My senior year in high school, up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I had a crush on a girl named Nancy. She was the daughter of the school’s athletic coach, and had all the Nordic attributes a Norwegian scion like me could want: pale blond hair; pert, upturned nose; shimmering blue eyes; and somehow she managed to look gorgeous in a parka.
I didn’t think I could ever date her, but I found out that her Achilles heel was smoking. In direct defiance of her father, who continually threatened every athlete under his jurisdiction with a sincere beating if he ever caught them with a cigarette, she would light up a Benson & Hedges menthol and puff away as soon as she was out of school and at least ten feet away from her terrible father.
I heard her one day complain about how hard it was to come by ciggies, since back in those days the tobacco laws were not only draconian but strictly enforced across the board.
But I had an ace in the hole, since I worked at a grocery store part-time, stocking shelves, and had complete access to all the tobacco merchandise.
So I began giving her a carton of Benson & Hedges menthols once a week, usually on Monday – by which time she had gone at least part of the weekend starved for nicotine.
She was grateful. She was more than grateful; we briefly became a couple, even though I didn’t smoke at all. It made me cough and sneeze something fierce.
But it was a fool’s paradise. Or you might say that crime doesn’t pay. Any cliché you want.
The long and short of it was the storekeeper I worked for inevitably found out about the missing inventory, put two and two together, and tossed me out on my ear.
No ciggies meant no romance with Nancy. She dumped me like a plate of cold lutefisk the first week of November.
I recall that particular Thanksgiving and after as being extremely cold, nasty, brutal, and, on my part, rather goatish in the imagination.
But at least I learned never again to romance a woman who smokes.