Short Story
                              The Smoking Specter of Manhood
                                                                                      By BR. Giga


      Life in Northern Massachusetts was always quiet and laid back. Times were different back in the early
1980’s. Life was simpler to say the least. It was an average night in the Arsenault house, Dad was
watching some cop show, Mom was enthralled in one of her romance novels and my brother and I were
reenacting a great battle of some long-forgotten war with our GI Joe’s. Dad was one of those “o-o-h” and
“a-a-h” type of tv spectators. There must have been a particularly wild scene flashing on the screen as Dad
was heatedly screaming, “What are you stupid? The guy is behind the dumpster!” All the hullabaloo caught
my brother’s attention and soon I was conquering rebel forces without proper ground support.

      Seeing that the entire family was now engrossed in matters that offered me no entertainment value
what so ever, I decided to slip away and headed out to the garage. Dad kept an old 8-track player along
with a plethora of classic rock music stashed away in his office. As I walked in, I noticed some new tapes
haphazardly piled in an old wooden milkcrate. Dad must have picked them up at the flea market earlier
that day. I rummaged through the box and noticed a bright pink tape. “Led Zeppelin 2” was scribbled on
the top as the label had obviously worn off from over use. “Never heard of them,” I said out loud as I
popped in the tape.

      With a thundering crash, the opening riff of “Whole Lotta Love” echoed through the garage. Quickly I
turned down the volume as not to get caught. Dad was a stickler about his vintage music. If he found out I
was touching his stuff, I surely would have paid the piper. I remembered that time Lewy caught hell after
touching some of Dad’s stuff. He was playing with Dad’s new Zebco and broke off the tip. He couldn’t sit
down for two days after that incident.

      As the blues driven rock concert permeated the office, I sat down at Dad’s desk and flipped on the
dingy old desk lamp. The lamp was bright enough to keep the darkness at bay, but dim enough to not
draw attention to my impromptu musical odyssey.

      The sun was setting as day turned into twilight. Twilight is that short space in time between the warmth
of day and the bleak chill of night. The sky had an eerie deep purple glow as the sun slowly surrendered to
the murky grip of the eventide.

      Dad’s office was not much bigger than a coffin. The one small window was covered with cobwebs and
carcasses of dead flies that the resident arachnid had devoured over the past decade or two. It smelled of
ancient oil changes and stale cigar smoke. Dad enjoyed an occasional smoke, well cigar to be specific.
Mother hated the smell and insisted Dad keep his “filthy habit” relegated to the garage.

      As my eyes started to adjust to my dimly lit confines as I noticed half a cigar precariously hanging from
the side of Dad’s ashtray. Feeling the need to rescue the half-smoked stogie, I reached over and grasped
it with my visibly shaking right hand. A subliminal sense of fear must have set in as I was shaking like a leaf
on a tree. I thought to myself, “Oh boy, if Mom catches me partaking in Dad’s “filthy habit” I’m a dead man.”
Nothing scares the pants off a twelve-year-old more than the thought of ardent discipline dispensed by an
enraged mother.

      Being young and foolish, stupidity got the better of me. I clicked off the desk lamp and reached for
Dad’s old lighter. Click, click, I flipped the lighter with my thumb. Sparks flew as the room was soon
illuminated by the small yellow flame. Slowly I raised the blazing torch towards the ash covered end of the
forbidden snipe. The flame touched the end as wisps of smoke started to rise. Puff, puff, puff, poof I was in
business as I stood up and glanced out the window. The coast was still clear. Slowly I pulled the festering
blunt up to my plump red lips. Hesitantly I opened my mouth and grasped the smoldering weed with my
teeth. Feeling the warmth on my nose, I allowed my lips to wrap themselves around the glowing ember as I
leaned my head back and proceeded to take a long, deep breath.

      Instantly I felt my virgin lungs burning like a field of wheat during a wild-fire. My heart skipped a few
beats as I tried to expel the toxic exhaust from my damaged lungs. The room started to uncontrollably spin
as I gasped for life saving oxygen. My body started to convulse as I started to feel light-headed. At one
point, I’m certain the earth stopped spinning as I my eyes became raging waterfalls and I fell to my knees.
Coughing, wheezing and spitting up what I thought were pieces of my insides, I was convinced I was dying.
What have I done?

      As I sat on the floor contemplating my foolish choice to end my life at such a ripe young age,
something caught my attention. OMG, did my father, or even worse my mother come out to check on me?
Still woozy from my near-death experience I staggered to my feet. The room was spinning as I tried to take
a breath. Before I could exhale, a sensation of hot flashing nausea took over my body as I blew chunks.
Pieces of half-digested meatballs and strings of red-tinged linguine now adorned the walls of my Dad’s
office.

      Slowly I wobbled into the garage. “Hello, Dad, Lewy, M-M-MMMom, is that you?” Nothing, not even the
sound of a cricket. I wiped off my mouth and lifted my head as I saw a large featureless form step in from
the darkness. Without making a sound the enormous Specter took two steps towards me. Silently I stood
trembling with fear. Two more steps, slowly the entity veered closer. Cautiously I mustered up the courage
to look directly into the Phantom’s face. Horrified I realized the featureless form did not have a face. No
mouth to speak hypnotic spells of haunted exhortation. No nose to inhale the foul stench of my unbridled
fear. Only two fiery red eyes. Eyes that looked like the glowing red tip of the forbidden bidi that set this
metaphysical nightmare into motion. They were not eyes that could see my petrified state of horror, rather
eyes that could see into my soul. Eyes in the truest sense of ALL seeing.

      One more step, the Phantom eased closer. Without a sound, it closed its fiery red eyes and faded into
the darkness from which it came. Slowly I stepped back into Dad’s office and flopped into the decrepit
desk chair. I felt chilled to the bone as I sat in disbelief. Silently I swallowed a lump of fear that clearly was a
part of my reprieved soul.

      The music continued as the soothing hum of “Ramble On” started to play. Clearly, that is what the entity
felt it was time to do, time to ramble on. Quietly I sat shivering like someone just pulled from an icy grave.
“Was that real? Or was it the ill effects of my foolhardy voyage into smoke induced manhood?” I said to
myself as I rubbed my eyes.

      I know what I saw, but how could it have been real? I tried to convince myself that what I saw could not
have been real. “Ghosts aren’t real,” I said out loud. But I could not shake the notion that maybe, just maybe
I really did see a Phantom. One minute it was there, the next it had faded back into the slippery world
between man’s mortal coil and the afterlife’s vast unknown. Either way I saw something!

      Realizing I may have truly just had a spectral visitation I started to laugh, not laughter of happiness, but
laughter of relief. I survived a brush with death and lived to tell about. Quietly I cleaned up Dad’s office and
returned to the house.

      After a quick clean up, I slithered back into the living room. Mom was still immersed in her novel. Dad
and Lewy were still intently watching TV. Dad’s cop show had finished as he and Lewy were uncontrollably
laughing at the antics of “Alf” and his terrestrial family. I slid in next to Lewy and picked up where I left off,
domination of the world through the eyes of my favorite hero with the kung-Fu grip. Just as I grabbed Joe’s
army Jeep, Mom looked at my father with a serious scowl, “Arthur, were you smoking on the front porch?”

      I laughed to myself as I said, “If they only knew!”
About BR. Giga

BR.Giga is a writer and
retired Emergency First
Responder living in
Central Florida. He is an
emerging author within
the genre of Horror and
Science Fiction. His life
and experience afford him
a unique perspective on
the human condition. He
enjoys playing music and
extreme holiday
decorating.
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