Rebels Without Cause

by Greg Singh, in response to Anna’s growing collection of vapes

Mike sat up, awoken by the wracking cough the doctor said he’d never shift again. In the dark, and the haze of a half-remembered dream, he reached over to the bedside table, switched on the light and felt around the table’s surface. But it wasn’t there. And then he remembered: the government had banned his beloved Elfbull Ice 2%. Something about “Saving the NHS” and tackling a long-abandoned target from COP 38. Some woke nonsense. When Mike was a young man, he remembered watching old films with his grandad. Old American films featuring impossibly stylish women like Rita Hayworth, and lantern-jawed leading men like Cary Grant – who somehow always looked like he was in his fifties. There was a code in old films that forbade the showing of any kind of intimacy, so instead the likes of Rita, Cary, and the rest had to settle for a pregnant exchange of cigarettes, flirty glances and suggestion. They looked so glamorous, Mike remembered. But he also remembered that his grandad didn’t look like that when he smoked. And the SMELL. Mike never understood how people used to put up with the smell. He reasoned: well, if you smoke forty a day, you can no longer taste or smell anything – and if everyone’s getting busy being little Ritas and Carys, then Mike guessed, the smell and the taste mattered very little. And as long as you looked good doing it, then you were set.

As Mike got older, his granddad long since passed, they introduced these other things. It got to the point where Hollywood would show intimacy and violence and that was all fine. But had warnings and disclaimers if any of the characters were shown smoking. All the kids in Mike’s school were doing it: not smoking as their parents had done, but vaping: Crystal Lemon/Lime; Strawberry Cheesecake; Dinner Lady: somewhere between Irn Bru, the cleansing notion of Cillit Bang, and the comfort of an infant’s bottle. That was a good one. But it was Elfbull Ice 2%. That was Mike’s weakness. He only wanted to impress Jenny – a Crystal girl if ever there was one.