Skoal Tobacco

My older brother spat brown juice into the empty Gatorade bottle. His dark spit shot between his lips into the bottle. Ker-plop. His motions were subconscious, practiced.

Our family was driving to Camp Lambec, a Christian summer camp where my parents met and were married years later. That was the first time I saw my brother using tobacco. He started smoking during his first tour of duty in Afghanistan. But my parents don’t smoke cigarettes or use tobacco.

He was sitting in the backseat with me, and it was the first time I’d been able to talk to him in months. The chewing tobacco smelled like mint and beef jerky and gasoline.

My dad was driving, and I was very aware of his presence as my brother spat the juice into his bottle. I knew Dad didn’t think tobacco was healthy.

I noticed James had many small scars on his hands and forearms that weren’t there before — thin, white slash streaks and fire blossoms marring his tan skin. The deserts of Afghanistan had changed him.

Later in the weekend, we sat around the fire-pit, which stood a few yards from a drop-off to the beach. From here we had watched the sun rise and fall many times. The stones of the pit were sunk into the ground. My brother was packing a lip again.

“What kind is that?” Dad asked.

“Skoal Mint Long Cut,” he said, glancing down at the tin.

“I used to chew tobacco when I worked at the golf course,” my dad said.

My brother and I turned and focused on Dad. We had never heard this before.

“Yeah, the first time I tried it I almost threw up, but I got used to it.”

Sometimes I forget my dad was young too. I imagined Dad chewing tobacco at the golf course. I see him spitting over the side of his golf cart, his long and curly hair blowing behind him. He probably had a farmer’s tan like me. I wonder why Dad first tried tobacco and what made him keep coming back. And why did my dad quit?

My dad was a young man once — just like my brother. I need to remember that.

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  1. Anonymous

     /  October 11, 2011

    No mullet for me Jonathan…that was the 80’s. I was a product of the 70’s…think long curly hair (think Robert Plant!)

  1. Skoal Tobacco | Kids say :

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