The Right Man

(by Smokehut, 25 November 2007)


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The Right Man
By Smokehut 

   From the moment Riley Schofield moved to Lawrence, it was obvious he was 
a born leader. On our football team, he quickly became, in essence, the 
quarterback, though technically he played flanker. He had guts, he took 
charge and when our backs were against the wall, on defense, he saved us 
more than once from his free-safety position. He was the very definition of 
a leader. He didn't let us take the easy way out anything, and with his 
help, we turned a losing record from the previous year into an 8-2 regular 
season and into the third round of the playoffs. When we finally lost, it 
was excruciating: a missed extra point in overtime. But Riley kept his 
composure, while most of us were dissolving in tears, and he took it upon 
himself to console the kicker whose boot had squirted wide. 

   Because Riley moved during the summer and school elections had taken 
place the previous spring, he wasn't the president of either the student 
body or the senior class, but he quickly became active in school affairs, 
making a name for himself as a columnist with the school paper. He was 
everywhere: in the classroom, on the field and standing up, in general, for 
what he believed. 

   What none of us knew until the very moment he revealed it was that Riley 
Schofield loved women who smoked. 

   The big moment occurred a couple weeks after football season ended. 
Riley and I were riding around in his car. Even in December, Florida has 
days that would be considered springlike anywhere else. When we drove by 
the recreation center, Riley noticed a beautiful senior, Lisa Amos, leaning 
on a car in the parking lot, smoking a Marlboro Light. 

   "Goddamn," he said. "She's fuckin' beautiful. I want to fuck her. 
Tonight." 

   "She smokes," I said. "That's so uncool." 

   Riley drove around the block and found a parking spot in back. 

   "OK, you go around the building to that side," he said, and when Riley 
said something, there wasn't any doubt you were going to do it. "Give me 
fifteen minutes, and I'll be inside." 

   Well, he never got inside. I had to catch a ride home, but I heard what 
happened. It was all over the town within a couple hours. 

   Riley went around the building the other day, through the parking lot 
where he had seen her. He walked up behind Lisa Amos, and before she knew 
he was there, asked, "Mind if I join you?" 

   She turned around, and Riley was fishing a pack of Marlboros out of his 
jacket, pulling one out and lighting up. 

   "I can't believe you smoke," Lisa said. 

   "I think it's cool," he said. "It's, like, taboo, and all that, and you 
gotta be careful, but the bottom line is, I like it. I hate it when people 
say things like, 'it's a nasty habit,' or, 'I really need to quit.' 

   "Fuck, if you don't like it, quit. If you like it, do it. And don't be 
whining about how you need to quit." 

   "Wow," Lisa said. "You're exactly right. I like it." 

   "You fuckin' love it." 

   "Right again," she said. "I fuckin' love it." 

   Riley took a draw, held it in and exhaled through his nose. 

   "You know, football season's over, but I guess I still gotta be a 
hypocrite, but I'm just tired of that shit," he said. "I mean, a man's 
gotta make a stand, at some point. I like smoking, and you've got more 
courage than I do. You'll stand right out here and smoke, just say, 'You 
know what? I like it. If you don't accept that, nothing I can do about it, 
but I'm not gonna worry about what you think.'" 

   "Well, that's what you're doing right now, isn't it?" 

   "Yeah," said Riley, "but I couldn't have done it on my own. I decided to 
go through with it because I saw you standing here, telling the world to 
just fuck off. It inspired me. Just that moment, I decided to get out of my 
car, come up here and join you because, number one, there's really no need 
for me to keep it a secret from you, and, number two, because it's just 
goddamned courageous of you." 

   Lisa was speechless. She looked Riley squarely in the eyes, took a deep 
draw on her Marlboro Light, tilted her head back and emitted a thin stream 
of smoke that neatly cut the early-evening breeze. 

   "Well," she said finally. "People, like, know I smoke. People are 
watching, Riley, and you're just shocking the shit out of them." 

   "Whatever," he said. "There's one more little secret that might help 
explain. 

   "I'm stoned. I got high before I left the house, and then I did what I 
always do. I brushed my teeth, filled the bathroom with air freshener, took 
a shower to wash the smell off, and the hot water kind of assaulted my 
senses and kept me from being, like, obviously fucked up. Then I put on 
some clothes, breezed through the kitchen on the way out of the house, 
kissed my mom on the cheek and headed out to drive around a while and 
experience the buzz. Bought a pack of Marlboros to bring the buzz back a 
little, and then when I came by here, it was, like, there you were, a 
beautiful woman, unafraid of having people look down their noses at you, 
standing in the parking lot, smoking a cigarette and not caring what people 
think. Like I said, it inspired me." 

   "Wow," said Lisa, breathless. "You're, like, amazing." 

   "No. You're amazing, Lisa." 

   Now, to my knowledge, Riley was lying his ass off. We hadn't gotten 
high. He'd never mentioned anything about it. Before he came by my house, I 
don't know for sure that he didn't do just what he said -- get high and 
take a shower and kiss his mother -- but I sure didn't have any suspicions. 
One just never knows with Riley, as would become gloriously obvious. 

   "You get high?" he asked Lisa. 

   "Well," she replied, "not yet." 

   "Ooh, that implies you would." 

   "I might." 

   "Well, I don't want to be a bad influence or anything. I mean, it's not 
good for you, but it's not near as bad as, say, drinking. You feel cool, 
you don't act like a raving lunatic, you don't have a hangover, and within, 
I don't know, an hour, you're pretty straight again. Well, you still feel 
kinda cool, but it's not, like, obvious. 

   "Trust me, Lisa. I'm not saying it's good. I'm saying it's not that bad. 
It's not as bad as drinking. It's fucking ridiculous that it's illegal." 

   "What about other drugs?" 

   "Ah, Jesus, don't believe that shit from the goddamned high-school scare 
tactics, the bogus films in health class and all that. I mean, OK, there's 
a stigma attached. There's also a stigma attached to smoking. Matter of 
fact, I'll be you that if your friends knew you were smoking weed, or if 
they knew you were smoking cigarettes, which they do, they'd look more down 
on the cigarates than they would the marijuana. How old are you? Are you 
eighteen yet?" 

   "Two months," she said. 

   "OK. Well, for me and you right now, these cigarettes are illegal, too." 

   Silence. 

   "So, what, you want to smoke another one?" Riley asked. 

   "Fuck, yeah," Lisa replied. 

   This time Riley provided the light. She was a pro. Long, dark hair. Just 
the right amount of makeup. She was wearing jeans that could've been 
painted on. A windbreaker failed to hide the curvature of her bosom. Lisa 
was, without doubt upon further consideration, by far the most beautiful 
girl in the school, but somehow it wasn't acknowledged because she smoked. 
Not, not just because she smoked. Because she smoked openly. Many were 
aroused, but they couldn't bring themselves to admit it. Riley could see 
right through the haze. 

   "So, when did you start smoking?" Lisa asked. 

   "Last summer. Before we left Indiana, I was playing in this little 
garage band. I think you probably know I play guitar, right?" 

   "I think I heard that, yeah." 

   "Well, I like to write my own songs, too. You know, I kinda like, uh, 
you know, kind of country-influenced rock, maybe with a little folk-music 
attitude blended in. We covered a lot of Eagles songs, some Jackson Browne, 
some traditional country. People think of that as old, but its not. it's 
really still out there. It just doesn't get exposure on mainstream radio 
stations because they're fucking up everything by taking their little 
marketing surveys and appealing to this demographic or that demographic, 
and, you know, what they're really doing is telling people what to like. 
It's not a matter of what music you like. There aren't any request lines or 
anything like that anymore. The best you can really do is just pick out the 
shit you like the best." 

   He was staring her right in the eyes, carried away in the evangelical 
zeal of the moment. That's the way he was about everything. 

   Lisa took another draw, did a French inhale and returned his gaze. 

   "Riley?" 

   "Uh, yeah." 

   "That's why you started smoking? Because of, uh, music?" 

   He stopped in his tracks for a moment, took a drag, held it in and 
exhaled, still staring straight at her. He was quite aroused, which was 
something Lisa couldn't help noticing, or perhaps it's more accurate to say 
she appraised the situation out of the corners of her eyes.' 

   "Sorry. I kinda got carried away," Riley said. "I better make a 
ridiculously long story a little shorter. I smoked weed 'cause I started 
doing it when I was playing in the band. The other two guys -- you know, 
bass and drums -- got high. I swear, in, like, music, it's almost like it's 
legal. 

   "Anyway, like, the first time I really got high, I was just sitting 
there, strumming my guitar, and this other guy just pulled out a Marlboro 
Red and lit it up. I stopped playing, man. I was, like, shocked. 

   "So I go, I didn't know you smoked? And he, like, said, 'Just when I'm 
high, man. It's cool when you're baked.' 

   "So I said, like, really? And he said, 'Yeah, it's cool. You want one?' 
And I said, like, why not?" 

   "So," Lisa said, "marijuana led you to another drug: nicotine." 
   "Exactly. Dude was right, man. It does feel really cool to smoke when 
you're baked. I fucking love it, but that's it, man. I haven't tried any 
other kind of drug. I don't even drink that much. I just get high on the 
way, get a good buzz on, smoke a cigarette or two in the car, and then I go 
to the party and have a couple and act like I'm having more, and it works 
'cause I'm kinda fucked up from the weed." 

   "So, uh, where are we going with this? You think it's cool that I smoke, 
and you'd like for me to get stoned with you." 

   "Desperately," Riley said. "With all my being. I think it'd be way 
cool." 

   "Let's go," she said, and that's why I had to catch a ride home. 

   Riley didn't tell anybody. He didn't need to. Rumors spread like 
bacteria, and Riley fell into disfavor for, like, five minutes. Then the 
tide turned, and when he showed up the next Monday morning at Lawrence 
High, arm in arm with Lisa, everybody was whispering about it. 

   Singlehandedly, Riley Schofield, with an assist from the lovely Lisa 
Amos, made smoking fashionable. He quite obviously loved women who smoked, 
so women suddenly wanted to smoke. Women who smoked secretly started 
smoking only. It didn't exactly hurt the marijuana trade, either, when word 
got around that Riley Schofield thought weed was cool and smoking weed and 
and then tobacco was even better. Riley was just at Lawrence one year, but 
by the time he was gone, I think it was pretty clear the fucking football 
team wasn't going to go to the playoffs again. 

   Riley could handle it, man. He could get high and party and play guitar 
and write fucking great songs and get laid -- not, by the way, in that 
order of importance -- and still make straight A's and charm the shit out 
of everyone he knew. He was a phenomenon. People who hated him would be 
determined to show it, and then he'd confront them, they'd see the twinkles 
in his eyes, and after five minutes they'd like him, even if they didn't 
agree with him. 

   All of a sudden, at basketball games, five out of seven cheerleaders 
were strolling outside to smoke at halftime. They couldn't keep Listermint 
strips on the shelves of convenience stores. Lisa went from being social 
outcast to queen of the prom. It all worked for the longest time. We were 
in charge of our lives. We stopped drinking society's Kool-Aid. Riley got 
us to be open and active. He told us if we'd participate in the system, if 
we'd go to the polls and vote, we could turn the whole country upside down. 
He told us we had to stop being selfish and playing right into the 
assholes' hands, and he set a great example. 

   Of course, there was a backlash. 

   Our high school, and eventually the whole town, became sharply divided 
between authority and rebellion, the wishes of the administration and the 
student body becoming sharply divided on everything. At the football 
banquet, the team voted Riley most valuable -- I'm almost sure it was 
unanimous -- but the the head coach claimed it was the quarterback, Billy 
Adams. Billy turned down the award. The principal adopted a no-smoking 
policy, and about two thirds of the student body went out to the commons 
the next day during lunch and lit up. People who didn't smoke, didn't know 
how, stood out there coughing in the sunshine to demonstrate our 
solidarity. The school paper printed photographs of teachers violating the 
no-smoking policy. A local preacher railed against Riley personally in a 
sermon that was broadcast on the local AM station. Apparently, Riley then 
seduced the preacher's wife, who left town shortly thereafter. 

   We had crazy parties out in the country. Parents put together teams to 
scour the countryside, trying to figure out where the latest one was. If 
they discovered us, they called the cops. 

   Riley got busted for pot in the spring. He said it was a setup, that 
someone had planted weed in his car. Hell, I believe him. He was careful 
about that shit. Lawrence, though, is up in the Panhandle, not too far from 
the Redneck Riviera, and there was no way he was getting off. Fucking 
police did that shit all the time, and the word was out that Riley 
Schofield had to be stopped. 

   The local weekly published a story that claimed Riley's family had moved 
from Indiana because he had caused similar problems back there. Funny 
thing, no one actually thought to ask the Schofields. They didn't even put 
any names beside the quotes in their story. Riley, in jail, demanded the 
right to be interviewed by a local TV station. He told them he was 
innocent, went into detail describing the story of his arrest, and then 
picked up a guitar -- his sister had mysteriously arrived on the scene 
carrying his -- and performed John Mellencamp's "The Authority Song," and 
the whole story probably took up ten minutes apiece on the six and eleven 
o'clock news. NORML came to town. The American Civil Liberties Union 
provided Riley's defense. It didn't matter. Like I said. Redneck Riviera. A 
jury of nine of Riley Schofield's old-fogey peers convicted him. 

   Riley had to go again. When they transferred him from the county jail, 
several hundred of us showed up to demonstrate our support. When deputies 
accompanying Riley stepped outside, they stopped in their tracks. 

   Riley yelled out, "Anybody got a light?" 

   When the cheers subsided, Riley just had three more words to say: "Keep 
the faith." 

   The preacher's wife resurfaced to bust Riley out of jail. He 
disappeared, but apparently not from the music industry. Eight months 
later, Riley's first album, "Don't Let 'Em Fool You," came out. It was a 
concept album preaching self-reliance, idealism, opposition to the 
establishment and working together to effect changes. While still in 
hiding, Riley Schofield became the biggest thing since the Beatles. 

   Two years later, elections produced the biggest turnaround in American 
history. The new president's first official act was pardoning Riley 
Schofield. A month later medical marijuana was nationally recognized and 
fully funded. Two months after that, marijuana was legalized. The Supreme 
Court ruled all lawsuits filed by states' attorneys general against the 
tobacco industry unconstitutional and provided for the return of all 
payments. Cigarette ads were made legal again on television. It suddenly 
became acceptable for men not only to admit they got off on women smoking, 
but it became embarrassing for any man not to get a hard-on when a 
beautiful woman lit up. 

   And there was Riley, still looking boyish and wholesome, concluding a 
30-second public-service ad on television by smiling and saying, "Hey, I'm 
not saying it's good. I'm just saying it ain't that bad. Your call, man." 

   And, just think, it all started here. 

   Or was it Indiana? 


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