The Left-Handed Smoker
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The Left-Handed Smoker

VOL. III: ... yielding nature ...

 Frankie Metro
 Frankie Metro
The Left-Handed Smoker
by Frankie Metro  FollowFollow
Frankie Metro lives in the bowels of the Route 66 Basement Studio, located in the farthest reaches of the Chihuahua desert. His first more The Anarchist's Blac Book of Poetry is now available via Crisis Chronicles Press:
The Left-Handed Smoker
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THE I-CHING OR BOOK OF CHANGES: The Richard Wilhelm Translation rendered into English by Cary F. Baynes: Bollingen Series XIX: Princeton University Press (Pg. 56) 13. T'ung Jen/ Fellowship with Men _________ _________ (above CH'IEN THE CREATIVE, HEAVEN) _________ ____ ____ (below LI THE CLINGING, FLAME) _________ "...It is the nature of fire to flame up to Heaven. This gives the idea of fellowship. It is the second line that by virtue of its central character, unites the five strong lines around it...In the latter, danger is within and obedience without-The character of a warlike army, which, in order to hold together, needs one strong man among the many who are weak. Here, clarity is within and strength without-The character of a peacefull union of men, which in order to hold together, needs one yielding nature among many firm persons..."
If I were to say that Pablo loved the sound of his own voice, this would be a severe understatement. In fact, one could almost gather the impression, if one were so inclined, that either because of his enabled obesity on behalf of his loving wife, or because of his overall insecurity, that Pablo could never fill a room with enough boasting & calculations.
Each day arrived at a new sum, which would either carry him across the North/Southwest for drunken rendezvous with potential "investors" (such introductions were usually brokered by Marissa) or break the bank for the week, spoiling the usual festivities held at the house.
Each passing minute was a hazy tabulation of Frequent Flyer Miles, Disney Reward Points, or coupon clipping sessions at the dining room table. Each tedious second was mulled over, while he hovered atop a bag of Low Calorie Doritos, or Low Fat Snack Well Cakes, only to gorge himself as soon as it struck noon on Saturday, but only after the weigh-in at Weight Watchers earlier...
The volume was always at maximum capacity on one of the three flatscreens inside the house, a fact that was disturbingly well known from the sleek Panasonic centerpiece in the partitioned living room, which was only a couple of feet away from the kitchen at all times.
The surround sound system and state of the art kegerator, (a gift from Pablo's father, who worked for a well known Brewery/Distributor somewhere in Portland) were two possessions he was quite proud of, inviting all (who he would later count upon for reciprocal donations) to drink from the tap freely... as long as it was in moderation of course.

Every announcement was at the top of his lungs, so as the neighbors could appreciate what a fortuitous life Pablo and Marissa led. Every night was a new reason to celebrate. Every penny was accounted for and the days bled on that way for quite some time.
"I just got Band of Brothers-the entire box set!-on DVD, so we can get fucked up and watch that shit my niggas!"
He would often say such things and awkwardly raise his glistening palm in the air for a high-five.
"Wait until you hear the gunfights down here man...fucking incredible!"
I was never sure if it was the greasy fingers or the fatty display of arrogance and materialism that sickened me more...

The house was in Marissa's name, and many things inside exhumed her taste and general sensibility; the Pampered Chef glass cutting boards and the overpriced Fiesta Wear... the Mickey Mouse Plastic Thermos Cups, and the complimentary Pampered Chef food scale, the notorious wine rack and the pink bath puff dangling over the shower curtain. The Jeep Cherokee Commander was in her name. The 2009 Toyota Corolla was in her name. The dogs, were purchased at a range between $150 and $350 a piece, bought for/ and paid by Marissa.
But Pablo kept count of the daily calorie intake, measuring the carbohydrates, the sugar content versus the volume of salt needed for basic meal preparation; rationing each portion of chicken or beef into seven gram Freezerlock bags and placing them neatly in a row- a row of seven for each day of the week, or sometimes only five, taking in consideration only Monday-Friday.
Most of the time there was no evidence that this arrangement, a nuptial agreement which was clearly beneficial for their mutual obsessive- compulsive disorders (Pablo's compulsive hoarding and obsessive counting, Marissa's compulsive spending and her obsession with food and culinary utensils) bared any strain on the relationship.
However, Pablo was only allowed to drink on the weekends, and like his close scrutiny of Marissa's eating habits, he was watched with equal attention, as he ingested one Miller Lite Tall Boy after another. Typically, he would then show his real teeth, if they happened to be sharpened that day, being profusely vulgar in his sense of humor and Marissa would mostly laugh along with him, or also grit her canines. The key word here is: typically.

One night, after a long weekend gathering of Marissa's family, Pablo went to sleep in his bed, still mulling over the events of the last evening- something his father had clearly warned him about during the wedding held at the Cristo Rey Parish in Santa Fe, a Roman Catholic church her mother attended at the time.
"Never go to sleep angry mi-jo." Marco Culebra whispered in his son's ear during a random toast at the reception. "And don't let her go to bed pissed off either. Especially that. Trust me. It had a lot to do with what happened between me and your mother"
On many nights this patriarchial promise held great bearing with Pablo's interactions in regards to his own wife. But on the night in question, he had consumed what he thought was four too many, or someone at the party had called four too many, or seven perhaps, and he had not behaved in the most appropriate manner, considering there were a few small children in attendance who, thankfully, remained inside and upstairs in the loft playing video games. Some of the children were too small to speak and understand, but they could still mimic sounds and [sic] well known, some curse words are easily picked up at a very young age.
Usually, Pablo's inebriated escapades were briskly limited to sporadic slurred speech patterns and bouts of tone deafness. That night had been a somewhat different affair, mainly because the occasion was a little unsettling for the gracious host.

Marissa's brother: Hector, his wife and teenage daughter (whose names were never brought up during my stay) had come later than the other guests, arriving somewhere around 6:45, whereas everyone else had arrived by 6:00 p.m. The toast of that particular evening, Hector's family had planned to celebrate his recent graduation from the New Mexico Police Academy, which was something that subconsciously made Pablo feel on edge as the night progressed.
Marissa's mother Elena, and her new husband: Cesar Revenga, were also present but had resigned themselves to floating around the house, clinging to Marissa/Hector's every step and shying away from unnecessary contact with Pablo, who of course felt threatened by the display; specifically the admiration being shown to Hector, who referred to Cesar as Pops throughout the night.
Pablo watched as he called the old man: "Pops" fourteen times while showing him his newly purchased Diamond Archery Outlaw TSN Bow (with vibration- dampening carbon rod string stop and InVelvet protective coating). It was camouflaged to fit the terrain of the Rockies, and Hector regaled his step-father with tales from a ranch located somewhere in Moffat County, Colorado, where Hector went on excursions hunting for pronghorn, elk, and mule deer.
Pablo watched on from the kitchen, his left arm-fist deep in the ass end of a turkey.
He watched as Cesar nodded with approval, while his brother-in-law blathered on and on about hunting and fishing and shooting and the academy and the cadets; making plans to go hunting, making plans to go fishing, making plans to go to the range or come by the station and meet some of the boys...
Pablo suddenly thought of his own father, and how Marco Culebra never took his son to do any of those things, and how he hadn't seen his dad in several months. He opened another beer, after thoroughly packing the stuffing into the turkey with a blinding series of rabbit punches. They were all precise- unseen to the naked eye.

The turkey was not for the party, but meticulously prepped for the dinner taking place two days from then, which was the following Tuesday. It weighed 8 lbs. & 10.21 ounces exactly, and was not cut into portions until Monday evening.

Sunday's menu was a tantalizing meal to say the least. A large rack of spare pork ribs marinated for two days in a tangy honey-barbecue sauce, (a special sauce procured from The Fiery Foods Show some weeks prior, when Pablo, Marissa and Erwin had made the trip).
Also there was barbecue chicken, which was flame-basted with a garlic/honey concoction and a portion of French dressing added for flavor balance. This was a failed experiment, and so there would be plenty of left over pollero when all the lights would go out at the end of the night.
As appetizers: Sopapillas (with honey) Green chile salsa (with tortillas) Multi-bean soup Mashed potatoes Bacon-wrapped jalapeños and a fruit tray (stockpiled with watermelon, mango, apple, cucumber, and orange slices).
This was also hardly touched during the meal.
The chicken did not take as long to cook as previously anticipated, which worried Pablo who feared Salmonella poisoning more than any other person he knew. While removing the last of the wings from the fire, he juggled the plate in one hand and unscrewed the top of another aluminum beer bottle with the other, chugging it immediately and making his way into the kitchen, where Elena watched the abhorrent way he carried himself.
"He shouldn't be drinking so fast." She nudged Marissa in the ribs, which didn't hurt, but was clearly agitating to the hostess. "He's going to get sloppy and then-"
"Don't worry about it mom. I'll take care of it." Marissa assured her.
Elena simply sat and watched as Pablo stumbled into the kitchen counter, holding a large knife and a plate full of ruined pollero.
"I used to tell myself the same thing, when people would mention your father... But, I never said it out loud." Elena replied sternly.
Marissa said nothing, and soon left the table to find another spot in the house to congregate. It didn't take long for Elena to follow her lead.

"Hey Pablo! You got any cards carnal?" Hector yelled into the kitchen from the patio. Hector, who unlike Pablo did not drink, preferred mostly the company of immediate family and purely wholesome, engaging board games to pass the time in amusement.
"I think so." Pablo shuddered, poking his flushed, swollen face out the sliding glass door to respond to the inquiry; a face plagued with questions, five o' clock shadow and a weak soul patch on his chin; a face that had all but given up hope of connection with the others, whose smiles were effervescent and moderately genuine. "If not-" he rustled through one of the cabinet drawers, "maybe I can go across the street and-" Sure enough, much to Pablo's dismay, lying atop a mesh of Ethernet cables, loose screws and petty change, was a pack of cards he had brought back from The Luxor Hotel and Casino during their last visit to Vegas.
"Never mind. Yeah. I found some."

"It's called MAFIA." explained Hector, shuffling the cards in his hands while eyeing the spare ribs with his peripheral vision. The attention to the ribs was a duty Pablo had seceded to him earlier, per Hector's request. There was the sound and smell of sizzling fat that tinged the dusk over the mountains, while he went over the rules of the game. Pablo remained motionless and completely beside himself with mounting insecurity.
"So what you do is: each person gets one card, and the cards are drawn blind from the deck, and we only use the King, Queen, Jack and Ten of each suit. The Kings are Mafia. The Queens are Nurses. The Jacks are Police and the Tens are Citizens. Now, you can use other numbers for Citizens, and you could use all four suits for Kings, Queens and Jacks, if there were more players, but since there are only seven of us, we'll only use two Kings, one Queen, one Ten, and two Jacks."
Pablo nodded along with the instructions, yet it wasn't altogether clear on whether he actually comprehended the rules, and truth be told, Hector noticed as much while he brushed the ribs with a remaining portion of the honey marinade he had brought along.
"Now you don't show your card, or who you are, until the moderator says so, which doesn't happen until everyone closes their eyes at the signal. That way, the Mafia knows the Mafia, the Police know the Police e.t.c. I'll be the moderatior for the first couple of rounds, just until everyone gets the hang of it."
At this, Cesar, who had been sitting quietly in a corner of the patio, watching on and sipping his Tecate, spoke up.
"I think I've played this game before."
Hector's eyes lit up like C-4 explosions- a dampened radiance emitting from a crumbling wall.
"Really? You know Pops, we may have played that one night at mom's house. I can't remember..."
This, of course, was not true. Marissa knew that for a fact, but remained quiet about the error in her brother's memory.
"But, getting back to the game, I'll say something like: Revengaville, go to sleep. and everyone will close their eyes, and then I'll say: Mafia, wake up. and the Mafia will open their eyes, and I'll ask: Mafia, who do you want to kill? and the Mafia will point to who they want to kill.
Then I say: Mafia, go to sleep.
and the Mafia closes their eyes."
"Yes! I've definitely played this before." Cesar chimed in.
"I thought so." replied Hector.
"Next, I'll say: Police, wake up. and the Police will open their eyes.
I'll ask: Police, who do you want to investigate? and the Police will point to who they think is the Mafia. But all the decisions for Police and Mafia have to be unanimous. They can only pick one suspect or one victim per round. So the Police will pick out their choice for Mafia and I'll say: Police, go to sleep. Then, I say: Nurse, wake up.
and I ask the Nurse: Who do you want to save? and since there is only one Nurse, the decision is easy. No arguing, right Pablo?"
Hector slugged Pablo in the bi-cep, which hurt, although he would not admit it openly. He just shrugged it off and chuckled to avoid embarrassment over the fact.
"And once everyone has made their picks I'll say: Revengaville, wake up. Finally, I tell everyone that: Last night, there was a stabbing, or a shooting, or a fire- a murder in Revengaville and sadly to say, so and so was killed. The Police have arrested suspected Mafioso, blah blah and whose name I call, is out of the game."
"What about the Citizen?" asked Pablo.
"What about 'em?" replied Hector. "The Citizen doesn't really do anything, except try to stay alive at the end of it all. The real objective-" Hector made a gesture with both hands symbolizing quotation marks. "is to find all the Mafia before they kill everyone in Revengaville. That's it. Simple enough for you?"
Everyone, besides Pablo, laughed at Hector's slight.
"Hahahaha! I'm just yanking your chain carnal."
Pablo let out another agreeable chuckle and said:
"No, I get it. It sounds fun. Did you guys play this game at the Academy or some shit?" He slapped Hector on the back with a hefty impact behind it. Hector just stared at him blankly.
"Heh. Yeah, something like that."

Cesar was very pleased with their condition, when Hector removed the spare ribs from the grill, although, truth be told, he had noticed that there was no beef cooked at the party, which did not upset him per say, but made him curious and feel out of place somewhat, considering the tenure he spent working for the Farmer John's Meat Packing Plant (located in Tucson) before being laid off when they closed their doors in 2001.
Cesar was one of many employees whose job it was to assist in the overall butchering process. When a cow was brought in, it was the duty of some to kill it by shooting a bolt screw through the brain, which was considered an instantaneous and humane means of slaughter.
However, as Cesar Revenga could still picture with a peculiar fondness, the brain-dead cows would sometimes kick and wriggle spastically after the death blow, and then their feet were tied to giant hooks and their carcasses pushed on down the production line, where someone else would be waiting.
Cesar remembered that there were propane heaters scattered throughout the plant as a cost-effective means of keeping the employees warm during the Winter months, and he saw the cows still tied to the hooks with the red light blinking in their vacant eyes.
The cows' stomachs were then cut open and their intestines were removed in preparation for the Slicer, whose duty was never really witnessed, in action, by Cesar.
Typically, cows that were brought into the plant, were not carrying calves, seeing as how a farmer could easily make more money from the calf being carried to term, rather than a two-for the price of-one deal with the butcher.
But on occasion, and this Cesar Revenga could still see with utmost clarity, there would be a fluke turn of events and when the cow's insides were exposed... still squirming in the womb of a brain-dead vessel, was the frightened glare of an underdeveloped calf.
Upon this discovery, the calf was promptly removed and sent down the line, along with the rest of the meat, to the Slicer, who would do his estranged work, and send back cutlets of veal, for those in attendance on that shift.
They were then placed atop the propane heaters to cook, and everyone seemed more productive after they had finished the meal, hardly stopping to chew in the first place. ... Most tender piece of veal I ever tasted...
thought Cesar, as Marissa came outside to remind him that the banquet was hot and ready.
to be continued...



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