Quest For Zach, Part 2

(by Gray Haze, 28 December 2007)


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Quest for Zach
By Gray Haze

Part 2

Peggy and Paula only live about three blocks from our house.  During the
summertime, Paula and I have always spent a lot of time together.  It used to
be to play house or play with our Barbie's.  Of course, we have out grown
that.  Now we surf the net, talk on the phone, or play video games.  

Later that week, I hopped on my bike and headed over to her house.  It was
during the day and her parents were at work.  Paula was over at one of her
friend's house, so it was just the two of us.

I headed straight for her room when I got to her house.  Sure enough she was
there watching some TV.  It wasn't long until the conversation turned to Joey
and Zach.  It was immediately obvious that she was infatuated with Joey, and
was still upset over the party at Mary's.  

I have to admit, I was infatuated with Zach as well,  but not close to how
much she was with Joey.  But then I was really surprised by what Paula had to
say.

"Maybe Peggy's right.  Maybe they are attracted to girls who smoke."

I wasn't quite sure how to respond.  It was such a strange thing for her to
say.  We both have always thought that smoking was disgusting.  Could she
possibly be thinking about starting to smoke just to attract Joey?  I wasn't
sure.  But there was one way to find out.

"Don't tell me you are thinking of starting to smoke just to attract Joey."

Paula didn't respond.  She just sat there staring at the TV.  Finally I spoke
up again.  "You are, aren't you?"

"Tell me Terry, have you ever thought about smoking?"  Paula said while
taking her eyes off of the TV and looking at me.

"Ah, no, can't say that I ever have."  Believe me when I tell you, that this
was the truth.  I can't remember how many times I have ragged on my poor
parent's about their smoking.  "Don't tell me that you have."

"No.  Well, not until recently I haven't."

"You mean not until this weekend," I said, knowing why she wanted to try it.

"OK, I'll admit, not until this weekend.  But maybe my sister is right,
smoking isn't all that bad.  I mean, have you ever heard your mother say
anything bad about smoking?"

"No, but then again, I have said enough bad things about smoking for both of
us," I answered laughing.  "If anything, she has always been quite defensive
about it."

"Exactly, my mom has been the same way.  In fact, she has often said to me
how much she enjoys smoking."  Paula then hopped up from her bed and went to
her desk.  She opened up her top drawer and much to my shock, pulled out a
fresh pack of Marlboro Lights 100's.  "Well I've decided to find out for
myself how good smoking cigarettes is."

I was speechless as I watched her fumbling around with the pack trying to
open it.  She isn't serious, I thought to myself.  But then I realized that
she was serious as I watched her extract two cigarettes out of the package.  

"Here, this one is for you," Paula said as she extended one toward me.

"You don't think that I am going to smoke that, do you?"

"Oh c'mon Terry, please have one with me," Paula said in a pleading voice.
"I need someone to help me on this."

"Like I'm going to be some kind of help," I responded, laughing.  "I've never
smoked before in my life.  Nor do I have any desire to smoke."

"What's wrong Terry, are you chicken?" Paula challenged me.  Sure enough,
Paula started clucking like a chicken.  She knows me too well.  I never back
down from a challenge.

"OK, give me it," I said in a stern voice.  "If you want to do it, I'm game."

I can't believe I said that.  Smoking is against everything I believe in.
It's smelly, dirty, and very bad for you.  But yet, a challenge is a
challenge.  I wasn't about to back down.  

Paula then grabbed an ashtray and lighter while I admired the long white
cylinder of death between my fingers.  She placed the ashtray on the bed
between us and then lifted the cigarette up to her lips.

"Paula, do you have any idea what you are doing?" I asked. 

"Not really," Paula answered with the cigarette bobbing up and down between
her lips.  "I guess I'll just light it and suck on it like mom does."

Sure enough, she clumsily lit the lighter up with one hand and touched the
flame to the end of the cigarette.  Once lit, she immediately blew the smoke
out.  The look on her face said it all.  It was awful.  Finally after a brief
silence, I asked her how it was.

"Not very good," Paula said still with a pained look on her face.  "The taste
is really strange."

She then handed me the lighter signifying that it was my turn.  I proceeded
to place the cigarette between my lips.  It felt real strange, almost like a
solid straw.  I immediately clicked the lighter and saw the flame come to
life.  Unlike Paula, I had no trouble lighting it.

"Here goes nothing," I said as I lifted the flame to the tip of my cigarette.
I sucked gently on the filter as the flame raced into the tobacco.
Immediately, I noticed the bitter taste of the smoke pour into my mouth.
Once lit, I quickly pulled it out and blew the smoke toward Paula.  The taste
was awful.  Why would anybody want to do this everyday?  

For the next minute we both sat quietly as the cigarettes smoldered between
our fingers.  Finally, I figured that it was time to state the obvious.  "I
don't know about you Paula, but I wouldn't mind not taking another puff.  It
tasted terrible."

"No Terry, I plan on smoking this whole thing.  It must be an acquired taste,
or no one would ever smoke."  Paula then proceeded to take another puff.  I
followed suit with my own.  We both immediately blew the smoke out.  Again
the taste was bad.  But Paula was persistent.  She was determined to learn
how to like smoking.  So for the next ten minutes we subjected ourselves to
the misery of our first cigarette.  Thankfully, the cigarette was finally
done.  

"Well Paula, are you satisfied?" I said as I put out the cigarette.  "It was
pretty bad wasn't it?"

"Yeah, you're right Terry, it was.  But there must be something good about
smoking.  I don't know what, but millions of people smoke for a reason."

Nothing more was said about smoking.  For the rest of the morning we just
hung out and played video games.  We then ate some lunch and walked down to
the park.  Seeing no one there that we recognized we went back to her house.
We surfed the net for another hour or so.  During this time Paula didn't
really say much.  I could tell that something was on her mind.  Then,
suddenly she got up and pulled the pack out of her desk again.  I thought
that she was nuts, but sure enough, she pulled two more cigarettes out from
the pack.

"You know Terry, maybe we should try again," she said as she handed me one of
them.  "I heard that the first cigarette is always the worst."

I didn't know what to say as I watched her light up again.  For some strange
reason, I was now kind of interested in what was so good about smoking.
Sure, the first one was awful, but I survived.  The taste was dreadful but it
didn't make me sick.  So I grabbed the lighter and lit up with her.  Again
the taste was bitter.  But it didn't seem as bad as the last time.  Both of
us continued to take small puffs.  Each successive puff seemed to taste a
little less bad than the previous.  Finally after about ten puffs we were
done.  

"Say Terry, that wasn't quite as bad," Paula said with a slight smile.  It
looked almost like she was proud of herself.

"Yeah, I guess not," I said in return.  "But it still tastes pretty shitty."

"I know," Paula replied.  "Maybe we're not doing it right.  I noticed that
smoke slowly pours out of mom's mouth after she takes a puff.  Watching you,
the smoke seems to come out all at once."

Paula was right about us not doing it right.  Come to think of it, the smoke
did come out of her mouth differently than from my mom's.  I went home soon
after that last cigarette.  You would think that I would be glad about being
done with that little experiment.  But for some reason, I couldn't get it off
of my mind for the rest of the day.  As bad as those two cigarettes were, I
now was starting to become intrigued about what could possibly be so great
about smoking.  It certainly wasn't the taste.  I knew that for a fact now.  

Mom came home from work at about four.  Usually when she comes home, she
makes herself a cup of tea and relaxes for the next hour before she has to
make dinner.  That day was no different.  Usually I avoid her during this
time.  She generally chain smokes while relaxing with her tea.  I always
found that the cloud of smoke that forms in the kitchen was very irritating
and smelly.  But today I decided to join her.  I guess I wanted to see for
myself how she smoked.

"Hi, honey," mom said as I entered the kitchen and opened the refrigerator
door.  "How was your day?"

"Good, mom," I answered as I poured myself a glass of milk.  I then opened
the cupboard door and pulled out a package of Oreo cookies.  As I sat down
across the table mom extinguished her cigarette in the ashtray and then took
a sip of her tea.  Sure enough, she then extracted another cigarette from her
pack and lit up.

"So Terry, what did you do today?" Mom asked me as smoke from her first puff
slowly exited her mouth.

"I went over to Paula's and spent most of the day there," I answered as I
pulled an Oreo out of the package.  Mom then took another puff as I munched
on my cookie.  Trying not to be too obvious, I watched her closely.  I
immediately noticed the difference in how the smoke exited her mouth.  It
came out as a slow, steady, almost endless stream.  It was so much different
than how it came out of Paula's mouth.  I also noticed how much mom seemed to
enjoy it.  She had a slight smile on her face.  It was a noticeable look of
contentment and enjoyment.  

But how did she do it?  I couldn't tell after watching the first puff.  So I
decided to start making some small talk with her.  That way I could watch her
closely without making it obvious that I was staring at her.  The next puff
she took, I got a good look at how she did it.  She would suck hard on the
filter of the cigarette for about four or five seconds.  Then after she
removed it from her lips, she would open her mouth slightly.  After a few
more seconds, the smoke then would exit her mouth.  

I wasn't sure, but she seemed to inhale the smoke into her lungs.  I kept
talking, wanting to get another look at the whole process.  Sure enough, she
took another puff.  This time I could tell that her chest was expanding.
Yep, she was inhaling the smoke.  That was now obvious.  I have no idea why,
but as she continued to smoke her cigarette, she always breathed in every
puff.  They taught us in school that smoking causes lung cancer.  I guess it
must be from constantly breathing in all that smoke.  But that brought up the
question again.  Why would mom inhale the cigarette smoke, especially seeing
how it caused harm to her lungs?  That I did not know, but I was dying to
find out.  

After dinner I went up to my room and immediately called Paula.  I wanted to
tell her about my new discovery.  Amazingly enough, she had done the same
investigation.  She watched her mother smoke that evening and came to the
same conclusion.  After talking on the phone for about a half hour, we
decided to get together the next day and try smoking again.

I woke up the next morning with a sense of excitement.  I can't explain it
because I still thought that smoking was disgusting.  Maybe it was the thrill
of trying something new.  I don't know.  But shortly after I ate breakfast
and showered, I hopped on my bike and headed over to Paula's.  Once there, it
didn't take long for her to pull out her pack of Marlboro Lights.  

"So Terry, are you ready?" Paula said to me as she handed me a cigarette.  

"I'm not sure why, but yeah, fire yours up and give me the lighter."

Paula then lit her cigarette up and immediately blew out the smoke.  She
handed me the lighter and I did the same.  "It still tastes bad, doesn't it
Paula?" I said after blowing out the smoke.  "Are you going to try to breathe
the smoke in on your next puff?"

"Yeah, I guess so," Paula answered as she sat quietly with the cigarette
burning between her fingers.  She sat on her bed quietly for a minute or two.
I think she was working up the courage to take the next step.  Finally, she
lifted the cigarette to her mouth, drew gently on the filter, opened her
mouth and breathed in.  What happened next startled me.  She immediately
started coughing hard as smoke poured out of her mouth and nose.  Her eyes
were watering and she shook her head in obvious discomfort.

"Are you ok?" I asked as she continued to cough.  Finally after about 30
seconds she said that she was.  Now I knew that it was my turn.  After
watching Paula, I was scared to say the least.  I decided to take a real tiny
puff, hoping that maybe less smoke would cause me less pain.  After I took
the puff, I opened my mouth and breathed in quickly.  I did feel some
irritation as the smoke went down my throat.  I almost coughed, but somehow I
managed not to.  Finally, after holding my breathe for a few seconds, I
slowly released the smoke from my lungs.  At first nothing came out.  But as
I continued to exhale, a small amount of smoke slowly started to exit my
mouth.  

"Oh my God, you did it," Paula shouted as she watched in amazement at my
first successful inhale.  

I didn't quite know what to think.  The smoke felt kind of tingly in my
chest.  And the taste was nowhere near as bad as previous puffs.  A smile
finally came on my face as I looked at Paula.  "I think the secret is to take
a smaller puff next time.  At least until you get used to it."

Paula had now fully recovered from her first inhale, and was ready to try
again.  This time she took a smaller drag.  She then inhaled like I did.  A
smile broke out on her face as she watched the small stream of smoke exit her
mouth.

"Hey, there you go Paula," I said as I watched.  "What do you think?"

"I did it, Terry!" Paula answered with excitement.  "Wow, that was much
better.  The taste doesn't seem to be near as bad when you inhale."  

"It felt kind of good in my chest," I added.

"Yeah, it did," Paula said as she trimmed the ash in the ashtray.

We both couldn't wait to take our next puff.  After the second puff I started
to feel different all over.  I can't explain it, but it was clearly
noticeable.  Paula felt the same way.  We then took three more puffs.  Now
both of us were starting to feel real light headed.  I finally decided it was
time to stop, so I put out the half smoked cigarette in the ashtray.  Paula
did the same.

For the next 15 minutes we lay quietly on her bed while the buzz slowly wore
off.  I have to admit, I kind of liked the feeling.  Paula said that she did
too.  Finally, we got up and played some video games for the next few hours.
During that time I couldn't get my mind off of the experience of inhaling my
first cigarette.  It was so much different then anything I had ever done
before.  Finally, I decided to try one more.  So, much to Paula's surprise I
grabbed the cigarette pack and pulled another two out.

"Want to try again?" I asked as I extended the cigarette toward her.  

"Hell, yes!" Paula said as she accepted it.  We both lit up and inhaled our
first small puff.  It felt great in my chest again, and the taste was now
tolerable.  In fact, it kind of tasted good for some strange reason.  Now
feeling confident in my ability to inhale, I decided to take a slightly
bigger second puff.  I immediately felt the extra kick in my chest after I
inhaled.  And the exhale was much denser then previous puffs.  I told Paula
about the bigger drag, and she then followed suit.  I noticed the larger
cloud leaving her mouth as well.  I have to admit, smoking looked good on
her.  

Five more puffs each and again we started feeling light headed.  We both put
out our cigarettes before we got sick.  I was proud of myself.  I had almost
smoked an entire cigarette and found myself liking it.  I was now determined
to smoke a cigarette completely before the day was out.

We lit up again three hours later.  I again tried to take a slightly bigger
drag and again I noticed the difference in my chest and exhales.  I also was
determined to finish this cigarette, and after a total of about 11 puffs we
both succeeded.  I again felt light headed after that one, but not as bad as
the first.  I hated to admit it, but I really liked that last cigarette.  I
think that Paula did as well.


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