Skip to main content

Second Hand Smoke

After a good, long run, we have decided to close our forums in an effort to refocus attention to other sections of the site. Fortunately for you all, we're living in a time where discussion of a favorite topic now has a lot of homes. So we encourage you all to bring your ravenous love for discussion to Chuck's official Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. And, as always, you can still post comments on all News updates. Thank you for your loyalty and passion over the years. These changes will happen June 1.

So, I'm a new writer of fiction, this is the first year I've actually had to sit down to right anything seriously. I thought I'd try and show you guys my most recent work and see what you make of it. Criticize away, but don't be too harsh. Or at least, dont' appear to be.

I have to revise it later on.

Second Hand Smoke

Jessie was getting tired. She felt her backpack begin to weigh on her shoulders as she took step after step through the wet, muddy grass, trying her best to push through the wind as it relentlessly forced itself upon her. Her black raincoat kept her dry from the constant pelting of the rain against her body, but it had no hood, and so her hair was soaking wet. Every few minutes or so she had to reach up and sweep aside her long blonde bangs to keep them from obstructing her view.
Jessie had kept to the side of the road so far, in hopes that a car, or a truck, or any kind of vehicle might pass alongside of her, and be gracious enough to open its doors and let her out of the freezing rain, but so far, no relief had come. Instead, she trudged on, and with each step forward her will to continue on abated.
Suddenly, Jessie felt two bright lights shining on her back just before she reached the. She glanced over her shoulder and breathed a sigh of relief. A few seconds later and a huge grey six wheeler semi-truck had pulled up next to her. Its window rolled down slightly. There was a cough, and then a gruff voice called from inside.
“Do you want a ride?”
A moment later and the truck was on the road, with Jessie in the passenger’s seat. The truck was a two seater though, and she had to pull her legs up to make enough room for her backpack on the floor. She was only a few inches away from the driver. It was an uncomfortable position, to be sure, but at least she was out of the rain and dry for now.
For a few minutes the only thing Jessie heard was the rain pelting down on the windshield. Then the man spoke up.
“Hey”, he said, turning towards her, “What’s your name?”
Jessie glanced left to get a better look at who would probably be her driving companion for the next hour or so. He was an older man, probably somewhere in his mid to late 40’s. A Cougar baseball cap rested on his head, which from the looks of it, covered up a bunch of hair that was just beginning to whiten. His body slouched back in the driver’s seat, with one hand holding the wheel, and the other laying on the armrest next to the window. A cigarette was clenched in his teeth. The smell of smoke hung in the air. How disgusting.
“Jessie….my name is Jessie. Thanks for the ride.”
The man took hold of his cigarette, and exhaled a cloud of smoke. He cleared his throat.
“Where are you going?”
“I said ‘Where are you going’?”
“Just to the next town” she said. “Drop me off there.”
“You’ve got it. Oh…by the way. I’m Travis.”
Jessie’s eyes shifted from Travis to the windshield in front of her. It was pitch black now, and the weather had grown worse. The rain slammed against the windows with tremendous fervor. Had Jessie been out there at this time, she would have been in bad shape for sure. She was thankful she was inside, where it was safe, regardless of the smell.
Travis’ cigarette had burned itself out. He reached into his shirt pocket and grabbed another pack. He held the box out to Jessie.
“You want a cig?” he asked.
“I don’t smoke.”
“You sure?”.
“I don’t like them. They disgust me.” Jessie said, averting her head.
“Alright, then. To tell you the truth, I’m trying to quit myself.” He lit the other cigarette with the car lighter and clenched it with his teeth. “But it’s hard, real hard.” He took the old cigarette and smashed into the ashtray between him and Jessie.
“What are you running from?” he asked.
“Running from?”
Travis indicated with his hand the backpack on the floor.
“I don’t want to talk about it” Jessie said.
“Personal stuff?”
“I told you I don’t walk about it.”
“I’m sorry, Jessie,” Travis said. “I’m just curious. It gets lonely here on the road…sometimes talking to someone is the only thing that gets me by.”
Jessie shifted a bit in her seat. What a weird question for a stranger to ask. Of course, she was running from something. Her father, to be exact. When she had struck out that morning she had told herself that she would never take a beating from his hands again. That she would never go back to her house. Ever.
It gave her satisfaction to imagine her father’s reaction to her disappearance. He was probably yelling and screaming, throwing furniture around the living room and cursing God. Either that, or he was lighting up another one of his cigarettes. His stash must have been all but gone by now. Either way, she knew he was in a state of turmoil.
“Hey, what are you thinking about?” Travis asked, suddenly.
“Oh. Nothing.”
“Well, you’re smiling. It must be something good….You’ve got a beautiful smile, you know that?”
A remark like that from a stranger would usually give Jessie the creeps. But there was something genuine in the way Travis had complimented her. She could almost sense an undercurrent of sadness and sympathy in his voice.
“My smile… “ he said, “My smile is all but gone. My teeth used to be clear and white as they ever could be. But once I started smoking, they grew yellow. It didn’t take too long.”
Travis was right, to an extent. His teeth did indeed look yellow. In fact, they reminded her of her father’s. But her dad was in much worse shape that Travis appeared to be. She decided to let him know.
“They’re not that bad, “ she told him.
“Thanks,” Travis said, “but you don’t have to lie to make me feel better. I know it’s too late to bring back my smile. My cough’s even worse. My lungs are pitch black.”
Jessie couldn’t help feeling sorry for Travis. She knew the symptoms of smoking addiction all too well. Every day when she got home from school, she’d hear her father coughing and wheezing. But even after what seemed like a torrent of coughs, he’d light up another cigarette and the problem would only get worse. Not that she had any sympathy for him. The man beat her, for goodness sakes. But sometimes she’d wish he would just quit. After all, he wasn’t the only one that was affected by the smoke he gave off.
Jessie coughed. She waved her hand in an attempt to push the fumes from the front of the truck into the back. It didn’t help. Travis seemed to notice.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “Is the smell getting to you?”
“Yeah. It is. Is there anyway you could stop?”
“This one’s done,” Travis said, taking a cigarette out of his mouth and crunching it in the ashtray. “If it’s bothering you that much, I won’t light another till you leave.”
“Thanks. I really appreciate it.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“Why don’t you just try to stop altogether?” Jessie asked “You know…go cold turkey?”
“I’ve tried.”
“You didn’t last?”
Travis looked ahead for a minute. Jessie could see in his eyes a look of sadness, one that said, “I’m a failure, a complete and total failure”. A thunderbolt went off in the distance.
“I’ve got two kids,” Travis said, “ A girl and a boy. I hardly ever get to see them. Not with the job that I have. They stay with their mother” A tear rolled down his face. “Every few months, I get a chance to go home, and see their faces. It hurts me…every time I’m with them …. I’m breathing smoke in their eyes. In their faces….”
“I’ve got a father who smokes,” Jessie said.
Travis’ eyes turned to look straight at her. “You do?”
“It’s who I’m running from,” she said.
“Oh,” Travis said, looking back at the road.
Travis dropped Jessie off about ten minutes later in front of a Hotel 8. She said thank you, slipped off the seat, grabbed her backpack, and closed the door behind her. She was about halfway to the hotel doors when she heard something light hit the ground. Turning around, she saw Travis’ truck pulling out of the driveway. On the ground where he dropped her off was a packet of cigarettes.