Lucky Strikes | Teen Ink

Lucky Strikes

February 2, 2011
By Kristen Jaquay, Las Vegas, Nevada
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Kristen Jaquay, Las Vegas, Nevada
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Author's note: The title of the story is meant to be ironic. The name of the popular cigarettes then was "Lucky Strikes".

“Come on Tommy Boy, just do it already!” Ciggy stood impatiently with a cigarette in his outstretched hand. He smokes those things like it’s his oxygen supply, hence the given nickname Ciggy.
“Nah man! Get that thing away from me it smells like death.” Tommy Boy’s strong hate for cigarettes is clear and apparent to everyone in the group, except for Ciggy.
“Jump back! This here pack of Lucky Strikes is my bouquet of flowers. I use these things like incents.”
Mitch started to grow impatient and annoyed. He has the entitlement of watching over everyone, yet he’s minutely involved.
“Shut up, Ciggy…I’m not the only one who don’t like them things.” Tommy Boy nodded his head towards Danny.
“Oh…” Ciggy said chuckling “So this cat don’t like ‘em either, huh?” Ciggy walked up to Danny who had his hands in his pocket. He was always quiet and didn’t have anything to say most of the time, except for the occasional “Uh-huh.” Ciggy put his arm around Danny’s shoulder and shook him enough to make him lose his balance.
“What’s the deal, Danny? You wanna lecture me like Tommy Boy does every damn day?” Danny turned his head and tried to fan away the smoke with his hand. “Well damn, I see your discomfort. No need to be rude.” Ciggy turned to Mitch, who was looking for the new victim of the day.
“Hey Mitch, you want a drag?” Ciggy shoved the cigarette near his face.
“Get the outta here! Do you wanna get caught? You almost blew our cover last time, Cig. Put it out.”Danny’s tone was serious, as usual. Whenever he talks his eyes are focused and he stands very stiff. Since no one really gives a hoot about him, he found family elsewhere. He had to. Everyone has to. You either join, or stay inside or be forced to join anyway.
“Fine, geeze. I see how it is.” Ciggy dropped the cigarette on the floor and stomped on it.
Tommy Boy picked it up and pulled out a small blue, plastic bag. Since he was around people who could care less about how the town looked, Tommy took it upon himself to collect the cigarette butts and throw them away when he got home. “God Ciggy, you already clogged up the stream with these now you’re movin’ to the streets?” Tommy was visibly upset.
“Hey Jack! It ain’t just me, okay? Everyone else here lights up, it ain’t nothin new.” Ciggy got real close to Tommy and breathed out hot air onto his face.
“Eww, you disgusting slob! Imma blow chunks all over you!” Tommy Boy puffed out his cheeks and gagged.
“Go ahead! I double-dog-dare you” Ciggy smirked as he pushed Tommy back with his pointer finger…”Tiny Tim.”
Tommy Boy pushed Cig away from him and he fell on the Fall’s crunchy leaves.
“Imma lick you good, boy!” Ciggy stood up, obviously embarrassed that his pride was challenged. He clenched his fist and teeth…his trademark for expressing anger.
“Whatever, you ain’t nothin’ but a piece of cheese without the will never be a slice.” Tommy always had weird comebacks that, coincidentally, seemed to make sense.
Mitch had been pretending not to listen. But he always is. He hears everything and remembers everything. Mitch turned around and stood up. The sun was momentarily blocked. “If both of you cats don’t stop fighting, Imma slice you both!”
Tommy knew this threat was completely directed towards Ciggy, the instigator. But to be fair and to shut everyone up he included “both”.
Ciggy threw up his hands and raised his eyebrows. “Okay, man.” He knew that if Mitch got really mad, he would get pounded.
“Now get down, someone’s coming.” They all crouched on their knees, as the sound of footsteps got closer. Mitch had a well known signal to attack. It was like an operation, he took it very seriously. He held up a fist…hold on. One finger…almost, get ready. Two fingers…ready. Closed fist…now! Mitch was the first to jump out from behind the bushes since he was the largest. He grabbed an unsuspecting victim, a rich boy walking with two friends who ran off.
“Huh, some friends.” Tommy thought to himself.
Ciggy had the job of scaring the life out of each victim. The gang figured they might as well make that big mouth of his useful. “Hey, don’t try nothin’, Richy Rich, my blade slips easily.” Ciggy held his switchblade by his cheek and purposely let the sun reflect off of the knife. Tommy Boy searched the rich boy’s pockets. The gang decided that searching people fit his height and small stature. Danny stood guard and watched for anyone coming. Nobody knew what position of robbery to give him, he wouldn’t answer any questions. They’ve been trying to figure out why he’s so quiet. He’s always been that way.
“Maybe he has a Monroe voice, ya know?” Cuggy said before.
“He’s just quiet,Cig. Just quiet.” Tommy Boy was the only one who knew the reason for Danny’s inverted attitude. He mad e a promise to keep his mouth shut.
“Ugh. Are you serious?! I just picked up Lucky in this same spot…this is sincerely nasty.” Tommy bent down to pick up yet another cig while pulling out a blue, plastic bag.
“Umm…what is that?” Danny laughed hysterically. He stopped walking and leaned up against a tree. He was laughing so hard he needed help to stand. “You seriously carry around a bag full of used Luckys?” Danny grabbed his stomache with both hands.
Tommy Boy put the bag in his jacket pocket and stared at Danny. He valued how Danny let lose sometimes and actually showed emotion. Those times were rare. “Yeah, if I don’t pick up these cancer sticks, who else will?” Tommy had practiced an answer incase anyone questioned his “clean-up-the-sidewalks” mentality. He went through reasons why and memorized his valid points. No one had ever asked why he does it, until now and Tommy was excited to give his speech. “Pretty soon the whole town will get stuffed, the landfills will overflow, and it will smell like cigarettes forever!” Tommy paused to imagine the smell. He wrinkled his nose and stuck out his tongue. “Gross, man. I’m doin’ this town good.” He looked at the small houses and schools from the stream. It was slightly elevated above everything else and provided a good view. The stream was unimously chosen as a place to duke it out. If you made puppy eyes at a guy’s girl, the infamous phrase would follow. “Meet me at the stream, punk.” “You’re welcome.” Tommy Boy said as he pointed out towards the town. Though no one ever thanked him, he felt entitled to pick up a man’s cigarette, put it in the bag, and say “You’re welcome” while smiling proudly at the smoker. He smirks like a man who just stole a bag, looked inside and found diamonds the size of cherries. Pride was the number one characteristic of Tommy Boy. Once he did something he was proud of, there was nothing anyone could say to bring him down.
“You’re weird, man.” Danny said shaking hi head, smiling. He looked down at the ground and followed a trail of mud with his eyes. It led to the stream. He put his hands in his pockets and raised his shoulders while taking in a deep breath. “Just like Toni,” he said as he let out the inhale. He relaxed his shoulders, looked at Tommy Boyt and began to walk away.
Tommy looked around, confused, but mostly intrigued. He began to run and catch up with Danny. “Hey, wait!” Tommy Boy stopped by Danny and got in front of him and proceeded to walk backwards while remaining contact with his eyes. “Who’s Toni?”
Danny knew once Tommy’s curiosity was peeked, he wouldn’t stop until his questions were answered…just like Toni.
Tommy grabbed Danny’s shoulders to stop him. “Come on, man. Who’s Toni?” He took his hands off his shoulders and waited.
Danny looked at the curiosity in Tommy’s eyes and the way he was standing, tapping his fingers against his thigh in anticipation Toni’s clone. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were Toni.” He looked to his right and walked toward a shady tree and sat down.
This confused Tommy Boy. Danny had just been happy and laughing and now looked like he had something to tell. He knew that Danny never expressed his emotions…and deeply wanted to. Tommy walked over to the tree and sat down, looking at the ground. He looked ahead at the stream…”So, what happened?”
Without hesitation or introduction, Danny began his story. “Toni was my kid brother. He was nosy as hell. Just like you.” He picked up old, brown leaves and crunched them, still looking at the stream. “He hated cigarettes, especially when I smoked ‘em. But I didn’t care.” He looked down again. “I’m so damn selfish.”
Tommy Boy couldn’t help but look at Danny. He was in disbelief. A kid brother? He had no idea what he was talking bout. “Danny, I didn’t know you have a kid brother.” He turned toward him.
Danny folded his arms onto his bent knees. “I had one. And no one knows. It’s better that way.”
Tommy remembered a long time ago there had been a story in the newspaper about a kid who drowned in the stream. Toni Valeyna. No one knew the him since he was only seven. No one shared the kid’s last name, so relation was unknown. Tommy boy kept looking at Danny. “You wanna tell me what happened?”
Danny slightly lifted his head from his knees and gazed at Tommy sideways. “If you’re anything like Toni, I know you can keep a secret. He held out his palm, face up. “Skin it?”
Tommy put his hand on Danny’s and slid it. “Skin it.”
Danny took in a deep breath as if he wanted to tell the story quickly and get it over with. “Me and Toni was standin’ by the stream ‘cause I wanted to smoke a Lucky.” He paused and swallowed. “I flicked the cig into the stream. Toni was playing with the fish, pokin ‘em with a stick. When he saw what I did he got worried…said the fish would eat it, and die. I told him to stop bein’ weird and leave the stupid fish alone. Of course, like you…” he looked at Tommy “he didn’t listen. He reached in the grab the cig and fell in the stream. I couldn’t reach him. I tried. I tried, Tommy! I yelled for anyone. No one came…what could I do?” Danny buried his head in his knees again.
Tommy put his arm around him. “I won’ t tell nobody. I swear, man.”

“Quit fussin’, boy!” Mitch shook the rich boy’s arms as he held them behind his back.

Tommy felt something thick in the kid’s pocket and pulled it out. It was a wad of cash. “Hey, boys! Look what I got here. Ciggy help me count these duckets.”

Ciggy pointed with his switchblade and nodded to Mitch to release the victim. “You’re free, Richy.” The boy ran as fast as he could, tripping over his own strides. “Lemme see, Tommy.” Ciggy took the money and began to count the money. “Ten…thirteen…nineteen…twenty-two…”
Mitch snatched the cash from Ciggy. “God, Cig! You don’t know how to count right.” Mitch flipped through the papers within ten seconds. He glanced at the three members. “Forty-seven” he said. Everyone was quiet. Even though school wasn’t a number one priority, they all knew simple division and the all knew seven dollars didn’t distribute evenly amongst four.
Ciggy broke the silence. “So who gets the extra cash?”
Mitch stood stiff and looked at everyone. “I don’t know.”
“Well, I did most of the work” Ciggy pointed out, stepping closer to Mitch “so I should get the rest.”
Mitch held out his huge hand to stop him from stepping closer. “We all helped, Cig. Shut up and step back.” Mitch’s tone got louder in order to maintain control.
“Danny didn’t do nothin’. He just stood there keepin watch.“ Ciggy said sarcastically. He turned his head to Danny. “ So you shouldn’t get the extras.”
Normally this comment would result in a fist fight. But Danny knew he was right. He didn’t do much, and therefore didn’t earn the seven dollars. He patted Tommy Boy’s and loudly said, “Ya know what Cig? You’re right. Tommy Boy here is the one who fished them duckets outa Richy’s pockets…he should get the extras.”
Everyone was surprised to hear Danny speak. He usually kept quiet about things except for this.
Mitch’s stood silent staring at Danny. He knew that for him to speed up about this, he must have really felt strongly on his opinion.
Ciggy walked towards Danny and yelled, “You would pick Tommy Boy! We all know he’s your favorite! Bet you tell him all your secrets huh? Damn sissy.” Ciggy looked Tommy up and down. “Well aint this a turn of events? The quiet freak speaks up and now you’re the one who aint talking.”
“Hey, leave him alone, it aint got nothing to do with him! It’s you and me Ciggy.” Danny got in front of Tommy and pushed Ciggy away. “ You just go a day without being a problem can you?” Danny laughed a little and opened his arms in a gesture of vulnerability. “Well come one, big mouth. Now’s your chance.”

Ciggy lunged toward Danny and grabbed his throat with one hand, and held the knife in the other. “Don’t think I won’t man.”
Mitch grabbed Ciggy by the torso. “Drop it Cig! Drop it now!” He knew the situation was completely out of his hands.

“ Stop Ciggy. Come on! You can have the stupid money!” Tommy slid in between Cig and Danny.

“Let go of me Mitch! I don’t need you protecting anyone!” He turned around swinging his arms. “You nosy son of a….”
A loud rip caught Danny’s attention. “Stop Cig!”
“Oh, what, Mitch!? What now?” Ciggy shrugged his shoulders up and down and realized everyone was quiet.
“Tommy!” Danny screamed and held him in his arms, lowering him to the ground.
Mitch slowly raised his hand and pointed at Ciggy’s side.
“What?” He looked down confused and saw Tommy Boy on the floor.
“You dumb bastard you never listen! Look what you did!” Danny screamed.
Ciggy looked down at his prized blade…it was bloody.

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