Athena so cold was a mystery
To a satyr whose letches were blistery
So he reached in her cowl
And petted her owl
He used to be myth. Now he's history

Joe Wrobel

Dying 4 a Smoke

Jason Blurn looks like any other 26 year old American: stupid. Even with the shackles on his wrists and armed guards next to him, he seems more like an idiot bagger who mangles your groceries at the local supermarket than a history-making criminal. But whole world is watching this man as he sits in the courtroom, alternately picking his nose and studying what comes out of it. Because if Jason Blurn is found guilty, he'll be the first person sent to the electric chair for smoking.

How did Jason Blurn find himself poised to be bumped off for butts? Experts agree that the criminalization of smoking began with the Surgeon General's report in the early 60's which turned what had an unhealthy, disgusting habit, into an officially unhealthy, disgusting habit. Smoking was soon restricted to specific small areas of restaurants, planes and so forth, the now famous "nicotine ghettos." But even these vanished with the passage of legislation that made it unlawful to smoke anywhere.

The final nail in the smoker's coffin was the Deedle Act of 2021, which reasoned that if smoking was so incredibly illegal, anyone doing it had to be right up there with murderers and rapists in the nastiness department, and deserved to die. However this the ultimate punishment had never been asked of anyone until Jason Blurn came along and started puffing in Paramus.

Too bad the McBlockbuster's on Route 17 in Paramus, New Jersey didn't have one more copy of " Jurassic Park IV: The Final Feeding" the day Jason Blurn stopped in for a McMunch N'Movie Mega Meal. If they had, maybe none of this would have happened. As it was, the film was out, and Blurn was upset. The manager asked him to leave. Blurn refused. Words were exchanged and finally Blurn left, driving off in a 2011 Dodge Laser Wagon. But three hours later he returned and, without a word, pulled a four inch long unfiltered cigarette from under his coat and lit it.

The McBlockbuster's customers fled in panic, screaming, "Yaaaaaa! A smoker!" and "Look out! He's got a cigarette." Police hastily cordoned off the area. Seconds later a SWAT team burst in and wrestled him to the ground. Jason Blurn was arrested and charged with one count of first degree smoking and forty counts of conspiracy to create an open flame, one count for each match he possessed. Donald Pherimone, the District Attorney handling the case, indicated he would seek the death penalty, "as sure as chew follows bite." The trial got underway on a raw, bleak morning. District Attorney Pherimone felt the case against Blurn was as open-and-shut as "a clam with an attitude problem."

But Jason Blurn wasn't entirely defenseless. Ed "Red" Tibbetts, the wily, grizzled veteran of many such "hopeless" court battles, was representing Blurn. (Attracted by the celebrity status of the case -- and a chance to finally get on the Letterman show -- Dave at 104 was still going strong.) Tibbetts immediately sought a directed verdict of innocent by virtue of insanity. "After all," he said, "who but a stone-crazy nut-job would smoke?"

The judge hearing the case -- long-time capital punishment zealot Kathleen "Nuke 'Em" Nolan -- was considering the argument, but Pherimone countered brilliantly, reminding the Court that Blurn had used an unfiltered cigarette in committing his crime, and that anyone who could figure out which end of an unfiltered cigarette to light "couldn't be that whacked out." Tibbetts' motion was denied. The trial went forward.

The case wasn't without controversy. A group calling itself the New Respiratory Alliance (NRA for short) insisted that smoking was absolutely safe and a constitutional right. Their members protested on the courthouse steps carrying signs reading, "Cigarettes don't kill people. Guns kill people." Indeed, public opinion was divided on what to do with Jason Blurn: 47% said to "fry him," while 41% thought he should simply be wrapped in a giant nicotine patch.

By the time final arguments were made, things looked bleak for the defendant. (Very bleak: Judge Nolan was seen sporting a "Bye Bye Blurn" T-shirt under her robe.) Nevertheless, District Attorney Pherimone, taking nothing for granted, delivered a blistering summation, pointing at the accused and commanding the jury to "Look at this man! He can barely look at me in the eye, and not just because I'm a lot taller than he is. It's because he knows he's a vicious, cold-blooded smoker! Who doesn't?" His upper lip twisted into an Elvisoid sneer.

"Ask anyone. Ask the guy who's writing this article. They'll tell you about a terminal loser who deliberately returned to a crowded McBlockbuster store and filled the air with smoke. And what did the cheese-faced little twerp do, as people ran screaming for their lives? He laughed, then looked for an ashtray. An ashtray!"

"What would have been next? A pipe, a cigar? God only knows, but he's not telling. The point is, Jason Blurn is a monster who must pay for what he's done, and you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, get to send him the bill. And it'll be a whopper, because we all know there's only one thing to do with a fiend who terrorizes a gentle, peace-loving society like ours...send him to the electric chair." The jury seemed impressed by Pherimone's plea, if the standing ovation they gave him was any indication.

The Ed Tibbetts rose to speak. A hush fell over the courtroom. The defense attorney stood behind Blurn, who was making odd, whimpering noises and staring fixedly at the evidence bag. Tibbetts put a comforting hand on Blurn's shoulder. "This is no monster," he said, smiling sadly at the jury. "He's just a messed-up young man. And who hasn't been a messed-up young man at some point in their lives? We all have...even the women." A few of the female jurors nodded. "Now I'm not saying my client's a saint. In fact, I doubt he can even spell the word. But I'll tell you this much; whatever trouble he's gotten into, his folks are to blame. They were rougher on this boy than a chainsaw on an omelette. Because, what they really wanted to raise was tobacco, not a child. In fact there was so much cigarette smoke in the Blurn house, Blanton and Brenda Blurn never knew they even had a son until Jason was seven. Smoking was all the Blurns cared about. Imagine growing up playing second fiddle to a bunch of rolled up paper tubes. It's enough to make you see red...or pick up a cigarette yourself."

Tibbetts snatched up the bag of incriminating smokes, held them over his head, and thundered, "Which my client did! But he's no criminal. He's a victim himself. Of lousy parents, and an even lousier habit. So you must find him innocent. Look at him, shivering and sweating. Is this a total loser? You bet he is! But he's a loser with hope, because I've come to know Jason Blurn, and while I personally can't stand the man, I can assure you that he'll never touch another cigarette for as long as he lives!" At which point Blurn vaulted from his chair and lunged for the evidence bag.

Guards instantly pounced on him, but Blurn fought on which demonic fury, shrieking, "I've gotta have them!" When it was clear his struggle was hopeless, he cursed the Judge and the jury and vowed that, given the chance, he'd "fire up a butt in every hospital, school and movie theater in the stinking country. Suck that smoke, turkeys!" Judge Nolan gaveled for order, had Blurn manacled, then charged the jury to "get this over with quick."

A month later, Midnight, Blurn is strapped to a chair bearing arm and leg restraints, electrodes, and a 12.7 energy efficiency rating, according to the sticker on the back. Blurn is asked if he has any last requests. "Yeah," he says, "Gimme a cigarette." One is placed between his lips. He smiles and asks, "Got a light?" The switch is thrown.

Outside, a puff of smoke rose from the prison. It wasn't clear if it was from burning tobacco or scalp, but one thing was certain: Jason Blurn paid the ultimate price for a pack of cigarettes...and the whole world could exhale in relief.

David Smilow

You Come In for a Bud or an Absolut Martini

After a day hard as a tax collector's eyes,
You come in for a Bud or an Absolut martini. Who
is sitting in the corner, but Falstaff, or a guy who looks like Falstaff, he's
wearing a plumed hat for Christsakes. His buddies are carrying swords and
laughing and yelling, and none of the off-duty cops, who usually clutter the
place like reject rocks from Stonehenge are anywhere to be seen.
Falstaff, or the guy who looks like Falstaff, cuts a monster fart. His buddies
snicker loudly and continue yelling. One lifts his flintlock and shoots a
hole in the ceiling. Even the commodities brokers just laugh.
Do you understand what's going on?
No! You just bragged to your shrink
about a raise you didn't get,
so he wouldn't think you were failure at everything
and he raised his fee to $125 an hour,
or rather 45 minutes.

The new waitress comes over (she's unneeded). She introduces herself. Her
name is Lizzie Borden. She tells you right off she is having trouble with her
parents. She says the new cook's name is Typhoid Mary and warns you not to
eat any of the happy hour hors d'oeuvres. She tells you
she feels guilty about serving "that food," but that she has to make a
living. She adds it would be okay to tip her for not serving you,
and hands you a pamphlet on ovolactovegetarianism.
And what hors d'oeuvres you see, actually look good. They've always been
good and you haven't eaten since breakfast!

There is a large, long-eared animal sitting at the bar. It's not a rabbit,
but you don't know what it is. A couple of famous ball players, guys you've
always wanted to meet, are talking to the damn thing. They don't even look
your way. Half the world walks by outside. All those ethnic groups, you got
nothing against, but don't exactly love like you are supposed to either. And
the homosexual next to you tries to start up a conversation with you in
Spanish. You figure he thinks you're Puerto Rican!

And you remember not remembering Babe Ruth or Whitey Ford, and you never had
a championship season.
Outside the day is still as hard as a tax collector's eyes.
What can you do?
Your days off are as bad as your days on. Your kids go a couple of beats
before they remember you. "Oh...hi...Dad...! And you see the same pause
at work every day, only they see you all the time, and they still forget your
And your best buddy gets drunk and confesses that the best sex
he ever had was with your wife. He says
it was before you two got married,
but you don't believe him,
you seem to remember, they didn't know each other
before you got married.

And you realize other best friend, the bartender, has not only been
not ringing them all up (everybody has to make a living ), he's been
short changing you! You discover the drinks only cost half of what you've
been paying for the last eleven years!
He tries to explain, but how can he...?
And Gooden is pitching and the Mets are losing. And the one guy who looks
even half sympathetic (the rest are Yankee fans) is the gay guy from Honduras
and what he really wants to talk about is politics -- political repression in
Honduras! And you don't want to hear about it -- they're allies after all.
He is not even trying to pick you up. He doesn't like your looks.
Well It could be worse!
You could be living in the gutter. You could have too little money for an
tax collector to tax,
too little brain for shrink to shrink.
You could be the only non-homosexual, non-bisexual, non-Haitian, non-drug
addict, non-hemophiliac, non-health worker, non-heterosexual in America to
have AIDS!
You never tried to help anybody ever.
You don't even have sex with your wife
much less anyone else.
And you still have it! Just somehow you have it! You got
it from a toilet seat! You're the only one in human history!

Things could be worse!
Then again, they could be a hell of a lot better....
It's still as hard as the taxman's eyes out there.
Have a nice day!

Stephen Williamson

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