Published in Playboy magazine in November 2012.
As I look at the barn in my ninth decade, I see the no-smoking sign, rusted and tilting on the unpainted gray clapboard. My grandfather, born in 1875, milked his cattle there a century ago. Neither of my grandparents smoked. I don’t know when my grandfather nailed up the sign, but I know why. Sometimes a tramp would dodge inside the barn after dark to sleep on a bed of hay, and once my grandfather found cigarette ash when he climbed to the tie-up in the morning. It doesn’t take much to burn down a barn. Whenever I focus on the sign, white letters against red, I pull a cigarette from the pack beside me, flick my Bic and take a drag.