He took the last Kool from the day’s fourth pack,
wadded up what was left
and hurled it
at the wastebasket in the corner
like it was a hundred yards away,
then lit up
and inhaled so deeply
that when he finally exhaled
it was just warm air.

When the old man died,
I got his Zippo lighter,
a love of whiskey,
a joy of cursing,
a sense of duty,
and a bit of his unmatched ability
to carry an ill-defined grudge.
I’d forgotten that scene—
the one where he throws an empty pack
across the room at the waste basket—
but then just last night
the wind battered the metal shed
out back where he used to go to smoke,
the door on its noisy hinges blowing
open and shut, open and shut.

J. Talmadge’s work has appeared in a number of literary magazines and journals, including The Sewanee Review, The Texas Quarterly, Miramar, and The Atlanta Review. An award-winning singer/songwriter, he has recorded 7 studio albums for 3 labels. He is retired from the practice of law and lives in Austin.