These Times

Posted on June 3, 2009


By Brenton Harper-Murray

THESE LAST TIMES. These past times and all times. These times he swam through and passed through like the ceramic edge of a cracked pot.

This last time he checked, he was standing outside and the smoke blew from his lungs and spread out and infected the air with rich Dutch fumes but also at once, twelve years ago, the acrid odors of a swiped Marlboro from his sisters purse at two AM just for the thrill. He still smoked at two AM, not for the need or the want, but for the thrill of sneaking out. But this was the now.

His sneakers, his boots, his Keds, his Vans, his Doc Martens, his bootleg hightops from the back of a van. Back and forth to and from these times, they flow. He inhales and the moist air mingles in his nose like when he was outside, his arm in a cast from a firework accident, smoking odd handed and cursing the cigarette that consoled him as he learned that his grandfather was dying with liquid in his lungs though his mother was lying and it was the pain of living knowing more that others that killed him. He would remember this in the future, far past the point he was now in, but in the past he just smoked that cigarette.

He stood now, smoking, and time stood, smoking as well. It was night and windy and the trees felt every molecule and danced in a way they had never danced before in perfect organic fashion. These trees, they did not know how many syllables his name bore, nor how lyrical and effeminate it was, in this part of the city where a mans name should sound like a jack hammer or a rubber hose or a gunshot. These trees sound like her voice, and so does the smoke. Both of these things, make. Make life livable.

And flash to him as an old man beyond any days he care count, puffing between a tank and shaggy contraband tobacco. He can see the points on the line, but not what come between them because he lacks the focus to. Flash. To a pristine, unopened pack of cowboy killers, coffin nails, minute shavers, lying on the pavement not ten feet from his growing up house. And he took them and smoked three in a row in the garage, coughing and retching and feeling amazing. Feeling above it all, just for those moments.

Flash to the poorly located cigar rack in the drug store and the unbeatable rush of exiting with un-purchased goods. To smoke in alleys and choke down wads of gum to cover it. Flash to creeping into the attic, late at night, to spark one just for the thrill into the exhaust fan while looking at dirty magazines.

Flash to shading around gas stations, asking teenagers to cop you a pack for twice rate, and the rush when they said yes.

Flash to the cast and the tears and the smoke and that wind in those trees. Those trees. Those trees.

Flash. Another cigarette has been lit.

Brenton Harper-Murray lives and writes in a cellar in Chicago. He keeps a blog of over 30 stories at Validate him.

Posted in: June 2009