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A Goddess Slips Away
by Don Drewniak

Cigarette smoking, in many respects, was an epidemic in the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s. Unfortunately, few in the general population were aware of its dangers.

In the 1950s, the problem of smoking was exacerbated as television rapidly made its way into homes in the United States. Those approaching their teenage years and teenagers were particularly susceptible to cigarette ads.

Fortunately, I had double immunity to television ads promoting smoking, and to friends who attempted to get me to try smoking.When I was about six, my best friend was a kid, Norman, who lived next door. We lived in a neighborhood in the south end of Fall River, Massachusetts that had a substantial number of houses with three and six tenements.

From my birth until the January that I was in first grade, I lived with my father and mother on the second floor of a house at 114 Tuttle Street. It had three floors, each with two side-by-side tenements.

During the warmer months and in the absence of rain, it was not unusual to see cigarette butts littering street gutters. Norman had a habit of picking them up and eating them.

Two years later, I accompanied my parents on a visit to friends of theirs. The couple had a daughter, Loretta, who was a year younger than me. At some point in the evening, Loretta and I were in the kitchen while our parents were in the living room.

There was an ashtray filled with cigarette ashes on a side table in the kitchen. Loretta proceeded to grab a handful of the ashes and ate them. She was left with a ring of ashes on her lips and on the entire lower portion of her face. Over a decade passed before I saw her again.

The images of Norman and Loretta have given me lifelong immunity to smoking.

Approximately a week before I was scheduled to start my sophomore year in college, my mother said, “Donald, Loretta Arruda will be going to your college.”


I was sitting in the student union with three other guys during the second week back at the college when an apparition second only to Sophia Loren approached. She was olive-skinned, jet black hair, black eyes anf full lips. The goddess was about five feet, six inches in height and sleek.

She stopped about four feet from us and asked, “Is one of you Donald?”

“That’s me,” I replied as the other guys drooled. She was easily the best-looking girl on campus.

“I’m Loretta, Loretta Arruda.”

Her face appeared to change as I continued to look at her. All that I could see was a face the lower portion of which was smeared by black cigarette ashes.

According to those who were with me, I said, “I’m busy.” She turned around and headed for the exit.

Comments from the guys:

“What's wrong with you?

“Are you crazy or something?”

And there is one that I can't put into print.

One of the guys jumped up and headed for the same exit used by Loretta. He returned a few minutes later. Of course, he was asked what happened.

“I caught up with her and tried to start up a conversation. She told me to go to hell and gave me a message for you, Don Juan.”

“What is it?”

“Drop dead.”

I never saw her again. A month or so later on a visit home, my mother informed me that Loretta had dropped out of college and was trying to become a model.