By Robert John Miller
On Lassos And Transformations
When Jamal finally reverted to smoking cigarettes individually in the traditional, non-glued-together fashion, he began tying small lassos around their filters and the other ends of the strings to his left pointer finger. He would walk around town with dozens of cigarettes just dangling from his hand, secure in the knowledge that they’d never get too far inside him. Pigeons and street children became occasional, but only minor, nuisances, the cost of peace of mind. Later, he would hide loose cigarettes around his lover Abdul’s beach house in an effort to determine how and why they were turning into lettuce wraps. Only the cigarettes attached to him by string ever transformed; the loose ones just aged, lonesomely. He also tried string-tying himself to other things, like the refrigerator and the blender, but they never transformed into anything.
On The Origin Of The Cigarette Harmonica
When Jamal first learned to smoke cigarettes, his biggest fear was that he might inhale too deeply and breathe a whole stick far down into his belly, where he imagined it would live for seven years. His grandmother had encouraged him to learn on cigars for that very reason, so that when the inevitable happened it would be easier for someone to reach inside and pull the fiery mess out of him. Jamal had puffed one of her cigars once but “couldn’t stand it,” he said, which began his experiments in hot gluing blocks of cigarettes together like big smoky harmonicas, smoking his week’s supply all in one go. The cigarette harmonicas worked for a while, but Jamal eventually learned that, while blocks so sizable were indeed harder to swallow, they were also harder to spit out when they got trapped inside his head, hot glue not being water soluble.
On The Magic Of The Beach House
Every night during the one summer Jamal spent at the beach home of his lover, Abdul, he would fall asleep with a dozen or so cigarettes tied to his left pointer finger and wake up to find, instead of cigarettes, a dozen or so delicate, pencil-sized lettuce wraps. The first time it happened he ran into the washroom where Abdul was bathing.
“Abdul,” Jamal said. “My cigarettes have turned into lettuce wraps.”
“That is the magic of the beach house,” Abdul said, and continued his business with the loofah.
Robert John Miller’s work has appeared in Necessary Fiction, New Flash Fiction Review, X-R-A-Y, Peregrine, and others. You can find more stories at robertjohnmiller.com. He lives in Chicago and is working on a novel.