Friday, June 4, 2010

No Tobacco


I clench the pipe between my teeth. No tobacco. I think about a trip to the store, the fine aroma of a newly opened pouch. But I don’t get up. Instead, I light an imagined match with the flick of a nail, pretending its my thumb, and then I puff and inhale, puff... and... inhale.

The store is a little place on the corner in an undiscovered country. There’s a bell on the door. When it rings, the proprietor speaks ten languages. Like me, English is his worst. Our long friendship is based on one misunderstanding after another.

I love him dearly. He knows exactly why I’ve come — to show him my charred thumb. From behind the counter he hands me another, insists I try it on. It fits perfectly. I am pleased — so much so, I set my nose on fire.

I show him my empty wallet. He laughs, then unfolds a map that has no borders. We look at it for hours. Finally, we’re able to locate the exact spot on which we stand. We can even see ourselves on the map, smaller than the smallest ant. We are ants.

I skitter one way, he skitters another. “Hey,” he says, “you want tobacco?” I tell him no, that I’ll buy some next time. “Haircut, then? I have scissors.” But he’s only joking. He knows I don’t want a haircut. The last time, he cut off one of my antennae.

I will step on them, Mama. I don’t like ants. They bite. We fall silent — so silent that we never speak again. Good boy. And then, one... last... sting.... Ouch!... and with the flick of a nail, I puff and inhale, puff... and... inhale.

(first publication)


Updates:
“No Tobacco” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: Eughk eughk e you gee h kee.

15 comments:

Joseph Hutchison said...

Sweet! Puts me in mind of ol' Ez's poem "The Lake Isle." The romance of tobacco!

vazambam said...

Wonderfully exhilarating--at long last I know where the saying "Put this in your pipe and smoke it" originated! I always thought someone named Prince Albert was the first to coin it.

William Michaelian said...

Do you have Prince Albert in a can?... Well, you’d better let him out!

Thanks, boys... cough...

rahina q.h. said...

the magic of the mundane if only we have the ability to smell it, see it, feel it... a work of art William, got me laughing at the bit about English and choked at borders:)

lakeviewer said...

Oh!!!!!!!
It is a snap of light in that shop, with you, him, the search of place on a map. Love this being nothing together.

Anthony Duce said...

Very good. I like the part about the ants. I keep wondering when some little boy will step on me.

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Rahina, that’s good to hear. Meanwhile, I find nothing is mundane since I lost my mind.

Rosaria, I confess, your comment made me light up.

Thanks, Anthony. So you have that feeling too?

Woman in a Window said...

Oh your mind. I just fell~

xo
erin

William Michaelian said...

Erin, it’s a long way down. I know.

Janice said...

William, your imagination never ceases to amaze me and this story is one of your best...so "if" you've lost your mind, please don't try to find it :)

William Michaelian said...

Oh, I know better than that. Besides, it probably wouldn’t have me now anyway. I think it might be something I said....

Thanks, Janice!

Vatche said...

Very intriguing as usual, William. Love some of the lines in here...

"When it rings, the proprietor speaks ten languages. Like me, English is his worst. Our long friendship is based on one misunderstanding after another."

That made me really laugh. I also enjoyed the part about the haircut. Write on, William, and keep sending those awesome lines.

Alberto Oliver said...

of undiscovered countries,,24 hours awake, in order to fall deeply deeply asleep tonight and visit one of those undiscovered nations, that will never be,, maybe i could find such that place you describe, and be allowed to see such a map,,a land with no borders, but only the very borders of our own days. Ants,, we are indeed. I remember that terrible day,,a harmonica sounded pretty, it sounded to resignation. I thought of ants and triffles,,yes,,the year of the man, the century for us, ants. And the harmonica sounded sad,, it sounded to resignation...of never be able to visit with both body and mind, that promised, yet undiscovered land....

all ways 11 o'clock said...

William- Your stories, i always love to come here.

Thank you.

~robert

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Vatche, I’ll do my best. I’m glad you get a kick out of some of these crazy twists and turns.

Alberto, it sounds to me like you don’t need sleep to help you find an undiscovered country — especially if there’s a harmonica around. And if there isn’t, you can imagine one....

Thanks, Robert. I’m glad, because I look forward to your visits.