Warning: Illegal string offset 'video_embed' in /home/content/18/7670418/html/wp-content/themes/wp-prosper-prem/functions.php on line 998
by Chuck Stanion
Fire, of course, is the foundation of our pipe smoking pastime. Without fire, there
would be no plumes of fragrant smoke. Our tobaccos need ignition, and we all have
our own ways, but how did fire come about? How did we harness and tame it to our
whims? Was it gods, or lightning, or friction? I was recently afforded the opportunity
to discuss the subject with an interesting individual.
I was shooting pool in my favorite bar when he stepped out of the rainy afternoon.
I spend a lot of time in bars. Those who have read my work may be unsurprised to
learn that fact. This gentleman, though, clearly did not belong in a bar—he belonged
on a mountaintop. He was weathered and sunbaked, wrinkled like dried mud, but it
looked great—he was extraordinarily handsome, and huge. He ducked and turned
to get his height and breadth through the doorway. The men all moved to the other
side of the room. He came straight to the pool table.
“May I join you?” he asked, and picked up a pool cue that looked the size of a
fireplace poker in his hands.
“Brother, you can do whatever you like. My table is yours.” I racked the balls and
he broke, pocketing every ball except the cue ball. “Were we gambling?” I asked.
“Whatever you say. I can go to the ATM.”
“Just fun,” he said. “Rack ’em.” I did, and he ran the table. “I see you’re smoking a
pipe,” he said.
“It’s the only bar that lets me. If it bothers you, I can go as far away as you like.”
But he pulled his own pipe from a pocket. “I’ll join you. Let’s sit. My name
“Ah, a Titan,” I said. “That explains your giganticness. I’ve heard of you. Thanks
for the fire; I use it often. Say, aren’t you supposed to be chained to a rock getting your liver eaten by eagles?”
He took a puff from his pipe without lighting it, and smoke billowed into every
corner of the room. No one complained. “Tuesdays off. The stories are wrong. Fire
was no gift for humans—some goatherd stole my pipe, and the next thing I knew fire
was everywhere and I was lashed to a rock. I sure miss that pipe. It was broken in
perfectly. You’ve not seen any goatherds around here, have you?”
“Still looking for that pipe, eh? I know the feeling. But that goatherd has to be
dead by now.”
“Not if he still has the pipe. My pipes grant immortality.”
I looked at his pipe, then at mine, and considered offering a trade. But immortality
has no appeal, and I like my pipe. “You’ve spent all this time looking for him?”
“When I’m not busy with my day job—y’know, with the liver and the eagles.
A hundred years ago I found him, a very rich man—he used fire only to enrich
himself—but he talked his way out. Slippery, amoral insect. When he talked, you
could understand the words, but they didn’t make sense. Strange hair, too. Like a
dazed muskrat. When I find him again, I shall eat him, chewing slowly.”
There was a pause. Pipe smokers need to stick together. “I’m guessing you don’t
“Puny humans and their puny politics. No.”
“Well,” I said, “you should visit Washington, D.C., sometime. You’d find the
“That so? Let’s play another game of pool.”