The Way It Ought to Have Been

(by Uncle Duke, 08 January 2004)


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The Way It Ought To Have Been
By Uncle Duke

I remember the events of that January as though they were yesterday. You see
we were a fairly close family Mom, Dad, my sister Theresa, and I. I was 15 and
Theresa had just turned 14. Your typical American family complete with two
cars, a cat, and a dog.

One evening in mid January Dad comes home and calls us together for a family
meeting. These are never fun, it seems that the only time we have family
meetings is when some relative we've never met dies and we have to go to the
funeral and act like we knew them well. This one was different. Dad told us of
how he had been "selected" to the board of the local ACS chapter. Lighting
his first cigarette since arriving at home, he said,

"OK, guys and gals, here's the big news - remember when we took that trip a
few weeks ago between Christmas and New Years? Remember how I said nothing
ever happens at the office then? Well, this year something happened. We've
held the American Cancer Society account for the local chapter for a few years
and they were looking for a new board member. Long story short, a couple of
people in the office thought it would be a good joke to nominate me - Mr.
Two-Pack-A-Day - as the new board member. They thought it would be a hoot to
see me light up at the meetings. Anyway the ACS doesn't know I smoke or that
your Mother smokes for that matter."

"But Roger, couldn't you just decline the post?"

"Not that easy. When Old Man Costello heard the news he thought we could lock
the account and now he wants me to be the Chairman of the Board. No way out."

"Does that mean that you want us to stop smoking? God, I need a one right
now!"

"No, no, no, a thousand times no. I just need us to lie low until I figure it
out."

"So I'll cook more meals here than before."

"Right." Then looking at my sister and me, "And you two, no buying
cigarettes, don't smoke where others can see you, and if you need any, just
take them from your Mother's pack or mine."

I started to say, "But, D-." when Theresa kicked me under the table. She
continued, "We understand and we won't let you down." Turning to me, "You
promised to help me with that Geometry problem before dinner, let's roll."

Knowing that little sister had a plan (she needs help in Geometry like I need
another hole in my head) I followed her upstairs as she babbled on about the
cosine rule of triangles. When we go to her room and closed the door she
started again,

"Look you know and I know that we don't smoke; but Mom and Dad don't know
we don't smoke. They have just assumed that because they smoked at our age,
we are smoking."

"And that means?"

"That means that we can try it without penalty. They already think we do it
and if we do it here - discretely at first - they won't object. When this
whole thing with the ACS blows over (sorry about the pun) we can smoke
everywhere."

"You ever tried it?"

"Twice with some girlfriends. Kinda neat, kinda strange. You?"

"Once, one puff. Nothing really."

"OK, here's my plan, we pick up a few cigarettes from Mom's pack, they are
`lights' and we get home directly from school tomorrow and try them."

At that point I knew what would happen. We would practice smoking each day
between our arrival from school and the time our parents came home. That gave
us about two and a half hours on days we didn't have anything scheduled after
school.

So we started. We watched our parents and tried to copy their actions. Each
day it got easier and easier to inhale. Soon Theresa was smoking two and then
three cigarettes and inhaling each time. Then there was the day Mom came home
early and found us smoking in the living room.

"Oh, have I stumbled on the elephant's graveyard?"

"No Mom, Theresa and I were just following orders. No smoking outside of the
house. No buying cigarettes, take what you need." As if she and Dad had not
smelled the fresh tobacco odor these past few weeks.

"Yes, but we never expected you to follow those directions."

"We did. We smoke. All of us smoke."

"God, I need a one right now!"

Mom went through five cigarettes while Theresa and I had one more each until
Dad arrived home. When he saw all of us smoking he remarked, "I wondered how
long it would be until this happened. At least its over."

Mom looked up and said, "What are you talking about Roger?"

"Just this dear, they were smoking, now they are smoking in front of us. We
are a family, we should be together, not drawn apart."

He sat down in the big brown chair and said, "The smoking lamp is lit, smoke
`em if you've got `em."


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