To the side of the restaurant foyer, left
and down a plush carpeted dim-lit corridor
lined with reproduction German Expressionist paintings,
past an alcove housing gentlemen’s and ladies rooms,
beyond banquet room number one, turning right
into banquet room number two and then, to the far side,
there is a locked storage room, empty,
that has an exit to the rear parking lot.
It is a small room, about 10’ x 12’,
walls and floor painted industrial grey,
with no windows or shelving, no paintings on the walls,
no telephone, not even a fire extinguisher.
The maître ‘d shuts the entry door, opens the exit door
to the parking lot a crack and pulls a soft pack of Camels
from his side tux pocket. It is unopened,
and he firmly tamps the pack against the palm of his hand,
pulling the gold tab around the pack but leaving
the cellophane covering on for protection.
He has limited time but takes care to lift the foil
with his fingernail, tearing just enough of the
top edge for a couple cigarettes to show.
He never refers to them by any derivative name
nor by their brand name. They are cigarettes.
The front portion of foil is removed, crumpled,
but the silver that wraps around the cigarettes in the pack
is retained for freshness and armor against the hazards
in his jacket pocket. A soft pack is susceptible
to damages but has a feel, touch and history
that a hard pack lacks. The cellophane feels refreshing
to his uncallused palm as he runs his fingers around
the Camels, tapping out a cigarette, hoping they
never change the design of the camel in profile,
pyramids and palm trees in the background.
A flaring wooden match from a vintage
Diamond match box lights the tip, smoke
immediately drifting toward the exterior door.
The spent cigarette arcs into the rain-soaked parking lot
like a lone firework, a moment’s pleasure. Back to work.
Brief Bio: Gene McCormick has smooth but macho hands,does not smoke but occasionally smolders.