Jagic Agonistes

I think it was because of the comedic value of my writing about football hooligans that Weicker sent me to Belgrade. My pieces on the fan wars between Manchester United and Manchester City for Bonkers —’The Online Pleasure-Dome for Young Men of All Ages’—magazine drew tens of thousands of hits, attracted lots of advertising, which made him all tumescent and giggly. Thus he called me from the head office in Barcelona, Spain and offered me a free trip home to my native land to cover the Derby in December.


“Nah,” I said. “The thing of it is that all that is long ago has been and gone.”




“Well, the thing is, like, all that crazy street fighting shit was sectarian.” He grunted again. “United were a Roman Catholic team with nothing but Catholic players.”


“And you supported them?”


“Right. And we hated Shitteh, who were Pro-Pros.”




“Manchester City. We wear red. They wear sky-blue. Protestant. Catholic. Hate. Sectarian war. You’d give up your life to steal a Shitteh scarf.  But,” I say, “that’s all over now.”


“Why’s that?”


And I go on to explain that City (a/k/a Shitteh) are now owned by the royal family of Abu Dhabi. The crown jewel of the United Arab Emirates while United are owned by property millionaires from Tampa, who look like a gang of Jewish leprechauns. It’s all about worldwide television property rights and replica shirt sales. I explain how United bought a way past-it Bastian Schweinsteigger for seven million pounds and then flogged 25 million ‘Schweini’ shirts in the next six days. I’m blubbering on about United on the stock market and the club being worth more than the New York Yankees when he interrupts me.


“So isn’t there somewhere where hooligans exist?”


“Yeah,” I say, and I start thinking about Corfu and pulchritudinous German girls topless on the white beaches, “Athens.”


“I don’t like the Greeks.”


”You asked a question. I answered.”


United-versus-Liverpool is pathetic, so you’ve got the Arsenal and Spurs, the knife culture in Istanbul when Galatasaray and Fenerbahce go at it and I can tell gory tales about being stabbed in the right buttock by a screaming Turk with the glimmering green neck of a broken bottle.


Then it hits me.  I’m back there, at the Franz Ferdinand hotel on Jetíca, drunk on a wash of sugary Slivovicz out of my mate Slob’s basement, double-vision-staring at bamboo-framed pictures of the Archduke and his bride. The Great War in memory. Thousands of framed photos and rotogravures of Sarajevo as ground zero for the most beautiful loser of all, the failed nation-state of Yugoslavia.  The rip-roar of graphite-tipped bullets from snipers’ bullets. It’s very bizarre, but the Bosnians—whatever their ethnic loyalties and bred-in-the-marrow ambivalence— can cite the most obscure trivia on this great historical  disaster, whether it’s about Franz-Josef, the Archduke and his ruddy, chipmunk-cheeked bride or the Serb hero/assassin, Gavrilo Principe. Bullets pinging like pinballs. A sense memory so specific and relentless that it’s come back to me in the midst of the sex act or while I’ve been lecturing to journo majors. Something akin to the ghost of an amputated leg, I’m guessing, or lifting a corpse’s dead weight, which I’m not guessing about at all. Sarajevo giving me its siren call.


“Belgrade,” I say, “it’s like Tombstone. Red Star against Partizan. Fights. Stabbings. Maniac cops. Fucking brilliant. And cheap.”


“Really? The woman grow beards there under their arms, right?”


“Sure,” I say. And I can tell he’s going to bite. “Absolutely.”


So, six weeks later. I’m supposed to be in Belgrade, but instead I’m surreptitiously ensconced  in the Ottoman section of Sarajevo on the Baskarija, having dinner with my old mucker-cum-lover Slavenka at the Deveri restaurant on the Proke Bakovica, staring up at the stars through the glass-roofed terrace, stuffing my face at Weicker’s expense on Deveri steak, which is this fantastic smoked, thin-rolled veal accompanied by grilled eggplant and cheese. I haven’t seen stars in years. Chicago is too polluted.


Slavenka has the same ol’ same ol’ habits. Gnawing at her cuticles.  Her hazel eyes now own dark mini-saddlebags underneath, but her dark Slavic beauty still both arouses me and fills me with an awkward nostalgia, which, a little voice tells me, is not good.  Half-Serb/half-Bosnian Moslem, she owns the best shit detector for political and military spin I’ve ever encountered.  Willfully unmarried in a macho universe, she still struts around their version of city hall in nine-inch, ankle-strapped stiletto fuck-me shoes and transposes a multiplicity of thespian personas to suit the narcissistic egoismo of whichever frail male ego is the subject of the day. I heard Gwen Ifill say she wears too much makeup, but I say: “When in Sarajevo..” If I hadn’t had her around to wipe my tuchis, box my ears and koegle my overeducated brains out, I’d have starved or been sent home in disgrace, back doing police blotter articles on Friday nights at Cook County.


We finish and walk. Promenade down Obala Kulina band, the old Appel Quay. It’s the broad boulevard that’s the sum parallel to Dealer Plaza. We stop by the Latin Bridge and turn onto Zeleni  Okotki and turn right on the very spot where, on June 28, 1914 Gavrilo Principe, shot the Archduke. And just at the moment my lovely Slavenka lets loose a muffled kind of animal moan,  before placing all fingers over her ruddy lips.


“Jagic,” she says. “I just saw Jagic.”


And off goes the rolodex in my brain. Milutin Jagic, former goalkeeper for FK Sarajevo and Werder Bremen. Arkan’s favorite. The Butcher of Zvornik. Lantern-jawed, 6’4”. A Bosnian-Serb Clark Kent. I had sat with him once in a tavern on the Drina in a village painted brown, like a miniature Hershey, PA, with a paramilitary commander named Vojislav Seseli and listened to them, as, well oiled with Bushmill’s and Hacker-Pschorr chasers, they boasted about the number of  Moslems they had “sent to have a nice chat with Allah!” When another man showed up at our table with three behemoth bodyguards, a  Mr.Raznatovic, I was struck by the absence of mouth in all six. Not a lip in sight, just deep-set eyes that looked like somebody had jammed moist dried prunes deep into their oblong craniums. It was I recall, Slobodan Milosevic’s birthday. “Zivjeli, Slobodan!” we toasted. “Zivjeli!”


“You sure?”


“Daa li izgledam kao da se glup?” she says, which means something like: ‘Do I look stupid?’


“Well, you all look alike,” I laugh.


Slavenka laughs, too, but I’m thinking of the war. The war here which never leaves me, like the mortar shells,  the double-concussion snap of howitzers and sniper fire across the Milijacka.  My translator friend Stojko  talking Heine with me as we dodged through the streets, close to the walls, like a pair of rats.  Sprinting across the Voijvode Putnika accompanied the familiar rattle of automatic splat from AK-47s. Winded, we  light up our Drina cigarettes.  I am guessing, but I think it was the zippo lighter that the sniper zeroed in on. All I remember, simultaneously, was a keening noise from Stojko and  a wet explosion as his brains flew into my eyes and splattered bloody wet all over my face.


“It was Arkan we had dinner with. Zeljko Ratnatovic.” Even his watch was cammy,  I remembered.  The two of us, poisoned by nostalgia. Still too close for comfort to be anything healing or comedic.


“The United Nations has a ten million euro price on his head.” she says.


So we walked back to the hotel with our hands clutched tight. The  white noise of memory and depression. The  béte noir’s teeth are sharp.




Christmas: Paying the Price of Freedom

Monday, February 28, 2011

“The Sunrises are really pretty here.  The sun is actually orange, and seems foreign.  I still only look at it through the scope though.”

Although the sunrises were beautiful on the submarine, the life was extremely harsh.  We were gone 6 to 8 months of the year, every year, and when were are in port we still have to work a duty day every 3 days (a 24 hour workday from 6:30am to 6:30am).  The hardest part about this life was dealing with the holidays.  On December 14, 2010 we went out for a deployment even though Christmas was within 2 weeks.

Monday, December 20, 2010

“Today I woke up and realized Christmas was around the corner.  Normally I would be counting down the days and be looking forward to it, but this year I am not.  Tomorrow we pull into Saipan.  I have duty tomorrow and on Christmas.  This will be a Christmas I will never forget, and not because it was awesome.  The crew had received bags, which contained a movie, a bunch of treats, and a Christmas card, which is a horrible idea when it’s not from someone you know, and you’re not spending Christmas with your family.  On top of that it seemed like the movie was picked from the bargain bin.”

I awoke that dreadful day to a messenger telling me it was 5:30am.  I got up, threw on my coveralls, and headed to crews mess for chow.  The breakfasts were my most hated meal, but we were in port, which meant we had real, fresh eggs.  After breakfast we had our duty meeting.  I didn’t have watch until noon, so I went to my rack and pulled out my Christmas cards my mom had given to me before deployment began.  I had 2 boxes of letters/cards from her.  They were organized with dates on them, so I could open one everyday, and they took care of the holidays, and birthday letters.  The cool thing was that she was able to get most of my extended family to write a lot of these letters.

I opened the first card, from a cousin, she wished me a merry Christmas, and hoped that I was doing well.  I opened the second one, from my brother.  He said he knew what it was like to not be with family for Christmas, and to stay strong on this holiday.  I got a frog in my throat and I held back tears.  I opened the third card, from my mother.  It said, “I love you, I miss you, I wish you were home.”

I closed the card.  Tears were starting to glide down my cheeks.  I put the cards back into the box and decided not to read the rest of them, it was just too hard.  I wiped off my face, I walked out of the sleeping quarters, down the hallway, and up the stairs to the ladder for the hatch.  I climbed out of the hatch, I walked past the 2 topside watch standers, had not said a word, I didn’t pick my head up to look at them, all while hiding my emotions as best I could.  I continued to walk onto the concrete pier.  I found a spot where nobody could see me, and then I broke.  My face flooded with tears.  I looked out over the ocean, but there was nothing, not even hope.  No matter what I wished for or how many times I wished it, I would still be here, alone.

There is a place we all think of where we feel most comfortable, it’s different for all of us, but if there was one place I wanted to be it was home.  Home is a place where you stay wrapped up in your warm blankets on a bed.  Home is a place where you can stay in your room for as long as you want.  Home is a place where you can sit by a fire roasting marshmallows on a Friday night, and enjoying the company of family and friends.  Home is a place where you see and talk to your friends and family, and see their faces everyday.  The days on the submarine are all the same, every week the same routine.  From pizza night on Saturdays, followed by sundae Sundays, and being woken up at 4:30am for morning watch.  I may have lived on a submarine for 4 years, but I will never call this place home.  This lonely, cold concrete pier is not home, and it’s the farthest from home I’ve ever been.  This place is just as dark and cold as the depths of the ocean, but I have to be here, stuck and powerless on Christmas.

I stayed in that spot for 45 minutes.  I didn’t want to move, I didn’t want to face the reality that I wouldn’t get to see any of my family members today, and I didn’t want this from Christmas.  I was destroyed, broken down, devastated, and there was nothing I could do about it.

The rest of the day was just a normal day.  I stood watch, I waited for time to go by, then I went to sleep, but I did write another journal entry while I was on watch.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

“Today was rough.  I opened all of the letters and Christmas cards from loved ones, and opened the gift from my mom.  But nothing can make up for not being there.  I’ve watched so many of my days go by.  All of them just a waste of life.  It took a while but I got used to watching my life wash away like that.  I’m numb to duty days, but there are days that are hard to watch go by.  This would be one of those days.  I’ve seen a Thanksgiving go by, I’ve seen a Halloween go by, and now I’ve seen a Christmas go by, and this one hurts the most.”

Because of this day, I learned what it means to have a family, what it means to have their support, and the pain that is caused by spending the holidays without them.  I will never forget this day, or the memory of the pain I went through.  I will never spend another holiday alone.


The End of Summer

Bethea thought that the August air smelled like an opera, thick and interminable. She was trying on the shoes she found in her grandmother’s wardrobe, balancing on one leg while looking in the mirror, when her perspiration damp skin snagged the hem of her skirt, and she fell. From her new position on the floor the room looked old and dirty. The house was an old lady’s museum, filled with figurines and collectibles. When she and her brother were children they got a whupping whenever they came to visit. Their play had always ended with damage to some knickknack. Grandmother kept a switch by the kitchen door.

Her grandmother had been dead for over a month, but her mother still wasn’t coping. The old woman had been stern, as unyielding as an iron bar, and she had bound Momma to her with her will. Now that she was dead Momma was lost, and it fell to Bethea to sort through the mountain of her possessions. School was going to start in less than three weeks, and she hadn’t bought her books. She desperately wanted to go to Julliard. She had applied but had never heard from them. Every day, for months, she came straight home from school to check the mail. Nothing. Momma begged her to go to the community college. They were a family of three, after all, and Momma couldn’t handle James alone. The community college had a small music department; it would have to do.

She lay on the carpet wishing she had been accepted at Julliard. It offered her sanctuary from the responsibilities of her emotional dependents, a brother disabled at birth and a mother disabled by life. She looked under the wardrobe. Something sparkled.


James always carried fifty cents in his front pocket. Bethea gave him the money every morning, and she always said, “Put it in your front pocket so you don’t lose it.” Fifty cents was enough for a jawbreaker at the Speedimart.

His hand was already sticky with a mixture of orange juice and dirt when he jammed it into his pocket to dig for the coins. The man behind the counter glared as he fished out one filthy object after another.

Two lug nuts.

Customers were starting to line up behind him.

A plastic army man.

Mrs. Bensen was getting milk from the cooler.

A crumpled white envelope.

The man behind him coughed.

Fifty cents.

He wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his grimy hand and turned his attention to the candy. The cellophane slid neatly off and fluttered to the floor. The jawbreaker popped into his mouth as he opened the door. He was almost outside when the clerk shouted, “Hey, dummy. Pick up that wrapper.”


Bethea was sitting on the floor in the middle of the living room, surrounded by an army of porcelain figurines and blown glass animals. She was looking at her grandmother’s earring and crying softly. She hadn’t even liked the old woman, dammit. The earring was just junk, but there was something about the way it refracted the late afternoon sun that reminded her of all the time she’d spent as a little girl, sitting at her grandmother’s vanity trying on jewelry and listening to old records. She was blowing her nose when the front door flew open and slammed against the wall. There was James, and he was crying too.

James was almost twenty and spent most of his time watching cartoons on television. He was older than her by two years, but his intellectual development had stopped when he was about seven. Now he was standing there, crying and trying to talk at the same time. The jawbreaker in his mouth muffled his speech.

“Slow down,” she said. “I can’t understand what you’re saying.”

James opened his hand and spit the jawbreaker out. It bounced off his palm and arced through the air, a glistening blue meteor. It took out the most elaborate figurine first. The young man kneeling before the pretty girl on the park bench was decapitated. A cherub lost its wings. The jawbreaker clacked on the tabletop and went spinning off to rest among the shards of a former herd of glass horses.

James eyed the destruction with open-mouthed curiosity. He poked a little bird with his index finger and jumped when its beak broke off.

“Oh, man,” he said, “Now I’m gonna get it.”

Bethea laughed.

“What’s funny?” he asked.

“Nothing. That was cool. What were you trying to say?”

“The man at the store called me a dummy again.”

“Now, what did we agree on the last time that happened?”

James grinned. “That he don’t know me, so screw him.”

“That’s right, he doesn’t know you. If he knew you like I do, he’d know that you’re not a dummy.” She patted the carpet. “Sit down here and talk for awhile.”

James dug the envelope out of his pocket and plopped down, cross-legged, in front of Bethea.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“I been saving this for you. Momma threw it in the trash, but I knew you wanted it.” He held it out. Bethea took the envelope. It was from Julliard.

The last rays of the fading summer sun had turned the room orange. James picked up the little severed head and set it on the pretty girl’s lap.



The Color of Paradise

One day when Nicky Peele was around 13 years old, school was out and summer was just about to begin, but about a month before school was out, final exams and testing were going on. You see, Nicky was in the eighth grade. Nicky, Robert, and Patrick were all best friends, and they had already made plans way before school was out or summer had begun. Every one of the eight graders were talking about working a summer job, and earning some money to buy things and start their “independence.” The whole eighth grade class was at that age where they all were 13 about to turn 14, although some were already 14. Everyone talked about getting a summer job after school, and just the thought had led up to a waiting game; this was going to be a very long nine months of attending school, waiting, and wondering.

Summer was pretty much in full season, and school was about to come to an end.  Of course we couldn’t forget about graduation, it was on every eighth grader’s mind. Although it had been an exhausting school year, it had started to become an even more exhausting summer. The days were getting even hotter, and the school year was coming to an end. What had started in September and escalated all the way to June was finally approaching along with graduation, finals, summer jobs, and independence (freedom); everyone was on very high alert trying to juggle everything all at once.

Nicky, Patrick, and Robert, who knew that this was just a few weeks away were determined to reach this moment, and not to let anything stop them from achieving their dream of a summer job. Nicky told the rest of his friends that he knew that he was going to pass the final exams, and they all had talked about it.  Two weeks before graduation everyone in the eighth grade took the final exams for  reading and math; it was a long exhausting two hour test, and the teacher collected them after the time was up. She said in a confident voice, “I hope that everyone put their best effort into it.” The bell rang. It was a Friday before the weekend so everyone rushed from their desks, and quickly ran out of the room, down the hall, and out of the school.

This was the beginning of the summer and everyone that Nicky, Robert, and Patrick knew couldn’t wait for Monday to get here to find out who passed and who didn’t. No one was thinking about scores after the test.  They were only thinking about wanting to play, swim, or hang out with each other.  All they wanted to do was graduate and start earning some money to help themselves, and their struggling families out. Everyone just wanted to work and pass the finals to make it all possible.

Monday morning had arrived and the stress of waiting to hear the test results was just about to be over, at least they thought. They all had to prepare to hear the final results from the teacher, but they didn’t expect the unexpected- that not all of them passed or failed. Talking during the weekend, Nicky had told his two best friends, Robert, and Patrick that he just knew he had passed, and had even bragged about working at a summer job, as if he had already gotten his passing grades.

But during that Monday morning, once they all went to class and the teacher had arrived and entered the class room, she  told everyone “good morning class,” and everyone said good morning in return;  that was when some of my classmates began to bite their nails, look nervous, and  wait impatiently to hear the test results. But this day the teacher took her time about reading the grades out to the class. Everyone knew that she was always a good teacher, but this time she took two long hours before she got around to telling the class who had passed and who failed.

The students became even more impatient, and this day had already started out all wrong compared to other days.  Nicky looked over to Robert and Patrick, who were in the row behind him, and whispered “what in the hell is wrong with her?” They looked just as amazed as Nicky did. It was as if the teacher was deliberately stalling for time, but that day I guess she didn’t know how to tell them the truth or break their hearts, because some of them were going to be in for a rude awakening once she read the grades. Nicky and his friends didn’t expect the worst.

Time went by so slow that day, and it was going on ten o’clock; the class was getting even more upset, uncomfortable, and impatient. The teacher finally pulled out the test results at nine forty five, and the wait to hear the scores that everyone anticipated the whole weekend was finally here. The teacher placed two stacks of papers on the desk. One on the right side of her, and the other one on the left side of her.

No one in the class knew why she did that. Maybe one was for the people who failed, and the other was for the people who had passed. Either way, they were out in plain sight for the students to see, and that was a sign of relief for everyone. As the students all straightened up in their desks and chairs like little perfect soldiers, it got very quiet in the classroom. Nicky looked over to Patrick and Robert with a grin on his face, and said” here we go fellas,” but no one was laughing or grinning in return.

The teacher began reading the grades and scores out, and it didn’t surprise the class that she did it in alphabetical order which was normal. She told everyone their grades out loud; some passed and others didn’t do so well.  Up next was Nicky’s grade because of his last name. She said “well, Mr. Peele, you did well in your reading and writing, and you scored very high on these tests.” Nicky was so delighted to hear that, and the weight that he had endured the whole damn year had finally come to an end. A few seconds before hearing the devastating news he was just sitting over at his desk blushing, and smiling, as if he had won a medal or an award.

The teacher said,” but, unfortunately Mr. Peele, you didn’t score well enough on your math test, so you missed it by six points.” Immediately, Nicky’s face had started turning blood shot red, and what was supposed to be a joyful moment of success, and the expectation of working a summer job went down the drain.  The tears came streaming down his face, and Nicky replied,  “six points!?” The teacher replied “yes, six points, Mr. Peele. I’m sorry to inform you that you will have to go to summer school.”  Nicky shouted out, “Summer school!!? This was supposed to be one of the greatest moments in my life,” he replied. The tears, frustration, and anger built up at that moment; he couldn’t believe it, “summer school,” he sighed.

“Oh my God, can I take that math test over?” he asked.  “I wish that I could allow you and those who didn’t do so well in other areas to take it over, but I can’t.  It’s school policy, and the guidelines,” she said.  The teacher continued to tell the rest of the classroom their grades, but when she called Robert, and Patrick’s name, they were shocked to find out that they too had to go to summer school. It seemed as if half the class had to attend summer school.

The feeling of going to summer school didn’t sit well with them for the rest of that day. The group of friends felt as if they wanted a do over, but here in the world Nicky asked, “do they give do overs?“ One of his classmates replied, “Yes, summer school.” Nicky had to go home and tell his mother and the rest of the family the bad news.  He dreaded even entering the house that he shared with his family and siblings.

All that crossed his mind was what was mother going to say to him once he told her the bad news, and how was his brothers, and sisters going to treat him. He walked in with the imprints from dried up tears on his face. His grandmother was sitting in the kitchen waiting for his mother to return from the grocery store. Grandmother asked Nicky in her calming voice,  “baby, what’s wrong?” Nicky told her about his plans for a summer job, his grades, and how going to summer school destroyed those dreams, how everything just felt like it was ruined and over with for him. Grandmother opened her arms so that she could embrace him because that is what most grandmothers do  and just as he walked over to her, Mother had arrived. She immediately began to shout at Nicky, saying “so you failed, and have to go to summer school, and you have the nerve to ask for a do over, as if you were entitled to have one or something.”

Mother also told grandmother thanks for watching the house while she was gone, and that she could leave so that she could finish talking to Nicky, but Nicky knew that was just a front- she wanted to continue belittling and criticizing him about not passing. Grandmother had gathered up her belongings in less than five minutes and left out.  Nicky’s mother told him to bring his ass over to the living room where she was, and she repeated, “a do over?”

“I don’t believe you, maybe you should have studied more, focused on your classes, went to see your tutor more, or invested more time in preparing for this exam instead of trying to be a class clown, and hanging out with your goofball friends!”  Mother didn’t make Nicky feel any better about the bad news, but only made the situation worse.  Nicky continued crying even more as he went to his room. You could hear mother his shouting as loud as she could “you’re a dumbass!” Nicky just walked away.

After the school had its graduation and the festivities were over,  the rest of the eighth graders congratulated each other including Nicky, Robert, and Patrick. Nicky realized that the camera that they had at the graduation only had one more picture left to take. He looked over at both of his grandparents who were there, and he decided to take the last picture with the both of them together.  He never had both of his grandmothers around him at the same time, so Nicky asked a friend to take the picture.  Once he saw the both of them together with him, Nicky realized that summer school wasn’t going to be that bad. He told himself that it was only for a couple of weeks, but having a picture with the both of his grandmothers at that moment in time made him realize nothing else mattered, and that this was “the color of paradise.”




Another Time and Space

When he left this time, I sat on the porch waiting for the rain.  The thunder rumbled like a father lecturing his daughter, firm and gentle at the same time.  I listened to it, but I paid more attention to the lightning.  Every few minutes it would brighten the darkening sky and for a second show me everything more clearly than I had ever seen it before.  But only for a second every few minutes, so I had to watch closely.

Kids trotted down the street from all directions trying to get home and avoid getting wet.  Cars passed by one after the other with drivers probably hoping they would make it into their homes dry, too.  But I had a different thought.  I wanted to be outside to see the rain pour down hard.  So I waited, listening to daddy thunder and watching all that the flashes of light wanted to show me.

I remembered the cigar I hid in the armrest of my car.  I had only bought two last week to make sure I did not begin to form a habit.  Plus, everyone knows the damage smoking does to the body.  I promised myself I wouldn’t smoke again after this one was gone.

Back on the porch I lit the cigar.  Knowing drops would start falling soon, I put one of my legs up.  I dangled my foot off the edge of the porch just enough for my toes to get wet whenever the shower started and water began to roll off the awning above where I was sitting.  But the rain had not begun.  I still waited.

Cocoa brown, slim, and sweet,  I savored every pull of that cigar.  Each time I inhaled l watched as the ashes switched from gray to red and back again.  I held the smoke in my lungs for longer than I had to, but I was enjoying it and wanted it to last.  I exhaled softly while the breeze carried the swirls away from my lips to another time and space.  The rain still hadn’t come.

I don’t know how much time had gone by when I noticed that my cigar had gone out.  There was a little left.  And though I held the flame in the palm of my hand, I decided that what was left of the cigar wasn’t probably worth relighting.  Finally, the rain began to pour.