Smoked Out

by Lauren

Canon: Third season.

A beautiful Saturday summer afternoon... and Larry spent it indoors working on an article. He was situated with his feet propped on the coffee table, open books scattered around his bare feet, a notepad on his lap. He tapped the eraser of the pencil on the notepad and glanced toward the open window as a breeze wafted through.

Larry sighed. The sooner he finished the article, the sooner he'd let himself enjoy the gorgeous weekend. If only he could get his hand and brain on the same wavelength to finish the damn article. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans for him. He glared down at the almost finished article, then decided he'd finish it later that night. He sat forward, shuffling things around.

The apartment door opened and Balki came in. "Cousin!" He plopped himself on the end of the couch, causing Larry to fall back a little where he was sitting.

"Balki, what's wrong?" He was too excited for Larry's liking.

"Well, you know how I made friends with Vinnie, who sells all those newspapers and magazines in the little outdoor shop just down the street?"

What could this possibly lead to? Larry wondered. "Yeah?"

"He gave me this. What is it?" Balki asked, holding out an object, but held it too close and Larry went cross-eyed looking at it.

Larry backed up from it to get a real look at it. His eyes widened. "He gave you a cigarette? Why?"

"Vinnie loves them. He's always got one in the corner of his mouth. I asked him what is it and instead of answering, he gave me one. And he also gave me one of these..." Balki dug in the pocket of his shorts and pulled out a lighter. "He says they're better when you set them on fire."

"Balki, give me those things," Larry said, holding a hand out.

Balki held both items close to him. "Why? Vinnie give them to Balki."

"Why? Because smoking is a bad habit and something you're better off not knowing about."

"Really?" Balki questioned. "How do you know? Vinnie does okay."

"Have you ever heard the man cough?" Larry retorted.

"You do'n know if that has anything to do with this." Balki held up the cigarette again, but closer to himself.

"Give it to me. I don't want you using those things," Larry held out a hand again.

"Can't I make my own choice, Cousin?"

"No, you can't!"

"Why not?"

Larry hated this argument. He wished it wasn't happening. "Balki, I'm going to tell you something that no one else knows about me. I want you to listen because I'm never repeating this. Ever. Then you make your decision. Okay?"

Balki regarded the serious tone in Larry's voice. "Okay."

Larry took a deep breath before starting. "It was my Freshman year of high school. October to be exact. Most everyone had fit themselves into a little group they hung around with. There were the normal groups, like the Chess Club, the jocks, the nerds, among others... and the smokers. Unfortunately, the smokers were also considered the cool kids. Don't ask why. So, since I wasn't very good at chess, you've seen me attempt sports, I wasn't quite a nerd according to the nerds, I didn't really fit into any of the groups. I know because I tried every single one of them until finally the smokers was the only one left.

"They hung out before and after school and occasionally during lunch. I went to school early one morning. I told mom and dad I had some research to do. It wasn't completely a lie. I got there and walked over to the group. It took a few minutes before someone finally noticed me. As it turned out, it was Misty's best friend. So, since I was being used for Algebra homework at the time, I figured she was actually being nice to me. She offered me a cigarette. And I accepted it. She pulled out her lighter and lit it for me. One inhale and I think I set a world record for longest amount of time spent coughing. I thought I was going to cough up a major organ.

"By then, everyone was watching me. I'd lost out on being included in any other group in the school... so I tried inhaling again. That time, my amount of time spent coughing was cut in half. Misty's friend gave me an unceremonious slap on the back, which caused me to cough again. At that point, I was starting to have a tough time breathing normally. Basically, it felt like I was hyperventilating... and it hurt. I couldn't stop coughing, either, after that. I had to go in to see the nurse. She gave me a cup of water to drink, then told me to hold my head between my knees, and I stayed like that for about an hour. I could breathe again, but I felt sick to my stomach. Whether from the two drags of the cigarette or from coughing, I still don't know. I didn't feel right for days after that. My parents thought I had the flu, so I agreed with them. I never wanted to go through that again. I don't want you to go through something like that." Larry sat back and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm not going to tell you what you should and shouldn't do. I'm giving you the choice, but I'm going to ask that you consider what I just told you."

Balki looked at the cigarette and lighter he still held, then at Larry again. Larry turned his gaze to something on the coffee table. Balki looked at the two items again. "Maybe we can use the lighter for something else." He held out the cigarette again. "How do I get rid of this?"

The End