During a cigarette break outside my Loop office building, I noticed a stooped old man standing about three yards downwind from me. He leaned heavily on his cane, but managed to straighten up to meet my periodic exhalations of smoke.

He awkwardly gulped at the smoke, open-mouthed, like a goldfish sucking bubbles from the waterline of a dirty aquarium. He looked so ridiculous that I finally went against my usual selfish practice and offered him a cigarette.

“No thank you,” he said after pausing to catch the last puffs upon which my words floated. “I’m not allowed cigarettes anymore, and my nurse sniffs my fingers when I get back to the house. If you don’t mind, I’ll just stand here and enjoy yours secondhandedly.”

–Johnny Masiulewicz

The kid’s turning seven the next day. To warm up he’s popped for a box of bubble gum cigarettes, and now he’s got a purple one hanging off his lower lip. He looks like the junior Jean-Paul Belmondo of our local Jewel.

When Jean-Paul Jr.’s eye falls upon the cover of People magazine he can’t help seeing the Happy Couple photo of Jerry Seinfeld and his girlfriend Shoshanna.

“Say dad,” the kid chirps, “there’s Seinfeld.”

“Yes,” the father says, “and his girlfriend.”

“Know what dad?” Junior whispers confidentially through his grape-colored cheroot. “I bet they’re gonna have some S-E-X.”

The father gags and mumbles something about the benefit of marriage. He wishes it were all in French. “Listen, do you even know what S-E-X is?” he asks.

“No, not really,” the boy says. “I just know it’ll kill ya.”