“So how’s the new job, Christina?”
She’d heard the question, even though she hadn’t needed to hear it to know what he’d ask. She had all of his questions memorized, as well her answers. She’d tell him the new job was good, and then his next question would be about co-workers. Then he’d ask which stock was hot this week, and then so on and so forth. Fill the hour, pay the man, then be on the way, she thought.
Christina Wells came to see Byron Blevins, one of her father’s friends, and technically her shrink, to appease her parents more than anything. Christina knew she didn’t need a shrink. She knew she wasn’t crazy. The world was, she thought.
“It’s good,” she said.
“How is it, working with real adults? In the real world?”
“Different,” she said, trying to sound engaged, but knowing she was failing miserably. She’d always failed at being engaged. At least that’s what her mother would tell anyone who asked. Or if they didn’t ask. Stay engaged, Christina- her mother’s mantra while she’d been growing up. Christina had hoped she’d drop it for a new one when she’d gone off to college, or at least after she’d graduated, but no such luck.
“What’s the hot stock this week?” Byron asked, almost looking up from his pad and pen.
“Same as last week,” Christina said. “Facebook. Like I tell the handful of clients I have so far. If you can only own one stock for the next twenty years, make it Facebook. Zuckerberg is going to make people forget who Bill Gates is.”
At least the view outside the window was always aesthetically pleasing. Byron worked from home, a small brick ranch with an equally small yard on the edge of his mother’s farm in Western Albemarle County, Virginia. The old woman owned five hundred acres, and Christina always enjoyed watching the cows wandering through the pastures and noting the changing of the leaves in the fall through Byron’s window.
Christina could mark the years of her life, at least since her mid-teen years, by the changing of the seasons on the Blevins farm. It was still summer- a visible haze over the waving fields of weeds outside the window, earmarked to be cut for hay- but the changing colors of fall would come in a few months, making her appointments with Byron Blevins more bearable. Fall was Christina’s favorite time of year.
Christina had been seeing Byron for six years. At sixteen, when she’d started seeing him, she thought there might be some benefit. Perhaps she’d learn that quintessential secret of staying engaged and finally be able to please her mother, at least in part. But by the time she’d graduated high school, she’d found there was no secret- at least no secret that Byron Blevins could reveal- and that pleasing her mother was simply impossible. Christina was twenty two years old now, and if Byron Blevins had any secrets, he hadn’t revealed any of them to her over the past six years, and if her father hadn’t figured out how to please her mother after thirty years of marriage, she thought, what chance did she have?
“That social networking,” Byron began. “It’s doing far more harm than it is good, I fear.”
Here he goes, Christina thought. Time for him to wax on for the next fifty minutes, all at my father’s expense.
… “and there’s the fact that people don’t just sit down and talk to each other anymore,” Byron said, continuing his monologue. “It’s all done through texting or IM. And when you do see people together, they’re not talking to each other, or among themselves if it’s a group. They’re texting or IM’ing someone who’s not there. It often makes me wonder, if they were sitting there with the person they’re texting or IM’ing, if they’d be texting or IM’ing the person they’re currently sitting with at the time and ignoring the other person. I just can’t…”
Christina was bobbing her head and saying, “Uh-huh,” and “I know, right?” in all the right places as Byron waxed on and she continued staring out the window. She’d vaguely noticed the old red Ford F-250 in the upper pasture, but hadn’t paid it much attention. She’d not remained engaged, so to say, on its activities, or on those of the young man driving it since first having spotted it a few moments before. However, it had begun making its way toward the window out of which she was looking on an old beaten trail somewhere around the time Byron had started talking about selfies and false senses of security, and she’d begun paying more attention to it then, as she was now, as Byron’s lecture continued to snowball into the land of utter boredom. The truck finally came close enough for Christina to make out the license plate on the front. Farm use, it read.
“Who’s that?” Christina asked, interrupting Byron just as he’d started on his kick about the dangers of young girls and social media because of all the pervs in the world.
Byron put down his pad and pen and walked over to the window and looked outside. He sank his hands deep into the pockets of his loosely fitting beige dockers, the same ones he appeared to have worn every day the entire six years Christina had been seeing him. She can remember when she had been a senior in high school, having had a total fixation on Byron’s pants. Did he ever change them? Did he own a hundred pairs of pants that all looked the same? How boring of a life must this man have?
“That,” Byron said, deep disappointment in his voice. “That’s the farm hand. Also known as my little brother.”
“I didn’t know you had a brother,” Christina said.
“He’s not much worth talking about,” Byron said. “He’s a loser.”
“Wow,” Christina said, taken back by Byron’s description of his brother. Her mother would be so proud of her for being at least momentarily engaged. “That’s not the nicest thing in the world to say about your brother.”
“It’s true,” Byron said. “That kid… listen to me. Kid. Hell, he’s your age, or thereabouts. Twenty four. But that young man is one of the most gifted individuals you’d ever meet. He’s brilliant. But he is so apathetic. No motivation, whatsoever.”
“Why do you say that?” Christina asked, noticing that the truck had now stopped. It was right outside the window. She could see Byron’s brother in the cab, but he had a ballcap of sorts pulled down over his face so she couldn’t make out the details of his facial features. Cavaliers, the orange cap read- the mascot of the local college down in Charlottesville, the University of Virginia.
“Oh,” Byron said, taking his hands out of his pockets and going back over to his chair and retaking his seat. He’d done away with the desk years ago when he’d decided to go into private practice and work from home after a very short and very miserable stint with the Veterans Affairs Administration at the VA hospital down in Salem, Virginia. “Apathy,” he said. “The boy is the epitome of apathy. He’s dropped out of two colleges and has no desire to do anything with his life.”
The movement of the truck’s door opening caught Christina’s attention anew. She looked away from Byron (so much for engagement, she thought) and glanced over to see Byron’s brother getting out of the driver’s side. He was wearing old, stained jeans and no shirt. He wasn’t what anyone would call a hunk. He was a bit on the skinny side. Quite a bit on the skinny side, actually, but healthy looking. He didn’t look anorexic, or even like someone who needed to eat a few more sandwiches. He looked athletic. Like a runner, perhaps. Ripped muscles, though not big, and very lean. No body fat to be seen. Christina still couldn’t make out his face below the nose due to the Cavaliers cap, but she was focussing on his abs, anyway, not his face, or at least where his face should be.
“What’s his name?” she asked.
“Devin,” Byron said. “Devin Blevins. Award winning, published poet and short story writer at seventeen. Scholarship to UVA for literature at eighteen. Read every classic from Dickens to Steinbeck before even going to college and being forced to do so in intro to lit., and then dropped out of UVA by twenty one. Dropped out of Piedmont Community College by twenty two. Now he works for our mother, doing farm chores for room and board. He washes dishes somewhere downtown a couple days a week. Probably hasn’t read a book or written a word in a year. Maybe two.”
Outside, Devin let down the truck’s tailgate, climbed into the back, and then started throwing what appeared to be oddly shaped pieces of wood out of the back of the truck and into a pile beside Byron’s house.
“Is that firewood?” Christina asked.
“That’s what we use it for,” Byron said. “It’s scraps. From his projects.”
“He does woodwork?”
“Kinda,” Byron said. “He makes boxes. Out of wood. Complete waste of time.”
“Boxes?” Christina said. This was actually the most engaged she’d been during an appointment with Byron since she’d been excited about having applied for a job with several brokerage firms a couple of months back. She’d finally landed one with a small house run by two independent partners on the downtown mall in Charlottesville, and thus said excitement about a job had ended.
“Yeah,” Byron said. “Technically, they’re called cajones. Pronounced Ka-Hone. They’re a Peruvian percussion instrument. Used in place of a drum. You see,” Byron said, now becoming more adamant, sitting up straight in his chair and moving his hands in the air while he talked, as if his words weren’t enough. “This is what I mean by apathetic. He’s too lazy to play a damn drum set. He’d rather sit on his ass on a wooden box and slap it, because he’s too lazy to use sticks and have to hit eight or ten different contraptions. How much more apathetic can you get than that?”
“I don’t know,” Christina said. “I’ve seen some pretty amazing box players. I think it takes a lot of skill.”
As if Devin’s ears were burning, he looked over at the window and raised his head to see from under the cap’s bill. His eyes peered through the window and met with Christina’s. She saw that he had a radiant set of hazel eyes, favoring emerald green, and like his body, his face wasn’t made for magazine covers, but it was pretty easy on the eyes, nonetheless. As if Devin had read her thoughts, he smiled at her. Christina smiled back.
“Oh no,” Byron said, seeing the exchange, at least Christina’s end of it. He got up and walked over to the window and threw it open. “Devin,” he said, sticking his head out the screenless window. “Haven’t I told you not to come down here when you see a car out front? I’m in an appointment!”
“Chillax,” Devin said, continuing to throw the scraps of wood from the back of the truck into the pile beside Byron’s house.
Byron, without responding to Devin, pulled his head back inside and then closed the window. He drew the blinds after that, then returned to his seat.
“Sorry about that,” Byron said. “He has no respect, either.”
Christina looked at the blinds now covering window. It seemed almost criminal, she thought, to block the view outside. Besides, she’d liked the smile Devin had given her and she had hoped for another. Maybe even a wave.
“Now. Like I was saying,” Byron said, sinking back into his chair and taking up his note pad and pen from the end table beside him. “You have all these teenage girls who do not look like teenagers. I believe, personally, that it’s from all the GMO’s in the food these days. Monsanto and all that. “These girls are like, fifteen,” he continued, “but they look your age, and they put the most scantily clad pictures of themselves on Facebook, and it just sends out a beacon to sex addicts and perverts across the globe…”
Great, Christina thought. Forty five more minutes to go, and now, with no view. She heard the engine of the old farm use Ford start up outside, followed by the sound of the truck diving off, back up the pasture toward the old farm house sitting on top of the hill from which it had come. The sound of the engine eventually faded, but the memory of Devin’s smile, tight abs, and hazel eyes favoring emerald green did not.
“How’d things go with Byron?” Christina’s mother, Angie Wells, asked as Christina walked in the door of their upscale, Garth Road home an hour and a half later.
“Just ask Dad tonight,” Christina said. “You know he’s going to call Byron and ask all about it.”
“Now, Christina,” her mother said. “You know Byron isn’t allowed to discuss anything about your sessions with your father.”
“Yeah,” Christina said. “And I know Dad isn’t supposed to tell Byron anything about his patients, either, but he always tells him about the grossest mouths he’s seen for the week and whose heads they were in.”
Christina’s father, Dr. David Wells, was a well-to-do dentist, and her mother had played the part of the well-to-do dentist’s wife their entire thirty years of marriage. It was Christina who hadn’t always played the role of the dentist’s well-to-do daughter so well.
Sure, she’d never been in any serious trouble to speak of, other than the time she and her friends Brittany and Julie snuck out during a sleepover and couldn’t get back in the window because they’d gotten a little too tipsy with a few college guys down on the corner, a two block collection of bars and restaurants where all the college kids at UVA hung out. Rumors about that night had circulated for about nine months, but when none of the girls gave birth around the end of that period, the local hens found someone else’s children to peck at.
“I’ll take that to mean it went well,” Angie said, then turned back to her iPhone 6S, or whatever the latest version of the latest oversold, overpriced gizmo of the year was.
“I have stock reports to study,” Christina said, then began making her way up the stairs.
“Maybe if you study good enough,” her mother said, not even looking up from the hand sized screen upon which she was totally fixated, “you’ll be able to get your own place downtown.”
“God, I hope so,” Christina said as she ambled up the stairs. Her words had been barely audible, but her mother had heard them. She chose, however, to ignore them.
Once upstairs, Christina did what every young person from her generation did when they got to their rooms. She got online. She started playing a random playlist of her favorite songs on YouTube, then opened another browser and went straight to Google. Devin Blevins, she entered into the search field.
“Why am I doing this?” she asked herself. “I hate it when people do this to me.”
Several hits came up. Something from the local rag, The Daily Progress, from years ago, where Devin had been awarded a scholarship to UVA. He’d won a statewide short story contest for students taking advanced English Lit. in Virginia. She Googled the title of the story, That’s When We All Fall Down, and viola! There it was, free to read online on yet another blog making money from clickbait ads via Google Adsense, Ad Supply, and various other unscrupulous internet advertising companies that would install malware onto your device if you didn't buy what they were selling.
Christina thought she’d skim through the first paragraph of so, just to get a feel for Devin’s style, but twenty minutes later, she found herself reading the last sentence- “And when these things come to pass, and everything else we’ve tried has failed, this is when we all fall down.”
“Wow!” Christina said. She was emotionally touched by the short story, which seemed to say, in a nutshell, that mankind was screwed and there was no hope, unless people developed the courage to stop following the crowd. Do what they loved, rather than doing what their friends, family, and basically society as a whole pressured them into doing. Christina had never been a big reader- she polished off a book or two a month, mostly because she made herself- but she knew a well written story when she read one, and she just had.
Christina scrolled through her Facebook timeline to see who’d posted pictures of their ugly pets or equally ugly children recently while humming whatever tune was playing on YouTube. Soon, she found herself singing along to Whitney Houston’s I will Always Love You.
Realizing she was hungry, Christina went downstairs to grab a bite to eat, but she did not stop singing. She didn’t realize she was doing it. She was thinking about her work tomorrow, how much she actually hated her new job, and Devin’s hazel eyes which heavily favored emerald green, still feeling emotional from his story, as well. If she’d known she was singing aloud, she would have stopped. One of her mother’s other mantras; now Christina, if you’re going to sing all the time, learn how to sing on key. Once upon a time, Christina had sung all the time, but she’d learned to turn the volume way down- press mute on her vocal chords, actually- if her mother was in the vicinity.
…”but can’t you get him to give you more details?” her mother was saying as Christina made her way to the first level of her family’s home. Her father had come home while she’d been upstairs. Her parents’ conversation brought Christina out of her relaxed state, and she realized she was singing, so she stopped before her mother could say anything about it.
“You know he can’t do that,” her father said. “He’d lose his license.”
“Again,” Angie said.
“You know that was a setup,” David said. “The VA was in trouble because of all those vets offing themselves, and Byron was just the fall guy.”
“Hi, Daddy,” Christina said, going over and giving her father a peck on the cheek when she entered the kitchen, acting as if she hadn’t heard her mother and him talking. Her parents’ conversations were pretty much always the same. What level of gross did the well-to-do dentist deal with today? When is our underachieving daughter going to fly the nest?
“Hi, Sweetie,” her father said, giving her a peck in return. “How was your day? Land any million dollar accounts?”
“Not today,” she said, making her way to the fridge and opening it up to look inside. “But I did set up an automatic one hundred dollars a month deposit into a mutual fund account for a twenty five year old guy who just started teaching. Who knows? If those mutual fund mountain charts are telling the truth, in forty years he’ll have a million. So maybe I did land a million dollar account today, and we just don’t know it yet.”
Her father laughed, but her mother rolled her eyes.
“How did things go with Byron today?” her father asked, making his way to the refrigerator, and then reaching over Christina’s shoulder to grab a can of Diet Coke.
“Same as always,” she said. “You know, Daddy. You’d be better off taking the money you pay him to see me and opening up one of those mutual fund accounts. You’d be helping us both, more.”
“Now Christina,” her father said, cracking open his can of soda and then taking a quick sip. “You know that we all need someone to talk to. Someone we can tell how we really feel who isn’t going to judge us. Like a friend or a relative would.” He took another sip, this one longer, as if giving time for his words to take affect.
“Daddy,” she said. “When I tell him what I really think, or how I really feel, he tells me I’m thinking wrong, or not to trust my feelings. It’s more like he’s trying to guide me toward living a life he or you and Mom think I should live. Not helping me live the life I want to live.”
“What’s wrong with the life you’re living?” her father asked, placing his can of soda on the counter and forgetting all about it, like he did all of the other cans of soda he opened and took two sips from, the rest of which would be dumped down the sink some time later that evening when the well-to-do dentist’s wife cleaned the kitchen for the night. “You went to a great private school. You graduated from the University of Virginia after that. Without debt, I’ll add, because I paid for it. And now you’re a freaking stock broker. You’re living the dream, babydoll!” He kissed her on the cheek again then left the room. This was his fatherly affection for the day. A couple quick kisses, a few empty words, then off to do whatever post-middle aged men do with what few hours of spare time they have left in their days after being slaves to the grind to meet the minimum payments each month on all their obligations, all of which they believe is the essence of being a responsible, upper-middle class adult male in America.
“Now, Christina,” her mother said, an admonishment, after her father had left the room. “Your father did two root canals today. It’s been a long day for him. You really shouldn’t give him a hard time like that.” Her iPhone 6S vibrated and all of a sudden her daughter was forgotten as she, too, left the room to see who had commented on her last social media post and just what they’d said.
Christina turned her attention back to the refrigerator. One day old lasagna won out over two day old chicken parmesan, and thus, her dinner plans were set. Back to singing Whitney Houston while she warmed her food in the microwave, then back to her room, back to the internet, and back to being engaged with absolutely no one.
Boom, boom, tap… boom, boom, tap…
“It sounds good, Devin,” Devin’s mother, Devina Blevins, said.
“No, it doesn’t,” Devin said, giving the box he’d just finished making a few more taps.
Boom, boom, tap… boom, boom, tap…
“It sounds just like all the cajones you’re always listening to in those videos,” his mother said.
“That’s the problem,” Devin said, another tap or two with meaningless effort. “That’s not what I want. Listen,” he said, getting up and moving the box aside and pulling over another.
Boom, boom, tap… boom, boom, tap…
“That sounds awfully flat,” Devina said, her face upturned, as if she’d smelled something unpleasant.
“No,” he said. “It’s not flat. It’s unique.”
“It sounds like something that would accompany a song in an a-minor,” Devina said, her ears, though old, still deftly in tune. Devina Blevins had played piano her whole life. She’d taught her older son, Byron, to play when he was a small child. He took to it naturally enough, but always felt he was wasting his time when he played, because no one can make a living playing piano, he’d always say after playing.
Devina thought music was meant to be enjoyed, not used to generate an income for one’s livelihood, but Byron had always been the driven one. At least the money conscious one, though he’d never quite figured out how to make much of it. Devin, however, had always loved music for the love of music’s sake. He never took to the piano, but the boy could keep a beat better than any drummer or bass player Devina had ever known. Devin was an excellent drummer, however, his infatuation seemed to be with the cajon, a small, wooden box that was sat upon and played, with strikes at different areas on the box making different percussion tones.
“No one sings in a-minor,” she said. “It’s a key with no sharps and no flats. The only people that ever sang in a-minor were those grungy guys from twenty years ago, and God, am I glad that didn’t last.”
“Yeah,” Devin said. “I’ll agree with you on that one. I liked the music, but the woe-is-me messages in the lyrics were a little over the top. But don’t you get it?” he said, more lively now. That’s the beauty of the key. It’s got a beautiful sound to it, but no one’s really delivered the right message in it.”
Boom, boom, tap… Boom, boom, tap…
“There’s a story here that wants to be told,” Devin said, more to himself than to his mother.
Boom, boom, tap… boom, boom, tap…
“It just needs the right author. The right words,” he said. “The right person to sing it and deliver the message.”
“You could always write it,” Devina said. “And you’re not a bad singer.”
“Come on, Mom,” he said. “This is different. It’s music, not literature. And you know I can’t sing.”
“But aren’t they one in the same?” she said. “Music and literature? At the root of both is passion. It’s the love of the story and of its telling. The format is merely a formality. And you can sing.”
“Okay,” Devin said, chuckling. “I’ll admit it. I have a voice that only a mother could love.”
“Ah,” she said. “Hiding emotions with humor again.”
“Did you get that from Byron?” he asked, sarcasm in his tone.
“No,” she said. “Your father. He had you pinned by the time you were talking.”
George Blevins had been a psychiatrist long before Byron. It’s the reason Byron had ventured into the field, actually, though anyone who knew the caliber of both men would tell you they were in two different leagues.
George Blevins had actually been quite good at what he did. He’d been the secret armchair sounding board for two former Presidents, taking once weekly secret trips to D.C., two and a half hours north of Albemarle County, for the eight years that one had been in office, and then for the four years the other had served before losing re-election to some good looking, smooth talking young man from Arkansas.
Byron? There was much to be desired with Byron’s craft, his mother might point out, but he’d always tried to please his father, who it seemed, could never be pleased by anything his elder son had ever done. But George Blevins had been in his grave these last fourteen years, having died when Devin was only ten years old. Byron had been twenty four at the time of his father’s death and kicking around the farm- not unlike Devin, now- and thinking about his ‘next move.’
Byron’s knee jerk reaction to the grief from his father’s death had been to jump right into grad school the following year and start working on a master’s degree in psychology. The doctorate wouldn’t come for another fifteen years, as Byron had had a hard time avoiding getting bogged down with his various social worker jobs over the course of his very checkered career, but it finally came, unfortunately, putting an end to his DINK (dual income no kids) marriage. Something about a woman wanting a little more attention than a man working full time by day and pursuing a seemingly never ending thesis by night could give her and going out and finding it elsewhere had something to do with it.
Or a lot to do with it.
Devin, although referred to often by his much older brother as a ‘mamma’s boy’ (it didn't help that she’d given him her namesake, minus the ‘a’ on the end) had never pursued music as an interest to please his mother, and she loved his inclination toward music all the more for it, because it was real. It wasn’t forced. It was natural. It was rooted in passion. And having been quite the competent amautur musician herself, she knew that that was what was most important and what most people, good at music or not, lacked. It was what most people in any field lacked, in her opinion.
But if Devina were to tell you that it didn’t break her heart that Devin didn’t have the same passion for writing, something at which he was truly gifted, as he did for music, she would be telling you a bold faced lie.
“I’m not giving up on this one,” Devin said, tapping the older box he’d made some time ago again.
Boom, boom, tap… Boom, boom, tap…
“There’s a story here that wants to come out, and in time, it will.”
“Yes,” his mother said in agreement. “It will. But speaking of time, isn’t it about time you headed down to Capture?”
“Aw, shit!” Devin said, glancing at his watch and jumping up as he did. “Sorry,” he said, looking at his mother, regretting his choice of words. “Time flies.”
“It does when you spend all day in the woodshop,” she said.
“At least Byron got another load of firewood out of it,” he said, leaving the room to change his clothes. His dishwashing shift down at Capture, a local grill and bar on the downtown mall in Charlottesville, started in less than an hour.
“Don’t speed!” Devina said, raising her voice as Devin flew out of the room, the sides of his unbuttoned flannel shirt flapping like loose wings behind him. “You know how these county mounties are out here.”
As Devin made his way to his bedroom, he heard his mother coughing. She was trying to minimize it, but he heard it nonetheless.
Devina had been sick for some time, and she’d been worse off than she’d been letting on. And just as Devin couldn’t pull the wool over her eyes, because he’d come from her flesh, she couldn’t pull the wool over his eyes because he was of her flesh.
Devin and his mother had agreed that he could stay with her on the farm as long as he pulled his own weight while he was plotting out his ‘next move.’ Byron had had a not so pleasant say about that, but he’d nipped it in the bud when Devina had quickly reminded him that he’d gone through his ‘figuring out the next move’ stage himself after college.
“Yeah, but at least I graduated,” Byron had said at the time, just before storming out of the room before his mother could also remind him that she’d allowed him to build his very inexpensive brick rancher on the edge of her property, again. Not to mention, she was carrying the note on the money to build the house, a personal loan she’d known before making he’d never repay, but that she’d made, anyway.
However, per the deal Devina had made with Devin, any pocket money was all on him. He didn’t need much, as he had no social life, preferring to spend any time he wasn’t working on the farm or at Capture, working on his boxes and playing them. But no twenty four year old wanted to be broke. Devin had never been materialistic or one to chase girls, but he wanted to make sure he had the cash to take a girl out for a date should he ever find one he found worth chasing.
Devin quickly changed his clothes and headed out the front door, only glancing back at his mother, now sitting at her piano and beginning to tap the keys playfully, long enough to say goodbye. “Don’t speed,” she said again, just in case he’d already forgotten or never heard her the first time.
As Devina heard the door close, she mumbled, “thank God,” then opened up the lid of the piano where her sheet music was stored and pulled out her hidden pack of Winstons. She usually smoked outside, but she’d been holding off since Devin had been home, so she lit up inside, not knowing Devin was witnessing her actions through the front window as he climbed into his car, an older model Honda Civic he’d picked up while at UVA for four thousand in cash- high school graduation gift money.
Devina waited until Devin had pulled out of the drive and was well down Free Union Road before stepping outside to finish her cigarette, hoping what little bit of smoke had gotten in the house would clear out before Devin got home. She figured it would, but she also knew she wasn’t fooling him or Byron. They’d both watched her try to quit smoking and fail repeatedly their whole lives. She’d made it almost a year once, then convinced herself that addiction was all psycho-babble, even though she’d been married to one of the world’s best psycho-babblers for years who’d pleaded with her that addiction was a very real phenomena, and then BAM! Back to the races and a pack a day after tempting fate with only a single stick.
The only reason Devina had been trying to give the impression that she was trying to quit now, with her boys both grown, was because her health had been on a downward slide. She seemed to get sick with marginal physical activity, and the older she got- she was sixty eight now- the longer she seemed to stay sick. But like all good cigarette soldiers, she figured the smokes would take her to the grave slower and less painfully than the hell she’d go through (what the psycho-babblers called withdrawal), and quicker death she’d suffer if she quit.