Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Cigar (a short story out of Minnesota, 1950s)

The Cigar

For some odd reason Günter's mind started shifting into a different mode, he was at an old friend's work place, at a party [dreaming, daydreaming]; he always liked a good cigar, now and then, on special occasions that is—and Molly, the secretary, asked him if he wanted one. He looked at her, said "yes," in an inquisitive way, and to his misfortune, it was quite small—a stub. Bewildered somewhat, if not disturbed, for he had an odd expression on his face, he gave little response, if any, a shallow if not dim, grimace, "Thanks...!" and went about and lit it.
Then the old friend the one that mysteriously appeared, appeared one might say out of nowhere, just like that, without a warning, was sitting by his site, he wanted to try the cigar, check it out: smoke it that is. But there wasn't much to the cigar, especially for both of them, and only nearly enough for him. Plus, there didn't seem to be enough air in the room (this was an unconscious thought perhaps), and of course, you cannot share what seemingly appears to be less than sharable (he confessed to himself). Nonetheless, he hesitated, and looked stern into his face, his youthful face, a face that didn't age like his—I mean, it should have been older, he told himself, “I have an idea," he says to the old friend (still feeling a bit odd, as if he didn't know something, something he should know, but couldn't put a finger on it—yet), "put the end of this cigar into the chimney part a pipe, and then you'll have enough for both of us to enjoy" said the mysterious friend (perchance, fearful Günter might burn his fingers also; so Günter deduced).
The mysterious friend looked at him pleased, and just happened to have a pipe on hand, as if he pulled it out of thin air (another oddity that struck Günter as being strange, made Günter think twice, think that something was peculiar, not right, very wrong, something he should know, but doesn't, and would like to know; in essence, his intuition told him: something was very, very erroneous, imprecise, mistaken), consequently, Günter put the cigar—what was left of it anyhow—into the barrel of the pipe, and gave it to his stranger—friend, a friend he had known—felt he had known for a long time, but again I must add, he could not put his finger on exactly who he was, how he came to know him, what his name was, where had they met, and when (we of course are thinking of his past, before this moment, or at least Günter is, he is searching for that moment when they had previously met, but does not put too much thought into it, he has a crisis on hand).
At that moment, as the friend starts to smoke from the pipe, he, Günter starts to choke on the smoke, as if spitting up tobacco—but it’s not tobacco, as if spitting up pieces of the cigar in the pipe, or blood, something along that order: besides, his throat is burning, a fatal burning sensation (actually, Günter is wondering why his friend is not feeling the same effect as he is, I mean, he is sucking in the smoke from the pipe and the smoke of the pipe is filling the space around both of them, not Günter smoking the pipe, although he had puffed on the stub of the cigar; another oddity he tells himself: although they are both taking in the smoke of the cigar in the pipe, at this very moment: same pipe, same cigar, same situation). The best he can come up with, in helping himself, is listening to his friend he is trying to tell him something, ", here take some water, swallow it quickly-hold up your head, higher, higher, quickly, to cool the throat, it'll put out the flame," says the friend, and he does and all is well for a moment.

Now, Günter walks away from the table, and its festivities, finding himself by the store next to the office party—the store—cigar store, was just kind of there, very convenient thought Günter; actually he wasn’t sure if it was there before or not, but it is now. He noticed cigars for sale in the window, big cigars, and a there is quite a selection—now he thinks: '...why didn't Molly tell me they had big cigars here—and a choice, instead of giving me that little one, the stub?" thinking of course, it would have possibly solved the difficulty with him sharing the tail end of his cigar and not having caused all his coughing, or his friend having to give him advise. This is 'Peculiar,' he tells himself, very odd indeed, yet it is left at that. Then old man Günter shakes his head, tells him self, to stop daydreaming, rescue Jean-Lee, his daughter being in the Great Food that is presently in progress at this very moment, down along the levee, of the Mississippi River.
As he found himself opening up his eyes, he was also spitting out water.
He had been drowning, sinking, in the Mississippi River to its mud and rocky bottom (in St. Paul, Minnesota, it was the spring of 1951); and he had mentally let go for a moment; now above water, his mind reactivated, he had fallen into the water off the roof of a house that was sinking underneath itself.

Originally written 11-10-2003; revised, 8-6-2005, reedited 5/2007 and again in 2/2008; a chapter story from the writings out of the manuscript of: "Look at Me!" Reedited, 2-2011. No: 157 (461)