she knew where Irene's interest lay, but that was
fine.
   "Why don't you go back the Sharper Image and take another look at that
hand-held your father wants," Irene said. She then pulled out her American
Express with her free hand and gave it to Josie. 
   Josie finished her cigarette, gave Lisa an apologetic look, and walked back
into the mall.
   "She thinks I'm too forward," Irene said, a smile in her voice.
   "Actually, I'd appreciate the help," Lisa answered. Just then Ms. Fulton,
the girls physics teacher, walked out the door. Before it had closed she'd
lit a Marlboro Medium 100.
   "Hello, Candice," Irene said. Candice smiled at them, exhaled a monstrous
cloud of fresh smoke, and asked what the two of them were doing here
together.
   "Well, Lisa wanted to buy her father some cigars for Father's Day-"
   "I didn't know that your father smoked-" Candice said, her eyes brightening
noticeably. It wasn't the first time Candice had perked up at the mention of
her father. Lisa remembered teacher-parent night this spring with a certain
amusement. Ms. Fulton had paid more than an average amount of attention to
him.
   There were times when Dad's status as an eligible bachelour was a
double-edged sword. But Lisa had a feeling that he might not mind the
interest of a twenty-seven year old with stunning red hair, sparkling blue
eyes and the sort of curves Lisa could only hope to grow into.
   "Well, I'm not sure he remembers, either," Lisa said, returning the smile.

   To say that Lisa was nervous was a gross understatement. The humidor and the
Caarodori cigars were wrapped in silver-gilded wrapping paper which had
exhausted the last of Lisa's available cash. Mrs. Briesbois had tried to
insist on paying for the paper, which she'd picked out, but Lisa wouldn't
allow it. She did, however, promise to let him know that she'd had some help
choosing his gift, and she'd even gone so far as to mention that his birthday
was also coming up.
   He was sitting across the table from her, a wan smile on his face. He loved
presents- giving them seemed to be the only thing he enjoyed more than
getting them. The look on his face was like that of a small boy at Christmas,
although it looked more charming than goofy.
   Lisa could barely swallow. What would his reaction be. He hadn't had a cigar
in four years. Would he be pleased ? Aggravated ? 
   He carefully undid the paper. There was a methodical precision to the way he
undid the tape with a letter opener. His hands moved the skill of an
architect, each slice careful and measured.
   He recognised the humidor immediately. His face took a neutral cast and Lisa
began to feel panic set in. The thought of lighting a cigarette right now had
turned into an almost overwhelming impulse. She imagined herself inhaling the
first puff of smoke from the freshly lit cigarette she could only dream about
right now and felt a vague sense of relaxation.
   Turning the lid of the box up, he smiled.
   "Caarodoris ? These must have cost you a fortune."
   Lisa smiled, her relief intense. He was definitely pleased. "Mrs. Briesbois
helped pick them out, and she bought them for me- but I paid for them."
   "Mrs. Briesbois ? Why ?"
   "Well, you know how the law is these days," Lisa said guardedly. She'd
fulfilled her obligation to her friend's mother, but that was as far as she
wanted to take it.
   "It hasn't stopped you from buying cigarettes," he said mildly.
   "That's diff-" Lisa began to say, and then realised what she'd done.
   He reached across the table and patted her small, slender hand with his own
bear paw. "It's okay. I've been waiting for you to tell me, you know."
   "You knew ?" she asked, thinking she had done a fairly good job of hiding
it.
   "You know, just because I'm a parent-"
   "I'm sorry. I've been wanting to tell you-"
   "You did." He took one of the cigars from the humidor and sniffed it
appreciatively. "You just found a unique way. But I already knew."
   "How ?" Lisa asked. Since he didn't seem upset, she decided she wanted to
know how he had figured it out.
   "Remember when I decided on the Del Sol and I had to wait a day to pick it
up. The woman who owned the car before you had been running one of those
portable cd players that you plug into the lighter. She'd lost the lighter
and I told Jim I wasn't going to take the car unless the lighter was
replaced. He had to order a new one. That was the delay."
   "But that was almost two months ago, Dad. I wasn't smoking yet."
   "I knew you would be starting soon. Last week when the Saab was in the shop
and I borrowed your car the first thing I did was check the lighter. I could
see that it had been used several times. Speaking of lighters, I trust you
have one in your purse there."
   Somewhat sheepishly, Lisa took the lighter from her purse, careful not to
expose the cigarettes. She wasn't sure why. She remembered the day her father
had unexpectedly announced he'd be giving her a ride to school and borrowing
the car. She'd run out and taken the extra pack of cigarettes from the glove
box and never thought about the lighter giving her away. They'd both gotten
behind schedule and she'd ended up taking the school bus, so she'd had no
idea-
   Dad had never taken the silver cigar cutter off his key chain. He nipped the
end and took the lighter gratefully. Before he lit the cigar, he paused and
looked at his daughter, smiling. He hesitated before speaking, and when he
did, his voice was level, even pleased.
   "I want you to know, Lisa, that I don't have a problem with you smoking. I
don't know if that makes you think maybe I'm not such a great parent, or if
there was some part of you which hoping that I would tell you it most
definitely is not all right that you-"
   "Dad, trust me, there's no part of me which wants that-"
   "Good, because I want you to understand that you're free to smoke whenever
and wherever you want-"
   "I was hoping that was what you'd say."
   She took the cigarettes from her purse as he was lighting the cigar. He took
his time, turning it slowly as he applied the flame until the entire tip was
engaged. Then he took a strong pull on the cigar and handed the lighter to
his daughter.
   "Virginia Slims. I expected as much. I always knew that you'd smoke
someday."
   "What makes you say that ?" Lisa asked, curious. Father and daughter
exhaled, Lisa's looking small and clear as it met the thicker haze of
sweet-smelling cigar smoke.
   "Two things. You used to sit on my lap at night when I'd come home from
work. I'd light a cigar and you'd nestle up so close to me- close to the
cigar. Sometimes you'd look at it and I could see that you were thinking
about what it must be like."
   "And-"
   "When you were eight, you borrowed one of the ashtrays from the family room.
You used to sit in your room at that old Mac of yours with a Paper Mate pen
and suck on it and then tap it and put it in the ashtray. When I saw that
you'd been using the car lighter- well, it actually started me thinking about
smoking again myself. At first, I quit because I was so mad at your mother,
but after a while, I thought maybe you'd forget and that would be for the
best."
   Lisa exhaled slowly. The smoke drifted lazily between them, creating a fog
above the table which she thought was heavenly.
   "Let's adjourn to the porch," Dad said, and they walked out the slider
together.
   The day was getting along nicely. There were faint wisps of clouds hanging
in the deep blue sky but it was beautiful day. The tide was coming in and the
water was roiling endlessly, crashing into the sand at irregular intervals.
It was in every way a perfect day, and there was no better time, Lisa
thought, to share the smoking experience.
   "I just want you to know, Dad, that I didn't just give you the cigars just
so that you would let me smoke."
   He tousled her hair gently with his free hand. "I know. Don't take this the
wrong way, but you're a lot like H- like your mother sometimes."
   Lisa had finished her cigarette, and it gave her great pleasure to light
another one in front of her Dad, who watched with an appreciative look on his
face.
   "What do you mean ?"
   "I mean, it was never enough for her to be a smoker. She wanted everyone
else to smoke. It's easy to look back and say that's just part of her
natural-"
   "Selfishness," Lisa finished.
   "Exactly. But she really wants other people to share the joy of it. She
understands that most people who don't smoke, well, they don't understand
what it's like or they can't get around the social unacceptability of it.
It's funny. When we started dating she'd just gotten your Aunt Amber to take
it up. Amber couldn't have been more than fifteen-"
   "Mom used to talk about that. I remember her saying how proud she was."
   Again, father and daughter exhaled in tandem, sending smoke to drift down
towards the empty private stretch of their own little beach cove.
   "I was her next project. She made me promise that I'd start smoking before
we started dating. I never really liked cigarettes that much, but I'd go over
to her house and she and Amber would be sitting out on the front porch,
smoking and laughing and- well, don't take this the wrong way, but it was
enough just to watch the two of them. You'll probably find this a little
disturbing, but I always thought Amber was the pretty one. I loved your
mother, but-"
   "Aunt Amber is gorgeous, Dad. I just never thought you'd noticed-"
   "I am human, Lee."
   "One day she called me and told me she had a surprise for me. It was ironic,
because I'd just come back from the jewelers and I had a surprise for her as
well."
   "The engagement ring she lost, right ?"
   Dad frowned. "Yeah. I spent two thousand dollars on that ring, and it was
worth every penny at the time. She knew I didn't really like smoking. I must
have tried twenty different brands in the six months that we dated. Well, I
had a bottle of champagne and the ring in my pocket. The house was empty
except for her. I walked in and she handed me the box of cigars right away. I
recognised them. They were the same ones that her father smoked."
   "I'll bet you weren't too excited-"
   "No. But I thought we'd open the champagne and once I was a little bit
tipsy, I could choke down a couple and pretend to like them and spring the
ring on her." He finished the cigar, excused himself, and came out with
another one. He took his time lighting it again, obviously savouring the
experience.
   "You'll think this is gross, but your mother lit one for me, took a few
puffs, and handed it to me-"
   "I don't think that's gross, Dad. I always wondered what it was like."
   Without further prompting, he held the cigar out for her to take.
   She put her cigarette in the ashtray and accepted the cigar. Dad smiled as
she slowly lifted it to her mouth.
   "Don't inhale," he warned.
   She pulled the smoke into her mouth and tasted it, expecting it to be harsh
and unpleasant. But it wasn't. It was rich and sweet, totally different from
the cigarette, but not unpleasant.
   "I have to have a picture of this," he said, and a moment later he came back
out on the deck and snapped several shots of his daughter holding and smoking
the cigar. She then handed it back to him. While she'd enjoyed it, she
preferred her cigarette.
   "The look on your face is exactly the one I had on mine. All I could think
about was how I wished your mother had done that sooner. I was hooked
instantly."
   "Then why did you give it up ?" Lisa asked.
   Although he smiled, there was a sad edge to it. "The same reason I gave up
tennis and mountain biking and the plays. Everything your mother and I did, I
wanted to wipe out of my life."
   "That's the real reason I gave you those cigars, Dad. It's time you got up
and started living your life again."
   "I know," he said, tousling her hair again. "So tell me again why Mrs.
Briesbois helped you pick these out-"
   "The same reason that Ms. Fulton was asking about you when I saw her at the
mall."
   He made imaginary curves with his hands. "That Ms. Fulton ?"
   "As if you didn't know, Dad."
   "So, will I be getting any phone numbers for Father's Day ?"
   "Dad !"
   "I'd be open to dates with either of them, you know," he teased, but there
was a certain-
   Desperateness wasn't the right word, but Lisa understood nonetheless.
   Her cigarette was finished. She looked at the camera and had an idea.
Quickly she set it up to take an automatic picture, placing it on the railing
of the deck. The two of them sat down and Lisa lit a cigarette. Dad clenched
the cigar between his teeth and Lisa inhaled deeply on the long white
cigarette just as the shutter snapped. They continued taking pictures like
this until the roll was gone and Lisa knew that she'd never forget why she
was so happy on  this  Father's Day.

   Lisa was looking at one of the photos when she heard the front door open.
She and Dad were sitting at the table, a cigar in his mouth and a cigarette
dangling from her lips. He'd had it blown up and framed for her. She wondered
what crotchety old Mr. Hansen had thought about the picture. Probably he'd
given Dad an earful.
   Lighting a cigarette, she walked down the stairs and saw Ms. Fulton. Last
night it had been Mrs. Briesbois. The amasing thing was that he'd told both
women he was dating the other and neither seemed to mind. Rather, it was like
a competition between them which they both enjoyed. Candice was standing in
the hallway, looking at another picture. Dad had gone kind of nuts with the
roll, having a number of them enlarged and replacing all the ones of he and
mother.
   Which was overdue.
   In this picture, father and daughter were both holding cigars in their
mouths and smiling broadly.
   "I had no idea you smoked cigars, Lisa," Candice said, not disapproving in
the least.
   "Once in a while," Lisa answered, and Candice leaned close, turned her head
to performing a stunning nose exhale that Lisa would spend the rest of the
night trying to copy, and then said "Don't tell anyone, but I love a good
cigar."
   "Is that so ?" Dad said, appearing out of the bathroom. He slipped an arm
around Candice's shoulder and Lisa thought they made a perfect couple. He was
in jeans and a peasant shirt and Candice was wearing a tight leather jumper
which somehow failed to look trashy on her as it would have on anyone else.
Lisa found herself feeling a slight pang of jealously at that, although she
was happy for Dad.
   Very happy.
   "We could have one before we go."
   Candice nodded, not bothering with any pretense of objection.
   "Care to join us ?" Dad asked, and Lisa was about to say no, but he looked
at her in a way she understood. 'We have all night to be alone,' his eyes
said.
   "Sure."
   It didn't surprise Lisa at all that Candice looked even more stunning with a
cigar in her slender hand than she had with a cigarette.
   And although it was a little bit strange to be sharing cigars with one of
her teachers, Lisa quickly decided it was something she could get used to.


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