Cigars kept making him throw up. He thought perhaps a pipe would suit him better. To Jeff’s eyes, his pipe had a certain old school cool to it, although he was embarrassed to bring it out in public. Jeff’s take on old school cool was not generally a winning formula for him, and in this case, his wife had been waiting in ambush to remove this scourge on cool and health from her house. She succeeded when she decided to wash the coat where he kept his pipe and tobacco, citing the I-get-to-keep-or-throw-away-anything-that-you-leave-in-your-pockets-when-I-wash-your-stuff rule. He did not argue with her, even though he felt he had a strong case not having asked for his coat to be washed in the first place. But he let it slide because he was ready to upgrade.
Albert, the proprietor of Long Live the Pipe and a master pipe maker, surreptitiously eyed Jeff, as he carefully examined the pipes on display. The faint gleam in the shop owner’s eye was evidence of the hope that Jeff and other young men might carry on ancient tradition.
“Al? I’m having a tough time picking one out this time. I want something unique. Nothing fancy, but something really…special.”
Albert raised his eyebrows. He was bushy in general, and his eyebrows were certainly no exception. He pulled slowly on his artfully carved Meerschaum. Smoke swirled around his enormous head filling the room with a mellow vanilla. The faint gleam in his eyes increased by an almost imperceptible degree.
“Something special,” murmured Albert to himself.
He disappeared behind a curtained doorway and return with a small wooden box.
“Would you consider a previously owned pipe?”
He offered the box to Jeff. Inside was a very old and exquisitely made bent briar pipe. It was flawless. Two tiny letters were carved on the underside of the bowl: DM. The pipe seemed to exude it’s own subtle light.
“What’s the DM stand for?” asked Jeff, his eyes fixed on the briar wood pipe. “Are those the initials of the man who carved it.”
“Well I can’t be sure, but I was told that it stands for Douglas MacGregor. He was one of the finest pipe makers in Scotland. But he was not the maker of this pipe. This one was made by his apprentice just after the death of his master. Something of a memorial. ”
“Geez, Al, I doubt I could afford something like this.”
The gleam that the pipe was giving off seemed to grow as he continued to stare at it.
“I’ll tell you what. If you promise to come back and see us, I’ll give you a deal on this one.”
Jeff left with the wooden box and a bag of his favorite blend. He stepped quickly in anticipation of his first smoke with the new pipe. He was pleased. It was already nicely broken in. It was a good smoke.
After a few weeks, Jeff began to notice some changes. They were subtle at first, but lately they were becoming more pronounced. At first, the change manifested itself in subtle changes in perception. He began to understand the pipe on a more technical level. He soon began to appreciate the remarkable craft that produced this pipe. And then he began to imagine exactly how to go about this craft. But he didn’t become concerned about any of these changes until his whiskers began turning into a beard almost over night and his eyebrows began to get bushy.
He found the small wooden box that the pipe came in and began to examine it. He quickly discovered that it had a false bottom. He found the trigger and popped the panel out. There, in the hidden compartment, was a small card. It read:
To the bearer of this pipe,
If you are reading this card, I have most assuredly departed from this earth. I had but a short time to live after the death of my teacher, Mr. Douglas MacGregor. I knew I would not have the time to pass on his fine craft to another apprentice. So I’ve constructed this pipe from the briar that was growing near his grave in the hopes that by some miracle of the spiritual world, his craft would pass to future generations. Long live the pipe!