The Man With a Pipe
Here's the thing about the man with the pipe. Wherever he went, he took with him bits and pieces of places he had been and times he had been there. He would walk down Rue Lafayette at the same time every day clothed in slabs of architectural detail, swatches of dark red wallpaper from Miss Stein's drawing room, a waistcoat he had put on the day before and perhaps another he had put on that morning. He wore all of these things like a coat he could have changed every day. But he never changed anything he wore. He only accreted layers of past days.
All of us on the street were afraid of him at first. The places and times he wore seemed to move in and out of our time, disappearing and reappearing like puffs of smoke. Very unsettling. But here's the thing. After we moved past our fear and curiosity, the man with the pipe seemed like us. Weren't we all nothing more than the layers of all our days?
After a while the men would tip their hats and say "Bon jour, mon ami" and the ladies would smile and curtsy and the man with the pipe would remove his many hats and bow far more deeply than he should have, making his many waistcoats creak with the effort.
Of all his accoutrements only his pipe obeyed the laws of its own existence. Smoke would rise from it for as long as the flame lasted and when it went out, all his planes of time and space would shimmer and vibrate and it seemed he might disappear before our eyes. Then he would reload the pipe with fine Latakia tobacco, strike a wooden match against the sole of his shoe and light it again and again he would be restored.
But then one day, his supply of tobacco ran out. He stood on the corner in front of the patisserie, patting his many pockets but finding no tobacco. His image faded into many columns of smoke, rising and whirling into nothingness like little tornadoes spinning out and dissipating into the air. His pipe fell to the ground.
The people on the street gathered around to look at the pipe. Where did the man go?
The dark-eyed man with the cap took the pipe in his hands and raised it toward the Parisian sky. We knew then that we had not seen the last of the man with the pipe.
Paul Holler's stories, articles and interviews with noted authors have previously appeared or is forthcoming in The MacGuffin, Flash, The Ekphrastic Review, Freshwater Literary Journal, Eclectica and other other journals and anthologies.
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