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Miz MacQuillin

Play One of The Adventures of Fiona MacQuillin

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Georgia, 1863.  A mother and four daughters have their lives upended when a wounded Yankee captain stumbles into their yard.  5 women, 2 men, single unit set.

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(in a work circle)

FIONA:  And I wouldn’t brag about “my man” if I were you.

WILLEAN:  You don’t like my Richard?

FIONA:  I don’t know if I like him or not. I ain’t ever heard him say but two words.

WILLEAN:  He can talk.

FIONA:  I think I can remember him saying “thank you ‘mam” and “pass the chicken.”

SOPHIE:  Sounds like a preacher.

WILLEAN:  He can talk.

MOTHER:  If silence were gold he would be a rich man all right.

WILLEAN:  Now stop it.

MOTHER:  Silence in a husband may not be all that bad of habit.

WILLEAN:  Don’t be picking on my Richard.

MOTHER:  No, now I take that back. There are times I wisht your Daddy would cuss me out as to sit there all night and say nary a word. Like trying to carry on a conversation with a rock.

FIONA:  I can make Daddy talk. Daddy likes talkin to me.

WILLEAN:  Richard is a fine man. Comes from a good family.

FIONA:  They just dirt farmers like us.

MOTHER:  Hush that. I won’t have you sayin that.

FIONA:  Well us women folk are out in the fields, working in the dirt.

MOTHER:  We are not dirt farmers.

FIONA:  Just a spell of diminished circumstances?

MOTHER:  Why were you born so sassy?

WILLEAN:  Born with vinegar in her mouth.

FIONA:  Better than being born with mush in your mouth.

MOTHER:  (picks it up) I still got this switch right here.

FIONA:  All I was saying is…if Richard Conroy were my man, I wouldn’t go around bragging.

WILLEAN:  Lord, give me patience.

FIONA:  I’d probably hide my head in shame.

WILLEAN:  Forgive me, Lord, but I would be eternally grateful if you would just strike her dead.

FIONA:  I would probably dig myself a hole and change my name.

WILLEAN:  (rises with knife in hand) Well I wouldn’t be engaged to Richard Conroy, if somebody hadn’t stolen away Tommy Bell from me!

(FIONA rises, empties bowls of peeled “peaches” into kettle, not the least bit concerned about WILLEAN)

FIONA:  I did not steal Tommy Bell.

WILLEAN:  Like hell.

FIONA:  He wandered away from you all by his lonesome.

MARY RUTH:  Willean…

MOTHER:  Put that knife down.

WILLEAN:  She took him away and then she didn’t even want him.

FIONA:  It was him that followed me out to the peach orchard.

WILLEAN:  You kissed him out there or something. You put a spell on him.

FIONA:  I was wearing perfume that night.

MARY RUTH:  Willean, give me that knife.

WILLEAN:  She put on that rose smelling water and it got up in Tommy Bell’s nose and made him drunk.

FIONA:  Intoxicated is a much finer word. He was intoxicated by my charms.

WILLEAN:  Wearing that red dress she got up in Chattanooga.

SOPHIE:  Oh, I like that dress.

WILLEAN:  Sashaying by him like she had a load of buckshot on each side of her hip.

MOTHER:  That boy had wanderin eyes, Willean.

FIONA:  I’ll say.

WILLEAN:  She done it on purpose.

FIONA:  I just felt like dressing up that night. He was company.

WILLEAN:  Why…

MOTHER:  Are you gonna stab her with that knife, or you just gonna beller all day?

MARY RUTH:  Oh, stop it. Stop! We have turned into a tribe of wild Indians. I am almost glad we are up here on this hill where no one can see us. I would go to town and live with my in-laws, except I am afraid I would come back here to find the scene of a massacre.

MOTHER:  One of you is gonna get married and get the hell off this hill before I shoot you both.

MARY RUTH:  Is there a reason everybody is feeling so violent today? Mercy land sakes.

WILLEAN:  She’s had her chances to get married. And why she hasn’t taken one is just a perversity of nature.

FIONA:  I like that word perverse. It suits me somehow.

MOTHER:  I have certainly never known another woman to be engaged five times and never get married.

FIONA:  Seven proposals, two engagements, one busted wedding.

SOPHIE:  I know that to be a local record.

MOTHER:  Scandal and disgrace.

SOPHIE:  Unless someone’s broken it while we’ve been stuck on this hill.

FIONA:  Ain’t no one ever gonna break that record.

WILLEAN:  She got the gall to be proud of this.

FIONA:  There ain’t much else they let a girl excel at in the great state of Georgia, except capturing men. That ain’t much.

SOPHIE:  They should turn you loose on the Yankees.

FIONA:  Bet I could snare me up a passel of em with but lifting my little finger. No telling what I could do if I had me more than one decent dress.

WILLEAN:  Plain and simple, we got us a hussy for a sister.

MOTHER:  It was Jimmy Byrd you shoulda latched on to. Like to break my heart when you didn’t marry Jimmy Byrd.

FIONA:  Oh, Jimmy Byrd.

SOPHIE:  He had a whole plantation.

FIONA:  He had that mole on his face that looked like the eye of a mangy old potato.

MOTHER:  Money could make you forget some of a man’s failings.

FIONA:  Every time I looked at him I couldn’t eat for a week. I would probably starve to death if I was to ever marry that man.

MARY RUTH:  You know who I liked best among all your swain?

FIONA:  I have never liked the word swain. It is too close to swine.

MARY RUTH:  I was always partial to the Reverend Jones.

FIONA:  Oh, Reverend Jones.

WILLEAN:  He’s a man of God.

FIONA:  We only have his word for that.

SOPHIE:  He’s just a chicken eating preacher man.

MOTHER:  Hush that, Sophie.

SOPHIE:  Grabbing all the best pieces for his self.

MOTHER:  Well, he’s a man. Course he’s gonna do that.

FIONA:  Chewed with his mouth open like some old cow.

WILLEAN:  You ain’t ever gonna get married, because you think you’re so high and mighty.

MOTHER:  A man’s got to be Lord and master of his own home, especially over his wife.

FIONA:  Oh pish posh. Ain’t no man ever gonna be my Lord and master. He can be Lord and master over hisself, or a horse, or over a dang old sow pig if that’s what he wants. But I’ll be dammed if I ever bend a knee to any man.

WILLEAN:  Right there. She ain’t ever gonna get married. Too bossy.

FIONA:  Everybody knows I could have my choice of boys in Catoosa County. And I ain’t ever seen Momma bowing down none to Daddy.

MOTHER:  Why is it you got no respect for your elders?

FIONA:  I believe I was born in another time and place and was just put here by accident.

WILLEAN:  What other time?

SOPHIE:  What other place?

FIONA:  Europe. I am sure I was a princess of some sort.

WILLEAN:  Oh!

SOPHIE:  Really?

MARY RUTH:  You are so funny, Fiona.

WILLEAN:  She should be horse whipped.

SOPHIE: A real princess?

FIONA:  Why not?

SOPHIE:  That ain’t fair. I should be a princess, too.

MOTHER:  You talk more nonsense in one day than most people do in a lifetime.

FIONA:  Thank you.

MOTHER:  And I wore out my hand slapping you. Where do you get your ideas?

FIONA:  Books.

MOTHER:  We don’t have any books in our house that truck with such silliness.

MARY RUTH:  I’ve always been thankful you taught us all to read, Momma.

MOTHER:  That’s so you could help pass the time for the men folk come winter, when it rains all day.  Make yourself useful.

FIONA:  Daddy is the one who taught me to read.

SOPHIE:  Daddy can read Latin.

MOTHER:  I never thought your Daddy could read Latin.

FIONA:  Yes, he can.

MOTHER:  I think he just pretends he can read Latin. You ever seen them words on a page? Those people can’t even spell.

FIONA:  I was reading something the other day in the Bible that has changed my opinion about everything there ever was in the whole wide world.

MARY RUTH:  What?

FIONA:  It said “God is a woman.”

WILLEAN:  Oh!

MOTHER:  Hush that!

MARY RUTH:  It did not. Did it?

SOPHIE:  Really?

FIONA:  It did. It said God is a woman. She opened up her womb and out popped the earth.

WILLEAN:  Slapping her ain’t enough, Momma. You’re gonna have to shoot this girl.

MOTHER:  You put a lock on that blasphemous lip.

WILLEAN:  I am sure God would forgive you, Momma, if you just shot her.

MOTHER:  God ain’t no woman.

FIONA:  But it said so, right there in the Bible.

WILLEAN:  The Bible would never say any such thing.

FIONA:  It did so.

MARY RUTH:  If it did, then how come we ain’t ever heard of this before?

FIONA:  Cause only men folk are preachers, and you think a man is going to tell us this piece of information?

(pause; they all consider this)

SOPHIE:  Golly.

WILLEAN:  Oh, she’s lying.

FIONA:  I have to admit I was kind of surprised myself. But I am telling you, it’s in there.

MOTHER:  Well now, I’ll fix you.

(MOTHER exits into house)

MARY RUTH:  I sit in awe of the things that come out of your mouth sometime, sister.

SOPHIE:  Is it really there?

FIONA:  I’m pretty sure I saw it.

WILLEAN:  I can think of ten reasons why you are going to burn in the bad place.

FIONA:  If you and the Reverend Jones are gonna be in the good place, I will gladly take up residence elsewhere.

(MOTHER returns with Bible, hands it to FIONA)

MOTHER:  Okay, Miss Smarty. You just show us. You just show us where you found this.

FIONA:  This means I’m going to have to quit snapping the beans.

WILLEAN:  Oh! She’ll do anything to get out of the work.

MOTHER:  But if it ain’t in there, it’s going to be the root cellar for you for sure. Put you down there with the spiders and the mice. I don’t care if you are nineteen years old.

WILLEAN:  She’s twenty.

FIONA:  We won’t talk about that now.

WILLEAN:  Old maid.

MOTHER:  Far too old to be around your Mother’s house making mock. You show me this.

(FIONA puts aside the beans, opens Bible to its first page and carefully runs her finger down each verse)

MOTHER (cont’d):  You see this in Genesis?

FIONA:  I don’t rightly remember. I’m going to have to look.

WILLEAN:  She’s just making it all up.

FIONA:  Am not.

WILLEAN:  Ain’t no where in the Bible it says any such thing.

FIONA:  You read the Bible?

WILLEAN:  Yes I have.

FIONA:  Every page? Every single page?

WILLEAN:  Well…pert a’near.

FIONA:  Well you must have missed a page, because it’s in here.

MOTHER:  Where?

FIONA:  I’m looking. This is going to take some time.

SOPHIE:  Did you see this over in minor prophets? Hardly anyone ever reads them minor prophets.

FIONA:  I don’t remember. I don’t want to miss a page and wind up in the root cellar.

WILLEAN:  It’s just all nonsense. She does it just so she don’t have to work.

MOTHER:  Everybody hush. (with hand checks sun) I’ll give you till noon to find that. I won’t have you making mock of the Bible and then get off Scot free.

FIONA:  I’ll find it. You’ll see.

MOTHER:  The rest of you, get back to work.

The Clan of the MacQuillins

Epic tale in twelve scenes with no scenery set in Scotland, Ireland and the New World based on a legend in the author’s family.  A broken romance, a blood feud, and fate, which always makes certain each of us will have to shoulder one unique burden in life, the one most uniquely difficult for each of us to bear.

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Scene Six:  In order to settle a long standing feud two families meet to parley

(drinks are poured)

UNCLE WILLIAM:  Mr. MacQuillin…

ANGUS:  Call me Angus.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  Sir, I have a daughter. Arlena. And she is ready for marriage.

ANGUS:  Mmm.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  Now I will tell you true, she has had bad luck with men.

ROY:  The first man she was to marry, fell from a horse and broke his neck.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  The second man she was to marry, was caught out upon the road in the rain, took a chill and died.

ANGUS:  So why would I want this bad luck woman to marry into my family?

UNCLE WILLIAM:  She is my favorite daughter, and it breaks my heart to see her mourn so.

ANGUS:  This should be my affair?

UNCLE WILLIAM:  She is comely.

ROY:  Very pretty.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  Not deserving of the misfortune that has come to her.

ANGUS:  Do any of us deserve misfortune?

MACDUFF:  Some more than others.

RANKIN:  Some more than all.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  But not my Arlena. A heart of pure gold.

ANGUS:  Then she should have no trouble finding a husband.

MACDUFF:  Indeed, she does not.

ROY:  She does not.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  But she saw one of your sons from her window.

ANGUS:  Who?

UNCLE WILLIAM:  His name is Thomas I believe.

ANGUS:  Oh.  (looks around, realizes)  Well, he’s not here today.

FRANK:  That’s right. He’s off.

RANKIN:  On an errand.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  This son of yours, this Thomas, is he a good man?

ANGUS:  Good?

UNCLE WILLIAM:  Is he honest?

ANGUS:  Mmm…

UNCLE WILLIAM:  A good worker?

ANGUS:  Well, if beaten.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  Pardon?

ANGUS:  He can work. All us MacQuillins can work.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  These two young people, they should meet.

ANGUS:  Of course they should meet.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  Soon.

ANGUS:  Very soon. But I am sure you are knowing, sir, that marriage is heavy burden on a man.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  If there is a marriage between my daughter and your son, then we will give to them as their very own, that land we now dispute.

ANGUS:  You mean the land that should be ours anyway?

UNCLE WILLIAM:  And I will gift to them on their wedding day, as well as to you, sir, twenty fine sheep.

ANGUS:  Twenty?

UNCLE WILLIAM:  Forty, altogether.

ROY:  Twenty for you, twenty for them.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  And a nice little cottage I would help them build.

ANGUS:  Well…

UNCLE WILLIAM:  As well as a case of whiskey.

ANGUS:  A case?

UNCLE WILLIAM:  All right. Two cases.

ANGUS:  How many jugs come in a case?

MACDUFF:  Six.

ANGUS:  Ah! That would be… (counts on his fingers)

RANKIN:  Twelve.

ANGUS:  Twelve altogether!

UNCLE WILLIAM:  And this is a way we can settle the differences between us, as well as throw a huge feast in the bargain.

ANGUS:  We won’t have to drink my whiskey, will we, at this feast?

UNCLE WILLIAM:  Of course not.

ROY:  We will bring the drink and won’t be stingy.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  A feast like you have never seen.

MACDUFF:  The MacDuffs are good at such things.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  So what say you?

ANGUS:  Well now.  (considers)  The sun is out. It is a beautiful day.  And I believe this is “nearly” a fair bargain.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  Nearly?

ANGUS:  (sighs)  It is a great burden to lose a son such as Thomas.

FRANK:  A good worker.

ANGUS:  And I believe he would make a fine husband for your daughter.

FRANK:  Hard worker.

RANKIN:  Let’s not overdo it, Frank.

ANGUS:  So we might be needing just a little bit more, to set this whole matter right.

MACDUFF:  The price is too steep.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  That is for me to say, Joseph.  (pauses)  If this Thomas is a good man, and he and my daughter are married, I will not only give all that I have already promised, I will let you have use of the small pasture across the road.

MACDUFF:  It is too much, William.

RANKIN:  You must truly love your daughter.

MACDUFF:  He has to.

ROY:  She has episodes, you know.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  Roy!

ROY:  Sorry.

ANGUS:  What?

MARY:  Episodes?

UNCLE WILLIAM:  There is nothing wrong with my daughter.

ANGUS:  I’m sure there isn’t.

MACDUFF:  Not a girl in Ulster comes with such a dowry.

ANGUS:  But you’ll be getting MacQuillin blood in your family, and from the likes of it I can tell you need it.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  What say you, sir?

ANGUS:  I say these two young lovers, this future man and wife, they should meet.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  That would be good. The day before Sabbath of this coming week, you will come to my place, and there we will throw a feast.

ANGUS:  A little get together of the clans.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  Aye.

ANGUS:  It is good. It is good this is happening.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  You will talk to your son?

ANGUS:  Ohh, I will talk to him.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  I wish he were here now so I could meet him.  Look him square in the eye.

ANGUS:  There will be time enough for that.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  Good. Much was accomplished here today.

ANGUS:  Indeed it was.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  And if all works well, why this summer, a wedding.

ANGUS:  And we shall be related.  (pauses)  That does give a man pause.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  It shall be fine.

ANGUS:  Indeed it shall.  (goes to him)  Now admit it, MacDuff, now that you can.  You moved the marker and took that piece of land.

MACDUFF:  (a near acknowledgment)  Heh. Let’s go, Roy.

(MACDUFF and ROY exit)

ANGUS:  Ha! Knew it! Mr. William, a pleasure. A rare pleasure indeed.

UNCLE WILLIAM:  We shall see you, sir.

ANGUS:  Oh, very soon, sir. Good day to you.

(UNCLE WILLIAM exits)

ANGUS (cont’d)  By God’s pajamas, we have done it!

MARY:  Don’t use such language.

FRANK:  Who would have thought Thomas would ever turn out to be so valuable?

(ANGUS and FRANK laugh)

RANKIN:  I don’t know, pa.

ANGUS:  Don’t know? I am amazed he has turned out to be good for anything at all.

FRANK:  And the bargain you drove, pa.

ANGUS:  Getting the pasture across the road!

FRANK:  Yes!

ANGUS:  Oh, I can drive a sharp one when I have to.

MARY:  They say she has episodes.

ANGUS:  What is an episode? What does that even mean?

RANKIN:  She might be mad.

ANGUS:  Mad?

FRANK:  She is not.

ANGUS:  She couldn’t be.

RANKIN:  Why give so much if she isn’t? Why so load her down with spoils if she isn’t somehow …touched?

(pause)

TEAGUE:  Yonder comes Thomas.

ANGUS:  Oh, late as always.

TEAGUE:  I will run tell him the news.

(TEAGUE exits)

RANKIN:  Surely they could get another bride groom for less.  Why pay so much? And for Thomas?

ANGUS:  Why are you always so gloomy?

RANKIN:  I don’t know, pa. It comes from thinking.

ANGUS:  We have a chance to be related to the richest people in the district and you say don’t know?

RANKIN:  A distillery is not a good enough reason to arrange a marriage.

FRANK:  But land is.

MARY:  And to have a little peace, that is worth it.

ANGUS:  Not a day’s work have I gotten out of Thomas.  Ever!  So now he can do his part to help this family and marry this girl.

(THOMAS enters, followed by TEAGUE

THOMAS:  So. I am to marry Arlena MacDuff?

ANGUS:  You will meet her, yes.

THOMAS:  What makes you think I will marry a woman I have never even met?

ANGUS:  You will meet her.

THOMAS:  A year ago I was ready to marry Maeve.

ANGUS:  That was a year ago.

THOMAS:  Oh, but I could not marry her because you had a fight with her family.  But now I can marry Arlena?  Even though her family tried to cheat you?

ANGUS:  There is much involved in this, young man.

THOMAS:  Teague has told me what is involved.

FRANK:  Land.

ANGUS:  Fine pieces of land.

THOMAS:  I don’t care.

ANGUS:  You will care!

THOMAS:  I will not marry this mutt! I will not marry this Arlena MacDuff!

(pause)

TEAGUE:  She is not a mutt.

MARY:  Son, please now. They are a clan far bigger than us.

FRANK:  You are young and don’t know the pleasures of marriage.

THOMAS:  I know the pleasures of women, if not of marriage.

MARY:  And it is time to stop that kind of sinning, son.

ANGUS:  Do you think the Lord God will bless you, if you keep carrying on like you do?

RANKIN:  Remember what the church teaches, Thomas.  A good time is nearly always followed by pain or death.

ANGUS:  Rankin.

RANKIN:  Or occasionally worse, marriage.

MARY:  Oh, shut up.

THOMAS:  It will be my choice who I want to settle with.

FRANK:  In the old days, there was none of this meeting before marriage.

MARY:  Son, please.

TEAGUE:  She is not so bad.

THOMAS:  Not so bad?

TEAGUE:  She is not so bad at all. We saw her that day, Thomas.

THOMAS:  She is strange and holds her head like this.

TEAGUE:  She was up in the window, far away, how can you tell?

RANKIN:  They say she has episodes.

THOMAS:  What kind?

RANKIN:  I don’t know. Maybe she chews her hair.

FRANK:  They say she is a pretty woman.

TEAGUE:  She is!

FRANK:  So there. She is not some hag. You will learn to love her.

ANGUS:  With that dowry, she could have the pick of all Ulster as her very own. And she chooses you.

RANKIN:  She must be mad.

FRANK:  She must.

TEAGUE:  Meet her, Thomas.

ANGUS:  You will meet her, that’s all I am saying.

MARY:  And you will do your best to be a kind and good gentleman to this woman.

FRANK:  There is a feast in this. Come on now.

THOMAS:  (considers)  All right. I will meet her.

ANGUS:  Good.

THOMAS:  If you wish to sell out the family honor for just a few sheep…

FRANK:  (gives his brother a drink)  Sheep and land and whiskey.

MARY:  And peace.

ANGUS:  I am well satisfied with the bargain that has been struck.

THOMAS:  This is good whiskey.

MARY:  It is their very own.

THOMAS:  (signals for more whiskey)  So, you are saying there will not be a war between us and them?

ANGUS:  That’s what I am saying.

THOMAS:  A pity.

ANGUS:  Thomas, I am no longer young and do not wish to get up every morning and fight
the world. Let your father have a happy old age, boy, with his two cases of whiskey.

THOMAS:  I will meet her.

ANGUS:  Good.

THOMAS:  But beyond that I promise naught.

RANKIN:  Why would they pay so much?

THOMAS:  To have me? Pshaw. Of course they would pay much to have me as a husband. (he drinks)

END OF SCENE

On Kicking Cigarettes

On a New Year’s Day a friend of mine, Andrea C., began her attempt to kick cigarettes and started a blog as opposed to “bitching out all her friends.” The following was contributed to her blog.

* * * * * * *

Having traveled down Tobacco Road, let me tell you my own experience of quitting. Maybe you will pick up a pointer or two, but I will keep the advice to a minimum.  Maybe you’ll just skip down to the “go girl rah rah” and “buck up, sweetheart” part.   But either way, you Nicotine Wretch, here are my two cents.

By 1984 I had been smoking two packs a day for ten years.  O n days of great stress, like rehearsals, I smoked three packs a day.  There were any number of psychological triggers that required the company of a cigarette.  The phone rang. Light a cigarette.  Cup of coffee. Cigarette.  After breakfast.  Cigarette.  After lunch.  Cigarette.  After dinner.  Cigarette.  Go to a bar and order a drink.  Cigarette.  Driving a car.  Cigarette.  Sit down at a desk to write.  Cigarette.  Get stoned.  Cigarette.  Stare out the window and contemplate infinity.  Cigarette. S tare out the window and realize how lonely, bored, frustrated, depressed and useless I felt. T en cigarettes.  Sit up all night with a friend talking.  Pack and a half of cigarettes between the two of you. . And of course, the ever popular cigarette after sex.

There were two dozen attempts at quitting.  My attempts generally lasted a few hours to a few days before willpower folded and I would reach for that little burning white friend, who was always such good company.  Like so many others I would say, “I love to smoke.”  And I did.

Then I got married.  We lived in three small rooms in Soho and my wife was pregnant.  To her credit she never hinted I should stop polluting the premises. On my own though I came to the obvious conclusion:  it’s not fair to a newborn baby to smoke up three small rooms.

So I quit, quit for somebody outside of myself, which – it is my belief – made it easier.  Toothpicks and sunflower seeds helped keep hands and mouth busy.  To this day I will stuff my mouth with a wad of sunflower seeds and work my way through them, one by one.  But heck, sunflower seeds are good for you.

So that’s my first bit of advice.  Sunflower seeds and toothpicks. Either one, especially toothpicks, will get you out of that psychological white cotton night gown when walking around Manhattan.  Toothpicks are snarly, the perfect complement to lowering the chin, narrowing the eyes, and hissing quietly through your teeth, “Get the fuck out of my face.”

My second piece of advice is this:  both times I quit, and I will tell you about the second time in a minute, Day Three to Day Fourteen were the toughest.  The psychological addiction was much greater than the physical addiction.  Maybe it will be different for you. But there all those damn triggers.

Going into a deli and not buying a pack is a habit you have to break, too, especially when the clerk knows you.  There was a woman at my deli who would put a pack on the counter when I walked in the door.  There were friends or acquaintances who would shake out a smoke and ask, “Want one?”  There was the time I quit for three days, then spied a single cigarette laying on a sidewalk, just begging, “Smoke me, you fool.”  And I did.

For me there was no such thing as tapering off.  One cigarette was a thousand cigarettes.  One smoke was another year of smokes.  It’s no different from an alcoholic with “just one drink.” Uh-uh.  Addiction must be pulled out by the roots.

So in 1984 I quit for my young baby, my young son.  Went cold turkey a few months before he was born and stayed clean for five and a half years.  Not a puff.  Did it make me feel good about myself? Yes it did.

Then my wife and I broke up and that was my excuse to start smoking again.  Just like you point out, there is a whole “I’m sorry for myself and I’m going to self destruct” dynamic going on with cigarettes.  In no time at all it was two packs a day. Again.

How stupid can one get?

Another three years went by and almost every waking hour found me with a burning cigarette between my fingers. Then slowly, ever so slowly, a new thought took root.  It was revolutionary thought, one that took twenty years to form, but one of enormous importance.  I could no longer say “I love to smoke.”

In fact, I hated to smoke.

I hated how my lungs felt black and bleeding when I woke up in the morning, hated how a flight of stairs made me pant for breath, hated the obsessive compulsive order that set in when it was time to leave the house and every trash can and ash tray had to be checked for butts because one time the waste basket was smoldering.   Most of all I hated the brown and yellow phlegm I hawked up and spit out every hour of the day, living, vicious, viscous proof of stupidity and weakness.

Have you ever been lonely and depressed and sat up so late the info-mericals came on and you actually watch Tony Robbins for a whole hour?  I confess I have sunk so low that this has happened to me. Tony Robbins is a total tool, but there is one thing I did take from him. “Visualize where you will be 15 years from now.”  If I kept smoking for 15 more years, I could see myself in an iron lung in the charity ward of a hospital.

With that picture in mind I quit.  Quit for good.  As a matter of fact, in a few months, it will be 15 years since my last cigarette.  Perhaps I should thank Tony Robbins.  On the other hand, he can bite me.  No, better he should bite you with those big old tombstone Mormon looking teeth.

Anyway…

This is my third and final bit of advice. You have to come to a point where you say, quite honestly, “I don’t love to smoke.”  I’m not going to say this makes it easy.  But it does make it easier.

So rah-rah. Love yourself enough to stop. Congratulations on your first couple of days of fighting down the demon weed. You go, girl. From now on you’ll get more and better kisses because your mouth won’t taste like an ash tray.

Remember to buck up, sweetheart.  It will get worse before it gets better. You will no doubt be a raving fucking lunatic.  But only us who really know you will know you are any worse than usual.

regards,
John Paul

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