Saturday, September 24, 2005

Boil 1.67

Not long after their exile to the rooftops, the Wisps of Ardisht realized that they would soon run out of matches to light their beloved cigarettes. They kept a chalk-line count on the side of the tallest chimney. Five hundred. The next day three hundred. The next day one hundred. They rationed them, burned them down to the striker's fingers, trying to light at least thirty cigarettes with each. When they were down to twenty matches, lighting became a ceremony. By ten, the women were crying. Nine. Eight. The clan leader dropped the seventh off the roof by accident, and proceeded to throw his own body after it in shame. Six. Five. It was inevitable. The fourth was blown out by a breeze - a gross oversight by the new clan leader who also plunged to his death, although his nosedive was not of his own choosing. Three: We will die without them. Two: It's too painful to go on. And then, in the moment of deepest desperation, a grand idea emerged, devised by a child, no less: simply make sure that there is always someone smoking. Each cigarette can be lit from the previous one. As long as there is a lit cigarette, there is the promise of another. The glowing ash end is the seed of continuity! Schedules were drawn up: dawn duty, morning smoke, lunchtime puffer, midafternoon and late-afternoon assignments, crepuscular puller, lonely midnight sentinel. The sky was always lit with at least one cigarette, the candle of hope.
J. S. Foer, Everything is illuminated, 136-147.


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