Tonight broke all records for interesting times, as in the old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."
Some of you may recall that my brother-in-law has been living with us now for the last nine months (largos y penosos, Victor). Most of the time he has been a good friend and companion, but he has a way of letting beer get in the way of his good sense (look who's talking!).
A few months ago I broke my favorite pipe and was very unhappy about it. Don't you know, good old John bought me a new one. A good one. Since then I've spent many a peaceful evening sitting on the patio puffing away and musing on the misfortune of ordinary mortals who know not the pleasure of a good pipe, John included. He smokes cigars when he smokes, which is rare.
Tonight he imbibed freely in the juice of the hop and was beginning to show it. He was drunker'n a skunk. I had only had tee martoonies.
He watched closely as I loaded my pipe and forcefully tamped the tobacco with the tip of my little finger. I lit up and puffed happily away. After a moment I'd had all I wanted for the nonce and set the pipe on the pipe stand next to my chair on the patio. I thought John looked rather longingly at it sitting there.
"Dave," he said, "Old Buddy, how's about a puff offen that aire pipe?"
"Shore, Old Buddy. Help thyself," I said in the manner of a great lord offering an indulgence to a peasant.
John picked up the pipe, stuck it in his mouth, and prepared to light it. He got a contemplative look on his face as he considered how best to go about it. He remembered, or tried to remember, the steps I'd taken leading up to the actual use of the pipe. Slowly he extended the pinkie on the hand which was holding the pipe and started tamping the tobacco just as I had done.
Suddenly he let out a blood-curdling screech, said a very dirty word, and threw the pipe straight up; it was still lit. The pipe hit the roof of the patio and showered hot sparks and ashes all over him. He stared in amazement as sparks went down the front of his shirt and set his chest hair afire. The next moment he was standing there doing a Tarzan imitation, beating his chest and yodeling. It was a credible performance, and I would have applauded, but I figured a low profile was preferable at that exact moment. The better part of valor and all that.
He was standing there panting when I noticed his head was also smoking. John has long hair that cascades down his back. It was blazing away, right on top. The large part of the dottle from the pipe had landed on his head, a fact which had escaped him for the moment.
"John," I pointed out, "your head's on fire."
He reached up and touched his head, luckily finding the right spot first try. The weight of his hand pushed the dottle right against his scalp. His first scream was just for practice. The yell he let out this time had the men at the sawmill taking off for the night; they thought it was the steam whistle for quitting time.
"Quick, John. The pond!"
He was only about three feet from the koi pond, but his feet were about ten beers and three inches from the little fence I'd put up to keep Mac out of the pond. He started that way with the intent, apparently, of immersing his smoldering scalp in the pond. With a long, despairing wail as his feet tangled themselves in that little fence, John fell full length, head first, into the pond. When the ice-cold water hit him, he took a deep breath and inhaled half the pond, almost including one of the slower-moving Black Moors. Loose hair floated out and covered half the pool. The fish cowered at the far end.
Things were blissfully quiet for a moment or so, and I was tempted to leave him there, but I knew if he stayed there very long he'd pollute the water, so I pulled him out.
It'll be interesting to hear his comments in the morning.