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True Value

By Kenneth Feltges

He bought the cigarette lighter almost 12 years ago

from one of those hardware stores

that have the same name

from east coast to west coast

the same storefront

the same set-up inside

aisle one -- seasonal

aisle two -- paint

aisle three -- electrical

and so on and so on

at the checkout crammed with last chance specials

he bought the cigarette lighter

white, with the words "True Value" scripted in red on the side

guaranteed to flip into flame 300 times

absolutely guaranteed

99 cents

a penny shy of a dollar

a real bargain even if you don't smoke

and he used to smoke

he smoked a lot

during coffee breaks

after dinner on the porch just before dessert

he smoked the same as his father and his older brother Craig

one long dead

the other long gone

he quit (he had to)

almost 17 years ago

but in the garage

in the extra large toolbox (a gift from his brother)

the True Value lighter

buried under man clutter

nails staples a broken screw driver

he resurrects it

at least four or five times a year

to check on the original promise

rolling his thumb on the steel wheel

still the soft flash of flame

dependable like his wife's love

like his brother's absence

dependable like his father's forgiveness:

a true value

KENNETH FELTGES will be the featured guest of the Appletree Reading Series at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Empire State College, 2875 Union Road in Cheektowaga. Feltges has taught English for more than 40 years at Kenmore West High School and Mount St. Mary Acade