by Gay Degani


Ann stares at the drapes, her mother’s drapes, pinch-pleated at the top, an ivory material called “slub” by those who know their fabrics. But, of course, these are not her mother’s curtains.

Her mother’s were steeped in years and years of cigarette fumes: Pall Malls, Lucky Strikes, Kents, Kools, and, of course, the one whose slogan exhorted, “More Doctors Smoke Camels than any other cigarette!”

Her mother’s favorite brand changed with every new tobacco ad, filtered, unfiltered, flavored.

She still remembers that pall of smoke, its acrid smell, the crinkly sound her mother’s cigarettes always made whenever she inhaled, Ann picturing that insidious vapor sidling deep and deeper into her mother’s lungs where its insistent poison settled into soft and vulnerable tissue, curdling every cell.

What if she hadn’t inhaled? What if she’d only let the smoke crouch inside her mouth, spiraling behind her teeth before releasing its insidious cloud out into their living room with its maple end tables, its fake fireplace, the cut-velvet sofa? Would her mother have died at 67?

Ann reaches out to touch these drapes that aren’t her mother’s drapes in this living room of someone she barely knows. She rubs the fabric between her thumb and forefinger. It feels like linen, it feels like a shroud. Closing her eyes, she wraps the curtain around and around herself, buries her face deep into its cold dusty smell.