Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Lighter

It wasn't so much the cigars he was interested in (though they interested him) but the beautiful lighter that had been handed down to his father that lit the cigars. Through the window for years he had seen his father light his massive cigars with the device, cigars that would burn for hours and hours as his father listlessly watched dusk fade into night. At a certain point his father took notice of his son's head peaking over the window sill to watch him. One day, breaking from the tradition, his father asked him to come sit out on the deck with him. His young mind jumped through the possibilities of what this meant.

Would he get to smoke a cigar? No, he had been told numerous times that you can smoke when you turn eighteen and he was well short of that. Would he be tasked with cutting the cigar? Doubtful, as he had once nearly cut off a finger with the cigar cutter and made his father the victim of a spoken word beating at the hands of his mother. All signs pointed toward the lighter.

Out on the porch his father took his usual seat in the old rocking chair, another family heirloom. He could never understand why his father simply left it on the porch right in the open where it could be taken with ease. He didn't understand how intimidating his father was back then. He sat on the other chair, a more modern piece, next to his father who went through the process of preparing his cigar. He watched his father's meticulous movements and anticipated the arrival of the lighter into the routine. After his father finished he stuck his cigar in his mouth and rummaged in his pocket. And then there it was. The lighter.

He saw it up close now. It was a square thing, with eight sharp edges so that if you grabbed it hard it could puncture the skin. And it was gold. Pure gold, he believed. It made the initials of his grandfather, engraved in the front, look important. His father flicked the top of the lighter open and revealed the source of the flame. The wheel, the shiny silver meal parts that he had no idea what they were or did. He didn't care about that. All he cared was that it made fire. His father looked at him. With the cigar in his mouth, he smiled.

"You want to light it?" his father asked.

He nodded yes.

"Okay. See the wheel? Pull it down with your thumb, like this."

His father mimed the motion to teach his son, but he already knew what to do. He reached out and took the lighter. He flicked the wheel. Instantly the flame appeared and he stared at its controlled yellow flicker, hypnotized. His father leaned in and lit his cigar, then leaned back and took a puff. When he looked back to his son he found him staring at the flame still. His father reached over and with a finger snapped the lid of the lighter shut. "Can't play with that too long," his father said. "Too young for that stuff." But the boy didn't hear him. He was too lost in the idea that he had created fire.

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