by Bob Merckel
Last time he came to visit, my favorite uncle would sneak a cigarette in our upstairs bathroom, while his wife sat with me in the kitchen, sharing a pot of tea and mapping out walking tours, bragging about how proud she was he'd finally given up a forty-year addiction. I couldn't figure out if she'd lost her sense of smell or just her sense. I mean how could she not realize - the ventilation in that loo was rubbish and he'd come downstairs freshly spritzed in eau de chimney. A few days into their holiday, he pulled me aside and slipped me a five-pound note and a piece of roughly torn card stock, which turned out to be the logo of his now-empty packet of smokes. During our strolls, I'd drop behind and pop into a news agent to procure gum and bottles of water, and when my aunt wasn't looking, I'd palm a pack of Rothschilds into nicotine-stained fingers with a nod and a wink, just like kids playing spy. A half-hour ago, our cousin rang to tell us my co-conspirator had lost his battle with lung cancer, and I can't help thinking that if I had said no, my aunt wouldn't be lying in a bed right now next to the love of her life, quietly sobbing, refusing to let go of his slowly stiffening hand.
Bob Merckel lives in London, teaches English, and scribbles stories - the likes of which can be found in Tales of the Decongested, Shaggy Blog Stories (and on his blog).