1. I am self-conscious of being seen by other visitors to the cemetery when I stub out a cigarette on my mother’s grave, though, to my knowledge, I’ve never been observed doing so. But if it so happened that someone were to see me and remark upon the rudeness and insensitivity of my act, I would reply: You did not know my mother. This is a tribute. She was a lifelong smoker who indulged the habit in a spirit of defiant celebration, and her death was graceful and swift.

2. In the foyer bookshelf of the house I grew up in, there was an old Guinness Book of World Records, a book filled with tall men, dwarf women, spiraling fingernails, race cars shaped like missiles flying across dusty playas. There is a picture of the man who holds the record for the most cigarettes smoked at once: 112. His mouth is a distended hole into which cigarettes have been neatly placed so they resemble an octagonal hive. I used to imagine that, without the cigarettes, the man’s mouth would naturally retain the same shape — one that suggests a ceaseless, unbearable howl — because he’d been marked by destiny for only this brief period of highly particular distinction.

Alison Schweikert
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