It seemed like a good idea, but they always did. We had all the necessary tools. Scotch tape? Check. Loose-leaf paper? Check. Matches? Check. I could see Wally pacing outside my window, waiting, his lips moving. I knew he was debating. He sat on the curb, head hung, scooping dried leaves. I startled him, as usual. It wasn’t a hard thing to do. He was a jumpy kid who lived on raw hot dogs.
They weren’t going to be real cigarettes. I knew those stunted your growth and Wally was already nearly a midget. Homemade cigarettes were a whole different story. They wouldn’t have any chemicals in them, besides the loose-leaf paper and scotch tape. All he needed to know was that our cigarettes were “all natural”, a reassuring term to keep Wally from a complete anxiety attack.
We were both aware that trouble was always moments away. Wally’s mother did not think I was a suitable playmate and wondered how he only seemed to misbehave in my company. I was sure it was because he spent the majority of his days stooped and drooling in front of old F-Troop reruns eating Charlie Chips. They were so lazy they actually had the chips delivered. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of that.
We sat on the curb and carefully rolled the dry maple leaves into the loose-leaf paper and taped them shut. Of course I had to go first, Wally was always so nervous. I never did figure out why. I lit my cigar concoction and smoked away. I felt a little sick but knew there was a greater good involved. I couldn’t stay six forever. I made one for Wally. I thought his should be bigger. “Alive with pleasure” just like the ad said. I rolled a big, fat, log of a cigarette. He complained like he always did but relented as quickly as he disclaimed. He timidly put the cigarette to his lips, queasy with anticipation.
I lit Wally’s cigarette for him; he was afraid of matches, along with everything else. The flame barely touched the end of his cigarette and burst into flames, like the trick cigars on Bugs Bunny. The shock threw him on his back. I slapped his forehead fire out almost instantly, bangs weren’t right for him anyway. He had black soot on his face and was crying. Wally immediately got up and sprinted home.
“C’mon Wally, you’ll be fine!”
Famous last words.
That was the first time I set Walter Janesky on fire.