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Authors: Richard Beard

X20

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Copyright © 1996, 2011 by Richard Beard

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews or articles. All inquiries should be addressed to Arcade Publishing, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018.

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Arcade Publishing® is a registered trademark of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.®, a Delaware corporation.

This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

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www.arcadepub.com
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10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available on file.

ISBN: 978-1-61145-652-3

To Dr John Lee

It seems likely that investigators will increasingly use primates in future investigations of the relationships of hypertension, cigarette smoking, obesity, glucose intolerance, physical activity and genetic disorders.

Strong J. P. (ed) ‘Arteriosclerosis in Primates‘
in
Primates in Medicine,
Vol. 9
(S. Karger Press, 1976)

An addiction is held in place by an elaborate system of deceptions.

Gillian Riley,
How
to Stop Smoking and Stay
Stopped For Good
(Vermilion, 1992)

DAY

1

Dr William Barclay, born 7 March 1936, died 3 March 1994, aged 57. Mysterium Magnum. The principle of all generation is separation, he used to say.

Distract your mind. Take up a new hobby. Occupy your hands.

He said that the Mosaic Virus could sweep through a field of sweet tobacco leaves or potatoes or tomatoes in a single day, causing devastation to entire agricultural eco-systems.

Try not to think about it. Spend time in public places. Keep very very busy all day long.

{365 × 20 × 10} + {2 × 20} (leap years). Equals exactly 73,040. Plus 17 irregulars. Not give or take, not approximately, but exactly seventy-three thousand and fifty-seven. All the same, it's difficult to prove.

Walter once told me that the old steam-trains in the old days, all steamed up and stretching homewards, used to say Cigarettes tch tch, Cigarettes tch tch. The sound of a train then, an old train on an old track, steaming homewards, smoking.

I knew about this, the concentration. That concentration would be part of the problem. That a restless, dissatisfied mind would rip from one dissatisfaction to the next, like a child stuck in a hawthorn tree in a high wind, on a high hill, in winter. At night.

Lucy Hinton, big-bellied and surrounded by children. The back of her head turns into a chimney, the blackened smoke-stack of a steam train, steaming smoke-signals saying, at the very least, good-bye.

Steer clear of friends who smoke. Repress your desire.

Feeding the dog would distract the mind. Scientists experiment with animals to save people like me from unnecessary discomfort.

Julian Carr, Dr Julian Carr, went to work in his sister's bra.

Breathe deeply. Indulge yourself in every other way.

Always boxes of Carmen No 6, and never soft-packs, although at one time soft-packs were very fashionable, especially in Paris, where I once was.

I hate and despise more things than I can name. My lungs ache. Avoid tense situations. Use public transport.

In the flat where we used to live above Lilly's Pasty Shop, Theo would hop once and jump once and Lilly would bring up a Jumbo Pasty No Chips. He had a range of jigs for different orders, and I swear the cat could recognize the step which meant cod.

I wonder if Dr Julian Carr would have made my parents happy if he'd been their only child instead of me. The Hamburg episode notwithstanding.

Carmen No 6 in endless white boxes, on the beds and tables and chairs, in all the pockets of my life. The logo of black castanets, in silhouette, looks like a split scallop shell. Nowadays, the sign of the double Castanet is most often seen beside the air-intake of Formula 3 racing-cars, or discreetly positioned in posters for the English National Opera.

He once said you can change the world and I said no you can't.

There is also hypnosis, aversion therapy, psychoanalysis, acupuncture, electric shock treatment, and possible conversion to the Seventh Day Adventist Church, who maintain that cigarettes are an invention of hell itself.

My name is Gregory Simpson. I am thirty years old. I'm trying to keep my hands occupied.

DAY

2

Some time ago, when I was still a teenager, my parents were proud of the fact that I didn't smoke. Each time I promised never to start they would congratulate me on my good sense, then stare silently for several seconds at the memory of my Uncle Gregory. My Uncle Gregory died of cancer at the age of 48, in the winter of 1973.

Every Christmas, before my uncle died, my father used to light a King Edward cigar at the beginning of the Queen's speech. He used to lean back in his chair, four fingers along the top of the cigar, smoking as happily as King Edward. Now, whenever I see the Queen, she smells of Christmas cigar smoke.

Thirteen years ago, in what turned out to be my only year at University, I was allocated a room in the William Cabot Hall of Residence for Men. My next door neighbour was Julian Carr, who smoked Buchanan's Centuries.

The wall between our two rooms was institutionally thin, and whenever Julian had visitors, which was often, it was easy to follow the steep gradients of his impressive voice. The smoke from his cigarettes and the cigarettes of his friends would gradually seep under the adjoining wall, over it, round the sides of it, right through the plaster which held it together. My mother would have called it attempted murder.

Julian Carr was studying medicine. His degree was being sponsored by the Buchanan Imperial Cigarette Company. All his Buchanan cigarettes were therefore free, and he chose to smoke their Century brand, blended and manufactured exclusively in Hamburg.

Almost exactly ten years ago, recently returned from Paris, I met Dr William Barclay in the grounds of the Long Ashton Tobacco Research Unit, just outside the city.

‘Call me Theo,' he said. ‘Everyone else does.'

It was February and it was cold and we were both smoking cigarettes: the Research Unit corridors and labs were strict No Smoking zones. My cigarette, obviously, was a Carmen No 6. His was a Celtique from a pack he'd bought in French Guyana. It was cold enough to confuse breathing with smoking.

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