Sunday, February 10, 2008
The wizened old man (actually only 58) stood before me gasping for breath, his emphyzemic lungs barely keepin the lights on. He had made the daily, arduous trek from his house (a block away) to the liquor store where I worked as a clerk when I was a wee lad of 28. He steadied himself, hauled in one last feeble breath, licked his lips and pronounced the words,"Pall Mall Reds and a bottle o' Hiram." Then he placed both hands on the counter and resumed the monumental task of getting oxygen and staying upright, like a mountain climber in the 8,000 meter death zone leaning on his ice axe. "I'm sorry Herman, we're still out of Pall Malls!" I said reaching for the whisky. Herman then appeared to crumble and he stammered out the pathetic reproach, "Am I gonna have to take my business elsewhere?" I placed the bottle in front of him then offered him a choice of Luckie Strikes, Camels or Phylip Morris Commanders all filterless cigarettes. The poor old sot just stood there gasping like a fish out of water, looking at me like I was reason for all his pain and suffering, then he lowered his gaze and said, "Give me the Commanders." We both new he couldn't make it to the Safeway a further 3 blocks away and we both knew how screwed he really was. He died in his sleep as his house burned, a few months later.