I step off the stagecoach and find myself back in front of the old bookshop I’d left so far in the past. Catching my reflection in a rippled rain puddle I see that everything about me has changed over the years, everything but one. I pull my grandfather’s pipe from my breast pocket and wedge it in my teeth.
So many years spent fighting a war in which I had no personal stake. Will Mariah remember me now that I am an old man? The battle changes everyone, would she notice?
Before I step inside, I note the time on my pocket watch. We don’t have long. There are never enough minutes in the day.
In the bookshop, a single chandelier lights the frame; flames are painted dancing shadows over the rows of old tomes, lined up like looming gravestones.
The shopkeep isn’t at his post. He’s probably at the general store, per usual. After all these years, had old Milton the Book Salesman changed? Not much it seems. He’ll be back soon enough.
Mariah hadn’t arrived either. Shall I have a smoke while I wait for her, perhaps?
I pull my tobacco pouch from my pocket and raise it to my nose. The burley smells of roasted nuts and baked bread. A hint of fresh grain tickles my senses, and a musty, spicy scent of petrified red peppers reminds me that there is a dose of perique in my near future. My mouth waters at the thought of that divisive leaf. I am a perique addict!
I go to reach into my pocket for a match when I feel a hand on my shoulder.
“It’s been a long time,” she whispers.
“Too long,” I reply and turn to see Mariah standing in front of me, her ivory frame painted in the flickering pyre. “Well, you haven’t changed a bit.”
“What did you expect?” She giggles and pushes a strand of golden hair from her eyes, which are as large, and deep blue as a lake beckoning, and her lips spread into a smile.
I reach into my pocket and pull out my matches, flicking one to life. “Wasn’t sure you’d still be here,” I say.
I put the flame to the bowl and pull in. The burley rolls over my tongue in a full-bodied attack of my senses. It instantly wakes me up. I taste burnt hazelnuts, the smell of rain-soaked bark and a hint of dark chocolate in my nose. I blow a cloud.
“Where would I go?” She shrugs and sniffs the air, remembering the blend I’d smoked all these years. Her smile broadens.
I take her by the hand and lead her over to a table and chairs at the far corner of the shop. We sit down and begin to catch up on lost time. Our conversation picks up like we’d met only yesterday. All the time goes up in smoke as we laugh and carry on.
I smoke deeper. The perique in the bowl makes itself known, although not as strong as I initially thought it would be from the bag notes. At one point it tastes of roasted peppers, then it switches to a touch of bitter, young, dark fruits, then back to peppers. Finally, I feel the grassy notes of the Virginia leaf come into play. Sweet and inviting against the harsh Burleys and peppery Perique. It all melds into a melange of tasty goodness as Mariah and I share the stories of bygone years.
An hour passes, then two more and I remember why I came back to my hometown. There’s nothing that can match a pipe and an old friend’s conversation.
A loud ringing startles us. I’m so shaken I drop my pipe on the ground.
Mariah and I share a quick glance because we know there isn’t much time left as the churchbells chime. Drawn by the ticking seconds, we embrace, then Mariah slowly vanishes into thin air, leaving only a light smoke where she once stood. I am now standing alone.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” A gruff voice booms from behind, startling me. The shopkeep has returned.
I straighten my arms and turn to him, picking up my pipe and putting it back in my mouth.
“Yes,” I reply. “Time can be a ghost of a thing.”
“Yes indeed, it can!” He winks and his wise old face wrinkles.
“I’ll be back tomorrow,” I say and step out into the street.
Other Tobacco Notes:
The blend comes in two forms, tinned and bulk. I haven’t noticed a difference between the two and I have had both.
Haunted Bookshop consists of Burley, Perique, and Virginia that come in a coarse cut of ribbons and broken flake. The tobacco may seem dry in the tin if you are used to more humid blends, but trust me this is a good thing. You can smoke it straight away. It packs easily into a pipe and is ready to go when you are.
Pipe Used: Comoy’s Holiday Pipe 2017 Billiard. Unless you are a seasoned smoker used to heavy blends, I’d stick with a medium to small bowl at first.
Age When Smoked: Fresh From Tin
Purchased From: TobaccoPipes.com
4/4 Stars. Prepare yourself for a haunting experience!
|Brand||Cornell & Diehl|
|Blended By||Bob Runowski|
|Manufactured By||Cornell & Diehl|
|Blend Type||Burley Based|
|Contents||Burley, Perique, Virginia|
|Where to Buy||TobaccoPipes.com|