Cigarette Butts

         It’s 7:00 AM Ray and I are walking like two elder statesmen surveying their kingdom. Except now we are in suburban Bellflower California.  He has his stand up walker where he can rest his elbows and maintain his kingly stature allowing no hint of the metastasized cancer that is effecting his balance. He calls his walker Brutus. His health condition is disguised by looking like any other suburbanite. He is wearing walking boots, levis, sweat shirt, windbreaker and gardner’s hat. The dark glasses complete his appearance. Brutus, the walker, prevents him from wobbling like a weeble.

         After four radiation treatments resembeled Star Wars lasers into his brain and two chemotherapy sessions to poison the cancer.  The tumors in his brain have retreated into tumor remission and he can now walk and talk almost normal. He could not do either three weeks ago. 

         I am uniformed for work in my white shirt, black paints, black tennies and winter coat. I look like a very large penguin.  No hat but I do have the sun glasses, perhaps a  cool, jazz musician penguin. We walk steadily eyeballing the neighborhood houses, yards, pets and occasional person that we great.

         My eagle eye spots a cigarette butt on the dirty street and I eagerly stoop to pick it up.

         Ray snorts, “How long are gonna pick those things up?”

         I say, “Well, I smoked and flicked them everywhere, like a dirty snowblower, for 39 years. I only gave up the habit 22 long years ago. I have a way to go to clean up the littered wreckage of my past.”

         “When we smoked in the last century, Jim,” Ray says, “Smoking was cool,. It was the common sense knowledge everybody knew to be true. This common sense knowledge shapes how we think and what we do. Everyone who wanted to be cool smoked. So we did.”

         “Just like our common sense knowledge today that says we will always have war and that cancer should be fought,” Ray added, “May not be true at all, you know. Common sense knowledge can be as dangerous as a dictator’s propaganda.”

         “Most of us look upon our health as some kind of war. Diseases, accidents, viruses, cancers. We think we have to fight them, which doesn’t work very well anyway…our whole outlook may be fucked. Me, I’m gonna stop the war with cancer. We have enough wars, I’m gonna make friends with my cancer and see what I can learn from it.”

         It’s almost winter and the leaves are turning colors, reds, yellows, browns and all the flavors in between as they drift gracefully to the street like teams of Olympic Divers. The aromatic smell of grass and foliage envelopes and follows us like a Mother’s love.  The Mother’s love aroma is only interrupted by an occasional auto exhaust fuming it’s way down the street.

         “I wonder what part of our common sense will be exposed as the Emperor’s Non-Existent Clothes to be as wrong as cigarette smoking, low fat diets, slavery, Agent Orange, Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone, trickle down theory and other culturally accepted lies?,” Ray says.

         “Maybe our life spans as well,” I quietly add in a tone of hopefulness.

         I really want Ray to live for a good long happy time. That is why we do this two mile stroll every day. I am a Doctor and I know that clean diet, exercise, and even a fantasy driven positive point of view can make all the difference in our ever-unpredictable world.  Ray and his wisdom have been and continue to be my emotional anchor to keep me centered in God or whatever our Creator is.

         As we walk along I marvel at the majestic trees losing their colorful leaves, which appear like God’s natural solar panels.

“Life , nature is amazing,” Ray says.

“Do you suppose God loves us, Ray?” I ask.

         “Well, I don’t know for sure. I don’t think God gives a shit one or another. Out of infinite love for everything She just gave us life to do with whatever we want. She loves us and lets us go,” Ray muses. ”And we get to deal with what our actions generate. Then we carry the Karma like unseen clouds of the good and bad consequences. Bad consequences are simply disrespecting any kind of life. Maybe this is true. I don’t know anything for sure.”

         I say, “Okay,” as I gratefully stoop over like a hungry Crane to snatch up another carcass of a cigarette butt splayed on the blacktop like a very large squashed bug.

         Only seventeen more years to go to even out my personal smoking Karma.


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