“Your son spends his life blazing away on his couch only to go out to smoke with his friends.”

I think she meant lazing away. This was another sentence from a killer-father essay, based on a case wherein, according to said father, a young man drove his father to despair and murder because he spent much of his time lying around smoking marijuana and drinking cheap wine, instead of getting a job at (maybe) a Burger King and making something of himself.

My student has taken him out of the house to smoke “with his friends,” obviously other layabouts and ne’er-do-wells.

The picture she paints is almost true to her source…if she had written “lazing away.” Actually that’s not really an established phrase—lazing around is more like it—but the idea would pass.

But I do remember so many stories of house fires started by people smoking in bed, or on couches; and this young man “blazing away” seems to the unwary reader to be another of those. And once a fire is extinguished, or goes out, it may continue to smoke for awhile.

So my student’s sentence—typo, mistaken word choice, whatever—evokes, for me, a person on fire on a couch. He goes out (i.e., the flame dies), but he continues to smoke. His friends smoke too. Have they ventured too near the fire?

What makes the sentence so amazing is that it contains both “blazing” and “smoke.” The first word sets up the misinterpretion of the second. After “blazing,” “to smoke” doesn’t immediately translate into the act of puffing on a joint (or a cigarette, if it were a different young man); if he’s blazing, he’s smoking like a campfire, not like a chimney or a…well, a smoker.

Of course I knew what she meant. She isn’t trying to create any graphic pictures here, images that will enliven the story and stay in the reader’s mind: she’s just saying he lay around on the couch and then went out to get high with his friends. But the choice of words makes the picture something quite different.

Maybe “blazing away” actually is meant to mean “ranting and raving.” I’d like it to mean that—it would be a nice figure of speech; and I do wish the poor kid had had more glory in his short life. But he doesn’t rant and rave: he just lolls and lazes, blissed out on one substance or another, until Dad blows him away.

Very sad.

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

5 responses to ““Your son spends his life blazing away on his couch only to go out to smoke with his friends.”

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