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He finally cornered us on the path through the woods back to Jay's house.

"Heyy guys!" Scott slurred. We froze. "What's going onnnn???"

We, at eleven, were still too young to recognize a burnout. But we still knew something wasn't right.

"Uhh, not too much." started Jay. "We were just heading back to, uh-"

The gargantuan six-foot four, 165-pound sixteen-year old stood in front of us blocking our way. A cruel smirk crossed his face. "Heading back where? Back home to mommy?"

I mistook this as an invitation to debate. "No, Scott. Actually, we're going to go back and-"

"SHUT UP!" He yelled in my face. Question period had clearly been prorogued. He slipped a pack of du Maurier regulars out of his breast pocket, and slid two cigarettes out of the foil packaging. He handed one to each of us, squeezing every inch out of his six-foot-four frame for intimidation. In retrospect, it's fairly amazing that a person like him would sacrifice two perfectly good cigarettes to terrorize the local youth. But still.

"Have you guys ever smoked before?"

Jay and myself both shook our heads. This was a lie. We had smoked rolls of sulphuric caps from our cap guns before, and once we found a still-smoking butt of half a cigarette lying by the curb next to our elementary school. My lungs are probably still expectorating yellowish sludge today. But at this moment in time, faced with a beast of a teenager pushing smokes on us, we thought it best to play up our innocent, Puritan image.

"Well then", he said. "looks like it's time for you to start!" He jammed a cigarette into each of our mouths, and brought out a lighter.

Scott was the older brother of one of our friends named Kristen, with whom we hung out, ate chips and watched the Super Mario Bros. movie. She was cool, in an androgynous, preteen way, but we had quickly learned to scatter when Scott was around. He was always huddling with his friends in the corner of the park, smoking; it smelled weird to me, though. At the time I thought it smelled like stale bananas. Seven years later I would be polishing off my thousandth joint, knowing full well what they had been up to. But I digress. Scott was known to be a burnout, a fuckup, and is probably in prison today. It was prudent to avoid his presence.

When you are eleven and are yet to hit either five feet or a hundred pounds, intimidation comes easily and was no different in this case. In our mind, if we tried to run, him and his loser friends would probably chase us down and, gasp, beat us up! So our hands were tied. The flame from his lighter hovered in front of the cigarette in my mouth; the toasting tobacco let out soft crackling sounds.

"Inhale", Scott dictated to me.


"I said INHALE. That means breathe in, retard." He looked at Jay. "You too, Fatty Lumpkin. You are going to stand here and smoke this whole fucking thing, or else, or else..."

We looked at him in anticipation, awaiting our projected punishments.

"Or else I swear, you're going to fucking DIE!!!!!"

In restrospect, he probably had trouble thinking of a sufficiently severe penalty to terrorize our young minds. At the time though, death was an exceedingly real possibility, as meted out by a pimply, wayward sixteen-year old. We tentatively inhaled.

"No, you idiots." Scott yelled. "You gotta breathe in, like you're running or something. Do it..."

Jay and I simultaneously took a huge breath inward, 90% of a duMaurier regular hanging in our mouths. Scott watched with delighted anticipation. We immediately started hacking and coughing; I was doubled over in respiratory distress.

Scott was doubled over, too, in laughter. "Stupid little fucks!" he sneered as he lit a cigarette of his own. "Don't smoke, kids! It's baaad for you!" He sauntered down the path to his home, howling in laughter.

Jay and I stood there, holding 80% of a cigarette in our hands, looking at each other.

"You know, man" I said, lucid despite my dignity having been assaulted. "We've never really, you know, had a full cigarette before..."

Jay looked down at his softly combusting cancer stick, deep in thought. "That's true, man. This is, like, a whole cigarette. What should we do with it?"

I put it back in my mouth and inhaled again; I coughed, but not as hard this time.

"Hey", I said, grimace on face. "This isn't...isn't that bad."

Jay did the same and coughed again. "You're right, man."

We looked at each other mischievously.

We emerged from the wooded path onto Meadowvale avenue, cigarettes dangling proudly out of the sides of our mouths, inhaling them like old pros. Sean McCool, who wasn't allowed to leave his yard even to cross the street, looked at us with envy as we nonchalantly smoked, and chatted. Mike Deslauriers said hi to us, but immediately stopped in his tracks when he saw our duMauriers. We were the kings of the neighbourhood, proudly sucking back tobacco smoke while our compatriots were playing with Tonka trucks. We were the coolest, badassed, eleven year olds in all of Canada.

We had totally forgotten we were smoking, and revelling in our newfound coolness, when we stumbled upon Jay's mom, smoking on her front porch.

"What the hell are you boys doing? Get those fucking cigs out of your mouth right now! What the hell is wrong with you?" She looked at me fiercely. "vonCube, go home! Jay, get in the house!" He immediately ran inside.

Later that night, we pitched a tent in Jay's backyard, and at 2 am, snuck into the living room, where his mom had left a half-finished pack of cigarettes lying on the coffee table. Note to prospective thieves, or teenagers: when sneaking into a house on a set of stairs, to avoid creaking noises, step on the inside of the step, against the next one.

We finished the smokes off that night.

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