My Cigar Angels
It’s either something on fire or a ceremony that always brings them out.
I don’t want anyone to say that I’ve suffered. If I were to see it in print I would be livid. To suffer. What an idea and what images it brings to mind.
I want no part of it.
I have lived with God at my feet and in my heart and with Angels at each elbow as if I were an old crotchety man being lovingly helped down the hard-as-nails steps in the old courthouse.
I have smoked cigars with the Angels.
That is to say that I have been with Angels and while in their company, have smoked a cigar. Angels would never smoke a cigar.
To create an image of them in my mind doing so just doesn’t work. How could they bring themselves to lift the brown cylinder to their mouths? Brown! They would never have brown things in their hands — even the brown Angels. I could see them grasping gold objects, lighter-than-pastel treasures, and at Christmas time, maybe a few red and green items.
And to imagine them putting a cigar to their faint-thin lips, wetting it, wrapping it with their Untouched tongues? Forget it!
What they’ll never know! is how I think of it.
With the Angels at my side, I have taken that smooth/rough fellow, cradled and anchored in the niche of my hooped-around index finger, and merely contemplated the smoking of it as I lovingly clip the little bud-end. A ritual. A circumcision. The Angels stand by, curious. They wait for my indulgence. I put them off by waiting myself, and search for a classic and full-bodied joke to tell them while I wait. The Angels will laugh, if I tell it correctly — something that is always possible when I am waving a cigar around in my hand, lit or not.
They like to study me, I think.
When I am in cigar-waving mode, I am unpredictable. I am in my own top-form territory, my own sovereign dominion, and while they never speak to me directly, I can tell. It makes them nervous. I will waddle around, turning suddenly to the left with a twist of my body and the raising and tilt-back of my head and left shoulder to see who has come by; see who has spoken words that I might have some grand and shrewd come-back for. It could be the President of the United States — even a Democrat — come up behind me with an Eh-hem! from the Secretary of State and I would raise my eyebrows, cigar poised in the air to the right of my right shoulder and swing around to see who it was that might need some quick-witted barb to loosen their tie knot.
In situations like this, the Angels move behind me, so as not to be seen. As if they could! They stand close together, one’s leg and whole side dipping into the other’s. When I look back at them, they try to look composed. Two Angel bodies almost as one standing there would not necessarily be any big deal. It’s the fluttering. The little nervous fluttering of their wings catches my eye and when they see my eyes watching their wings, POOF!, they’re gone. Chickens.
That’s when I will decide to light up. It draws them back. Any sort of fire or smoke will do that. I believe they figure it’s either an emergency or some ceremony and don’t want to miss either. It’s kind of an obsession with them.
By the time they come back, I’ve had the taste. And they are ever watchful for who may be in my vicinity; who may be tempted to engage with me during my smoke.
But in the first part of the smoke I am not a threat. I am too involved with my Macanudo to notice much other than the twirl of the leaf against my lip; it darkening, releasing the flavor of this fruit of rich earth — an opening curtain to the opera of aromatic dance that is to follow.
Wait. Wait ’til I bring out the Bulldog.
Trading off the cigar to my left hand, a mirror of the right’s protective tenure, I slip — operative word: slip — my right hand straight down into my pocket. Straight down to the bottom, weighed down by the Bulldog, and grasp the metal thing, bringing him out, to show anyone, the final answer to a Man’s Lighter.
The Bulldog is the most stocky, tank-of-a-cigarette-lighter you’ll ever come across. Its stainless steel case is worn smooth and shiny, but the big Mack Truck insignia is as distinctive as ever and I always marvel at how well it has held up.
Alvin had been complaining about his CB radio quitting on him and how expensive they were in the truck stop store. I had pity on him after the other fellows at the counter ribbed him to no end, asking him if he wanted any cheese with his whine, and I asked him what he had to trade for a CB. He pulled the Bulldog out, held it up in the air for all to see with an explanation of what exactly it was, and our counter and two counters over became dead-quiet.
This scared me. I blurted out, before another word was said, that I had a CB and he could have it for the lighter. Well, all eyes turned from the lighter to me, and Alvin shouted out SOLD! before anyone could say anything.
Evelyn the waitress passed it over to me and I told Alvin I would go out right then to get my CB and all the wiring and left my plate of food. I walked over to the trucker’s store, bought the cheapest CB radio they had, took it out of the box, tossing the box and wrapping and twisty-ties into the trash, and headed back to the restaurant to give it to Alvin. I left that truck stop in Nebraska with the Bulldog
I’ve never regretted it. It lights every time.
As it lights up, I bring it to its duty, the Bulldog ready to burn the house down if it must. I grab hold of the cigar with a baby’s touch of teeth and my lips like a smooch and I draw in.
With several quick draws, the harvest of Connecticut rolls into my mouth, just as it spirals into the air in front of me. And the woods and valleys of the better part of a tropical country clot my tongue, fill my veins with a remembrance of living as I rarely have known it. I am at peace and at home and anyone that comes to me here had better mind themselves.
POOF! The Angels are back to see what’s on fire. Every single time they are surprised to see it’s just me with a cigar. They seem to have no memory or expectation that they take with them from moment to moment — something I have been wise enough to begin learning from them.
I nod to them, bid them welcome back, stick my cigar into the cul-de-sac at the end of my mouth, and shove both hands into my pockets along with the Bulldog. The Angels know what’s next as I begin to rock on the balls and heels of my feet, looking for trouble, and their wings begin to flutter.
No. I have not suffered so long as I have had my cigar with God at my feet and in my heart and Angels at my side.
This story was originally written for Danny DeVito after seeing him on the cover of Cigar Aficionado Magazine. I was living in Iowa at the time. I found Mr. DeVito’s talent agency in a People Magazine Almanac and sent it to them to route to him.
Two months after moving to Los Angeles on New Years Day for no reason and not knowing anyone, I called my answering machine which was still hooked up in the apartment I kept just in case I needed to high-tail it back to Iowa.
There on the answering machine was a message from Mr. DeVito, asking if I was the guy who sent the Cigar story and if I was, to send a copy of it to his manager in Beverly Hills. I will save the rest of the story for another time…
From my unpublished collection, Pool of Souls and Other Stories written while at the Iowa Writers Workshop and other writing programs. Soon available on Amazon. I will announce when it is up. Maybe I’ll give a few copies away…
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