Smoking at 10

I’ll meet you at the little league park
how about we walk together?
we lived a couple of blocks from each other
and usually went through the hedge anyway
okay but Ill meet you at market

the wilshire market next to the fremont pharmacy
a few blocks from our houses
and on the way to the little league park
separated by a fence in the outfield from the cemetery
graves watched the centerfielders

we got there about the same time
did you get some?
yes I got a whole pack
we started up Fremont street 10 blocks
and half-mile journey

half way he said I didn’t get any matches
we can stop at the Beaumont Grocery
you can go in …
tell them the matches are for your mom
are you sure? yes!,  with a shove towards the door…
I went in and wandered around until I found kitchens matches
wooden stick strike anywhere
small boxes two-cents each
I had a nickle
I bought two and got a penny back
they never asked me anything…..

five more blocks
and we were at the ballpark
no locked gates in those days
the season was over
the infield grass need cutting
we headed to the home team dugout
no one could see us in there
but there wasn’t anyone anyway
the season was over
summer was over
and school was just starting up again

we sat on the bench
where three years earlier  
I had my first encounter with betrayal
and public humiliation
but not without much energy at the  moment
because  I was going to smoke cigs…

to break a rule
to do what the adults did
and not get caught
and in the fourth grade

camels a whole pack
what his dad smoked
won’t he miss them?
no he buys em by the cartoon
ten at a time

he carefully unwound the the little red stripe of celophane
and ripped open the tin foil
exposing little brown faces in white jackets
looking up at us
he picked one out
with his thumb and forefinger
handed it to me and said
here you first, you have the matches

I took the little box of matches
out of my pocket
pushed out the inner box
took out a strike anywhere match
and scratched it on the bench

at first I held the cigarette
between my fingers
and struck the match on the bench
and held the flame to the end of the cigarette
it was my first time
he laughed
no you have to put it in your mouth
and suck on it when you’re holding the match in front

I dropped the first match in the dirt
it started to burn my fingers
put the cigarette between my lips
and lit another match
holding it close to the end of the cig
then started sucking
then started coughing
then burned my fingers
and handed him the camel

boy this is great !!

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