Someone asked: "What was the trigger that made you decide
you were going to change from being a smoker to a non-smoker?"
What did it for me was... definitely the tigers.

Looking back on it all, I'd have to say it was the tigers. Definitely the tigers. Quitting smoking was certainly the farthest thing from my mind that morning as I left camp after a nourishing breakfast of roots and berries. It was the 3rd day of the hunt, and we had been following their spoor without ever really catching sight of them. It was beginning to annoy me, as though they were playing some damnable cat and mouse game. Then I remembered "They're tigers; what other kind of game *would* they play?"

They were a mating pair; fiercely cunning, aggressive, and mindlessly horny ( the very qualities I so prized in myself as a youth). They had already laid waste to the village of Eyesore, a remarkably shabby little hamlet on the banks of the Oldman River, carrying off assorted livestock, pets and a few negligible small children. The pet owners had collected a small reward fee, and though I was just passing through, I was the only man with a rifle and a pith helmet for miles around, so I'd been hired to find the tigers and put a stop to their antics. (One would hardly call them hijinks or shenanigans...)

We hiked all day, pausing only for a nourishing lunch of grits and pebbles. It was terribly hot; the sort of heat that makes you say "Good Lord, it's hot!" right out loud, regardless of whether or not there's anyone there to hear you and agree or to simply refute your claim. If someone did happen to hear you talking out loud to yourself, chances are they'd be too drained of energy to pay it any mind. It was that kind of hot...

My bearer, Rajiv, was a plucky lad. It was actually a rarity to find one like him amongst the locals. He stepped right up and said "I am gifted with pluck. Please to choose me." Because of his heavily accented speech, however, I thought he was suggesting that I have sex with him, and a savage brawl ensued. Eventually the mistake was cleared up, and I had to pay several villagers for damages to their huts. The assembled throng celebrated with a ritual meal of hoops and garters, (cooked over a hogshead of real fire). Rajiv soon proved himself an invaluable guide and companion, and I was delighted to have his company as we pressed on deeper into the jungle in search of the tigers.

We paused for a light snack of chutes and ladders before crossing a dry stream bed. I was peering at what was undoubtedly a fresh and recent pile of tiger droppings, and called back over my shoulder "Come look at this", to which Rajiv replied "AAIIIIIEEEEEEE!!!!" which was not the response I was expecting. When I turned to see what the devil he was talking about, he was nowhere to be found. That damned funny accent again! I supposed he'd just stepped back into the treeline to have a pee....

He never returned. I filled the time just before sunset, meanwhile, by munching on the small packet of rhythm and blues I carried in my duffel. Darkness fell, as it always does, because even in remotest India the laws of gravity and astral physics apply... I made camp, built a roaring fire, had my evening meal of tucks and rolls, and fell deeply asleep. My last conscious thought was "God; that's a long pee!"

I was awakened by an unspeakably foul blast of rank, hot air in my face. My first waking thought was "Rajiv needs to floss more often" -- and then I heard the growl. I froze. I opened one eye just a slit, and scanned the campsite. The tigers had come in during the night and shredded everything. As I peeped from beneath one semi-closed lid, I saw the female sitting by my head, sniffing inquisitively at the remains of last night's dinner in my moustache. Across the clearing, meanwhile, the male fumbled my last half pack of Marlboro Lights out of the remains of my knapsack.

"OH NO YOU F**KING DON'T!" I shouted, scrambling to my feet. "GIVE ME THOSE! THAT'S MY LAST PACK!" She and her mate, spooked by the noise and sudden motion, both reared back, allowing me to spring nimbly across the distance between us and snatch at the pack on the ground. They were on me in a flash! For the rest of the morning and well into the afternoon it was tooth and claw against boot and knuckle. We rolled and screamed and shrieked and grunted and flailed and clenched and kicked and panted and howled and thrust and... well, I'm becoming aroused just describing it.

Eventually we all ran out of steam and lay there gasping for air. This was due both to the exertion and the fact that we were *all* heavy smokers. Once we all calmed down, the tigers told me their tale, which was even more sordid than one could imagine. Their government, in league with Phillip Morris (and the evil cadre of faceless agents who target people on quit smoking support newsgroups by sending them coupons for free cigarettes), had launched a hideous new animal testing program. They were attempting to gauge the addiction potential for their new "Predator" brand extra-strength, high-tar, increased-nicotine cigarettes. This pair had been forced to chain smoke Predators for months, and were completely hooked. They had escaped from the secret government lab in Cumoniwannalaya, and had been on the run ever since.

"And we wouldn't have eaten those kids, but it's Day Three for us-- and we've got the munchies something fierce!" said the male. I felt so bad for them, I offered to not only call off the hunt, but to share my last pack of cigarettes with them. They eagerly agreed and I shook one from the tattered pack, lit it and took a deep drag, passing it to the female, who grinned at me. Have you ever seen a tiger grin? Have you ever shared a cigarette with a tiger? Both things are quite...unsettling. First of all, they slobber all over the filter, so it's just completely gross and you don't want to put it in your mouth when you get it back. Secondly, a tiger's grin doesn't really inspire mirth. Or confidence... After two drags, they snatched it away from me and finished it themselves, and then the heavier male swiped me a thunderous blow with his forepaw which knocked my head against the tree trunk. Everything went black as I fell backwards over the remains of the campfire and dimly registered a cracking sound and a pain in my leg......

When I awoke, they were gone. So was my gear. So was my rifle, and my helmet and my boots and my pants and...everything else, including the last of my cigarettes! I tried to stand, and realized my left leg was badly broken (have you ever heard of a leg being "well broken"?), and I had to drag myself into the trees to find a suitable limb to use as a crutch. I found another small, sturdy stick to bite down on, to assuage my pain. Fortifying myself with a hurried, nearly Bergmanesque meal of cries and whispers, and grimacing in pain, I began hobbling back in the direction I'd come from 3 days earlier.

The return journey took me several weeks, during which time I passed out frequently from the pain. I had no cigarettes to take my mind off the throbbing pain in my leg, but I found that biting the stick really helped distract me a lot. Fortunately, the nicotine passed out of my system rather quickly, and the accompanying jitteriness, rage, crying jags, random swearing, and sudden depression helped me keep a sharp focus on the trail ahead of me. I couldn't smoke; I just had to keep moving along that trail... I finally limped into the village and collapsed by the well, and was soon carried to the local clinic for treatment.

That was over 2 years ago. I no longer feel the urge to smoke, but there have been some lasting side-effects from the incident: I burst into tears when I hear Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Run Through The Jungle"; I black out if I see a box of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, and I have become addicted to this damned stick! I have to take it everywhere and gnaw on it. My wife left me, I got fired from my prestigious, high-salaried job, and have become an outcast who lives in a paper box behind the grocery store and has to sneak into the Public Library to use the computer to read the messages on this newsgroup. Hey--it still beats smoking.....

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