Smokeless tobacco : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Smokeless tobacco

Fiction by Marc Munroe Dion

Jack Dupont’s $880-a-week reporter’s salary did not stretch far enough to cover
the $100 Brooks Brothers shirts he wore to work. It likewise did not cover $400
collectible pipes, the fedoras he ordered online from a hat shop in New York City,
the vintage tweed jackets he bought on eBay or any social life involving restaurants
and bars.

So, he freelanced. Magazines. Other newspapers. Various online publications,
some of which did not pay very promptly.

This freelance was not done in the office of the Mill River Standard Times, where
Dupont and his girlfriend Simone LaCroix both worked as reporters. Dupont’s free-
lance work was done in the corner of the dining room, in the five-room apartment
the lifelong, 50-year-old bachelor shared with his elderly mother.

Dupont wrote at a small triangular desk built to be pushed into the corner of
a room. His parents bought him the desk when he was 11 years old and, while it was
small, Dupont could still fit his long legs under it, so he continued to use it for free-
lance work. Next to the desk was a 6-foot-long, 2-foot-wide mahogany table holding
seven pipe racks; 103 pipes; two tobacco jars; a cigar humidor; a litter of pipe cleaners, pipe tools and lighters; and one old can of British pipe tobacco.

Dupont has never opened that can of pipe tobacco, even though it is very good
pipe tobacco, even though he’s had it for almost a year now.

Here’s the story.

Mill River, Massachusetts—where Jack Dupont and Simone LaCroix were born, grew up, lived, loved and worked as reporters—is a town of 88,000 people. The
city is sprinkled with the huge, abandoned cotton mills that made it an industrial powerhouse in the first part of the last century, when the population was 120,000.

Like most small cities of its time and place, Mill River once had several palatial movie theaters, men’s and women’s clothing stores, furniture stores, shoe stores, and a variety of locally owned family businesses ranging from small grocery stores to pharmacies.

Eighty years after the end of the boom in cotton and 30 years after the garment shops started moving to Sri Lanka, there were no longer any furniture stores or movie theaters within the city limits. Only one non-chain drugstore remained. As for the rest of commerce, Mill River has a Wal-Mart, which means it does not need and cannot support any competing retail business.

“You remember Cavanaugh’s Drug Store?” 28-year-old city editor Ryan Weeks asked Dupont on a March day, when the yellow light inside the newsroom seemed to be losing its battle against the murky, iron gray day that pressed against the floor-to-ceiling windows.

“Yeah,” Dupont said. “It closed five years ago.”

“A guy bought it,” Weeks said. “He wants to turn it into a European-style coffee shop.”

“And he’s going to charge $5 a cup and put cinnamon in the coffee and he’s going to get murdered by the Dunkin’ Donuts a block away,” Dupont said. “And, if he puts tables outside, they will be occupied by homeless guys who will surround them- selves with a festive variety of vomit.”

Weeks lived 25 miles from the paper and had never been in the neighborhood surrounding the former Cavanaugh’s Drug Store.

“The guy who bought it called me,” he said. “He says the last owner didn’t take anything with him when he closed.”

“He couldn’t,” Dupont said, laughing. “He died. They don’t let you bring stuff with you.”

“He says he’s got all kinds of old ads, old products,” Weeks said. “Stuff that goes back 30 or 40 years. I figured you could get a good column out of it, a history piece.”

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Category: Fall 2015, Feature Article

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