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Front Porch Smoking

Page 3

I kept my head down and ate the ice-cream. It was a hot night in late November. I could hear a cricket game and the tinkles of the gelati van ambling around the neat neighbouring streets. Dad turned on the television and the sound of the news competed with the radio. Mum went outside to the front porch with a packet of cigarettes that must have been from the grandmothers because Mum prided herself on never buying any. She stood there under the worn bulb that always went on, even when we weren’t expecting any visitors. Dad shuffled in his chair. I went outside to Mum. We stood there awhile and then I said: ‘Mum, I smoke you know. The grandmas know. Sometimes I even smoke with them.’ ‘I know,’ she replied, handing me one. We lit up in silence. She put her arm around me and kissed my forehead. ‘Oh pet,’ she said. ‘Poor pet.’

The cricket game was packing up and all we could hear were Mr Delves’ sprinklers spurting all over the hydrangeas. There was a rose bush we never had to water, thanks to him. Then Dad came to the door and walked out onto the porch. He didn’t know I smoked. He stood there, in front of both of us now, looking out onto the garden, watching the moths gather around the bulb. ‘You’re smoking too.’ ‘Yeah Dad, just socially.’ ‘Like your mother and her mother and my mother, socially every bloody day, socially every bloody one of ya.’ There was more silence before my mother said: ‘Here Terry, have one, it won’t kill you.’ He hesitated before accepting. Mum lit him up and she passed another one to  me. There was something in those cigarettes that eased the tension. Dad seemed to be enjoying it as if every burden he’d been carrying suddenly began to lift. A few days later he took up the habit as well. ‘Just socially, just socially like the rest of ya.’
 

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