I’ve been smoking since I could hold a spoon. Mom and Gramps used to leave cigarettes burning in ashtrays all over the house, so I never even had to struggle to find a light. My first puff, I didn’t even cough. It’s like I was born to smoke. Dad smokes too, Marlboro Red pack. Mom and Gramps, ultra lights. Me, I’m not picky—as long as it’s lit, I’ll smoke it. Except for Camels. Just because I’m 9 doesn’t mean I like all cartoon characters.

Most of the time, I’d smoke right in the same room with my parents and Gramps and they never even noticed. In fact, the house was so filled with smoke, I wasn’t even sure what they looked like until the winter of ‘98. A huge blizzard hit, we ran out of cigarettes, and we couldn’t get the car out of the driveway. Gramps headed out anyway but had to turn back. I still don’t understand why they don’t make snow tires for wheelchairs. So, there we were, home together with nothing to smoke, and I got my first real look at everyone. Mom was ugly, Dad was uglier, and Gramps looked just like a lizard. It was a bad scene, but I learned a lot of really good swear words.

I tried to quit when I was 7. The nicotine gum was great, but I got addicted to that too. My bitch second-grade teacher, Mrs. Moore, kept making me spit it out, so I had to go back to smoking. I made friends with Jesse the janitor. He had a nice little office. Actually, it was a utility closet, but for an ex-con, he really knew how to class things up. Anyway, he gave me an extra key in return for the Devil Dogs Mom packed in my lunchbox every day. He said they were really tasty. I don’t know, everything tastes the same to me.

It was a great situation, I thought it would last forever, but I got caught thanks to Beamus McQuethy. I guess he pulled his head out of Mrs. Moore’s ass just long enough to spy on me. One day, after a very enjoyable cigarette, I came out of the utility closet and the two of them were standing right there with the principal. I thought the whole thing was totally funny until I found out that Jesse got fired and had to go work for Wal-Mart.

I tried to quit again when I was 8. Not that I wanted to, but it was getting harder and harder to pull this off. Once they installed smoke detectors in the bathrooms, I decided to try the patch. Jesse hooked me up with a whole case. They actually worked for a few days, but I needed more and more of them to keep my cravings away. One day, I had on so many, it looked like I was wearing some kind of weird sweater. Everybody thought it was cool, though, which really pissed off Beamus. He wasn’t in my class that year, but as a “hall monitor,” he was assigned to watch my every move between classes. The last time I saw him, he was pouring nail-polish remover on all the pennies I Krazy Glued to the floor outside the science lab. Since the cheap school still hasn’t hired another janitor, Beamus got stuck with all the hallway-related stuff. Rumor has it, when his father smelled nail-polish remover on him, he put him in military school. I think that’s what they call karma.

With Beamus out of the picture, I’ve been free to enjoy my butts under the stairway near the auditorium. It’s my new favorite place to smoke. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll outgrow it, but I’m not growing very much, so it seems unlikely.