“I’m tired of telling you,” Mr Cigarette said. “I don’t know how many times I have to repeat this, over and over again. And still you will go and do it.”
Master Ciggie Cigarette leaned sullenly against the wall and said nothing. He didn’t even look up at his father.
“Smoking humans again!” Mr Cigarette exclaimed, so dramatically that some of his crown of ash fell to the carpet. “After I warned you so many times not to.”
“And in the house too,” his wife, who had managed with an effort to stay silent thus far, burst out. “In his room, which he never cleans, and the smell gets all over the house. I’ve told you he needs talking to, but will you listen? No!”
“Stay out of this for a moment, will you?” Mr Cigarette snapped. “I’m talking to the boy.”
Ciggie still didn’t say anything. He just dribbled a little more ash on the carpet.
“And I’ve been at him and at him to get his ash cut,” his mother went on, undeterred. “Just look how long it’s getting. He looks like some kind of gang trash on the streets. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s hanging out with them too, like those who’re always lounging around the alley behind the corner human shop.”
“I don’t want to get an ashcut,” Ciggie muttered. “I’d look a right square, I would. Everyone would laugh at me.”
“We’re not talking about your ash.” Mr Cigarette threw a quelling glare at his wife, who remained quite unquelled. “We’re talking about the humans you insist on smoking. Why do you do it?”
There was no response from Master Ciggie, except that he managed to look even more sullen.
“After all,” Mr Cigarette said, “it’s a dirty, filthy habit. It stinks up the place, the smoke gets into everything – to say nothing of the health hazards.”
“Just yesterday I found a half-burnt human bone in the corridor,” Mrs Cigarette broke in. “You’d think he’d at least have the sense to put his stubs in a humantray, but no. He has to drop them everywhere and leave them for someone else to pick up.”
Mr Cigarette ignored her, which was a feat in itself because she had the shrillest voice in several neighbourhoods. But he’d had a decade and a half of practice. “You’ve read, I take it, that human smoking is dangerous to health? It clogs your filter and ruins your paper.”
“He, read?” his wife snorted. “You’ve got a hope. He doesn’t even have a single book in his room.” She paused, trembling with indignation, so hard that her entire beehive ashdo shook. “Of course, I’m not counting the magazines under his bed, the ones with the pictures of naked cigarillos on every page. I don’t even know where he got the habit of buying that kind of trash. Not from my side of the family!”
“You’ve been poking around in my room?” Ciggie jerked upright, his upper end smouldering red with anger. “You’ve no right to do that.”
“As long as you’re staying under this roof, you follow our rules,” his mother shot back. “If I want to ‘poke around’ in your room, I will, and that’s all there is to it. So you can take your filthy magazines and dump them in the trash, where they belong.”
“Let’s try and get back to the subject,” Mr Cigarette pleaded, feeling the conversation drifting further and further away from him. “I thought we were talking about smoking human, not about cigarillo porn and such. Ciggie, listen to me. You do know that smoking human destroys your health?”
“So what? It’s my health. Besides, everyone smokes human. Your boss Mr Chesterfield smokes human. I don’t see you saying a word about him smoking when he visits!”
“Behave yourself and stick to the point.” Mr Cigarette threw a harried glance over his shoulder, as if Chesterfield, or worse yet, his secretary Romeo y Julietta, were standing there listening. “We’re talking about you smoking, and why you shouldn’t.”
“Why not?” If Ciggie had possessed shoulders he might have shrugged them. “It’s cool.”
“It isn’t. It really isn’t.” Mr Cigarette’s eyes watered earnestly, as if from homosapientine-laden human smoke. “It clogs your filters, as I said. And just look here!” With a dramatic flourish, he drew a fresh pack of human from his pocket. “Look what the picture there shows. The homosapientine in human destroys your filters, gives you cancer, and it even stains your teeth.”
“We’re cigarettes,” Ciggie said. “We don’t bloody have teeth.”
“Don’t you dare swear,” his mother said. “I didn’t bring you up to swear. I don’t know where you’ve been to pick up that habit. It’s that friend of yours, Marlboro, isn’t it, who’s behind all this? I knew he was a bad influence. Why can’t you find some nice friends I don’t know. Next thing you’ll be going around with some slut of a cigarillo and picking up who knows what disease. Just yesterday I saw you talking to that Gold Flake from down the street, and everyone knows she had an abortion last year. Tobacco alone knows whom she runs around with. When you were younger–“
“Dear, please,” her husband said desperately. “Try to stick to the point, all right? Now, Ciggie, as I was saying, this picture shows what smoking can do to you. Look how yellow that filter has got, with all the poison in human smoke. Why don’t you understand?”
“Just tell me why you bought that pack.” his son asked shrewdly. “It’s for you to smoke, isn’t it? If you’re going to smoke, why are you giving me this lecture? Stop smoking yourself, first.”
“That’s beside the point,” Mr Cigarette harrumphed. Then, feeling his wife’s glowing eyes on him, he went on hastily, “I’m old enough to make these decisions for myself. You aren’t. Also, I bought this pack to show you the picture warning, not to smoke.”
“Yeah, right. I heard you talking to Uncle Benson Hedges on the phone last night about why you don’t stop smoking. Should I repeat what you said then?”
“That has nothing to do with...”
“You said,” Ciggie went on, ignoring him, “that you didn’t want to stop smoking because by spending money on human, you were supporting the economy. You also said that if everyone stopped smoking, then the farmers of humans and the others, the factory workers and packers, the pesticide makers and shopkeepers, would all be thrown out of work, and so by smoking you were being a great cigarettarian. You mean to tell me you didn’t say any of that? I heard it with my own ears.”
“It was a joke,” his father said. “A joke, that’s all. And you shouldn’t eavesdrop.”
“I wasn’t eavesdropping. I was watching TV, and you were talking so loudly I couldn’t even hear the programme.”
“You should watch less TV and study more.” Mr Cigarette drew in a gulp of air, and began coughing. “All right, son,” he said eventually, “I’ll make a bargain with you. You stop smoking, and I will too. Neither of us will smoke. How’s that?”
Ciggie thought a moment. “Fine,” he said. “You stop, right from this moment, and I will too. Done.” Turning, he stamped out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
“Whoo,” Mr Cigarette said. “All said, that went off pretty well.”
“If he keeps to his side of the bargain,” his wife replied. “I still think you were far too soft on him. The things he does make me so angry, I’m burning up. I need a smoke to calm down. Pass me a stick of human.”
“You’re right. I could do with one myself.” Mr Cigarette fumbled on the table, and turned a surprised face to his wife. “Where’s that pack? I could have sworn I put it right here.”
The door opened silently. Master Ciggie stood there, shaking with laughter. With a slow, dramatic flourish, he held up the pack of human.
“Busted,” said Ciggie Cigarette, sweetly.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2012