I was distinctly aware of the texture of the brick pressing against my flesh, his gloved hand around my jaw, holding me against the wall.

The night was warm out in the leatherbar’s smoking yard. Rich, smooth tones of tobacco textured the air.

The tip of his cigar flared bright as he drew in the smoke. His eyes stayed fixed on me as he took it from his lips with his free hand and, firming his grip to hold me in place with the other, leaned in close and slowly blew a thick stream of smoke into my face.

I stopped my breath, stilled my lungs.

He leaned back and began taking leisurely puffs on the cigar again. The sparse lighting shadowed his eyes under the muircap. The heat from his hand is emanating through the thin lambskin of his gloves. I can feel my veins throbbing under his fingers.

At this moment there is nothing else in the world but him. I breathe easy only at his leisure.

He comes in again, and again I have to hold my breath.

There’s no rhythm to his attacks. Some are short, some he just keeps puffing away till my eyes sting from the smoke.

He keeps me off balance. He will win this. I will choke eventually.

Eventually presses his thumb and forefinger into my jaw hinge, the slight pressure forcing my mouth open.

“Keep your mouth open. Breath in” he orders.

He takes one long, deep drag. He holds his mouth open, milliammeters from mine, and lets the smoke roll out as I obediently suck it in.

It burns my throat. My chest convulses as I choke and cough. He smiles, but he does not release his grip. Not right away.

When he does he hands me the pint glass of cola, clinking with ice.

“you did good, for your first time,” he says. A warmth of pride, of gratitude, fills me hearing his approval. “now, drink to clear your throat, and when you’re done, you can replace the taste with my boot leather.”

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