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  Smoke Break

Dan Korgan

Last night, the woman who lives upstairs, and who I love, interrupted my painting.  When I heard her knocking, I set my palette on the chair, Just a minute, I exclaimed, just a minute !

She was in her robe and looked very tired as she stood at my door.

Can we have a word, she said. 

Certainly, I mean, yes. 

She must have known how nervous I was, because I did not open the door very far. 

She kept leaning to one side, peering in to my small room.

It smells like soot upstairs, she said.

I donít smell it, I said.

I talked to the landlord and he said this is a non-smoking building.

Oh, yes, I said, but smoking is such a terrible addiction.

Iím not asking you to quit smoking.

Thanks goodness, that would be such a difficult thing, I said.

Did you know I am pregnant?

No, I didnít. 

Well I am, and itís not easy being pregnant either.

Look, I said, I keep the windows open all night.  I have two and they are fully open.

Your smoke must be traveling through your ceiling and my floor and Iím pregnant and itís making me sick to my stomach and I canít keep up with the ash.  Itís everywhere.

I donít think my smoke could travel through the ceiling, and the floor is not that flimsy.  This is a very high ceiling, and the spiders donít mind it.  They even have a fair chance with all the smoking I do in here.

You must have something wrong with your mind, she said. The ceiling is very flimsy and low.

Itís not that flimsy, I said, and it is high.

Flimsy and low, she said.  Low, because I say so.

And it is high because I say so.

It is low, she said.

It is high, I said.

Brian, upstairs, smokes too, and this is a non-smoking building.

She craned her neck to see what it was that I was doing in my room.  Then I watched her turn and slowly ascend the stairs. 

The landlord, I piped, told me he would not enforce such a rule.

Did he say that? She asked, glancing down.

I closed my door and stuffed a towel in the jam where a little smoke may have escaped. Then I picked up my palette and looked up at the ceiling Ė the underside of her dining room table, the nylon buttons of chair legs, and her tough little corns. I scratched my head and thought about how we never talk anymore. How we never talk.  With my brush I began to tickle her feet.



Dan Korgan lives in Portland, Oregon. He enjoys hiking in the foothills of
the Cascade Range, bird watching and photographing rare plants. Currently,
he is working on a master's degree in feminist rhetoric at Portland State









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