My gran used to smoke the cheap cigarettes. John Player Specials, Craven A menthols, Number 7s. She’d buy them by the carton and squirrel them away in the closet in her bedroom. My uncles would swipe one from her open pack on the kitchen table, and cough and stare down at the red cherry between their fingertips and say fuck these are awful why can’t you get Du Mauriers? Export As?
She would make that noise with her tongue and tuck the rest of the pack into her purse.
She had one of those little cigarette machines, too, where you buy the filters and tubes and the tobacco in a tin, and her and my aunts would sit around the table and stuff little wads of tobacco into the groove in the machine and slide it back and forth and a cigarette would pop out the end. You had to get just the right amount in there to get it to burn just right, but look how much cheaper it is, they would all say, like they were trying to convince each other of something none of them truly believed.
My gran unknowingly smoked her last cigarette on a Friday afternoon, and broke her hip that night when her foot fell off of the footstool during Jeopardy! and her heel hit the floor on a weird angle. She always said that new hardwood floor was easier to sweep than the carpet ever was to keep vacuumed. She was hospitalized right away, went into a coma, and died the following Wednesday without ever really waking up again. She was almost ninety years old. It all happened so fast but hey at least she never had to quit smoking, everybody said.
Ivan Coyote was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. An award-winning author of eight collections of short stories, one novel, three CD’s, four short films and a renowned performer, Ivan’s first love is live storytelling, and over the last nineteen years they have become an audience favourite at music, poetry, spoken word and writers’ festivals from Anchorage to Amsterdam.