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From a Work in Progress War in the Smoking Room

War in the Smoking Room

by ADAM ENGEL

Friday midtown. Friday payday.

Plantman at "CEO Cigars Accessories." Quality, overpriced tobacconist. Walk-in humidor. Air-conditioned smoking room. Customers relax. Smoke. Wide-screen TV.

Recite the smoker’s ode:

green gone
brown dead
resurrection fire
leaf life
bloom tumors
like tulips
or teeth
oh pink lungs

Musty humidor. Fat, sticky Maduro. Smoking room television tuned to War.

Cigar store crowd: executives young, middle-aged, old. Suits.

Plantman in denim and Topiary Techniques t-shirt smoking darkest, most potent, not largest cigar.

Television: Siren Air Strike Air Strike

Older men their war. Middle-aged their own. Younger men had not war, cognizant men their age in combat even as young executives cigars. Senior Executives. Executives. Junior Executives. Vice-presidents. Directors.

Older wars superior to new, according to geezers. More skill more man-to-man hand-to-hand. None this push-button never see the hell you are, play it like video arcade, fish a barrel, no thrill glory, no hunt no blood, you see.

Middle-aged nightmares recalled guerilla warfare, jungle rot, defoliants, lack moral such such such.

Arguments went so. Young men red-eared silent.

Plantman watched through War haze cigar smoke planes devastating missiles blasting righteous cities hammered eerie jigsaw puzzles of indignity, confusion, pain.

Young Executives known no war but painful anecdotes old warriors. Bosses, Mentors.

Television commentators microphones steady thick of mayhem slaughter. Prime action folks back home. Gory talk. The Old Executive/Warriors explicit, baleful, tedious.

Discussion shifted where it should have been: cigars. Smoking Executives Smoking Room. CEO Cigars. Members several companies gathering informally. Enemies after all. Smoking. Sharing life histories, same room. Cigar ritual. Initiation. Not afraid to stink. Hah-hah-hah to up-turned noses trim health-loving wives.

Not afraid among men. "Straight talk." But what if…the office…reveal what’s hidden…known among the women…at the office?

"Won’t get laid that way," said one Senior Executive. "Women like a strong man with a strong cigar. We’ve got nothing to hide here. Not in this room, at any rate."

Laughter.

Great Ceremony. Pause. Executive Light-Up. Sucking flames wood matchsticks. Bad light, uneven burn. Catastrophic waste. Cigar. Bad show.

"Cigar, gift of the Indian," one waxed poetic, "cylinder of mellowness and virtue."

Cigarette not cigar like shot of rye not snifter fine cognac. Life ripened goes to smoke. Lifts spirits. Anguish up in smoke of stink leaf. Process: green origins ripen smokeless under sun. Natural processes. Living systems. Green embalmed brown. Curing thought. Tumors like mushroom caps exploded lungs of the unfortunate. Up in smoke.

Bombs felled Enemy cities. Commentators explained: significance, explosions; shock, desire, fear, attack.

Fire of Plantman’s fat Maduro like an eye wept ashes. Smoke everywhere, everywhere smoke and talk.

This is an excerpt of a longer work, "Topiary," by ADAM ENGEL, bartleby.samsa@verizon.net